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Genesis 3:21
And the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.

Quote from "What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?":

The first death of an animal occurred when God shed an animal’s blood in the Garden of Eden and clothed Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21)

I've tried to find the verse in Hebrew, thinking that it might mention an animal being killed, its skin being flayed, and the flayed skin being used to clothe Adam and Eve. However, I cannot conclude from the word "skin" in the verse whether it refers to animal skin or tree skin.

How does the quote from the link "suddenly" jump to the conclusion that the first death of an animal occurred at the time of Genesis 3:21 (it seems to me everybody agrees on this)?

I found these different interpretations:

From "Did the early church teach that God performed the first animal sacrifice in Gen 3:21?", skins =

  • their physical bodies (Origen)
  • the bark of trees (Gregory Nazianzen)
  • miraculously-fashioned apparel (Grotius)

[...]

several church fathers discuss the skins

And from this Genesis 3 commentary:

EPHREM THE SYRIAN. garments of skin, and clothed them. Whether these garments were from the skins of animals, or whether they were specially created, like the thorn bushes and thistles which were created after the other works of creation had been completed, seeing that it is said that “the Lord made . . . and clothed them,” it seems likely that when their hands were laid upon their leaves they found themselves clothed with garments made of skin. Or were, perhaps, some animals killed before them, so that they could nourish themselves with their flesh, cover up their nakedness with their skins, and in their deaths see the death of their own bodies? [Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis 3]

THEODORET OF CYRUS. How are we to understand the clothing of skins? Allegorizing commentators (Origen, Didymus, and Theodore) have claimed that the skins were mortal flesh, others that they were made from the bark of trees. But I adopt neither of these views; the latter is merely inquisitive, the former too much of a mythological fable. Since holy Scripture says that the body was formed even before the soul, how can this claim that the man and woman took mortal flesh only after the transgression of the commandment amount to anything but a fable? And it strikes me as futile to pry into the way God came by skins and to imagine a novel form of clothing. We should be content with the text, acknowledge that there is no task beyond the Creator of the universe, and admire the unlimited goodness of God who, taking care for sinners, did not overlook their need for clothing when they were naked. [Theodoret of Cyrus, Question 39 on Genesis]

BOOK OF THE CAVE OF TREASURES. God made for them tunics of skin which was stripped from the trees, that is to say, of the bark of the trees, because the trees that were in Paradise had soft barks, and they were softer than the byssus and silk wherefrom the garments worn by kings are made. God dressed them in this soft skin, which was thus spread over a body of infirmities. [The Book of the Cave of Treasures 1st thousand years]

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    The origin of the skin is not stated. Tree bark would not be a suitable clothing, practically. Thus the species is not recorded. Spiritually, we are to see the promised humanity (which would rise above the serpentine spirit and bruise it from above) as the need of the fallen and sinful first humanity. And that promised humanity (yet to come) must be sacrificed in judgment - a violence and a death is required to resolve the failings of the first humanity, in order that the true purposes of God (in creating humanity at all) should be realised.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 30 at 12:46

9 Answers 9

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The operative word in Gen 3:21 is עוֹר ("or") which occurs almost 100 times in the OT Hebrew. It is used in only two senses:

  • skin of a human, eg, Ex 22:26, 34:39, etc
  • skin/hide of an animal after it has been killed, eg, Gen 27:16, Ex 29:14, Lev 4:11, etc. (single exception is Job 41:7 where it refers to the skin of a living animal)

That is, the word NEVER refers to the "skin" of anything other than either an animal or a human.

Therefore, the instance in Gen 3:21 refers to the skin or hide of an animal, as it could not refer to the skin of a human.

