Life Before Death

Genesis 2-3

For Openers:

  • Tell about a time when you had a close call with death.
  • What are some things for which you would be willing to risk your life?
  • If I should discover the fountain of youth, I would...

For Your Information:

  1. In Genesis 2:4-14, a description of Creation is given. Now read Genesis 2:15-17 to see what God commanded about the garden. Compare translations of Genesis 2:17. Literally, the Hebrew text reads: "... to die you will die." It is an emphatic construction that attracts attention by its phrasing.
  2. To find out more about the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil," the following passages may offer some help: Genesis 2:9, 17; 3:5-6, 22; 2 Samuel 14:17, 20.
  3. Next, read the story of the temptation in Genesis 3:1-7.
  4. Now read Genesis 3:8-13. Describe the dynamics of the relationships at this point and note how they have changed since before the fruit was eaten.
  5. What are the punishments detailed in Genesis 3:14-19? (Be sure to note who or what exactly gets "cursed." Are the man and woman cursed?
  6. Now read Genesis 3:22-24. Why does God send Adam and Eve out of the garden?
  7. To find out more about the "tree of life," here is a list of all the other places in the Bible where it is mentioned: Genesis 2:9; 3:22, 24; Proverbs 3:18; 11:30; 13:12; 15:4; Revelation 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19.
  8. What did people in the Old Testament think about death? Read Ecclesiastes 9:5-6; Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 55:4; 89:48. Note that just about the only clear reference to life after death in the Old Testament is in Daniel 12:2-3.


The Hebrew word "Eden" means "pleasure" or "delight," so when the Bible talks about the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:15 and 3:23, it is really talking about a "garden of delight." When the Bible was translated into Greek, the word used to translate "garden" was paradeisos from which we get the English word "paradise." Over time, the "paradise of delight" came to be understood in some circles as a way of talking about heaven (or at least a place for the righteous to live after death). Recall Jesus’ words to the criminal on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43; also read 2 Corinthians 12:4 and Revelation 2:7) It is this background of "paradise" which accounts for those pictures of heaven which appear to be a restoration of the Garden of Eden. (For more information, read the article on "Paradise" in the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.)

For Your Consideration:

  1. How did other translations render Genesis 2.17? How might the various translations make a difference in our interpretation of God’s statement?
  2. In 2:17, God said regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that "in the day that you eat of it you shall die." In 3:4, the serpent said, "You will not die." Who was right? Now, how do you explain 2:17?
  3. The words in 3:19 are spoken as a casket is placed into the ground. Are these words simply a description of how things are or are they part of the punishment?
  4. In 3:22-24, why is God afraid that the people might live forever?
  5. In 3:22-24, which of the following statements do you think best describes the situation?
  • Before they sinned, Adam and Eve would have lived forever. Because they sinned, they are going to die, and to make sure they don’t avoid the punishment by eating from the tree of life, God sends them out of the garden.
  • Human beings were never created to live forever. God casts them out of the garden so that they don’t eat of the tree of life and live forever in a state of sin.
  1. Which situation would you prefer (and under what conditions): to never die and live forever or to die and go to heaven?
  2. How and why does the sin of Adam and Eve affect you?
  3. What are some of the ways we have of saying that someone has died without actually using the words "die" or "dead" or "death"? Are these euphemisms helpful? Why do we use them?
  4. With which of the following statements do you agree?
  • Death is evidence and result of sin.
  • Death is natural.
  • Death is a tragic enemy.
  • Death can be a blessing.
  • Death is an enemy which has been defeated by Christ.
  • (To be) a living dog is better than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

For Later:

  • Read and reflect on Romans 5:15-21 in light of what you have learned from Genesis 2-3.
  • Try to write down some things you believe about the meaning and purpose of life.

PLEASE NOTE: All materials in these studies that are not otherwise attributed are 1996-2007 by Mark Vitalis Hoffman. Expressed permission is hereby granted to download and print these materials for personal use only. If you wish to use any of these materials for a group or other purposes, please contact me ( for permissions. In all cases, include my copyright notice and email address with any versions of the material. Thank you.

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