Driven Out

cherubim

b) Gen 3:23–24: The creation epic concludes with these verses.[1]

Eden abounded with symbols of the life-giving presence of God: trees, gold, rivers, and jewels (Gen 2:8–14).[2]

Yet, suddenly Moses amplified the preeminence of the tree of life. Unrecognized by us until now, the whole story has really been about this tree.[3]

Although sin greatly impacts each of us, the Old Testament (OT) emphasizes the effect of our transgressions upon the Lord (e.g., Lev 1–7). Sin dishonors God’s holy presence (Gen 20:6; Gen 39:7–9, Exod 10:16). Therefore, the most despicable aspect of human wrongdoing is not what it does to us but to the Lord.[4]

In order for a holy God to remain present among people, sacrifices had to remove the defilement resulting from sin.[5] Consequently, a significant percentage of the Pentateuch consists of sacrificial legislation.[6]

Lest Adam “stretch out” (shalakh) his hand to take from the tree of life,[7] the Lord made a preemptive strike against any further attempt of his to become like God and “sent him out” (shalakh).[8]

According to Gen 2:15, the Lord placed Adam in the garden “to cultivate (avadh) and keep (shamar) it.”[9]

However, God exiled him from Eden “to work (avadh) the ground from which he was taken” (Gen 2:7), and “a flaming sword turned this way and that in order to preserve (shamar) the way of the tree of life.”[10]

The former priests of Eden had become intruders (Gen 2:18–23).[11]

They did not leave of their own will, nor were they gently escorted away.[12] Instead, God abruptly drove (garash) Adam and Eve out of the only home they had ever known.[13]

No longer would people automatically enjoy a personal relationship with their creator (Gen 3:8).[14]

Since the antidote to death grew in the center of the garden (Gen 3:9), God enforced the threatened penalty by cutting off access to it (Gen 2:16–17). Thus, he made death inevitable.[15]

However, even worse than the end of their physical lives (Gen 3:19),[16] Adam and Eve suffered the loss of the pure fellowship they had enjoyed with God.[17]

Similarly, those who undergo the divorce of their parents miss the availability of both parents far more than being deprived of their former home.[18]

Israel’s people regarded expulsion from their wilderness camp as a living death, resulting in gestures of mourning (Lev 13:45–46). Rejection by God evoked the same reaction (1 Sam 15:26–31, 34–35).[19]

In fact, the paramount focus of the rest of the OT concerns how to regain access to the presence of the Lord.[20]

Adam lost the responsibility to guard the garden temple, a task which God transferred to the cherubim.[21] Ironically, they kept Adam out.[22]

Reminiscent of the entrance to the garden on the east side of Eden, both the tabernacle and Israel’s temple were constructed with their access points to the east.[23]

Cherubim do not resemble the chubby babies with wings we often picture. Instead, they functioned as sentinels of death (Ezek 10:2).[24]

In the Akkadian Vision of the Netherworld, the concubine who accompanied the ruler of the dead “was provided with the head of a kurību.”[25] Some Hebrew scholars believe this word linguistically precedes the Hebrew term.[26]

This type of angel resembles a winged lion with four faces (Ezek 10:9–14). Cherubim traditionally guarded Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) sacred spaces.[27]

The OT mentions them over ninety times, usually in the context of guarding the Lord’s holy presence (2 Ki 19:15; Ezek 10:3–5).[28]

After Israel constructed the tabernacle, the Levites fulfilled a similar role. They stationed themselves as guards to strike down any unauthorized person who encroached upon God’s sanctuary (Num 1:50–54).[29]

Representations of cherubim were stationed around the Most Holy Place, where God’s presence dwelt (Exod 25:17–22; 1 Ki 6:23–28). They were also carved into the doors and the walls of the Holy Place of the temple (1 Ki 6:29; Ezek 41:18–20). Significantly, the lamp stand which symbolized the tree of life stood in the Holy Place (Exod 40:17–25; 1 Ki 7:48–49).[30]

Statues of cherubim often flanked the thrones of ANE rulers.[31] One Phoenician king’s sarcophagus features them surrounding his throne.[32]

After Jesus withstood the serpent’s temptations, “angels came and ministered to him” (Matt 4:11; Luke 22:40–43).[33]

Due to Adam’s sin, he experienced a starkly different relationship with the angels. “The flame of a sword turning this way and that” blocked any attempt to return to eat from the tree of life.[34]

Such a weapon would certainly bring death (Num 22:22–23, 31–33).[35]

By learning the mysteries of good and evil, Adam and Eve lost the paradise they had received (Gen 3:7–13). Consequently, all of us have been born outside of Eden, with our natural inclinations and thoughts confirming our status as outsiders.[36]

The gate remains shut.[37]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 3:23–24. Why were Adam and Eve evicted from Eden? What roles do cherubim fulfill? How do we remain shut out of Eden?

 

 

 

Go to Seeking Death but Not Finding It

 

[Related posts includes The Lord Breathes Life (Gen 2:7); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); Serving and Keeping (Gen 2:15); Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Their Eyes Are Opened (Gen 3:7); Hiding from God (Gen 3:8); A Day of Reckoning (Gen 3:9–13); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); A Plain in Shinar (Gen 11:1–2); The Third Temptation (Matt 4:8–11); The Holy Mountain of God (Rev 21:18–22:3); Ancient Literature; and Author and Date of Genesis]

 

[Click here to go to Chapter 10: The Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22–24)]

 

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 141.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 74.

[3] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 141.

[4] Walton, Genesis, 231.

[5]Richard E. Averbeck, “Offerings and Sacrifices,” EDBT, 574–81, 574.

[6]Gary A. Anderson, “Sacrifice and Sacrificial Offerings,” ABD 5:870–86, 871.

[7] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שָׁלַח” (shalakh), BDB, 1018–9, 1018, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1018/mode/2up.

[8] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 85.

[9] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “עָבַד” (avadh) and “שָׁמַר” (shamar), BDB, 712, 1036, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/712/mode/2up; https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1036/mode/2up.

[10] Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, 110.

[11] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 137.

[12] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 210.

[13] Holladay, “שָׁלַח” (shalakh), CHALOT, 372.

[14] Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land, 132.

[15] Walton, Genesis, 230.

[16] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 90.

[17] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 208.

[18] Walton, Genesis, 231.

[19] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 90.

[20] Walton, Genesis, 231.

[21] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 70.

[22] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 85–6.

[23] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 74.

[24] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 144.

[25]E. A. Speiser, trans., “A Vision of the Nether World,” in ANET, rev., 109, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n133/mode/2up. Note that this spelling differs from the older edition available online.

[26]Stephen F. Noll, “ךְּרוּב (kerub), NIDOTTE, 2:717–8, 717.

[27] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 85–6.

[28] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 3:24.

[29] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 210.

[30] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 70–1.

[31] Walton, Genesis, 230.

[32]Ancient History Encyclopedia Ltd., “Sarcophagus of Ahiram (Illustration),” http://www.ancient.eu/image/174/.

[33] Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God, 172.

[34] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 137

[35] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 86.

[36] Walton, Genesis, 232.

[37] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 144.