The Christophany In Genesis 3:8 And Its Stunning Meaning
Posted by Job on December 24, 2010
Genesis 3:8 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.
This verse has always fascinated me. How can a voice walk? There are several ways to consider this curiosity. The first and the simplest: bad grammar. By inserting punctuation and a few words, one can arrive at the idea that Adam and Eve heard God’s voice while He was walking in the garden. The problem: such grammatical issues are nonexistent in the Bible. So, one would only mentally construct such a thing because of A) experience in dealing with and interpreting mangled grammar when encountered elsewhere and B) attempting to make this verse fit into some preconceived pattern or construct. However, I will point out that the New Living Translation and the God’s Word Translation do in fact translate Genesis 3:8 in this way.
An alternative: to suggest that the translators made a mistake in translating “qowl” to be voice, and that it should instead read “and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” That is how many other translations do in fact render it, and it is also the opinion of many preachers, including John MacArthur, who states “You cannot hear a voice walking.” Two problems: “qowl” is almost always translated as “voice.” It is translated to be “sound” ten times fewer, and in those cases it is nearly always something that is generated by a non-living or impersonal object (i.e. the sound of a trumpet or the sound of rain). And there is another problem: what does God – who is a Spirit – sound like when He walks that Adam and Eve would discern the sound?
So, consider that they actually did hear a voice walking. How is that possible? Well, consider the Gospel of John. Consider in that gospel when Jesus Christ says that when one sees Him, one sees the Father. Also, consider Jesus Christ when He stated in that gospel that He only spoke what God the Father told Him to speak. And consider where the Gospel of John declares Jesus Christ to be the Word of God. The Gospel of John also stated that the Word of God became a man. And upon becoming a man, the Word of God walked among us.
So, in light of that, how far are we from rendering Genesis 3:8 to be “And they heard Jesus Christ walking in the garden in the cool of the day and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jesus Christ amongst the trees of the garden”? Now there is the issue that in His preincarnate state, the Name Jesus Christ had not yet been given to the Word of God and had not yet been exalted and glorified by God the Father. With that being the case – and also the fact that Genesis 3 is very early in progressive revelation – how else could Jesus Christ have been referred to but the voice of God? So, it is very possible, very likely that Adam and Eve encountered a Christophany in Genesis 3:8.
Please recall that the Holy Spirit was referred to in Genesis 1:2 as “the Spirit of God.” In Hebrew, it is rendered as “Ruach Elohim.” So, “the voice of the Lord God” in Genesis 3:8? Qowl Yahweh Elohim.” Genesis 1:2 = the Spirit of God = the Holy Spirit. Genesis 3:8 = the Voice of God = Jesus Christ. Is there a reason for coming to a different conclusion other than treating voice (qowl) differently from spirit (ruach) in passages that are otherwise constructed the same, and also both refer to God in action? Incidentally, that makes claiming that “qowl” should be translated as “sound” rather than “voice” the equivalent of claiming that “ruach” should be translated as “wind” or “breath” in Genesis 1:2.
Further, a few verses later, in Genesis 3:22, please recall this statement: “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us.” US. Plural. One God? Clearly. We saw how God the Holy Spirit referred to in Genesis 1:2. And it does appear that God the Son was referred to in Genesis 3:8. So, even in these early portions of God’s self-disclosure to mankind, we see unmistakable references to God’s Tri-Unity, the Triune Godhead commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity.
The significance? Well, the preincarnate Jesus Christ arrived on the scene in response to the sin of Adam and Eve. It is fascinating: even in His preincarnate state, Jesus Christ was yet dealing with sin and its consequences in mankind. With that in mind, Jesus Christ’s interactions with Adam and Eve after the fall prefigured or pointed to His later dealing with sin on the cross. Realize that Jesus Christ compassionately, gracefully dealt with the sin and resulting fallen state of Adam and Eve by giving them coats of animal skins to cover their shame (far superior to fig leaf aprons), pointing to His later ministry to mankind. This ministry was prophesied, foretold, in the messianic prophecy given by the preincarnate Christ in Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” So, the preincarnate Christ foretold His own incarnation and death on the cross as the result of the actions of Adam, and that this would result in the defeat of Satan!
But this dealing with sin does not stop there. Please recall that Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John does not only declare Himself to be Savior, but also judge. Indeed, Jesus Christ stated that God the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to God the Son! Well, we see this judgment upon Adam and Eve given by God the Son in Genesis 3:16-19 (the curses) and in Genesis 3:22-24 when He drove them from the Garden! And make no mistake, the judgment of Adam and Eve for sin in Genesis 3:16-19, 22-24 prefigures the judgment of Jesus Christ upon sinful humanity upon His return. The nature of this judgment is given in Revelation 20:13-15, which reads: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” More description of the punishment can be found in Revelation 14:11a, which reads “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night …”
Now in Genesis 3:22-24, the preincarnate Word of God barred Adam and Eve from the tree of life. But Revelation (verse 22:14 and similar) informs us that because of the work of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, the redeemed will have the right to the tree of life. So I ask you: are you redeemed? Make no mistake: just as it was with Adam and Eve in the garden, your sins will be called to account by God’s Voice. Regarding sin, God’s Voice serves as both minister and judge. So that your sins will be forgiven so that you will escape the terrible, eternal wrath of judgment, please