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Genesis 2

Adam was created from mud, and Eve was created from one of Adam's ribs. Both had remained naked in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 2:25

And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (KJV).

Genesis 3:7

"Then the eyes of both [Adam and Eve] were opened and they realised that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." (NIV)

Genesis 3:9-11

9And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (KJV).

What was it about eating from the Tree of Knowedge of Good and Evil that made Adam suddenly ashamed of his nudity when he was not ashamed before?

  • This question is about a topic, not about a specific passage, so it is off-topic for this site. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jun 24 '17 at 17:57
  • I beg to differ. This is about Genesis 3:9-11 in relation to other passages in Genesis – Chris Rogers Jun 24 '17 at 18:06
  • I think this qualifies now. – Frank Luke Jun 26 '17 at 13:42
  • The first question that was posted about this, with the latest edits, is very similar. Nudity in 1 Samuel 19:20-24 – elika kohen Aug 19 '17 at 17:21

11 Answers 11

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1. Question Restatement:

In Genesis, why did Adam and Eve become ashamed when they realized they were naked after eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?


2. Possible Answer - It is shameful for the one who knows good, but does not do it:

The Tree of Knowledge was Knowledge of BOTH Righteousness AND Evil:

NKJV, James 4:17 - Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

It was not revelation of some sin that they had done that made them ashamed.

But rather, it was knowing the "Good" that they had not clothed themselves in, that made them ashamed, (the "Good" imitation of the love and mercy of God - righteousness).

At the very least, even if the narrative isn't teaching to clothe oneself in "good work" or "righteousness", then it is at least affirming that clothing your body is a "Good" thing.

So, compared with the goodness of God - they were likely ashamed of how their own "goodness" measured up to God's own.

NKJV - Revelation 3:15-18 - “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. ... 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.


3. Explanation: The Spiritual / Mystical Symbolism of Clothing:

Although Scripture might speak to "modesty", Scripture elsewhere affirms nudity - "before the Lord".

Scripture shows justification for more extreme, and public, displays of nudity:

NKJV, 1 Samuel 19:24 - And he also stripped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night. Therefore they say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

NKJV, 2 Samuel 6:20-21 - ... And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king ... uncovering himself ... as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” 21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord ...

In Scripture, "Garments" Are Metaphorical for "Works", BOTH Righteousness AND Evil:

NKJV, Isaiah 59:6 - Their webs will not become garments, Nor will they cover themselves with their works; Their works are works of iniquity, And the act of violence is in their hands.

NASB, Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

NKJV, Daniel 7:9 - “I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire;

People are NOT "spiritually naked" - when they do evil:
Note: This is an objection to another answer that asserts that nakedness is a metaphor for sinfulness - but even "sinful people" are "clothed".

NKJV, Zechariah 3:4 - Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”

Adam and Eve, (like infants), were in a unique situation: they were neither clothed in goodness, nor evil. Although they had disobeyed God, this text seems to show that their disobedience was not on the same level of "evil / filthy garments".

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The sudden shame for Adam's (and Eve)nakedness is an allegory, the physical of the spiritual. Not just the gained knowledge from eating the fruit.

First, they were commanded not to eat the fruit from the tree, nor touch it (Genesis 3:3) This is confirmed when the Lord went searching for Adam in Genesis 3:11 "And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"

Second, Eve saw "that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise." (Genesis 3:6) and ate of the fruit of the tree. Eve was tempted with sin (by the serpent who represents Satan) the lust of the eyes (pleasant to the eyes) and pride of life (to make one wise). She also gave the fruit to Adam and he ate. In verse 7 it explains how once they ate the fruit (disobeyed God) their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked.

Nakedness, was the physical representation of their disobedience to God engulfed with the shame and knowledge of that disobedience.

In that shame, they both tried to hide from God who was walking in the garden. (Genesis 3:8) This is the first sin of man. And with that sin comes shame and "nakedness" the exposure of our sin.

That feeling that we want to "hide" our sin, knowing that it is/was wrong and against what we know is right. You know, how when you are a child and you drink a beer for example. You know that it is wrong and something that you are not supposed to do so you hide the fact that you drank that beer. You brush your teeth, run straight up to your room, close the door and try to hide from your parents so they will not find out that you had some beer. Once they find out, you become "exposed" or naked before them.

The physical nakedness of Adam and Eve represented and still represents the spiritual exposure (or nakedness) of who we really are to God from whom we cannot run or hide from either in our hearts, minds, spiritually or physically.

