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HaShem asked HaAdam a strange question in Genesis 3:9 - "Ayekah?" ( אַיֶּֽכָּה )

  • Do English bibles mistranslate the meaning of "Ayekah" as a confused "Where-Are-You" instead of a compassionate "How-Are-You"?

Genesis 3:9

"YHVH God called out to The-Man and-said to-him, “[How are you]?” ( וַיִּקְרָ֛א יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹ אַיֶּֽכָּה )

  • Was Elohim confused or compassionate?
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    I have always read the English words as metaphorical, the very question asking 'Where (morally and spiritually) are you ?' and prompting a train of thought in the hearer ' well, where, indeed, am I ? Thus it is perfectly compassionate a question, prompting the hearer to pause and consider their moral and spiritual course. I could not, at all, say it is 'confused'. – Nigel J Apr 14 at 16:05
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This question can be decided on two bases; Grammatical/Semantic and Narrative flow.

Grammar/Semantics

The operative word he in Gen 3:9 is the final word in the verse, אַיֶּֽכָּה - the interrogative adverb being אַי = "Where" which occurs 36 times in the OT (eg, Gen 3:9, 4:9, 16:8, Deut 32:37, Judges 13:6, 1 Sam 9:18, etc) and is almost always correctly translated as "where".

All versions that I could find translate as "where" (I could find no exceptions in Gen 3:9). The BDB meaning is given below in the appendix and lists the meaning as "where?".

Narrative Flow

Note that the story in Gen 3 contains the following elements:

  • Adam and eve sin by eating the fruit (V1-6)
  • They sew fig leaves together to hide their bodies (V7)
  • God comes to talk and they hid (V8)
  • God calls, "Where are you" (v9)
  • Adam replies that he was naked and afraid so he had hidden himself (V10)

Thus, the flow of the story demands that God ask "Where?" rather than "How".

APPENDIX - BDB meaning for אַי

  1. interrogative adverb where?

a. so with suffix אַיֶּ֫כָּה [a verbal form, see Sta§ 355 b. 3] Genesis 3:9; אַיּוֺ Exodus 2:20, poetry where is he? = he is nowhere Job 14:10; Job 20:7 (Jeremiah 37:19 read Qr אַיֵּה); אַיָּם Nahum 3:17 (in indirect question) and the place thereof is not known, אַיָּם where they are. Idiomatically, with the suffix anticipating the noun to which it refers (Ew§ 309 c, compare DrSm. i. 21, 14) 2 Kings 19:13 אַיּוֺ מֶלֶחחֲֿמָת where is he, the king of Hamath? ("" Isaiah 37:13 אַיֵּה) Isaiah 19:12; Micah 7:10. When used alone, or with other adverbs (see below), it is contracted to אֵי Genesis 4:9; Deuteronomy 32:37; 1 Samuel 26:16; Proverbs 31:4 Qr. (The more usual form is אַיֵּה.)

b. strengthened by the enclitic זֶה (see זֶה, 4 אֵיזֶֿה15 where, then ? (never of a person, except Esther 7:5 (late), & only once 1 Kings 22:24 [but see 2 Chronicles 18:23] with a verb) Isaiah 50:1; Isaiah 66:1 (twice in verse); Jeremiah 6:16, in indirect question 1 Samuel 9:18; in the phrase אֵיזֶֿה הַדֶּרֶח ֗֗֗ where is the way (that) . . . ? 1 Kings 13:12; 2 Kings 3:8; 2Chronicles 18:23; Job 38:19 a. 24.

2 prefixed to other adverbs or pron., אֵי imparts to them an interrogative force: thus

a. אֵיזֶֿה which (of two or more)? only Ecclesiastes 2:3; Ecclesiastes 11:6 (late), in indirect question

b. אֵימִֿזֶּה whence ? (מִזֶּה = hence; see below זֶה) Genesis 16:8 אֵימִֿזֶּה בָאתְ 1 Samuel 30:13; 2 Samuel 1:3,13; Job 2:2; in indirect question Judges 13:6; 1 Samuel 25:11; with substantive annexed 2 Samuel 15:2 אֵימִֿזֶּה עִיר אַתָּה literally whence, as regards city, art thou ? Jonah 1:8.

c. אֵילָֿזֹאת Jeremiah 5:7 upon what ground ? (ᵑ9 super quo? how? With other adverbs, אֵי coalesces into one word, see אֵיכָה, אֵיכָכָה, אֵיפֹה.

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Genesis 3:

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

The scene here is physical and concrete. They hid from the eyesight of God. In terms of context, "Where are you?" is more natural here than "How are you?". But of course, the question carries a deeper questioning. God questions Adam on his welfare. Adam feels shame. God's holiness is too much for Adam. Adam needs to confess. God is not confused. He behaves anthropomorphically in this interaction with Adam.

Pulpit expresses a similar sentiment:

And the Lord God called unto Adam. Adam's absence was a clear proof that something was wrong. Hitherto he had always welcomed the Divine approach. And said unto him, Where art thou? Not as if ignorant of Adam's hiding-place, but to bring him to confession

God wants Adam to come to him and confess so he asks "Where are you?" to start the deeper conversation of disobedience and sin.

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When working on the Masoretic text, the analysis of the Hebrew in Genesis 3:9, of the word ‘Ay’ was in full agreement with the interpretation of the earliest Septuagint. ‘Where’. These is no inference towards ‘how’. The assignment of ‘Ay’ was as an adverb.

And this makes ‘sense’. Adam had just eaten, he had just *died’ - spiritually. Biblically, ‘Death’ means separation. ‘Eating’ had separated Adam from God. God ‘knew’ that they (man/God) had been separated - so a natural response is be find that which you have been ‘separated’ from.

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I have always read the English words as metaphorical, the very question asking 'Where (morally and spiritually) are you ?' and prompting a train of thought in the hearer ' well, where, indeed, am I ?

Thus it is perfectly compassionate a question, prompting the hearer to pause and consider their moral and spiritual course. I could not, at all, say it is 'confused'.

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