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I am curious as to why the Hebrew word for "crafty/shrewd," עָרוּם, used to characterize the serpent in the Garden in Genesis 3:1 is the same word in Genesis 2:25, describing Adam and Eve, yet translated as "naked." The plural form is used with Adam and Eve, and the singular form is used with the serpent.
Both words are nearly side by side in those two verses, yet translated differently. With no chapter/verse differentiation, as the ancient texts were written, then both words should be the same.
I think that maybe Adam and Eve were created with that "shrewd/crafty" mindset, but since they knew not both "Good and Evil," like the "serpent" did, then he was "more" "crafty," as the KJV puts it. Any illumination into this would be hugely appreciated. Thank you.

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The singular form of עֲרוּמִּים (arumim) in Genesis 2:25 is actually עָרוֹם (arom). In Genesis 3:1, the word is עָרוּם (arum). The words are close, and even if they were identical, they would simply be homonyms.

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    Indeed, and they have separate Strong's entries and etymologies: "naked" is 'arom from 'ur but "shrewd" is 'arum from 'aram. Of course, as with many OT near-homonyms appearing in close proximity, the author was likely aware of the echo. A Jewish studies friend adds that the word has traditionally been read with a connotation of mental "nakedness" (innocence), yielding a more direct antonym for "shrewd" and heightening the irony. Jan 29 '19 at 5:25
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    Firstly, what false premise? Secondly, I am speaking of the fact that these words in the original texts had no vowel signs, so they would be exactly the same. I am not talking about Strong's definitions, etc. I am only asking about the original language. Jan 30 '19 at 17:53
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    @H.F.WattsJr.—They may have the same consonants, and in that sense “they would be exactly the same,” but that does not mean they would be pronounced the same. I mean, I can't count how many words would be “exactly the same” if all we did was acknowledge the consonants but ignore the traditional vowel pointing. But again, even if they were pronounced the same, that does not mean they would have the same meaning. Again, homonyms. Jan 31 '19 at 2:03
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    @Ruminator: Per OED: “Philology. Applied to words having the same sound, but differing in meaning: opposed to heteronym and synonym.” So, homonym is a proper term. Feb 1 '19 at 2:12
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    @H.F.WattsJr.—I see that you have two upvotes and one downvote for your question. If you click on the "1" (your score) beside your question, it will open up further and reveal how many upvotes and downvotes you have. Feb 9 '19 at 20:02
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A very interesting and keen question (I’ve upvoted it).

As a matter of fact, hardly we may imagine that this couple of Hebrew identical terms (the only difference between them is about the grammatical number) utilized in the two Genesis’ adjacent passages (last verse of chapter 2, and first verse of the chapter 3) were side by side only by sheer accident.

So, could they be understood inside the same conceptual context? In this case, how this would affect the overall meaning?

Before to discover the right answers to these questions, let us examine some objections other users made in their comments, to the possibility that the two terms are identical (consequently, that they could share the same meaning).

Luke Sawszack wrote: “[The two terms] have separate Strong’s entries and etymologies”.

For the irony of fate, he added: “the word has traditionally been read with a connotation of mental ‘nakedness’” (we see later how this concept is fully related with the argument we will present).

Der Übermensch sustains (bold is his) that “even if they were pronounced the same, that does not mean they would have the same meaning. Again, homonyms.”

How we see later, ‘homonym’ is not the right noun to be attached to orum/orumim (Gen 2:25; 3:1) terms.

First of all, we cannot take the Masoretes’ diacritical system, nor the Hebrew Dictionaries (Strong’s included) as Gospel. They are often useful, but them also have to pass through the filter of what I call the ‘Triad’, namely, the ensemble including (1) Bible Context, (2) Textual Criticism, and (3) Logic.

Correctly, the questioner (H. F. Watts Jr.) remarked (in a comment of him): “I am speaking of the fact that these words in the original texts had no vowel signs, so they would be exactly the same. I am not talking about Strong’s definitions, etc. I am only asking about the original language.”

This is a fine distinction from his part, that I fully agree, and that – regrettably - has been dropped without an answer…

I never tire to repeat that the Masoretic Texts (not ‘Text’!) are – in a number of times – surely useful to fix meanings of terms and expressions, but they also are not ‘the Gospel’, at all! They are simply some of the texts (along with a number of other texts) we possess to be compared (inside the Triad’s frame) to try to fix how the original text appeared (if is ever possible…).

So, as our good habit, ask ourselves, ‘Since the two terms (orum/orumim), devoid of the Masoretic medieval pointing are identical, had they share the same conceptual root, or not?’