Here are some other "naked" examples in scripture.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
-- Revelation 3:18 NKJV

Your nakedness shall be uncovered, Yes, your shame will be seen; I will take vengeance, And I will not arbitrate with a man.
-- Isaiah 47:3 NKJV

  • I have edited to add formatting to the quotes (Use '>' symbol as the first character in a new paragraph.) Don't forget to include the version you have used. – enegue Jun 26 '17 at 0:54
  • So just to clarify, it was spiritual nakedness, (not physical nakedness) which they were ashamed of? – Chris Rogers Jun 26 '17 at 7:55
  • Susan - +1, I agree with you that it was a form of "Spiritual Nakedness", but, I disagree with you that "nakedness" is a representation of "being sinful", but rather a representation of "No Righteousness". They are very different things. So, I posted a very similar answer - from this other point of view, that "spiritual nakedness" is absense of "righteousness". After all, you are NOT spiritually naked if you do evil: NKJV, Zechariah 3:4 - Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” – elika kohen Aug 19 '17 at 14:16
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My dad, who is a pastor, has an interesting theory as of why. He says that prior to the Fall, they were clothed in light as a result of walking with God. They were physically naked, but because they were clothed in God's glory, they couldn't see that they were naked.

This idea is rooted in Exodus 34:9-25, where Moses' face was radiant from being in God's presence, talking to the Almighty "face to face". Considering this, it is possible that Adam and Eve were also radiant from being with God all the time.

When they disobeyed God and contaminated themselves with sin, their radiance wore off, and they saw that they were naked and hid themselves.

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    +1 I have also heard this theology. I think that even though this answer isn't "conclusive" - it is, nevertheless, very well based in Scripture. – elika kohen Aug 19 '17 at 14:05
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    This perspective is compelling in light of the role of clothing in scripture. Revelation mentions white robes several times as gifts. Revelation 19:8 indicates that the white clothing is the righteous works of those who were (already) sanctified. Adam and Eve did not yet have righteous works, but God replaced their leafy aprons with garments of skin, which might have been from white sheep sacrificed for their sin. – Dieter Oct 14 '17 at 16:00
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There is nothing in the Genesis account to indicate that this was an allegory.To do so it would mean to undermine the Word of God.

Your perceptive question is addressed by almost all the biblical commentaries… On the second verse you quote, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked," Even a blind person knows when he is naked.So what was it that they realized here?

Little children are notorious for trying to shed their clothes and run around naked. This is done with total innocence; the two-year-old does not see any difference between his face, his knees, and the parts of his body which we adults insist that he cover. Only adults feel that certain parts of the body must be covered. Why? Because those are connected with physical lust and passions, and should not be exposed.

Prior to their sin, Adam and Eve knew good from bad, right from wrong, but they had not internalized an evil inclination. So they could choose to do right and wrong, and were held responsible for their choices, but the urge to do evil did not come from within. This urge was represented by the serpent—the external tempter. Since the evil did not reside within them, they were "naturally" good, and their nakedness was innocent and in no way sinful. They saw no difference between a hand, whose purpose was to give charity and to do good deeds, a mouth with which one praises G‑d and says kind words to others, and the parts of the body which are used to "be fruitful and multiply." With every organ they could fulfill the will of G‑d or vice versa, so no organ was shameful, nor did anything need to be covered.

When they ate of the Tree of Knowledge, the evil inclination became a part of them. No longer did they need an external tempter to incite them to sin—now, that tempter resided within their psyches. And specifically, sexual passion – a passion which is much stronger than the desire to give charity or praise G‑d, a passion which is much more encompassing and has the potential to be seriously misused – became a part of them as well.

Hence the abovementioned verse. "The eyes of both of them were opened" – they became aware of physical lust "and they realized that they were naked" – and only now it was inappropriate for them to be unclothed.

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Knowledge of good & evil (kge) made them feel guilty of being naked.

That is why God forbid them from choosing kge.

They were naked (which was sinful before the law or kge) & yet accepted by God for the sake of His Son Jesus.

But they rejected Jesus and chose the law.

Now we are given an opportunity to reject law & accept Jesus (Romans 7:4 , 6).

