Thursday, August 22, 2013

In the Cool of the Day (Genesis 3:8)

Who walked in the garden in the cool of the day? God (Genesis 3:8)

After God implants him in the Garden of Eden, Adam is given one (and only one) prohibition: “From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Genesis 2:17 NASB).” It takes Adam and his newly created helpmate, Eve, all of 14 verses to violate this edict (Genesis 3:6).

“The Fall” is one of the best known stories in all of Scripture: Adam and Eve fall for the serpent’s sales pitch, partake of the forbidden fruit and have their eyes opened to their own nakedness (Genesis 3:1-7). Fear replaces innocense resulting in Adam and Eve making the dubious decision to hide from Yahweh in the very garden the deity created for them (Genesis 3:8).

In the aftermath, they answer for their actions (Genesis 3:8-13). The transition from transgression to accountability begins with the first walk in the Bible. Yahweh reenters the scene, walking in the “cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8 NASB).

They [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (Genesis 3:8 NASB)
God walking with people normally signifies intimacy. Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) relates:
“Walked with God” is a favorite expression in Genesis, depicting the righteous conduct of Israel’s heroes, including Enoch [Genesis 5:22, 24], Noah [Genesis 6:9], and Abraham [Genesis 17:1, 24:40, 48:15). Yet now the man and the woman are hiding from God in fear. God’s presence is also noted by his “walking” in the camp and sanctuary of Israel [Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14; II Samuel 7:6-7]. Later Israel recognized that God demanded holiness and obedience if he were to continue to “walk” among his people. It was part of the sad deception that the man and woman who wanted so much to be “like God,” rather than obtaining the stature of deity, are afraid even to commune with him. (Mathews, Genesis 1- 11:26 (New American Commentary), 239)
Genesis paints a serene picture. God is strolling through the garden on a pleasant afternoon (Genesis 3:8). Though the Bible never specifies how frequently God visits the garden after creation many have presumed that walking the garden was part of God’s routine.

Gordon J. Wenham (b. 1943) rationalizes:

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking to and fro in the garden in the breeze of the day.” [Genesis 3:8] The description of Eden with its trees, rivers, gold, and so on emphasized God’s presence there. Therefore it seems likely that it was not unusual for him to be heard walking in the garden “in the breeze of the day,” i.e., in the afternoon when cool breezes spring up and the sun is not so scorching. Maybe a daily chat between the Almighty and his creatures was customary. The term “walking” (hithpael participle of הלך) is subsequently used of God’s presence in the Israelite tent sanctuary (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14; II Samuel 7:6-7) again emphasizing the relationship between the garden and the later shrines. It is not God’s walking in the garden that was unusual, but the reaction of man and his wife. (Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word Biblical Commentary), 76)
Victor P. Hamilton (b. 1941) adds:
Toward sundown the man and the woman heard Yahweh walking in the garden. The verb used here to describe the divine movement—mithallēk—is a type of Hithpael that suggests iterative and habitual aspects. Such walks would take place in the early evening (the cooler time of day) rather than “in the heat of the day” (cf. Genesis 18:1). (Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), 192)
The Garden of Eden is never explicitly called the garden of God, but it is implied (Genesis 3:8). R. Kent Hughes (b. 1942) suspects:
Because God was present in the garden, we must not imagine that the opening line, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8a), indicates that God came down to the garden. He was already there. It was his earthly palace, his garden-temple. What the couple heard was “the rustle of God’s step” (Gerhard Von Rad [1901-1971]). It was the sacred sound that they had heard before and that had so filled them with joy but now brought dread. (Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (Preaching the Word), 77)
Contextually, it makes sense that God’s presence in Eden is commonplace. Adam and Eve are hiding from someone and as presumably the only people on earth, by default, that someone must be Yahweh. It would also be odd for God to appear in the garden only after Adam and Eve have sinned.

God walking in the cool of the day is not the anomaly. The aberration is the humans’ fear of their creator. Though they could be attempting to evade the mandated death sentence (Genesis 2:17), it does not appear that they hide out of fear but rather shame (Genesis 3:8).

Nothing in the text lends itself to the setting being any more than an ordinary day in the Garden of Eden. The implication is that prior to the Fall, humanity enjoyed open communion with God. Afterwards, the stewards of the garden become fugitives from it owner. Fellowship has been broken.

