Friday, January 30, 2015

Samuel’s Little Robe (I Samuel 2:19)

Whose mother sent him a new coat each year? Samuel’s (I Samuel 2:19)

First Samuel opens with a woman named Hannah troubled by her infertility (I Samuel 1:1-8). She journeys to Israel’s religious epicenter, Shiloh, and prays to the Lord for a child, promising, “I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” (I Samuel 1:11 NASB). After being unjustly rebuked by the priest, Eli (I Samuel1:12-18), her prayer is answered and she gives birth to a son, Samuel (I Samuel 1:19-28), for which she famously offers a prayer of thanksgiving (I Samuel 2:1-11).

The narrative then shifts to detailing the impropriety of Eli’s sons (I Samuel 2:12-17) before returning its focus to the boy Samuel, who was being raised in Shiloh (I Samuel 2:18-21).

Immediately after mentioning that Samuel is wearing a priestly ephod (I Samuel 2:18), the text notes that Hannah periodically returns to Shiloh to present her son with a robe (I Samuel 2:19).

And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. (I Samuel 2:19 NASB)
This child will grow up to become one of the most pivotal figures in Israel’s history. Gene M. Tucker (b. 1935) focuses:
Even children of destiny have parents. Here, of course, his mother Hannah stands out. Although she had “loaned him” to the Lord (I Samuel 1:28, 2:20 RSV) in fulfillment of her vow [I Samuel 1:11], she continued to be his mother. One cannot help but he touched by the account of the mother who sees her young son but rarely, each year bringing him “a little robe” [I Samuel 2:19], He is, after all, a growing boy, and last year’s robe will soon be too short. (Fred B. Craddock [b. 1928], John H. Hayes [1934-2013], Carl R. Holladay [b. 1943] and Tucker, Preaching Through the Christian Year: Year C: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Lectionary, 45)
The image of the young man in his little robe has become iconic. F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) informs:
Dean [Arthur Penrhyn] Stanley [1815-1881] tells us that, in his gentler moments, Martin Luther [1483-1546] used to dwell on these early chapters of the books of Samuel with the tenderness which formed the occasional counterpoise to the ruder passions and enterprises of his stormy life. Indeed, students of the Scriptures in every age have been arrested by the figure of this little child girded with his linen ephod, or in the little robe which his mother brought him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice [I Samuel 2:18-19]. (Meyer, Samuel: The Prophet, 3)
In consecutive verses, the narrative addresses the child’s wardrobe (I Samuel 2:18-19). Bruce C. Birch (b. 1941) tracks:
The failure of Eli’s sons in their priestly duties is followed by a notice concerning Samuel’s education as a priest [I Samuel 2:18-21]...The notice about Samuel’s clothing [I Samuel 2:18] bridges to a brief account of the small robe Hannah would make and bring to Samuel each year [I Samuel 2:19]. (Birch, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume II: Numbers, Deuteronomy, Introduction to Narrative Literature, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 987)
Robert P. Gordon (b. 1945) supposes:
He [Samuel] wears a linen ephod, probably a loincloth, in accordance with priestly custom (e.g. I Samuel 22:18); there is no talk of lower-age limits for priestly service in this story where grown men have failed (cf. Numbers 8:24-26; I Chronicles 23:24-32). A more substantial outer robe (I Samuel 2:19) was supplied for his growing frame when his mother made her accustomed visits to Shiloh. (Gordon, I & II Samuel: A Commentary, 82)
Ronald F. Youngblood (b. 1931) evaluates:
Even as a young apprentice priest under Eli’s supervision, Samuel wore the linen ephod characteristic of that ministry [I Samuel 2:18]. Anthony Phillips [b. 1936] (“David’s Linen Ephod,” Vetus Testamentum 19/4 [1969]: 487), primarily on the basis of II Samuel 6:14, attempted to prove that Samuel’s ephod “is not to be understood as a special priestly garment but a brief loincloth suitable for young children.” But Phillips fails to explain why David (II Samuel 6:14) would wear a child’s garment, and he resorts to the Septuagint’s omission of linen in I Samuel 22:18 to confirm his belief that the eighty-five priests slaughtered by Doeg are not described there as “wearing” ephods but as “carrying” an “oracular instrument” (another meaning for ’ēpōd). N.L. Tidwell (“The Linen Ephod: I Samuel 2:18 and II Samuel 6:14,” Vetus Testamentum 24/4 [1974]:505-07) rightly criticizes Phillips’ view in favor of the traditional interpretation: “Linen ephod” always refers to a priest’s garment, whether worn by a youth or by an adult. Indeed, the little “robe” that Samuel’s mother made for him annually as he was growing up (II Samuel 2:19) may well have been an example of the “robe of the ephod” mentioned in Exodus 28:31 (the Hebrew word for “robe” being the same in both passages). Although David is not described as wearing such a robe in II Samuel 6:14, he is so depicted in the parallel text of I Chronicles 15:27. (Tremper Longman III [b. 1952] and David E. Garland [b. 1947], 1 Samuel ~ 2 Kings (Expositor’s Bible Commentary), 60)
A. Graeme Auld (b. 1941) supplements:
The ephod with which he is girded [I Samuel 2:18] is worn or borne almost always by priests; and we shall find David wearing it bringing the ark to Jerusalem (II Samuel 6:14)...We may wonder whether this youngster’s distinctive uniform anticipates a priestly role or a royal (or at least leadership) role. The topic of dress is immediately developed in the final scene, in which his mother appears (I Samuel 2:19-21). The little “robe” she makes for him is worn alike by princes and priests (indeed Exodus 28:31 talks of “the robe for the ephod”). And, just as he himself had been “brought up” (I Samuel 1:24-25 in both the Greek Text and Masoretic Text) to the sanctuary—the same verb as is also used of offering certain sacrifices there—so too his mother “brings up” this garment “periodically” (the same term is used for the “periodic” sacrifice). (Auld, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 49)
Hannah leaves Samuel in the care of Eli, the priest (I Samuel 1:24-28). Though she is not a daily part of her firstborn son’s life, she does visit him. Most English translations convey annual pilgrimages in conjunction with sacrifice: “each year” (ESV, NLT, NRSV, RSV), “annual” (HCSB, MSG, NIV), “year to year” (ASV, KJV, NASB), “year by year” (NKJV), “every year” (CEV). The Hebrew, however, is not this explicit.

P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. (b. 1945) notifies:

From time to time...the seasonal sacrifice [I Samuel 2:19] [is in]...Hebrew miyyāmîm yāmînâ...’et-zebah hayyāmîm. As in I Samuel 1:3, 21 to translate these expressions “Year by year...the annual sacrifice” would be overprecise, even though an annual pilgrimage may in fact be involved here. (McCarter, I Samuel (Anchor Bible), 84)
The notice regarding Samuel’s progress serves to indicate a passage of time (I Samuel 2:18-21). Alfons Schulz (1871-1947) approves:
I Samuel 2:19 delightfully relates how at the pilgrimage each year Hannah, the mother, brings her son, who serves in the sanctuary, a new robe—obviously because in the meantime he has ‘grown out of’ the old one: a splendid, childlike touch in a brief remark. (David M. Gunn [b. 1942], “Narrative Arts in the Books of Samuel,” Narrative and Novella in Samuel: Studies by Hugo Gressmann [1877-1927] and Other Scholars 1906-1923, 168-69)
Many have seen an irregularity as the term for coat is in the singular (I Samuel 2:19): Does Hannah return the same coat on each visit?

One Midrash explains this perceived discrepancy with an ancient version of Ann Brashares [b.1967]’s The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Basil Herring (b. 1947) retells:

The Bible tells us, “Moreover, his mother made him a little robe and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (I Samuel 2:19). Now the midrash...asks how it could be that she brought the same robe every year as he was growing up. Did he not outgrow it, as every mother knows? The answer, says the midrash, is that something miraculous occurred: although the child grew from year to year, he never outgrew the garment—it grew with him, it always fit, it was never too tight. Indeed, says the midrash, when he became the leader of Israel, Samuel continued to wear this robe long after his mother had died...What is the midrash trying to suggest? The answer, one might say, is that this mother’s robe was a reflection of her love—it was not static but dynamic; it changed with time; it grew and evolved, it took different forms and expressions, appropriate to the stages of life as Samuel himself went through his own phases...As a mother Hannah had found the key to allowing her love for Samuel to grow with him, in spite of the inevitable separation and distance that time would bring, allowing him to develop his own identity, making his own choices, his own mistakes, and his own life. (Herring, The Jewish Imagination: Discourses on Contemporary Jewish Life, 152)
Most interpreters have come to the logical conclusion that Hannah presents her son with new robes (I Samuel 2:19). Amos Oz (b. 1939) and Fania Oz-Salzberger (b. 1960) praise:
Don’t let the singular noun form mislead you: she made him a new little coat every year, fit to size, and the biblical author recognizes the sweetness of that petit priest-child clothing [I Samuel 2:19]. For Hannah, not Bathsheba, is the earliest linchpin of the two faces of Jewish motherhood: great physical tenderness, and early scholarly sendoff. Heartbroken at the shrine or school gate, but decisively returning home to start next year’s little coat. (Oz and Oz-Salzberger, Jews and Words, 83)
Warren W. Wiersbe (b. 1929) correlates:
In Scripture, garments often speak of the spiritual life (Isaiah 61:10; Zechariah 3:1-5; Ephesians 4:22-32; Colossians 3:8-17; I Peter 5:5), and a change of clothing symbolizes a new beginning (Genesis 35:2, 41:14, 45:22; Exodus 19:10; Revelation 3:18). Each year’s new garments spoke not only of a boy growing physically but also spiritually (I Samuel 2:21), and this reminds us of out Lord who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NKJV). (Wiersbe, Be Successful (1 Samuel): Attaining Wealth That Money Can’t Buy, 29)
Randy Frazee (b. 1961) situates:
Just as Samuel’s mom-made robe got a little bigger each year [I Samuel 2:19], so did the assignment God had in mind for him. In the Upper Story perspective, God was preparing the young man to lead Israel through its own awkward adolescence. (Frazee, The Heart of the Story: God’s Masterful Design to Restore His People, 98)
Hannah bestows her son a “little robe” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV), “little coat” (KJV), “small coat” (NLT) or “clothes” (CEV) (I Samuel 2:19).

Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1952) identifies:

While we cannot be sure about the nature of the “robe” Samuel wore (I Samuel 2:19), the word me‘îl for the priest’s robe is described at length in Exodus 28:31-35 and Exodus 39:22-26. Jonathan wears one (I Samuel 18:4), as do Saul (I Samuel, 24:5, 12) and even Samuel’s spirit (I Samuel 28:14). (Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, 221)
Eugene H. Peterson (b. 1932) assumes:
The ephod that Hannah made for Samuel was a distinctive garment of some kind, worn by priests [I Samuel 2:19]. An elaborate description of the ephod worn by the high priest is provided in Exodus 28:5-14. The robe Hannah sewed must have been a simpler form. (Peterson, First and Second Samuel (Westminster Bible Companion), 34)
Alexander Francis Kirkpatrick (1849-1940) surveys:
The Hebrew mě‘īl denotes a kind of long upper tunic worn by kings (I Chronicles 15:27), prophets (I Samuel 15:27), men of position (Job 2:12), women of rank (II Samuel 13:18). The term is applied to a part of the High Priest’s dress, the robe of the Ephod (Exodus 28:31), and it is suggested in the Speaker’s Commentary that “mention of the ephod and the robe as worn by the youthful Samuel taken in connexion with his after acts seems to point to an extraordinary and irregular priesthood to which he was called by God in an age when the provisions of the Levitical law were not yet in full operation.” (Kirkpatrick, The First Book of Samuel: with Map, Notes and Introduction, 58)
Some interpreters have associated Samuel’s distinctive attire with a particular status. V. Philips Long (b. 1951) acknowledges:
The “little robe” provided by Hannah is probably an outer garment of some sort to be worn over the linen priestly ephod [I Samuel 2:19]. In both the Bible and the ancient Near East generally, special garments often carried symbolic significance or marked the wearer as holding a particular office or status. (John H. Walton [b. 1952], Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary), 281)
John H. Walton (b. 1952) and Kim E. Walton (b. 1954) bolster:
The word translated “robe” [I Samuel 2:19] refers not to everyday clothing but to a priestly garment (Exodus 28:31-34; I Chronicles 15:27). The garment described by this word was worn by others besides priests but was typically worn by someone with a particular status or authority. (Walton and Walton, The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 175 Stories from the Bible, 150)
Keith Bodner (b. 1967) questions:
In two successive sentences there is a reference to Samuel’s garment (“But Samuel was serving in the LORD’s presence, a lad outfitted in a linen ephod. And a little robe his mother would make for him” [I Samuel 2:18-19]). Does this juxtaposition (priestly ephod, prophetic mantle) symbolize or prefigure his multiple offices? Ora Horn Prouser [b. 1961] (1996:27-37) notes that often in I and II Samuel, “clothes make the man,” meaning “clothing” is found at a number of key moments in the narrative. (Bodner, National Insecurity: A Primer on the First Book of Samuel, 31)
Diana Vikander Edelman (b. 1954) remarks:
The me‘îl, while a common piece of clothing for those of rank, seems to have been especially associated with the office of prophet (cf. I Samuel 2:19, 15:27; II Kings 2:13-18). (Edelman, King Saul in the Historiography of Judah, 245-46)
David Toshio Tsumura (b. 1944) equates:
The small robe which Hannah made for Samuel [I Samuel 2:19] may be a special garment for priests like the Akkadian tēlītu garment (cf. I Samuel 15:27, 28:14). (Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (New International Commentary on the Old Testament), 159)
Not all have been convinced that Samuel’s garments indicate status. Peter D. Miscall (b. 1943) differentiates:
The linen ephod is apparently part of his official garb at Shiloh [I Samuel 2:18]; the little robe is an annual gift from his mother and not necessarily any type of cultic attire [I Samuel 2:19]. (Miscall, 1 Samuel: A Literary Reading, 17)
James E. Smith (b. 1939) dismisses:
The robe [I Samuel 2:19] was an outer garment of wool, woven throughout without seam, with holes for the head and arms, and reaching nearly to the ground. This garment was the ordinary dress of all classes of people. It has no special meaning except that in this handiwork, Hannah exhibited her motherly pride and care. (Smith, 1 & 2 Samuel (College Press NIV Commentary), 62)
John Mauchline (1902-1984) concurs:
The little robe (I Samuel 2:19) or ‘small cloak’ which Hannah brought to Samuel on her annual visit to Shiloh was probably not an official vestment but an ordinary wearing garment, which expressed the mother’s care for her son. (Mauchline, 1 and 2 Samuel (New Century Bible), 52)
Regardless of its meaning, Hannah insures that Samuel is well dressed. Hans Wilhelm Hertzberg (1895-1965) determines:
The little robe which the mother makes for her son year by year and brings with her when she comes on pilgrimage is an indication of her motherly care [I Samuel 2:19]—the boy would grow out of the previous year’s robe—and pride; such a garment is a sign of distinction (cf. the mantle in Isaiah 3:6). (Hertzberg, I and II Samuel: A Commentary (The Old Testament Library), 35)
The robe is emphasized in its Hebrew positioning (I Samuel 2:19). J.P. Fokkelman (b. 1940) illumines:
The narrator ensures that we do not underestimate the connotations of the garment and prepares us for any symbolism by an inversion in his second line (I Samuel 2:19a). Even though it is the grammatical object “a small coat” is conspicuously placed in initial position. The article of clothing complements the priestly apron [I Samuel 2:18] and is going to provide the boy with the warmth he is not often to be given by the mountain climate in Ephraim. The small coat symbolizes, and is a substitute for maternal warmth. (Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, Volume IV: Vow and Desire, 124)
Roy L. Heller (b. 1963) accents:
His mother...regularly brings him a handmade mě‘îl qātōn (“little robe”) from time to time when she comes to sacrifice with her husband [I Samuel 2:19]. This robe is far from negligible in the context of the story. The syntax of the first clause of I Samuel 2:19 actually fronts the object and relegates the subject, “his mother,” to the very end; the Hebrew reads: ûmě‘îl qātōn ta‘ăśeh lô’immô (“and a little robe she-used-to-make-for-him his-mother”). In the Exodus traditions, the robe was part of the priestly vestments (Exodus 28:4, 31, 34, 29:5, 39:22-26). It is, therefore, unusual that his mother should be making it; he should be given one due to his priestly activities, as with the ephod...The literary significance of mě‘îl (“robe”) in the books of Samuel, however, reveals a very different function. It is, consistently, the article of clothing most closely identified with political, usually royal, power (I Samuel 2:19, 18;4, 24:5, 12; II Samuel 13:18). It is moreover, the article of clothing that will identify Samuel himself in his final confrontation with Saul during his life (I Samuel 15:27) as well as the one after his death (I Samuel 28:14). The little robe worn by the boy Samuel, therefore, serves as a foreshadowing of the political power that he will exercise, and will desperately hold onto, in the later stories about him. In its immediate context here, however, the boy Samuel’s “little robe” serves as the positive introductory image that leads, almost immediately, to Eli’s blessing of his parents [I Samuel 2:20]. Unlike the ineffective speech that Eli will pronounce in the next section [I Samuel 2:22-36], his blessing here leads to YHWH’s regard for Hannah, her conception, and her bearing three sons and two daughters [I Samuel 2:21]. (Heller, Power, Politics, and Prophecy: The Character of Samuel and the Deuteronomistic Evaluation of Prophecy, 54)
Some have been bothered by the robe remaining perpetually “little” (I Samuel 2:19 NASB). Henry Preserved Smith (1847-1927) presumes:
There seems no reason to find fault with the statement on the ground that as the boy grew it would no longer be a little robe [I Samuel 2:19]. The narrator has the early years especially in mind. Doubtless the cloth was spun and woven by his mother, as well as the robe cut and sewed by her. (Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Samuel (International Critical Commentary), 19)
Even as a child, Samuel is dressed as a little man (I Samuel 2:18-19). Martin Sicker (b. 1931) considers:
As the child grew, every year his mother made him a little robe [I Samuel 2:19], “a long outer garment worn by people of rank or special status.” It has been suggested that the reason for pointing out that she made him a little robe, it being self-evident that the robe for a toddler would have to be small, is that robes usually were worn by grown men and not by children. Dressing the child in a robe, which was replaced yearly with a new one, so that he always appeared well groomed and clothed as a small man, markedly different in appearance from other children, served as tangible affirmation of Hannah’s conviction that Samuel was destined to be a man of great importance in Israel...It may be observed that although Samuel was not and never would be eligible for service as a priest [Leviticus 18:1-7; I Samuel 1:1] even from the time he was a toddler his mother dressed him in clothes clearly emblematic of the officiating priesthood, effectively emulating Moses who, in consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests, invested them with visible emblems of their holiness, including the distinctive ephod and robe [Exodus 28:1-4]. (Sicker, The First Book of Samuel: A Study in Prophetic History, 33-34)
Frank G. Honeycutt (b. 1957) illustrates:
I read a book long ago written by Randall Balmer [b. 1954], who teaches religion at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Randall had a very dominant pastor father who wanted his son to grow up and preach the Word. There’s a great picture in the book of Randall at age six, standing behind his birthday present that year: a miniature pulpit just his size, every hair in place with Vitalis. This is how I usually think about Samuel in our lesson—dutiful, obedient, cherubic, small; robed with his little slippers. A very, very good little boy. (Honeycutt, Jesus and the Family: Crisis and Conversion in the American Household, 58)
Samuel will come to be associated with a robe for the remainder of his career. John Woodhouse (b. 1949) reveals:
Samuel would wear a robe for the rest of his life (and beyond!), and his robe will feature at two important points later in the story (I Samuel 15:27 and I Samuel 28:14). (Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader (Preaching the Word), 56)
J.P. Fokkelman (b. 1940) reviews:
The reader, who has taken a look further on, now knows what Hannah is not able to foresee: the coat (me‘īl) [I Samuel 2:19] is to accompany Samuel constantly and is to be an essential attribute of his, in his office as prophet, during two dramatic encounters with Saul [I Samuel 15:27, 28:14). There the garment has to do with the doom and the death of the first king...Hannah is not only linked through her poetry, to the monarchy which is the future of the country, but to this concrete object which she herself makes and replaces annually. Via the small coat she protects Samuel right from the start in his new stage of life, which stage is never to come to an end, that of being a Nazirite [I Samuel 1:11]. That way whilst remaining in absentia for most of the year she nevertheless keeps on looking after the boy whom we know is to grow into a kingmaker. (Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, Volume IV: Vow and Desire, 124)
Robert Polzin (b. 1937) echoes:
From the earliest days of his youth to his resurrection in I Samuel 28:11-20, Samuel wears a robe representing the royalty that was wrapped around Israel during the course of the story. When Samuel first started ministering to the LORD at Shiloh, his mother Hannah began a practice of making a small robe (me‘îl qāton), which she would take him each year when she went up to Shiloh (I Samuel 2:19). That young, berobed Samuel is now an old man and dead, and the robe has become a shroud [I Samuel 28:14]. During his career, Samuel’s robe was torn by Saul (I Samuel 15:27), an action Samuel interprets as the tearing away of the kingdom from Saul. Jonathan’s robe played a similar role when he stripped it off to hand over to David (I Samuel 18:4), again signifying the transfer of royal power, the kingdom, from Saul’s house to David’s. Then David himself cut off the end of Saul’s robe in I Samuel 24:5, presenting Saul and the reader with a cleaner, more clearcut image of the seizing of kingship. When Saul had seized Samuel’s robe, the kingdom was torn from Saul’s grasp; when David cut Saul’s robe, it was delivered up into his hands. This robe of royalty appears one final time in I Samuel, now wrapped around a dead person. In line with the conjoined character zones of Samuel and Saul throughout the story, Samuel is clothed in a dead man’s robe as he foretells the imminent death of Saul and his sons. The robe as shroud enfolds Saul’s death and well as Samuel’s. (Polzin, Samuel and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomic History, Part Two: 1 Samuel, 218)
Meir Shalev (b. 1948) connects:
I see Samuel’s robe as his trademark garment, akin to Elijah’s mantle [II Kings 2:11-14]. Samuel’s custom of always wearing a robe originated in his early childhood, when his mother Hannah gave him over to the House of the Lord at Shiloh [I Samuel 2:19]. The “little robe”—these are the Bible’s touching words—was the gift she would bring on her annual visit to her son who grew bigger each year, and it became the symbol of her love, and her main connection with him. I imagine that Samuel’s enormous rage after the war with Amalek, when Saul clutched and accidentally tore the hem of his robe [I Samuel 15:27], derived from Samuel’s deep emotional bond with his garment. (Shalev, Beginnings: Reflections on the Bible's Intriguing Firsts, 84)
Significantly, First Samuel sandwiches notices of Samuel’s growth (I Samuel 2:18-21, 26) between accounts of the shortcomings of Eli’s family (I Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25, 27-36).

