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Genesis 3:21 as Redemptive Parallel

Final Essay


W. James Kelly SID 0812058

Theology of the Cross TH 3XA3 Dr. James C. Peterson December 2nd, 2010

The life and death of Jesus Christ radically impacts the world, whether the world knows it or not. How this message is understood and presented will transform lives. It is for this reason the following paper is written. It is the goal of this paper to argue that Genesis 3:21 is a redemptive parallel of (1) the system of blood sacrifice to atone for sin, and (2) the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. To accomplish this goal, this paper has been divided into two parts. The first part will define the parameters of context and alternative interpretations of the verse under examination. Moreover, it will establish the system of blood sacrifice as a divine institution by God. The second part will demonstrate the parallels between Genesis 3:21 and the atoning death of Jesus Christ in three ways: (1) by arguing God’s remedy with Adam and Eve using the work of late scholar Robert S. Candlish, (2) by demonstrating the impact of Gen 3:21 in the redemptive story of sacrifice, and (3) by arguing for the enhancement of the following two atonement theories: Expiation and Solidarity. If presented clearly, the reader will see the transformative influence this thesis may have on how one understands the system of sacrifice and presents the above two atonement theories. The verse under examination is Genesis 3:21, which reads, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (NIV).1 It is important to grasp the context of this verse. In Genesis chapter one, the LORD created the heavens, the earth, and a man in His image and said that it was good.2 In Genesis two, it is established that “a tree of life, of good and evil,” stands in the middle of the garden. The LORD places Adam in the garden giving liberty to rule and reign and eat any seed-bearing plant or fruit However, one stipulation stands that is critical to this discussion. The LORD commands Adam saying, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”3 The LORD subsequently creates a woman for Adam named Eve. The author concludes chapter two stating, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”4 At the beginning of chapter three, the serpent persuades Eve and Adam to eat fruit from the forbidden tree. Instead of giving them wisdom like God as they had hoped, it opens their eyes to their nakedness, “so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”5 As the LORD came walking in the garden, the reactions from Adam and Eve are as follows: (1) recognizing their sin, and feeling guilt and shame, they hid in the trees due to fear, (2) Adam first blames the LORD then blames Eve, and (3) Eve blames the serpent. The LORD consequently curses the serpent, Eve and Adam. It is following these events that Genesis 3:21 takes place. Following the passage at hand, the LORD declares that Adam and Eve shall not live forever and banishes them from the


The New International Version was chosen for its popularity in evangelicalism and overall strong interpretation of the text. Two other versions that may provide insight are the English Standard Version that renders it, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” and the New Revised Standard Version that renders it, “And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” Unless otherwise noted, the following paper will use New International Version. 2 God makes it clear that he is pleased with His creation (1:10; 12; 18; 21; 25; 31) 3 Gen 2:17 (NIV). 4 Gen 2:25 (NIV). 5 Gen 3:7 (NIV).


Garden of Eden. As the following paper develops, the above context will be pivotal as a reference. Genesis 3:21 has received a wide variety of interpretations. This paper shares the many possible approaches to understanding this text, however claiming the one presented is dominate. The four insights are the following: first, protection;6 second, the LORD’s approval of shame;7 third, a reminder of sin;8 and forth, the frailties of humanity.9 Each of these interpretations shed light on a possible approach to understanding Genesis 3:21. As interesting as they all are, there stands an argument that is far weightier, more meaningful and significant. The system of blood sacrifice is regularly traced back to Genesis chapter four. Here, Cain and Abel bring forth offerings to the LORD. Cain’s offering of fruit is rejected while the LORD accepts Abel’s blood sacrifice of a lamb. Yet the question arises: how did Cain and Abel know to bring offerings to the LORD?10 Cain and Abel knew to bring offerings to the LORD because the LORD demonstrated how. They knew how because the LORD set up the system of blood sacrifice, therefore making it divine. Interestingly, many scholars agree that the sacrificial system was divinely appointed.11 Conversely, some also disagree or at least have hesitancies.12 In his explanation of Jesus’ death, Mark Heim makes this assertion, “God would never build a world on innocent sacrifice, but since humanity did, God will find a way, once, to turn good what we have founded in evil.”13 It is understood that Heim’s

