Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:20–22

Genesis 3:20–22
20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.  21 The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.  22 And the LORD God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
 (NET Bible)

Cleaning Up the Disaster

A big issue for every one of us is how God will treat us when we rebel against him. And, of course, we all have done so both before and after trusting in Jesus Christ.

Would God have been justified in handing out sudden death? In addition to inflicting consequences for sin, what about divine grace and care? Does God offer further opportunity to fulfill his purposes for humanity or just a life of misery until death?

In the previous post we ended with Genesis 3:17–19 concerning Adam’s punishment for listening to his wife. Genesis 3:20 is about Adam naming Eve, and this is followed by God making garments of skin for the two (Gen. 3:21). One major question about Genesis 3:20 is how it fits the argument of the preceding and following verses. The probable answer appears to be that after God has declared judgment, a portion of humanity’s purpose still lies before the man and woman. Hamilton says, “In spite of man’s sin and disobedience, God’s original command to man to multiply and be fruitful is not withdrawn.”[1] To protect them during this remaining task, the man and woman need protective garments.

In the wreckage caused by sin, a life remains to be lived, difficult though it will be. Adam names his wife “Eve,” a name derived from an ancient Hebrew form of the verb “to live.” This appears to be a hopeful act.

Before implementing his declared judgments, the Lord graciously deals with the needs of the man and his wife (Gen. 3:21). They had no clue of the harsh conditions outside the garden and no knowledge of how to prepare for them. Hamilton says: “Adam and Eve are in need of a salvation that comes from without. God needs to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves. It is important for understanding the drift of this chapter that we note that the clothing precedes the expulsion from the garden. . . . It is probably reading too much into this verse to see in the coats of skin a hint of the use of animals and blood in the sacrificial system of the OT.”[2] We consider a hint to be exactly what the text offers, but not more.

Translation of Gen. 3:22 brings out the issue of how best to understand this verse. Gordon Wenham says, “The sentence ends in mid-air, leaving the listener to supply the rest of God’s thoughts, e.g., ‘Let me expel him from the garden.’”[3]

We have previously considered the identity of “us” (see Genesis 1:26) in the clause “the man has become like one of us” (Gen. 3:22). Wenham says “one of us” refers to “the heavenly beings, including God and the angels.”[4]

Since the man and woman have disobeyed God and have experienced good and evil, what is the risk that now concerns God? Hamilton summarizes: “Taken by itself the wording of v. 22 could suggest the man has not yet eaten of the tree of life. How else is one to explain the use of also . . . in the verse?”[5]

Will the man eat from the tree of life and live forever as a ruined creation? It is possible the man was already thinking of doing just that. God had something much better in mind! Paul tells us, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away– look, what is new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). God’s solution was not to make the best of a bad situation; instead, he provides for a new creation in Christ.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 206-207.

[2] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 207.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 85.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 85.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 209.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!