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) observes:

“The rise of Samuel” is narrated in counterpoint to the account of “Eli’s fall” [I Samuel 2:11-36]. Samuel’s rise is punctuated by a series of carefully placed statements reporting his growth to manhood and his maturation in faith [I Samuel 2:18-21, 26]. There is irony in the fact that he is nurtured in faith by Eli, the very one whom he displaces. (Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 22)
James D. Newsome, Jr. (b. 1931) asks:
As if the final compiler of this story wished to weave a tapestry, the dark fibers of the priests’ sacrilege are interrupted at important points by the emerging bright thread of young Samuel’s purity and innocense (I Samuel 2:18-20, 26). And lying side by side, the two patterns of behavior seem all the more at odds. How could Hophni and Phinehas stoop so low, we are asked to wonder. How could the boy remain so essentially good in such a corrupted atmosphere? (Newsome, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel (Knox Preaching Guides), 21)
Ben F. Philbeck, Jr. (1931-1989) praises:
The insertion of these brief verses [I Samuel 2:18-21] describing God’s blessings on Samuel’s family demonstrates the author’s mastery of the storyteller’s art. The passage adds little to the progress of the narrative, but the account of Samuel’s simple ministry before the Lord and of Hannah’s good fortune serve as a perfect foil for the misfortunes which are about to befall Eli’s house [I Samuel 2:27-36]. (Clifton J. Allen [1901-1986], General Articles, 1 Samuel - Nehemiah (Broadman Bible Commentary), 17)
Samuel is intentionally juxtaposed with Eli’s sons. Bill T. Arnold (b. 1955) encapsulates:
The positive evaluation of Samuel and his family...begins with a general statement, setting the tone for I Samuel 2:18-21: “Samuel was ministering before the LORD—a boy wearing a linen ephod” [I Samuel 2:18]...This ideal scene, so lovingly describing the adorned little priest, is surely a dramatic contrast to the grasping and avaricious sons of Eli. Through the years, Eli comes to appreciate this devout family, blessing them and praying that Yahweh will honor their faithfulness [I Samuel 2:20]. (Arnold, 1 & 2 Samuel (NIV Application Commentary))
Tony W. Cartledge (b. 1951) contrasts:
The narrator purposefully punctures the account of Eli’s worthless sons with periodic glimpses at Hannah’s more worthy child. While Hophni and Phinehas were appropriating Israel’s sacrifices for their own gain [I Samuel 2:12-17], “Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy wearing a linen ephod” (I Samuel 2:18). (Cartledge, 1 & 2 Samuel: Bible Commentary (Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary), 55)
Mary J. Evans (b. 1949) expounds:
In contrast with the grasping materialism of Hophni and Phinehas [I Samuel 2:12-17] is the thankful service offered by Samuel and his mother. Samuel was ministering before the LORD [I Samuel 2:18], presumably as his age allowed under Eli’s direction. The ongoing contribution of Hannah—giving Samuel to God [I Samuel 1:11] and giving clothes to Samuel [I Samuel 2:19]—is mentioned, alongside Eli’s blessing [I Samuel 2:20]. It appears that Eli did not participate in his sons’ irreverent greed, and his cooperation with those coming to offer sacrifices contrasts with the bullying of his sons and their servants. God’s gracious response to this obedient service, giving Hannah five more children [I Samuel 2:21], provides a further contrast with God’s condemnation of Eli’s sons (I Samuel 2:27-36). (Evans, 1 & 2 Samuel (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series))
Dale Ralph Davis (b. 1944) notices:
One cannot help but observe the contrast between I Samuel 2:19-21 and I Samuel 2:22-26, a delightful scene set against an ominous one...There is a clear parallelism between the two scenes, but the parallels highlight the differences. Here (I Samuel 2:19-21), Yahweh is giving life, there he has resolved death. (Davis, Looking on the Heart: Expositions of the Book of 1 Samuel, Volume 1: 1 Samuel 1-14, 32)
Francesca Aran Murphy (b. 1960) adds:
In antithesis and parallel to Eli, Samuel...points us toward the monarchy: his role in the story to come will be as the radar for the legitimacy of Israel’s kings. The priest of the Lord will elect and deselect Yahweh’s kings. (Murphy, 1 Samuel (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 26)
Samuel’s superiority over Eli’s sons may be evident even in his clothing (I Samuel 2:18-19). Eugene H. Peterson (b. 1932) contemplates:
Whereas the scoundrel sons, Hophni and Phinehas, are characterized by a story in which they aggressively grab whatever they can get from the holy place [I Samuel 2:12-17], Samuel, the blessed son, is characterized by a story in which he is clothed year after year in a succession of priestly robes, custom-sown by his mother, suited to his growing stature [I Samuel 2:18-21]. Clothing can either disguise or reveal our true identity. Eli’s sons, dressed in their inherited, hand-me-down priestly robes, looked like priests but were, in fact, wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). The handmade, custom-tailored robe worn by Hannah’s son revealed his true priestly identity. (Peterson, First and Second Samuel (Westminster Bible Companion), 34)
Linking these accounts reminds the reader that this mixed bag, a holy place run by an unholy family, marks the atmosphere in which Samuel is raised (I Samuel 2:12-21). John Goldingay (b. 1942) resolves:
This is the context in which Samuel is brought up! Did Hannah know? What chance is there that he will grow up in the proper way, as a “boy” functioning among the other “boys” implicated in the abuses undertaken by Eli’s sons [I Samuel 2:12-17]? Fortunately Samuel is growing up “in Yahweh’s presence” as well as “in Eli’s presence” [I Samuel 2:11]. (Goldingay, 1 & 2 Samuel for Everyone, 29)
Andrew W. Blackwood (1882-1966) assures:
A good child can grow up with evil men, much as a white lily may emerge from the blackest muck. More than a little depends on the character of the original stock. Even when forced to dwell among older fellows as base as the sons of Eli, a lad like Samuel keeps on serving the God of his mother and father. In army and navy training camps, here at home and on countless battlefields beyond the seven seas, young men who had loved God back at home kept on being loyal despite all the seductions of a world at war. (Blackwood, Preaching From Samuel, 33)
Hannah’s bestowing Samuel with a robe is typically seen as an act of love (I Samuel 2:19). It is a means for Hannah to see her son (I Samuel 2:19). Serge Frolov (b. 1959) footnotes:
The verbal forms used in I Samuel 2:19a identify both actions that it refers to as equally repetitive; the sequence ימימה מימים לו והעלתה אמו תעשה־לו קטן ומעיל should therefore be rendered ‘and his mother used to make him a little overcoat and regularly bring it up to him’. In other words, Hannah cleverly used the natural process of the boy’s physical growth, referred to in I Samuel 2:21b, to stay in touch with him: before each pilgrimage she would make a new, presumably larger, coat and bring it to Shiloh. The King James Version obscures this nuance by using indicative simple past forms (“His mother made him a little coat and brought it to him from year to year”). (Frolov, The Turn of the Cycle: 1 Samuel 1-8 in Synchronic and Diachronic Perspectives, 103)
Like Little Orphan Annie’s beloved locket, the robe serves as a tangible reminder to Samuel that his mother loves him. She is present even when she is absent.

Eugene H. Merrill (b. 1934) interprets:

Though Samuel’s mother had given Samuel to the LORD [I Samuel 1:11], she retained her maternal love and responsibility. She came yearly to Shiloh to attend to the needs of her son [I Samuel 2:19]. Nor did the LORD forget Hannah. As is so often the case, He gave her not only what she had prayed for but much more—in her case three sons and two daughters [I Samuel 2:21] (cf. the example of Rachel, Genesis 30:22-24; 35:16-18). (John F. Walvoord [1910-2002] and Roy B. Zuck [1932-2013], The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 435)
Joan E. Cook infers:
After the intercalated story of Eli’s corrupt sons [I Samuel 2:12-17] (further reason for Hannah to wonder about her own son’s safety) the narrative implies that Hannah lived in Ramah with Elkanah when the conclusion explains that they made the annual trip together, and each year she took him a little robe [I Samuel 2:19]. She did not completely relinquish care of him, but continued to look after his well-being. And we can be sure she took the opportunity to make certain that her son was receiving proper care from his mentor at the shrine. Eli blessed the couple, praying that they would have other children, after which Hannah had three more sons and two daughters [I Samuel 2:20-21]. (Cook, Hannah’s Desire, God's Design: Early Interpretations of the Story of Hannah, 40)
Stephens G. Lytch (b. 1953) envisions:
Her love was evident in the gift that she took him on her regular visits to Shiloh. She always brought him a little robe [I Samuel 2:19]. It was nothing extravagant, but one can imagine the love she poured into each stitch as she made the robe, thinking of her son and whispering prayers of gratitude to God for the gift of his life. One hopes that the presents we give our loved ones are as loaded with care and gratitude. (David L. Bartlett [b. 1941] and Barbara Brown Taylor [b. 1951], Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1, Advent through Transfiguration, 148)
Dallas A. Brauninger (b. 1943) relates:
Someone sees when a parent does the little sustaining things for a child in the name of love. Parents will know later what this teaches a child. So be of good courage, you who are a parent, for being a parent is a holy trust. (Brauninger, Lectionary Worship Aids: Series V, Cycle C, 24)
Elizabeth George (b. 1944) applies:
How does a woman who loves God and her family fill her days when her nest is empty? Note Hannah’s example. Mark it well! Rather than give in to sadness, Hannah worked on long-distance love. Each year she made Samuel a little robe and took it to him (I Samuel 2:19). (George, The Remarkable Women of the Bible: And Their Message for Your Life Today, 181)
Hannah’s attentiveness to her son moves the priest Eli; he pronounces blessing and she births five more children (I Samuel 2:20-21). Robert P. Gordon (b. 1945) comments:
As with the midwives in the Exodus story (Exodus 1:21), Hannah’s faithfulness was rewarded with the gift of a family (cf. Psalm 127:3). Significantly, this prosperity is connected with Eli’s priestly blessing, and the relationship between the aged priest and Elkanah’s family fulfills the ideal of a happy co-operation between priesthood and people which is so desiderated in I Samuel 1:12-17. (Gordon, I & II Samuel: A Commentary, 82-83)
Antony F. Campbell (b. 1934) inspects:
Samuel and his family stand in sharp contrast. Samuel is in the service of the LORD. The little robe, renewed each year, is a pointer to the child’s growth [I Samuel 2:19]; the reference to the repeated visits and the birth of five more children evokes the passage of time [I Samuel 2:21]. But, above all, it is symbolic of the blessing and favor bestowed on the family, in direct connection with Samuel (I Samuel 2:20). While Eli blesses Elkanah and his wife, the weight of his blessing seems to fall on the man; when its fulfillment is reported, the emphasis is on the LORD’s visiting the woman. And Samuel grew in the presence of the LORD (I Samuel 2:21b), while the sons of Eli were growing in contempt of the LORD (I Samuel 2:17). Eli is treated gently (I Samuel 2:20); the reproach is reserved for his sons. (Campbell, 1 Samuel (Forms of the Old Testament Literature), 49)
This marks Hannah’s last appearance in Bible’s narrative (I Samuel 2:18-21). Presumably tending to her children, she is effectively written out of the text.

David Jobling (b. 1941) discusses:

Hannah assists and monitors Samuel’s progress at the shrine when each year she takes him a new robe [I Samuel 2:19]. When we last hear of her she has become the mother of a large family, a family that, we are led to believe, she owes to the priestly blessing of Eli [I Samuel 2:20-21]. It is not clear that either she or Elkanah wants these children. (Jobling, 1 Samuel (Berit Olam: Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry), 133)
Hillel I. Millgram (b. 1931) investigates:
With this touching picture of Hannah settled among her growing family, sewing a new little robe for her son and bringing it to him each year [I Samuel 2:19], Hannah fades from the view of history. And were this all there is to the story, the mystery of the author’s reason for opening the book with Hannah would remain unsolved. But this is not all. Besides her great act of commitment and renunciation, she left us another legacy, commonly known as “Hannah’s Prayer” [I Samuel 2:1-10]. (Millgram, The Invention of Monotheist Ethics: Exploring the First Book of Samuel, 34)
The woman whose story began with bemoaning her barrenness, is remembered as a mother. Lillian R. Klein (b. 1929) attends:
Hannah’s narrative concludes with a comment on her annual visit with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice [I Samuel 2:19]. At that time, her motherhood is emphasized: it is not “Hannah” but “his [Samuel’s] mother” who makes a “little robe” and brings it to him at Shiloh...Hannah’s image is secure indeed: she is recognized as mother of Samuel — who becomes a prophet, judge, and king-maker — and as a good woman. (Carol L. Meyers [b. 1942], Toni Craven [b. 1944] and Ross Shepard Kraemer [b. 1948], “Hannah”, Women in Scripture: A Dictionary of Named and Unnamed Women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books and New Testament, 91)
Robert D. Bergen (b. 1954) attributes:
Samuel’s mother annually brought Samuel a robe (mě‘îl) [I Samuel 2:19], a longer outer garment worn by members of the Levitical tribe involved in priestly service (cf. Leviticus 8:7). This thoughtful gift from Hannah suggests that although Samuel was gone from the household in Ramah, he was still very much in Hannah’s heart (cf. Proverbs 31:19-21). Through the use of clothing motif in portraying Samuel’s career (cf. I Samuel 15:27), the writer suggests that Samuel’s life was the outcome of a splendid mother of faith. (Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel (New American Commentary), 79-80)
Samuel may be gone from Hannah’s day to day life but he is not forgotten. Her bringing a “little robe cut to his size” (I Samuel 2:19 MSG) reveals that she keeps watch over him and loves him continually though her physical presence in his life is only sporadic. In kind, Samuel, one of Israel’s greatest figures, is remembered more as the son of his mother than that of his father. Hannah’s love, embodied in his robe, carries him throughout his life.

