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Did Adam and Eve have to eat before the Fall?

In today’s feedback, CMI’s Shaun Doyle explores some questions regarding the coherence of Genesis 1–3.


G.S. from Australia writes:

I had a friend ask me a question and I am stumped with how to answer it.
“Why did Adam and Eve even have to eat in the garden? You believe there was no death or sickness before they ate the fruit, so why did they need to eat anyway? You can’t say if was to sustain life because there was no death at the time. You can’t say to keep them healthy because there was no sickness. So what was the purpose in eating?”

I have been pondering this for about a month now and cannot come up with a satisfactory answer for him. I know we do not need to know the answers to everything, but this was a genuine (and might I add, original—for me) question and I was wondering if you can help me here


CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear G.,

Thank you for your email.

The Bible doesn’t tell us whether Adam and Eve needed to eat to live and stay healthy before the Fall, but your friend’s questions can be answered regardless of which view you take.

First, let’s say that Adam and Eve didn’t need to eat to live and stay healthy before the Fall. Even if so, it’s obvious that Adam and Eve were designed to be eaters. God permitted Adam and Eve to eat from every tree in the Garden of Eden (except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil), which implies that He didn’t need to command them to eat. Moreover, our bodies are designed to eat and digest food, and there’s every reason to think Adam and Eve were no different. And we get more out of eating than just sustenance—eating (when the food is good) is a pleasurable experience, and meals are a common means of human fellowship. There is still plenty of reason to eat even if someone doesn’t need to.

Now, let’s say that Adam and Eve needed to eat to survive and stay healthy before the Fall, and thus were physically capable of suffering malnutrition and starving to death. Even if so, just because they could starve to death doesn’t mean they would starve to death. God can create a world in which they would not have suffered malnutrition or died through starvation before the Fall. All He would have to do is create a world in which the desire to eat is sufficiently strong in Adam and Eve that they would always choose to eat sufficiently to stave off malnutrition and death. In this scenario, God planned not only the end (avoidance of malnutrition and death before the Fall) but also the means to that end—eating food. Thus, your friend’s objection that “You can’t say to keep them healthy because there was no sickness” has it backward—it was because they would always choose to eat that they would have always stayed healthy!

Either solution works, given the biblical data—which one you prefer depends only on whether you think God would make eating food part of the means by which Adam and Eve were kept alive before the Fall or not. But plumbing the depths of what God would do is beyond my abilities, so I leave you with both solutions.

Kind regards
Shaun Doyle
Creation Ministries International

A.C. from Australia writes:

I am researching the Garden of Eden for my bible class at school. I am puzzled by the detailed reference to the garden and the mention of gold, onyx and aromatic resin. I am battling to see why such seemingly trivial details are mentioned in such a critically important passage. Any thoughts?

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Dear A.C.,

Thank you for your email.

The details are most likely meant to convey that Eden, and the Garden situated in Eden, were real places. Genesis is a historical narrative that likely originated with separate units of history passed down from Moses' ancestors that he synthesized into a written volume. However, in the original unit of history that came from pre-Flood times, it was meant to convey the location of the Garden of Eden. The key to remember is that the geographical details mentioned in Genesis 2:10–14 don’t convey any location discernible in the modern world because the Flood completely changed the geography of the world. The river names and place names mentioned in Genesis 2 were likely reused by Noah and his sons as place names in the post-Flood world; much like Newcastle in New South Wales is named after the city Newcastle in northern England.

Published: 8 February 2015

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