Disaster has struck. Adam and Eve, though given every opportunity and advantage, have chosen death and not life. They have eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And what’s that all about? Why would God make such a big deal about a piece or two of fruit? So what? Couldn’t He just lighten up? If you’re reading the story at face value, you might be justified in asking such questions, but reading at face value will get you nowhere except into a lot of fruitless debate and speculation. If you haven’t read them yet, check out the two posts preceding this one first. You’ll miss a lot if you just start right here.
When Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, human nature fundamentally changed. They previously had an innocent nature. Had they eaten of the Tree of Life, our first parents would have taken into themselves the nature of God and become one with Him (not in divinity, but in unity of love with Him and with one another). Instead, they took into themselves poison; the sin nature, a dependence on intellectual knowledge above all else, and as a result, spiritual death.
Why so harsh? Actually, God’s command not to eat of the tree of knowledge was more a warning than an edict. He told them not to eat of it in the same way we might tell someone not to eat spoiled potato salad. “Don’t eat that — it’s bad and it’ll hurt you.” But they did eat, and the fruit of that tree did its damage. They were changed and no longer looked like God. They were contaminated and corrupted and God could no longer contemplate taking them into unity with Himself. How could He unite Himself with individuals who did not desire such oneness? How could He take into Himself people who now embodied the nature of the devil? Impossible.
So this is what He did: He provided clothing for them immediately, since they had lost their innocence. He told them what would happen to them as a result of their actions. (Many people see His words as a curse. They were not. They were merely information, given to prepare them for what lay ahead.) He told them how He would, at the right time, remedy the situation.
Then He did the most merciful thing He could do in the circumstances; He drove them out of the garden and made sure they could not come back, lest they eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in their fallen state.