What is Hannah trying to communicate by bringing Samuel a new robe (I Samuel 2:19)? What does the garment mean to Samuel? What other items could Hannah have brought her son? Were you Samuel, what would you have wanted your parents to send you? What does Samuel’s coat speak to parents who cannot be involved in the daily activities of their children? Does Samuel’s adult attire hinder his experience of childhood? If Hannah provides Samuel’s little robe, who bestows his ephod (I Samuel 2:18-19)? Does the ephod complement or conflict with the robe provided by Hannah? What is the desired relationship between clergy and lay people? When has a child consistently dressed as an adult? Who do you know of who wore the same attire throughout life; who has a signature outfit? What did your parents or guardians dress you in? If there is a specific attire associated with your profession; if so who provided your first specimen? Do you keep anything associated with your parents? What objects represent love to you?

Contrary to the natural interest of many readers, the Bible is silent regarding Hannah’s emotional response to having her son raised apart from her.

Robert Alter (b. 1935) indicates:

And a little cloak would his mother make him [I Samuel 2:19]. This is a poignant instance of the expressive reticence of biblical narrative. We have been told nothing about Hannah’s feelings as a mother after her separation from the child for whom she so fervently prayed [I Samuel 1:10-11]. This minimal notation of Hannah’s annual gesture of making a little cloak for the son she has “lent” to the LORD beautifully intimates the love she preserves for him. The garment, fashioned as a gift of maternal love, stands in contrast to the ephod, the acolyte’s official garb for his cultic office. (Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel, 2)
The Bible’s silence has not prevented many a reader from empathizing with the lonely mother. Janet S. Jagers (b. 1942) infers:
Hannah continues to see her son each year [I Samuel 2:19]. I imagine she must have treasured the opportunity to talk with him, catch up with the latest news, and make sure he was all right. How hard do you think it was for her to leave him at the end of each yearly visit? Yet we see not even a hint of sorrow in her actions, just gratefulness. She continues to sacrifice and worship the Lord, just as she had done before Samuel was born [I Samuel 1:3-8]. (Jagers, Women at the Well: A Five-Week Study of Women in the Bible, 80)
Francine Klagsbrun (b. 1931) laments:
The loss Hannah feels after relinquishing her child touches us through an exquisitely sensitive detail. Each year when she and Elkanah make their pilgrimage to Shiloh, she brings the young Samuel, a little robe that she has made herself (I Samuel 2:19). She sees her son just once a year, we learn from this detail, and her only way of measuring his growth is through the new robe she sews for each visit. Hannah had promised her child away before she knew how quickly she would fall in love with him; now the robe is her ongoing embrace. (Gail Twersky Reimer [b. 1950] and Judith A. Kates [b. 1941], Beginning Anew: A Woman’s Companion to the High Holy Days, 101)
John Pinkston (b. 1937) consoles:
Once a year, his mother came to visit Samuel, bringing him a little coat which she had made when she and her husband came to offer their seasonal sacrifices [I Samuel 2:19]...However, God knew of the empty feeling that Hannah experienced each year as she left her little boy behind. God had mercy upon Hannah and she had three sons and two daughters because of her commitment and generosity to God in turning her firstborn over to Him for His Service [I Samuel 2:20-1]...Samuel became a prophet and Israel’s last judge. (Pinkston, Our Lost National Identity: Tracing the Lineage of Israel’s Lost Ten Tribes, 103)
Hannah and her husband, Elkanah, have been presented as paragons of parenthood. Joe O. Lewis (b. 1935) extols:
Contrary to Eli’s sons [I Samuel 2:12-17], Samuel’s parents are models of devotion. Hannah saw her son annually and brought him a new robe each year [I Samuel 2:19]. The story hints at the difference in Hannah’s attitude during these years. Her burden has been removed. In subsequent years Hannah bore five more children (I Samuel 2:21). Eli’s blessing referred each year to the vow in which Hannah “asked” for a child (I Samuel 1:20) and “lent” him to God. Both words are the same and reflect the meaning of Samuel’s name. During those years, Samuel “grew”; literally he “became great” with the Lord (I Samuel 2:21). (Lewis, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles (Layman’s Bible Book Commentary), 17)
The life of Samuel’s parents, like his own, centers around worship. John Woodhouse (b. 1949) notices:
This [I Samuel 2:18-21] reminds us of the beginning of our story. It all began with those visits to Shiloh that were so miserable for Hannah year after year (I Samuel 1:3-7). The annual pilgrimage was still taking place, but now it was a time for Hannah’s tender motherly love to find expression in the new robe she brought each year for her growing boy. We can easily picture the care with which that robe was made each year — each year a little bigger! (Woodhouse, 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader (Preaching the Word), 56)
Grenville J.R. Kent (b. 1965) studies:
After the birth, Elkanah maintains his worship cycle, while Hannah breaks it only until the weaning (I Samuel 1:21-23). Then she brings him a new robe ימימה מימים (from year to year, literally from days to days) (I Samuel 2:19). Thus it is worship and sacrifice that provide the rhythm of their lives, and Hannah’s worship of Yahweh is stylistically linked to her pregnancy, subtly advancing the theme that the baby is God-given in answer to prayer. (Kent, Say It Again, Sam: A Literary and Filmic Study of Narrative Repetition in 1 Samuel 28, 104)
Karen Pidcock-Lester (b. 1956) characterizes:
Hannah and Elkanah...cherish their son. No one can dispute that. They have waited long and prayed fervently for his arrival. But as much as they love Samuel, their lives are shaped not by their devotion to him, but by their devotion to God. They worship, praise, sacrifice for, give thanks to, submit to, and serve not Samuel, but God. They recognize that God has different plans for Samuel from what they might have envisioned, but they surrender their plans and submit to God’s. They do what they can to help Samuel fulfill God’s purposes for his life, “making a little robe and taking it to him each year” [I Samuel 2:19]. (David L. Bartlett [b. 1941] and Barbara Brown Taylor [b. 1951], Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C, Volume 1, Advent through Transfiguration, 148)
Hannah actively seeks God’s will for her son. Steven E. Albertin (b. 1949) correlates:
Hannah making her yearly visit to the temple to give her son the gift of a little robe she had made for him [I Samuel 2:19]. It is a very simple and tender picture of mother expressing her love for her son. But to our modern eyes the tenderness of this picture begins to fade when we realize that this yearly visit would never have even been necessary if Hannah had not already taken the drastic action of giving her son away. Contrary to our world, where our children are constantly worshiped and adored, here we see a parent whose focus was not on pampering her son but on worshiping God. Hannah’s willingness to giver her son to the Lord and only to be able to visit him occasionally in the temple is stunning when compared to how parents treat their children today. (Albertin, Charles D. Reeb [b. 1973] and Richard E. Gribble [b. 1952], Sermons on the First Readings: Cycle C, 62)
Hannah not only seeks God’s will, she participates in it. Uriel Simon (b. 1929) understands:
Evidently the narrator mentions the lad’s holy apparel so that he can juxtapose it to the little robe, thus suggesting that the robe, too, is one of his sacred garments [I Samuel 2:18-19]. If this is true, Hannah’s motivation for making her son a new robe every year is not concern that he be well-dressed but a desire to continue her act of giving. For her, the dedication of her son to service in the sanctuary is not a one-time deed, but one renewed each year by the recurrent donation of a sacred robe to the lad who serves in the sanctuary. (Simon [translated by Lenn J. Schramm], Reading Prophetic Narratives, 29)
Samuel becomes a great man, no less than a kingmaker. His life trajectory begins with a mother who put God’s will for her child’s life above all else. May we do the same.

How do Hannah’s consistent worship patterns contribute to Samuel’s development? Does worship characterize your life? What are the consequences to Hannah and Samuel of his being raised away from her? Did the absence of his parents in adolescence effect Samuel’s demeanor later in life? What would be the psychological results of Samuel’s unusual upbringing? In what ways have you given your child to God?

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” - attributed to Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Two Turtledoves (Luke 2:24)

What did Mary and Joseph offer as a sacrifice at the time of purification? A pair of turtledoves and two young pigeons (Luke 2:24)

The Gospel of Luke diligently documents the obedience of the infant Jesus’ parents (Luke 2:21-24). On the eighth day, Jesus is circumcised and formally given the name that is above all names (Luke 2:21). The third gospel also records that the baby is presented at the temple (Luke 2:21-38).

While there, Jesus’ earthly parents provide the requisite offerings as dictated by the Old Testament’s statutes (Luke 2:22-24).

And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-24 NASB)
Robert H. Stein (b. 1935) asks:
Why did Luke describe the sacrifice [Luke 2:22-24]? Was it purely for historical reasons? Was it to demonstrate that Joseph and Mary obeyed the law? Or was it because he expected his readers to know that according to Leviticus 12:8 the normal sacrifice involved a lamb and a dove or pigeon and thus to understand that Joseph and Mary were of a “humble state” (Luke 1:48), i.e. too poor to be able to afford a lamb? Certainty is impossible, but the latter explanation fits well with the Lukan emphasis in Luke 1:48, 52-53, 2:8. That Mary offered a dove as a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6) for her purification indicates that the mother of God’s Son also needed the forgiveness and redemption that her son brought. (The description of Mary’s offering also suggests that Joseph and Mary were not yet in possession of the rich gifts of the wise men mentioned in Matthew 2:11, i.e., the wise men had not yet come. Cf. also Matthew 2:7, 16.) (Stein, Luke (New American Commentary), 114)
Luke specifies that Jesus’ parents, in accordance with the “law of Moses”, offer a pair of “turtledoves” (ASV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV)/“doves” (CEV, MSG, NIV) or “young pigeons” (ASV, CEV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, MSG, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV) (Luke 2:24).

The Greek terms are unambiguous. I. Howard Marshall (b. 1934) delineates:

λευγος (Luke 14:19) is a ‘pair’, originally a ‘yoke’. νοσσός is the ‘young of a bird’, and περιτέρα (Luke 3:22) ‘pigeon, dove’. (Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 18)
A.T. Robertson (1863-1934) relates:
“A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (λευγος τρυγόνων ἢ δύο νοσσοὺς περιστερων) [Luke 2:24]... is the offering of the poor, costing about sixteen cents, while a lamb would cost nearly two dollars. The “young of pigeons” is the literal meaning. (Robertson (revised and updated by Wesley J. Perschbacher [1932-2012]), The Gospel according to Luke (Word Pictures in the New Testament), 43)
While Luke apparently alludes to the Old Testament, it is uncertain precisely what the gospel has in mind. S.G. Wilson (b. 1942) acknowledges:
Despite the specific quotations from Exodus 13:2, 12; Leviticus 12:2ff, Luke’s narrative is not wholly clear. (Wilson, Luke and the Law, 21)
It cannot even be certain if Luke attempts to cite the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint though the latter likely influences the gospel’s manuscript. Joseph A. Fitzmyer (b. 1920) reveals:
Luke derives most of the wording of this prescription [Luke 2:22-24] from the Septuagint of Leviticus 12:8, which speaks of “two turtledoves or two young pigeons.” The turtledove, of which three varieties are known in Palestine, is a small type of pigeon. The two species of birds are often linked in Old Testament stipulations about animal sacrifices. Here the implication is that Mary offered these animals because she (or Joseph) could not afford the one-year old lamb for the whole burnt offering. (Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Anchor Bible), 426)
David Lyle Jeffrey (b. 1941) presumes:
The citations of the law do not follow the Greek (Septuagint) text, and we may reasonably assume that Luke’s language here reflects the report of his informants, possibly in a condensed form. (Jeffrey, Luke (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 46)
John Nolland (b. 1947) adds:
No close parallel has been offered for the idiom δουναι θυσίαν [Luke 2:23] (literally, “give a sacrifice”; cf. Psalm 51:17). τὸ εἰρημένον, “what is said” [Luke 2:24], is Lukan (Acts 2:16, 13:40) and not Septuagintal. (Nolland, (Luke 1-9:20 (Word Biblical Commentary), 118)
Some interpreters have seen Luke as having a single regulation in mind (Luke 2:22-24). Joseph A. Fitzmyer (b. 1920) pronounces:
The sacrifice [Luke 2:24] is not for the redemption of the firstborn, but for the purification of the mother. (Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Anchor Bible), 426)
I. Howard Marshall (b. 1934) concurs:
Luke reverts to the cleansing of the mother [Luke 2:24], which was effected by the sacrifice of a lamb with a young pigeon or turtledove as a burnt offering and a sin offering respectively (Leviticus 12:6); Joseph and Mary, however, being poor, availed themselves of the concession to offer two doves or pigeons (Leviticus 12:8; the wording is closer to Leviticus 5:11 where the similar sacrifice for unwitting sin is described; cf. Leviticus 14:22; Numbers 6:10). (Marshall, The Gospel of Luke (New International Greek Testament Commentary), 117-18)
Others have seen the third gospel as conflating multiple ordinances (Luke 2:22-24). Charles H. Talbert (b. 1934) encapsulates:
Luke 2:22-24 telescopes at least two traditional Jewish practices prescribed by the law. Luke 2:22a, 24 reflect the practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth, following the directives of Leviticus 12:6, 8...Luke 2:22b, 23, however, echo Exodus 13:2, 12, 13, 15 where it is said the firstborn belongs to God and must be redeemed (cf. Mishna, Bekhoroth, 8). (Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel, 37)
John T. Carroll (b. 1954) upholds:
In this unit [Luke 2:22-24] Luke fuses two discrete ritual observances. After childbirth the mother (not both parents) would participate in a rite of purification that includes the offering of a lamb and either a pigeon or turtledove—or, if the woman’s poverty requires less, two pigeons or turtledoves—after seven days of ritual impurity and the boy’s circumcision on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:2-8). The narrator seems to connect this sacrificial offering to the presentation of Jesus as firstborn son (cf. Exodus 13:2, 11-16), rather than to the mother’s purification. In an account that reproduces with precision neither the liturgical acts nor their legal basis, the literary arrangement provides a clue to meaning. The two rituals are fused in a chiastic arrangement that places the presentation of Jesus—as firstborn son, “holy to the Lord” [Luke 2:23]—at the center of the unit and the sacrificial offering of two birds at the end [Luke 2:24]. (Carroll, Luke: A Commentary (New Testament Library), 75)
Part of the interpretive difficulty stems from the use of the plural pronoun “their” as opposed to the singular “her” (Luke 2:22). John Reumann (1927-2008) chastises:
In Luke 2:22 he speaks of “their purification,” seemingly thinking that both parents were purified, when the custom referred only to the mother [Leviticus 12:2-8]. Also, he seems to think (incorrectly) that the Law required the presentation of the firstborn at the Temple. In Luke 2:24 Luke describes the doves or pigeons as a gift on the occasion of the presentation, when according to Leviticus 12:6 they were the gift prescribed for the purification. See Heikke Räisänen [b. 1941], Die Mutter Jesu im Neuen Testament, 125-27; Raymond E. Brown [1928-1998], The Birth of the Messiah, 447-51. (Brown [1928-1998], Karl P. Donfried [b. 1940], Joseph A. Fitzmyer [b. 1920] and Reumann, Mary in the New Testament, 111)
Sharon H. Ringe (b. 1946) recognizes:
The only puzzling point in Luke’s version of the purification is the initial reference to “their” purification [Luke 2:22], since only the mother required such a ritual. There really is no way to get around the awkwardness of that pronoun, other than to recognize it in the context of Luke’s description of the pilgrimage as involving the whole family. One might even see the plural pronoun as affirming that upon the completion of this obligation, the whole family would be ready to resume its life after the dramatic intervention of the birth of the baby. (Ringe, Luke (Westminster Bible Companion), 45)
Barbara E. Reid (b. 1953) discusses:
These verses [Luke 2:22-24] are confusing in the use of “their” and “they” without antecedents. Presumably, “their purification” [Luke 2:22] refers to Mary and Joseph, but in Jewish law purification was specified only for the woman (Leviticus 12:2-8). Some commentators have understood “their” as referring to Mary and Jesus, but there was no requirement of purification for a newborn. Since the main verb anēgagon [Luke 2:22], “they took him up,” refers to Mary and Joseph, it is best to take “their purification” as referring to Mary and Joseph as well. The inaccuracy about who was required to undergo purification is usually explained as Luke’s mistake, due to his being a non-Palestinian Gentile Christian, unfamiliar with the intricacies of Jewish law. When today we are concerned for gender equality, we might smile at Luke’s unwitting inclusivity of Joseph in a ritual intended for women. (Reid, Choosing the Better Part?: Women in the Gospel of Luke, 86-87)
E.J. Tinsley (1919-1992) laments:
It is a pity that the use of the word purification [Luke 2:22] has suggested the notion that sexual processes are necessarily unseemly. Significantly in this passage the majority of manuscripts have ‘their’ purification so as to reduce the direct reference to the mother of Jesus needing purification made in those manuscripts which read ‘her’ purification. (Tinsley, The Gospel according to Luke (Cambridge Bible Commentaries on the New Testament), 41)
Darrell L. Bock (b. 1953) rationalizes:
The text refers to “their” sacrifice [Luke 2:22], which seems odd at first glance in that a purification offering would normally be Mary’s alone. However, seeing that Joseph undoubtedly helped in Mary’s delivery at the distant town, he was also rendered unclean and needed to make a sacrifice for himself (Mishnah Niddah 5.1, 2.5, 1.3-5). Another possibility is that Luke is alluding in Luke 2:22 to all the sacrifices involved in the three ceremonies and that those offerings, some hers and others theirs, are combined. All these sacrifices indicate how seriously Judaism took approaching God in worship and how prepared a heart and soul one should have as they address God. (Bock, Luke (NIV Application Commentary))
While the precise regulation the gospel intends to indicate is unclear, it is undeniable that Luke holds the Old Testament tradition in the highest regard. J. Bradley Chance (b. 1954) reviews:
A survey of the Lukan materials indicates that Luke did not transfer cultic language from the temple to the church, as though he wished to imply that the church was now the proper locus of the cult...Neither does Luke spiritualize the idea of offering (προσψορά, δωρον) or sacrifice (θυσία), nor does he use such language to describe the Christian life. The language of sacrifice is employed literally, and is often employed in the context of the temple cult. When it is found in this context, it is presented in a positive light (Luke 2:24, 5:14, 21:1-4; Acts 21:26, 24:17). Explicitly negative attitudes revolve around the cultic items only in the context of the Stephen speech (Acts 7:41-42), where Stephen is describing the idolatrous incident of the golden calf (Acts 7:41) and the lack of a sacrificial cult during Israel’s period of desert wanderings (Acts 7:42). The latter reference can hardly be understood as Luke’s rejection of all sacrifice and offering, given Acts 21:26 and Acts 24:17 where Paul’s participation in the Jewish cult is viewed as an act of true piety. (Chance, Jerusalem, the Temple, and the New Age in Luke-Acts, 36)
There are problematic theological ramifications if Luke alludes to the redeeming of the firstborn (Exodus 13:13-16; Luke 2:22-24). Justo L. González (b. 1937) observes:
Curiously, Luke tells us that the Redeemer has to be redeemed, has to be bought back [Luke 2:22-24]. This is not because he has sinned, but simply because he is a firstborn, and all the firstborn in Israel belong to God [Exodus 13:13-16]. The theme of the Passover as a type of Jesus...appears repeatedly throughout the New Testament, with several layers of meaning. The paschal lamb that was sacrificed [Exodus 12:1-13] is a type of Jesus. Jesus himself is the new Passover, for in him God shows mercy to us. According to Luke and the other Synoptic Gospels [Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:1, 12, 14, 16; Luke 22:1, 7,8, 11, 13, 15], the last meal of Jesus with his disciples before the crucifixion is a paschal meal. It is there that he instituted the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist. Here, at the presentation in the temple, another Passover theme appears: Jesus the firstborn is to be redeemed by the sacrifice of two turtledoves [Luke 2:24], and he will then redeem all humankind by his own sacrifice. (González, Luke (Belief: a Theological Commentary on the Bible), 42)
Eduard Schweizer (1913-2006) counters:
The narrative [Luke 2:23-24] associates the purification of the mother after seven days with the offering prescribed for the firstborn, normally carried out through payment to a local priest...Nothing is said here of such a “redemption” of Jesus; instead he is received into the service of God (in which he will redeem others: Mark 10:45, not used by Luke). Perhaps there is also an echo of I Samuel 1:11, 22-28. There, however, the mother dedicates her child to God, whereas here God sets the child apart for service through the agency of a prophet. Thus a prescribed ritual takes on new meaning as a kind of “presentation” of the newborn child. (Schweizer, The Good News According to Luke, 55)
The theological implications of the offering effect the parents as well as the child. Based upon its presumed necessity, it could be inferred that Mary and Joseph are sinners. As such, the only sinless man (Hebrews 4:15) is raised by sinners.