Normative or not, this encounter represents a Biblical milestone. Leon R. Kass (b. 1939) observes:

This is the first explicit mention that any human being really attended to or even noticed the divine presence. Only in recognizing our lowliness can we also discover what is truly high. The turn toward the divine is founded on our discovery of our own lack of divinity. (Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, 91)
The image of Yahweh in this passage is highly anthropomorphic; the divine is personified with human characteristics. This depiction is a major departure for God from the initial two chapters of Genesis where his omnipotence and transcendence are on full display.

Martin Kessler (b. 1927) and Karel Deurloo (b. 1936) envision:

The event is described anthropomorphically. The lord of the garden took a walk in the pleasant afternoon when a breeze began to blow. As if he were naively relaxed, he took a stroll with the expectation to meet the man, appearing totally unconscious of what had just transpired. (Kessler and Deurloo, A Commentary on Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, 53)
This anthropomorphic imagery may sound bizarre to the modern reader but it is not uncommon in the text. Richard Nelson (b. 1945) acknowledges:
Modern readers will probably be uncomfortable with the depiction of God strolling about in the breezy cool of the day, but we have already run into God’s direct physical interaction with earthly things in Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 2:21-22. (Nelson, From Eden to Babel: An Adventure in Bible Study, 49)
Anthropomorphism is especially prominent in the J or Yahwistic material in Genesis. Gerhard Von Rad (1901-1971) examines:
The Yahwistic narrative is full of the boldest anthropomorphisms. Yahweh walks in the garden in the cool of the evening [Genesis 3:8]; he himself closes the ark [Genesis 7:16]; he descends to inspect the Tower of Babel [Genesis 11:5], etc. This is anything but the bluntness and naïveté of an archaic narrator. It is, rather, the candor and lack of hesitation which is only the mark of a lofty and mature way of thinking. This glasslike, transparent, and fragile way of thinking in the Yahwisic narrative makes of every exposition, which inevitably coarsens the original text, a difficult and almost insoluble task. (Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 26)
Donald E. Gowan (b. 1929) resolves:
Many have commented on the strong anthropomorphism of this verse, which speaks of the sound or voice of the LORD God walking about in the garden in the cool of the day, like any human garden-owner; but this may be seen as one of J’s typically subtle ways of making a point. These few words make it possible for us to conceive of a divine-human community where God intends to be seen face-to-face; J tells us that such a community is God’s intention, but it has been thwarted by our declaration of independence. (Gowan, Genesis 1-11: From Eden to Babel (International Theological Commentary), 55)
Many religions affirm an ancient period in which a god or gods walked alongside humans. Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) critiques:
The old view that Yahweh dwelt in this Garden can still be heard here, if only dimly...a childish view of God. Ra, too, strolled “every day” among humans in the primeval period, “for his heart wished to see what he had created” (Adolf Erman [1854-1937], Die Äegyptische Religion, 154-55). (Gunkel [translated by Mark E. Biddle (b. 1957)], Genesis (Mercer Library of Biblical Studies), 18)
The anthropomorphism has long troubled interpreters. John L. Thompson (b. 1952) chronicles:
There remained an abiding concern to understand what it meant to “walk in the garden in the cool of the day”—a description that long ago offended Origen [184-253] for its crass anthropomorphism and drove him to deny the historicity of such accounts and to credit only figurative readings as authentic. The reformers, of course, bristled over Origen’s exegesis, yet Martin Luther [1483-1546] and John Calvin [1509-1564] had different takes on the ancient heresy of Anthropomorphites, who ascribed a literal body to God. (Thompson, Genesis 1-11 (Reformation Commentary on Scripture), 136)
Ronald H. Nash (1936-2006) recounts:
Augustine [354-430] once complained to Ambrose [337-397] that the God of the Bible had a body. When Ambrose asked where Augustine read such a thing, Augustine referred to Genesis 3:8 and its claim that the Lord God “was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Ambrose responded that he was amazed to be standing in the presence of a teacher of rhetoric who could not recognize nonliteral language. The simple recognition that the Bible sometimes uses figures of speech and nonliteral language eliminated many of Augustine’s misconceptions about Scripture. (Nash, Life’s Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy), 142)
Yahweh is described as walking in the garden in the “cool of the day” (ASV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, RSV) or during an “evening (or ‘late...afternoon’) breeze” (Robert Alter [b. 1935], CEV, HCSB, MSG, NLT, NRSV). The traditional translation, “in the cool of the day”, became commonplace in the 16th century. The expression is rendered as such in the Great Bible (1540), the Bishop’s Bible (1558), the Geneva Bible (1560) and most notably the King James Version (1611).

