Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cool of the day?

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3:8, ESV).

To my knowledge, Meredith Kline was the first scholar to challenge the traditional rendering of Gen 3:8. Rather than a refreshing afternoon breeze, he thought it denoted a storm theophany. Jeffrey Niehaus, who developed that interpretation, renders the verse: “Then the man and his wife heard the thunder of Yahweh God as he was going back and forth in the garden in the wind of the storm and they hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the garden”.

And that's been defended by John Sailhamer and Douglas Stuart. John Walton is sympathetic, but noncommittal. John Collins is critical, but that's because he's invested in the theory that Gen 2:5 reflects the dry season. 

Linguistically, there's not much to go on one way or the other. However, a storm theophany would certainly fit the judicial context. 

If, moreover, Adam and Eve had never experienced rain or thunderstorms (Gen 2:5), then a storm theophany would be all the more terrifying. 

It would be similar to the inaugural theophany that Ezekiel witnessed (Ezk 1). From afar, that appeared to be an electrical storm, but as it drew near, it was clearly far more than that. Ps 18 provides a poetic description. 


  1. Yeah, I'm not sure why the dry season reading (which I am partial to) would be evidence against a storm-theophany. Part of the definition of a theophany is that it is not part of the normal course of events. God manifests in the world via the use of natural things like fire, earthquakes, etc. But theophanies aren't simply the normal occurrence of those things. So the fact that it is dry-season would not in any way be relevant to whether or not God would appear in a storm during that time.

  2. You should also include C.L.K. Grundke, A Tempest in a Teapot? Genesis III 8 Again, Vetus Testamentum, 51 (2001) 548-51 as a negative voice responding to Niehaus. In my opinion, his argument is much more effective than Collins.