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  • if that is the reason, I wonder why Origen/Gregory Nazianzen/Grotius still give unbiblical interpretation ?
    – karma
    Commented Mar 30 at 9:57
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    @karma - there are many of these unbiblical interpretations from some of these people. Such are based on imagination rather than Biblical data.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 30 at 11:20
  • Thanks for the answer and the explanation, Dottard. So the conclusion (that it is animal skin) is : because 100 occurence of the same word in the OT is either refers to human or animal skin, so the skin in Genesis 3:21 logically is the animal skin. I realize that the next logical conclusion is : then of course the animal is dead (after its skin is flayed off by God). But it's not stated in Genesis 3:21. If it's not stated, isn't it possible that the animal is not dead, miraculously the animal get another new skin ? Just like a donkey miraculously talks.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 30 at 14:06
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    @karma - once you start that kind of imaginative theology, then one could say anything such as, God created the animal skin without the animal, etc. That is not the point. The point is that this "covering" appears to anticipate the distinction made in Isa 64:6, 10, Zech 3:3, 4, Rev 7:14, 19:8.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 30 at 19:41
  • To me, your answer is the most credible reason where the conclusion that the "skin" in Genesis 3:21 is an animal skin. I like @RevelationLad explanation : It remains a matter of belief whether YHVH took life to make clothing. Also I think it depends on the view of the person. If he/she refers to the animal kind which "skin" appear in other verses, then he/she can say that the skin in Genesis 3:21 is from a ram/porpoise/ goat/bull, etc, as long as it's the kind of animal skin which mentioned in other verses.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 7:31
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I'd say that there are 4 primary reasons:

The Definition: The word for "skin" עוֹר is used exclusively to refer to human or animal skin. It's never used for anything else.

Biblical Context: In the preceding verses (Genesis 3:7-10), Adam and Eve realized they were naked after eating from the forbidden tree and sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. However, when God provides garments for them in verse 21, it implies a more durable and substantial covering than mere fig leaves.

Cultural Context: Also, in ancient Near Eastern cultures, garments made from animal skins were really common, especially for protection and warmth. Therefore, I think the natural assumption of the time would be that God provided Adam and Eve with garments made from animal skins.

I don't understand how the quote... jumps to the conclusion that the first death of an animal occurred at the time of Genesis 3:21 (which seems to me, everybody agree it)?

Including the above points I think there's one more to be made:

Theological Interpretation: Many theologians and scholars interpret the act of God providing garments of skin as symbolic of the first sacrifice in response to human sin. In other words, the shedding of blood and the use of animal skins foreshadow the sacrificial system later established in the Mosaic law, where animal sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins.

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  • Thanks for the answer, Jason. The "Cultural Context" is interesting for me. If one put his view in the cultural context, then it will be automatically reach a conlusion that in Gen 3:21 it's surely involve the taking the life of the animal.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 7:50
  • @karma You're welcome! Thank you for putting forward this thought provoking question.
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 31 at 8:20
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Two points:

  1. Some commentators do not believe these were actually animal skins. In addition to Christian sources such as the church fathers cited in the OP, this includes Jewish authorities who understand well that the term used normally refers to skins or hides. Here is an example.

Bereshit Rabbah 20:12

Rabbi Yitzḥak Ravya says: They were as smooth as a fingernail and as pretty as jewels. Rabbi Yitzḥak said: It was like the thin linen garments that come from Beit She’an. [And they were called] garments of hide because they adhered to the skin.

  1. The idea that these hides came from the first animal that ever died is fairly common. It presumes that there was no such thing as death, even for animals, before Adam sinned. All animal life - whether of mammals or fish, dinosaurs or mayflies (lifespan 5 minutes) - lived forever prior to the Fall. The commentary mentioned in the OP bases its conclusion on this opinion. But this view is by no means universal among Christian and Jewish commentators.

Conclusion: Many do believe that these skins came from animals that were killed by God. The text does literally say that God made Adam and Eve garments of skins. But there is no consensus as to what the material actually was, whether God killed animals to obtain them, or even whether any animals had ever died prior to this.

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  • Thank you for the answer and the quote, DanFefferman. I post similar question in Mi Yodeya. It seems there is also some different view about the "skin" in Gen 3:21 within Judaism.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 8:07
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The origin of the skin is not stated.

Tree bark would not be a suitable clothing, practically.

Thus the species is not recorded.

Spiritually, we are to see the promised humanity (which would rise above the serpentine spirit and bruise it from above) as the need of the fallen and sinful first humanity. And that promised humanity (yet to come) must be sacrificed in judgment - a violence and a death is required to resolve the failings of the first humanity, in order that the true purposes of God (in creating humanity at all) should be realised.