The JPS Torah Commentary claims the garments were “a kind of long- or short-sleeved shirt…that reached down to the knees or even the ankles” (Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary, 29). This improvement is surely a step up from loincloths, meant only to cover one’s “loins” or known today as one’s private areas. Jewish Rabbi and Scholar Umberto Cassuto claims the garments protect against, “the cold and all the other natural phenomena that are injurious to human beings” (Cassuto, Commentary on Genesis, 163). 7 The LORD follows his curse with approval and love like a father after disciplining his child Frederic Bonhoeffer says “That means, he accepts men as those who are fallen. He does not compromise them in their nakedness before each other, but he himself covers them. God’s activity keeps peace with man” (Von Rad, Genesis, 97 A reference to Frederic Bonhoeffer’s work). 8 The LORD replaced the loincloths so that humanity would not forget the offense committed towards the LORD himself. Church fathers Ephrem the Syrain, Augustine, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, to some degree or another, view the garments of skin to be a reminder of sin or symbol of mortality (Louth, Ancient Christian Commentary, 98-99). 9 The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament mentions that through “the conversation between the Mesopotamian hero, Gilgamesh, and Utnapishtim suggests that the wearing of skin clothing might also symbolize all the frailties of fallen human life” (Harris, Theological Wordbook, 469). Perhaps the LORD is pointing to the frail life a human possesses and one’s dependency on the LORD 10 It is important to mention a few major assumptions here. First, it is assumed that Moses is the writer of Genesis. Additionally, many argue that the sacrificial system was adopted by Israel from civilizations before it. This argument assumes Moses creates the story of Genesis with his present cultural persuasions. This paper assumes Moses writes Genesis with no biases, telling the story as it truly occurred. It is within these parameters the question “how did Cain and Abel know to bring offerings to the Lord?” be legitimately asked. 11 Robert Jamieson and A. R. Fausset, in their work A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testament, M.G. Easton in his Bible Dictionary and R.A. Torrey, in his The New Topical Text Book all support Gen 3:21 as a divinely instituted sacrificial system. 12 H. C. Leupold in his Exposition of Genesis makes it clear his uncertainly of this claim. “This verse does not teach [a covering of man’s guilt through the garment of skin], nor is it an allegory conveying a lesson.”12 (Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, 178-179.) 13 Heim, Saved from Sacrifice, 196.


primary argument is not in the manner of sacrificial system but more towards the violence that it promotes, however, the emphasis inferences a man-made system. Contrastingly, Kenneth S. Wuest in his classic Word Studies from the Greek New Testament makes an argument in favor of God-made sacrifice supporting that Cain and Abel received their information from God’s actions. Wuest says, “The human race learned how to kill when it was taught to slay a sacrificial animal as it approached a holy God (Gen 3:21).”14 His reference to Genesis 3:21 indicates that God teaches Adam and Eve how to sacrifice an animal. Obviously approaching the issue of violence very differently than Heim would, Wuest is claiming that God set up the system full well of its bloody means. Similarly, in reference to the question, how could Cain and Abel know of sacrifice, Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards in the popular Teacher's Commentary claim, “Aware that God required blood sacrifice (see Gen 3:21; 4:7), Abel offered a sheep rather than fruit and vegetables.”15 Richards and Richards claim that Abel offered a sheep rather than fruit like his brother because he must have known and understood the sacrificial system. The only way he would have known this system was through either his parents or from God directly. Because the reader is not told directly that Cain and Abel were told by God, Genesis 3:21 quickly becomes ample evidence. Therefore, this evidence demonstrates that God built a temporary system of animal blood sacrifice to make possible the reconciliation of a sinful people to a perfect God. It is worthy then to establish the system of blood sacrifice as a divine institution by God in way of four reasoned arguments. First, regarding the importance of the word “made,” Gen 3:21 says, “The LORD God made garments of skin…” If God made the garments of skin just for protection, comfort and decorum, could he not have left the making up to Adam and Eve? He does not, for it is God’s liberty in making the clothes that demonstrates his initiative. As God creates the clothing for Adam and his wife, so also he must have created the system of sacrifice. For if God took liberty to create garments, it makes logical sense He would take liberty with something of much greater importance, such as the sacrificial system. Second, Leviticus makes it clear that when God concerns himself with the seemingly trivial materials of clothing for humanity, something of greater importance and holiness must be at hand.16 If so, then the LORD’S personal initiative in the making of humanities first clothes should be taken with great holiness. Providing solely for their protection against stormy weather does not merit such holiness. The establishment of blood sacrifice, however, does. Third, the question is asked: how would an Israelite living under the Law of Moses react to a human established sacrificial system? As theologian Robert S. Candlish, who’s work will be presented in detail below, claims, “No Israelite…when reading the account of God’s clothing our first parents with skins, and afterwards accepting Abel’s offering of a lamb, could have a moments hesitation in concluding that, from the beginning, the sacrificial institute formed an essential part of the service which God

