The Naked Truth
A struggle may ensue for you with this chapter (and the next). I reiterate – we are looking at this from a Jewish train of thought and that includes various ways/means of explaining and understanding things. That sounds very cryptic I know, but….as a Christian who believes in the the death and resurrection of Christ I find that I am very fortunate while reading this that it is only strengthening my faith. Just what I have read so far is causing me to understand better some of the words of Jesus. It is making me realize that our Bible is so rich. I did in all honesty have to pull out my Jewish Study Bible from the Jewish Publication Society and refer to another source I use. The ability to cross reference alleviated my concern at the way some things are worded. I know I am not supposed to use commentaries but in this case it sure helped.
Rabbi Fohrman says of Hebrew:
“Every once in awhile, when you are reading a biblical narrative, you will find that the text seems to go out of its way to use a certain word, phrase or idea, consistently and repetitively throughout a story. When this happens, it often indicates that this repetitive element holds a key to the meaning of the narrative. The word or idea in question leads the reader, as it were, to a richer and deeper understanding of the text. It just so happens that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden contains just such a repetitive word. ……It is the Hebrew word arom – nakedness”. The JPS Bible has this word as arummim for nude and arum for shrewd. (see the NOTE at the bottom of post)
Skip several paragraphs here. He starts speaking of a phantom nakedness and says if you missed it, it was probably because you were reading it in English and most of them conceal the missing occurrence of nakedness. Get your Bible and reread Gen 2:25 – 3:1.
“As you read these words, you surely noticed that Adam and Ever were described as unclothed. But you probably didn’t observe anyone else described the “same way”. Because you were reading it in English. Read these verses now when you substitute the Hebrew word for naked (arom).”
And they were both arom, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed. Now the serpent was more arom than any beast of the field.
Whoa, talk about a vivid picture. But before you start hyperventilating, remember, Hebrew words can have more than one meaning. It seems the Torah uses the exact same word in both verses
There is another gentlemen by the name of Skip Moen (at present Dean, Dept. of Biblical Leadership, Master’s International Divinity School) whose teaching I refer to on occasion and his explanation on the word arum contains the following and was very helpful for a fuller understanding between the two:
“The rabbis tell us that the discovery of their nakedness had almost nothing to do with being exposed. Instead, it had everything to do with being revealed. When Adam and Havvah ate from the Tree, they stripped themselves of the covering of the commandment. They cast off the only “clothing” they needed – obedience to God’s word. They were naked because they no longer had the protection afforded by the mitzvah (the commandment). Once again we see that the Jewish conception of the commandments is real, tangible and concrete. Clothed in God’s commandment, they were safe at home. But disobedience stripped them of that clothing and now they weren’t safe anywhere. ………………. We can “see” a bit more of the implications in the use of the Hebrew verb paqah (to open). The pictograph is “mouth + behind + fence.” “To open (mouth) the fence of what is behind (the future).” When they disobeyed, they looked into their future, a future without covering. No man can live without protection. So they tried to cover themselves – and they failed miserably because the only real covering for human beings is God’s commandments. Their eyes were uncovered to the truth of their predicament. They saw that they were uncovered with uncovered eyes.”
If you look at the words exposed and revealed there is a difference. A big difference I see. And to me it is astounding “they saw they were uncovered with uncovered eyes”. That is way different than being exposed. I have found a new respect for the phrase hidden and revealed.
Rabbi Fohrman says: “It just so happens that arom can mean not just naked but cunning, too.” Cunning can include crafty, deceptive, etc.
Of course that put a question in my mind immediately. These words are opposites right? I’m learning to ask the questions. Naked: unclothed, no hiding, self is laid bare for all to see…….Cunning: sly, devious, “cloaks” true intentions, hides behind facade.
Stop at this point and think for a moment about these two words. Apply them to us today. Remember I said a while back that this has helped me to understand people a little better. Why they do what they do and why they act the way they act; right down to why they may say things the way they do. It may be hard for you to see because I am choosing to leave quite a bit out. I pray that you will be encouraged to read this book and seek your own understanding.
Here is a larger excerpt from the end of the Chapter:
“Biologically, of course, a snake really is naked.,,,,,,,,But if we think beyond biology, what would it mean for the snake to be not just cunning, but naked? If “naked” really is the opposite of “cunning”, then it follows that the snake had both opposing qualities: he possessed both honesty and stealth. In other words, the snake really is deceptive; but, on another, perhaps deeper level, he’s very straightforward. It all depends on how you look at him. From one perspective, what he’s saying doesn’t really apply to Adam and Eve, so his words are deceptive to them. But from another perspective, “what you see is what you get.” He’s just telling it like it is – from a snake’s point of view, of course.” ……………There’s one more important question we haven’t asked yet: What’s in it for the snake?”
As we all know, Hebrew is a language written only in consonants. Furthermore, it lacks any punctuation. That means that the nuances of the message are often communicated in changes in the structure of the text. For example, rearranging the word order often tells us what word is the most important. Sometimes a consonant is doubled in order to add something crucial to a word. Sometimes a particle (like na) is added to a verb to change its tone. And sometimes a word in one sentence is connected to a word in another sentence so that the reader can find a thought-relationship between the two.
The difficulty, of course, is that almost all of these subtle alterations are lost in translation. This is especially true when the translation uses different words that are not connected to each other like they are in Hebrew. For example, you will recall that the word translated “unashamed” (arom) in Genesis 2 is directly related to the word translate “cunning” (arum) in Genesis 3. The only difference is the vowels. But we would never see this connection in translation, so we lose the vital relationship between naked Adam and Eve and the naked snake.
You can think of Hebrew like the supporting structure of a building. The steel girders and the concrete foundation hold the whole building together even though, when the building is complete, you never see the supporting structure but everything hangs on it.