Gordon Wenham – Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story

On the first hearing, the Garden of Eden story seems to be a simple, straightforward narrative just right for children or indeed adults in a non-literary culture. But a more careful re-reading poses certain intractable problems. Who was right, the Lord God who warned that if man ate of the tree he would die or the snake who denied it? Inherently one expects God’s words to be vindicated, but the narrative apparently shows man escaping the threatened penalty at least for 930 years! Another problem concerns the stationing of the cherubim to guard the eastern end fo the garden: could not the expelled couple re-enter the garden from some other direction? Again the details of the geography of Eden, with its mention of the four rivers and the gold, seem quite irrelevant to the story. Why wee these verses, 2:10-14, included? Do they perhaps betray the hand of scholastic interpolator or redactor interested in ancient geography?

I wish to argue here that these difficulties in the story may be explained if se see it not as a naive myth but as a highly symbolic narrative. The garden of Eden is not viewed by the author fo Genesis simply as a piece of Mesopotamian farmland, but as an archetypal sanctuary, that is a place where God dwells and where man should worship him. Many of the features of the garden may also be found in later sanctuaries particularly the tabernacle or Jerusalem temple. These parallels suggest that the garden itself is understood as a sort of sanctuary.

To continue reading Gordon Wenham’s essay, click here.

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Derek Rishmawy – 9 Reasons the Garden of Eden Was a Temple

G.K. Beale is a bit of an expert on the subject of the Temple in biblical theology. He did happen to write a whole book on it. Given that, it’s unsurprising that he devotes some space to exploring the significance of the Temple in NT theology in his recent New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by sketching it’s structure and function in the OT. One of the more eye-opening claims he makes in this section is that the Bible pictures the Garden of Eden as the first Temple in the first creation. He gives 9 arguments/lines of reasoning for that point (pp. 617-621):

1. In the later OT the Temple was the place of God’s special presence where he made himself known and felt to Israel. That is exactly how his walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden is depicted. (Gen. 3:8)

To continue reading Derek Rishmawy’s article, click here.

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Michael Boling – Lessons from the Garden: God’s Covering of our Nakedness


Over the past couple of weeks at a Bible Study I have been attending, we have been exploring some fundamental aspects of Scripture and theology in general. As a starting point, a necessary one I might add, the discussion has centered on Genesis 1-4 for it is in these first four chapters of Scripture that we can find the roots of the biblical message is all about regarding sin and redemption. While these chapters are arguably familiar to most believers, there are admittedly some elements and events we may not have taken much time to consider. Given that everything in Scripture is included and provided for a reason, it behooves us to not avoid looking at even the finest detail. One such detail or question that should be asked is why God notes that Adam and Eve discovered they were naked and why did Adam and Eve immediately look for a way to cover their nudity?

It was not until Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that the text notes “their eyes were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” We can rightly note that some type of revelation took place after they sinned. It was certainly not what they thought would happen based on what the serpent had declared to them. Instead of achieving godhood, they discovered their nakedness.

What exactly is nakedness? When we are naked, we are exposed. In terms of sexual intimacy, that act is accomplished by the husband and the wife (speaking of proper sexuality here), devoid of clothes. All is stripped bare resulting in a beautiful bond of intimacy. It is the complete opposite of what we find with Adam and Eve. They immediately covered themselves and hid from God. Sin did not result in the furthering of intimacy with their Creator. Conversely, what took place was the covering of intimacy, the first signs of the impact of sin on man’s relationship with God.

This means that prior to sin, being naked was simply not a big deal. It was only after sin that Adam and Eve discovered their nakedness, clothed themselves, and hid from God. Now we have little idea of what a pre-sin physical body was like given our only experience is post-sin and in a world marred by death and decay. Some have attempted to investigate what a pre-sin body might have looked like. One of the more interesting approaches has been that taken by Douglas Hamp who suggests that prior to sin, man may have had some sort of light covering. He suggest this is a possibility given the various references in Scripture to God’s people shining like the sun. One could argue those are just metaphors for the light of God shining through His people in the midst of the darkness of this world. With that said, Hamp also notes that our very DNA emits light. It is all very fascinating and I would recommend reading his article on this subject.