Granted, the two concepts ‘to be naked’ (Gen 2:25), and ‘to be shrewd’ (Gen 3:1) seem to be very very distant (semantically speaking) each other.


But…

Is it really the Strong presents two different root derivations (as Luke Sawszack claims)?

Let we see.

On Gen 2:25 (orumim), Strong applied the root H6174, that is redirected (by himself) to the root H6191. The definition of Strong of this last root is: “A primitive root; properly to be (or make) bare; but used only in the derived sense […] to be cunning (usually in a bad sense): - X very, beware, take crafty [counsel], be prudent, deal subtily.”

On Gen 3:1 (orum), Strong applied initially the root H6175 to the word. But, also in this case, Strong himself redirected this term to the root H6191!

Then, both terms (orumim and orum [Gen 2:25/3:1]) were made to ‘converge’ by Strong himself to the same conceptual root (H6191)!

So, instead to state – hurriedly - that ‘[The two terms] have separate Strong’s entries and etymologies’ it is better to conclude – for logic – that the two terms share the one and the same conceptual root.

The Hebraic Roots Bible’s footnote on Gen 3:1 states (bold is mine): “The word for ‘naked’ in verse 25 [of chapter 1] and the word for ‘cunning’ are derived from the same root word in Hebrew.”


But, aside this preparatory specification, what semantic link exists – on earth - between ‘to be naked’ and ‘to be shrewd’?

As a first step, let us list the characters involved inside the Bible account at issue (Gen 2:25; 3:1), that are Adam & Eve, and the serpent. About the serpent we have to specify that with this term we must mean both the animal individual, as well as the spiritual individual one behind it. I think it is not necessary that I back this last conclusion of mine (anyway, if someone would puzzled about this my statement I am always disposable to clarify it…).

As a second step, we have to focus ourselves on the meaning of the original conceptual root at issue here.

In an incontrovertible way the root at issue has the meaning of ‘to uncover, to unveil, to bare’, also if we take account of the derived allographic (graphic variants) roots of the original one.

Some examples of them are OUR, as in Hab 3:9 (verbal form); Gen 3:21 (noun); ORE, in Gen 24:20 (verbal form); ORR, in Isa 23:13 (verbal form).

As a third step, let me share with you a little bit of grammar (general, not only Hebrew-related).

In many languages – Hebrew and English included – verbs, nouns, adverbs often are all classes of terms derived from an original root. For an example, take the English verb ‘to reveal’: “late 14 c[entury], from Old French ‘reveler’, ‘reveal’ (14 c[entury]), from Latin ‘revelare’, ‘reveal, uncover, disclose’, literally ‘unveil’, from ‘re-‘, ‘opposite of’ (see ‘re-‘) + ‘velare’, ‘to cover, veil’, from ‘velum’, ‘a veil’ (see ‘veil’ […].” (from https://www.etymonline.com/)

This reference source – starting from the English modern term ‘cover’ - goes back stopping over two laps: English < French < Latin.

So, also the modern English terms like ‘to reveal’ (as a verbal form), ‘revealed’ (as a participial/verbal form) ‘revealing’ (as an adjective), ‘revealer’ (as a substantivized adjective), and ‘revelation’ (as a noun), are all derived by the same conceptual Latin root – at least – ‘velum’. Note that all these terms derived from ‘velum’ are irrespective of their dynamic, or static modes. In fact, ‘revealed’ (in a static mode), and ‘revealer’ (in a dynamic mode) are both derived from the same Latin root, ‘velum’.


Then, how these data are useful to solve our dilemma (“What semantic link exists between ‘to be naked’ and ‘to be shrewd’?”)? Like the final scenes of all Ellery Queen’s detective-stories, you have now all enough information to answer this question.

In the Bible passages we are discussing, the conceptual original root indicating the general idea of ‘to take out the veil’, splits it into two derived terms:

I) in Gen 2:25, as an adjective (in a ‘static’ mode) ‘naked’ (prop. ‘some individuals who are without a veil’)

IIa) in Gen 3:1 – addressing to the serpent (the material animal) - as an adjective (in a ‘static’ mode) ‘naked’ (prop. ‘an individual without a veil’). Differently from many other beasts that are covered by hair, bristle, quills, spines, plates, and so on, the snake – along with its lack of limbs – appears us as the more bare animal (another animal who shares with the snake this very similar outward structure is the worm. For example, the concept behind the English expression ‘to be stark naked’ is expressed in Italian language with the sentence ‘Nudo come un verme’, literally, ‘Naked as a worm’). So, no wonder if the ancient Hebrew speakers pointed to a snake to represent also the complete bareness.

