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The reason for my question is there seems to be a change from what the scripture states as to what God told Adam about the same tree. I couldn't find where God specifically told Adam that touching it would kill him. Perhaps I'm not looking in the right place. Depending on the answer, I may have a secondary observation/conjecture and associated question.

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  • Genesis 3:3 quotes Eve as saying: "of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’". So she said it because that's what God had told her. The word "touch" doesn't occur anywhere else in the first few chapters of Genesis. ¶ You might try using Bible software to search the scriptures. E.g. NKJV Search Results for "touch*" shows all verses that contain any words beginning with "touch". May 1, 2023 at 3:25

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God instructs Adam about the tree:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “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.”
— Genesis 2:16–17

Later, Eve talks to the serpent:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
— Genesis 3:2–3

The Question says: "I couldn't find where God specifically told Adam that touching it would kill him.".

That's because there is no record of such a conversation.

Here are some possible explanations for this, in order of increasing likelihood:

  • Eve deliberately lied to the serpent.
  • Adam told Eve what God had said, but she misheard or misunderstood some of it.
  • Adam told Eve what God had said, but he exaggerated it to make sure she would stay away from the tree.
  • God had conversations, other than 2:16–17, with Adam and Eve about the tree, but the Bible didn't record them.

There are many other possible explanations.

But, the true answer wouldn't affect doctrine or salvation, so it's not recorded and is not something we will ever know. We can only speculate about it and express opinions.

Given that there was little to do other than name animals and tend the garden, the tree was by far the most significant thing in their world. It seems highly unlikely that God wouldn't have mentioned it many times on other, unrecorded occasions. He could have even said something like "If you so much as touch the fruit you might die.", just to impress on them how important it was for them to avoid that tree.

We'll never know for sure the details of what did happen, but I think we can be reasonably certain that Eve believed what she told the serpent, and that we have no reasonable grounds for thinking that it wasn't in fact true.

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God's command to Adam regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17) was given before Eve was created (Gen. 2:22). Therefore there are a limited number of possibilities as to the source of Eve's 'do not touch' addition and Scripture is silent about this in a direct fashion.

Did Adam relay God's command to Eve with this addition? We do not know but it is somewhat unlikely.

Did God have another conversation with Eve and add something that He omitted when commanding Adam? We do not know but it is highly unlikely.

Did Eve add this part in of her own accord? We do not know but it is most likely.

What we do know is that Eve was deceived while Adam was not:

For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. - 1 Timothy 2:13-14

Paul uses this as the basis of his teaching that women should not hold teaching authority in the Church and, in doing so, establishes it as fact. This fact, then, makes it unlikely that God had a separate conversation with Eve, giving her even more detail, because that would have made her deception even less likely. It also makes it less likely that Adam included 'touching' in his passing on to Eve of God's prohibition because this would implicate Adam in Eve's deception while Scripture clearly implicates the serpent.

The crucial bit that makes these two options unlikely is that it is 'eating' and not 'touching' of the fruit that clearly constitutes the transgression:

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? - Genesis 3:11

When God confronted Adam He did not ask or accuse him of 'touching' anything. After Adam implicates his wife and God confronts Eve He does not ask or accuse her of touching or eating anything. Eve's part of the transgression is that she, being deceived, gave to her husband and he ate. This would open up the possibility that the prohibition against eating was only for the man were it not for Eve's reply to the serpent:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.- Genesis 3:2-3

This leaves Eve adding in the 'touching' part on her own as the most likely and yet not directly confirmed possibility. It also lends credence to Paul's use of this scene in declaring that it is not a woman's place to teach a man: God commanded man directly and, He who does not change still holds man accountable.

Through one man sin entered the world and through one man it is put away.

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Eve's statement to the Serpent contains two discrepancies to what was told by God to Adam.

God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. [Genesis 3:3 KJV]

  1. 'Lest' - God stated that if they partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would die. There is no 'lest' about it. It is inevitable. And so it was.

  2. 'Touch' - God stated only the consequence of 'eating' that is to say partaking in order to live, to sustain life. But the tree is fatal. One dies.

Eve has departed from God's words on two counts of inaccuracy.

But the narrative does not give us grounds to know who was at fault.

Did Adam not properly relay what God said to him ?

Did Eve not properly receive what Adam told her ?

We do not know and neither has admitted to the fault.

