Barry Newman's Blog

May 10, 2011

Science and Genesis 3: 1 – 24 (part VIII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 10:12 pm

Genesis 3: 9 – 13 – Yahweh Elohim, the man and the woman – questions and answers

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?”  The man said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” Then the Lord God (Yahweh Elohim) said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (NIV)

Yahweh Elohim making a sound walking in the garden in the cool of the day

While he suggests it only as a possibility, Walton argues that the relevant text could be translated, “They heard the roar of the Lord moving about in the garden in the wind of the storm” (p. 224).  This is a far cry from, “They heard the sound of the Lord God as he walked in the garden in the cool of the day.

He arrives at his suggestion by way of  the following considerations:  the Hebrew “ruach” can be translated “wind” (or “spirit” or “breath); Akkadian usage indicates that “yom” translated “day” can have the meaning of “storm”, with Isaiah 27: 8 and Zephaniah 2: 2 associating “yom” with a fierce wind (Walton actually argues for a stronger connection between “yom” and a fierce wind); the Akkadian usage relates to the deity coming in judgement (as do the Isaiah and Zephaniah texts); the word “qol” (sound) can refer to sounds varying from the very quite to the very loud.

Certainly, “cool of the day” writes too much into the text.  And it could be argued that “roar” does likewise, with “storm” being an unusual way to render “yom”.  We are faced with two extreme possibilities or with something in between.  “Sound” and “day” would still be satisfactory translations for “qol”, and “yom” respectively without denying that the “ruach” was a wind of some substance, strong enough to be clearly heard and resulting in the man and the woman wanting to hide. However, what would the phrase “the wind of the day” mean?  “Ruach” can be translated “breeze” in which case, “the breeze of the day” could be understood as a reference to the cool of the day.

Perhaps the author/editor created two layers of thought. From one point of view there is a reference to God being likened to a monarch strolling through his garden enjoying the cool breeze of perhaps the early evening but who cannot find the man and the woman he has placed there. From another point of view there is a simply a reference to God who in anger, accompanied by a fierce and noisy wind, is intent on dealing with the man and the woman whom he already knows has disobeyed him. The stark reality is that the man and the woman have hidden themselves in the garden of the great king and God, the one and only king, finds them and he is indeed angry and brings his judgement to bear upon them.

In referring to the man and the woman as “the man and his wife” the text seems to focus on the man but additionally it might be a way of lowering the status of both of them.  Taking vv. 7 and 8 together, there is a solemn progression – “and they knew …, and they sewed …, and they made …, and they heard ….”  And then the man and his wife hid.  If there was an unusually loud sound or an unusually fierce wind or both, no wonder they hid.  But the man under questioning will give another reason for hiding, a more fundamental reason.

The man and his wife hid themselves from the face of Yahweh Elohim in the midst of the trees of the garden.  It appears that they left the scene of their offence – the middle of the garden and concealed themselves among the trees of the garden.  The luxurious garden, but always God’s garden, had been provided by him in part for their enjoyment, but it had now become a place in which to hide from this God.  They had to avoid any face to face contact with him.  To be right before him, in his very presence, had to be avoided if at all possible.

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