IIb) in Gen 3:1, by means of a trope, addressing to the Serpent (this instance to the spiritual individual) behind that animal, as an adjective (in an ‘dynamic’ mode) ‘a revealer’ (prop. ‘one who is able to lift up the veil’, ‘one who reveals or discloses’ > ‘one who or that which brings to light, shows, or makes known’).

This is why we are able to state with the Hebraic Roots Bible’s footnote on Gen 3:1 (bold is mine): “The word for ‘naked’ in verse 25 [of chapter 1] and the word for ‘cunning’ are derived from the same root word in Hebrew.”

So, the Serpent (spiritual individual) claimed to be a ‘person without a (mental) veil’, and capable, too – in this state – to help others to remove the ‘veil from their mind’. And in this capacity the Serpent presented himself to Eve, claiming to be a Revealer (!) to her, since her ‘closed eyes’ were not capable to ‘see’ (Gen 3:5, 7).

Instead to think the Hebrew as a rude, raw language (compared to a language like the Greek, for an example), if we go only a bit under the surface we may discover that Hebrew is a very complex language, sometimes also a sophisticated one.

In the matter we are discussing (orumim/orum) we are facing with a kind of ‘semantic oscillation’, where two terms derived by the same conceptual root are utilized in two different semantic areas (from a static mode, ‘revealed’ > ‘naked’, addressing to Adam & Eve, to a dynamic mode, ‘a revealer’, addressing to the Adversary), in this particular case since the fact the non-material individual (the Serpent) utilized a material individual (the serpent), so presenting himself in a dual manner.

Then, the inspired writer, taking note of this ‘cloaking device’ of the Adversary, utilized the sophisticated poetic forms of the ‘semantic oscillation’.

God took advantage of the Adversary’s choice (utilizing a snake as a medium between he and the woman) to word profound remarks and sentences, inside a sophisticated linguistic frame.

In fact, also the following sentence against the ‘Serpent’ was addressed not to the material medium Satan used (as the physical serpent had limbs, subsequently forfeited, owing to the Sin…), but to the Adversary himself: “And Jehovah Elohim said to the serpent, Because thou hast done this, be thou cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field. On thy belly shalt thou go, and eat dust all the days of thy life.” (Gen 3:14, Darby)

Also inside the idea behind the expression “On thy belly shalt thou go, and eat dust all the days of thy life” God took advantage of the (created by Him) moving mode of the material animal (the snake), as God were saying: “Just like the puppet you have choose [the physical snake, which behind it you have hidden yourself], who creeps on his belly and eat dust, you also will ‘creep on your belly’ (= ‘your previous dignity will be abased’ [1]) and will eat dust (= ‘you will feel profoundly humiliated’, ‘your life will be miserable’ [2])”.


[1] That the sentence ‘On thy belly shalt thou go’ (or alike) is an idiom for ‘your previous dignity will be abased’ (or alike) is confirmed by the comparation with Psa 44:26(25), along with Eze 28:1-19.

[2] That the sentence ‘eat dust all the days of thy life’ (or alike) is an idiom for ‘you will feel profoundly humiliated’, ‘your life will be miserable’ (or alike) is confirmed by the following Bible passages: Deu 33:24, 1 Sam 2:8; Job 16:15; Psa 7:5; 72:9; 113:7; Isa 26:19; 47:1; 65:25 (see also how a Tell-Amarna letter [# 177] used such idiom).


@ H. F. Watts Jr - I hope this remarks will be useful for your search.

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  • What does a more modern Hebrew lexicon like HALOT say?
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 25 '20 at 13:44
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    @curiousdannii. Your comment implies 'modernity' has a pivotal importance in the Bible understanding. I believe instead that, irrespective of the modernity of a text (except if the more modern text includes new discovered texts), what is more important is what the Bible really says, through the 'mediation' of what I have called 'The Triad': Biblical Context, Textual Criticism, and Logic. I have quoted the Strong only because an user utilized it to try to 'demonstrate' the two Hebrew term at issue have different derivation > meaning. (...) Oct 25 '20 at 15:21
  • Moreover, if the 'modernity' of a text were an important and discriminating factor we should eliminate - in the first place - the MT from the list of to-be-consulted sources... Oct 25 '20 at 15:24
  • What? No. We want the oldest sources and the best scholarship. To ignore centuries of research is negligent. Also I didn't think that Strong even wrote a lexicon/dictionary, but only a concordance. It had glosses, but is no substitue for a proper dictionary.
    – curiousdannii
    Oct 25 '20 at 23:00
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    Thanks to you to cap it all the matter, adding the 'gem' linked to the meaning of the commoner Hebrew word for 'snake, serpent'. Oct 27 '20 at 21:07
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To eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make them lose God's protective covering. If they decide right and wrong they would be liable they wouldn't be "covered" in their actions. The tree of life (God's law) so long as they eat of it they are covered under God as agents carrying out his Will and not their own

