I was thinking about why God would, knowing His creations, show them a tree full of luscious fruit and say, "This, you can't have. Everything else is okay but this." I also wondered why He even put the thing there if He intended for us to live as He had created us.
By definition, God is omnipotent. Omnipotence implies omniscience; and that being the case, He would have known what would happen: He could have looked forward in time and seen everything that would occur, given the starting conditions. So why?
Well, I have never liked the "God is just a big meanie!" theory: God did it specifically because He liked bullying the puny mortals. "You did something wrong! No Eden for you!" As if He were some kind of gigantic Eden Nazi.
Some religious doctrine maintains that man's role in the universe is to complete it--to finish the work God started--although it is never explained exactly how the universe was left undone nor why.
I began to think about all this while trying to get to sleep, and I came up with a scenario.
God creates heaven and Earth, makes the land and sea, makes plants and animals to populate the Earth, etcetera. This takes "six days"--I have long maintained that the story of creation is not literal, and "six days" probably translates to "the entire history of the universe before human history begins".
Once that's finished, what then?
His part in creation is finished; He wants his creations to do all the detail work. These creations must be sentient, self-aware, and possessed of free will in order to do the job. He's planning to be highly involved with the first few thousand years of human history (read: "Genesis" and "Exodus" at least) and if these creatures know of His existence, it puts a severe strain on free will. So he needs creatures which are capable of being just disobedient enough to do the job.
So He designs a test rig for the "Eden Test". He creates a paradise with a big fancy tree in the center, full of tempting fruit. If you eat the fruit you pass the quality assurance inspection, which of course means you end up being driven from Eden into the nasty cruel world, to live by the sweat of your brow and die upon the earth, etc, etc.
First He creates angels and sends a sample pair to the Garden of Eden; but they're too good, too obedient, and He sees that they won't do. But since He is a creator, not a destroyer, he uses them for "housekeeping"--announcing heavenly events, the birth of Jesus, heralding the destruction of the world, etc.
Then He creates demons. They turn out to be too disobedient. I imagine them trying to establish who is top dog and destroying the Garden of Eden in the process. God sends them to an alternate plane, a place which is much like Earth at first, but which rapidly becomes Hell as the demons wreck the place with their endless fighting.
He rebuilds the garden and finally, He makes man. As He is about to begin the test, Lucifer comes to Him and says, "Hey, wait a second. Why don't you give the angels dominion over man?"
God demurs, Lucifer starts a war and is cast down; God begins administering the Eden test to Adam and Eve--and the rest, as they say, is history. They disobey God, eat the forbidden fruit, and God tosses them out on their ears.
This scenario leaves a few questions: does God plan for Lucifer's interference? Is Lucifer complicit in this, or is it Lucifer's own idea?
Also, what about Adam hiding from God? He says he's ashamed because he's naked, and God asks him, "Who told you that you were naked?" That indicates that Adam lacked self-awareness before eating of the Tree of Knowledge, and that afterward he did. Perhaps the "Tree of Knowledge" is actually that, and Adam learns all he needs to know to survive in the "real world" after eating its fruit. So, final test and program load, perhaps; because after God verifies that Adam and Eve have disobeyed Him, they go out into the world to live the way God actually intended humans to live from the beginning.
In the end all of this is meant as a kind of mental exercise, though what for, I'm not entirely sure. As an exercise in fitting a theory to the established "rules", it does help me (as a writer of science fiction) so what the hey.