Genesis 3:20-24 – Grace in Judgment

Genesis 3:20–24 (ESV) — 20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

This seems to be a weird collection of verses.

  • Both in its position in the chapter – it seems out of place.
  • And in its content – verse 20, e.g., seems an awkward verse to come after verse 19.
  • Moreover, the text comes across more as a commentary – an aside to the judgment texts.

 

I think by understanding the text and what it is telling us – everything will come into focus.

  • Especially when we see how prevalent grace is.

 

 

Naming of Eve (vs. 20):

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

 

Gordon Wenham gets us started.

“What prompted the man to call his wife ‘Life’ especially at this juncture in the story? It comes immediately after the curses announcing man’s mortality (v 19), the pains of childbirth (v 16), and the struggle of the woman’s seed with the snake (v 15)” – Wenham.

 

So what we have is a sudden and massive change in tone.

  • In the midst of the judgment and curses – especially the decree that death awaits Adam and Eve – we are told that Adam named his wife “the mother of all living”.
  • Eve’s name in Hebrew, ḥawwâ, apparently finds its origin from the word ḥāyâ which means “to live” – DOT.
  • This seems in opposition to the death that awaits them.

 

What is going on here?

  • There are at least three choices.

 

1) Exercising Headship

  • This is the most common view.
  • The idea is that in naming his wife “Eve”, Adam is demonstrating his authority over her.
  • “Adam’s naming the woman is his exercise of responsible headship” – Kenneth Mathews.

 

However, this meaning doesn’t seem to flow from the context that precedes it.

  • Moreover, there is an ancient debate concerning who is superior over whom in the Genesis narrative.
  • “Historical Judaism traditionally argues for the superiority of the man (see Gen. Rab. 18.2), as does Islam (see Al-Baghawi, Mishkat al-Masabili). The Talmud, however, argues for the superiority of the woman (Sanh. 39a)” – DOT.

 

2) Act of Faith

  • In spite of the death sentence leveled at Adam and Eve, Adam seems to understand that God has more in store for humanity.
  • As we saw last week, there are some reversals that need to be remedied.
  • Therefore, “Adam’s naming is an act of faith on his part. Though threatened by death Adam does not believe that he and his wife are to be the first and last beings of the human race. Motherhood will emerge” – Victor Hamilton.

 

Does this make sense in light of the judgment texts before it?

 

3) Continuance of Life

  • Even though death will befall them, they will live on through their offspring.
  • Life will continue, as they are obedient to be fruitful and multiply.
  • Moreover, “She was the source of the ‘seed’ (v. 15) that would eventually defeat the serpent and restore life” – Apologetics Study Bible.

 

Does this make sense in light of the judgment texts before it?

 

 

Making Garments (vs. 21):

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

 

A number of commentators point out that this text has God making (asa) again.

  • He had rested, but is now at work again.

 

Their point is this.

“Adam and Eve are in need of a salvation that comes from without. God needs to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves” – Victor Hamilton.

  • In other words, God’s making of the garments is His first act of grace shown to Adam and Eve after the fall.

 

We also need to keep in mind that Adam and Eve are about to be expelled from the garden.

  • The vulnerability – both spiritual and physical – they were made with is about to exist within a context it wasn’t originally made for.
  • Once naked and unashamed (in Garden), they are now naked and ashamed (outside Garden).

 

But, God intercedes on their behalf – even in the midst of His judgment – and shows grace.

  • “It is important for understanding the drift of this chapter that we note that the clothing precedes the expulsion from the garden. God’s act of grace comes before his act of judgment” – Hamilton.

“This provision should probably be seen as an act of grace by God, preparing them for the more difficult environment he is sending them into and providing a remedy for their newly developed shame” – Walton.

 

BTW – Gordon Wenham disagrees with the garments as grace approach.

  • “In this context God’s provision of clothes appears not so much an act of grace, as often asserted, but as a reminder of their sinfulness (cf. Calvin, 1:182). Just as man may not enjoy a direct vision of God, so God should not be approached by man unclothed” – Wenham.

 

 

What about the texts connection to animal sacrifice?

  • As the ESV Study Bible points out:

“Because God provides garments to clothe Adam and Eve, thus requiring the death of an animal to cover their nakedness, many see a parallel here related to (1) the system of animal sacrifices to atone for sin later instituted by God through the leadership of Moses in Israel, and (2) the eventual sacrificial death of Christ as an atonement for sin”.

 

There is actually disagreement about this.

  • The Hebrew text used here points clearly to literal, real clothing needed for protection outside of the Garden.
  • “It is probably reading too much into this verse to see in the coats of skin a hint of the use of animals and blood in the sacrificial system of the OT cultus” – Hamilton.
  • Maybe this is trying too hard not to read something into the text.

