The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is Genesis 3:8-15. It is very familiar to us as it describes the 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 well 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, God and man, even as Bridegroom and bride. They had been walking together in the Garden and talking face to face. It had been a beautiful, perfect relationship... and now, because of their disobedience, they were hiding from God. They went from a perfect union to separation, and as Scripture tells us, separation from God is death.
An important aspect of this event that is often 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 the Fall? In truth, the issue is not “nakedness” per se. Rather, it is that nakedness is equated with shame in the Old Testament. Adam and Eve are ashamed of their actions. They have sinned now bear this shame. 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 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 this text we see the garment motif being inaugurated in the Bible. Before our text (verse 7), we have the manmade garments of fig leaves. After our text (verse 20), we have the God-made garments of animal skins. The message of the motif is quite clear. Man cannot cover up, or pay for, or atone for his own sin and shame (think also of Isaiah 64 and the verse, “All your deeds are as filthy rags,” or the parable of the Wedding in Matthew 22 where a man tries to gain access to the wedding celebration in garments provided by his own works). Fig leaves do not work! Thus, God gives garments of animal skins which tells us:
1) God provides the covering for sin.
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 sins of the world” (John 1). This fits perfectly with the last verse of our text and the promise of the Seed of the woman.
Man cannot cover up, or pay for, or atone for his own sin and shame. Fig leaves do not work!
3:8 מִתְהַלֵּךְ (mit-hal-Lech) root: הלך (haw-lak) Hithpael Participle: “to walk” The Hithpael has a reflexive sense: “walking himself; himself walking.”
בַּגָּן (bag-Gan) from: גַּן (gan) “garden” “in the garden”
לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם (le-Ru-ach hai-Yom) literally: “In the spirit/breeze of the day” This is more generally translated: “In the cool of the day.”
וַיִּתְחַבֵּא (vai-yit-chab-Be) root: חבא (khaw-baw) Hithpael: “to hide oneself; keep oneself hidden” Man separates himself from the presence of God. Soon God will separate man from the Garden and from the face-to-face relationship. Yet, the plan of God as revealed in Genesis 3:15 is to use this separation as a means to bring about the ultimate reunion between God and man through the Seed of the woman.
3:9 אַיֶּכּה (ai-Yek-kah) from: אֵי (ah’ee) Interrogative: “Where?” “Where are you?”
3:10 אֶת־קֹלְךָ֥ שָׁמַ֖עְתִּי (et ko-le-Cha sha-Ma-ti) “Your voice/sound 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.
עֵירֹם (ei-Rom) “naked; bare”
וָאֵחָבֵא (va-e-cha-Ve) root: חבא (khaw-baw) Niphal: “to hide oneself” Interesting to note how God is calling out to the man (not the man and the 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 the household. The earlier context seems to indicate Adam was standing by the side of Eve as she was tempted and took the fruit and ate.
3:11 לְבִלְתִּי אֲכָל־מִמֶּנּוּ אָכָלִתָּ (le-vil-Ti a-chol mi-Men-nu a-Chal-ta) This is an infinitive chain identified by the particle of negation “בִּלְתִּי” (bil-tee). “Have you eaten from (the tree of which I commanded you) not to eat?”
3:12 עִמָּדִי (im-ma-Di) “with me”
3:13 הַנָּחָשׁ (han-na-Chash) “the serpent; the snake”
הִשִּׁיאַנִי (hish-shi-A-ni) root: נשׁא (naw-shaw) Hiphil: “to deceive; beguile; 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). 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 אָרוּר (a-Rur) “to curse; bind with a curse” The word for “curse” is the opposite of the word for blessing בָרָך (baw-rak) “to bless.”
גְּחֹנְךָ (ge-cho-ne-Cha) “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/being on your belly in the dust is a symbol of defeat. When you conquer an enemy, the leader submits to you by being prostate on the ground before you, AND THEN you place your foot on his head! Therefore, we have the language in the next verse of crushing the head and crushing the heel.
3:15 וְאֵיבָה (ve-ei-Vah) “enmity”
אָשִׁית (a-Shit) root: שׁית (sheeth) Qal: “to set; put; place” Again, note the placement of the noun before the verb. The emphasis is placed on enmity.
יְשׁוּפְךָ/תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ (ye-shu-fe-Cha / te-shu-Fen-nu) root: שׁוּף (shoof) Qal/Hillel: “to crush; bruise; grip hard” Note the same verb being used for both the heel and the head.
We frequently speak of this verse as the “Protoevangelium” 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 this is the first direct promise of the Seed who will reunite all mankind to God by defeating Satan on the Cross.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 3:8-15.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 3:8-15.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Jeffrey Pulse of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Genesis 3:8-15.