Published: 5 April 2021

Wearing The Sacrifice

Have you ever noticed that our first reaction after committing sin is to cover it up? It’s a universal response to violating accepted rules of behavior. This is true for adults as well as small children. When we do something wrong, we don’t want anyone else to notice.

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Gen. 3:7 ESV)

When we do wrong, our natural inclination is to hide or eliminate the consequences. After Adam and Eve sinned their very first recorded act was an attempt to clothe themselves. It seems they felt an instinctive need to cover their nakedness. Clearly, there was a direct connection between their sin and their attempt to cover. 

They made loincloths of fig leaves which only covered their reproductive organs. As is always the case when humans try to “fix” their sins, their coverings were inadequate. God intervened and made alternative clothing for them. 

“Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21 NKJV)

Why didn’t God just add more leaves?

It is interesting that God chose to clothe them with tunics (כְּתֹּנֶת kethoneth) of animal skins. By definition “kethoneth” was a long shirt-like garment that probably covered from the neck to the knee.[1]Wilhelm Gesenius, Samuel P. Tregelles, and James Strong. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 420. If God’s concern was covering more of their nakedness than Adam and Eve had covered with their leaves, He could have done that by adding more leaves. Is there a reason why God required animals to give up their skins (i.e. the animals died to clothe Adam and Eve) as opposed to using some other means to cloth them?

Animal skins would be more durable and therefore more practical than leaves, but that seems a very mundane reason for God to take the life of His beloved creatures. God had told them that in the day they sinned they would die, but this did not happen. Why did God not take their life? Let’s look at what we know and attempt to draw some conclusions.

God Himself made them garments of skin (Gen 3:21). This implies that an animal or animals were killed to accomplish this. If so, Gen 3:21 would appear to be the origin of the practice of animal sacrifice. Was it the loving kindness (grace) of God which prevented Adam and Eve’s death? Was the animal, which was innocent, killed in their place? It would seem so and presumably would have been a distressing sight for Adam and Eve to see the animals they once cared for dying so that their nakedness could be covered up. It would have been a sobering realization for them to understand what their defiance had led to.

Sin results in death

The very clothing that they wore would be a constant reminder of their guilt. The need to continually kill an innocent animal due to subsequent sins would also be a constant reminder of their guilt. The killing of each innocent animal from that time forward would conceivably have one of two possible impacts on Adam and Eve and their descendants. 

  1. The killing of the animal would remind them that their actions and choices are the cause of the animal’s death. This would have the result of making them sober minded with the result of softening their heart. 
  2. The repeated killing of animals could have become commonplace with the result of them mechanically going through the motions which would have resulted in a hardening of their hearts.

Sin results in cover ups

The need to “cover” seems to be a natural result of sin. Adam and Eve attempted to cover their nakedness. Adam attempted to cover his irresponsibility by blaming Eve and Eve, in turn, blamed the serpent. God clothed them both which leads one to ask the question, “Did the covering of their nakedness symbolize a covering of their sin?” 

The word “atone” or “atonement” (כַּפֵּ֣ר, kafar) appears over 100 times in the Old Testament. The basic meaning is “to cover” with the idea of appeasing, making amends, averting disaster.[2]Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Accordance electronic ed., version 4.5. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906. It seems a good case could be made that God’s covering of their physical nakedness symbolizes the covering of their sin. The blood of the innocent animal is shed in place of the guilty human. This blood covers (appeases, makes amends, averts disaster) the sin like clothing covers nakedness. We can also deduce that only the sacrifice of something that had within it the “breath of life” was sufficient. 

Like God, but no longer with God

Adam and Eve now have what they sought for. They are now like God (Gen 3:22), but they got more than they bargained for. 

“The author uses irony to show the folly of humanity’s fall. He shows that even though the human quest to “be like God” (3:5–7) was obtained, the goal itself proved to be undesirable. The man and the woman, who had been created “like God” in the beginning (1:26), found themselves, after the Fall, curiously “like God”— but no longer “with God” in the Garden.”[3]Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (p. 110). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)

This is the nature of sin. In trying to grasp what we have determined to be good, we are always dealt a reversal full of unintended consequences. We can’t fix the things we have broken by our sins no matter how hard we try. We are simply incapable of making things good again. Only God can do that. 

Wearing the Sacrifice

God clothed Adam and Eve in the skins of the animals that were sacrificed for their sins. Essentially, they wore their sacrifices as garments. This was surely not a point that Paul missed when he wrote his letter to the Galatians..

For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment. (Gal. 3:27 HCSB)

Like Adam and Eve, the people of God also wear what, or Who, was sacrificed for us.

References

References
1 Wilhelm Gesenius, Samuel P. Tregelles, and James Strong. Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1991), 420.
2 Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Accordance electronic ed., version 4.5. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906.
3 Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (p. 110). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.