Genesis 3:6-7, The Moment (Part 2)

Some further notes, on verse 7.

Verse 7

  • “eyes of the two of them were opened” Interesting that this verb (pqH) is distinguished from the normal verb “to open” (ptH). HALOT lists as the first meaning, “to open the eyes to something which exceeds normal human powers of observation,” though our occurrence is not listed there. As Sarna says (JPS Torah Commentary), it is ironic that “the new insight they gain is only the consciousness of their own nakedness, and shame is the consequence.”
  • Nakedness seems to be a mark of their awareness, it’s something they notice, but not necessarily significant of itself. Nakedness elsewhere in the Bible rarely carries any kind of overtones of sin/morality; rather, it’s typically invoked for actual nakedness or euphemism for genitalia, in social justice issues (Isa 58:7) or as symbolic of secrets or exposure (Genesis 42:9, 12). The Book of Mormon, while also invoking nakedness in social justice issues (Jac 2:19, Mos 4:14, 26, 18:28, Alm 1:30, 4:12, Mor 8:39, others) also finds nakedness in connection with guilt (2Ne 9:14, Mor 9:5).
  • There’s also a bit of a wordplay between them being naked ‘arummim, and the serpent being clever, ‘arum. However, the words are derived from different roots, and while many point it the connection, none that I’ve seen have made anything significant of it.
  • “Sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths”- Fig leaves according to several commentaries, are the largest and most suitable leaves available in Canaan. Logical choice, perhaps for making clothing, which raises its own problems.
    • If we are later to be provided with details on who exactly creates/invents certain technologies (e.g. Genesis 4:20-22), what are we to make of this sewing episode? If no animals have died, whence the bone for needle, or tendon for string? Or is that kind of expectation inappropriate for the genre of the narrative?
    • We’ve always conceptualized of this scene as taking place quickly;  they become aware of God’s presence, they hide, God ; not dissimilar from children playing where they oughtn’t, hear Mum come home, and hide in the cupboard. However, if we’re to take the text as some kind of semi-realistic narrative (again, genre?), they must have time to gather a few leaves and string them together somehow before God actually discovers them.
    • Actually, in looking back, I discover I’ve been operating under what Peter Enns calls “the interpreted Bible.” That is, I’ve grown up with such a particular reading, that I don’t even notice when it doesn’t correspond to the text, even when looking right at it! What actually happens is that they are prompted to produce the loincloths by their nakedness, not God’s presence. Time is not an issue, as the order is as follows: 1) Awareness of nakedness 2) Redress of nakedness by making fig leaf loincloths. 3) At some indeterminate time afterwards, God appears in the garden. 4) They hide.
  • “Loincloths”-  There is a normal term for “loincloth” and this is not it. Our word is variously translated, from “loincloths” to belts to aprons to, famously, “breeches.” Etymology (an unreliable guide to meaning) suggests something tied on, which does not help much. If the problem of their nakedness is exposure of the genitals, it suggests the minimal amount of covering would be the front of the body from the waist down. WBC contrasts our word with the usual. “Perhaps again the skimpiness of their clothing is being emphasized. Though somewhat ineffective, these actions suggest urgency and desperation”

Those are my short notes on a few details. In particular, I realize that no matter how closely I think I’m looking at the text, I always carry some kind of hermeneutical baggage. It’s a useful exercise to make explicit those things, so they can be compared to the actual text.

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5 Responses to Genesis 3:6-7, The Moment (Part 2)

  1. juliemariesmith says:

    Thanks.

    (1) Open eyes/nakedness. What’s the symbolism here? Is it sexual? Is it about vulnerability? Inability to live comfortably in the world? Awareness of gender difference? Recognition of a lack (=clothing) that they don’t know how to fill? Shame for sin? Something else? Would it be useful to think about in what situations we might be naked but not ashamed? What to make of the link between clothing and the fallen world?

    (2) And, a bunch of random thoughts that I wasn’t sure where to put:
    a. Did the serpent deliberately misquote YHWH to “force” Eve to respond to his statement and correct him?
    b.If Eve wasn’t around for the original commandment, then did it apply to her? (Perhaps this would explain why this is a “transgression” and not a “sin” and her misstatement is evidence that she wasn’t [fully] accountable for the commandment?)
    c. If the better reading is that Adam is standing next to Eve, then why is the serpent addressing her and she responding to him but Adam being silent throughout? (In all seriousness, it wouldn’t be hard to read the helpmeet-who-replaces-YHWH as Adam’s boss, until after the fall, when the roles are reversed.)
    d. When they cover themselves with leaves they, in a sense, become trees. (Or: try to look as if they are trees.) What might this symbolize?

    And, a confession, there is SO MUCH going on in these verses that I almost feel like we can’t get into it because we don’t know where to start or how to stop.

  2. rosalyndewelch says:

    One commentary I’ve been looking at (I think it’s the NSRV “Interpreter’s Bible”? It’s in the church library where I work, but right now I’m home so I can’t verify) reads this tale as the “civilizing” of Adam and Eve, their transition from innocent, naked savage, so to speak, to clothed, enculturated, enlightened human embedded in a system of ethics. The “opening of the eyes” is read as their initiation into human culture (one of the basic forms of which is shame), and their making of leaf-clothes the basic form of material culture. Not sure how persuasive I find this idea, but there it is.

    By the way, excellent point about needing animal materials to sew loincloths of leaves. I’m sure we’ve all heard the point that when God clothes Adam & Eve with coats of skins (ie endowment), that implies that there was an animal sacrifice made, thus bringing Christ into a narrative from which he is frustratingly (for Christians!) absent. (Julie, you probably know the source?) But your point is that tools made from animal bodies were necessary even earlier in the narrative — if, as you say, the text allows us to interrogate it in this way.

  3. Candice says:

    hehe, Julie, I’m smiling at the idea of the roles reversing after the transgression. I’m open to that possibility. She must have been a strong woman.

    I really like the comments here about the reasons Adam and Eve may have felt shame.

  4. Adam Miller says:

    Great discussion of nakedness, Ben. I hadn’t yet looked at this second batch of notes when I posted my previous comment.

    A couple thoughts:

    1. Verse seven seems to emphasize that “the eyes of the TWO of them were opened.” Is an immediate an effect of their awareness division/difference or twoness?

    2. Ben makes a great point about the introduction of (civilizing?) technologies in this verse. It reminds of the chiasm that Julie included in her previous comment: the command to be agricultural come before the fall but is fulfilled only after it. The advent of technology (of human ways of addressing perceived lacks/nakedness in the natural world) is the key intervening event.

  5. Pingback: The Philosophies of Men… Mingled with Monopoly | Times & Seasons

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