Genesis 3:21 - The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife ...

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
This verse has been the subject to many misunderstandings and misguided depictions of Adam and Eve. These have been the result of a lack of understanding of what is being communicated within the symbolism of this important parable.

Let's first clarify the key elements of the Hebrew translation. Then we can review the symbolism involved:

What are 'garments of skin'?

The word עשה (`asah) is translated to "made" here, but the word means to produce, do, work, act with effect or effect. So "made" is appropriate but in the context of activity, which includes designing and producing.

"Garments" is being translated from כתנת (kĕthoneth), which is specifically used in Hebrew to describe a tunic or undergarment - worn underneath the clothes - as confirmed by Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon.

"Of skin" is translated from עור (`owr), but specifically means human skin, the skin of the gums, and more appropriately, the physical body, according to the Hebrew Lexicon. While it can also mean the skin of animals, such a usage is more obscure.

"For Adam and his wife" is translated from אדם ('Adam) and אשה ('ishshah). The word אשה ('ishshah) can refer to 'woman,' 'wife,' 'female,' 'each' or 'every' according to the lexicon.

"Clothed them" comes from the Hebrew word לבש (labash), which refers to becoming clothed, covered or enveloped.

While this seems like a very straight-forward translation, there is a deeper meaning here, and this deeper meaning is revealed by the use of the word כתנת (kĕthoneth), which describes undergarments as mentioned. In other words, a covering over nakedness - which symbolizes purity.

Why would Adam and Eve, who were previously naked according to the parable, suddenly become covered up?

The use of this word indicates that the covering is being used symbolically. And the symbolism is cemented by the use of the Hebrew word, עור (`owr), which means either the human skin or the human body as mentioned above.

The interpretation of animal skins here is not only odd, but it is not practical. Why? Because the word before it says that God actively "made" the skin that covered them. If the verse were referring to animal skins, then it would have indicated that God hunted down a couple of animals and skinned them.

What does 'skin' refer to here?

This verse clearly indicates that the skin was produced by God. This clearly indicates not some kind of garment, but the human body itself.

Consider that the human body is like a covering over the pure spirit. The human body was designed and produced by God. The human body was designed to envelop, clothe, or cover the spiritual living being, just as a suit of armor is designed to envelop, clothe or cover the body, and just as an automobile is designed to envelop, clothe or cover a driver.

This is also consistent with the other symbolism used in this parable, as discussed with Genesis 3:1-5. Eden is not a physical place on planet earth, and Adam and Eve were not the first people born on the planet 5,000 years ago. This notion has been disproven by numerous human remains dating back hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Rather, this part of Genesis is an allegorical story that describes how we fell from the spiritual world to the physical world and took on these temporary physical bodies.

One can scientifically arrive at the understanding that we are not the physical body. We are each spiritual beings, temporarily occupying a physical body, much as a driver temporarily drives an automobile. Once the driver is behind the wheel, the driver steers the car. Sometimes the driver even begins to identify with the car.

In the same way, once within the physical body, by God's design, we begin to identify ourselves with the body. We then begin to seek out our happiness as though we were these physical bodies.

Why are so many of us unhappy here?

We are seeking happiness outside of our natural habitat. Consider, for example, this analogy:

Let’s say a fish were found flopping on a boat dock, having inadvertently jumped onto the dock from the water. Several people surround the fish. One says, “he’s gasping. Maybe he’s got a disease of the gills.” Another says, “he’s flopping around. Maybe he has a problem with his fins.” Another says, “he’s flopping around like he wants food. Maybe he is hungry.” And another says, “he’s flapping his tail. Maybe he is anxious and needs a comfortable place to rest.”

Are any of them right? The fish may indeed have some of these issues, but the central problem is that the fish is out of its normal habitat, the water. When a fish is out of the water, it gasps, flops and flaps around in desperation because it is outside of its natural element - water.

In the same way, we are each spirit-persons who have become enveloped within a physical body. After some time in it, we begin to identify with this temporary vehicle – we think that our body is “me.” Once we misidentify ourselves, we begin to seek our happiness within that identity. This leads to depression, anxiety and other issues, simply because we are misidentifying ourselves, and are outside of our natural element – the spiritual realm.

That begs the question of why God sent us here to the physical world, and "clothed" us within these physical bodies.

Genesis is clear through its symbolism, that we are here because we wanted to be God. The symbolic snake clarifies this in Genesis 3:5:
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
While this has been dubiously translated, the meaning is clear: The snake is clarifying that by eating the fruit, they "will be like God."

Then, of course, they eat the fruit after the snake says this. What does this tell us? It tells us that Adam and Eve (symbolizing each of us as individuals and as a community) each wanted to be like God. We wanted to "be like God."

And isn't this what we are each trying to do within these physical bodies? Just look around. Each of us is trying to find our little "niche" where we are special. We want to be appreciated. We want to be loved by others. We want to be wealthy, powerful, famous. We want to be the center of attention in some way or another. In other words, we each want to carve out our own scenario where we can be in God's position: We want to be the center of the universe.

We want to stake out our own little "kingdom" where we are king. For some of us, it is our family. For others, it is our occupation and career. For others, it is our community club or our sports team. For others, it is our physical enjoyment of something - perhaps our next meal or our next sexual encounter. For many, it is a combination of these and maybe others.

All of these efforts are the same: They are self-centered. They are aimed at making ME happy. This is the expression of our desire to be God.

Why? Because God is the center of universe, including the spiritual realm. He is loved by everyone there. He is the Enjoyer of everything. He is served. He is given pleasure. This is because He has the position of God. And we don't.

What is our natural position then? We are God's servitors. God created us - the spiritual beings - to exchange a loving relationship with, and lovingly care for Him, according to our unique relationship with Him.

Doesn't love require freedom?

But because love requires freedom, God also gave us the freedom to love Him or not. We have the freedom to care for Him or not. And since we have a little piece of God within us, we have the potential to want to become Him.

So those of us who have chosen not to love Him and care for Him - symbolized by our disregarding His instructions and eating the fruit - He sent us away to the physical world and gave us temporary physical bodies to express our desires to try to enjoy like Him, separate from Him.

But it's not working out so well. None of us are happy here, even those who have achieved their wildest dreams and become wealthy, famous and powerful. We are all still empty here, as we seek fulfillment where there is none. Regardless of what we have - whether it be a tight-knit family, a nice car, big house, great job, lots of so-called friends, great career and all the trappings - we are still empty here. Why?

Because this is not our natural position. Our natural position is spiritual, and our home is the spiritual realm. And our role is loving and caring for the Supreme Being within our unique relationship with Him.

This is why Moses, Jesus and all of God's representatives have taught us the same clear message:
“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:33, Luke 10:27)

This is why these texts discuss God and His activities in an intimate fashion. The two first words of the verse, LORD, and God, are being translated from two Names of God, יהוה (Yĕhovah) and אלהים (Elohiym). Contrary to the speculative teaching that God has no Name, this phrase indicates that God not only has a Name, but has multiple Holy Names - including the Holy Name of Yahweh (or Jehovah) and Elohim. Both of these terms are based upon relating to God with a manner of love and devotion.

Consider another translation of this verse in Chapter Three of the New Book of Genesis.