This article examines how the references to death and dying in Gen 2-3 should be understood. Here I bring the scholarly discussion up to date by summarizing significant views from the last decade. I then present a threefold argument for the conclusion that the type of death with which YHWH threatens the man in the story is imminent physical death—not metaphorical death or the loss of immortality. First, YHWH’s statement to the man prohibiting any eating from the tree of knowledge fits the model of Neo-Babylonian conditional verdicts issued in an administrative context. Such verdicts contained penalties that were to be imposed very soon after the commission of any wrongdoing and that could be reduced in severity. Second, other biblical occurrences of expressions like מות תומת (“you will die”) show that the expression in Gen 2:17 most likely represents an ordinary death sentence. Third, the text’s treatment of knowledge and immortality, the two chief characteristics of divinity in the story, supports this overall understanding. The death penalty is not carried out, but the possibility that the original penalty could be changed was part of the nature of conditional verdicts. Thus, in the end, YHWH imposes on the man and the woman punishments less severe than death.

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