We begin the next section of Genesis -- Adam's account of his life. This section runs from the last half of Genesis 2:4 to first half of Genesis 5:1. If you were to write a brief history about yourself, you would probably start by giving some details about your parents and your grandparents. This is exactly what Adam does. He gives a brief account of the creation of the world, with greater detail about the part he was interested in -- his own creation.
Adam was placed in a garden, which was planted in the eastern part of a region called Eden. As we will see later, Eden no longer exists due to a great catastrophe called "The Flood." The Flood completely altered the world, so the places mentioned before the flood can no longer be found. A river in Eden divided four ways and provided the water for the Garden. Two of the branches of the river have the same names as two rivers in today's Middle East. The rivers are the Tigris and the Euphrates. Instead of supposing that they are the same rivers that once watered Eden, it makes more sense that Noah, after leaving the ark at the end of the flood, traveled down the Arratt Mountains and seeing two mighty rivers that reminded him of the rivers of Eden, named them the same. It is interesting that these two rivers have retained the same name after so many years.
The garden in Eden contained every type of tree that was pleasant to look at or produced good food. In the middle of the garden were two special trees. The first tree was the tree of life. Eating its fruit gave a person an extended life span. The second tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam's job was to take care of the garden that God planted for him.
Adam was also given a simple law to obey. "You can eat of any tree in the garden, but you cannot eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." This shouldn't have been too hard of a command to keep. After all, the garden was filled with all sorts of fruit trees. A question that comes up is why would God put the tree in the garden if He did not want Adam to eat of its fruits? Wouldn't it have prevented problems later if God did not put the tree in the garden? Why put the tree right in the middle of the garden and then tell Adam not to eat of its fruit?
The answer is fairly straight forward. God created man after his own image. One of the things that this implies is that man is given a free choice to decide whether to obey God or not. If man is to be free to make a choice, then there must be something to choose between. Without the existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then no choice would have existed for Adam. But notice that something else must also exist for Adam to be able to chose to follow God or to disobey Him. God had to give him a law. Without a law, no choice can exist. Right and wrong always exists, but unless we are made aware of the choice through a law, we cannot be held responsible for keeping or breaking the law. See Paul's comment on this fact in Romans 5:13. What we call sin is when a law of God is broken (see I John 3:4).
Unfortunately, there is a side-effect when God tells us that something is wrong to do. We become aware of sin. If God never mentioned that something was sinful, it is possible that we would never have thought of that sin on our own. (See Romans 7:7-12.) Therefore, the very thing that warns us to stay away from sin gives us ideas of sin that we may not have thought of before. Verse 9 of Romans 7 makes an interesting point. When we are young, we are not aware of right and wrong. We do things because our parents say this is what we should do. We avoid doing certain things because if our parents caught us, we would be punished. At some point in our lives, we become aware of God's laws and understand that certain things are right or wrong regardless of what our parents have told us. As an example, you understand that using God's name as a curse word is wrong. You are trying to break yourself of that habit, not because you are afraid that your father would wash your mouth out with soap; you avoid cursing because you understand that it is wrong.
Every child that is born is totally innocent of right and wrong until they mature enough to be aware what is right and wrong on their own (Deuteronomy 1:39). Even though Adam was created as a full-grown man, he had the innocence of a little child. He was unaware of right and wrong on his own.