One biblical account of note is that of Moses spending a great deal of time with God on Mt. Sinai. We are told in Exodus 34:29, “Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.” In other words, the face of Moses emitted “rays of light”, which is the meaning of the Hebrew verb qaran used in this passage. If we think back to the fact that Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden and given this was not some figurative “walking” but rather God actually walking in “person” with Adam and Eve, one can only wonder what that was like, both relationally and physically. Perhaps communing with God resulted in some sort of light covering with that covering being from the very presence of God.

Whatever it was like, it ceased to exist once sin entered into the picture. Maybe this light covering concealed their nakedness. Maybe being naked was irrelevant and of no importance given Adam and Eve showed no signs of focusing on their nakedness until after they sinned. Regardless, we have to ask ourselves the honest question of why is this even worthy of discussion. Who really cares if they were naked or not, if they had some sort of light covering as a result of walking with God, or why they discovered they were naked and sewed some fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. What does it matter?

It is worth of examination first of all because of what we noted earlier, namely it is in Scripture so it must be of some importance. Sin caused something to be lost. What was lost was that intimate relationship, both physically and spiritually, between the Creator and mankind. God no longer physically walks with us and as a result of sin, we have become exposed in a way that Adam and Eve had not thought about when they partook of the forbidden tree. In reality, we have been trying to cover our nakedness and trying to figure out a way to get back to the Garden ever since that fateful day. More often than not, we attempt to cover our nakedness through our own efforts just as Adam and Even did when they realized they were naked. We fashion all manner of coverings, hoping it will bring us closer to God or what we claim to be god in our lives. I fact, all religions to some degree provide a means by which to get back to their version of the Garden.

In Scripture, we find that only an act of God can bring us back to the Garden. It is only God’s grace and mercy that can deal with our nakedness and exposure. While Adam and Eve fashioned themselves garments, they were wholly insufficient. God revealed His grace and mercy by shedding the blood of an innocent animal so they might be covered. This is a picture of the gospel. Man’s efforts cannot deal with their nakedness nor can our efforts get us back to that blissful state in the Garden. “God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) In this covering of Adam and Eve by God, we can see the message of redemption that finds its telos at the cross. It is through the sacrifice of Christ that we will find our way back to the Garden and that place of joyous intimacy when our nakedness is clothed with fine bright garments (Rev. 19:8).

In this seemingly unimportant aspect of nakedness and covering that took place after sin, we once again find the message of redemption and the focus of where redemption is found – through God’s grace and mercy and the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. One day we will return to the Garden to live in eternal intimacy with God. I don’t know about you but I am definitely looking forward to that day.

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Joel Tay – Why did God Prevent Adam from Eating from the Tree of Life After He had Sinned?


In Genesis 2:9, we are told that in the midst of the Garden of Eden, God placed the Tree of Life as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam was permitted to eat of every tree in the garden except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God warned that if Adam ate of its fruit, he would surely begin to die. (See this article for an explanation of why that is the best understanding).

In Genesis 3, the Bible describes the fall of mankind and how sin, death, and suffering entered the world when Adam disobeyed God’s commandment and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Towards the end of Genesis 3, we read:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22–24)

This raises an interesting question. Why would God prevent Adam from eating from the Tree of Life after he had sinned? The Bible tells us that the last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:26). But if death is an enemy, wouldn’t it have been a good thing for Adam to live forever by eating from the Tree of Life?

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Russell Grigg – Dawkins’ Dilemma: How God Forgives Sin

In The God Delusion, author Richard Dawkins asks: “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment … ?”

The answer depends on three things: What is sin? Why does God oppose it? How can God justly forgive it?

Note: Dawkins begins with the axiom2 that God does not exist. We shall begin with the axiom that God does exist and the Bible is His written Word.

1. What is sin?

When God created Adam and Eve, He made human beings who were not only dependent on Him for existence and life, but who He intended to enjoy a relationship with Him of sharing in His life and love. Sin, in essence, is the desire of mankind to be free from this dependence on God, and indeed from any relationship with God at all.

When Satan tempted Eve to disobey God, the ‘bait’ he used was the assertion “you will be like God”. Thus, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit that God had forbidden them, they were defying God, repudiating His authority over them, and elevating their own wills above God’s will.

Sin does not primarily refer to isolated acts (sins), for they are only the outworking of human self-will. It refers primarily to the rebellion of men and women against God, which may range all the way from careless indifference to the hell-bent hostility of which Dawkins’ posturing is an extreme example. Since sin is defined by this opposition to God and his standards, if God doesn’t exist, then the concept of sin becomes meaningless.

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