The first humanity - once penitent, as Adam clearly was - will be clothed in another humanity . . . . . is the figure being presented to us.

Yet, that coming humanity must pass through judgment, for the sake of righteousness, ere ever that humanity may clothe them that are naked, in and of themselves.

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Genesis 3:21 does not explicitly state that garments for Adam and Eve were made from skin of a dead animal. Christian interpretation often assumes the animal was dead, to achieve its skin as symbols of sacrifice, representing the consequences of sin and the need for atonement. Nevertheless, this interpretation is not without flaw.

Firstly, it's evident that there is no killing in the Lord's Holy Place. According to Genesis 1:29-30, both humans and animals are designated as herbivores, reflecting a harmonious and non-violent order; "29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so".

In Isaiah 65:25, we are presented with a vision of the New Heavens and a new earth, where a harmonious and non-violent order is restored. The passage depicts a scene where even natural enemies coexist peacefully: "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

Given the absence of killing in the Lord's Holy Place, one might question why the Lord would choose to take the life of an animal for its skin when He possesses the ability to create anything from nothing. Genesis 3:21 describes the garments fashioned by the Lord as "garment of skin", which can be interpreted as a skin-liked garment, suggesting a material that is both durable and comfortable compared to garment made of fig leaves. Interestingly, in sefaria.org, Rashi provides a commentary of Genesis 3:21, suggesting that these garments could have been made from natural material resembling skin;

כתנות עור GARMENTS FOR THE SKIN — There are Agadoth which say that they were smooth as fingernails, cleaving to their skin; whereas some say that they were made of material that comes from skin, as for example, the hair of hares which is soft and warm, and of this He made garments for them (Genesis Rabbah 20:12).

The implication here is that God's creative power renders the need for animal sacrifice unnecessary. It suggests a deeper symbolic meaning rather than a literal act of killing.

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  • The hides were physical because they were used to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve, where did they come from in the first place is what the OP is trying to find out
    – Dong Li
    Commented Apr 2 at 17:28
  • @DongLi - please note the commentary of Rashi provided Commented Apr 2 at 20:44
  • Thanks for the answer, Vincent. It's interesting that some Rabbis, although they already live in the world of killing a lamb for sacrifice, but they do not automatically conclude that the "skin" in Genesis 3:21 is a flayed off skin of the animal after God killed it.
    – karma
    Commented Apr 3 at 4:22
  • So God used the wool clothing to cover their nakedness? He didn't kill any animal but just took the fur off the body of an animal and covered them?
    – Dong Li
    Commented Apr 3 at 5:59
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    @DongLi - While the text does not explicitly state it, every interpretation remains speculative. My focus emphasizes on "there is no killing in the holy land", and therefore God would not take the life of an animal to obtain its skin. Commented Apr 3 at 12:11
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The basic issue is how should one understand something which in fact happened.

The first two were without clothing and attempted to clothe themselves. They chose material from existing vegetation, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. In the natural, this type of clothing is obviously deficient. Not only will fig leaves poorly cover, they will soon dry up and fall off.

In response to their desire to be clothed, YHVH clothed them with tunics from ע֖וֹר, which is universally taken to mean skin such as leather. This act would necessitate killing the animal hence it is connected with making a sacrifice. YHVH sacrificed an animal for their sin, and used the skin to make garments.

This sequence follows the New Testament that through one man's sin, death entered the world. In this case it was the immediate death of the animal and the subsequent death of the sinners.

Logically, if in fact YHVH used an ע֖וֹר which is singular to provide garments, and if in fact ע֖וֹר is used to describe material such as leather, what other meaning could it have.

On the other hand, if we survey the animal kingdom and consider is there another explanation for ע֖וֹר which could account for YHVH making real clothing without taking life, there are other possibilities. YHVH could have made clothing from silk or wool. These would not involve taking life and on a purely practical level, a tunic made of either silk or wool would be more comfortable than something made of leather.

It remains a matter of belief whether YHVH took life to make clothing. I prefer to see the one who made all things made living creatures which could be used for clothing without taking their life. Simply, God created silk worms and sheep in order to give man a means of being clothed without taking the life of another creature. He then set the example for mankind by providing clothing without taking the life of an innocent animal.

