By standing for “the knowledge of good and bad” and by God’s pronouncement decreeing it to be out-of-bounds for the human pair, the tree became a symbol of God’s right to determine or set the standards for man as to what is “good” (approved by God) and what is “bad” (condemned by God). It constituted a test of man’s respect for his Creator’s position and his willingness to remain within the area of freedom decreed by God.
What was represented by the tree is well expressed in a footnote on Genesis 2:17, in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):
“This knowledge is a privilege which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognise his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.”
For more, see:
The Knowledge of Good and Bad (JWQ&A)
Garden of Eden
Search For Bible Truths - ARCHIVE
Search For Bible Truths - Search Guide