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    Hi Landon, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Could you expand upon your answer and show how it follows from the text? We generally look for a little more detail in an answer--this is a good start and we appreciate the contribution to the site. Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! Jun 5 at 18:19
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Background
The added chapter and verse divisions suggest nakedness is a final statement in the creation narrative of the first man and woman, and the serpent's craftiness begins a new chapter:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:24-25 ESV)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. (Genesis 3:1)

Because they ate from the tree, a different type of nakedness, עֵירֹם, which is physical, was recognized and this brought a different response to the state of being naked:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:7)

As a result of disobedience (or believing the serpent, or not believing the LORD God, or all of these) the man and woman went from an initial type of nakedness and state of self-awareness to different type and a different state:

                      Genesis 2         Genesis 3
                      עָרוֹם               עֵירֹם
                      naked             naked (3:7)
                      not ashamed       afraid (3:10)

The עֵירֹם and the עָרוֹם of the Man and Woman
Ignoring the meaning of the first type of nakedness, the second is described as physical, being without clothes. The second type brought a change; however, the change was not going from unashamed to ashamed, as would be expected, but to being afraid. Then the first state of being עֵירֹם, which is the same term used to describe the serpent serves as better place to begin the new chapter:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

And the man and his wife were both ערומים (naked/crafty) and were not ashamed, and the serpent was more ערום (crafty) ...she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew they were naked עירמם And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths...[and they were] afraid.

The first type of עֵירֹם can be the same as the serpent's. If the two terms are considered to have the same meaning the phrase and the man and his wife were both crafty and not ashamed begins the new event by providing a factual summary. The two were not ashamed to disobey and eat. The reason they were not ashamed to disobey is they [thought] they were עֵירֹם, crafty.

The עֵירֹם of the Serpent
The serpent was more "crafty" than any other beast of the field the LORD God made. Thus, the text points to the natural world, that is, the manner in which the LORD God made all things. The serpent is unique among "the beasts of the field" in that it routinely sheds its skin. A serpent is in a continual state of being "undressed." Shedding often occurs before reproduction or giving birth.

Given the context in the Garden, these physical characteristics of the serpent should not be taken as coincidence. Rather, they function as a permanent and continuing example of how God chose to identify the serpent:

the serpent was more ערום (crafty/naked) then any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

The created world speaks to the meaning of ערום when used of the serpent in the context of the other animals the LORD God created. The serpent is both more crafty and more naked.

Yet, according to the LORD God, there is something missing from the narrative:

And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

He said, “Who told you that you were naked?

This question goes unanswered, but the reader knows it was the עֵירֹם, crafty/naked serpent who told them they were עָרוֹם, naked. In this light the serpent's "nakedness" and "craftiness" was exposed by the question.

Conclusion
Pronouncing the עֵירֹם of the man and the woman differently than that of the serpent, confuses the account which states the truth: the two were not ashamed of disobeying and eating from the tree they had been told not to eat from.

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  • Why did they hide from God if not ashamed?
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 28 at 12:23
  • @BobJones Genesis 2:25: ערום [naked/cunning] and not בוש [ashamed] 3:10: ירא [afraid] עירם [naked]. They hid out of fear, not shame. Two different words used which are treated as if the meaning in English is the same, "naked." Two different conditions "not ashamed" connected to the first word which can mean cunning and "afraid" connected to the second word. Oct 28 at 23:21
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The Greek thinks words are derived... In Hebrew they are formed (Notarikon); they get their meaning by combining the meaning of the letters, and by decorating two-letter gates.

Therefore, if two words have the same letters they have the same essential meaning; a meaning can be verbalized which includes both definitions.

The forms of the letters:

flesh - ע

revealed - ר

made distinct -ו

Both translations: 'naked', and 'cunning' concern the revealing of the flesh. Referring to the physical flesh is it naked, referring to the spiritual aspect of the 'flesh' it is 'cunning'.

How did they know they were naked?

They became cunning by questioning the word of God and became like the serpent, which is also physically naked (no hair). They were exposed.

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