This issue has been debated for centuries. Linda S. Schearing (b. 1947) presents:

It wasn’t the Holy Family’s finances...that drew the most attention from readers [Luke 2:22-24], but the fact that Mary offered what was understood as a “sin” offering. Such an action raised a host of questions about Mary’s nature. Was the mother of the Christ a “normal” woman? Did she menstruate? Did she bleed when giving birth to Jesus? In either of these cases, Leviticus 12:1-8 and 15:1-33 would have labeled Mary ceremonially “unclean.” In the early centuries following Jesus’ death, however, Christian communities claimed that Mary was “more than” other women. As this happened, such “normal” aspects of female physicality such as menstruation and parturition became the objects of controversy. For example, while some thought that Mary’s piety exempted her from the “normal” pain of childbirth, others insisted that even Mary’s hymen was left intact after Jesus’ birth! (Rolf Rendtorff [1925-2014] and Robert A. Kugler, “Double Time...Double Trouble? Gender, Sin, and Leviticus 12”, The Book of Leviticus: Composition & Reception, 440)
This topic is of special concern within Catholicism. John F. MacArthur (b. 1939) criticizes:
That Mary offered a sin offering is consistent with the reality that she was a sinner in need of a Savior (cf. Luke 1:47). The Catholic dogma that Mary was immaculately conceived and lived a sinless life finds no support in Scripture. (MacArthur, Luke 1-5 (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary), 171)
Linda S. Schearing (b. 1947) analyzes:
A...serious issue arose concerning the sin offering Mary offered in Luke 2:24. The dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception insisted that Mary was without sin. If this was the case then why would she need to be purified? How could the birth of the Savior render his mother unclean? As Mary’s visit to Jerusalem for her purification became immortalized in the church’s festival of Candlemas, focus on her purity was kept cultically alive each calendar year...Perhaps one of the most well-conceived medieval treatments of Mary’s presentation to Leviticus 12:1-8 is found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas [1225-1274]. In his Summa Theologica, he addressed Luke 2:21-24, Leviticus 12:1-8, and Mary’s sinlessness and perpetual virginity...“As Gregory of Nyssa [335-394] says (De Occursu Domini): It seems that this precept of Law was fulfilled in God incarnate alone in a special manner exclusively proper to Him. For He alone, whose conception was ineffable, and whose birth was incomprehensible, opened the virginal womb which had been closed to sexual unison, in such a way that after birth the seal of chastity remained inviolate. Consequently the words opening the womb imply that nothing hitherto had entered or gone forth therefrom. Again, for special reason it is written “a male,” because He contracted nothing of the woman’s sin: and in a singular way is He called ‘holy’ because He felt no contagion of earthly corruption, whose birth was wondrously immaculate (Ambrose [337-397], on Luke 2:23).”...In both cases—her perpetual virginity and her sinlessness—Aquinas felt it necessary to defend Mary’s actions in Luke 2:21-24 in light Leviticus 12:1-8’s association with impurity. Nor was such concern solely the purview of theologians like Aquinas. A similar point of view can be found in the liturgy of a mid-eleventh century Bavarian Candlemas ceremony...For historians like Joanne M. Pierce [b. 1955], this rite, with its imperative to let Mary “be a model for us” exemplifies how the Feast of Candlemas connected the themes of Mary and purification while at the same time exhorting women to follow Mary’s example. (Rolf Rendtorff [1925-2014] and Robert A. Kugler, “Double Time...Double Trouble? Gender, Sin, and Leviticus 12”, The Book of Leviticus: Composition & Reception, 440-43)
Given the problematic nature of including these offerings, the passage’s historicity is bolstered (Luke 2:22-24). Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) affirms:
The record of the offerings [Luke 2:21-24] is considerable guarantee for the truth of the history. A legend would very probably have emphasized the miraculous birth by saying that the virgin mother was divinely instructed not to bring the customary offerings, which in her case would not be required. (Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke (International Critical Commentary), 65)
For Luke, these theological issues are likely not at the forefront: The intent is not to discredit Jesus’ parents but rather to present them as pious Jews. Luke depicts them faithfully following three prescribed rituals: circumcision (Luke 2:22), purification (Luke 2:2) and dedication (Luke 2:23-24).

Fred B. Craddock (b. 1928) praises:

The story falls into three parts: the framing story (Luke 2:22-24, 39-40), into which are inserted the response of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) and the response of Anna (Luke 2:36-38). The framing story itself has one governing focus: Jesus grew up in a family that meticulously observed the law of Moses. No fewer than five times in this text Luke tells the reader that they did everything required in the law. Later in life Jesus would be in tension with some interpreters of his tradition, but his position would not be that of an outsider. On the contrary, Jesus’ own nurture in his tradition prepared him to oppose flawed and hollow practices in the name of the law of Moses. (Luke, Luke (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 38)
David L. Tiede (b. 1940) agrees:
By mentioning the law in each of these three verses [Luke 2:22-24], he also stresses that proper temple observance is obedience to the will of God. The word law here means the text of Scripture, and it may also be understood to refer to God’s theocratic rule. The term is unequivocally positive in this context. (Tiede, Luke (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament), 74)
Michael Card (b. 1957) supports:
Within the scope of six verses, the observance of the “law” is mentioned four times. This is a picture of Mary and Joseph’s exacting observance of the law. Of the nine times the word law occurs in Luke’s writing, five of them are contained in this passage [Luke 2:22, 23, 24, 27, 39]. (Card, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement (Biblical Imagination), 51)
Darrell L. Bock (b. 1953) determines:
Luke is making it clear that Jesus’ parents are not spiritual renegades, but Jews who are sensitive and faithful to the Mosaic law—a point reinforced in Luke 2:40-52, when they will make their customary annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. All the persons surrounding Jesus at his birth have a heritage of devotion to God. The testimony to Jesus stands on the shoulders of a series of highly respectable figures. (Bock, Luke (IVP New Testament Commentary), 58)
God places his child into a devout home which values the precepts set forth in the Old Testament. Significantly, Jesus raised in a religious household.

Why do Mary and Joseph follow these religious observances when their circumstances are so different from the regulations’ intent (Luke 2:22-24)? What does it say of God that Jesus is inserted into a family that attempts to follow Jewish law? How closely do you live out your religious beliefs? Were you reared in a religious home? Do you think God would entrust your household with Jesus? What does their offering say of Mary and Joseph? What do your offerings speak of you?

In addition to their obedience, the text sheds light on Jesus’ parents’ tax bracket: Their offering puts their financial status on display as the majority of interpreters have seen Mary and Joseph invoking a provision that makes allowances in hardship cases (Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:22-24).

G. Johannes Botterweck (1917-1981) reads:

In the sacrifice offered for the purification of a woman who has given birth, a year-old lamb is brought to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting as a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove as a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6). indigence clause (Leviticus 12:8; cf. Luke 2:24) commutes the year-old lamb to the burnt offering of two turtledoves or young pigeons (cf. Leviticus 1:14, 5:7, 14:22; [Leviticus15:30]). (Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren [1917-2012], Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume VI, 39)
Mark L. Strauss (b. 1959) explicates:
The quotation [Luke 2:24] is from Leviticus 12:8, which concerns the sacrifice of purification for the woman, not the redemption of the firstborn. The woman was to offer a lamb and a pigeon or dove (Leviticus 12:6), or two doves or pigeons if she was poor (Leviticus 12:8). We have incidental evidence here that Joseph and Mary belong to the lower economic classes. (Clinton E. Arnold [b. 1958], Matthew, Mark, Luke (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary), 29)
William Barclay (1907-1978) envisions:
The offering of the two pigeons instead of the lamb [Luke 2:24] and the pigeon was technically called the Offering of the Poor. It was the offering of the poor which Mary brought. Again we see that it was into an ordinary home that Jesus was born, a home where there were no luxuries, a home where the cost of everything had to be considered carefully, a home where the members of the family knew all about the difficulties of making a living and the haunting insecurity of life. When life is worrying for us we must remember that Jesus knew what the difficulties of making ends meet can be. (Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (New Daily Study Bible), 30)
Walter Pilgrim (b. 1934) evaluates:
There are...several features in the actual birth story of Jesus which emphasize the lowly social status of his family. The offering they bring for the purification of Mary, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, is that prescribed for the poor (Luke 2:22-24). The rich offered a lamb. This tells us that though Joseph was an artisan [Matthew 13:55] and so belonged to the middle class, his actual economic situation was something less. Perhaps even the lack of room for them in Bethlehem may imply their inability to pay enough [Luke 2:7]. The entire story of the manger birth evokes a sense of God’s activity in the midst of earthly poverty. (Pilgrim, Good News to the Poor: Wealth and Poverty in Luke-Acts, 79-80)
Darrell L. Bock (b. 1953) substantiates:
From Luke 2:24 it is clear that Joseph and Mary offered the offering of the poor, an offering that identifies them with the very people whom Christ portrays himself as saving (Luke 1:52, 4:18-19, 6:20; Heinrich Greeven [1906-1990] Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 6:69; Frederick W. Danker [1920-2012] 1988:62). However, it should not be concluded from this that Joseph lived in abject poverty, since he had a trade as a carpenter (William Hendriksen [1900-1982] 1978:165; Alfred Plummer [1841-1926] 1896:65; Mark 6:3). The lamb seems to have been offered only by the fairly wealthy. It is quite possible that Jesus’ parents bought their offering in the temple courts (Raymond E. Brown [1928-1998] 1977:437; Luke 19:45-48). (Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50 (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament), 235)
Origen (184-253) approves:
It seems wonderful that the sacrifice of Mary was not the first offering, that is, “a lamb a year old,” but the second, since “she could not afford” the first [Leviticus 12:6-8]. For as it was written about her, Jesus’ parents came “to offer a sacrifice” for him, “according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’” [Luke 2:24] But this also shows the truth of what was written, that Jesus Christ “although he was rich, became a poor man” [II Corinthians 8:9]. Therefore, for this reason, he chose both a poor mother, from whom he was born, and a poor homeland, about which it is said, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are little to be among the clans of Judah [Micah 5:2],” and the rest. Homilies on Leviticus 8.4.3. (Arthur A. Just [b. 1953], Luke (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 47-48)
The public indication is that Mary and Joseph cannot afford the offering of the rich (Luke 2:24). Thus, though Jesus’ family is not destitute, they are hardly wealthy in monetary terms.

Luke’s notice of the parents’ offerings complies with the third gospel’s emphasis on the poor. Leon Morris (1914-2006) contextualizes:

Jesus came to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:18), and Luke reports a blessing on the poor (Luke 6:20 by contrast there is a woe for the rich, Luke 6:24), whereas Matthew speaks of ‘the poor in spirit’ (Matthew 5:3). Preaching good news to the poor is characteristic of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 7:22). The shepherds to whom the angels came (Luke 2:8ff) were from a poor class. Indeed the family of Jesus himself seems to have been poor, for the offering made at the birth of the child was that of the poor (Luke 2:24; cf. Leviticus 12:8). In general Luke concerns himself with the interests of the poor (Luke 1:53, 6:30, 14:11-13, 21, 16:19ff.). (Morris, Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries), 45)

Jesus will maintain this economic status throughout his life. Joel B. Green (b. 1956) follows:

Was Jesus himself economically disadvantaged? Sentimental pictures have been painted of his lowly beginnings in a stable, as though he were homeless, but these are based on misreadings of the Lukan narrative. Luke 2:1-7 portrays a small town swelled by the requirements of the Roman-instigated census. As Bethlehem probably had no public inns, Luke envisages a near-eastern peasant home in which family and animals slept in one enclosed space, with the animals located on a lower level. Mary and Joseph, then, would have been the guests of family or friends, but their home would have been so overcrowded that, upon his birth, the baby was placed in a feeding trough...More to the point is the sacrifice offered by Jesus’s parents in Luke 2:24: “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” – according to Leviticus 12:8 the prescribed offering for those unable to afford a yearling lamb. Furthermore, in his Galilean ministry Jesus is said to depend on the support of others (Luke 8:1-3), Later, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus says of himself that he has no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58), presumably an assertion about his lack of a home, but surely also a warning concerning the rejection to be expected of those who follow in his footsteps. (Green, The Theology of the Gospel of Luke, 112-13)
Jesus emanates from a blue collar family; he will be raised in a humble home (Luke 1:48). This serves as a reminder that he comes to save all, not merely the privileged of society.

J. Ellsworth Kalas (b. 1928) and David J. Kalas (b. 1962) understand:

God...communicated in humanly understandable terms when he chose to have his special Son raised in a home like many others. He did not grow up in a wealthy home. We can tell Mary and Joseph were persons of small means by the humble thank-offering they brought to the Temple — i.e.. “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24). A well-to-do family might have offered a lamb. We can also tell that Jesus grew up in a good, law-abiding home. His parents showed respect for the sacred laws by bringing their son to the Temple on the proscribed eighth day for the required ritual of dedication called circumcision [Luke 2:21]. (Kalas, Kalas, Frank G. Honeycutt [b. 1957], Stephen M. Crotts [b. 1950] and R. Robert Cueni [b. 1942], “God Communicates In Humanly Understandable Terms”, Sermons on the Gospel Readings: Series 1, Cycle C, 47)

Mary and Joseph amount to Jesus’ godparents in that they are selected to raise God’s son. God could have chosen anyone for this task and yet a humble family from lowly Galilee is the family that is given the responsibility. In Luke’s text, their obedience, not economic status, is emphasized as Mary and Joseph’s observance of the law is made explicit, while their economic standing remains implicit (Luke 2:22-24). This speaks volumes of God’s priorities.