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Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies, “1 Jn 3:11” Richards, The Teacher's Commentary, 1012. 16 God concerns himself with the garments worn by the priest in entering the Holy Place (Lev 16:4; 23; 32 c. Exo 29:29; 39:1).


required a fallen man.”17 Moses and all the other Israelites would not have served and sacrificed so diligently knowing the sacrificial system was set up by man. Finally, it is worthy to note that considering animal sacrifice is understood through all of biblical history as having been established by God; does this not suggest the idea of divine origin taking place at some point in time by God prior to the first offering? The sacrifice of an animal for clothing and the atonement for a fallen people should therefore suffice as origin. The sacrificial system was not created by paganism, or established by God during the time of Moses. With Moses, the LORD confirmed the covenant of sacrifice, but that was not its institution. As the Lord says in Leviticus 17:11, “I have given it [the sacrificial system] to you to make atonement,” The institution of the system of sacrifice was established by God directly following the fall and curse of Satan, woman and man in Genesis 3:21. As established above, God divinely set up the sacrificial system. That base understanding paves the way to parallel the sacrifice in Gen 3:21 to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the second part in this paper. The story of sacrifice now seemingly has a new beginning. A beginning that parallels its end. The redemptive movement of the sacrificial system climaxes with the death of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Robert S. Candlish was a leading Scottish theologian. One of his great works was his Exposition of the book of Genesis written in 1842. It is within this work his writings on Genesis 3:21 impact one’s understanding of the sacrificial system and the atonement of Jesus Christ. Candlish claims, as argued above, that the LORD’s act of clothing of Adam and Eve suggests His divine establishment of sacrifice. He proposes that the parallel between Genesis 3:21 and the system of sacrifice created by the LORD is strong and cogent.18 Candlish’s examines the three primary temptations found in Genesis 3:1-5, the result of each sin and God’s remedial sentence pronounced. Below is a chart verbatim from Candlish: Temptation to Sin 1. The pride of merit (1-3) Results of Sin 1. The shame of guilt (7) Remedies 1. God’s provision of an atoning sacrifice and justifying righteousness, restoring Confidence of Faith (21) 2. God’s dispensation of long-suffering, restoring Hope (16-20)

2. The presumption of security (4)

2. The fear of death (10)

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Candlish, Studies in Genesis, 81 Candlish, Studies in Genesis, 81


