Question from a reader:
On page 57 of Heaven, you mention that “Before the Fall, God came to Eden to visit with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8).” This passage references God walking in the Garden after Adam and Eve have fallen, but before God has confronted them. So, does this one post-Fall verse prove that God used to visit Adam and Eve in the Garden?
Answer from Randy Alcorn:
In Genesis 3:8, it is mentioned, “And they heard the sound 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 among the trees of the garden.” Although there is no definitive proof, the implication in this passage seems clear to me. It would be odd for God to only start walking in the garden with Adam and Eve after they had sinned. Normally, God walking with people suggests closeness, intimacy, and fellowship. Therefore, it naturally implies that God often did walk with them, perhaps daily, during the cool part of the day. However, what was remarkable this time was that Adam and Eve were afraid because they had sinned.
The idea that God would withhold His presence before they sinned and then come down among them only after they sinned seems to contradict the biblical teaching of God drawing near to the righteous and drawing back from the unrighteous. Although God does eventually come down, in this instance it is for confrontation and judgment, whereas before it had been for fellowship. The fact that God still comes to them even after they have sinned emphasizes that they were the ones who moved away from Him first, before He eventually moves them away from Himself by putting them out of Eden.
What is different and deserving of commentary is not that God has come to walk in the Garden for the first time, but that for the first time, Adam and Eve respond to His presence with fear and hiding due to sin.
Here’s what JFB Bible Commentary has to say: “…they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.” The divine Being appeared in the same manner as before, uttering the well-known tones of kindness, walking in some visible form (not running hastily, as one impelled by the influence of angry feelings). These words beautifully express the familiar and condescending manner in which He had previously interacted with the first couple.
The New American Commentary adds: The anthropomorphic description of God “walking” in the garden suggests the enjoyment of fellowship between Him and our first parents. The adverbial phrase “in the cool of the day” translates the Hebrew phrase “wind [rûah] of the day.” This phrase can also be rendered as “the breezy time of the day” or “at the time of the evening breeze.” Throughout Genesis, “walked with God” is a favorite expression, depicting the righteous conduct of Israel’s heroes, including Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. However, in this instance, Adam and Eve are hiding from God in fear. God’s presence is also noted by His “walking” in the camp and sanctuary of Israel. Later, Israel recognized that God demanded holiness and obedience if He were to continue to “walk” among His people. It is part of the sad deception that the man and woman, who desired to be like God, are now afraid to commune with Him.
For more information on the subject of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.