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I recently discovered during the initial stage of study of the word “spirit” that the Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruach) in Genesis 3:8 is translated into English as “cool.”

8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. KJV, ©1769

ח וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל יַהְוֶה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם וַיִּתְחַבֵּא הָאָדָם וְאִשְׁתּוֹ מִפְּנֵי יַהְוֶה אֱלֹהִים בְּתוֹךְ עֵץ הַגָּן

Is this a translation error, or is the translation of the whole statement, or idea, misleading in some way? It seems to be saying that the action was not in a condition (cool), but rather a state (i.e., in the spirit).

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  • Welcome to BH. Please have a look at the Tour and the Help so that you may be familiar with how the site functions.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 19:12
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    If you want to study ruah, I would recommend getting a theological dictionary or reading some articles on what this word means and then looking up verses, precisely because of issues like these. Trying to understand what a hebrew word means only by looking at sample translations is doing things the hard way.
    – Robert
    Commented Feb 13, 2021 at 20:38

4 Answers 4

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The Hebrew phrase וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶת-קוֹל יַהְוֶה אֱלֹהִים מִתְהַלֵּךְ בַּגָּן לְרוּחַ הַיּוֹם (vayyishmeʿu et-kol Yahveh elohim mithallekh bagan leruach ha-yom) essentially translates into English as the following:

And they heard the sound of Yahveh God walking in the garden in the wind of the day...

The Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruach) is most often translated as “spirit,” but it is also translated often as “breath”1 and “wind”.2

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In the instance in Gen. 3:8, it is referring to the “wind of the day”—the evening when the sun begins to set and the breeze may blow, causing it to be relatively cooler than “the heat of the day.”3 A somewhat similar phrase occurs in Songs 2:17,4 “until the day blows”—from the Hebrew phrase עַד שֶׁיָּפוּחַ הַיּוֹם (ad sheyyafuach ha-yom).

In the 1st German edition of his lexicon, Gesenius wrote,5

enter image description here

English translation:

To that (i.e., the meaning “wind”) also belongs [the phrase] רוּחַ הַיּוֹם Mos[es] 3:8 (i.e., Gen. 3:8). The blowing of the day, that is, the evening, because in the Orient, a more refreshing wind usually blows a few hours before sunset. (cf. Songs 2:17, 4:6, and [Jean] Chardin[’s] Voyage en Perse, Book IV, page 18.

In Voyages de Mr. Le Chevalier Chardin, en Perse, et Autres Lieux de L’Orient, Jean Chardin wrote,6

enter image description here

English translation:

The first thing is that in the provinces I’ve just mentioned, and in many others, although the air is clear of any clouds during the summer, the winds pick up in the evening, which refresh the air, and which ordinarily last until about an hour and a half after sunrise, and are usually so chilly during the night that one must wear a heavy robe.


Footnotes
1 Job 15:30: “and by the breath (רוּחַ) of his mouth shall he go away”
2 Gen. 8:1: “And God made a wind (רוּחַ) pass over the earth, and the waters abated”
3 כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם (kechom ha-yom): cf. Gen. 18:1; 2 Sam. 4:5; also, חֹם הַיּוֹם (chom ha-yom): cf. 1 Sam. 11:11
4 Songs 2:17 LXX: «ἕως οὗ διαπνεύσῃ ἡ ἡμέρα»—“until the day blows through”; cf. Songs 4:6
5 Gesenius, Vol. 2, pp. 1042–1043
6 Chardin, Vol. 4, Ch. 2, p. 18
References
Chardin, Jean. Voyages de Mr. Le Chevalier Chardin, en Perse, et Autres Lieux de L’Orient. Vol. 4. Amsterdam: de Lorme, 1711.

Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Hebräisch–Deutsches Handwörterbuch über die Schriften des Alten Testaments. 1st ed. Vol. 2. Leipzig: Vogel, 1812.
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The margin of the KJV gives the translation 'wind' - the 'wind of the day'.

