I ran into this question the other day, about the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:
"Why would God keep Adam and Eve from consuming knowledge?"
It came in a dialogue with an atheist. It's a fair question, one I hadn't thought about before. And having already been convicted to know The Word better - a lot better - I saw it as a perfect opportunity to probe Scripture a little more deeply.
Before this question came up, there was another - how many people did Satan kill in the Bible? This often gets paired with "...and how many people did God kill in the Bible?" It's a question I think is usually intended to bait us into realizing that God did some disagreeable, some would say nasty, things in the Bible. Satan didn't outright kill anyone. God was smiting all the time, 24-sev, it would seem. But Satan helped ensure long before we were born that we would all die a very real death.
Long and short of it: God gives Adam a beautiful garden chock-full of tasty fruits.
"Go, children, run amok! Except... That tree over there in the middle, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, it's got special fruit. If you eat it, you're gonna die."
All things considered, it was a reasonable request. I think I could have lived with it.
Satan comes and helps Eve out a bit with some crafty wording. "Pshhaw," he says, "God knows if you eat it, you'll be like him. You'll know the difference between good and evil."
And what could possibly be wrong with that?
Eve bites it. Shares it with Adam. Just like that, models number 000000000001 and 000000000002 have blown it fairly quickly. Fast forward a few thousand years, and the world is a really messed up place. Clearly, eating the fruit had some consequences.
But - death? For knowing good and bad? Aren't we supposed to know that anyway? To a skeptic, it's all pretty harsh, Bro.
I like talking to atheists because they ask "Why?" where I never thought to. And then I need to go read the Bible. Which I clearly need to do a lot more. So I read Genesis 1-3. Again. umpteenth time.
God gave Adam everything. Nice spread, tasty fruits like I mentioned. He was sufficient. Adam was one happy, naked dude. Blissfully ignorant too, I think. And yet - there was another tree there, a choice.
"Eat whatever you want. But there's a tree right over there, and if you eat its fruit," - here, I think, God issues a warning, not a threat - "It will kill you."
The death comes not so much from God's smiting, with Him being bent on destroying his woefully curious and skeptical underlings, but from the choice of separation from Him. You can trust Him and enjoy Him, be satisfied by Him and find yourself whole in Him. You could eat the fruit forever. But to eat fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was to want to be like Him, to call Him insufficient. It was arrogant, it was prideful, it was rejection. And that rejection bringeth death.
Pursue God, and things fall into place. (...He will make your paths straight.)
Reject Him, and everything falls apart.
Israel did it over and over again. Adam and Eve did it, too. God kicked them out. Their garden and its tasty fruit were gone forever. But - lest you doubt that God is good - he hooked them up with some clothes before they left. I love that.
You can't come back. But you're gonna need these...