by Al Maxey

Issue #565 ------- February 15, 2013
Two of far nobler shape erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native honor clad
in naked majesty seem'd lords of all.

John Milton (1608-1674)
Paradise Lost

Fashions for the Fallen
From Fig Leaves to Animal Skins

George Herbert (1593-1633), the Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest, once observed, "Nothing wears clothes, but Man; nothing doth need but he to wear them." Though some might argue with the latter point, the reality of the first takes us back to the very dawn of man's existence. In the beginning, Adam and Eve "were both naked, and they felt no shame" (Gen. 2:25). Plato, Virgil and Ovid regarded this as the Golden Age of Man: a time characterized by the pristine purity of all things, and the absolute innocence of mankind. There was no shame, as there was no sin. Man was at peace with his friends the animals, and he walked and talked in this paradise with his Creator. There was no need for any protective covering, as the weather was agreeable and there was nothing to assault the flesh of these hominids. Further, there was no reason to hide the perfection of the bodies created for them by God. As with all things divinely formed: "God saw that it was good." Thus, "man unfallen required no covering" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 1, p. 76].

With the fall, however, man beheld for the first time his own imperfection, and thus sought to cover himself from the sight of his Creator. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves" (Gen. 3:7). They later sought to hide themselves from God: "I heard You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid" (vs. 10). As a result of their sin, God banished them from the garden. Before doing so, however, "the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" (vs. 21). "Nakedness is here the expression of perfect innocence" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 7], but with the arrival of sin came the departure of innocence. "Clothes came in with sin ... and are the badges of our poverty and infamy" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Thus, fallen man was in need of a "covering," which first took the form of fig leaves (his own attempt at a covering) and then animal skins (the covering provided by God) and then ultimately (which the former prefigured) the covering provided by the blood of Christ (clothed in Him). There is much in this account that is of spiritual significance, which significance we are able to perceive through the subsequent revelation of Scripture (although how much Adam and Eve perceived at the time is hard to say).

There are some interesting and informative word plays and contrasts in this account that must not be overlooked. For example, "there is an alliteration between arom and arum," which "is an obvious play on the two words" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 49]. The first Hebrew word appears in Gen. 2:25 and means "naked." The second Hebrew word appears in Gen. 3:1 and means "crafty." Thus, we see these two similar sounding/appearing terms signifying the vast difference in nature of the innocent couple in the garden and the devious serpent. "Man is arom = naked; the serpent is arum = crafty. Thus in guileless simplicity our first parents fell in with the tempting serpent, who, in obvious contrast with their untried innocence, is described as a being of especial subtlety" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 1, p. 23]. "The effect of such a pun is both to draw the reader into the story by providing an immediate connecting link with the previous narrative and to provide a presage to the events and outcome of the subsequent story. The link provides an immediate clue to the potential relationship between the serpent's 'cunning' and the innocence implied in the 'nakedness' of the couple. The story unfolds the nature of that relationship" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2. p. 49].

It is also important to note "that two different but related words are used to describe the 'nakedness' of the man and his wife in this narrative" [ibid]. "There is a difference in meaning between arom ('naked') in Gen. 2:25 and erom ('naked') in Gen. 3:7" [ibid]. The first term simply states the fact of a body unclothed: naked/nude. The second term, however, as used in Scripture, denotes far more. It is a moral and spiritual "nakedness" before one's God. Thus, Adam and Eve did not hide from God because their physical bodies were unclothed (arom), but because their sinful action had exposed and laid bare their imperfection before the Almighty God. It was this nakedness (erom) that caused them to want to hide from the Lord's perceptive gaze. It was this kind of moral and spiritual "nakedness" that God accused Israel of as He cast her from her homeland and sent her away into captivity (Ezekiel 16:39; 23:29). "In distinguishing the first state of man's nakedness (arom) from the second (erom), the author has introduced a subtle yet perceptible clue to the story's meaning. The effect of the Fall was not simply that the man and the woman came to know they were 'naked' (arom). The effect is rather that they came to know that they were 'naked' (erom) in the sense of being under God's judgment" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2. p. 49]. Thus, the scene is set for the unfolding of the story of redemption, which will run like a scarlet thread through the remainder of Scripture.