Bruce K. Waltke (b. 1930) and Cathi J. Fredricks advise:

Cool of the day...is literally the “wind” or “spirit” of the day. The wind/spirit is the symbol of God’s presence (see Genesis 1:2). (Waltke with Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 92)
Joseph Coleson (b. 1947) discusses:
The narrative includes the detail that God was walking in the cool of the day (lěrûah hayyôm); Hebrew rûah usually is taken as a substantive, meaning here, “wind,” or “breeze.” The phrase, “at the wind/the breeze of the day,” then, indicates midafternoon or a bit later, when the sun’s heat upon the earth had begun to abate and a pleasant breeze had sprung up. (Coleson, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (New Beacon Bible Commentary), 126)
The poet John Milton (1608-1674) pictures:
To fan the earth now walked, and under in
The evening cool; when he, from wrath more cool,
Came the mild Judge, and the Intercessor both,
To sentence Man: The voice of God they heard
Now walking in the garden, by softwinds (Milton, Paradise Lose, Book X)
The scene is peaceful; there is a sense that the disunity that follows is neither necessary nor does it comply with God’s original intent (Genesis 3:8-13).

Traditionally the phrase “in the cool of the day” has been interpreted as denoting time. The Septuagint takes this tact, incorporating the Greek word for “afternoon” (το δειλινον).

