In the creation story, what is the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a tree which God planted in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:9
Adam and Eve, like everything else in creation, were very good. Genesis 1:31
At creation, Adam and Eve were innocent but immature. The planting of the tree in the garden would indicate that at some point in their development they would need to be introduced to the ‘knowledge’ of good and evil. This is a ‘knowledge’ that God and the angels already possess, but are never tempted to do evil.
God created Adam and Eve with freewill, and their obedience had to be put to the test. God gave them one commandment to observe. Genesis 2:16,17
The animal reasoning of the serpent put Eve to the test – would she believe God or an animal? Genesis 3:1-5
We might reasonably suppose that the serpent knew that the fruit was not poisonous – nothing that God had made was poisonous – so on this basis it reasoned that Eve wouldn’t die if she ate the fruit.
Having no moral faculty, it failed to understand that death would come, not from the fruit, but as a judicial punishment from God for disobedience. Choosing to believe the serpent, Eve succumbed to what we learn later are weaknesses of our nature – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Genesis 3:6
We must suppose that the fruit made a physiological change in Adam and Eve which opened their eyes (so to speak) to the knowledge that they had an option to do evil, which was not there before.
The serpent had reasoned “you will be like God, knowing good and evil." This proved to be true because God says (v.22) "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil”.
We learn from Paul that Adam was not deceived by the serpent’s reasoning, so we conclude that faced with the choice of going with Eve or going with God, he chose Eve. 1 Timothy 2:14
Adam and his offspring are not mentally strong enough to always resist the temptation to do evil i.e. to sin. They all sin at some point in their lives. The penalty for each and every sin is death. Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 5:12
God in his love for his creation promised and provided a redeemer who, although born with our nature, had the strength of character to resist the temptation to sin.
The redeemer is Jesus Christ who voluntarily sacrificed his sinless life to ransom the lives of the faithful of all ages. John 15:13
At the appointed time Jesus will return to the earth to raise the faithful from the dead and give them the divine nature, making them equal to the angels. 2 Peter 1:4
The knowledge of good and evil will not then present a problem to them because with the divine nature they cannot be tempted with evil.
I hope this helps.