“And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)
“Atonement is secured, not by any value inherent in the sacrificial victim, but because sacrifice is the divinely appointed way of securing atonement.” J.I. Packer
“The first physical deaths should have been the man and his wife, but it was an animal—a shadow of the reality that God would someday kill a substitute to redeem sinners.” John MacArthur
Why was it necessary for God to provide garments of skin for Adam and his wife? The answer is found within the context of Genesis 3:1-7. God prohibited by a solemn command the man and his wife from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). He warned them that in the day they ate from it, they would surely die. Tragically, they did not obey the LORD.
Genesis 3:1-7 says, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, 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 were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”
Sin commonly occurs in several ways. Therefore, believers must always be on their guard (I Peter 5:8-9).
Sin occurs by questioning what God has commanded. The serpent asked the woman, ““Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” How crafty the question was regarding what God actually commanded. God did not say that the man and the woman were not to eat of “any” tree in the garden, but to not eat of only “one” tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17).
Sin also occurs by adding to what God has said. God never offered a command saying the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not to be touched. The woman added that stipulation. We are never to either add to, or take away, from the revealed Word of God (Revelation 22:18-19).
Sin finally occurs by the outright denial of what God has said. “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Not only was there a denial of what God said, there was also the failure to explain the consequences the couple would face in knowing good and evil. They, who had been good, would now know what evil was by having become evil themselves.
Giving into temptation then becomes sin (James 1:12-15). Temptation, resulting in sin, involves the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17). The person tempted sees the object of their lust and justifies wanting what they want by their craving of it, their gazing at it, and their sense of entitlement for it. In other words, the sinner sees something, wants what they see and convinces themselves they deserve what they see and want. The sinner questions what God has said, adds or takes away from what God has said and then outright denies what God has said.
When the man and the woman took and ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they then understood they had disobeyed God and were filled with a sense of guilt and shame. Consequently, they sought to cover their guilt and shame, along with their bodies, with man-made loincloths from leaves. Even today, mankind seeks to cover its and shame because of their sin by a self-righteous works based system of penance or atonement.
Genesis 3:21 is the first allusion in Scripture of what would become known as the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. Granted, the doctrine is not completely explained, as it would be in Romans 3:21-26, but it is demonstrated as God provided coverings for the man and his wife following their act of disobedience against Him. God alone would efficiently cover and forgive the man and woman’s sin by coverings He would Himself provided through the death of innocent animals. The guiltless would die in place of the guilty.
“And the LORD God.” Two names are mentioned: LORD and God. LORD is the English rendering for the Hebrew word Yahweh. This is the most personal name for God. It means self-sufficient One or I Am Who I Am (Exodus 3:1-14). The name God means mighty and powerful.
“Made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins.” The Hebrew word “made” means to manufacture. God manufactured garments for Adam and his wife. The garments were shirt-like tunics. They were made from animal skins, perhaps leather, although the text does not specifically say what kind of animal. Symbolically, the animal skins represented an atonement for sin, which was not accomplished through some man made effort but rather by a God provided substitute.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “An animal was sacrificed to provide garments of skin, and later all Israel’s animal sacrifices would be part of God’s provision to remedy the curse—a life for a life. The sinner shall die! (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23) Yet he will live if he places his faith in the Lord, who has provided a Substitute. The skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve perpetually reminded them of God’s provision.”
Puritan Matthew Henry writes, “These sacrifices were divided between God and man, in token of reconciliation: the flesh was offered to God, a whole burnt-offering; the skins were given to man for clothing, signifying that, Jesus Christ having offered himself to God a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour, we are to clothe ourselves with his righteousness as with a garment, that the shame of our nakedness may not appear. Adam and Eve made for themselves aprons of fig-leaves, a covering too narrow for them to wrap themselves in, Isaiah\ 28:20. Such are all the rags of our own righteousness. But God made them coats of skins; large, and strong, and durable, and fit for them; such is the righteousness of Christ.”
Take time today to thank God for covering your sin with the righteousness of Christ. I encourage you to read Zechariah 3:1-5.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!