“The Cool of the Day” (Gen. 3:8) and “the Way He Should Go” (Prov. 22:6) -- By: Douglas K. Stuart

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 171:683 (Jul 2014)
Article: “The Cool of the Day” (Gen. 3:8) and “the Way He Should Go” (Prov. 22:6)
Author: Douglas K. Stuart

“The Cool of the Day” (Gen. 3:8) and “the Way He Should Go” (Prov. 22:6)*

Douglas K. Stuart

* This is the third article in the four-part series “My Favorite Mistranslations,” delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 5-8, 2013.

Douglas K. Stuart is Professor of Old Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Genesis 3:8

The traditional translation of Genesis 3:8 seems to suggest that God picked a pleasant time of day for a walk in the Garden of Eden when He visited Adam and Eve. The proposed translation suggests that He arrived in fury, supports the idea that His arrival was for the purpose of judgment, and helps explain why Adam and Eve hid from Him.

The ESV text of Genesis 3:8 is translated in a traditional manner that parallels nearly all English versions: “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.”

Jeffrey Niehaus has proposed a different translation of the verse, as follows: “Then the man and his wife heard the thunder of Yahweh God as he was going back and forth in the garden in the wind of the storm and they hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the garden.”1

Although this proposed translation is admirably defended in Niehaus’s article, published twenty years ago, and although it has attracted approving attention in the scholarly literature and has been adopted already by some commentators, it has yet to appear

in any published English version.2 And it probably will not for several decades more, at least not in any widely read printed version. Why? Because it proposes changing the English translation of a familiar part of the Bible to an extent that changes one’s perception of the concept.3

What is important about the proposed change? If the commonly known translation is correct, something about the time and/or temperature in the Garden of Eden presumably helps us appreciate why God was walking there. But if the proposed translation is correct, we learn that a loud storm, part of God’s self-manifesting presence in the garden, frightened Adam and Eve into hiding. Judgment, n...

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