E. A. Speiser (1902-1965) declares:

At the breezy time of day. The Hebrew preposition le may be used of time (cf. Genesis 8:11), but not temperature; hence the memorable “in the cool of the day” lacks linguistic support. The time involved is toward sundown, when fresh breezes bring welcome relief from heat. (Speiser, Genesis (The Anchor Bible), 24)
The Bible often provides time stamps. Kenneth D. Mulzac (1963-2008) surveys:
While Nehemiah denotes “fourths” of a day, the Old Testament makes no other such divisions. It speaks of the “cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8); cf. Song of Solomon 2:17), “heat of the day” (Genesis 18:1; I Samuel 11:11), “high day” (Genesis 29:7), “midday” (Nehemiah 8:3), “broad daylight” (Amos 8:9), and “full day” (Proverbs 4:18). (David Noel Freedman [1922-2008], Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 324)
John Goldingay (b. 1942) interprets:
It’s late afternoon. In the Middle East this can be when you get an ocean breeze, and after the heat of the day it becomes more pleasant to be outside. (Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, Part 1, 49)
W. Sibley Towner (b.1933) deduces:
The climatological perspective here is Palestinian, not Mesopotamian. Anyone who has lived in an area with a Mediterranean climate knows how pleasant it is when the sea breeze flows in to replace the hot air rising off the land at the end of the day. Yahweh apparently found it so as well. The delightful anthropomorphic description of God’s stroll fits well with the humanistic flavor of the entire story. (Towner, Genesis (Westminster Bible Companion), 46)
Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932) places the “cool of the day” in the morning:
הום לרוח is usually interpreted as the evening breeze. It does not begin, however, until “a few fours after sundown”...(Wilhelm Nowack [1850-1928], Lehrbuch der hebräischen Archäologie 1:51) and thus can hardly be called the “wind of the day.” It is better understood (so Peter Jensen [1861-1936], Kosmologie der Babylonier VI/1:573) as the cool sea breeze which arises in the early morning (Nowack, Archäologie 1:51) and reaches the mountain heights, e.g. Jerusalem, around 2:00-3:00 (Julius von Hann [1839-1921], Handbuch der Klimatologie III: 102-03; cf. Song of Solomon 2:17, 4:6 according to which the lovers remain together [in the night] “until the day breathes and the shadows flee”; cf. Karl Budde [1850-1935] on this passage). The transgression occurred at night; The new day brings remorse. This interpretation seems especially likely because the account concerns sexual sin. In Babylonia an exquisite light breeze blows from the northwest before sunrise (Hann, Klimatologie III: 106). The notion that the deity strolls in the Garden in the early morning is originally a myth from this period: when the treetops rustle and sway in the “day wind, the beloved Lord walks through the wood.” The assumption seems to be that his palace is in the Garden. An example of a gazebo located in a garden has now been found in Asshur (Mitteil. der. Deutsch. Or. Ges. 33 [1907]). (Gunkel [translated by Mark E. Biddle (b. 1957)], Genesis (Mercer Library of Biblical Studies), 18-19)
The Hebrew phrasing is problematic. John H. Walton (b. 1952) introduces:
This traditional translation is problematic. No precedent exists for interpreting the word for “wind” (rûah) as “cool.” An alternative using comparative information is that the phrase should be translated “wind of the storm.” (Walton, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary), 35)
John H. Sailhamer (b. 1946) offers:
The phrase “wind of the day” (Genesis 3:8, literal translation) is often taken as an indication of the time of the Lord’s visit, that is, in “the cool of the day” or “the time of the evening.” The text says only “at/in the wind of the day” (cf. Jeremiah 13:24: “I will scatter them like chaff in the wind of the wilderness”). There is nothing in the context to suggest this expression refers to a time of day. In light of the general context of the picture of God’s coming in judgment and power, the “Wind” (rûah) envisioned by the author is more likely intended to resemble that “great and powerful wind”...that blew on the “mountain...of the LORD” in I Kings 19:11. Thus the viewpoint of the narrative is much the same as that of Job 38:1, where the Lord answered Job “out of the storm.” (Tremper Longman III [b. 1952] and David E. Garland [b. 1947], Genesis-Leviticus (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary), 87)
Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) deciphers:
Numerous attempts have been made to explain this expression, which is found nowhere else in the Bible. The rabbinic expositions...do not reflect the actual sense of the verse. The interpretation of Nahmanides [1194-1270], and also of Benno Jacob [1862-1945] in modern times, that the man and his wife heard the voice of the Lord God in the wind...blowing in the garden, does not accord with the text. Many other explanations have been advanced, but they are unsatisfactory; equally unacceptable are the emendations that have been proposed, for example, that of Karl Budde [1850-1935]...lirwōah hayyōm [‘when the day became breezy’]...The view commonly held to-day is...the phrase signifies: at the time when the wind springs up towards evening (or, at dawn). This interpretation is open to a number of objections. In the first place, it is difficult to understand the prepositional Lāmedh as one of time, unless it is linked to an expression having a temporal meaning...It is possible, for instance, to say...lebhōqer [‘at morning’]...le‘erebh [‘at evening’]...liphnōth bōqer [‘at the approach of morning’]...le‘ēth ‘erebh [‘at the time of evening’], and so forth; but it is impossible to say...lesē’th baššō’ ăbhōth [literally, ‘at (or, to) women going out to draw water’]; the Bible writes le‘ēth sē’th haššō’ăbhōth [‘at the time when women go out to draw water]’] (Genesis 24:11). In order, therefore, to express the thought ‘at the time when the wind of the day blows’, it would have been necessary to write...le’ēth rūah hayyōm or its equivalent. Furthermore, even if we concede that this difficulty can be explained by reference to such doubtful examples as, when he knew...how to refuse the evil and choose the good (Isaiah 7:15), we must surely realize that the expression...rūah hayyōm cannot possibly indicate a wind blowing at a specific time of the day. This apart, seeing that the verse expressly comes to fix the time, there must doubtless be a reason for this, and it is inconceivable that this time should have no relation to the actual narrative; but the usual interpretation fails to establish such a connection. (Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: from Adam to Noah, 152-53)
If the expression does designate a time, this still leaves the question of why the time would be significant enough to chronicle. Many have seen symbolic meaning in the timing of the divine appointment viewing the prosaic scene as indicative of the relationship between Yahweh and creation prior to the Fall.

Jerome (347-420) preaches:

We read in Genesis that when Adam transgressed, when he paid heed to the serpent rather than to God, when he hid himself from the face of God, then God came into the garden and was walking about in the cool of day. Now listen to what Scripture says. God sought out Adam, not at midday but in the evening. Adam had already lost the sunlight for his high noon was over. Homilies 1. (Andrew Louth [b. 1944], Genesis 1-11 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture), 82)
Ignatius Jesudasan (b. 1939) remarks:
The cool of the evening, when God appears in the garden calling Adam to reckoning, signifies the time when Israel’s love for its royalty also had gone cold and lukewarm, and it was historically judged unworthy of God’s trusted gift, and hence exiled from the garden, through the instrumentality of foreign mercenary armies, represented in the myth by the so-called cherub angel, bearing a sword of fire, which swirls in all directions, guarding the access to the garden land [Genesis 3:24]. The death penalty imposed on Adam is the negation of the inclusive blessing of a prosperous life in the land promised to Abraham and his posterity, because that posterity had wilfully violated that blessing by human sacrifice to idols. (Jesudasan, Genesis Myth of Manifold Meanings, 80)

