“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
Did God literally and visibly walk in the garden?
Genesis 3:8 says, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” We know that God is spirit (John 4:24), so how exactly could He be “walking” in the garden?
First, it is clear from Genesis 3:8 that God’s approach in the garden was heralded by a “sound” or a “voice.” The verse begins by stating, “They heard the sound” of the Lord God. Whatever form God took, it certainly allowed for the physical production of sound. His walk was audible; He was making noise.
The verse also mentions the “presence” of God “among the trees” of the garden. It was a presence that Adam and Eve acknowledged and thought they could hide from. So, God’s garden walk included both sound and some sort of presence among the trees.
Even given these two statements, interpretations differ greatly. Some emphasize the fact that God the Father is invisible and cannot be seen by humans. According to this view, God did not appear in the flesh; rather, He took on a symbolic, incorporeal appearance, such as a cloud, much like He did with the Israelites in the desert with Moses (Deuteronomy 31:15).
Others suggest that the idea of God “walking” refers to a theophany—an appearance of God in a tangible, human form. Theologians who hold this view point to a parallel in Genesis 18, where God appears as one of three (seemingly human) visitors to Abraham.
Another theory is based on the Hebrew phrase translated “the cool of the day.” This could be literally translated “the wind of that day.” Some think this might refer to a strong wind. If so, Adam and Eve’s reaction makes more sense. They heard God’s approach as a terrible wind that lashed the trees of the garden, and they took cover. God called (using a Hebrew word that also means “to summon”) Adam to face judgment. Acts 2 records an interesting parallel: the coming of the Holy Spirit was accompanied by “a sound like the blowing of a violent wind” (verse 2). Also, God spoke to Job “out of the whirlwind” (Job 38:1).
Regardless of whether God appeared in human form or in a cloud, or whether He made His presence known by a windstorm, it is clear God Himself confronted the sinners and issued judgment. To the praise of His grace, this judgment also included the promise of a future Redeemer (Genesis 3:15). Thus began a great saga that ultimately led to Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice for sin and substitute for sin’s judgment. Through Christ, those who believe are forgiven of sin and receive eternal life (John 3:16).
How long were Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?
Genesis chapters 1—2 give us the details of God’s creation of the world, including humanity. Adam and Eve were the first human beings, from whom every other human being descends. God formed Adam from the dust and breathed His own life into the man (Genesis 2:7). God fashioned Eve out of Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:22). Both Adam and Eve, and all humans today, were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26–27; 5:1). Genesis 2 describes Adam and Eve’s first home—the Garden of Eden.
We read that God planted a garden and placed Adam there to tend it (Genesis 2:8, 15). But, despite the beauty of God’s new world, there was one thing missing. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). So God made a woman and brought her to him (Genesis 2:21–25). Adam and Eve began their life together in paradise, but how long did the two remain in the Garden of Eden until they sinned and were cast out (Genesis 3)?
The answer is that we do not know. But, based on other biblical evidence, we can assume that their time in the garden was relatively short. The couple did not have their first child until after they were banished from the garden (Genesis 3:23—4:2). Since Romans 5:12 tells us that “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned,” Adam must have been childless at the moment he chose to sin. Any child born before Adam’s sin would not have inherited Adam’s sinful nature. There is no reason to believe that the man and woman abstained from sexual relations in the garden, but we can assume that Eve did not conceive her first child prior to their sin. It seems, then, that the serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and the couple were expelled from the garden quite early on (Genesis 3:1–7).
In their sin, Adam and Eve decided that the Lord would not be their Lord in this situation. They would be their own gods and choose for themselves what was right for them. The world has been reaping the consequences ever since. God had given them everything they needed to thrive and enjoy life, but they soon chose to disobey Him, and they lost paradise. Immediately upon sinning, Adam and Eve realized they were naked, and they felt ashamed (Genesis 2:25; 3:7). They made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves. But God provided them with garments of skin (Genesis 3:21), demonstrating that sin leads to death, as He had said, and that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). God’s action was a foreshadowing of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, whose blood would ultimately cover the sins of all who put their faith in Him (Hebrews 10:1–18). Also in the garden, God promised a Savior, one who would crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15)—that Savior is Jesus.
Then God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and placed an angel with a flaming sword to guard it so they could not return (Genesis 3:24). But God never forsook them. In fact, He had a plan for redemption before He even called the world into existence (Isaiah 46:10; John 1:1–5; Revelation 13:8). For now, the world persists in sin, marred by its consequences (Romans 1:18–32; 8:18–25). But those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have been forgiven of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13–15). We have new life now (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 10:10) and will live with God for all eternity (Luke 23:43; John 3:16–18). One day God will make new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:8–13; Revelation 21—22). The tree of life, lost to Adam and Eve, will be available to all who are a part of God’s restored creation (Revelation 2:7; 22:1–2).
Though Adam and Eve’s time in the Garden of Eden was short-lived, all is not lost. God offers us true life in Him. He is patient with this world, allowing it to continue on, because He wants all to repent and come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). He will one day bring judgment, and we must be ready (2 Peter 3:10)—we must turn from being the gods of our own lives and instead trust in the one, true God. By His grace, through faith, we can be saved (Ephesians 2:1–10). Choose life in Jesus Christ today!