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Title: Tree of Life

Submitted by: research-bpr@philologos.org
Date: May 30, 1998
URL: //philologos.org/bpr/files/t006.htm

Tree of Life

Regarding Genesis verse 3:22:

"The words of Jehovah, 'The man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil,' contain no irony, as though man had exalted himself to a position of autonomy resembling that of God; for 'irony at the expense of a wretched tempted soul might well befit Satan, but not the Lord.' Likenss to God is predicated only with regard to the knowledge of good and evil, in which the man really had become like God. In order that, after the germ of death had penetrated into his nature along with sin, he might not 'take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever, God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.' With 'sent him forth' the narrative passes over from the words to the actions of God. From the 'also' it follows that the man had not yet eaten of the tree of life. Had he continued in fellowship with God by obedience to the command of God, he might have eaten of it, for he was created for eternal life. But after he had fallen through sin into the power of death, the fruit which produced immortality could only do him harm. For immortality in a state of sin is not...which God designated for man, but endless misery, which the Scriptures call 'the second death' (Rev 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8).The expulsion from paradise, therefore, was a punishment inflicted for man's good, intendeed, while exposing him to temporal death, to preserve him from eternal death. To keep the approach to the tree of life, 'God caused cherubim to dwell (to encamp) at the east of the garden, and the (i.e. with the) flame of the sword turning to and fro' (moving rapidly). The word cherub has no suitable etymology in the Semitic...The cherubim, however are creatures of a higher world, which are represented as surrounding the throne of God, both in the visions of Ezekiel (1:22; 10:1) and the Revelation of John (4:6); not, however, as throne-bearers or throne-holders, or as forming the chariot of the throne, but as occupying the highest place as living beings in the realm of spirits, standing by the side of God as the heavenly King when He comes to judgment, and proclaiming the majesty of the Judge of the world. In this character God stationed them on the eastern side of paradise, not 'to inhabit the garden as the temporary representatives of man,' but 'to keep the way of the tree of life,' i.e. to render it impossible for man to return to paradise, and eat of the tree of life. Hence there appeared by their side the flame of a sword, apparently in constant motion, cutting hither and thither, representing the devouring fire of the divine wrath, and showing the cherubim to be ministers of judgment. With the expulsion of man from the garden of Eden, paradise itself vanished from the earth. God did not withdraw from the tree of life its supernatural power, nor did He destroy the garden before their eyes, but simply prevented their return, to show that it should be preserved until the time of the end, when sin should be rooted out by the judgment, and death abolished by the Conqueror of the serpent (1 Cor 15:26), and when upon the new earth the tree of life should flourish again in the heavenly Jerusalem, and bear fruit for the redeemed (Rev 20 and 21)."

(Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil & Delitzsch)

"So Christ, under the name of Wisdom, is called the Tree of Life ('She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her'--Proverbs 3:18); and this is a name which is sometimes given by the Jews to the Messiah."

(The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

How many trees were there in the Garden of Eden?

Those who know the story always answer, "At least two." That is, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and more than likely, many more trees as well. Otherwise, what value would G-d's words have when He told Adam:

"You may eat from every tree in the Garden, except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. If you do, you will certainly die, from that day." (Bereishis 2:16-17)

However, the true answer is one--one tree, and it was the Tree of Life. Every other "tree" was actually a "branch" off the Tree of Life, that is, until Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil without G-d's permission. From that point onward, the Tree of Knowledge "split" from the Tree of Life and gained an independent existence. This split was a warning of things to come, a hint to the divisive powers let loose upon creation.

(Perceptions - Vayigash: A Matter of Approaches, Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Project Genesis)

In 1993, Natalia Polosmak of the Institute of Archaeology, Novosibilsk found a tomb containing the remains of a woman who was subsequently dubbed the "Siberian Ice Maiden."

"For her afterlife this yong woman was beautifully dressed. She wore a three foot tall head-dress made of felt which took up 1/3 of her coffin and a necklace of wooden camels. Other creatures adorned the head-dress, among them [a] mystical griffin. All [the] carvings were originally coated in gold leaf.

Natalia Polosmak, Institute of Archaeology
"It seems to me the black head-dress was a symbol of the tree of life. We have some indirect evidence for this from the pattern of 15 wooden birds which were sewn onto it. And we think the tree of life in mythology is supposed to bring universes together--the higher universe of the gods and the universe of humankind come together with this symbol.

"[A] gold buckle retrieved from another tomb, makes the symbolism even clearer. Here a woman's head-dress and branches of the tree of life are intertwined.

Natalia Polosmak
"This head-dress is unique. There is no need to imagine how the various details were attached because it was found intact. It was also an expression of this woman's life. It showed her place in society, her family and tribe. Anything worn on the head had to be as high and striking as possible and so the head-dress was very large. It was literally a construction."