Others have taken a more literal approach. Michael E. Wittmer (b. 1967) documents:

P. Wayne Townsend [b. 1958] observes that the rules governing unclean things are the likely reason that God waited to confront Adam and Eve until the “cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). According to Leviticus 11:25ff, an unclean person remained that way until evening. (Wittmer, Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God, 232)
Thomas L. Brodie (b. 1940) speculates:
After eating the forbidden fruit, humankind is not only on the earth; it is in trouble—taking cover from fig-leaves and hiding in the middle of the trees (Genesis 3:7-8). Yhwh God correspondingly walks in the breeze or cool of the day, away, so it is implied, from the noonday heat (Genesis 3:8)—not only an anthropomorphism but a suggestion of vulnerability. Vulnerable humankind seeks one form of shelter, God another: they, behind leaves and trees of the Garden: Yhwh God, in the cool of the day in the Garden. Like them, God knows what it is to want shelter. (Brodie, Genesis As Dialogue: A Literary, Historical, and Theological Commentary, 156)
The timing could just as easily demonstrate Yahweh’s consideration for Adam and Eve as any self interest on the part of the divine. Either way, it was certainly not the weather that caused Adam and Eve to retreat.

The timing could also be associated with the initial prohibition. Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) connects:

It seems to me that the word...rūah is not to be understood as a substantive but as a verb in the infinitive, like...hōm [‘become hot’] in the phrase...kehōm hayyōm [literally, ‘as the day grew hot’ that is, at noon] (Genesis 18:1), and that it signifies: to be in the period after midday. Not only in Arabic does this stem...(rāha yarūhu) denote an action taking place in the afternoon—that is, from the time when the sun begins to decline from the meridian till evening—but it is also found in this sense in Ugatiric...Since the verb occurs in the ancient Canaanite language, we may surmise that we have here a Canaanite expression that survived also in the poetic idiom of the people of Israel. Apparently the ancient epic poem on the story of the garden of Eden contained the words...lerūah hayyōm, that is, at the time when the day...rāh—is in its second stage, namely, the afternoon. The Torah uses this phrase just as it uses other poetic expressions that occurred in the poem...ēdh [‘waters of the deep’] [Genesis 1:2]; pleasant to the sight and good for food [Genesis 2:9]; the flaming sword which turned every way [Genesis 3:24]; and other phrases...The purpose of fixing time in this verse is readily explicable in the light of that statement (Genesis 2:17): for IN THE DAY that you eat of it you will surely die. Although it is possible...to understand the words in the day in a general sense, that is, at the time, nevertheless Scripture wished to emphasize that the word of the Lord God was wholly fulfilled, even in its literal meaning. The man was told that in the day that he ate from the tree of life he would surely die, and lo! on the very day that he ate, in the afternoon of the selfsame day, the Lord God appeared and decreed that he should be banished from the garden of Eden, so that he might no longer be able to approach the tree of life and eat of it and be liberated thereby from the power of death. (Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One: from Adam to Noah, 153-54)
Recent scholarship has considered an alternate reading which replaces the anthropomorphic God strolling through the garden with a dramatic theophany. Paul J. Kissling (b. 1957) relays:
Jeffrey Niehaus [b. 1946] has argued that by using another homonymous Hebrew root for the Hebrew word translated “day” (ם’, yōm) this word should be translated as “storm.” He also suggests using rarer, although well-attested meanings, for the Hebrew words translated “cool of” and “voice” as “wind” and “thunder.” This verse should then be translated, “Then the man and his wife heard the thunder of Yahweh God as he was going back and forth in the garden in the wind of the storm, and they hid from Yahweh.” What is being described according to Niehaus is a theophany. The fear recalls the reaction of Israel at Sinai (Exodus 20:18) and the accounts of the theophanies in Ezekiel 1:13 and Psalm 77:17-19...While this is possible, it seems more likely...that the fearsomeness of a theophany is a result of the Fall and its punishment. At this point the LORD is still seeking the intimate fellowship with the man and the woman that he always enjoyed. (Kissling, Genesis, Volume 1 (The College Press NIV Commentary), 198-99)
John H. Walton (b. 1952) expounds:
The word ruah can mean “wind” and “spirit” and yom means “day.” These two words do not occur together like this anywhere else in the Old Testament, so we find ourselves without sufficient synchronic evidence to arrive at a confident interpretation. It is certainly interpretive to deduce that “wind of the day” refers to “cool of the day” and therefore refers to cool evening breezes. But what else could “wind of the day” mean”? The words ruah and qol do occur together elsewhere, but only in the context of a storm (Jeremiah 10:13, 51:16) as a reference to “wind” and “thunder” respectively. If that is the appropriate understanding, what is the word “day” there for?...Akkadian terminology has demonstrated that the word translated “day” also has the meaning “storm.” This meaning can be seen also for this Hebrew word (yom) in Isaiah 27:8 and Zephaniah 2:2...The Akkadian term is used in connection to the deity coming in a storm of judgment. If this is the correct rendering of the word here in Genesis 3, we can translate Genesis 3:8 in this way: “They heard the roar of the LORD moving about in the garden in the wind of the storm.” If this rendering is correct, it is understandable why Adam and Eve are hiding. I do not offer this as the right translation. The major objection is that the word yom only rarely carries the meaning “storm.” The appearance with the other two words here and the logic of the context make this new rendering a possibility, but one that can only be held tentatively. (Walton, Genesis (The NIV Application Commentary), 224)
Meredith G. Kline (1922-2007) offers a different slant on the judgment theophany. In deference to Genesis 1:2, Kline contends that rûach should be translated “Spirit” which he connects to the “Spirit of God”. Further, he advances that the lamed preposition indicates “in the capacity of”, as it does elsewhere (Numbers 22:22, 32; II Chronicles 18:21; Isaiah 4:6; 11:10). Hence, Kline translates Genesis 3:8: “They heard the sound of Yahweh God traversing the garden as the Spirit of the Day.” Kline associates “Spirit” and “day” with both God’s unique creative activity (Genesis 1:2) and the divine eschatological judgment. (Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 128–31)

