The Bible ought to be read and understood literally whenever and wherever possible. When a word, phrase, or expression in God's Word fails to be "true to fact" it is a Figure of Speech. Figures of Speech are used by God to emphasize important points in His Word. The explanation of a Figure given by God in His Word is the only acceptable explanation. If God does not explain the figure in the context of His Word, then we will never know God's meaning. There are many figures used by God in the Bible related to "trees." Lets look at three specific trees in God's Word:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Tradition teaches that Adam and Eve ate an apple. I have been taught many other things that men believe this tree represented. But the truth of God's Word is that the tree was "a knowledge of good and evil." Prior to eating of this tree Adam and Eve had a knowledge of good. They knew God! They knew what it meant to obey God. They knew what it meant to be blessed by God. Upon eating of the tree they "gained" a knowledge of evil! They disobeyed a direct command of God. They lost their spiritual connection with God. They gave dominion over the earth to the Devil. They died. That is what God's Word says and that is what It means.
And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: . . .
"The tree of life" is another tree introduced in Genesis. God's explanation of this tree is that once a man ate of it he would live forever. Adam and Eve were not restricted from eating of this tree prior to their spiritual death. In fact, God had said: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:" However, after disobeying God and eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, God did not want them to live forever in this state of death. He prevented them from eating of the tree of life and guarded it with Cherubims and a flaming sword.
God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to redeem mankind, make spirit available once again, and make man righteous before Him. Another tree played an important part of man's redemption.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly;
Jesus Christ was crucified on a tree. It was not a living tree. The Romans would cut down a tree and strip the branches from it. They would cut out notches for feet and hands and nail the person to be crucified to this pole which was carried to the place of execution. In the Bible the pole on which Jesus Christ was crucified is called a cross or a tree.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
1 Peter 2:24
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Jesus Christ gave his life as a "sin offering" by being crucified and hanged on a tree. He redeemed us from the state of death in which we were left by the disobedience of Adam. Jesus Christ overcame the evil in the world. When we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, we also overcome evil. We receive holy spirit from God and once again have life. Those who have received of God's spirit and have eternal life will also once again have access to "the tree of life."
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
In Revelation 22:2 the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. Healing and eternal life. Adam disobeyed God when he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus Christ redeemed us when he was hanged on a tree. Holy spirit, eternal life, and access to the tree of life are available once again thanks to Jesus Christ who gave his life for us.
She [wisdom] is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: . . .
The wisdom of God is "a" tree of life. It is not "the" tree of life, but eternal life is found in the wisdom of God.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; . . .
The fruit of being right before God is also called "a" tree of life. To walk a righteous walk has eternal rewards.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Hope anticipates that which is not presently available. We hope for the return of Christ. It is heart sickening to wait, but when our hope is realized - the rewards are eternal!
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: . . .
A wholesome tongue is a tongue that speaks God's Word. It brings eternal life to those who hear. We have the awesome privilege of holding forth the Word of God regarding the redemption that is available in Christ Jesus.