When I was a child, my mother had this idea that I should learn to play the piano. So, starting at a very young age, I began taking lessons. My parents hired a tutor who would come to the house and teach me on our piano there in the living room. Unfortunately, the lessons didn’t take. To my mother’s utter embarassment, I decided to go streaking around the house one day as my teacher waited for me in the living room. My mother was horrified; so was the teacher. She never returned.
Nakedness pulls at the extremes of human emotion. On the one hand, it is the peak of intimacy; on the other, it is the epitome of humiliation. It bears the capacity to unite two people in an inexplicable way or, as my piano teacher demonstrated, the capacity to drive people apart. Nudity is powerful.
Nakedness, in this sense, embodies the idea of innocence, of naivety. Nothing was yet corrupt, and man and wife were unashamed.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that nakedness operates as a central metaphor in the divine-human relationship as seen in the Genesis 2 creation and the fall. It marks a profound change in human existence and relationships, and also establishes the foundation for the first redemptive act we see in scripture. The author of Genesis chose his words very carefully.
The first encounter we have with nakedness is found in Gen 2:25, with the declaration that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” This sets the stage, creating a point of contrast with the shattering to come. The hebrew word translated ‘naked’ in this passage is the word ‘arum’, which carries a beautiful connotation. Nakedness, in this sense, embodies the idea of innocence, of naivety. Nothing was yet corrupt, and man and wife were unashamed. Life was good.
This changes dramatically after their rebellion, however. The serpent, identified in Revelation as satan, was cast out of heaven after leading a rebellion to seek to become the Most High God. He failed, and in his failure, sought to corrupt God’s beloved by conscripting them in the uprising which resulted in his exile. Thus, the temptation: eat of this fruit, and you will be as god. Just as satan’s rebellion resulted in exile from heaven, so our rebellion would result in exile from paradise. But sin, once it had taken root, had an even darker, more insidious, consequence. The innocence in 2:25 was broken, and the man and his wife took note of themselves.
“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” (3:7)
The term embodies the idea of exposure, not of one’s flesh, but of one’s heart.
The verbage changes here. ‘Arum’, referencing innocence in 2:25, is nowhere to be found. Instead, a subtle shift in a jot and tittle alters the sense of the word, and we discover ‘erom’ in its place. ‘Erom’ means something powerfully different. The term embodies the idea of exposure, not of one’s flesh, but of one’s heart. The same term is later used in the Hebrew scriptures to refer to Israel, standing naked before God in judgment. Innocence is lost. We are left with judgment.
Things begin to unravel at this point. Adam and Eve take note of one another first, and in their shame attempt to fashion fig leaves as coverings. They didn’t have long however, for almost immediately we discover God seeking them out, in the same way He seeks us out today. Just as we often do today, the man and his wife hid rather than be exposed. From the moment they chose to rebel, the archetypes for all of humanity, we see relationships shattered between each other and between them and God. Things are not looking good.
When innocence is lost, God provides the covering.
But then, God did something beautiful. The nakedness metaphor is at play here… naked in innocence, exposed in judgment, and the shame of their nakedness then shattering relationships both human and divine. Yet, deep in that beautiful, infinite heart of God, He still desires relationship. This “hiding due to nakedness” thing just won’t do. So, even before they would be exiled, God took action.
“And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (3:21)
He clothed them. When innocence is lost, God provides the covering. From the very beginning, God sought us out, and covered our shame so that we need hide no more. Slowly, He is restoring that innocence, a spiritual state where we may stand naked before the Lord, exposed for all that we are, and feel no shame.
Oh, blessed nudity. How I long for your embrace.
How have you experienced God seeking you out? What barriers has He torn down to restore you to Himself?
- Idols (…As They Were Meant To Be) (ofdustandkings.com)
- The Bible: Understanding the “Work in Progress” God (ofdustandkings.com)
- Christian Contentment and the Kingdom of God (ofdustandkings.com)