That ultimate redemption of man -- his recovery from the Fall by being restored to a state of righteousness in Christ Jesus -- would be prefigured in the covering of skins provided by God to Adam and Eve. Man sought on his own to cover that spiritual "nakedness" with fig leaves, but they were insufficient to the task. The only sufficient covering must be initiated by God, and it would require a blood sacrifice. This shows us that we cannot provide the "covering" for our sins through our own effort, but that the only "covering" that will truly atone for sin is the covering provided by the slaying of the Lamb of God, so that we might be wrapped in Him. John Wesley (1703-1791), in his Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, observed, "These coats of skin had a significancy. The beasts, whose skins they were, must be slain; slain before their eyes to shew them what death is ... and to typify the great sacrifice which in the latter end of the world should be offered once for all." "Perhaps they silently and sorrowfully watched as God selected two of their animal friends, probably two sheep, and slew them there, shedding the innocent blood before their eyes. They learned, in type, that an 'atonement' (or 'covering') could only be provided by God and through the shedding of blood" [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings, p. 130]. Thus, the innocent died for the guilty, that the "nakedness" of the latter might be covered. "That all this was comprehended with perfect fullness and clearness by the pardoned pair it would be foolish to assert; but, in a fashion accommodated to their simple intelligences, the germ of this doctrine was exhibited by the coats of skin with which they were arrayed" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 1, p. 75]. We today, through the inspired revelation provided in the Scriptures, can perceive much more clearly, no doubt, the spiritual significance of this divine action. "In the teaching of the gospel scheme the providing of a sinner with such a covering as he requires must ever be the work of God" [ibid]. Salvation is of God; it is not of man. The covering we seek to provide ourselves will never rise above "fig leaves" in comparison to the covering graciously provided by the slain Lamb of God.

"The Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21, ESV). Did God Himself actually make these garments? Some believe so, although others feel He instructed angels to do so. Others suggest He instructed the man and women in how to make them. The latter "preaches" well, in that part of the punishment of the sinful couple would be to choose from among their animal friends which would die, and to take the lives of these animals, which would show the high cost of their sin. They would thus, in a way, feel the intense pain of their own transgression. Drs. Keil and Delitzsch suggest that the phrase in Gen. 3:21 should "not be interpreted with such bare literality as that God sewed the coats with His own fingers" [Commentary on the OT in Ten Volumes, vol. 1, p. 106]. John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote, "It is not proper so to understand the words, as if God had been a furrier, or a servant to sew clothes" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 1, p. 73]. There is also much speculation as to which animals were used in the making of these garments of skin. The Targum of Jonathan (an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible that was made in the 2nd or 3rd centuries A.D.) speculates that these garments were made from the skin of the tempting serpent. Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th century Church Father, believed these garments were made from the bark of trees. Others feel no animals were slain at all, but that God fashioned these garments miraculously out of nothing. I suppose it doesn't really matter, although a sheep would certainly be an appropriate type of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God (as one sees in the account of God providing Abraham a ram caught in a thicket to offer in the place of Isaac -- Genesis 22:13).

Some teach that when God clothed Adam and Eve it was for the purpose of establishing a "law of modesty." The precept was thus eternally established, they maintain, that our bodies must be "covered," as any showing of the flesh constitutes sin in the sight of God. Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, for example, writes, "This act of God, incidentally, serves as a basis for all order and decency in the matter of dress under all circumstances. If the dress of man or woman does not cover their nakedness, but suggests or reveals such charms as have an essentially sensual appeal, then it does not serve the purpose for which the Lord intended it in the beginning, and it becomes a tool in the service of sin" [Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 1, p. 10]. Frankly, I believe this completely misses the actual purpose or intent of our Lord's providing Adam and Eve a "covering." It focuses too much on the sexual, and too little on the spiritual aspects of the account, and in so doing fails to properly perceive the grace of God's action, which covered their spiritual "nakedness" (erom) by virtue of a divinely ordained sacrifice: the innocent dying for the guilty to cover over the shame of the transgression. In this act we find one of the first dramatic prophecies of the atoning work of our Messiah, who is our propitiation (covering). Thus covered (at the cost of His life), we may again walk and talk with our God in sweet fellowship!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Texas:

In reference to women wearing pants (Reflections #564), do you consider the prohibitions of cross-gender dressing in Deut. 22:5 to be binding on Christians today? Also, what do you think of "comedic" or "dramatic" cross-dressing? As an example, at a ladies retreat several of us men put on a "fashion show" where we dressed up in women's clothes, makeup and hats. Two elders also participated, and it was organized by an elder's wife. Everyone enjoyed it, and it was all in good fun. By the way, I have always enjoyed your Reflections articles!

