So, what is the conclusion of this study? What are the biblically valid purposes for clothing, and which of those purposes best explains why God clothed Adam and Eve in Gen. 3:21?
Let me review.
Fear and Shame? No.
At the outset, we observed that Adam and Eve’s purpose for clothing themselves—to address the fear and shame—met with God’s reprimand rather than His approval. This established a baseline understanding that such a purpose for clothing was not biblically valid, and therefore, could not have been God’s purpose for clothing them 10 verses later. [For further discussion of this point, see the Epilogue]
Clothing as Currency? Yes, but No.
We next observed that clothing was actually used as currency in the Bible. But this would not explain God’s clothing of Adam and Eve.
Sign of Position? Yes, but No.
Clothing in the Bible sometimes was worn to signify that the wearer held a position of great honor. Once again, this does not fit God’s clothing Adam and Eve at all.
Communicate About a Person? Yes, but Not Likely.
Sometimes clothing was used to communicate the role, mental state, or status of a person. Could this explain why God clothed the first couple… to declare them to be sinners in need of covering? That might make some sense, but there is no corroboration in the text for that idea, nor is it stated anywhere else in the Bible. Consequently, it is highly suspect and uncertain. [For further discussion of this point, see the Epilogue]
Gender Distinction? I Doubt it, but No.
The biblical support for the notion that clothing is for gender distinction is very weak, However, even if it is a valid purpose for clothing, it does not explain why God would clothe Adam and Eve.
Warmth and Protection? Yes, and Very Fitting!
It is very easy to discern in the Bible that warmth and protection are fundamental purposes for clothing. Also, upon examination of the account of the Fall and the Curse, we can discern from the immediate context offers evidence that warmth and protection would likely be needed for life outside of the Garden of Eden.
Controlling Lust? No.
Despite the fact that this purpose for clothing is almost universally assumed to be valid, there is no credible evidence for it in the Bible… Not in Genesis 3, and not anywhere else. Since it is not a biblically valid purpose for clothing, it cannot explain God’s purpose for clothing Adam and Eve.
Have I missed any other purpose for clothing that might be found in the Bible? I welcome any feedback that would offer evidence that I have. I would be happy to add to this series of articles to include any oversight.
The Most Reasonable Answer…
Of all the purposes for clothing found in the Bible, only one fits the context of God’s provision of clothing for Adam and Eve. Without any doubt, Warmth and Protection provide the most reasonable explanation of God’s purpose for the coats of skin. Consequently, we can conclude with a good measure of confidence that God graciously clothed the first couple to protect their bodies from cold, thorns, and other potentially harmful factors that would have been reality outside of the Garden of Eden.
Of course, the Word of God does not give us a direct answer to our question of why God clothed Adam and Eve, so we cannot build doctrines or moral standards upon our conclusion, no matter how firm we believe it to be. However, it is very important that if we are going to offer any suggestion as to what God’s purpose was, we must offer an explanation that is both both biblical and reasonable.
Sadly, the most common view of why God gave Adam and Eve clothing—to control lust—is neither biblical nor reasonable. Despite that fact, entire systems of moral standards have been based upon its faulty logic. This view and its false standards must be rejected.
— Matthew Neal
This article Series:
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Introduction
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 1 – Shame and Fear??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 2 – Clothing as Currency
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 3 – Sign of Position
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 4 – Communicate About the Person
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 5 – Gender Distinction?
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 6 – Warmth and Protection
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Part 7 – Controlling Lust??
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Conclusion
The Biblical Purpose for Clothing – Epilogue