The Tree of Life In Proverbs, compared to Genesis and Revelation.
The phrase, “Tree of Life”, which in the Hebrew is ETS CHAYYIM [חַיִּים עֵץ] and in the Greek XULON ZOE [ξύλον ζωή] is used 11 times in scripture; 3 times in Genesis, (Gen 2:9; 3:22, 24); 4 times in Proverbs, (Prov 3:18, 11:30; 13:12; 15:4); and 4 times in Revelation, (Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19).
It is first used in Gen 2:9, “Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
A main emphasis of the Tree of Life was for the perpetuation of the human race (Adam and Ishshah) inside the Garden of Eden. As long as they kept eating the fruit from the tree of life they continued to have life. From the context of Rev 22:2 there must have been some regenerative power in the fruit of this tree to perpetuate life for all of eternity if eaten regularly.
We also see that this and the other trees were, “pleasing to the sight and good for food.” Things that are please and good typically bring happiness to the one partaking of it. This tells us that the Tree of Life was also for the total happiness of man. Man had a perfect soul in a perfect body, therefore the perfect origin of God’s perfect happiness and the perfect expression of God’s perfect happiness were there in the Garden of perfect environment, and Adam was happy in the garden. Man was designed for happiness, blessing, capacity, and pleasure unless he went negative to God’s Plan.
The same thing is still true today. Only disobedience destroys happiness.
Man, as ruler, ought to be happy. The Tree of Life combined immortality with perfect happiness to give man perfect environment plus perfect happiness so he could do a good job ruling the world. Man had everything that would stimulate perfect happiness and the Tree of Life was God’s grace provision for man as the ruler of this world to be happy.
In addition to life and happiness, the Tree of Life was also man’s expression of positive volition to God’s provision, Gen 2:16, as long as he kept eating from it.
Yet, as you know, Adam chose to disobey God’s Word and Plan and instead ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was the first sin man would commit and involved no morality or immorality at all, but rejecting perfect happiness provided by God, by rejecting His Word. Therefore, man was cut off from the Tree of Life (and therefore God’s happiness) because of his positive volition to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, (i.e., Satan’s cosmic system), Gen 3:6, which demonstrated his negative volition towards the Word of God.
At that point the Tree of Life was useless to man in the status of sin and spiritual death because sin destroys happiness. The Tree of Life represents God’s perfect happiness and the perpetuation of His perfect happiness, yet in the Garden of Eden both were cut off, Gen 3:24, because with sin now in man, perfect happiness can not exist in the human race.
In addition, if man, in spiritual death, had eaten from the Tree of Life, his free will would no longer be the means of resolving the Angelic Conflict. Immortality, in the status of spiritual death, would condemn the human race to the Lake of Fire.
Likewise, as Gen 3:22 notes, you cannot have an Old Sin Nature and eat of the Tree of Life and have perfect happiness. You cannot have God’s perfect happiness and sin. You can not choose both the Plan of God and the cosmic system of Satan.
Remaining in the garden with a sin nature, man would have been immortal with unhappiness. Therefore, God cut man off from the Tree of Life putting it out of his reach, Gen 3:24, so that his free will would determine where he would spend eternity and whether he would be happy or miserable.
If man had been permitted to eat of the Tree of Life after the fall, he would have no volitional choice after the fall. Therefore, after the fall, the purpose for the creation of man could only be perpetuated by cutting man off from the Tree of Life and providing a new Tree of Life, the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the Tree of Eternal Life. (Note the use of XULON referring to the Cross of Jesus Christ in: Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24.)
Once man ate from the forbidden tree in the Garden, immortality must be attained by partaking of another tree: the Tree of Eternal Life, the Cross. When anyone believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior, God the Holy Spirit creates in them a perfect environment called the Human Spirit where God’s happiness can reside once again.
In the Garden, the Tree of Life was provided by God’s grace to be associated with man’s positive volition, which was to be expressed in his free will toward the Word and Plan of God. A new Tree had to be selected in order for eternal life and perfect happiness to exist. By expelling man from the Garden, man now could choose to eat from the Tree of Eternal Life, the Cross.
As for the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God in the eternal state, remember that the Tree of Life perpetuated happiness and prosperity in both the human soul and body in perfect environment. In the eternal state we will once again have the privilege of eating from the Tree of Life in the Garden of God, Rev 2:7, 22:2, 14, 19, because at that time there will be no more sin, Rev 21:4, where perfect happiness for eternity can exist.
So we see in Genesis and Revelation the literal Tree of Life for the perpetuation of perfect happiness when someone is in a perfect environment. Well, what about the imperfect environment we live in today. That is where the book of Proverbs comes in.
In the book of Proverbs, the Tree of Life is used metaphorically for the happiness that the mature believer can attain here on earth, in time. Notice that the language for the “tree of life” in the Hebrew of Genesis compared to Proverbs. In Genesis the definite article HA is placed before the Noun CHAYYIM – life, therefore signifying “the” before “tree of life”, as “the Tree of the Life.” Likewise in the Greek of Revelation the definite article HO is used to signify the same. They are both speaking to the actual tree itself. Yet, in the Hebrew of Proverbs it does not use the article HA for “the” but just uses the two nouns ETS and CHAYYIM giving us and indefinite article in the English for “is a” tree of life, signifying the likeness of the tree, but that it is not the actual tree.
Prov 3:18, “She (wisdom – Bible Doctrine) is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.”
This is as close as we can get here on earth to the perfect happiness of perfect body, soul and environment that was experienced in the Garden of Eden and that we will experience 24/7 in the eternal state.