  • God had Knowledge of good & evil. Man was forbidden to have it. Why? – sudakar Jul 14 '17 at 9:50
  • Man was forbidden to have kge because God's perfect plan to grant acceptance to people was not based on their conformance to the kge but based on the Person of His Son Jesus. – sudakar Jul 14 '17 at 9:53
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Possible lessons from the account of Adam and Eve's nakedness:

  • the story provides the origin of conscience, which Paul describes as "a law written upon men's hearts". This presages the role of the Torah which, rather than producing righteousness, produces Self-consciousness and shame. The point wasn't that they were naked but that they had become aware of their nakedness.

  • It doesn't seem super-likely that the point was that Adam felt that his penis was embarrassingly small, but I guess we should be thorough! We do know it was actually of average size, so this might provide a valuable lesson for boys. :)

  • the shape of a fig leaf is very similar to the shape of pubic hair. It may be that the "skin" of the animal had fur on it and the story is partly intended to explain the origin of pubic hair. Pubic hair is a natural covering from God just as God is said to cover the shame of a woman exposing her head to angels and thus enticing them to leap from the sky and rape her (1 Cor 11:15ff). A lesson for girls?

  • before covering Adam and Eve's shame he exposed it by saying "Adam, where are you?" etc.

  • innocence -> dirty conscience -> inadequate self-covering -> conviction -> confession -> divine covering [but no forgiveness] -> expulsion -> death

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I would translate the Hebrew of Genesis 3:7 like this:

Then the eyes of both of them were opened. And when they perceived their own nakedness, then they sewed fig leaves and made coverings for themselves.

Details: enter image description here

"Sight/eyes" comes from the Hebrew word עַיִן (Strong's H5869 - `ayin). It is clearly not a reference to the physical eyes of Adam and Eve, because their eyes had been open all along while they enjoyed the beauty of the garden, and enjoyed each other, and observed how the animals behaved. No, the word is being used in this context in reference to their "mind's eye", i.e. their mental/spiritual faculties.

"Know/perceive" comes from the Hebrew word יָדַע (Strong's H3045 - yada`), and concerns knowledge/understanding/recognition. So, upon eating the fruit, Adam and Eve understood something that they had had no awareness of before, and that something was related to what they were then compelled to do: sew fig leaves to make aprons.

Their open eyes, before they ate the fruit, observed the animals doing all sorts of playful things ... yes, even procreation things. However, the new eyes of their understanding showed them: just as they had observed the playfulness and procreation behaviour of the animals, so too had God in regard to them. The thought of it caused them to immediately set about making aprons to cover their procreation parts, and then to run and hide from God amongst the trees of the garden.

Adam and Eve became aware that they could be SEEN by God in the same way as they could SEE the creatures of lower estate than themselves. It was a humiliating experience for them.

The fact that God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, meant that they would be able to eat of it WHEN THE TIME WAS RIGHT. The reaction of Adam and Eve was clearly an indication that they had not arrived at such a time.

  • Good research, but your last three paragraphs are speculative, right? It would be good if you could build your case for them with additional scripture. For example, I could argue that God intended humanity always to eat from the Tree of Life, and never from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I could support my argument using Revelation 22:2, in which we see only one tree, the Tree of Life! – Dieter Oct 14 '17 at 16:21
  • The paragraphs are hypothetical, based on Adam and Eve's innocence and inexperience. It is possible to construct an argument from Scripture that will support pretty-well any case one likes. Looking back from our point on the timeline of existence, we can see better than any generation before us that this is so. – enegue Oct 15 '17 at 1:15
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Being naked in front of someone else is the most vulnerable a person could ever be. No barriers, no shield, no interface, no pretence. And no weapons, either. It's no wonder we are so afraid of it. Nakedness exposes us to every potential danger that we know: from cold and pain to assault, criticism and rejection. When we are naked, we have nothing to help us deflect or absorb the injury - we must bear it all, physically and emotionally.

When an animal senses danger, it responds instinctively by preparing to fight or to flee. It is aware only of the danger - it simply responds to stimuli. What humans have acquired in addition to this same physical response is a knowledge or awareness of our own vulnerability - an awareness of ourselves interacting with life. By knowing ourselves to be participating in each interaction, we have the capacity to respond differently to stimuli than other animals do: we can apply change to ourselves. This is different to a chameleon who changes colour to hide from predators. If we hide our nakedness with fig leaves, for instance, we have already begun learning to interact with life in a way that changes how life interacts with us. And even though it has so many other, much more productive applications, we mostly apply this 'gift' to try and protect our vulnerable, naked selves from potential danger.

But a few fig leaves cannot hide this new sense of vulnerability from God. So when they hear His voice in the garden, Adam and Eve try to hide themselves completely.