Do you think Mary and Joseph wished that they could pay the offering of the rich (Luke 2:24)? How would you characterize your own economic status? Would you want your financial records and giving patterns publicly available at your church? If this policy was still practiced, how would it effect giving? Should church giving be recommended on a sliding scale rather than a flat rate (such as tithing)? Is Jesus’ concern for the poor in any way self serving as he himself would likely qualify? If forced to leave your children to someone, who would it be; would you choose a rich or poor family? Would economic standing be a primary consideration? Does Luke emphasize Jesus’ parents’ spiritual or monetary status? Which do you spend more time enhancing, your spiritual life or your financial portfolio?

“We may see the small Value God has for Riches, by the People he gives them to.” -Alexander Pope (1688-1744), Thoughts on Various Subjects, 1727

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Adam & Eve’s Fig Leaves (Genesis 3:7)

What were the first clothes made of? Fig leaves (Genesis 3:7)

Adam and Eve’s eating of forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden is one of the Bible’s most well known stories (Genesis 3:1-21). God had previously allowed the man to eat from any tree in the garden with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, conveniently located at its center (Genesis 2:16-17). God assures the man that eating from this tree will result in death (Genesis 2:17). This one stipulation proves one too many as the first couple fails to resist the prohibited fruit (Genesis 3:6). Having been assured by a serpent that they would not die, they willingly eat the fruit (Genesis 3:4-6).

Prior to this infraction, Adam and his wife (who will later be named Eve, Genesis 3:20) enjoy unashamed bliss in the garden (Genesis 2:25). After eating the fruit their “eyes...were opened” and they realize that they are naked to which they respond by crafting makeshift clothing from fig leaves (Genesis 3:7).

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (Genesis 3:7 NASB)
With God’s inevitable visit awaiting, the couple can choose to confess, run or hide. The man and the woman opt to hide. Gordon J. Wenham (b. 1943) asks:
Though somewhat ineffective, these actions suggest urgency and desperation [Genesis 3:7]; the innocent serenity of Genesis 2:25 is shattered. But who are the couple trying to hide from? From each other or from God? Certainly their behavior before meeting God shows (pace Claus Westermann [1909-2000], 1:253) that they have a sense of guilt before he addressed them (so Eugen Drewermann [b. 1940], 79). (Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Biblical Commentary), 276)
Genesis’ note regarding the repercussions of eating the fruit (Genesis 3:7) is paced identically as the previous verse which details the decision to eat of the fruit (Genesis 3:6). Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) scrutinizes:
The results are told in the same rapid-fire fashion as the transgression, paralleling the actions of the woman in Genesis 3:6: (1) eyes open, (2) realize their nakedness, (3) sew fig leaves, and (4) make coverings. What they “saw” is that they are “naked,” what is “pleasing to the eye” causes displeasure with their own nakedness and the need to cover it with “fig leaves,” and the “wisdom” gained only enables the making of coverings.” The link between act and consequence is found in the wordplay between ta’ăwâ (“pleasing”) in Genesis 3:6 and similar tē’ēnâ (“fig”). The plural “they” shows that the couple simultaneously experiences the results of eating. The verb “realized,” when literally rendered “knew” (yd‘), echoes the “tree of knowledge” from which they had partaken; the word “naked” is reminiscent again of the “crafty” serpent who tricked the woman into exchanging her innocence for the embarrassing knowledge that they are naked (Genesis 3:1; Genesis 2:25). (Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26 (New American Commentary), 239)
The verse leaves much to the imagination forcing the reader to engage the text (Genesis 3:7). Robert Gnuse (b. 1947) contemplates:
Now that they know their own nakedness is a condition that they should avoid, they undertake actions to cover themselves. They sew garments of fig leaves together to make loincloths [Genesis 3:7]. One can only wonder what they sew these fig leaves together with; the text tells us nothing. So the man and the woman hide in the underbrush, wearing the latest in fig-leaf fashion. One can only wonder what they thought that they were going to do next. (Gnuse, Misunderstood Stories: Theological Commentary on Genesis 1-11, 113)
Beverly J. Stratton (b. 1959) challenges:
The narrator does not tell us their feelings. Instead , the story quickly reports their next act: ‘they sewed fig leaves, and they made for themselves coverings’ [Genesis 3:7]. Readers must get involved in the story to try to understand this action. Did the couple gain new knowledge that suggested they should cover themselves? Did new knowledge reveal that nakedness was ‘bad’ and that clothing was ‘good’? Do the man and woman cover themselves because they are somehow newly aware of sexual differences? Or are they differently aware of their disobedience, and is this awareness related to their clothing of themselves? Perhaps the couple is embarrassed or ashamed to be in one another’s presence. The narrator is again silent (perhaps annoyingly so to the reader) about the couple’s thoughts and feelings after their action and whatever unspecified immediate consequences it may have had for them. But perhaps, given the couple’s unashamed nakedness of Genesis 2:25, their actions here speak louder than words. (Stratton, Out of Eden: Reading, Rhetoric and Ideology in Genesis 2-3, 49-50)
With newly opened eyes, the couple realizes that they are naked (Genesis 3:7). Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) interprets:
In the Bible, ‘ārûm [“naked”] usually describes someone stripped of protective clothing and “naked” in the sense of being defenseless, weak, or humiliated (Deuteronomy 28:48; Job 1:21; Isaiah 58:7). With an awareness of guilt and a loss of innocense, the couple now feels shame in their naked state. Their spiritual death is revealed by their alienation from one another, symbolized by sewing fig leaves together for barriers, and by their separation from God, symbolized by hiding among the trees [Genesis 3:7]. (Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks [b. 1970], Genesis: A Commentary, 92)
Ellen A. Robbins (b. 1945) praises:
The manner in which the story is constructed limited the Storyteller to just one immediate effect of eating from the Tree of Knowing as the primary trait that differentiates humans from other animal species, and it’s a tribute to his powers of observation and appreciation of irony that he chose the fact that we alone cannot tolerate being seen naked [Genesis 3:7]. He carefully prepared us for this insight by earlier describing the pair as “naked but not ashamed” [Genesis 2:25] which immediately puts us in mind of all the other animals in the Garden. (Robbins, The Storyteller and the Garden of Eden, 135)
The Hebrew terms used for “naked” vary slightly in Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:7. John H. Sailhamer (b. 1946) accentuates:
There is a difference in meaning between ערום (“naked”) in Genesis 2:25 and ערום (“naked”) in Genesis 3:7. Although both terms are infrequent in the Pentateuch, the latter is distinguished by its used [sic] in Deuteronomy 28:48, where it depicts the state of Israel’s exiles who have been punished for their failure to trust and obey God’s word: “Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies that the LORD sends against you.” In distinguishing the first state of human nakedness from the second, the author has introduced a subtle yet perceptible clue to the story’s meaning. The effect of the Fall was not simply that the man and the woman came to know that they were ערום (“naked”). Specifically, they came to know that they were ערום (“naked”) in the sense of being “under God’s judgment,” as in Deuteronomy 28:48 (cf. Ezekiel 16:39, 23:29). (Sailhmaer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, 103)
M.D. Johnson (1935-2011) footnotes:
Louis Ginzberg [1873-1953] (Legends of the Jews, volume 5, pp. 121ff and n. 120) notes that the haggadic interpretation of “naked” in Genesis 3:7, 10 is that the first pair became aware that they were bare of good deeds; cf. Shabbat 14a; Megillah 32a; Genesis Rabbah 19:6; Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer 14. Other Jewish and Christian writers assert that Adam and Eve had garments of light before the Fall. (James H. Charlesworth [b. 1940], The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Volume 2: Expansions of the Old Testament and Legends, Wisdom and Philosophical Literature, Prayers, Psalms, and Odes, Fragments of Lost Judeo-Hellenistic works, 281)
In spite of the revelation of their nakedness, on the surface there is little change after partaking of the fruit (Genesis 3:7). Thomas Whitelaw (1840-1917) assures:
This sense of shame which caused them to seek a covering for their nudity was not due to any physical corruption of the body (Michael Baumgarten [1812-1889]), but to the consciousness of guilt with which their souls were laden, and which impelled them to flee from the presence of their offended Sovereign. (H.D.M. Spence [1836-1917] and Joseph S. Exell [1819-1887], Genesis (Pulpit Commentary), 59)
H.H.B. Ayles (1861-1940) concurs:
There is no need to think of any physical change. Their bodies were the same, but now they recognized the facts. The Midrash excellently comments: “they knew they were like the beasts.” (Ayles, A Critical Commentary on Genesis II.4-III.25, 62)
Tangibly speaking, nothing changes after eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:7). After an edict of death (Genesis 2:17), these results read anticlimactically. Gordon J. Wenham (b. 1943) admits:
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened” [Genesis 3:7] combines phrases from Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:5. The snake’s prediction is literally fulfilled but their vision is somewhat of a letdown: “They realized they were nude, and they sewed fig leaves together” [Genesis 3:7]. (Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Biblical Commentary), 276)
Jerome M. Segal (b. 1943) assesses:
In a sense, this gaining of knowledge of good and evil seems strikingly devoid of content. After all, what do they know that they didn’t know before? It can’t be said that they learned that they didn’t have any fig leaves covering them. They knew that already. Rather, they came to perceive themselves as naked [Genesis 3:7]. They saw what they had always seen, but now they experienced it differently. They experienced themselves through moral categories; to perceive oneself as naked requires a notion of right and wrong. Until he ate from the tree Adam did not possess the concept “naked”; thus, when he explains to God why he was hiding, saying, “I was afraid because I was naked,” God responds by focusing on his language and what it reveals.”Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:10-11 NIV). (Segal, Joseph’s Bones: Understanding the Struggle Between God and Mankind in the Bible, 41)
Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013) critiques:
In Genesis 3:7, the damage done in the human mind spills over into the real world...Since the tree was precisely about the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 2:9, 17], let’s begin with Adam’s and Eve’s stunningly stupid discovery of the nakedness they suddenly thought they knew for the first time...It’s all baloney. From the moment they were made, they’d never been anything but naked. Adam’s vision of Eve as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” [Genesis 2:23] was not a glimpse through a nightgown or bathrobe. The naked man simply recognized, in the naked woman, the same being as himself — with some delightful if puzzling differences. And the naked Eve (assuming she looked at herself first) must have seen the naked Adam, if not with fear and trembling, then at least with admiration for God’s sense of humor...The knowledge of their nakedness could not possibly have been news — unless it was a dangerously perverse knowledge of something that wasn’t there. And that’s exactly what it was: the gratuitous manufacture of a shame, of a guilt they’d never known before. The sin in the Fall, therefore, was internal, not external. It sprang not from the fruit of the tree but from the eating of the fruit [Genesis 3:6] — from the digesting of a lie about reality. And from there on, it was only a matter of time until it spilled over into the as yet innocent world...Hebrew is not a language of abstractions. It’s a tissue of concrete nouns, verbs, and adjectives that can deal with high subjects in an earthy way (reigning you will reign, dying you will die [Genesis 2:17]). And even though eating you will eat does not appear in the text, it meaning is plain: “You will metabolize this lie until it becomes the truth of your miserable lives.” It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. The sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden was a bad joke on the human intellect — a silly extravagance, a pointless peripatation around the simple truth of their being. And it took them clean (or murkily) out of their minds. They didn’t learn anything here. They focused n the unlearnable, and they paid the price. They became fools — and they took us into their folly with them. (Capon, Genesis: The Movie, 292-93)
Clyde T. Francisco (1916-1981) imparts:
What had they learned? That they were naked [Genesis 3:7]. How profound! With all the astounding knowledge that man has acquired in this century, where has it left him in his own soul? Overwhelmed with a sense of guilt about himself and his society. Always it is thus, the writer is saying, when the pursuit of knowledge is not directed by faith. (Clifton J. Allen [1901-1986], General Articles, Genesis–Exodus (Broadman Bible Commentary), 129-30)
While physically, the transformation is negligible, there is an immediate and marked change in the state of the couple before and after eating the fruit (Genesis 3:7).

David J. Atkinson (b. 1943) contrasts:

In Genesis 2:25 we read that the man and his wife were naked and unashamed. By Genesis 3:7 there is shame – that sense of unease with yourself at the heart of your being. Not being able to be comfortable with yourself as you are, and therefore not being comfortable in the presence of another: that is shame. (Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1–11 (Bible Speaks Today), 87)
Tremper Longman III (b. 1952) appraises:
The effects of the Fall go well beyond physical death. The first place the consequences of the Fall can be seen is in relationship, which is so important to human beings. No longer can Adam and Eve stand naked before one another and feel no shame [Genesis 2:25]. They cover themselves with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. Their shame extends beyond a feeling of physical inadequacy and includes a psychological and spiritual estrangement. They no longer experience the same measure of intimate connectedness that they felt before the sin. (Longman, How to Read Genesis, 112)
The man and woman’s nakedness extends far beyond the physical realm (Genesis 3:7). Miguel A. De La Torre (b. 1958) gauges:
The first discovery they made once their eyes were opened was their vulnerability, for they were more than just physically naked, they were also emotionally and psychologically naked [Genesis 3:7]. They are left to make amends by creating clothing to cover up their nakedness. But human attempts to cover up their vulnerabilities fall short of the mark. Fig-leaf clothes do not last for long. (De La Torre, Genesis (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible), 77)
Donald E. Gowan (b. 1929) concurs:
Their eyes were opened [Genesis 3:7], and the result was shame or, perhaps more accurately, self-consciousness. Having made their declaration of independence from God, they are now aware of themselves in a new way, as autonomous beings over against other selves. They know that they can exercise an independent will that differs from the will of others, and they already sense (as we know so well from experience) that these differing wills are potentially hostile. The first act of their new state of knowledge is to attempt to create a defense. They are aware of themselves as naked, that is, as two different kinds of human beings and thus potentially enemies. Their pitiful garments of leaves, scratchy and sketchy, are their attempt to make clothing their first line of defense. (Gowan, Genesis 1-11: From Eden to Babel (International Theological Commentary), 55)
Augustine (354-430) envisages:
Then they saw that they were naked by perverted eyes [Genesis 3:7]. Their original simplicity, signified by the term nakedness, now seemed to be something to be ashamed of. And so that they might no longer be simple, they made aprons for themselves from the leaves of the fig tree, as if to cover their private parts, that is, to cover their simplicity, of which that cunning pride was ashamed. The leaves of the fig tree signify a certain itching, if this is correctly said in the case of incorporeal things, which the mind suffers in wondrous ways from the desire and pleasure of lying. As a result those who love to joke are even called “salty” in Latin. For in jokes pretense plays a primary role. Two Books on Genesis against the Manichaeans 2.15.23. (Andrew Louth [b. 1944], Genesis 1-11 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 81)
The revelation completely changes the dynamics of their interactions. Derrick McCarson (b. 1984) realizes:
For Adam and Eve, the age of innocense was over and the relational intimacy and naiveté that they enjoyed in the Garden was replaced with evil thoughts and guilt. What a contrast from the marital bliss they previously enjoyed (Genesis 2:25). (McCarson, Origins: An In-Depth Study of Genesis 1–11, 143)
David R. Helm (b. 1961) and Jon M. Dennis (b. 1966) diagnose:
Their shame is a signal that their relationship to each other has changed. Now they are painfully self-conscious. As an infant in his mother’s womb needs no clothes, so Adam and Eve, wrapped in the warmth of God’s presence, had no need for a covering. Now–as if thrust from the womb without warning–the impulse is to cover themselves and hide. What a contrast to how they felt earlier: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25). (Helm and Dennis, The Genesis Factor: Probing Life’s Big Questions, 74-75)
Martin Sicker (b. 1931) expounds:
They had become aware of each other in a way vastly different than before. They had always been naked, but now they knew they were naked! [Genesis 3:7] Whereas previously they had been able to confront each other in their nakedness without embarrassment, now they began to feel uncomfortable in each other’s presence. A sense of vulnerability came over them. They felt exposed, without protection. They looked at the animals around them and then at themselves, and their discomfort increased. They now experienced a feeling unknown to them before. Fully conscious of their nakedness, they exhibit any inclination to shield their exposure. Why, and in what way, were they different in this regard? Their eyes were opened and they saw things now that they had never noticed before. Was this what it was like to be as Elohim, as the serpent had taunted [Genesis 3:5]? (Sicker, Reading Genesis Politically: An Introduction to Mosaic Political Philosophy, 30)
R. Kent Hughes (b. 1942) laments:
Paradise lost!...The carefree nakedness [Genesis 2:25] that went with their perfectly transparent character and their unfettered harmony with God and each other dissolved. (Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Preaching the Word), 76)
Perhaps most tellingly, the choice to eat of the fruit is endemic of a change in priorities. Johnson T.K. Lim (b. 1952) understands:
Their eyes are opened to guilt and shame. Self-consciousness replaces God-consciousness. They sew fig leaves to hide themselves from each other [Genesis 3:7]. They didn’t like what they had seen of themselves and of each other. In the end, doubt and denial lead to disharmony and death. In the end, they were driven from the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:23-24]. (Lim, Grace in the Midst of Judgment: Grappling with Genesis 1-11, 209)
After eating the fruit, nothing changes. Yet everything changes.

Significantly, God does not immediately intervene. John L. Hemphill III (b. 1971) recognizes:

To sow fig leaves together takes time yet God doesn’t approach Adam and Eve right away [Genesis 3:7]. God let’s the shame of their sin sit around and he doesn’t expose it right away. The mercy of God is also seen by the simple fact that God doesn’t destroy mankind right away, but spares man. Even in man’s darkest hour God is merciful. (Hemphill, Genesis: Human History Through the Eyes of God, 38-39)
God’s absence confirms that divine agency does not directly cause the change in the humans; it is rather a consequence of their actions. The proof is in the pudding: The couple comprehends their failure without being told (Genesis 3:7).