3. The ambition of an equality with God (5)

3. The guile of bondage to Satan (12,13)

3. Satan’s condemnation, restoring to man the liberty of Truth (14,15)19

The first temptation Candlish defines as pride of merit, “as if [a claim of bounty] were [man’s] right, and to consider himself unfairly treated if any restriction were imposed upon it.”20 The first consequence was self-indignity. The second temptation was a sense of security, “giving him unwarrantable confidence in braving the Divine justice.”21 The consequence was the opposite, a sense of danger. The third element of temptation was a sense of liberty, “defying control and asserting independence; aspiring to the freedom of the Godhead.”22 As guessed, the opposite was the result: a sense of bondage. Man and his wife became slave to the evil one. How then are these results of sin met? First, as Candlish does not mention, it is important to establish the due consequences for these sins. In Genesis 2:17, God says, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”23 God has every right to instantly kill Adam and Eve for their sin, and thus end all of humanity. Obviously, God chooses otherwise, demonstrating His grace and love toward humanity, and hence redeems what could have been lost. The LORD re-established a bond with humanity through the death of an animal. Through the blood of an innocent sacrifice, the LORD makes right what was wronged and allows humanity to come “undisguised before the Holy One” once more. Because of the blood of an innocent animal, those who were marked for death could now walk away in freedom. The LORD provides for the covering of sin’s nakedness and shame, “and for the sinner’s acceptance in his sight; clothing him with a perfect righteousness, the righteousness of a full and finished work of vicarious obedience and expiatory blood.”24 Humanity may approach God once more, but regulations have been placed. The wounding has occurred. Trust has been broken. It will take time now to bring greater vindication, greater unity between God and man. The greatest of this unity is in the promise from Revelation, but the stepping-stone to that stage was built in the God-Man Jesus Christ. What impact does Gen 3:21 have on the redemptive story of sacrifice? The story, as argued above, begins with the fall, Adam and Eve, and the LORD’s redemption of them. Noah, following redemption from the flood of the known earth, sacrifices “clean animals and clean birds,” and, “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma…”25 The Lord had the opportunity to re-establish a new way of communication yet he approved Noah’s

Candlish, Studies in Genesis, 82. The chart provided gives strong merit for building this argument based on one verse. As Candlish claims, “Thus the sentence is complete, as a remedial provision for the disorder introduced by the fall. Its last and crowning blessing depends upon the other two, and necessarily fits into them, and follows from them. Hence I have the greater confidence in drawing from a very brief, and apparently almost incidental intimation, a large spiritual inference.” 20 Ibid, 82. 21 Ibid, 83. 22 Ibid, 83. 23 Initially, this verse could be taken either spiritual, emotionally or physically. Based on what follows, many claim it is all three to some degree. As noted however, if taken all three, God had every right to end their lives. It is by God’s grace he kept their lives, at the expense of a substitutionary animal. 24 Candlish, Studies in Genesis, 83. 25 Gen 8:20-21


sacrifice. If the LORD was pleased with sacrifice after the flood, than it can surely be concluded He was the initiator in it’s forming. The LORD provided a substitute of a ram to replace Abraham’s son Isaac.26 Blood was required to meet God’s requirement. Under Moses, sacrifice is firmly established as a means to communicate with God, making clear that only God could build such a significant system. It is in the time of Judges and Kings the prophets call back humanity to the purpose of the sacrificial system – atonement, foreshadowing a time when another sacrifice would occur. Nevertheless, the people ignore them. The climax is reached when God himself descended through His son Jesus Christ to become a sacrificial lamb to cover once more and for all time, the guilt and shame of humanity in order to restore a bond with God. Not only do Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection restore the bond, it transforms the bond. His blood, the blood of an innocent sacrifice, was required to forgive humanity their sins. As Hebrews 9:22 proclaims, "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” God in his grace shed blood and clothed Adam and Eve, a picture or parallel of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus became sin so that humanity might wear the robe of his righteousness.”27 As the letter of Ephesians so beautifully puts it, “In Jesus we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”28 The impact of Gen 3:21 in the redemptive story of sacrifice transforms one’s appreciation for the work of God in establishing sacrifice. Moreover, it transforms the way one way presents the gospel message of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In light of all that has proceeded, it is time to briefly examine the impact this redemptive parallel has on two primary atonement theories: Expiation and Solidarity. Expiation may be defined as a “thing” (ie: crime or sin) that is atoned through a substitute. The “thing” needing to be expiated in Genesis 3 was the sin committed by Adam and Eve against God. The Lord expiated that sin by sacrificing an animal.29 Jesus likewise was expiated for the sins of humanity to make whole what was broken between man and God. Hebrews 9:14-15 says, “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God…has died as a ransom to set [humanity] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” The parallel between Genesis 3:21 and Jesus’ atonement on the cross deeply enhances the theory of expiation by providing the theory with a foundation. Knowing God had to expiate sin in humanity’s beginnings, continue the process through history and become the sin of humanity through Jesus on the cross, supplies a convincing redemptive story enhancing one’s understanding of expiation. The second theory is solidarity that can be defined as the unity of God to humanity. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God brought unity by placing humanities guilt and shame upon a blood sacrifice. It is in this sacrifice, humanity today may see God’s compassion and grace. Jesus Christ manifested this solidarity completely through his sacrificial death opening the door for oneness with God. God was abandoned through the fall and it took the death of an sacrificial animal to bring healing. Again, abandonment was made right through the death of a second sacrifice, Jesus Christ. God can relate with

