“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.”
The question came up in a recent Bible study: Since Adam was told in Genesis 2, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, didn’t evil already exist? In other words, for him to understand the command, did not evil already exist in the garden?
This seems like a logical question. In order for us to not be involved with something, shouldn’t we know what that something is? Not necessarily. When we have such questions posed, the only solution is to look at Scripture and make necessary inferences from what we find there.
First, before the command was given to Adam, God had declared that everything made was good. We see this in verses 10, 12, 18, and 25 of chapter 1. Then at the end of creation, God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. This was at the end of the sixth day. So all of creation was very good, according to God.
Then, in a second account of the creation of Adam, God tells the crowing glory of creation: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.”
This brings us to our question: is there evil present that Adam would know what it was? There was not and the command itself negates the possibility. Adam did not know good from evil because every thing he saw and knew was good. He only knew good and God. There was nothing else to know but God and His goodness, the goodness of creation.
We know that fallen man knows the reality and existence of God because of creation (Romans 1:18ff). How much more did Adam know of God’s goodness and know that He was the Creator without sin in his life? Adam had no knowledge of evil because there was no evil in creation. It was all good.
When Adam sinned against God by eating of the tree, then he knew evil and the evil was brought into creation by his rebellion. But before that time, he knew nothing but good because that was all there was to know.