22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—
23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.
24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Verse 22 gives a brief insight into the inner councils of the tri-une Godhead. As in Genesis 1:26, such a council was recorded relative to the decision to make man, so now the council decrees his expulsion from the garden and the tree of life. In both passages, the divine unity is stressed (“And the Lord God said”) and also the divine plurality (“Us”). — Morris, page 131.
To “keep” ( or “guard”) the way of the tree of life, God placed at the east of the garden two cherubim, with a revolving swordlike flame …These creatures, apparently the highest in the angelic hierarchy, are described more fully in Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:1-22; and Revelation 4:6-8. Satan himself had once been the “anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14) on God’s holy mountain.
The cherubim are always associated closely with the throne of God (note Psalm 18:10; 80:1; 99:1) and it is thus intimated that God’s presence was particularly manifest there at the tree of life. Later, His presence was especially revealed over the mercy seat in the holy of holies in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:17-22; Hebrews 9:3-5), and it is significant that this mercy seat was overshadowed by two golden representations of the cherubim. It was here that once each year the high priest entered with the sacrificial blood of atonement to sprinkle over the mercy seat (see Leviticus 16; Hebrews 9:7-9; 24-28).
By analogy, it may well be that it was here, between the cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life, that God continued at intervals to meet with Adam and those of his descendants who desired to know Him. — Morris, page 132.
Fallen man, in his fallen state, must not be allowed to eat of the fruit of the tree of life, for that would entail upon him endless wretchedness in this world. To take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever in our present condition, would be unmingled misery. The tree of life can only be tasted in resurrection. To life forever in a frail tabernacle, in a body of sin and death, would be intolerable. — Mackintosh, page 55.
The verb “shakan,” translated “and he placed,” should be rendered “and He set up the tabernacle” as it has been so translated in Joshua 18:1, where the same verb is given its right meaning. Then we can understand how the two brothers could bring an offering unto the Lord. The Lord had a tabernacle at the East of the Garden of Eden. — Bultema, page 19.
Adam and Eve, though forgiven, are no longer able to experience that ideal of intended intimacy with God in the garden, from which they are sent out towards the east: so too is Cain sent eastward as a consequence of his sin (4:16); and so too does man move further east before building the tower of Babel (11:2). This direction is first reversed in the Bible by Abraham’s father Terah, who sets out towards Canaan in 11:31, implying a desire on his part to draw closer to God. It is finally reversed by Christ Himself at His second advent, when, as described by Ezekiel, “the glory of God” (Jesus; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7; Hebrews 1:3) returns to the Temple “from the way of the East” (Ezekiel 43:2). It is there, Ezekiel goes on to say, that God (the Son) will establish His throne and “dwell” for all eternity. — Wechsler, page 114.