Genesis 2:15–17 (ESV)
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Here we bump up against another odd instance of the use of the word “day.” In this case, if “yohm” meant “age” (or something like that) then it would add nothing to the passage. The sentence might as well have read, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for if you eat of it you shall surely die.”
As we’ll see, Adam doesn’t die the “day” he eats the fruit. Something doesn’t make sense. However, since Moses wrote the whole book of Genesis—including the part where Adam lives a long time—this can’t be a mistake. There must be an explanation.
It turns out there are many.
First off, God doesn’t say, “in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” He says, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” After Adam and Eve eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God excludes them from the tree of life, which sentences them to surely die. They will not live forever.
So, the day they ate of the tree, they didn’t die, they surely died.
Another explanation is that the use of “day” here is the same Hebrew idiom that’s used in 1Kings 2:36-46. There, Solomon warns Shimei not to go out of his house.
For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, you will know for certain that you shall surely die. Your blood shall be on your own head. — 1 Kings 2:37 (NASB)
“On the day,” is just a term of emphasis, as is, “you shall surely die.”
So, in each case the colloquialism “on the day” is a colloquialism to make the command as emphatic as possible.
And notice that in each case, the command is disobeyed.
There’s even a third explanation—my favorite. They were dead in the same 24 hour day that they ate the fruit—spiritually dead.
This fits perfectly with the doctrine of original sin. We must be “saved” to become alive.
Once Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they were just as dead as we are (or were). Having sinned, they were now “dead in sin.”
The truth doesn’t have to be one of these explanations. It could be all of them.
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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here: https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.