Alter renders these two verses as follows:
20 And the human called his woman’s name Eve, for she was the mother of all that lives. 21 And the Lord God made skin coats for the human and his woman, and he clothed them.
The NIV reads like this:
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
These verses initiate the narrative’s falling action. After the torrential downpour of the climatic verses that preceded them (with God’s voice thundering poetically throughout), the pacing has shifted and we’ve tapered off to a light rain. In fact, it’s hard not to read the “and” that marks the beginning of vs. 20 without vocalizing it with a sigh, releasing a deep breath we’d forgotten we were holding.
Some thoughts about the verses themselves:
1. “And the human called his woman’s name Eve . . .”
Eve is, at last, named. What should we make of this naming’s postponement? Should this naming have been postponed until after the fruit had been eaten? Did it have to be postponed until Adam knew more than he previously did? All the other animals had already been named. Why not Eve? The other animals were named in connection with Adam’s fruitless search for a companion. Is there a connection, in that respect, with Eve’s not being named until now? If so, what?
Or is it something else? Eve did, in fact, already have a name: woman. In effect, Eve is given here a new name, a second name. Here, rather than her giving it to Adam, Adam gives it to her. Also, note that, in this respect, Adam does not get a new name. Adam is still just the man/human. As is obvious in relation to the various translations (see Alter’s vs. the NIV above), Adam’s name just slips imperceptibly from a common noun to a proper name. The point at which this transition occurs isn’t clear: hence the variation in the translations. But perhaps the point at which it would be most appropriate to switch (though Alter’s translation, in fact, never does switch from “human” to “Adam” until all the way at 4:25, keeping “human” even at 4:1!) would be when it finally gets paired with Eve as a proper name.
Why doesn’t Adam get a proper name? Why doesn’t Adam get a new name?
2. The New Interpreter Bible (NIB) commentary argues that this naming of Eve feels a bit out of rhythm with the narrative but, as a result, views it as “a positive development in the midst of the judgment, anticipating that life will still go on (a negative assessment of this verse incorrectly associates naming with subordination).” Do you agree with this? I’m not sure what the reasoning is (no explanation is given) for why this naming couldn’t have a tinge of subordination to it – it does with the names of animals right? And frequently elsewhere, right?
At any right, I like seeing it as a positive development, as a way for Adam to reach out, after all that’s happened, and draw Eve to him.
3. “. . . for she was the mother of all that lives.”
There is a little homophony going on here between Eve (hawah) and the verbal root “to live” (hayah). But it appears to be phonic rather than semantic. Does it matter that the connection is bridged formally rather than semantically? That is, in poetry rather than prose?
However the gap is bridged, it functions to define a role for Eve: as the mother of all living, such that this role becomes synonymous with her own proper name. Adam, on the other hand, never receives such a name or definition? Or does he already have such a role-defining name as a tiller of the “adamah”?
Also, note that we get here a strident affirmation of life and it’s continuation immediately following God’s description of how Adam will shortly return to the dust from which he came.
God says: work everyday with the dirt until you die! And the first words out of Adam’s mouth then are: And Eve is the mother of all living!
The other interesting thing here has to do with the verb tense. Alter renders it as past tense (“she WAS the mother of all that lives”) while the NIV renders it as “she would BECOME the mother of all living” The NIB claims “the NIV future tense seems correct (since the perfect verb expresses certainty).” But the ambiguity is fun, nonetheless. What if Eve were already the mother of all living? Meaning that there were already children in the garden? How would this change the story?
4. “And the Lord God made skin coats for the human and his woman, and He clothed them.”
God as tailor. Why replace the clothing the humans made for themselves? Is it important for no other reason than that it allows God to make an initial gesture of reconciliation following the “spelling out of consequences” just concluded?
It strikes me as an immensely tender gesture: measuring, cutting, and sewing. Plus, especially tender, is the description of God not just making the clothes and delivering them to Adam and Eve, but personally clothing them in what he had made.
Also, why the shift from plant-based clothes to animal-based clothes? Why specify that these clothes were made of “skin”?
Also the significance, in relation to other kinds of divinely invested clothing throughout the OT and NT and D&C shouldn’t be overlooked. But, for now, I don’t have anything in particular to say about that.
From here, I commend what else may be said about these verses to your care.