(Siberian Ice Maiden, Nova, 11/98)

The rollers that hold a Torah scroll are known by Jews, as the "Trees of Life". The tree of life is also known as Torah:

Proverbs 3:13-20 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom (The Living Torah), the man who gains understanding, For she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed. By wisdom The LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; By his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

We can now understand why the following is recited when the Torah scroll is returned to the ark:

"Return O LORD, to the myriads of Israel's families. Arise The LORD to Your resting place, You and Your mighty ark. Clothe Your priests with righteousness. May those who have experienced Your faithful love shout for joy. For the sake of Your servant David, don't delay the return of Your Messiah."

"I give you good instruction; do not forsake My Torah. A tree of life it is for those who take hold of it, and blessed are the ones who support it. It's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all it's paths are peace. Long life is in it's right hand, in it's left are riches and honor. The Lord was pleased for the sake of His righteousness, to render the Torah great and glorious."

This prayer clearly portrays the Torah as the "tree of life". This tree is mentioned a couple of times in the book of Proverbs as pertaining to Messiah. This tree still exists! One day the righteous will have the right to eat from this tree...

(Eden, Greg Killian)

THE TREE OF LIFE ALSO IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN ...

The Tree of Life, according to a tradition, extends over five hundred years' journey, and all the waters of Creation issue from its foot. This tree was in the middle of the Garden, and it collected all the waters of Creation, which afterwards flowed from it in different directions. For the perennially flowing stream rests upon this Garden and enters it, and the waters issuing from it divide into numbers of streams below which water the "beasts of the field", just as the waters originally issued from the supernal world and watered the celestial "mountains of pure balsam". (Soncino Zohar, Bereshith, Section 1, Page 35b)

AND OUT OF THE GROUND MADE THE LORD GOD TO GROW EVERY TREE THAT IS PLEASANT TO THE SIGHT, AND GOOD FOR FOOD; THE TREE OF LIFE ALSO IN THE MIDST OF THE GARDEN (II, 9). It was taught: It was a tree which spread over all living things [footnote: i.e., over the whole world]. R. Judah b. R. Ilai said: The tree of life covered a five hundred years’ journey, and all the primeval waters branched out in streams under it. R. Judan said in the name of R. Judah b. R. Ila'i: Not only its boughs but even its trunk was a five hundred years’ journey. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XV:6)

AND WHEN THEY CAME TO MARAH THEY COULD NOT DRINK OF THE WATERS OF MARAH, FOR THEY WERE BITTER...Then HE (Moses) CRIED UNTO THE LORD, AND THE LORD SHOWED HIM A TREE, WHICH, WHEN HE CAST IT INTO THE WATERS, THE WATERS WERE MADE SWEET [Ex. 15:23]. The tree is a symbol of the Torah, which is “a tree of life to those who lay hold upon her" (Prov. III, 18), and the Torah and the Holy One, blessed be He, are one.’ R. Abba said: ‘The “Tree" is a direct symbol of the Holy One, for it says: “The tree of the field is (the supernal) Adam" (Deut. XX, 19). (Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 60a-60b)

[In the Zohar]...another name given to God ... is the ‘Tree of Life’, in the branches of which the souls of the righteous are figured as resting. Hence, when an Israelite carries out the Torah, he is said to be cleaving to the Tree of Life. (Zohar Appendix III)

“And reproofs of instruction are the way of life." There are two ways: a way of life and a way of death. The way of life can be recognized by “reproofs of instruction"; for the Holy One, desiring to guard the way of life, sets on it one who chastises and gives “reproof of instruction" to the children of the world. Who is this? It is that “flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Gen. III, 24). He who has experience of the “reproofs of instruction" will certainly endeavour to walk in that way of life where dwell those “reproofs". At first sight it would seem that the words “the reproofs of instruction are the way of life" contradict the beginning of the verse, but, interpreted as above, they contain the whole mystery of Faith. “The commandment is a lamp" contains the mystery of “keep"; “the Torah is a light" contains the mystery of “remember"; while “the reproofs of instruction are the way of life" refers to the prohibitions and penalties contained in the Torah. And all forms one mystery of Faith, and each of them is necessary to the other to produce a proper synthesis. (Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 167a)

Please see The "Cross" of Christ by John D. Keyser where he speaks of the different crosses used by the Romans for executing criminals. Conclusions reached are that Jesus carried just one cross piece and that he was nailed to a live tree.

For more on the crucifixion, please see Why Did Christ Die Before the Two Robbers? also by John D. Keyser. When someone was accused of blasphemy they were usually stoned and this would help explain some of the references to how the Messiah would die.

See also The Church of Ephesus.

 

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