From a Reader in Texas:

I love the title of your last article -- "Hellbound Hussies in Pants." This reminds me of a story told by Joe Beam. When he was a young preacher, a woman came to speak at some sort of function in their church (clearly not at a "worship service," as the heavens and earth are still actually in place). She was wearing a pantsuit, very fashionable at that time, which consisted of a long top with matching pants. The elders had a fit, and they assigned Joe the task of telling her that she was dressed "inappropriately." He was nervous about telling her, but she took it well and said she would "handle the problem." She went to the restroom and removed her pants, leaving only the long top (which looked like a short dress). The "wise old elders" had no problem with her attire then. I'll refrain from any personal comments here, as I'm sure you can guess what tone they would take!!

From a Reader in California:

I grew up in that insanity!! A very interesting, and telling, thing occurred at a Church of Christ Labor Day meeting one year, many years ago when polyester "pantsuits" (with big, wide legs) were in vogue. So were polyester dresses that came above the knees. Some women attended the Labor Day meeting wearing pantsuits. An immediate outcry went up from some of the men, who proclaimed "indecent dress." We were meeting in a school gymnasium at the time, which had a stage at one end. One of the brave men defended the women in pantsuits, and he offered a "test" to those whose women were adorned in short dresses. He said, "I'll tell you what -- let every woman here today line the stage, then turn around and bend over. We'll then vote to see who is dressed modestly." Nobody took the bait. And, sadly, most of them never learned a thing!!

From a Minister in Florida:

I really appreciated your recent Reflections in which you addressed women wearing pants. Many years ago I was in a discussion with another preacher about this subject. He took the position that a woman sinned when she put on pants, because she was wearing "a man's apparel." I told him I would take him to a department store and let him choose a suit, and I would pay for it. I told him the only condition was that he had to choose his suit from the women's department of the store. He said, "I can't do that." When I inquired why, he said, "Because the clothes in that department are designed for women." As he was speaking these words, the look on his face indicated that "a light had come on" in his brain. I don't know that he ever changed his view, but he never brought up the subject again! Indeed, there IS a difference in pants designed for women and pants designed for men, as this preacher finally realized.

From an Elder in Texas:

This was an issue in our brotherhood in the late 60s and early 70s. I remember hearing Mid McKnight address this issue at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene by saying, "I know the difference between men's and women's pants! And ladies, I wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of your pedal pushers!"

From a Reader in Toronto, Canada:

A preacher, who opposed women wearing "pants" (i.e., slacks), was asked by a woman in the congregation if he would be willing to put on a pair of her slacks. His reply was, "No! Of course not! That is women's clothing." Yet, it was "sinful" for the women to wear those very same slacks because they were men's clothing??!! None are so blind as those who refuse to see!

From a Retired Minister in North Carolina:

Almost forty years ago, I preached for a congregation in south Georgia, and, to supplement my meager income from the church, I also served as a substitute teacher at the local high school. In the area was a large black church whose pastor taught that women were not allowed to wear pants. Consequently, the young ladies of his congregation were forced to participate in PE classes while wearing dresses, many of which were often 10-12 inches above the knees (as was the style in those days). Quite often, such as when they did calisthenics, their underpants were exposed during class. I remember very well the comment of the head coach: "These girls can't wear shorts or pants, but it is okay for them to show their underpants for everyone to see?!"

From a Reader in Georgia:

I guess Eve wore feminine fig leaves, while Adam wore masculine fig leaves!! It constantly amazes me to what depths the legalistic mind must descend.

From a Reader in Maine:

Please send me a copy of your new book Immersed By One Spirit. My check is enclosed. Thank you very much. Also, I hope to get to The Tulsa Workshop this year (my first time) and to meet you there! Blessings, brother.

From a Reader in Washington:

Your new Reflections ("Hellbound Hussies in Pants") made me laugh. I'm old enough to remember the discussions about women wearing pants. Personally, I would rather we go back to the garden where everyone was buck naked. Now, that was cool. Back in Jesus' time on earth, men and women pretty much dressed the same. You could tell the difference because men generally were the ones with facial hair. Frankly, I'm convinced that several folks need to get a job so that they have something to occupy their time besides being stupid. By the way, back in my day it was "necked," not "naked." Would love to see you again at The Tulsa Workshop this year, but can't make it in body this year -- I'll have to visit in spirit. Love you, brother.

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