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Gen 22 2 Cor 5:21; Isa 61:10 28 Eph 1:7 29 Gen 3:21


the abandoned of this world and it is in this identification the theory of solidarity is manifested. Therefore, it is through Genesis 3:21 this manifestation is enhanced. As it is unfortunately only possible to examine these two theories, nevertheless, one may dive deeper into the richness of this text and redemptive parallel’s impact on the remaining atonement theories. In closing, it is hoped that the reader sees and feels the transformative influence Genesis 3:21 may have on how one understands the system of sacrifice and the two atonement theories presented. The preceding piece sought to argue that Genesis 3:21 is a redemptive parallel of first the divinely appointed system of blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin. The paper demonstrated this by presenting known scholarly work in support of the argument as well as four reasoned arguments: that God “made” the garments, that scripture correlates holiness with God’s making of garments, which the Israelites would have understood the system as presented here, and that history supports a divine institute by God. The second piece argues that Genesis 3:21 is a redemptive parallel of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It was argued primarily through the analysis of Robert S. Candlish, demonstrating that God redeemed humanity through the sacrificial death of an animal. That death parallels the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Finally, two primary atonement theories, Expiation and Solidarity, were shown to be enhanced through the redemptive parallel of Genesis 3:21 to the death of Jesus Christ.


Bibliography Beilby, James., and Eddy, Paul R., The Nature of the Atonement, IVP Academic: Downers Grove, Illinois, 2006. Candlish, Robert S., Studies in Genesis, Kregel Publcations: Grand Rapids, MI, 1979. Cassuto, Umberto. A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, The Magnes Press: Jerusalem, 1961. Daly, Robert J., Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice, T & T Clark International: New York, NY, 2009. Easton, M.G., Easton's Bible Dictionary, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Jamieson, Robert., Fausset, A.R., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, “Gen 3:21” Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997 Leupold, H. C., Exposition of Genesis: Chapters 1-19, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1958. Louth, Andrew, (Editor), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois, 2001. Reno, R. R., Genesis, Brazos Press: Grand Rapids, MI, 2010 Richards. Larry., and Richards, Lawrence O., The Teacher's Commentary, Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill, 1987. Sarna, Nahum M., The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis. The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, 1989.


Von Rad, Gerhard., Genesis: A Commentary, The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1972. Wenham, Gordon J., World Biblical Commentary Genesis 1-15, Word Books: Waco, Texas, 1987. Westermann, Claus., Genesis 1-11: A Commentary, Augsburg Publishing House: Minneapolis, 1984. White, Hugh, C., Narration and Discourse in the Book of Genesis, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1991 Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English Reader, “1 Jn 3:11”, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1997.