Why is there, seemingly, an interruption in the narrative at Gen 3:20 to say that Adam named Eve?

One clue can be found in the explanation of the name: she is “the mother of all living,” i.e., חַוָּה or Chavvah, which is very close to the verb חֲיָא or chaya, “to live.” Now, apart from “be fruitful and multiply,” there is no mention of reproduction or motherhood in the story of Eve making or before Gen:15-16. At was at that point that the notion that she would give birth at all—in pain or otherwise—was introduced. Once this is introduced, a name that befits her role is given. As with Adam, the Gen 2-3 narrative serves as an origin story explaining the role of women in the world. But this almost makes it sound as if the punishment is having children at all; one need not think so, because the pain of childbirth and the difficulty of raising children that adequate curses for motherhood. Similarly, tilling the earth was something it was implied Adam might have done if he had not fallen, but his particular curse was to do so in sweat and toil.

Why does God make garments of skin at Gen 3:21? Moreover, why is this said to be the first sacrifice?

The garments serve to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, which symbolizes their sin. But why a “sacrifice”? First of all, it seems unlikely that God would have made “coats of skins” without having slaughtered some animals for those skins. Moreover, the garments were made for Adam and Eve, both for their benefit and to cover what it would (when more people are on earth) it would be a shame to be seen. Finally, as a commentator puts it, God is covering their sin, and saving them from immediate death, whether from exposure or through execution—and doing so by taking another life, so that there is a life for a life. This is not unlike the sacrifice of Jesus as a covering for our sins. The latter comparison seems even more apt when one considers that Adam and Eve had attempted to cover their “sins” with the fig leaves, and yet that covering, made through their own efforts, was deemed totally inadequate by God. Of course, there is no reason to think that there was anything like a sacrifice in the sense of ritual ceremony that was done in the making of the garments. But that does not undermine the suggestion that they did serve as sacrifices. The basic notion, found in Lev 17:11, arguably applies here: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.”

Is it not true from Gen 3:7 and especially Gen 3:22 that the fruit did, in fact, make them “wise,” and “as gods, knowing good and evil”? If so, what, exactly, did they learn, so that they were indeed “as gods” even in God’s own opinion?

It certainly seems to be true, since God says, “the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” According to our earlier analysis, the “Knowledge of Good and Evil” conferred by eating the fruit is no less than acquaintance with the dubious blessings and many curses that stem from an attempt to flourish without the protection of God. In other words, it is simply the knowledge of the good and bad of normal, brutal, adult human life. In this way they had become as “one of us,” that is, beings acquainted with what a world of free and imperfect beings is like.

What exactly is God concerned to guard against in Gen 3:22?

The only thing the text is quite clear about is that God wants to prevent man from living forever. Such a notion doubtless seems offensive for the simple reason that man had become sinful, and an immortal man would make sin immortal as well. That would offend deeply against God’s holiness. Still, some look at the text of Gen 3:22-24 and think that God is concerned to keep man lowly, not too wise, not such as to pose a challenge to his authority. Such a notion, however, is utterly ridiculous. God had recently finished created everything; to a being so powerful and wise, there is no possible threat from a created being. There is a similar supposed puzzle about the Tower of Babel, as if God were actually threatened by uppity man, as if he wanted to keep man humble because man might be a threat. That is not the point, as we will see, although it is certainly true that God did not want man thinking that he was a god; again, see Ezek. 28 where he describes the “prince of Tyrus” as a Satanic would-be god. Even there, the reason God loathes the idea of such an overproud man is that such men become brutal sinners, when true righteousness simply humility before God. So keeping some sort of occult, or advanced, knowledge out of man’s hands makes up absolutely no part of what God is guarding against in 3:22. No, God simply wants to prevent fallen man from entering such a holy place. The right to the Tree of Life returns again at the very end of the Bible: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:14)

When God speaks of “one of us” in Gen 3:22, is he addressing himself, or other spiritual beings?

This is something of a mystery, and we already discussed this in relation to elohim in Gen 1:1, but there is another aspect that is worth exploring further: the phrase here, “one of us” (כְּאַחַ֣ד מִמֶּ֔נּוּ, ka’echad mimmenu), does explicitly suggest one individual among a number. The expression is harder to explain as an emphatic plural—but still, perhaps, possible, because perhaps in the context of the emphatic plural elohim, the Hebrew for “as me,” instead of “as one of us,” would sound awkward. Another possibility is that God is addressing what is called the divine council, including the angels, seraphim, and cherubim; the fact that the cherubim make an appearance in the very next sentence makes this plausible. What is absolutely not likely is that God is addressing other actual divinities, because the same author of this text strongly inveighs against the notion of any other spirits being called “gods” at all. And of course, it is entirely possible that, before the author was familiar with the three persons of the Trinity, he was nevertheless inspired by the Holy Spirit to use the plural, communicating primarily with those who would come after.

How does Adam’s expulsion from the garden in Gen 3:23 specifically “to cultivate the ground” satisfy the details of Gen 2-3?

Notice that God does not merely expel Adam; he expels him to till the ground, i.e., not merely from the Garden, but to begin a life of farming. This small detail neatly ties up Adam’s story in line with the introduction, of Gen 2:4-7. Those verses, as you might recall, spoke of the “generations,” or family history, of “the heavens and the earth” and in particular of the rain (of the heavens) and the ground (of the earth). Adam is created of the earth, as his name suggests, and as he is reminded by God at 3:19 and 23. Moreover, in explaining why rain had not yet fallen (at a certain point in prehistory), it was because “there was not a man to till the ground” (2:5) and make proper use of the rain. Even in the Garden, God specifies that Adam’s role is “to dress it and to keep it.” So the expulsion “to cultivate the ground” serves to conclude this origin story of Adam’s work as a tiller of the ground.

Why are the cherubim placed “east” of the Garden in Gen 3:24?

This is not clear. If the cherubim are placed eastward, it would follow that they were blocking Adam’s way, meaning that he had been expelled in that direction. Throughout the Bible, the east, or things “eastward,” are often associated with corruption and curse: this is where Assyria and Babylon were, and where the Israelites were exiled. Cain, too, was exiled east of Eden in “the land of Nod,” after killing Abel (Gen 4:15). This might serve to explain why some of the earliest, most ancient people came from the southeast of Mesopotamia.

What are cherubim, first introduced in Gen 3:24?

Not chubby flying babies. The are described in some detail in Ezek. 1 and 10, where they are described as having four faces, representing different creatures, with the legs and hands of men, but also wings and with the soles of their feet like hooves. There are other details, but I will save a fuller description for later.

Why cherubim guards (Gen 3:24)? Why the flaming sword?

Such details can only be worked out by making guesses based on the context where the creatures appear. They appear, first, guarding the Garden. Next, they appear atop the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. And then in Ezekiel, they seem to be something like attendants, guards, or even perhaps a kind of beast of burden for God’s throne in the sky. In all three instances, they stand as a kind of guardian of the holiness of God. Yet this is also the role of the seraphim in Isaiah 6. Moreover, the flaming sword also serves a guardian role. Both flame and sword are frequent symbols God’s wrath: “For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many.” (Isa. 66:16) Similarly, as Nahum’s prophesy against Nineveh has it, “There shall the fire devour thee; the sword shall cut thee off” (Nah. 3:15). Flame and sword are, of course, two of the most destructive killers in wartime. Thus God declares war on any sinful creature that would approach the Garden.