OT Encounters: Genesis 3:8-15 – Clothed by God

By Jeff Pulse

Our text for this Sunday, is from the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is a familiar one, Genesis 3:8-15, and describes separation of God and man as a result of the Fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. Obviously, the Fall is a tragic event on every level. Adam and Eve have disobeyed God, not trusting in His promises, and they find themselves hiding from God in their shame. There is no way this can work out for them, and they know it.

The description of Adam and Eve hiding from God is particularly disturbing. When God created them in His own image, they were united together, even as Bridegroom and bride. They would walk together in the Garden and talk face to face. It was a beautiful, perfect relationship. And now, because of their disobedience, they are hiding from God. They went from a perfect union to separation, and as Scripture clearly tells us, separation from God is death.

An important aspect of this event that often is passed over or spoken of in a cursory manner is the issue of nakedness/sin/shame. One has to wonder why it is acceptable to be naked before the Fall and wrong after. In truth, the issue is not “nakedness” per se. Rather, it is that nakedness is equated to shame in the Old Testament. Adam and Eve are ashamed of their actions. They have sinned and now bear this shame, and they do not want to encounter God face to face. They feel the need (and rightly so!) to hide their shame. They first make fig leaves to cover their shame/nakedness, but deep inside they know this is not going to be good enough. They know that God will not be fooled by these man-made garments. So, they also hide themselves in the bushes—still not good enough.

On each side of our text, we see the garment motif being inaugurated in the Bible. Before our text (vs 7) we have the man-made garments of fig leaves, and after our text (vs 20) we have the God made garments of animal skins. The message of this motif is quite clear. Man cannot cover up, pay for, or atone for his own sin and shame. Think also of Isaiah and the verse, “all your deeds  as filthy rags” and the parable of the wedding in the New Testament where a man tries to gain access to the wedding celebration in garments provided by his own works—fig leaves will not work! Thus, God gives garments of animal skins, which tells us, 1) God provides the covering for sin, and 2) blood was shed in order to provide this covering. The Early Church Fathers along with Luther read this motif backward from the New Testament and identify the God garments as LAMB skins. “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Certainly, this fits with the last verse of our text and the promise of the Seed of the woman.

3:8 mithhalek—root: halak—hithpael participle “to walk; walking himself; himself walking; walking”

bagan from gan; garden “in the garden”

leruach hayom; literally “to the spirit/breeze of the day” Generally translated as “in the cool of the day”

wayithchabe—root: chaba—hithpael “to hide oneself; keep oneself hidden” Man separates himself from the presence of God—soon God will do the separation of man from the garden and from the face to face relationship. Yet, the plan of God as revealed in verse 15 is to use this separation to bring about the ultimate reunion between God and all mankind through the Seed of the woman.

3:9 ayekah from ey “where” “Where are you?”

3:10 eth-qolka shamati “your sound/voice I heard” It is interesting to note the way the Hebrew is structured here. The direct object precedes the verb. This may be to emphasize the “voice” of God.

eyrom “naked; bare”

waechabe—root: chaba—niphal “to hide oneself” Interesting to note that God is calling out to the man (not the man and woman) and Adam answers in the singular. Perhaps the LORD God is pointing out to Adam that he should have been more attentive/assertive in carrying out his responsibilities as head of his household. The earlier context seems to indicate that Adam was standing by the side of Eve as she was tempted and took the fruit and ate.

3:11 lebilti akal-mimenu akalta. This is an infinitive chain identified by the particle of negation “bilti” “have you eaten from (the tree of which I commanded you) not to eat?”

3:12 imadiy “with me”

3:13 hanachash “the serpent; snake”

hishiyani—root: nashi—hiphil “to deceive; beguile; to cheat”

Note the way that man is “passing the buck.” First, Adam blames God because it is the woman God gave to be with him (obviously a defective model), and then Eve blames the serpent that God created (not her fault). We will see this repeated when Cain murders his brother Abel and then accuses God of not “keeping” his brother safe from him. After all, God is the “Keeper” and Sustainer of life.

3:14 arur “to curse; to bind with a curse” The word for “curse” is the opposite of barack—to bless.

gechonka “belly” The curse of the serpent is not the crawling on his belly in the dust—because God is not cursing the serpent, He is cursing Satan using serpent language. “You desire to be a serpent, then you shall crawl like one in the dust.” And crawling or being on your belly in the dust is a symbol of defeat. When you conquer the enemy, the leader submits to you by being prostate on the ground before you, AND THEN you place your foot upon his head! Therefore, we have the language coming up in the next verse of crushing the head and bruising/crushing the heel.

3:15 weeyvah “eminity”

ashith—root: shith “to set; put” Note again the placement of the noun before the verb. The emphasis is placed on the enmity.

yeshuphka/teshuphenu—root: shuph—hophal/hollel “to crush” Qal “to bruise; grip hard”

Note the same verb being used here for both heel and head.

We frequently speak of this verse as the “protoeuangellion” or “the first Gospel”. This is a bit of a misnomer. Certainly God’s act of creation is an act of Gospel as well as the making of man in His own image and placing him in the garden. However, it is true to say that this is the first direct promise of the Seed who will reunite all mankind to God by defeating Satan on the cross.