“8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.
9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
The line “God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” gives the impression of a scenario where God habitually visits earth to stroll casually through His newly created Garden for no good reason, other than to periodically catch up for a chat with Adam and Eve. The scenario that this passage paints comes from only a small mistranslation, but ends up creating an entirely false picture of the nature of God.
The most poignant reason why this common understanding has to be false, is that it implicitly implies that God was wholly ignorant of the profound transgression of Man’s sin which has just transpired. Surely God would be immediately storming through the garden to confront Adam and Eve in light of the monumental sin that had just occurred, not merely strolling through the Garden enjoying the ‘cool of the day’!
Some may say that the reason why this passage doesn’t show the all-seeing God immediately reacting to chastise Adam and Eve for their transgression is because God was just pretending to be oblivious to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, meandering through the Garden until He saw them and that their nakedness was covered.
But it is surely wrong to suggest that the omniscient God was merely feigning ignorance. Surely it is a great insult to God to charge Him of such wanton duplicity. Certainly of all the times for straight talking, it would be after Adam and Eve have just corrupted God’s entire creation with their sin!
I turn now to what I believe is a far more consistent, logical and textually accurate translation. I remember reading a commentary which briefly mentioned the following interpretation, but I have taken the liberty to flesh it out a lot more. The following is a literal transliteration into English of what the Hebrew texts actually says in verse 8; “Then they heard sound of Yahweh Elohim walking in garden in breeze of the day”
In most versions of the Bible we read the word ‘cool’ in verse 8 of the passage at the top of this article. But when we following the more literal Bible translation of above, we see a different word used instead of ‘cool’; “at the breeze of the day.” Initially the difference between ‘cool’ and ‘breeze’, may seem to be of trivial importance in the context of the whole passage, but we will soon see that the literal interpretation of ‘breeze’ actually results in some profound changes in how to read the entire passage.
Looking closer at the actual Hebrew word in question, ‘xwr, ‘, or ‘ruwach’ which is pronounced ‘roo'-akh’, we start to see a totally different picture being painted. Strong’s Concordance defines ‘xwr,' ‘as meaning ‘wind’ or ‘breath’, or even a ‘violent exhalation’, and ‘spirit’. Clearly this is entirely different to ‘cool’. Importantly these definitions are alluding to something far more than anything like temperature. Rather we see in these definitions some characteristics of God Himself; His breath or spirit, which the Bible often says will materialise as physical wind.
So why then do many Bible version chose to translate ‘xwr,’ into the inaccurate English word ‘cool’? Well one can surmise that textual editors felt that the literal Hebrew wording of “in the breeze of the day” is actually referring to the typical breeze of the evening which certainly is cool and pleasant to relax in after a warm day. In this context the common wording of ‘in the cool of the day’ may seem to flow a lot better, even though it is entirely wrong and misleading.
There is also another significant error in the common translation at the top of this article, which reads “they heard the voice of the Lord God walking”. The obvious error with this translation is that you can not describe the action of a person walking as a ‘voice’! When you look closer to the Hebrew text you see that it doesn’t say ‘voice’ at all, but rather the literal translations of the Hebrew use the English terms ‘noise’ or ‘sound’; “they heard the sound of Yahweh Elohim”. In light of the correct term ‘breeze’ instead of ‘cool’ as was just discussed, the term ‘sound’ here makes more sense. It is far more accurate to say that Adam and Eve heard ‘the sound of the breeze of God walking through the garden’ then it is to say that ‘they heard the voice of God walking’! Adam didn’t hear the voice of God pleasantly enquiring of Adam’s whereabouts, rather he heard the terrible sound of the approaching almighty wind of God which is what caused Adam and Eve to cower and hide in utter fear.
Now looking into the context of the passage, there are two important things to note when discussing how Scripture describes God coming or manifesting on earth.
The first thing to note is that it is quite common to read of God manifesting physically on earth accompanied by, and speaking through, the wind, especially violent and stormy winds (I Kings 19:11, Job 38:1). This is the typical symbolism that the Bibles authors like to employ. When the author talks of a wind or breeze in the context of God being on earth, then this is always a symbolic reference to the physical characteristic of God’s presence, which is physical as both touch and sound. So knowing this, it then makes perfect sense to translate xwr as ‘breeze’ rather than ‘cool’, especially when Adam is said to have “heard” the sound of God coming. Adam heard the stormy wind of God’s presence coming his way!
The second point to note in this discussion is that God only ever physically comes to earth to pass judgement and execute punishment. God is never described in the Bible as physically turning up on earth for a leisurely evening stroll or cordial chat. Even Christ said that His ministry on earth was not of peace, but instead He came to judge the world and cause division (John 9:39, Matthew 10:34-36). Certainly God communicates benign messages of love and blessing to us on earth through the prophets and the Word, but He only ever manifests physically on earth for malign purposes.
In light of all this, the passage in question makes a whole lot more sense. We can be sure that the passage is most certainly not describing God nonchalantly strolling through
and just happening to serendipitously stumble upon Man’s sin after noticing the
guys had covered their nakedness. Rather the truth is that having witnessed Man’s apostasy from heaven,
God came storming through the Garden in an almighty rage ready to dispense some
almighty judgement. Eden
So if we are confident in these two points, that God always comes to earth both a) girded in violent wind and b) solely to dispense Divine judgement, then we can also be confident in the error of the conventional translation of Genesis 3:8 of God both a) pleasantly strolling along in Eden, and doing so b) in the ‘cool’ of the evening.
The context of a passage is the key to an accurate translation. So too here, when we discover the true context, then we discover a far more convincing translation. Context, context, context.
So to conclude, the standard interpretation is found severely wanting. Why would God be leisurely strolling through
when He knew of Adam and Eve’s great transgression? This makes no sense. Instead
the correct translation that I expound upon here tells a far more accurate and consistent
story. God knew full well of their sin, and He immediately rushed to earth in a
great wind to confront Adam and Eve, and they could hear the terrible presence
of God roaring through the Garden heading straight for them! They knew what
they were in for! So they quickly hid from God’s almighty presence. Eden