Is there one off-limits tree in the Garden of Eden or two? Genesis speaks of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) and then later talks of the tree of life (Genesis 3:22). Are they the same tree or two different trees?
No. These are two different trees.
The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)
At first, only one was made off limits to humans.
but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die. (Gen 2:17)
Then, after humans disobeyed, God made the other tree off limits, as well.
And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever. (Gen 3:22)
But now... it is under guard.
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:24)
In summary: There are two trees (among many) in this story, the fruit of one was forbidden, humans disobeyed God. Now we are locked out of the other tree (from which the humans were allowed to eat in the first place.)
A tree is a source, or resource. A tree can offer God's creations protection from the environment that surrounds them like shade from the sun, protection from the winds and elements, food, and supplies. Some trees have fruits that are good for us and wood that is strong and useful, while other trees produce fruits that are not good to eat, and have wood that is not good to use.
So I see in Scripture that the word 'tree' is used in places as a metaphor.
While I clearly see in Scripture that Jesus Christ is the tree of life, my explanation is too long and it has been labeled as a sermon. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be akin to Satan and its fruits would be the pleasures and life of our physical and spiritual world apart from God.
God speaks through Ezekiel and describes the king of Tyre as a 'tree' in Eden. As there were no other people described in Genesis as being in Eden, this appears to be a description of the likeness of Satan. Perhaps Ezekiel 28:12-19 provides us insight with its description of what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was like:
12 . . .“‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’”
the trees are most certainly not the same. kabala (jewish mysticism...those that have passed on deeper teachings from these days) teaches of the tree of life as a spiritual tree with multiple levels representing levels of spiritual life and that there are 3 plains on which this tree exists the low spirit the human levels and the divine....but the most basic recount of genisis clearly shows the two trees distinct at about genesis 3:22
Genesis 2:17 says that God placed a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the Garden of Eden, telling Adam that he must not eat the fruit of this tree. By way of explanation, the ancients thought of existence as comprising good and evil, so knowing both good and evil meant to know everything.
Leon R. Kass says, in The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, page 69, that the Tree of Life had not been a concern, because until Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, they were unaware that they were not immortal. As long as they had not eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, God had no need to forbid Adam from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life that he had also planted in the Garden of Eden. So that the people would not now eat of the Tree of Life and thus become immortal, God sent Adam and Eve from the Garden and placed cherubim (Hebrew; sing: cherub) and a flaming sword to keep (block) the path to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).
Kass believes the Tree of Life was actually more important than the Tree of Knowledge. He says that once Adam and Eve are aware of their mortality, immortality becomes at once a conscious desire and a known impossibility. By placing a tree of life in our mythical original condition, and by showing original man's indifference to it, the Garden of Eden story speaks more to the impossible longings of its readers than of the desires of innocent man. Indeed, the Bible may even regard the human longing for (literal) deathlessness as mistaken, and limitless life as undesirable for a creature such as man.