In selecting an interpretation, the stakes are exceedingly high as the choice one makes speaks directly to one’s image of God, which is ultimately what the text is about. God is either a deity who cleans house with no questions asked or a relational entity seeking communion with creation. God is either primarily concerned with rules and their enforcement or with the redemption of sinners, going so far as to personally seek offenders out to restore them to community. The traditional interpretation best fits the text as read through the lens of Jesus (John 3:16). The newer readings have linguistic support but neglect theology.

The traditional understanding allows for a calm before the storm. The storm still comes but the ephemeral calm makes all the difference.

Why is Yahweh walking in the garden? What does the phrase “in the cool of the day” add to the story (Genesis 3:8)? Why does God choose this particular time to appear? If you were in a parental role as is God in this scene, how would you have handled the disobedient Adam and Eve? How did Adam and Eve’s transgression affect their relationship with Yahweh? With whom do you go on pleasant evening walks? What does this story say about God? How do you imagine this scene? How do you picture God? Does Genesis’ anthropomorphic presentation bother you?

Yahweh is a hands on God who takes a great risk in interacting with creation. W. Lee Humphreys (b. 1939) assesses:

The lines between creator and creation seem initially clear in Genesis 2...But Yahweh God does not only establish his creation. He gets into it—allowing, prohibiting, adjusting, augmenting, and modifying what is judged not good. And depending on ha’adam’s response to the prohibition, the need for adjustment and modification may grow. Yahweh God of Genesis 2 is, like God of Genesis 1, neither sexed nor paired. But in entering the garden (even regularly “walking about” in it according to Genesis 3:8), in engaging and interacting with ha’adam, Yahweh God finds/forms an other to himself and becomes an other to ha’adam. In their interactions lies the potential for further development of each as characters, as they define themselves in relation to each other. Each character it seems has interests and a stake in their relationship. And it is possible these interests and stakes make conflict. Thus, by directly engaging one of those he formed, Yahweh God takes a risk that sets in motion a genuine story, a risk and potential for story not found in all the general grandeur and wonder of God’s creating and creation in Genesis 1. (Humphreys, The Character of God in the Book of Genesis: A Narrative Appraisal, 42)
God takes the risk of intertwining the fates of creator and creation and in this instance, there are tragic consequences. Robin Darling Young (b. 1951) laments:
Not only are relations between Adam and Eve different, relations between Adam and Eve and God are different. It’s not just that Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, but God is, too. No longer will He be walking among His human beings in the cool of the day. (Bill D. Moyers [b. 1934], Genesis: A Living Conversation, 58)
What does Adam and Eve’s rebellion cost God? Who suffers greater consequences, God or humanity? Is the chasm between creator and creation permanent? When and where do contemporary believers go to hear God; where is the modern equivalent to in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden?

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 1

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