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Between Good and Evil

Adam and Eve in Worthy Paradise.

Adam and Eve in Worthy Paradise.
Peter Paul Rubens, Circa 1610.

One particularly interesting aspect of Solomon's request when the Lord appeared to him at Gibeon is that he requested that the Lord grant him wisdom to be able to "discern between good and evil."

1 Kings 3: 9 Give Thy servant therefore an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to judge this Thy great people?' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

While the significance of this has apparently been illusory, this exact phrase appears elsewhere in scripture as one of the more significant phrases in the entire Bible. It can be located all of the way back in Genesis and this is likely why 1 Kings 3:10 notes, “And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.” While the meaning of the word “pleased” is well understood, it might be well to point out that one possible legitimate meaning of the word could be “amused.”

Genesis 2:15 And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman: 'Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?' 2 And the woman said unto the serpent: 'Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 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.':4 And the serpent said unto the woman: 'Ye shall not surely die; 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.' (JPS) (Emphasis added)

It is apparently possible to miss the diabolical aspects of seeking knowledge of good and evil, despite the overt position of that pursuit as the prime mover of ill in the entire history of mankind. The significance is embodied in the very end of the passage of Genesis 3:5: "and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil." The point of seeking knowledge of good and evil in these cases was to be as God.

Notwithstanding, God grants Solomon’s request for wisdom to judge and also gives Solomon great riches and honor. In retrospect, this is clearly a case of making absolutely certain that the calf has plenty of rope. “Give a calf enough rope and it will hang itself,” - a traditional American Proverb.

Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise.

Adam and Eve Driven from Paradise.
J. James Tissot, 1902.