Genesis 3:7-9: Where Are You?

The eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. They stitched together fig leaves and they made for themselves loincloths. They heard the sound of ʏʜᴡʜ God walking about in the garden, during the evening breeze (lit. breeze of the day), and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the the face of ʏʜᴡʜ God, among the trees of the garden. ʏʜᴡʜ God called to the man and said to him, where are you? — Genesis 3:7-9 (my translation)

When the serpent deceived Eve, and tempted her to eat the forbidden fruit, there was some truth mixed into his lie:

God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:5)

Indeed, when they ate the fruit, they had a new understanding and awareness, but the end result was not what they had expected. The choice to sin, rather than bringing happiness or power, had left them with shame and fear. In their innocence, they simply were what they were, and there was nothing to hide. In their sin, their consciences were defiled, and there was now something within their hearts, a tendency or desire toward evil, that was not pleasant. This change was reflected outwardly in their concern about their nakedness: they felt suddenly a need to be covered, a need to be protected from the scrutiny of others.

The most expedient option was to make such a covering out of leaves, which could be found in abundance. But these garments were not ideal. Leaves, of course, do not last very long as a clothing material. They were likely not very modest garments, either. In the lexicon HALOT, the Hebrew word for their coverings (חֲגֹרֹֽת, ḥăgō-RŌT) is defined as either "girdle" or "loincloth".[1]

Even today, when we turn away from God, we try to patch together a covering to make ourselves look better than the naked truth of what we really are. For some, they follow man-made religions, sometimes even using the name "Christian", while trying to substitute good deeds or "clean living" for true repentance. But on the other end of the spectrum, even hardened atheists will cling to some veneer of morality and self-justification.

Then the man and woman heard "the sound of ʏʜᴡʜ God walking about in the garden" (my translation). KJV translates it as "the voice of the LORD God". The Hebrew word קוֹל (qōl) certainly is translated "voice" in many places, but it also often can be translated as "noise" or "sound". Here it is likely referring to the sound of God's footsteps as he walks about the garden.[2] What I have rendered "evening breeze" is more literally "breeze of the day" (לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם, lᵉrū-ḤA hay-YŌM) but the construction seems to be referring to a specific time in the late afternoon or evening.[3] I suspect that this was a regular habit of ʏʜᴡʜ God, to visit the garden each evening to enjoy his creation and to fellowship with man.

But Adam and his wife, ashamed at what they had done, and fearful of God's judgment, are hiding among the trees of garden. The trees, which were meant for the enjoyment and nourishment of man, are now being used as protective cover to avoid the presence of God. Today, instead of trees, people hide themselves inside a forest of stuff or activites, using entertainment or music or devices or work or friends or social media to keep our minds distracted, to avoid thinking about God or being confronted with the reality of who he is and who we are.

ʏʜᴡʜ God then called out to the man, addressing Adam specifically as the representative of his family. He asks, "where are you?" This question is only one word in Hebrew: אַיֶּֽכָּה (ay-yē-KOH). We can hardly imagine that God, who created light, and put the planets in their orbits, only two chapters before, didn't know where Adam was. But rather this question creates an opportunity for Adam, an opportunity for repentance and confession. The simple question "where are you?" implies many other questions, such as "why are you hiding?" and "when will you come back to me?"

To those of us today who have wandered away from God, who have chosen to go our own way, his voice still calls out "where are you?" Sometimes it is a quiet voice, that we only hear when we are alone, and the television and the smart phone are turned off. My friend, where are you today?

End Notes

[1] In HALOT, the instance here in Genesis 3:7 is categorized under "loincloth". Several modern translations give "loincloths" or similar (ESV, NASB, HCSB, ISV) though many prefer just "coverings" or "to cover" (e.g., NIV, NLT, CEV, NET Bible, NKJV). The classic translation was "aprons" (e.g., KJV, WEB, and Darby) following Tyndale's "apurns".

[2] HALOT translates this instance of קוֹל as "noise (of footsteps)" though the word "sound" makes for a smoother translation. Nearly all modern translations render it as "sound", except for a few (e.g. NLT) which do not translate the word at all, and the ISV, which gives "voice". Other Biblical examples of hearing the קוֹל of footsteps are 2 Samuel 5:24, 1 Kings 14:6, and 2 Kings 6:32.

[3] HALOT gives "the evening breeze" for this instance of רוח, and so that is what I have used. Most older translations give "cool of the day", apparently all following Tyndale, but some modern translations (NASB, ESV) also use it. However, Douay-Rheims 1610 gives "after none ayre" (afternoon air), and a few modern translations support the idea that it was an evening breeze (NLT, CSB, CEV, Good News, GOD'S WORD). The NET Bible notes reference Cassuto (a 20th century Rabbi and scholar) in support of the idea that it was during "the afternoon when it became hot and the sun was beginning to decline".

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