The Passover Lamb must die once to redeem man but lives to clothe man with His glory.

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  • Thanks for the answer, and it's interesting explanation for me. About singular VS plural of ע֖וֹר , i would like to know that if it's singular, am i correct to conclude that from one animal, its skin is used to make a cloth for Adam and Eve ? Please cmiiw.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 7:40
  • @karma The word for skin is singular. The word for garment is plural. Literally two garments made of one skin. But it is possible to interpret skin to mean one type of animal. Example, two cows would produce two garments which could be called “leather.” So one material, leather, from two of the same type of animal, cows. Commented Mar 31 at 13:58
  • Thanks for the explanation.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 15:58
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Well for decades I would have thought they were animal hides and showed a sacrifice was necessary to cover shame.

If we instead thought that our flesh is a covering for our souls, then it is more natural the think that the skins of animals are our flesh. And presense in the garden of Eden figures or is a preincarnate state.

There are plenty of scriptures to consider here:

Romans 8
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

1 Corinthians 15
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

Matthew 14:26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

John 1:9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

II Corinthians 5
1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
3 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

But I may have been somewhat influenced by Chinese:

光 is word for light, but is used in words indicating nakedness. 火 means fire, but looks like a person with flames about them.

In Hebrew, there is a similarity also between אור, light and עור, skin.

And then rending of clothes, a rent coat, a bloodied coat all take on different potential spiritual meanings.

1 Corinthians 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

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    Thanks for the answer, David. You wrote : "In Hebrew, there is a similarity also between אור, light and עור, skin". From what I've found in the internet, I think that's why in Judaism about the "skin" in Gen 3:21 there is an explanation something like this : After Adam sinned, his clothes changed from light [aleph-vav-resh] to leather [ayin-vav-resh] jbqnew.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/402/jbq_402_kotnotohr.pdf
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 16:14
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There is a traditional Jewish explanation that the skin is the skin of the snake. That satisfies the "skin of an animal" part. In addition, snakes naturally shed their skin, so no killing involved by G-d or by Adam or Eve.

This is in Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer:

Rabbi Eliezer said: From the skin which the serpent sloughed off, the Holy One, blessed be He, took and made coats of glory for Adam and his wife, as it is said, "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skin, and clothed them"

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  • @ manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact - Thank you for your input! However, it is important to provide references for your quotations. And you might do a word study to see if the Hebrew word for "skin" defines which animal it is referring to. Not all rabbinical beliefs were accurate but were based on oral tradition." Keep studying the Bible; it will bring you closer to God!
    – ray grant
    Commented Apr 3 at 22:06
  • עור is used for skin of all types of animals in both Biblical and modern Hebrew. As far as references, I included a link to Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer on Sefaria, which is a generally well-regarded source for Jewish texts. Commented Apr 3 at 22:20
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Genesis, Chapter 3, Verse 21, King James Bible,

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

I see no place in that statement wherein it states any being from which the skins were taken. That is the totality of the description of the event which is supplied herein. To take it further on one's own count is unwise. Let the verse be without adding to it and without subtracting from it. To publish a thought that adds to or subtracts from the Word of God, is to self-proclaim a lack of wisdom.

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  • Thank you for the answer, LineItem. Because I myself is not Christian, so to me it's OK to take it further on one's own as long as it's reasonable in my point of view. So, although Gen 3:21 doesn't state that any being from which the skins were taken, but the word "skin" is there and in other occurence it means either a human skin or animal skin. So, the "skin" in Gen 3:21 is animal skin (at least to me) is a logical conclusion. The next thing is : God kill the animal then flay off its skin is also not stated in Gen 3:21.
    – karma
    Commented Mar 31 at 8:03
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 31 at 12:55
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    You're looking at an English translation, but the Hebrew could have details which haven't been translated. We shouldn't assume that other languages also use one word for both animal skins and plant skins, just because English does.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 2 at 2:54
  • @Community Bot. No. You are wrong. I quoted the Bible, therefore no further details including citations or documentation are necessary. The word of God is forever without change and you should know this already. It is the most correct citation already. Just accept my answer and do not be so illogical.
    – Line Item
    Commented Apr 4 at 0:34

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