Tree of Life was a special tree planted by Yahweh in the Garden of Eden for the benefit of humanity. In was located deep inside the garden with fruit already growing on it. It is set apart from the fruit trees to serve as a place to communicate with God.
Access was denied to the tree when Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, since it was determined that they would abuse the benefits it brought. After the Great Flood the tree was relocated into the presence of God in the New Jerusalem, where it would spread to both sides of the River of Water of Life and provide the medicine of God.
The tree of life (Heb: עֵ֤ץ הַֽחַיִּים֙, "wood of the living ") appears in cultures and religions all around the world. As with all trees, it has roots in the earth and branches reaching towards, or into, the heavens. Most depictions of it will take this into account. The apparent plurality of the word chi (to live) is translated "living", "life" and even "flowing" (that is "lively"). The word for "tree" can be anything made of wood, and is taken from a primitive root meaning "to be firm."
On the third day of creation, all fruit bearing trees were created on the newly exposed dry land God called "earth". Among those fruit trees was the "tree of the living". On the sixth day, prior to the creation of the woman from the man's side, it was transplanted into a garden prepared for mankind.
Since rivers flowed out of the garden, the tree in its midst was likely raised higher than the others. In the eyes of the inhabitants it was as close to heaven as anything around, and a perfect place to visit with the creator. Later cultures would assume this to be true when they planted groves of trees in high places in which to worship their gods.
It was here that Adam and Eve first came to visit with God. It is not known how long this communion continued, but it was lost when they yielded to the forbidden tree of knowledge.
Theories abound as to the fruit of the tree. The presence of the olive tree in the art of the temple makes a good choice. It served as the source of light for the lamps there, and was a staple in the economy of God's people. First mentioned as a sign of life on a flood drenched planet, the olive would go on to be a source of light and life in homes and in worship. The doors into the temple, made of olive wood, provided the way into an audience with God.
Another likely candidate is the pomegranate, which is used with bells as ornaments on the hems of the priests' robes. This fruit is listed among the fruit of the land and was beautiful and delectable.
Another possibility, based mostly on the abundant staple of life that is is, might be wheat. As unlikely as it seems, one of the translations for עֵ֤ץ (`ets) is "stalk". Coupled with the "liveliness" of waves of grain "flowing" like water in the field, the idea might be worth pursuing further.
In a passage personifying wisdom (Heb: חָכְמָה), it is called the "tree of life" which is held onto with all gusto to assure happiness. This in context with being disciplined by Yahweh and the use of knowledge correctly.
The words "tree of life" hold both the idea of standing firm and moving through life. It is in this way that existence on earth can be be linked to the life to come. It is noteworthy that in this passage, Wisdom is also is connected to creation itself.
Linked to the idea of wisdom is the idea of doing the right thing, that is, righteousness. In this passage, it is the "fruit" of the tree that is to be desired. Again, a right relationship with God is needed to make the right choices--and to lead others to do so as well. Not surprisingly, the "winning of souls" -- the saving of lives -- is part of what the "tree of life is for. God is the ultimate Savior, both in the Old Testament and the New.
Even as the tree of knowledge was desirable, the tree of life came to symbolize the coming of that which was hoped for. In context, a dashed hope comes to life when it comes is shown to be not in vain. The most beautiful thing, the Word of God, breaks forth as a fountain of life, fulfilling the delayed hope that once got the believer down.
Once again, another passage of Proverbs links the two trees in a symbolic way. When it comes to interpersonal relations, the right words can mean all the difference in this world--and the next. When faced with adversary, it is wise to refrain from harsh words, wisely using what one knows to stay out of trouble. The next verse makes the connection--the healthy, or wholesome, use of speech assures a wise approach to life.
Life in the New Testament
The most remarkable thing God brought into creation was the introduction of life. It is a very rare thing in all the cosmos. The seemingly endless expanse of space seems to lack the capacity to support even the smallest form of living thing. The apostle John captures this fact best in his gospel.
In the prologue, John writes that life was in the Word, and that the Word "came to life" in the world. Being a characteristic of God, the life He provides is necessarily an eternal life. In the physical realm, this is seen in the cycle of life known as the "food chain. But for humans, with the image of God, there is "life after death".
- ↑ Genesis 2:9 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 1:12, 29; 2:9 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 3:8 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 3:22-23 (Link)
- ↑ Revelations 21:2 (Link)
- ↑ Lev. 24:2 (Link)
- ↑ Deut. 8:8; Haggai 2:19 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 8:11 (Link)
- ↑ 1 Kings 6:31-33 (Link)
- ↑ Exo. 28:24 (Link)
- ↑ Deut. 8:8; Joel 1:12; Haggai 2:19 (Link)
- ↑ Song 4:3; 6:7; 8:2 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 3:13, 18 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 3:12 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 3:19-21 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 3:19-20 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 11:27-31 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 11:30 (Link)
- ↑ Ps. 106:21; Isa. 45:21 (Link)
- ↑ Luke 1:47, 2:11; John 4:42; 1 Tim. 1:1; 4:10; 2 Tim. 2:1:10 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 13:12 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 13:12-14 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 15:1-3 (Link)
- ↑ Prov. 15:4-7 (Link)
- ↑ John 1:4; see also Acts 17:25 (Link)
- ↑ John 1:14 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 3:22; John 3:14-16, 36 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 1:30; 9:3; Isa. 14:11; 66:24 (Link)
- ↑ Job 19:26-27;2 Sam. 12:23;Luke 16:19-31 (Link)