I've wondered out loud before whether most Bible readers think that there was anything special about God's prohibition that Adam eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. If God had prohibited something else and Adam had violated that prohibition, would the results have been the same?
Most seem to assume that God made a rule because He could, as if testing Adam, and Adam failed the test. Any arbitrary rule would have served to initiate the same testing process and likely led to the same conclusion.
I never hear anyone ask why access to the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden in the first place. What did or does that Tree represent in the human experience, and why should it be avoided?
Whatever the Tree represents, we know that the results of eating of it were not good for mankind. It would seem to follow that if these bad consequences are to be corrected, then the effect of eating the forbidden fruit must be corrected or eliminated.
Now the traditional explanation of all this says that the bad consequences were the result of God being offended by the disobedience and therefore causing a host of evils to fall upon humanity. These evils include all the things that make men suffer, most particularly physical death. Since God's displeasure brought about the bad consequences, the corrective process must somehow correct God's mindset and allow Him to overcome His ill will toward mankind. Thus we hear the old, old story of how Jesus appeased or satisfied God, so He could change His stance relative to humanity, or at least a portion thereof. The underlying element in this story of undoing the Fall is a change in God's attitude and commitment toward man.
I wonder though whether man suffered from eating of the Tree for reasons other than from God's displeasure and angry response. In other words, if God had not made a rule against eating from the Tree, would the eating have caused problems anyway? What did Adam gain from the eating and what were the consequences of whatever he gained or learned from that experience?
If we pay close attention to the Bible story, we hear that after eating Adam knew the difference between good and evil (Genesis 3:22). That leads me to believe that in God's original creation, man could not judge one another, determining that one was morally superior to another. Some may want to point out that there were only two human beings at this time, so there was little room for judging one another. Regardless of that, we witness the immediate results of the newly gained knowledge. Adam and Eve experience guilt, shame, and fear right out of the box. The impact of the Tree is devastating, even before God comes on the scene.
In carefully considering the lessons of the Fall, we must deal with the obvious fact that our human experience is full of acts of judgment toward ourselves and others, all of which presuppose an ability to tell good from evil. We are involved in a constant assessment of each other, assigning labels like righteous or wicked. In fact, religiously, politically, and culturally we are encouraged, even commanded, to make such judgments and then act accordingly, often in anger and violence.
To refrain from such judging and condemning is actually seen by many religious people as a sign of weakness and unrighteousness. These same religious people are the ones claiming to know how to correct what happened in the Garden. How is a perpetuation of judgment and condemnation supposed to set right what was caused initially by the ability to judge and condemn? Seems like a blatant contradiction to me.
Now I suspect that God intended for mankind to engage in judgment and condemnation, knowing full well what was going to happen in the Garden. However, the purpose of experiencing the Tree was not so we could perfect our ability to claim and maintain a position of moral superiority. Instead the purpose was so we could learn a powerful lesson of unintended consequences and grow out of the need to be each other's judge.
Pain is a potent instructor, and the pain associated with human condemnation is especially painful. In fact, it represents the background to all human evil.