Ruach occurs over 350 times in the Hebrew scripture (says Young's Analytical Concordance) and is usually translated 'wind' 'spirit' or 'breath' which is how the word pneuma is translated in the Greek scripture (setting aside the use of the word 'ghost' rather than 'spirit').

I would suggest that the 'wind of the day' - from experience - is most noticeable in the evening and if so, it would point to a new day since 'the evening and morning' in the first chapters of Genesis, denote a day.

The 'voice' of the Lord was 'walking' in the 'wind' of the day.

God is no longer at rest in the first creation. The Spirit is moving. So is the Word of God, the voice of God. 'Adam, where art thou ?', Genesis 3:9, begins a new conversation and another relationship.

Later, Genesis 3:24, cherubim appear, no longer invisibly associated with the first man, Adam. They are 'settled' at the extremity of the garden (man now banished) and the sword turns every way. This concept is repeated throughout scripture 'He dwelleth the cherubim', Isaiah 37:16 and elsewhere.

A new day has already begun, in the evening. The first humanity has failed. But the seed of promise (from the woman, Genesis 3:15) is now awaited. There is hope.

A new creation is in view. The Spirit of God and the Word of God are in motion.

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  • When asking the question, it appeared to me that the word 'cool' perhaps would have better to have been represented by the word 'spirit', especially in light of the rather arbitrary sentence, paragraph, and chapter breaks present in the King James version. Since we can see the three 'parts' of God evident in much of the first several chapters of Genesis, the translation 'spirit' made more sense, but then, I did ask in order to learn from others also. Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 18:47
  • @TanyaMBennett I think, ,myself, that 'wind' of the day is the correct translation within the physical representation (garden, trees) of spiritual things, and one is to be aware of the spiritual significance of invisible things.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 30, 2019 at 23:03
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I would critique the above answers methodologically in that they focus exclusively on word meaning. An alternate methodological approach would combine a focus on word meaning with a focus on the overall meaning of the verse. Some elementary observations on the verse's meaning are the following:

  1. Adam & Eve were sinning and going through the sin-guilt cycle;

  2. we explicitly find evidence of this sin-guilt cycle in Adam & Eve's hiding and in God's reprimand to them;

  3. "Voice of God" (as evidenced by any search engine) is simply one of the synonyms for prophecy (Without getting into the nuances of the difference between it and other synonyms).

Based on these 3 items I would interpret Gen. 3:8 to also (consistent with the surrounding verses) be dealing with the struggles of sin and guilt combined with prophetic insights. To implement this sense of Gen. 3:8 I would modestly interpret

a) voice of God = prophecy,

b) ruach = emotions, and

c) ruach hayom = daily emotions (if you like the "cycle of emotions").

The consequent translation of the verse and the preceding verse would be "They became aware of their nakedness....they heard prophetic discussion from God addressing their daily emotions (of guilt on sin)." The follow-up of the verse also makes nice sense: "They hid from God" (a natural reaction of a sinner).

While some readers may critique this interpretation as overly sermonic, I again emphasize the methodological aspect, that it seeks to interpret a difficult phrase ruach hayom consistent with the surrounding content (The sermonics come from the text not from me) For a popular writeup of these ideas see my website http://www.Rashiyomi.com/rule3401.pdf.

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  • I've made some formatting edits to make it easier for people to read your answer. Solid blocks of text are difficult to follow.
    – Lesley
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 15:56
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It is possible that leruach haiyom (le-of) (ruach-spirit) (hai-the) (yom-day) is (The Day of The Spirit) which would have been the Sabbath which God made for man to rest and to worship Him and to be refreshed. This fits in with havdalah tradition. Climate conditions in the Garden of Eden or even in pre-flood times could not have been the same as after the flood. A mist watering the Garden of Eden would not have happened if there were a wind. Climate conditions for wind and rain did not exist yet. The earth was cover with a blanket of atmospheric water that kept temperatures constant. Wind needs temperature change.

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