"I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." (Genesis 3:10)

So we see by Adam's own words that it wasn't shame that caused Adam to hide from God, but fear. What was Adam afraid of? With the fig leaves it couldn't have been his modesty that he was referring to when he says 'because I was naked'. It was this new awareness of his vulnerability in the presence of God, even with the fig leaves, that made him afraid.

But in Genesis 2:25 the author used the word 'ashamed'. So how does this adjective relate to Adam being afraid after eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

'Ashamed' and its association with fear

The word 'ashamed' has two meanings, both of which are used in the bible.

In the OT there are many calls from prophets for the people of Israel or Jerusalem to be ashamed of their actions, and then to fear God.

Those who are called to be ashamed are told to be embarrassed or guilty because of their actions, characteristics or associations.

Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel! (Ezekiel 36:32)

Those who admit to being ashamed show a reluctance to do something due to fear of embarrassment or humiliation.

'I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.”' (NIV Ezra 8:22)

"I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens." (NIV Ezra 9:6)

In most instances, the persons who are 'ashamed' are described taking steps to avoid confrontation, as if they are afraid to face the consequences. They seek to change how life interacts with them in order to protect themselves from potential danger.

But God regularly greets his people throughout the OT with "Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged." (Genesis 15:1, 26:24; Joshua 8:1, 10:25; Judges 6:23; Isaiah 44:2,8, 54:4)

To fear something is to acknowledge the power it has to do us harm. The only people called to be ashamed are those who refuse to acknowledge that God is the only fear they should have, and then only if they don't live as He has instructed.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? (NIV Psalms 118:6)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV 2 Timothy 2:15)

In the NT, both Paul and Jesus encourage their listeners to not be ashamed of the gospel, even in the face of persecution, but to have courage instead.

Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (NIV Luke 9:26)

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. (NIV 2 Timothy 1:8)

Paul suggests that people were denying the gospel because they were afraid of the consequences of being associated with Jesus who was persecuted or with Paul who was imprisoned, and were taking steps to protect themselves from a similar fate. He urges his followers instead to not be afraid of suffering persecution for the sake of the gospel.

Conclusion

So being ashamed is being afraid of humiliation, punishment or harm brought about by our own actions, characteristics or associations. While Adam acknowledges only his fear at this stage, as readers we cannot separate this fear from his actions in eating the fruit, which brought him, and all humanity, to this new, fearful awareness. It's a bit like the chicken and the egg - without this awareness he would not be afraid of the potential for harm that this characteristic of being human, this knowledge that he is participating in the interaction of life, brings him. He would not be ashamed.

But now we, too, cannot deny that how we interact with life affects how life interacts with us. It is a sense of responsibility we cannot un-know, as much as we might feign the bliss of ignorance and create barriers, shields, interfaces, pretence....and weapons to turn that awareness against others.

It is in our nakedness that we feel this most profoundly. We persecute those who uncover our nakedness, our vulnerability, as if they are to blame for reminding us that beneath the barriers of clothing, walls and ideology, hiding behind the interfaces, pretence and weapons we are all just as vulnerable as everyone else to humiliation, punishment and harm. We are all just as afraid.

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    While I don't disagree with your philosophical perspectives, I'd encourage you to focus your answers using more scripture at this site. Your references to Genesis 3:10 and Genesis 2:25 are a good start. Are there scriptures that reveal the relationship between shame and fear? – Dieter Oct 14 '17 at 16:08
  • Thanks @Dieter, I appreciate the tip. I have added significant edits. – Possibility Oct 16 '17 at 2:30
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Because sinning is bad and by doing this, you defile yourself against God and make yourself a contemptible abomination, worthy of being exterminated and dead. So much for wanting to know good and evil like God, which, even if they succeeded, would still ultimately fall apart. You can't be someone that you're not. That's something Adam and Eve would know very well, having direct interaction with God. And that's what makes Satan's instructions all the more sinister.

  • I am at a loss with your "answer". "Because sinning is bad and by doing this, you defile yourself against God" Adam and Eve have been without clothes all the time up to this point. "You can't be someone that you're not" Where does it say Adam and Eve wanted to be Gods? – Chris Rogers May 12 at 8:22
  • Read my answer again. All I'm referring to is the guilt-laced self hatred Adam and Eve developed because of their sin. Also, Adam and Eve eagerly followed Satan's promise for them to be gods. There's no indication of protest/discomfort on their part. (Genesis 3:5). – AngelusVastator May 13 at 6:09
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Adam and Eve, became naked because they disobeyed God. The Glory of God was upon them before they disobeyed God. Consider this illustration: when a light is pointed at you, you will not be able to see anything, you could only see the rays of light.

