The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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: 15-17 ESV)
With the prohibition concerning the tree, God reveals a gap between the created pair and Himself. He possesses the knowledge of good and evil and they do not. The existence of the forbidden tree establishes God’s superiority, and as if to rub it in, He places it in the garden, the center of their existence. Without the serpent, the pair might not have noticed, but once they saw the chasm it had their full attention.
Forbidden fruit—would we have been better off without it? Perhaps happier, but without the knowledge of good and evil, the foundation of ethics, what would we be? Would we know love? Could we be kind or humble? I think not. Did God really want us to remain somewhat dull, obedient gardeners, or was the menace of the deadly fruit the red pill? Was this fruit the poison pill necessary for emergence into true consciousness and self-awareness?
Is it our reach for ethics that condemns us to death? We reject the command of God, which reveals itself as the prohibition of knowledge. But acquiring that knowledge carries a heavy price—our deaths. Not the drone missile sort of physical annihilation we might expect from God, rather it is the suicidal killing of a blissful life of ease and pleasure in our private Garden of Eden. We were born there, with warmth, food, a woman to comfort and care for us—oblivious to our nakedness. And we must leave.
We become fully aware. We see that we are naked, feel pain, experience desire for and against others, toil, become responsible, and get exiled. No longer can we just pick the fruit around us. We have to work to survive.
If we quest to be like God, we discover / choose a double death: the reality of our own physical mortality, and the necessity of our own sacrificial deaths in satisfying the needs of the good, and in opposing evil. Not necessarily physical death, but whatever is required—the putting to death of always doing what we want, when we want it. God won’t kill us in this fashion; we must choose this death on our own.
God’s message: don’t enter into the knowledge of good and evil, as He has, unless you are ready to die.
And once you gain that knowledge, eternal life via the other tree is no longer freely within our grasp. Now it is only reachable through death—in this case God’s.