What the Bible says about
Nakedness as Metaphor
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Moses reports this immediately after the comment that marriage partners were to "become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Adam and Eve were literally naked. Once they sinned, though, they immediately looked for something to cover themselves (Genesis 3:7). God draws attention to it to focus our attention on mankind's failure.
“Naked” is used as a descriptor 104 times in Scripture. Depending on the context, it can indicate innocence, purity, defenselessness, vulnerability, helplessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, and judgment. At times, it may indicate several of these qualities within a single context, so the context must be read carefully to grasp how it is specifically being used.
In Genesis 2:25, it indicates good qualities: purity of mind and conduct, innocence, and perhaps also vulnerability. God is setting up the impending radical difference that was the fruit of destruction by sin, using the term to help illustrate the depth of their fall through the sins that followed.
Overall, God's instruction in this context smashes the false notion that many have: that sin is of minor concern as long as nobody gets hurt. How? This episode teaches there is no such thing as a sin that does no damage. It always destroys, and sometimes in multiple areas of life. The damage may not visibly or immediately appear to the perpetrators.
Genesis 3:7 is revealing in terms of what happened immediately after their sins: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” The earlier context offers no indication that their being naked before God and each other had caused even the slightest embarrassment. Once they sinned, they not only realized their nakedness, but with the realization they also felt a sense of shame. They knew they had committed something evil—sin. If there was no shame, why would they seek to cover themselves? The fruit of sin was beginning to grow.
So they hastily searched out the best covering they could find, but what they used—fig leaves—was in reality totally inadequate. The nakedness was not the problem, the sins were. That was not all they did:
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?” So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (Genesis 3:8-11)
What was the damage tally from this one event?
First, their sin immediately changed their hearts. They did not have to wait around for somebody to be injured or offended. Sin instantly altered the purity of their thoughts, as shown by the actions they took to “protect” themselves.
Second, their sins damaged their relationship with God. The wrong kind of fear entered the relationship and began separating Him from them. God did not change, of course, but sin immediately marred the quality of the relationship.
Third, their sins distorted their relationship with each other. They could no longer look at each other with the pure innocence they had before, having shared in an evil deed and accused each other and Satan.
Fourth, their sins altered their views about themselves. They knew in their heart of hearts that they had done an evil thing. Their reaction was to justify themselves and shift the blame to others.
Adam and Eve's choice was costly. Their disloyalty exposed their proclivity to sin on their very first exposure to temptation, costing them a relationship with God. They established a sinful pattern of life, as shown in the fruit of their marriage, which is evident in the sinful lives of their children. Finally, their sins cost them the blessing of living in the Garden of Eden.
It was not an encouraging beginning for humanity. Yet, because God is patiently merciful, He has called us, revealed His purpose to us, and given us His Spirit. We now have the fabulous opportunity to learn from their examples and use His gifts in a righteous way.
Though sins are committed by insignificant people in seemingly inconsequential circumstances, they always have effects beyond the time, place, and perpetrators of the transgression. A major lesson we must learn from this is that we do not live in a vacuum; this creation's Creator is always overseeing it and judging.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Six)
This statement acts as a bridge, connecting directly to mankind's first sins, exposed in Genesis 3. Their nakedness played a revealing role, instructing us about what happens when we sin. Undoubtedly, their nakedness in verse 25 was literal, not merely figurative.
Combined, the terms “naked” and “nakedness” are used 104 times in Scripture, a high number for fairly uncommon words, indicating their importance. Depending on the context, the terms can figuratively indicate innocence, defenselessness, vulnerability, helplessness, humiliation, shame, guilt, or judgment.
At times, nakedness may indicate several qualities within the same context or even within the same sentence, the different figures adding clarity to our understanding. A person may have to read the context carefully to grasp how God is specifically using it. In Genesis 2:25, He is using this distinctive illustration to portray Adam and Eve's innocence and purity of conduct. In Isaiah 47:1-3, Jeremiah 13:26, and Ezekiel 16:37, nakedness emphasizes Israel's and Babylon's significant declines, falls from being seen as respectable national powers to being judged as despicable prostitutes by all who beheld them among the nations. They became objects of wondering scorn rather than of emulation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Seven)
Here we have the Bible's first sermon. This is what Abel heard, believed, and submitted to. The same instruction merely informed Cain.
Adam and Eve were the first sinners to stand before God and be called into account. In this passage are four elements that apply to what Abel believed. The first element is that, in order for a sinner to stand before God, nakedness must be covered. Nakedness, both spiritual and physical, has wide usage as a symbol. At its best, it indicates innocence, child-like simplicity, and vulnerability. At its worst, it indicates humiliation, guilt, shame, and punishment. Adam and Eve were attempting to hide their humiliation, guilt, and shame when they grabbed a few fig leaves to provide covering.
An interesting spiritual lesson comes in understanding an application of the symbolism here. Adam and Eve threw together as a covering whatever was handy at the moment. What they chose to cover themselves with physically was totally inadequate as a spiritual covering. God immediately rejected their effort, which is the main instruction of this vignette.
A secondary teaching is that many carnal people today think it does not matter what they physically wear when they come before God at church services. Oh, yes, it does! These days, people arrive at church to worship wearing all kinds of casual clothing. In fact, many churches invite them to do so, advertising themselves as "casual"! Sometimes this reflects a matter of ignorance; they just do not know any better. At other times, it reveals a serious matter of disrespect for the primary covering—Christ's sacrifice, as we shall see shortly.
It is good to remember the overall principle to appear before God covered with acceptable covering. The symbolic instruction carries through to both physical and spiritual applications, and the person who cares what God thinks will do his best to conform to Him. God covered Adam and Eve with truly fine clothing. That is our example.
The second element Genesis 3 reveals takes us a step further spiritually in regard to the covering: What humans devise in terms of covering spiritual nakedness is, in reality, worthless. The third element clarifies this further: God Himself must supply the only covering that is spiritually adequate.
The fourth element is that the only adequate spiritual covering is by means of death. As in the first element, there are two lines of instruction. The first leads to the necessity of the second, if life is to continue. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The underlying principle is that we are always to give of our best to the Master. When we fail, the death penalty is imposed. This, then, brings forth a second teaching: In a spiritual sense, the entire human race sinned in Adam and Eve, who represented all mankind at the time. Since the wages of sin is death, and all have subsequently sinned, all of us must receive that wage—or another, an innocent One on whom death has no claim because He never sinned, must substitute for us.
However, we find it clearly spelled out in Romans that there must be a link between us and the Substitute (Romans 4:1-4, 11-12, 16, 19-20, 23-25; 5:1-2).
Faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the link between us and God's forgiveness, which provides the acceptable spiritual covering necessary to be received into God's presence and receive the gift of life.
The second aspect of the fourth element also involves another death—ours. In this case, it is not a literal death but a spiritual one:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? . . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. (Romans 6:1-2, 6-8)
This death is achieved through repentance because one believes he is a sinner in need of God's forgiveness, having broken His law and earned death.
What we have just reviewed must have been taught to Cain and Abel, probably by Adam. How do we know this? Because Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel offered by faith, and faith comes by hearing. He heard the divine words given by God to Adam and Eve, which were passed to him, and Abel believed. Cain heard the same words, but did not believe as Abel did.
More proof is recorded following Cain's rejection. God says to him in Genesis 4:7, "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." God clearly indicates a choice between right and wrong. Good and evil faced Cain and Abel. The one brother by faith chose what was right in God's eyes, while the other chose what was right in his own eyes. In essence, he chose death.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Three)
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