Adam and Eve where oblivious to the physical environment, but were too sensitive to the spiritual realm of God dimensions. But when they sinned the light went off, and they were aware of their immediate state of nudity. Adam and Eve were surprised, see a new thing. Emotions appeared, affection became effective.

  • It would be helpful if you could provide a biblical basis for this conclusion. I can think of a passage in Job, but it is certainly in the context of a mystical union with God, glory, etc... St. John of the Cross wrote about this in "Dark Night of the Soul". Regardless though, without a Biblical basis for this explanation - I am not sure this answer will be that helpful. Even copy/pasting St. John of the Cross' explanation of this would be really helpful. – elika kohen Aug 19 '17 at 16:51
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God forbade Adam and Eve from claiming knowledge of good and evil - but If it was His intention that we never eat from the tree, He wouldn't have put it there in the first place. He wouldn't have put it there to tempt us, it wasn't a mistake and it couldn't have been there for anybody else to eat from. So He must have intended for Adam and Eve to eat from this tree eventually. Perhaps when they had learned about the universe and how everything worked; when they were more aware of the delicate balance in nature, and understood how everything is interconnected. We know now that this learning process would take many thousands of years. We know now that knowledge is, by its definition, gained by experience or education.

But in eating from the tree, Adam and Eve suddenly claimed to know good and evil without gaining any experience about the universe. They claimed to know that being naked is evil, and from that judgement they felt shame. But God asks 'who told you that you were naked?' - not because Adam and Eve gained any real knowledge they weren't supposed to - they received neither education nor experience to inform them that nakedness was even a thing, let alone that it was shameful. God certainly didn't tell them. We discover later that it also isn't one of the Ten Commandments. It wasn't ratified as law by Jesus, either.

So why did they suddenly become ashamed of nakedness? Because they just decided, with no basis for their decision, that being naked is wrong and therefore shameful. They made a judgement without any real awareness, knowledge or understanding about the world, claiming knowledge that they didn't have.

Thousands of years of human experience later, and we can see that there is no natural, scientific or logical reason why being naked is shameful, except that human beings have judged it to be so. Clothing has the benefit of protection, sure - but being without clothing is not inherently evil. The fact that we have continued to teach this false knowledge to every generation since Adam and Eve is due to our own arrogance, not to any commandment by God.

When we recognise this then we can see, throughout the stories of the bible and the history of civilisation, through war, slavery and oppression, that humanity's greatest sin has always been that we judge without sufficient awareness, experience or understanding. We claim knowledge of good and evil, but we do not have it.

  • The text states specifically why they became ashamed, "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked." (Genesis 3:7), which is precisely what the serpent said to Eve two verses earlier. It was portraying God's prohibition as His desire to hold back from Eve something that she was ready for, which the evidence of the text, and history in regard to those who prey on innocents, proves otherwise. – enegue Aug 19 '17 at 23:00
  • Thanks for the tip, @elika. I hope you will read the edited answer. – Possibility Aug 20 '17 at 10:37
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    @enegue, your quote still doesn't explain why they they became ashamed - their eyes were already literally open. If their eyes were figuratively opened, as in an awareness, then opened to what? What was it specifically that Eve wasn't ready for, and by what process would she become ready? It seems readers are having trouble separating the term 'naked' from the shame it continues to elicit. Where does our morality come from? – Possibility Aug 20 '17 at 10:39
  • @Possibility I explained that they had become aware that God could observe them in the same way they, themselves, had observed the lesser creatures. It was a revelation that left them exposed and uncomfortable. Time and maturity was the process by which Adam and Eve would have become ready for such knowledge. However, there were forces acting against them. The same forces that have, and do, and will act against all innocents. – enegue Aug 20 '17 at 11:02
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    @Possibility The "narrative" depicts the forces opposed to God as a serpent. It is clear the serpent is in opposition because the narrative also records its words to Eve, which tip the balance of her mind towards disobedience. Wherever their are innocents in the world, there will be the serpents also, whispering such words as would tip the balance of their minds towards disobedience. Are you a serpent in regard to the issue of nakedness? God forbid that it might be so. – enegue Aug 24 '17 at 2:55

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