Later, Adam names the woman and that naming shows that he has assimilated the word of God in regard to the promise of the 'seed' (not of man but of woman, is the promise ; and the seed will bruise the serpent from above, therefore a human seed exalted above created spirit).

Adam shows repentance. Later, his household is an household of faith for 'Cain went out from the presence of the Lord' that is to say, went out of Adam's household, to build his own city. For the man and the woman had been banished from the presence of God in Eden. Yet, that Presence was still with them, despite the judgment.

This gives us a picture. There is, possibly, a clue as to what occurred. But scripture does not actually state it.

So neither may we.

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    How can you know with such confidence that God didn't have a conversation with Eve in which he told her something like "Don't eat it. In fact, if you so much as touch the fruit it might kill you."? I'm not saying that that did happen, but you are claiming, without any obvious justification, that it definitely did not happen. May 1, 2023 at 23:04
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    "Please kindly stop harrassing me." — Huh? May 2, 2023 at 0:04
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    @RayButterworth I have deleted all my comments. No further comment.
    – Nigel J
    May 2, 2023 at 0:23
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One explanation not mentioned yet is that touching the fruit would be an occasion of sin and by being an occasion of death it causes death.

It is sinful to expose oneself to proximate occasions of sin, such as going to a mixed beach, because it leads to sin, besides causing scandal.

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    This may be the case now but could there be an 'occasion of sin' before sin had entered the world? This would make touching the fruit a sin even before commission of the first sin had happened. It might, perhaps, explain how the woman was in the transgression, since she touched and gave to her husband, but it was Adam's eating and not touching that pulled the trigger. May 2, 2023 at 12:50
  • @MikeBorden The mere existence of the tree is an occasion of sin by definition since its existence makes a sin possible. The distinction you are making would be the difference between venial and mortal sin. While playing around with the apple and considering whether to eat it might not be mortal, eating the apple definitely is.
    – Glorius
    May 2, 2023 at 12:56
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    Then the occasion of sin would not be the tree itself but God's prohibition of it. Therefore, since the prohibition was "do not eat" touching would be fine. Adam could have taken the fruit from Eve with no intention to eat and he would have remained innocent. May 2, 2023 at 13:04
  • @MikeBorden You're misunderstanding the point. If he took it in order to throw it away he would not sin.
    – Glorius
    May 2, 2023 at 21:21
  • Exactly. Touching was fine...not venial. May 4, 2023 at 12:14
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Eve was in fact meeting the Devil half-way by adding to what God had commanded. In other words, she did not want to take any chance of being led away. But the argument of the Devil in Gen 3:4 does not mention the prospective danger of just touching and feeling the forbidden fruit. He only speaks of the act of eating it. Verse 5 goes on to state that Eve saw the fruit pleasing to the eye, and not to the touch ! Thus, when one reads Verses 3,4 and 5 together, one gets a clear picture that the touch- aspect was the contribution of Eve herself. We see a scenario something like this in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The narrator ( Jesus) does not mention that the Prodigal Son spent his money on prostitutes , but the Elder Son says so when he sees the welcome party thrown by the Father.

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To eat, presumes a touch. To eat an apple from a tree, to eat a potato from the ground, you have to touch each.

So, while scripture only records that God says do not eat and nothing about do not touch, we can safely assume it is implied.

As another example of "do not eat, but you have to touch", here is Deut 12:22-24

Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water.

The problem was, however, to separate the two ideas of touch and eat. If you eat, you die is true. If you touch, you die is not true. But if you believe if you touch, then you die, but don't, then it is too easy to proceed to eat.

Hope that helps.

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Consider that breathing air is also eating it, and when you apply a cream to your skin, your skin also eats the cream. So eat = touch = breathe the smell of a fruit.

Also, consider a different thing. The fruits of the tree of good and evil could be so large, that "eat", "touch", "breathe" means almost the same in a different sense. Do you eat your planet? Do you touch it? Do you breathe it? Yes to all. Consider the fruits to be the planets similar to our planet. Creatures, similar to Adam and Eve eated the planets. The planets were pleasant to dwell on and eat them. The creatures were sometimes not yet suitable for the rest of Edem, they were the flesh lacking the spirit of life sometimes (walking coffins). They should not dwell on those planets, because the planets were used like ovens to create flesh for the rest of Edem, including Adam's and Eve's flesh. They saw their nudity (flesh without the spirit of life) when they dwelt on one of the planets. Edem is like a garden, and the fruits of good and evil are a few wild planets amongst Edem.

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