 

Kenneth Mathews points out this about the word for “garment”…

  • “This is another lexical link with the symbols of the tabernacle, where the priest must be properly clothed before God in the administration of his service” – Mathews.
  • He goes on to point out that…
  • “Since the garden narrative shares in tabernacle imagery, it is not surprising that allusion to animal sacrifice is found in the garden too” – Mathews.

 

In other words, we have already seen the Garden is a sacred space that requires sacred service.

  • And in our verses today, we see additional tabernacle imagery with the introduction the cherubim.
  • He placed the cherubim” (vs. 24).

 

Cherubim are associated with the tabernacle all throughout the OT.

  • “The placing of cherubim to the east of the garden is reflected in the tabernacle and temple, where cherubim were an important component in the structure and furnishings” – ESV Study Bible.
  • So it is not a stretch to see tabernacle sacrifice imagery behind God’s provision of the garments.
  • It fits.

 

BTW – there may be here an indication of the need for the law.

  • Something else “made” by God.

 

In Adam and Eve’s naked and unashamed state (vulnerability in the Garden), they had great freedom.

  • They only had one prohibition.

 

But, in their naked and ashamed state (vulnerability outside of Garden), there was a need for covering.

  • The garments covered them physically.
  • The law would cover them spiritually?

 

 

Like One of Us (vs. 22):

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—

 

There is widespread agreement on this verse.

  • It is not expressing a fear that God now has a rival.
  • Remember the context – God alone is creator of everything and He alone can “reverse” creation.
  • “God’s admission that the man ‘has become like one of Us’ does not indicate that the serpent’s suggestion that God was insecure about His position was correct” – Apologetics Study Bible.

 

Kenneth Mathews put’s it like this:

God’s word here “is not one of fear of usurpation but rather of sympathy for the misery the first couple must endure and an assurance that their pitiful state is not consigned for eternity” – Mathews.

 

In other words, God is recognizing the severity of Adam and Eve’s current condition.

  • They are in risk of being immortal sinners – “live forever”.
  • And, in grace, He is about to provide a remedy for it.

 

 

Driven Out (vs. 23-24):

Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

 

1) The remedy for the severity of Adam and Eve’s situation was an act of grace.

  • God, as part of his judgment against Adam and Eve, “drove out the man”.
  • He did this so they could not eat of “the tree of life”.
  • In their nakedness and shame, God makes sure they don’t live this way forever.
  • “Taken in the broader context of Scripture, driving the man and his wife out of the garden was an act of merciful grace to prevent them from being sustained forever by the tree of life” – John MacArthur.

 

2) God’s act of driving them out, however, was also traumatic.

  • The Hebrew for “drove out” is a much stronger term than “sent him out” – Wenham.
  • In fact, it is the same phrase used to describe “the expulsion of the inhabitants of Canaan” – Wenham.
  • Even more harsh, is that the same phrase carries the idea of divorce as well.

 

3) Adam’s future is decided by God’s decree.

  • The use of this language makes clear that just as God put Adam in the Garden.
  • Adam’s expulsion was God’s work – Adam could not stay of his own will.

 

4) And we have to remember that the expulsion was also judgment.

  • “Outside the garden, man is distant from God and brought near to death” – Wenham.
  • “Removal from the safety of the garden [is] exposure to a life of severity and uncertainty” – Hamilton.
  • “The original tasks given to both Adam and Eve (keeping the garden, being fruitful and multiplying) now involve difficulty because they live outside Eden” – Heiser.

 

This expulsion makes it a certainty that Adam will return to the ground from which He came.

  • The dust outside of the Garden.
  • This means, of course, that all of us (sons of Adam) will also die.

 

Moreover, the couple, like Israel for years to come, is driven out to the East in judgment.

  • Disobedience leads to exile to the east throughout the OT.
  • Just as God put out Adam He puts out Israel for disobedience.
  • But as He put Adam into the Garden, in Genesis, God would soon bring Abram out of the East and put him back into the Promise Land.
  • Yet another act of grace and covenant faithfulness.
  • Actions that ultimately bring us Jesus.

 

Genesis 3 Summary:

“The serpent held out to the couple the prospect that being like God would bring with it unlimited privileges, unheard-of acquisitions and gifts. Alas, rather than experiencing bliss, they encounter misery. Rather than sitting on a throne, they are expelled from the garden. Rather than new prerogatives, they experience only a reversal. The couple not only fail to gain something they do not presently have; the irony is that they lose what they currently possess: unsullied fellowship with God. They found nothing and lost everything” – Victor Hamilton.

  • “Is it not surprising in a chapter of the Bible so widely accepted as mythical that we find the classical outline of salvation history rather than myths? God acts and speaks; man rebels; God punishes; God protects and reconciles” – Victor Hamilton.

 

 

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