Saturday, July 12, 2014

"In the Cool of the Day"

In the Biblical account of the fall of Adam and Eve a curious detail is included in the narrative that seems somewhat out of place. After eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve hear God's voice as they are walking "in the cool of the day" (see Genesis 3:8). Why does it matter what time of the day it was that the voice was heard? It may be that the phrase has not been rendered into English in the manner in which the author of Genesis intended.

Jeffrey M. Bradshaw comments on this phrase in volume one of his commentary on the book of Moses entitled In God's Image and Likeness: Ancient and Modern Perspectives On the Book of Moses. This is what he has to say:

"The phrase can be translated as 'in the wind, breeze, spirit, or direction' of the day--in other words, the voice is coming from the west, the place where the sun sinks." (259)

The word from which the word "cool" is translated is ruach (רוח) which is generally translated as "spirit", "wind" or "breath" but indeed can be translated as "cool" (as wind has a cooling effect) or as "quarter (of wind), side" (Strong's H7307), hence "direction". It seems to make the most sense that the author of the Genesis account intended "direction" for ruach as that interpretation places the account squarely in the context of the temple. Earlier in the garden of Eden story the narrator mentions that God planted a garden "eastward" in Eden (Genesis 2:8). The question that every reader should ask is: eastward from where?

It is well known that the temple was thought of as a microcosm of creation. The Holy of Holies represented God's abode and represented day one of the creation. The creation of the earth commenced in the Holy of Holies and was directed from it and thus is seen from its perspective. Just outside the Holy of Holies (to the east) was the Holy Place which represented the Garden of Eden. Therefore, when the scriptural account states that the garden was planted "eastward" it means that it was planted eastward from the Holy of Holies where God was located.

In like manner, then, when Genesis 3:8 states that Adam and Eve heard God's voice from the west it has reference to the fact that the Holy of Holies was west of the Holy Place and was the place from which God's voice would be heard since it was his abode. Understanding that the stories of the creation of the earth and the fall of mankind are set in the temple is crucial to understanding these accounts.

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