So we note that in Proverbs, the Tree of Life is a metaphor for God’s Word (Bible Doctrine being resident within your soul) giving capacity for happiness, blessings and total appreciation of God’s grace.
Therefore, the term in Proverbs speaks metaphorically regarding one aspect of the real Tree of Life in the Garden, in that God’s Word in the soul of the believer allows him to share in God’s perfect happiness, +H. We can not experience the full perfection of this happiness because we still have an old sin nature. Not until we reach the eternal state and are without a sin nature and living in perfect environment will we experience the perfect happiness of God perpetually.
Prov 3:13-18, “She (Bible doctrine) is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her” in this figure of speech for the wisdom of God, His Word, or Bible Doctrine, we see the results of having God’s Word resident within our soul which is Sharing in the Happiness of God, or the +H of God, as wisdom is a benefit to those who hold onto her. Knowledge of Bible doctrine is the only true happiness (+H) available to the believer after salvation. Learning doctrine in time is as close as we can get to the happiness of the Tree of Life.
Prov 11:30, “The fruit of the righteous (mature believer) is a Tree of Life, and he who is wise wins souls.”
This tells us that when we apply God’s Word to our business transactions, and in all aspects of life, we are producing the Fruit of the Spirit, Divine Good Production, and we will be a blessing to others through our words and actions, leading them to the Tree of Eternal Life, the Cross of Jesus Christ, which not only gives them salvation but also provides capacity for +H in time.
Prov 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart (right lobe) sick, but desire fulfilled is a Tree of Life.”
This tells us that the metaphor “a tree of life” functions as the antithesis of sickness; so a form of healing is in view. Yet, when God is able to bless us in time and satisfy the desires of our heart, it causes us to be healthy and happy as we share in the happiness of God, +H.
Prov 15:4, “A soothing (MARPE – a healing, cure, health) tongue is a Tree of Life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.”
This tells us of the restoration of Paradise in a broken world through healing speech that gives eternal life to those who receive. That is, wisdom (Bible Doctrine) displayed in your speech has healing power in relationships that brings God’s Happiness, +H, to the relationship you are in.
In these verses, both wisdom and words of healing are equated to a “Tree of Life” because words that heal, strengthen and restore, come from thoughtful hearts, cf. Prov 10:11; 12:18. And those who are a source of encouragement must exercise both forethought and insight, i.e., “wisdom.” So we see that the ways of wisdom are pleasant, characterized by peace, long life and blessing, which all result in the sharing in God’s Happiness, +H, while here on earth.
And as we take in and apply God’s Word on a consistent basis, growing to spiritual maturity, we become a tree of life to those in our family, neighborhood, business, school, community, state and nation, which means we have become part of the pivot of a client nation unto God.
Mat 13:32, “And this (the mustard seed that represents faith-resting) is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.” Cf. Mark 4:32; Luke 13:19.
Yet, in the same way as Adam, we can destroy the happiness of maturity by negative volition towards God’s Word and Plan for our lives. But the fact is that the closest we can come to perfect happiness here on earth is to grow to spiritual maturity, Prov 3:13-18.
“Until we reach the “tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7), we hold fast to the life-giving wisdom of the book of Proverbs and, more importantly, to Jesus Christ, who supersedes Solomon’s wisdom.” (Waltke, New International Commentary, The Book of Proverbs Chapters 1-15.)
“Tree of Life” is used in only three books of the Bible; Genesis, Proverbs and Revelation. In all three books the context of this tree is related to the Perfect Happiness of God. In Genesis it refers to the life giving tree found in the Garden of Eden. In Revelation it refers to the tree for “healing the nations” found in the Paradise Garden of the eternal New Jerusalem. In Proverbs it refers to Bible Doctrine in your soul that results in sharing the happiness of God.
In Gen 2:9-3:22 the Tree of Life is associated with perfect environment, life and happiness in the Garden of Eden, as well as the perpetuation of life in a right relationship with God.
In Gen 3:24, when man sinned and was driven out of the garden, he was cut off from the Tree of Life in the Garden which gave everlasting life and God’s perfect happiness in perfect environment.
Interestingly, the Tree of Life is not seen again by man until the eternal state, Rev 2:7; 22:2, 14, 19, where eternal life and perfect happiness is possible and reunited. And as you know, that eternal life is made possible by the work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross and our non-meritorious faith in Him, and God’s perfect happiness is made possible by His Word, the mind of Jesus Christ, resident within your souls.
In Rev 2:7, the overcomer is granted to eat once again from the Tree of Life in the Paradise of God.
In Rev 22:2, the Tree of Life will be in the New Jerusalem for the “healing (happiness) of the nations.”
In Rev 22:14, all believers will be able to eat from the Tree of Life.
In Rev 22:19, false prophets will not be allowed to partake of the Tree of Life.
So in the book of Proverbs when the tree of life is mentioned it signifies the benefits noted above that are made possible by having wisdom, (Bible doctrine) resident within your soul which results in the confident expectation of our eternal life and inheritance in Christ and obtainment of the Happiness of God (+H) inside our souls both in time and in eternity.
As in Prov 3:18, the Tree of Life is a metaphor for happiness in time and is related to Bible doctrine in the soul that brings happiness.
In Prov 11:30, it is related to righteousness (Bible Doctrine) applied to all business deals and transactions that result in blessings and +H, for others.
In our verse, Prov 13:12, it is related to positive volition towards God and His Word that results in hopes and desires fulfilled that causes +H.
And in Prov 15:4, it is related to the application of God’s Word in your speech that results in happiness.