Leon R. Kass (b. 1939) observes:

The immediate consequence of the transgression doesn’t require God’s intervention at all. “The eyes of them both were opened, and they saw that they were naked, and they made themselves coverings of fig leaves.” [Genesis 3:7] God hasn’t intruded upon that. There’s some kind of sadness and shame in that first discovery. They somehow know how far they are from Godliness. (Bill Moyers [b. 1934], Genesis: A Living Conversation, 53)
Anthony F. Campbell (b. 1934) determines:
What is portrayed in the Garden story is a matter of natural consequence, independent of God. God may have warned against it [Genesis 2:16-17]; the warning is ignored. The act is performed (the fruit eaten) [Genesis 3:6]; the consequence follows (their eyes are opened) [Genesis 3:7]. God is not involved at all, unless the story is unfolded further and it is time for the evening walk in the Garden [Genesis 3:8]. Did Israel envisage a human nature that came from the creative hand of God much as we experience it now? Apparently so, in this text at least. In Genesis 2:25, the couple were innocent (“not ashamed”); in Genesis 3:7, that innocense was lost (they needed fig leaves). God is portrayed as having warned them (the prohibition).The consequences of the act flow from the act itself, not from God. (Campbell, Making Sense of the Bible: Difficult Texts and Modern Faith, 49)
Thomas L. Brodie (b. 1940) construes:
When the couple eat without limit, no one condemns them immediately—neither God nor parent, state or church, friend or foe. But they know in themselves that something is wrong. In a sense, it is not God who expels them but they who expel God (Diana Culbertson, in conversation, Cleveland, May 22, 1997). They have damaged themselves, and their making of leafy loincloths seems to be an initial effort to protect themselves. (Brodie, Genesis As Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary, 151)
The change in the man and the woman is not a punishment from God but rather the consequence of not following divine guidance (Genesis 2:16-17). This has important ramifications when generalizing into a hamartiology or doctrine of sin.

As the couple does not experience immediate death (Genesis 2:16-17), some have seen the serpent as being more accurate than God (Genesis 3:4). Ellen A. Robbins (b. 1945) concedes:

God had warned the man that eating from the Tree of Knowing Good and Bad would result in death (Genesis 2:16-17). On the other hand, the snake denied that they would die, but claimed rather that God knew that having obtained this faculty of knowing their eyes would be opened and they would become like gods (Genesis 3:4-5). Strictly in terms of the narrative, the snake proved to be correct, they did not die and “their eyes were opened” [Genesis 3:7]. (Robbins, The Storyteller and the Garden of Eden, 75)
Despite incorporating truth, the serpent has unequivocally misled the humans (Genesis 3:4-5). Martin Kessler (b. 1927) and Karel Deurloo (b. 1936) discern:
Ironically, the serpent was right that seeing is knowing, but it was a serpentine knowledge that brought about alienation instead of deeper trust. On one level, they had been rudely outsmarted by a cunning reptile—a shocking humiliation [Genesis 3:4-6]! On another level, the humans experienced a cultural-historical development and covered their sexual nakedness with aprons of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. (Kessler and Deurloo, A Commentary on Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, 53)
The serpent is undoubtedly the story’s villain (Genesis 3:1-21). Ellen Van Wolde (b. 1954) studies:
The serpent does not represent chaos, as is the view of Karen Randolph Joines [b. 1938] and Francis Landy [b. 1947], for chaos is discontinuity. The serpent represents the opposite of chaos: complete continuity. As there are no differences of distinctions, everything has become equal. The serpent’s deception is the totalitarian principle, the denial of differences and limits. The human being becomes aware of this deception as early as Genesis 3:7b, that is to say before God’s acting. The human being himself arrives at the insight that the acquired knowledge does not result in a continuity of life, but also in the experience of fragmentation to discontinuity in existence. The fact that they cover themselves with fig leaves testifies to the human beings’ confusion resulting from the knowledge, although the serpent had presented this knowledge merely as something positive. In this way the serpent’s representation of continuity is already exposed as false by the human beings’ reaction. (Van Wolde, Words Become Worlds: Semantic Studies of Genesis 1-11, 10)
Upon having their eyes opened and realizing their nakedness, the couple’s instinct is to hide (Genesis 3:7). Leon J. Wood (1918-1977) perceives:
The first action of Adam and Eve, having thus sinned, was to try and hide from God. They made coverings for their bodies from fig leaves and then hid themselves [Genesis 3:7]. Man in his sin does not want to be found out by God, but God always knows (Proverbs 15:3). (Wood, A Shorter Commentary on Genesis, 34)
Unlike the biblical text, the Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish interpretation of Genesis, asserts that the woman is the first to cover up. J.T.A.G.M. van Ruiten (b. 1956) educates:
The text of Jubilees 3:21a has an addition. It states that before the woman gave the fruit to her husband, she first covered her shame with fig leaves. With this addition, the author stresses the innocense of Adam with regard to the nakedness of his wife. Then Adam ate the fruit (Jubilees 3:21c), his eyes were opened (Jubilees 3:21d) and he discovered his nakedness (Jubilees 3:21e). After the making of the apron (Jubilees 3:22a-c), Jubilees adds to the text of Genesis that he ‘covered his shame’ (Jubilees 3:22d), as if to say that the apron could have been used for something else. It is in line with the tendency, also elsewhere in Jubilees, to fill in gaps in the text of Genesis. The text of Jubilees 3:21b is a quotation of Jubilees 3:6b. It omits the word גם (‘also’) and עמה (‘who was with her’), and has Adam instead of ‘her husband’. It is striking that Jubilees has all verbs and suffixes in Jubilees 3:21d-22d in the singular. The reason for the use of the singular in Jubilees could be that the author wants to stress that Adam’s wife has covered her shame. It is, therefore, not necessary or even inconsistent to apply the verbs of Jubilees 3:21d-22d to Adam’s wife. If she had already covered her shame, there would be no need to state that her eyes were opened, and that she would sew fig leaves. The omission of עמה (‘who was with her’) of Genesis 3:6g shows that the author is trying to avoid any suggestion that Adam could have seen the nakedness of his wife. In Jubilees 3:21e the verb...(‘he saw’) is used, whereas Genesis 3:7b reads וידעו (‘they knew’). This variation should, perhaps, be seen in relation to the addition of the verb ‘to know’ in Jubilees 3:16c. He did not know that he was naked before the eating of the fruit, his eyes were open and he saw that he was naked (cf. Jubilees 3:21e). Perhaps the word ‘to know’ was inadequate for the author of Jubilees after the opening of the eyes. One of the consequences of this interpretation of the rewriting of Jubilees is that the eyes of the woman were not opened after she gave the fruit to her husband as in Genesis, but had already been opened before. (Ruiten, Primaeval History Interpreted: The Rewriting of Genesis 1-11 in the Book of Jubilees, 95-96)
The man and the woman construct their garments from fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). The biblical description of the garments is sparse. Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) speculates:
The fact that the narrator reports only the people covering themselves and nothing else demonstrates his delicate sensibilities. The old material may have been much cruder. This narrator is quite a different man than those who tell of the wiliness of Lots [sic] daughters [Genesis 19:30-38], of Tamar [Genesis 38:1-30], or even of Rachel [Genesis 31:34-35]! (Gunkel [translated by Mark E. Biddle [b. 1957)], Genesis (Mercer Library of Biblical Studies), 18)
The Hebrew phrasing has intrigued some interpreters (Genesis 3:7). Jeff A. Benner translates woodenly:
And the eyes of the two of them were opened up and they knew that they were naked and they sewed together leaves of the fig and they did for them loin coverings [Genesis 3:7]. (Benner, A Mechanical Translation of the Book of Genesis: The Hebrew Text Literally Translated Word for Word, 26)
Barry Bandstra (b. 1951) directs:
Note the singular: leaf of fig, fig leaf [Genesis 3:7], whereas English might use the plural: fig leaves. (Bandstra, Genesis 1-11: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text, 183)
Genesis 3:7 marks the first time that the fig appears in the Bible. Claus-Hunno Hunzinger (b. 1929) notes:
The fig tree is an ancient and important tree in Palestine and claims special dignity in Judges 9:7ff. To sit under one’s vine and fig tree is to enjoy peace. Figurative use occurs in, e.g., Isaiah 28:4; Jeremiah 8:13; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1; Proverbs 27:18. The fig tree is the only tree mentioned in Eden (Genesis 3:7). (Gerhard Kittel [1888-1948] and Gerhard Friedrich [1908-1986], Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume, 1100)
Henry Alford (1810-1871) specifies:
It seems better, with Marcus Kalisch [1828-1885] and Wilhelm Gesenius [1786-1842], to take this as the ordinary fig, whose leaves would require uniting for this purpose, than, with August Wilhelm Knobel [1807-1863], and others, as the banana or musa, one of whose leaves would be too large for the purpose. The ordinary fig is indigenous over the whole East. (Alford, The Book of Genesis and Part of the Book of Exodus: A Revised Version with Marginal References and an Explanatory Commentary, 16)
Thomas Whitelaw (1840-1917) echoes:
Fig leaves [are]...not the pisang tree (Musa Paradisiaca), whose leaves attain the length of twelve feet and the breadth of two (August Wilhelm Knobel [1807-1863], Peter von Bohlen [1796-1840]); but the common fig tree (Ficus Carica), which is aboriginal in Western Asia, especially in Persia, Syria, and Asia Minor (Marcus Kalisch [1828-1885], Carl Fredreich Keil [1807-1888], Donald MacDonald [1783-1867]). (H.D.M. Spence [1836-1917] and Joseph S. Exell [1819-1887], Genesis (Pulpit Commentary), 59)
Nahum M. Sarna (1923-2005) describes:
The fig tree has unusually large and strong leaves. Incidentally, it is indigenous to the land of Israel, where it was cultivated very early, but it was known in Babylon; hence, this detail reflects a West Semitic, not a Mesopotamian, cultural background. (Sarna, Genesis (JPS Torah Commentary), 26)
There is intrigue regarding the rationale behind the couple’s choice of these particular leaves (Genesis 3:7). Helmer Ringgren (1917-2012) admits:
After the fall, Adam and Eve try to make their first clothing out of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Whether the lobate form of these leaves made them particularly unsuitable for this purpose or their size made them particularly suitable (as many think) may be left an open question. (G. Johannes Botterweck [1917-1981], Ringgren and Heinz-Josef Fabry [b. 1944], Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume 15, 546)
Many have seen practicality guiding the decision. Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) posits:
Fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]...are strong and broad enough for clothing. (Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks [b. 1970], Genesis: A Commentary, 92)
Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1952) suggests:
Why the man and the woman chose fig leaves is not clear [Genesis 3:7]. The fig tree produces the largest leaves of any tree that grows in Palestine, and if such large-leafed trees were in the garden, then the couple would choose those that provide most coverage. (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), 191)
Gordon J. Wenham (b. 1943) suspects:
“Fig leaves” [Genesis 3:7] were probably used because they are the biggest leaves available in Canaan, though their heavy indentations must have made them less than ideal for a covering! (Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Biblical Commentary), 276)
Thomas L. Brodie (b. 1940) quips:
At least this time their implied choice of tree is good; fig leaves are large. (Brodie, Genesis As Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary, 151)
Others have seen the selection of fig leaves as a matter of opportunity (Genesis 3:7). Andrew Willet (1562-1621) presumes:
They sewed fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]...not because its fruit, which they had tasted, was forbidden, for they would so much more have abhorred the leaves thereof; nor to betoken the desire of the flesh now procured by sin, which they say is provoked by the rubbing of the fig leaves, nor yet as the testimony of repentance, inasmuch as fig leaves prick and sting the flesh; nor need we run to allegories, that this covering with leaves or with fruit betokens the vain excuse and defense of sin. Rather, they made aprons of fig leaves, which were of suitable breadth and ready at hand, for no other reason than to hide their nakedness, of which they were now ashamed. Commentary on Genesis 3:7. (John L. Thompson [b. 1952], Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture), 140)
As they hide amongst the trees, the fig leaves perhaps represent the first camouflage: Adam and his wife make like a tree and wear leaves (Genesis 3:7).

It has been suggested that the couple takes leaves from the very tree from which they have eaten. Rashi (1040-1105) remarks:

This was the tree of which they had eaten; by the very thing through which their ruin had been caused was some improvement effected in their condition (Sanhedrin 70b). The other trees however prevented them from taking of their leaves. And why is not the name of the tree clearly mentioned? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, never wishes to grieve anything He has created: hence its name is not mentioned in order that it might not be put to shame by people saying, “This is the tree through which the world suffered” (Midrash R. Tanchuma. (Kristen E. Kvam [b. 1954], Linda S. Schearing [b. 1947], Valarie H. Ziegler [b. 1954], “Medieval Readings: Muslim, Jewish, and Christian (600-1500 CE)”, Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender, 211)
One rabbinic writing anthropmorphizes the Garden’s trees to tell how the fig tree relinquished its leaves. Pisikta de-Rav Kahana 20 reads:
After Adam had eaten from that tree, the Lord banished him from the garden of Eden. Adam went around to all the trees [asking them for leaves], but they would not receive him. What did the trees say? “Thief! You tried to deceive the Creator! You tried to deceive the Lord!” This is what is written: “Do not let arrogant feet crush me” (Psalm 36:1)—[the trees said,] “Do not bring against me that foot that transgressed in pride!” Or wicked hands expel me (Psalm 36:11)—[the trees said,] “Do not shake me with that hand! And don’t take my leaves!” But as you would expect, that tree that gave him fruit also gave him its leaves, which is what is written, And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths (Genesis 3:7). So what was the name of that tree [from which Adam ate]? The fig-tree. (David Stern [b. 1949] and Mark J. Mirsky [b. 1939], Rabbinic Fantasies: Imaginative Narratives from Classical Hebrew Literature, 45)
Given that the woman professes that the prohibition against the tree encompasses not touching it (Genesis 3:3), it seems unlikely that leaves from the untouchable tree would be used to conceal the act of eating from it.

From the fig leaves, the couple constructs “aprons” (ASV, KJV, RSV), “loin coverings” (NASB) or “loincloths” (ESV, HCSB, NRSV) (Genesis 3:7). Some translations leave the term nondescript: “coverings” (NIV, NKJV), “makeshift clothes” (MSG), “something” (CEV). The NLT omits the term entirely.

