Genesis 3 is probably too familiar. Serpent lies. Eve eats. Adam joins. God walks. Humans hide and blame. God curses and promises. God covers and drives out.

I wonder what that covering was like for Adam, Eve too, but particularly Adam. For a long time, I envisioned the animal skins were simply covering Adam and Eve with something better than their leaves. But that leaves the story pretty flat; there’s no human element to it.

The more I began to think about it, the more disturbing the story became. To get those skins, God performed the first sacrifice. He slaughtered his own creation, his good creation, to make those coverings. And the clothes shouldn’t be sanitized. They wouldn’t have been nicely tanned leather. Contrary to what I’d pictured for so long, with the help of Sunday School flannelgraph, I imagine God took the skins directly from the animals and draped them over Adam and Eve. Heavy, smelly, still dripping, a visceral reminder of the cost of their sin. That seems more plausible than nicely tanned leather garments.

What would that have done to Adam? Apart from probably just feeling and smelling gross, I think Adam may have had a deep guttural, emotional reaction. Forgive the obvious, but chapter two happens right before chapter three (we shouldn’t stop reading the story at the chapter breaks). Remember what happens in chapter two? Adam is alone and God says that’s not good. So he brings all the animals to Adam to name them. But the purpose wasn’t just to name the animals, that particular scene closes with the revelation that no partner was found for Adam. The next scene opens on Adam asleep and minus a rib. When he awakes, Eve is standing next to him.

It’s easy to read the naming episode quickly, maybe envisioning Adam viewing a parade of animals, originality and imagination running low as the 1,582nd animal marched past. I have a hard time believing that’s how the naming happened. Permit me a little speculation—okay, a little more speculation.

In Adam’s unfallen world the animals weren’t afraid of people (that doesn’t happen until chapter 9). So when God brought the animals to Adam, I think we should picture close and intimate contact. How else do you know it’s not suitable as a helper?

To name them, Adam needed to know them. To know them, he had to spend time with them. Adam named the animals. He knew them. They were his animals. Adam didn’t experience wildlife the way we do, from a distance and with a good pair of binoculars. God brought them to Adam. There was connection, familiarity, intimacy. He stroked the mane of the lion, listened to the song of the robin as it sat on his shoulder, fed the elephant by hand, and let the skunks, rabbits, and raccoons play on him in the meadow.

Adam and the animals were part of the same world, in the world together. When God draped Adam and Eve with those skins, they would have known exactly who they were wearing.

The grace and mercy the cross of Jesus offers us is nearly inexpressible. But that cost is also sometimes very distant. I’m not sure I understand the cost in any tangible way. Not like Adam and Eve would have as they inhaled the scent of their new clothes; literally felt the weight of their covering; and realized someone was missing from the garden.

J.R. Hudberg

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