Clothed by God: Genesis 3:21

clothed by God (2)

For a printable copy of this chapter (9) click here: 8.5×11″; A4 paper

Click here for a pdf of Genesis 13 in Redemptive History: 8.5×11″; A4 paper



c) Gen 3:21: According to the Akkadian tale “Adapa,” the protagonist lost the opportunity to eat the bread and water of life. Then the god Anu clad him in mourning garb before sending Adapa away from his presence. [1]

Throughout human history, clothing has served not only to protect against “thorns and thistles” (Gen 3:18) but also as an indicator of one’s role and social status.

Replacing their inadequate loincloths of fig leaves (Gen 3:7), God provided Adam and Eve with leather “tunics” (ketoneth),[2] long shirts reaching the knees or ankles.[3]

Similar garments remain the clothing of choice for many Middle Eastern people.[4]



Moses mentioned neither animal death nor blood when God made skin garments for Adam and Eve. The emphasis here does not fall upon sacrifice for their sin. In fact, the skins of sacrificial animals were often burned (Lev 9:7–11).

Instead, clothing people in the Ancient Near East comprised an act of investiture, such as for kings and priests during their installation ceremonies (Lev 8:1–10).

Moses clothed Aaron and his sons in tunics (ketoneth) (Exod 28:4), and Nehemiah donated 530 to the priests who returned to Jerusalem after the exile (Neh 7:70).

In Gen 49:26, Jacob called Joseph—who also wore a tunic—“one consecrated among his brothers.”



Ashurbanipal, a 7th century BC king of Assyria wrote:

Those kings who had repeatedly schemed, they brought alive to me to Nineveh. From all of them, I had only mercy upon Necho and granted him life. I made [a treaty] with him [protected by] oaths which greatly surpassed [those of the former treaty].

I clad him in a garment with multicolored trimmings, placed a golden chain on him [as the] insignia of his kingship, put golden rings on his hands; I wrote my name [phonetically] upon an iron dagger [to be worn in] the girdle, the mounting of which was golden, and gave it to him.[5]



While putting a garment on someone usually occurred in conjunction with an elevation of status, Adam and Eve stood on the brink of demotion (Gen 3:8–13).[6]

Clothing a person or removing apparel also functioned as symbols of inheritance or disinheritance.[7]

Hittite Law # 171 states, “If a mother draws her garment away from a son of hers, she is repudiating her sons.”[8]

A Ugaritic man’s last will and testament concurs, saying, “And now therefore, my two sons…whichever of them shall bring a lawsuit against…or shall abuse…their mother, shall pay 500 shekels of silver to the king; he shall set his cloak upon the door bolt, and shall depart into the street.”[9]

Spreading a garment over a woman indicated a man’s intention to marry her (Ruth 3:7–10).[10] Accordingly, nudity comprised the penalty for marital unfaithfulness (Hos 2:2–3).

An Akkadian text says, “If my wife would follow a strange man, let her place her clothes upon a stool, and go whither she will.”[11]

After repeated calls for Israel and Judah to return to him, the Lord eventually suspended his covenant with them, allowing other nations to strip them naked and take them into exile as a penalty for their spiritual adultery (Ezek 23:24–30).



In contrast, God’s act in Eden pointed to a future for Adam and Eve beyond their misery.[12] His mercy enabled him to accept them despite their fallen state.[13]

Therefore, he covered them, rather than exposing their shame to him and to one another.[14]

By cladding their naked bodies, the Lord signified his intention to conceal their humiliation, return their dignity,[15] and bring them back into relationship with himself.[16]

The Lord’s action embodied order and restraint, not breaking the new laws that applied to the earth and people but choosing to participate in them (Gen 3:14–19).[17]

He graciously reaffirmed humanity’s inheritance rights over creation (Gen 1:26–28).[18]

By clothing Adam and Eve, God revealed his plan to restore his covenant with humanity,[19] doing for them what they could not do for themselves.[20]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 3:21. Why did the Lord clothe Adam and Eve in animal skins? How does that provide hope to you?



Go to Clothed with Christ (Gal 3:26–27)

[Related posts include Clothed with Christ (Gal 3:26–27); Stewards of the Earth (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); and The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); Naked and Not Ashamed (Gen 2:25); Their Eyes Are Opened (Gen 3:7); Hiding from God (Gen 3:8); A Day of Reckoning (Gen 3:9–13); The First Good News (Gen 3:15); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Satan Addresses the Heavenly Council (Zech 3:1–5); Exegesis and Hermeneutics; and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: Painful Toil (Genesis 3:17–21)]


[1] “Adapa,” ANET, lines 59–69, 102,

[2] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “ךֻּתֹּנֶת” (ketoneth), BDB, 509,

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 84.

[4] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 3:21.

[5]Assurbanipal, “Campaigns Against Egypt, Syria, and Palestine,” in ANET, trans. Daniel David Luckenbill, section 2, 295,

[6] Walton, Genesis, 229–30.

[7] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 30.

[8]Albrecht Goetze, trans., “The Hittite Laws,” in ANET, 195,

[9]J. J. Finkelstein, trans., “Additional Mesopotamian Legal Documents: (17) Will and Testament,” in ANET, 546,

[10] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 151.

[11]John Huehnergard, “Biblical Notes on Some New Akkadian Texts from Emar (Syria),” CBQ 47, no. 3 (July 1985): 428–34, text 2:18–24, 431.

[12] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 207.

[13] Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land, 119.

[14] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 139.

[15]Alicia J. Batten, “Clothing and Adornment,” BTB 40, no. 3, 2010: 148–59, 149.

[16] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 150.

[17] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 139.

[18] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 30.

[19] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 151.

[20] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 207.