W. Sibley Towner (b. 1933) informs:

The Geneva Bible of 1560 called them “breeches,” and that early English version was known as the “Breeches Bible” ever after. (Towner, Genesis (Westminster Bible Companion), 45)
Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1952) investigates:
The word...translated aprons (hagōrōt) [Genesis 3:7] is, in other places, an article of woman’s dress (Isaiah 3:24) or the belt of a warrior (II Samuel 18:11; I Kings 2:5; II Kings 3:21). It could be that the couple provided themselves with one covering, that of fig leaves which they made into an apronlike garment, or else they covered themselves first with foliage, then with skins. In either case, the man and the woman are successful in hiding their nakedness from each other, but that does not exonerate them from their sin of disobedience. (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), 191)
Gordon J. Wenham (b. 1943) supports:
“Loincloths” חגרת [is]...elsewhere used of a belt (I Kings 2:5; II Kings 3:21; Isaiah 3:24). The usual term for a loincloth is אזור. Perhaps...the skimpiness of their clothing is being emphasized. (Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Biblical Commentary), 276)
Artistic renderings of these garments are often misrepresentations. John C.L. Gibson (1930-2008) corrects:
It is not—repeat not—a single fig leaf that they use, something only to hide their sexual organs [Genesis 3:7]. The impressions of the great European artists painting this scene owe more to the teaching of the Church than to the text of Genesis. It is an “apron” made up of a number of fig leaves, in other words the normal clothing which one would expect early “man” in a hot region of the earth to wear. (Gibson, Genesis, Volume 1 (Daily Study Bible), 129)
A common interpretation associates the fig leaf garments and consequently the act itself as being sexually suggestive (Genesis 3:6-7). Martin Sicker (b.1931) imagines:
Of course, the humans’ bodily configurations were quite different from those of the animals. The latter, going for the most part on all fours, did not directly expose their genitalia to one another, nor did they visually affect or incite one another’s passions. With the man and the woman, however, such was not the case. They now found the sight of each other’s nakedness arousing and embarrassing. It seemed appropriate to artificially restrict their view of each other. Thus they took large fig leaves and sewed them together with grass and vines and made coverings for their bodies [Genesis 3:7], thereby effectively concealing the exposure that made them experience a consciousness of shame. (Sicker, Reading Genesis Politically: An Introduction to Mosaic Political Philosophy, 30-31)
John H. Walton (b.1952) and Victor H. Matthews (b. 1950) connect:
The significance of the fig’s use may lie in its symbolism of fertility [Genesis 3:7]. By eating the forbidden fruit, the couple may have set in motion their future role as parents and as cultivators of fruit trees and grain. (Walton and Matthews, Genesis–Deuteronomy (IVP Bible Background Commentary), 21)
Hugh C. White (1936-2001) argues:
The specification of the type of covering made indicates that the sexual organs were at the center of their new awareness of nakedness [Genesis 3:7]. This awareness of nakedness arises from the inner division and reorientation toward a narcissistic, objectifying form of consciousness, which comes to be attached to our outer sexual differences. Autonomous, narcissistic consciousness is androgynous and cannot admit binary sexual differentiation. Thus they intuitively act to cover their nakedness. (White, Narration and Discourse in the Book of Genesis, 137)
Robert Farrar Capon (1925-2013) pronounces:
The fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] ...covered their privy parts — their pudenda (to use the shame-filled Latinism). That was what the “aprons” were all about, you know. They weren’t gowns to flatter their figures, or headdresses to glorify their faces, or shoes to save their feet. They were itchy little chastity belts to protect their newfound — and useless — embarrassment. (Capon, Genesis: The Movie, 293)
Paul J. Kissling (b. 1957) discusses:
It is possible that for the imagined audience fig trees had sexually suggestive connotations and that they might see a critique against the fertility cults of Canaan...Stephen N. Lambden (“From Fig Leaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on the Garments of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Select Early Postbiblical Jewish Writings,” in A Walk in the Garden, p. 76): “It is important for the understanding of Genesis 2:1-3-24 to note that the very first act of the first couple after eating the fruit of the forbidden tree was the making of fig-leaf ‘aprons’ [Genesis 3:7]. Modern commentators are generally disappointing in explaining the significance of this act – if indeed, it is commented on at all. The view that the first couple made specifically fig-leaf aprons because of the leaves of the fig tree, being the largest on any Palestinian tree, were more suitable for sewing together and making ‘aprons,’ is not very convincing. Also inadequate is the view that the first couple made fig-leaf ‘aprons’ because the forbidden tree itself, allegedly being a fig tree, provided them with the necessary material. Rather, it seems to me, the first couple’s act of making fig-leaf ‘aprons’ is an indication of the fact that, despite their becoming sophisticated or wise as a result of eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree, they were still so foolish as to imagine that they could adequately cover their ‘nakedness.’ Genesis 3:7b points to the folly of the first couple and also perhaps in the suggestive associations of the fig tree to the dangers of participation in fertility cults and rites.” I find David P. Wright [b. 1953]’s [Wright, “Holiness, Sex and Death in the Garden of Eden,” Biblica 77 (1996):305-29] suggestion of parallels with Gilgamesh and its equation of sexuality and acquisition of knowledge far-fetched. (Kissling, Genesis, Volume 1 (College Press NIV Commentary), 195)
W. Lee Humphreys (b. 1939) wonders:
The most immediate result of eating the fruit of this tree is that “the eyes of the two of them were opened and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). They react by stitching fig leaves together to make rather fragile aprons for themselves, a response in marked contrast to their reaction to their nakedness in Genesis 2:25. We might thereby conclude that this “Knowledge of Good and Evil” is a whole new level in the experience of human sexuality, a transformation of their understanding of themselves as sexed beings in a social world. This is an especially powerful human experience at puberty as physical changes in bodies and especially in reproductive biology spark dramatic changes in our experiences of ourselves and others as sexed beings. Have we at core a story of growing up? Is eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil a figure for the passage from childhood to maturity? Is Genesis 3 the story of the stormy passage we know as growing up—stormy for parents as well as children becoming adult? It is certainly in the area of one’s sexual identity that one makes basic and early moral decisions as an adult, deciding for oneself what is good and evil, and this fact is mirrored in the sometimes sustained attention given to sexual activity in early collections of laws (including biblical Torah). (Humphreys, The Character of God in the Book of Genesis: A Narrative Appraisal, 38)
Anthony A. Hoekema (1913-1988) advances:
Their sense of shame was the immediate response of a guilty conscience. Now, however, Adam and Eve both realized that they had done wrong, and so they contrived to cover themselves by sewing fig leaves together [Genesis 3:7]. “That the sense of shame should concentrate itself on that portion of the body which is marked by the organs of generation, no doubt has its deeper reason in this that man instinctively feels that the very fountain and source of human life is contaminated by sin.” (Hoekema, Created in God’s Image, 133)
Like eating from the fruit itself, reading the Adam and Eve story as a sexual awakening has negative repercussions (Genesis 3:1-21). Ellen A. Robbins (b. 1945) evaluates:
We’ve inherited many preconceptions from the long history of interpretation. For example, take Genesis 3:7...It has long been assumed that this verse refers to the origin of sexual awareness, which is thus viewed as an effect of disobeying the divine command. Assuming that sexual desire is a consequence of sin reinforces an attitude towards human sexuality that is ambivalent at best. It comes from a time when the body was opposed to the soul, and all bodily desires were suspect. The opposition of body and soul provided the foundation on which the allegorical interpretation was built and in which women, identified with the body and sensuality in all its forms, became the source of all physical temptation..Claus Westermann [1909-2000] noted, on this introduction of sex and sexual shame into the interpretation of Genesis 3:7, “This explanation is in accordance with a very traditional Christian conception of the story of the “fall.” It is a telling example of how fixed and firm ideas can influence the understanding of the text.” (Robbins, The Storyteller and the Garden of Eden, 12-13)
Clayton Sullivan (b. 1930) traces:
Over the years theologians intensified Paul’s negative attitude toward flesh and body [Romans 6:6, 12; I Corinthians 9:27, 15:39; II Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 5:16-25, 6:7-9, 17]. The shame regarding genital organs (the penis and pubic areas) became a favored point of intensification. Theologians did this by elaborating even further the Adam and Eve story in the book of Genesis [Genesis 3:1-24]. Consider, for example, what Augustine [354-430] conjectured in City of God. According to Augustine, divine grace forsook Adam and Eve immediately after they had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil [Genesis 3:7]. Moreover, they became “appalled at the nakedness of their own bodies. Thus, they took fig leaves, which were perhaps the first things to come to hand in their confusion of mind, and covered their shameful parts with them. For though their members remained the same as they were at first, they had not originally been a source of shame to them.” Ponder Augustine’s just-cited opinion that genitalia (the penis and vagina) are “shameful parts” and a “source of shame.”...But Augustine was not content merely to heap disgrace on genitalia. Instead, he also intensified Paul’s view—expressed in Galatians 5:17—that the flesh (behaving autonomously) possesses its own desires and is opposed to the Spirit. In other words, Augustine postulated an extravagant flesh-body rebellion. For him the flesh or body is a rogue unto itself, a lustful rebel against the soul, the source of spontaneous sexual desire. (Sullivan, Rescuing Sex From the Christians, 27-28)
Miguel A. De La Torre (b. 1958) augments:
For some, like Augustine of Hippo [354-430], sex was the forbidden fruit that the first humans tasted. The reason Adam covered his genitals with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7], according to Augustine, was not due to modesty or shame, but rather because Adam’s penis was erect. Augustine succeeds in linking shame and sex to the fall of humanity. Both Adam’s erect penis and that of all men who follow him signify our will toward the flesh, over against the spirit. Adam’s uncontrollable penis symbolized his rebellion against God, making sex the cause for expulsion from paradise. An erect penis, philosopher Michel Foucault [1926-1984] reminds us, “[becomes] the image of man revolted against God.” The Christian problem with sex becomes desire itself. Sex, within Christian tradition, symbolized the choice for the material things of this world over against the spiritual things concerning the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, this type of interpretation has created a strong anti-body perspective from which sex is associated with shame, negatively influencing human development and relationships for the past two millennia, a perspective still prevalent in many circles with the Christian church. (De La Torre, Genesis (Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible), 77-78)
A sexually suggestive interpretation is not the only way to read Genesis’ story of the eating of forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-24). Carol A. Newsom (b. 1950) reveals:
Most readers are accustomed to thinking of this new knowledge as somehow signalling awakened sexuality, and there are some overtones of that. The fig-leaf coverings that the humans make for themselves are specifically loincloths for covering the genitals [Genesis 3:7]. But sex itself hardly seems to be the main point. Sexual difference was apparently what adam was talking about when he first saw the woman God had made from his own flesh and called her ishah [Genesis 2:23]. Nor can one readily find an exegetical basis for assuming that the woman and the man were ‘chaste’ in Eden. All that the text says is that they were naked and did not really notice [Genesis 2:25]—until now. (Norman C. Habel [b. 1932] and Shirley Wurst, “Common Ground: An Ecological Reading of Genesis 2-3”, The Earth Story in Genesis, 68)
Theresa Sanders (b. 1963) documents:
It is not clear that this gesture [Genesis 3:7] is meant to hide sexual shame...In fact, according to some interpreters, the nakedness of the first couple had nothing at all to do with sex. Several early Jewish sources say that prior to their eating of the fruit, Adam and Eve had been covered with a scaly skin and a cloud of glory. Once the man and the woman disobeyed God, their scales and the cloud dropped away, and thus the couple were “naked.” The implication is that the two people were ashamed not because of their sexuality but because there was now a visible sign of their disobedience...Another interpretation says that Adam and Eve were “naked” in that they had been stripped of the beauty of the commandment that they had just broken. Yet another notes that in the Bible, the word “naked” primarily conveys a sense of vulnerability. (Sanders, Approaching Eden: Adam and Eve in Popular Culture, 63)
J. Ellsworth Kalas (b. 1928) expands:
Their first reaction was to become conscious—painfully so!—of their nakedness [Genesis 3:7]. We’re inclined to interpret this experience as a recognition of their sexuality. Sexuality was probably a factor, but far more was involved. The man and woman had come to see themselves in a new light, and they made fig leaf garments to hide themselves—not so much from each other as from themselves. It’s interesting that we still use the language of their experience to describe our feelings when we have told another person something that we had previously kept hidden or when we have an inner experience where we see ourselves more clearly. “I felt as if I were stark naked,” we say, just like the man and the woman in Eden. (Kalas, Genesis (Immersion Bible Studies))
A far greater consequence of their snack is that the man and the woman move from being God-centered to self-centered. Beverly J. Stratton (b. 1959) pinpoints:
The couple’s opened eyes and new knowledge prompt a change in them from verbally to physically active: they sew fig leaves together and make coverings for themselves [Genesis 3:7]. The last remark, ‘for themselves’, suggests an additional change. The couple previously seemed dependent on God as the provider for food, beautiful trees, and even the breath of life. Now they act on their own, independently of God, as they make things ‘for themselves’. The contrast between Genesis 2:25 and Genesis 3:7 may suggest other changes in the couple as well: perhaps from naive to conscious, from innocent to knowing, from ignorant of social convention to aware of prudence, from accepting of their differences to fearing or being ashamed of them. (Stratton, Out of Eden: Reading, Rhetoric and Ideology in Genesis 2-3, 154-55)
Though most now wear commercially manufactured clothing, we still construct flimsy makeshift coverings for ourselves. John Calvin (1509-1564) generalizes:
All of us smile at their folly since, certainly, it was ridiculous to place such a covering before God’s eyes [Genesis 3:7]. In the meanwhile, we are all infected with the same disease. Indeed, we tremble and are covered with shame at the first pangs of conscience; but self-indulgence soon steals and induces us to resort to vain trifles, as if it were easy to delude God. (Calvin, Genesis (Crossway Classic Commentaries), 45)
Richard D. Nelson (b. 1945) agrees:
We, too, take inadequate measures to cope with these feelings and have our own psychological equivalents of fig leaves and hiding behind trees [Genesis 3:7]. Conceivably, we might also take a little human pride in the resiliency of our first ancestors! (Nelson, From Eden to Babel: An Adventure in Bible Study, 26)
Terry L. Newbegin (b. 1948) personalizes:
Genesis 3:7 is about you...and how you began to feel the loss of perfection within your own consciousness that you experienced in the first creation (garden). Once you transferred your focal point to an ultra ego personality consciousness you began to manifest your desires, thoughts, ideas, and beliefs in a dualistic study that reinforced your reality of positive and negative, good and bad, God and Satan as real. (Newbegin, Genesis: Your Journey Home, 2nd Edition, 66-67)
The process of generating coverings from fig leaves has been repeated time and again. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1891-1981) asks:
Has it ever occurred to you that in one phrase you have a complete summation of the whole history of civilization? What have men and women been doing in this supposed civilization? They have simply been sewing together fig leaves to hide their own nakedness—that is precisely the meaning of what we call “civilization.” (Lloyd-Jones, The Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith, 49-50)
Cleven L. Jones, Sr. (b. 1948) illustrates:
Adam and Eve sinned and attempted to clothe themselves in their own poorly tailored self righteous “fig leaf attire” (Genesis 3:7). It is as if they were saying, “We will look better when God stops by, after all we were given dominion [Genesis 1:26, 28] and this dominion has to include creativity. Perhaps if we cover ourselves, God won’t pay us any mind.” God sees through our weak attempts to make ourselves acceptable. We are like the child who behaves poorly in school, refuses to do homework gets a “D” grade and attempts to alter it into an “A.” He wants to be acceptable, save himself a scolding and make his parents feel proud. As a race we try to alter our grade before God. We live immorally, practice genocide, start unnecessary wars, provide limited relief or no relief to the less fortunate, seek power to abuse others, enact unfair laws, deny the real selfish motives behind our uneven laws, and try to alter our grade. As the first man was responsible for more than himself so are we. Adam and Eve seized the initiative to take control of their own lives and the world has not been the same. (Jones, Genesis and Life, 30)
Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952) broadens:
Having become conscious of their shame Adam and Eve at once endeavored to hide it by making unto themselves aprons of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. This action of theirs was highly significant. Instead of seeking God and openly confessing their guilt, they attempted to conceal it both from Him and from themselves. Such has ever been the way of natural man. The very last thing he will do is to own before God his lost and undone condition. Conscious that something is wrong with him, he seeks shelter behind his own self-righteousness and trusts that his good works will more than counter-balance his evil ones. Church-going, religious exercises, attention to ordinances, philanthropy and altruism are the fig leaves which many today are weaving into aprons to cover their spiritual shame. But like those which our first parents sewed together they will not endure the test of eternity. At best they are but things to time which will speedily crumble away to dust. (Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, 24)
R.R. Reno (b. 1959) explains:
Adam and Eve seek cover to hide their shame with clothes sewn from fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. So it shall be with subsequent generations. Vice rarely parades itself in public. More often than not it takes on disguises. Pride becomes what we imagine to be a healthy self-confidence. Shameless sin disguises itself as an authentic existential stance that will not stoop to hypocrisy. We’re not so much greedy as responsible parents, laying up prudent reserves for the education of our children. It’s not gluttony or lust, but instead a world-affirming ethic that takes life seriously. The alchemy of rationalization sews together the fig leaves in many different ways. We do so in order to reclothe ourselves in a greater moral purpose, hiding the deep truth that we are living carnally, living as if the material world was the final truth that constrains and governs human life. (Reno, Genesis (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 92)
Though it seems that human instinct dictates we cover up sin, it is beneficial to fight this urge. Craig Groeschel (b. 1967) advises:
When they ate the forbidden fruit and their eyes were opened, the Bible says, “They realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD” (Genesis 3:7-8). Our natural response to shame is to cover ourselves and hide. Separation and isolation feel safer. As long as we hide, though, our Father can’t clean up our mess, leaving us no choice but to wallow it in. (Groeschel, Love, Sex, and Happily Ever After: Preparing for a Marriage That Goes the Distance, 100)
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and his wife and engage in the world’s first cover up (Genesis 3:7). Their choice of clothing shows that they are not concerned with comfort; they are consumed with hiding. As they will learn, you cannot hide from God (Genesis 3:8-21). Nor should you wish to do so.

What changes when the coupe eats the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6-7)? How should they have responded; what were their other options? In describing the world’s first garments, does the biblical author envision a leafy version of standard clothing composed of leaves or leafy loincloths (Genesis 3:7)? Why do they select leaves to construct their clothing? Why does the Bible specify the type of leaves? For whose benefit are the humans covering up: each other, God or themselves? How much time elapsed between the eating of the fruit (Genesis 3:6) and the wearing of the clothes (Genesis 3:7)? Why does God wait to appear, allowing the man and the woman time to construct their inadequate coverings (Genesis 3:8)? What would you cover yourself if you found yourself naked in the Garden? How is the invention of clothing depicted in other cultures’ origins stories? What were your first clothes? When have you employed makeshift clothing? Do you feel embarrassed when reading of your ancestors’ failure in Eden (Genesis 3:1-24)? Should you? When have you felt exposed? What modern day fig leaves do we string together to excuse ourselves before God? How did the couple think their story would resolve?

Though misguided, the couple’s cover up has been seen as an example of human ingenuity and industriousness (Genesis 3:7). Manufacturing clothing from fig leaves is an impressive feat.

As a point of comparison, in the pilot episode of the television series Project Runway, aspiring designers were taken to a New York grocery store and given only $50 and an hour to procure items to create a dress (December 1, 2004). The designers utilized aluminum foil, candy, garbage bags, shower curtains, etc. Ultimately, Austin Scarlett (b. 1983) won the challenge with a cornhusk dress. The episode is naturally titled “Innovation”. Adam and Eve’s exercise seems like a Project Runway challenge gone awry.

Steven W. Boyd contemplates:

Consider their effort in preparing for this dreaded meeting. “They sewed fig leaves” [Genesis 3:7)...entails that they had the simulacrum of a needle and thread, which they had to manufacture from scratch. They sewed the fig leaves into a type of leaf fabric, which could then be made into clothing...that would cover their nakedness. (Boyd and Andrew A. Snelling, “Tacking with the Text: The Interconnection of Text, Event, and Time at the Macro-level”, Grappling with the Chronology of the Genesis Flood: Navigating the Flow of the Biblical Narrative, 498)
Dominic Rudman notifies:
It is worth noting the first action of Adam and Eve after eating the fruit: they seek to cover their nakedness by sewing together garments (Genesis 3:7). This, it has been argued, is an “industrious” act which parallels the actions of humanity in the Tower of Babel episode (Genesis 11:3-4). Once humanity have gained the ability to think independently, technological progress cannot be halted. (André Wénin [b. 1953], “A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing: Crossing Forbidden Boundaries in Genesis 3-4”, Studies in the Book of Genesis: Literature, Redaction and History, 462-63)
Leon R. Kass (b. 1939) contends:
Sexual shame becomes the mother of invention, art, and new modes of cooperative sociality: note well, it is not the woman alone who sews [Genesis 3:7]. If the needle is the first tool, clothing is the first product, and hiding is the first goal of art. Clothing, a human addition to nature, at first hides the sexual from view. (Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, 109)
In many ways the creation of clothing represents the birth of civilization and culture (Genesis 3:7). Andy Crouch (b. 1968) inquires:
What is the first thing that happens after the man and woman have eaten? Culture. “They sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Genesis 3:7). They make something of the world to ward of their sudden exposure to one another and to God. Culture is no longer the good, gracious activity of tending a good, gracious world. It is a defensive measure, an instrumental use of the world to ward off the world’s greatest threat—the threat, suddenly a threat, of being known, of trusting one’s fellow creatures and one’s Creator. (W. David O. Taylor [b. 1972], “The Gospel: How Is Art a Gift, a Calling, and an Obedience”, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, 34-35)
Nahum M. Sarna (1923-2005) argues:
Their pristine innocense is gone. In a sense, this action has already taken them outside Eden, for clothing is a characteristic of civilization. In the Gilgamesh Epic, putting on clothes is one of the tokens of the wild Enkidu’s abandonment of his outdoor life with the beasts of the field. (Sarna, Genesis (JPS Torah Commentary), 26)
Despite these advancements, the clothing made from fig leaves denotes an abysmal failure (Genesis 3:7). The clothes are woefully inadequate and neither eating the fruit (Genesis 3:6) nor constructing the clothing (Genesis 3:7) produced the desired results.

Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) digs:

Their efforts to hide their shame are as puny as their efforts to hide from God since their man-made coverings are ineffective (Genesis 3:21. “Made” (‘āśâ) and “coverings” (hăgōrōt) anticipate Genesis 3:21, where God “made” durable “garments” (kotěnôt) from animal skins for their needed apparel. (Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26 (New American Commentary), 239)
Stephen J. Bramer (b. 1953) and Kenneth O. Gangel (1935-2009) critique:
They sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves [Genesis 3:7]. They tried to change these conditions by their own effort. But these leaves from the fig tree were neither long-lasting nor effective. (Bramer and Gangel, Genesis (Holman Old Testament Commentary))
Andy Crouch (b. 1968) opines:
The fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] are useful—barely—but they are not a delight to the eyes. They are strictly instrumental, hastily assembled to solve a problem and secure a measure of protection. They are torn from the living, good garden and stitched into a rudimentary, fading, dying, withering form of protection from—from what? Not even protection from the world, which has not yet, at this moment in the story, fallen under the curse. Just protection from one another, bone of bone and flesh of flesh [Genesis 2:23]. And protection from the one who had breathed life into dust [Genesis 2:7]. (W. David O. Taylor [b. 1972], “The Gospel: How Is Art a Gift, a Calling, and an Obedience”, For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, 34-35)
John E. Hartley (b. 1940) bemoans:
Instantly becoming aware of their nakedness, the man and woman gathered fig leaves and made for themselves makeshift coverings [Genesis 3:7]. Ironically, the knowledge they acquired did not even give them the skill to make adequate clothing for themselves. Instead of being filled with pride of achievement and becoming like gods [Genesis 3:5], they were overwhelmed by a deep sense of inadequacy and disturbing self-consciousness. (Harltey, Genesis (New International Biblical Commentary))

The fig leaves’ deficiency has long been known. Irenaeus (130-202) interprets:

Now “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” [Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10]. The understanding of transgression leads to penitence and God extends his kindness to those who repent. For [Adam] showed his repentance in making a girdle, covering himself with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7], when there were many other trees that would have irritated his body less. He, however, in awe of God, made a clothing that matched his disobedience...And he would no doubt have kept this clothing forever, if God in his mercy had not clothed them with tunics of skin instead of fig leaves [Genesis 3:21]. Against Heresies 3.23.5. (Andrew Louth [b. 1944], Genesis 1-11 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 82)
Not only are the clothes insubstantial, they incriminate their creators! They are about as effective as treating a bazooka blast with a Band-Aid as they only serve to highlight the very transgression that is attempting to be concealed.

Hugh C. White (1936-2001) delineates:

They simultaneously reveal objectively the inward concealment of those desires which has occurred. An outer symbolic division of the body into revealed and concealed areas thus corresponds to the inner division between that which can and that which cannot be thought (or said). Inner concealment spontaneously gives rise to outer concealment...This, however, is a form of concealment that reveals precisely that which it is designed to hide, as does the hiding of Adam and Eve from God which follows [Genesis 3:8]. (White, Narration and Discourse in the Book of Genesis, 137-38)
Despite their efforts, Adam and his wife remain exposed before God. The inadequacy is evidenced in their reactions (Genesis 3:7). Claus Westermann (1909-2000) condenses:
The disruption is now heightened; the garments of fig leaves are ineffective at the sound of God’s footsteps [Genesis 3:8]. They now realize that despite the covering they are exposed before God; they are afraid and hide. (Westermann, Genesis 1-11 (A Continental Commentary), 254)
James McKeown (b. 1952) inspects:
After eating the fruit, the first human pair lose their innocense and two new emotions grip them; fear and shame. They attempt to deal with their shame by using fig leaves [Genesis 3:7], and their fear drives them to hide among the trees of the garden [Genesis 3:8]. These strategies fail; fig leaves do not remove shame and it is not possible to hide from God. Since all else has failed, they resort to passing the blame [Genesis 3:12, 13]. (McKeown, Genesis (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary), 35)
Deep down, Adam realizes he is still exposed. This is evidenced in his reply to God (Genesis 3:10). Pauline A. Viviano (b. 1946) notices:
In the ensuing dialogue between Yahweh and the man, we note that the man, rather than answering Yahweh’s question “Where are you?” [Genesis 3:9], gives the reason why he hid—“because I was naked” [Genesis 3:10].The reason is appropriate, in spite of the fact that it appears to be untrue. He is not naked, he is clothed with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. However, in relationship to Yahweh, he is naked, that is, his relationship to Yahweh has been disrupted and remains so. Humanity cannot “cover up” its own guilt and shame and restore its relationship to Yahweh. It is Yahweh alone who can remove humanity’s guilt and shame. This is symbolized at the end of the story (Genesis 3:21), when Yahweh makes garments for the man and the woman. (Viviano, Genesis (Collegeville Bible Commentary), 22)
John H. Hill (b. 1956) presents:
Even though man had made the fig aprons in order to cover their shame [Genesis 3:7], when God spoke, they were as naked as ever...Our first parents stood naked, clothed only in their own attempts at righteousness...Each person shall one day stand before God Almighty and give account. A great choice is laid before everyone, however, to choose God’s provision and have everlasting life or to chose [sic] his own covering and be eternally separated from God’s gracious presence and loving attention. (Hill, Foundations: A Commentary of Genesis 1 - 10, 198)
Our covering today is as ineffective as our ancient ancestors’. Paul J. Kissling (b. 1957) relates:
The material used to meet that desire, fig leaves, is pitifully inadequate [Genesis 3:7]. When we as men and women try to fix our problems by ourselves which our sins against God have brought upon us, our remedies are just as pitiful. Fig leaves will serve as clothing no better than our own self-help strategies. (Kissling, Genesis, Volume 1 (College Press NIV Commentary), 195)
The inadequacy of the fig leaves is endemic of a much bigger problem. John Phillips (1927-2010) divulges:
Those fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] represent man’s earliest attempts to cover up his sin, to provide himself with a covering to cloak his guilt and shame. They represent every effort made by man to do something to make himself fit for the presence of God. Fig leaves would never do. They might be good enough between themselves, but they would never do to hide from the piercing eyes of God. All such human efforts wither in the presence of God. (Phillips, Exploring Genesis: An Expository Commentary, 59)
Lisa Underwood Magro (b. 1965) interjects:
The aprons of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] speak of man’s attempt to save himself by a bloodless religion of good works. (Magro, Genesis: The Biblical Foundation of Civilization, 23)
Derrick McCarson (b. 1984) buttresses:
When they sewed coverings of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] this was the first act of man-made religion in history. These fig leaves represent man’s attempt to cover up his sin by his works. This is the essence of humanistic religion—man trying to make himself presentable in sight of all-knowing, thrice holy God. (McCarson, Origins: An In-Depth Study of Genesis 1–11, 143)
J.G. Vos (1903-1983) professes:
The clothing, which Adam and Eve made of fig leaves was not adequate [Genesis 3:7], for God clothed them with coats of skin (Genesis 3:21). It has been aptly observed that all man-made religious systems are in reality only fig leaves that man has sewn together to cover his guilt. Only the true, God-given religion of redemption by the shedding of the blood of a mediator can really clothe man with righteousness. (Vos, Genesis, 64)
Johannes Brenz (1499-1570) explicates:
Having lost all divine wisdom on account of his sin, Adam was no longer able to look out for his true salvation. A kind of wisdom does remain to him in political matters, even as in this instance he is not acting imprudently when he covers his private parts with a loincloth of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7]. But he has lost true wisdom and prudence, by which he might be able to cover his sin before God. For that, fig-leaf coverings are worthless. Adam couldn’t have made a tunic long enough but that the scoundrel he had become would have leapt out and appeared above his waist! Commentary on Genesis 3:7. (John L. Thompson [b. 1952], Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture), 139)
It is unknown how long Adam wore the fig leaves. ’Erubin 18b records:
Rabbi Meir said Adam was a great saint. When he saw that through him death was ordained as a punishment he spent a hundred and thirty years in fasting, severed connection with his wife for a hundred and thirty years, and wore clothes of fig [leaves] on his body for a hundred and thirty years. (Kristen E. Kvam [b. 1954], Linda S. Schearing [b. 1947], Valarie H. Ziegler [b. 1954], “Rabbinic Interpretations (200-600 CE)”, Eve & Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender, 95)
The fig leaves’ inadequacy is painfully evident when God feels it necessary to provide new clothes, this time created from animal skins (Genesis 3:21). Joseph Blenkinsopp (b. 1927) briefs:
The man and the woman cover themselves with fig leaves [Genesis 3:7], but this is no more than a provisional measure; they are later given apparel more suited to their new life outside the garden [Genesis 3:21]. The verdict on the man and the woman is not a punishment distinct from the expulsion into a harsher world, but simply a description of what life outside the garden will entail. (Blenkinsopp, Creation, Un-creation, Re-creation: A Discursive Commentary on Genesis 1-11, 56)
The intended comparison between the two outfits is accentuated in the Hebrew (Genesis 3:7, 21). J.T.A.G.M. van Ruiten (b. 1956) correlates:
Genesis 3:21 is a rewriting of Genesis 3:6g-7b. It has verbatim quotations with modifications, additions and omissions. (Ruiten, Primaeval History Interpreted: The Rewriting of Genesis 1-11 in the Book of Jubilees, 95)
In reclothing the couple, God provides a different type of garment (Genesis 3:21). Jeffrey W. Hamilton juxtaposes:
It is...obvious that not every choice of covering is acceptable. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves into an apron (Genesis 3:7). The Hebrew word for the garment is chargorah, which means a garment that covers the midsection of the body, tied about the waist. The same word is translated in other passages as a girdle or belt. Adam and Eve’s attempt at clothing was unsuccessful, because they still considered themselves naked wearing the fig leaf aprons [Genesis 3:10]. When God visited them in the Garden, they hid themselves because they were naked [Genesis 3:8]...God ...took animal skins and made tunics for the man and woman (Genesis 3:21). The Hebrew word for tunic is kethoneth, which describes a shirt that hangs on the shoulders and reaches to the knees. (Hamilton, Genesis: A Study of the Beginning, 32)
Michael Whitworth concurs:
God provided garments of animal skins for Adam and Eve to cover their now-shameful nudity [Genesis 3:21] (their self-made fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] had been little more than loincloths). The Hebrew noun translated “garments” (kuttonet) meant clothing that reached the knees or even ankles. God gave these garments to the first couple as an act of grace; he did for them what they could not do for themselves. (Whitworth, The Epic of God: A Guide to Genesis, 43-44)
Stephen N. Lambden grants:
As much uncertainty surrounds the exact meaning of words in the Hebrew Bible indicative of items of clothing, it is difficult to tell whether ‘aprons’ (חגרת, Genesis 3:7; alternatively, ‘loincloths’, ‘girdles’ or ‘sashes’?) signifies a less adequate means of attire than is implied by ‘coats’ (כתנות, Genesis 3:21; alternatively, ‘tunics’, ‘robes’, or ‘shirts’?), although this is possible. The fact, however, that the ‘aprons’ were made of fig leaves and the ‘coats’ of animal skins may indeed highlight the folly of the first couple as compared with the superior wisdom of God. Despite the acquisition of human wisdom, the first couple lacked even the knowledge of how to clothe themselves adequately. Their fig-leaf ‘aprons’ served no real purpose. (Paul Morris [b. 1954] and Deborah Sawyer [b. 1956], “From Fig Leaves to Fingernails: Some Notes on the Garments of Adam and Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Select Early Postbiblical Jewish Writings,” A Walk in the Garden: Biblical, Iconographical and Literary Images of Eden, 77)
Adam and Eve’s new attire is more suitable to life outside of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:21). R.R. Reno (b. 1959) contextualizes:
In this enigmatic verse [Genesis 3:21] the theme of clothing and nakedness in the story of the original transgression reemerges. God seems to express care by providing the fallen man and woman with clothing to replace the woven garments of fig leaves. These clothes prepare the man and woman to live under the burden of their transgression. (Reno, Genesis (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible), 95)
Laurence A. Turner realizes:
God gives them both clothing [Genesis 3:21]. The substitution of the flimsy covering of fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] with the more durable one of animal’s skin might demonstrate God’s care, but at the same time confirms the permanence of the human dilemma (Alan J. Hauser [b. 1945] 1982:32). Ironically, an animal was instrumental in humans becoming aware of their nakedness [Genesis 3:4-5], and animals are used to hide that nakedness [Genesis 3:21], just as eating from a tree produced knowledge of nakedness [Genesis 3:7], and leaves from a tree were used to hide that nakedness [Genesis 3:7]. (Turner, Genesis (Readings: A New Biblical Commentary), 25-26)
Providing new clothing is an act of grace (Genesis 3:21). Johnson T.K. Lim (b. 1952) affirms:
God is...imagined as a tailor who provides clothing for Adam and Eve from animal skins to replace their fig leaves [Genesis 3:21]. By so doing he protects them and also shows his care and love for them both. (Lim, Grace in the Midst of Judgment: Grappling with Genesis 1-11, 205)
Celia B. Sinclair (b. 1954) extols:
Our fig leaves (Genesis 3:7) are pitiful; what we long for and receive is the finery of God’s own making. To be clothed is to be given life (II Corinthians 5:4). The trial sentence of Genesis 3:9-19 describes the reality of life. God struggles with the humans and decides finally to respond graciously, to clothe them with care [Genesis 3:21]. There is simplicity in the action and dignity in the effect. God does for them what they cannot do for themselves. (Sinclair, Genesis (Interpretation Bible Studies), 19)
Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) concludes:
In Genesis 3:7 we learn that Adam and Eve found out that they were “naked” so they “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.” That is, immediately after their rebellion as they came face to face with what had previously been their great joy and their great fulfillment—themselves in open communion with God—they were now afraid and tried to cover themselves. But in Genesis 3:21 God took this covering away and gave them a coat of skins...This indicates, I believe, that man could not stand before God in his own covering. Rather, he needed a covering from God—a covering of a specific nature—a covering that required sacrifice and death, a covering not provided by man but by God. (Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 105)
Gary A. Anderson (b. 1955) asks: the one who clothes Adam and Eve [Genesis 3:21]. But why, we might ask, must he do it? They were fully capable of putting on their own fig leaves. Couldn’t they put on their own tunics of skin? (Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination, 125)
God clothes his creation because it is a task only God can do (Genesis 3:21). Robert R. Gonzales Jr. (b. 1963) understands:
That Adam evidenced hope in a redemptive reversal that would emerge from Yahweh’s curse is suggested in his naming of Eve, which Moses positions immediately following the curse-sanction (Genesis 3:20). That Adam’s response is an act of saving faith is intimated by Yahweh’s reciprocal action of clothing the human couple to hide their nakedness, which signifies that Adam and Eve’s “fig-leaf” coverings (Genesis 3:7) were inadequate to cover their nakedness. Human nakedness, which in this context includes guilt and shame, can only be remedied by a covering that God himself provides (cf. Exodus 28:42), which covering signals the expiation of guilt (Genesis 3:21). (Gonzales, Where Sin Abounds: The Spread of Sin and the Curse in Genesis with Special Focus on the Patriarchal Narratives, 51)
Conspicuously, artistic interpretations have often failed to adapt to the couple’s new attire: Adam and Eve are consistently depicted wearing their leafy loincloths, stuck perpetually in their flimsy, makeshift clothing as opposed to the new improved ensemble assembled by God (Genesis 3:7, 21).

Gary A. Anderson (b. 1955) observes:

Our author makes the most curious aside prior to expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden. In this brief interlude, Adam names his wife [Genesis 3:20] and then the Lord God steps forward, “and made for Adam and Eve garments of skin and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). Adam and Eve don’t die; instead they are given a change of clothes. They exchange their modest fig leaves [Genesis 3:7] for more substantial vestments—a truly extraordinary turn in our story. And things become even more peculiar when we turn to the iconographic representation of this scene. Almost no artist chooses to depict Adam and Eve as leaving the Garden clothed in such skins. This is clear in Michelangelo [1475-1564]’s Temptaton and Fall. Adam and Eve leave the Garden naked. But doubly odd is the fact that many icons found in Greek and Russian Orthodox churches portray Adam and Eve as clothed in Eden. (Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination, 118)
Despite not always being acknowledged, Adam and Eve are supplied with new, satisfactory attire (Genesis 3:21). The new clothing is sufficient because God is its supplier.

Adam and Eve’s experience in the Garden of Eden serves as a reminder that there are some things humans cannot cover up (Genesis 3:1-24). But there is no transgression that cannot be covered by the grace of God. We can be clothed with Jesus (Romans 13:14) and righteousness (Colossians 3:12) which effectively covers all of our sins if we only allow God to do so.

Has anyone else ever attempted to use clothing created from leaves? What are its limitations? How do you picture Adam and Eve, naked (Genesis 2:25,) wearing fig leaves (Genesis 3:7) or dressed in animal skins (Genesis 3:21)? Who is synonymous with one outfit? What is the least effective cover up in history? When has a cover up incriminated the guilty? When has a new wardrobe symbolized a new identity? Have you been clothed by God?

“It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.” - L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942), Anne of Green Gables, p. 224