How should the following phrase be interpreted?

וְעֵץ הַחַיִּים בְּתוֹךְ הַגָּן

(Genesis 2:9)

Does this mean

  1. The [Tree of Life] (which is) in the garden

or does it mean

  1. The Tree of [Life within the garden]?
  • 5
    The cantillation strongly suggests the former.
    – Ypnypn
    Sep 10, 2014 at 1:44
  • 1
    Two more conceivable possibilities: "a tree of {those who live in the garden}" and "{a tree of those who live} which is in the garden". (Chayim is not only "life" but the masculine plural present of "to live".)
    – msh210
    Sep 10, 2014 at 3:21
  • @msh210 No. That's choyim (as opposed to chayyim). IINM
    – Double AA
    Sep 10, 2014 at 3:28
  • @DoubleAA I believe you're mistaken. Check the verse "v'atem had'vekim..." to be sure.
    – msh210
    Sep 10, 2014 at 11:47

1 Answer 1


Verse 3:22 would seem to indicate the former:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ, לָדַעַת, טוֹב וָרָע; וְעַתָּה פֶּן-יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ, וְלָקַח גַּם מֵעֵץ הַחַיִּים, וְאָכַל, וָחַי לְעֹלָם

Here, עץ החיים is not modified with בתוך הגן, so evidently that is not part of its name, but rather a geographical indicator.

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