God intentionally placed two trees in the Garden of Eden because He valued Adam and Eve’s free will. As His precious, created beings who were made distinctly in His own image, Adam and Eve possessed the ability to choose. For context, let’s take a look at the story behind these trees and the fall of mankind.
In Genesis 2:8–9, after God had created Adam (but not Eve, yet), the two trees are specifically mentioned: “The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused every tree to grow that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (NASB). In Genesis 2:15–17, God places Adam in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and tend it. God then gives this command: “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for on the day that you eat from it you will certainly die” (NASB).
After Eve is created and the couple is living in Eden together, Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempts Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1–5). Unfortunately, Eve gives into temptation and eats the forbidden fruit, giving it to Adam who also eats it (Genesis 3:6). Adam and Eve’s “eyes” are opened, so that they know that they are naked; ashamed, they sew fig leaves together and make themselves coverings (Genesis 3:7).
God then holds Adam and Eve to account for the decision they had made to eat of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:9–13). As part of their punishment, Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden. To prevent humanity from accessing the tree of life and living in their sin forever, God stationed “cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).
Some may say that God is not loving because He placed the two trees in the garden. He allowed Adam and Eve to have access to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—knowing that, if the fruit were eaten, sin and death would enter the world. There are a couple points that should be considered. First, God did not force or trick Adam and Eve into eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, He specifically commanded Adam to not eat of the tree, making it clear that it would result in certain death. Adam chose to break God’s commandment and as a result faced the consequences of his sin, along with the rest of humanity (Romans 5:12–14).
Second, God’s love is benevolent (agape love) and therefore does not force human beings into subjection as a tyrant would. Because we are created in His image (Genesis 1:27), set apart from the rest of creation, He gives us free will. In order for Adam and Eve to truly be free, they had to have a choice—therefore, two trees were necessary. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve chose, of their own free will, to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.
In conclusion, God gave Adam and Eve a choice in the Garden of Eden to obey or disobey God’s command. He gave them this choice because He designed them to have free will reflecting His own and because He valued their freedom and loved them enough to not force them into subjection. They were free moral agents, not programmed robots. Still today, there are choices set before us: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). We must choose wisely.