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What is the significance of the garments of skin that God made Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21)?

garments of skin

After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the couple learned the consequence of their disobedience to God. Sin would ultimately bring death to humankind, along with the loss of innocence and a sense of guilt. Realizing they were in a fallen condition, now naked and ashamed (see Genesis 2:25), they tried to hide from the Lord and cover their shame with clothing made of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). But God did not accept these garments crafted of their own ingenuity: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).

God told Adam that he would die because of his sin (see Genesis 2:17; 3:19). Physically, Adam died 930 years later (Genesis 5:5). But he also died spiritually through immediate separation from God (Genesis 3:22–24). Before the fall, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in paradise, but now they were banished from His presence. And although God would indeed punish their sin, He would also offer grace and compassion for them and all humankind.

The garments of skin that God Himself made for Adam and Eve and placed upon them to cover their shame required the shedding of blood and were symbolic of the salvation we have been given in Jesus Christ. The animal-skin garments God placed on Adam and Eve show that the sacrifice of animals was necessary to cover the sinful condition that disgraced humankind.

Arthur Pink comments on the garments of skin God made for Adam and Eve: “It was the first Gospel sermon, preached by God Himself, not in words but in symbol and action. It was a setting forth of the way by which a sinful creature could return unto and approach his holy Creator. . . . It was a blessed illustration of substitution—the innocent dying in the stead of the guilty” (Gleanings in Genesis, ch. 5, § IV, Moody, 1922, p. 44).

In the Jewish sacrificial system, atonement for sin was achieved through the shedding of an animal’s blood: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11). The author of Hebrews further explains, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).

The first shedding of animal blood to make garments of skin for Adam and Eve and the Jewish sacrificial system were both foreshadows of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The Lamb of God laid down His life to pay the price for our sin (1 John 3:16; 4:9–10). Jesus did this not just to cover our sins but to take them away altogether. In His grace and mercy, He strips away the inadequate work of our own hands and clothes us in His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). By faith in Jesus Christ, we are entirely covered (Romans 3:21–31). We are freed from guilt, shame, and nakedness. Jesus does for us that which we cannot do for ourselves.

Aware of our shortfalls and sinfulness, many of us, like Adam and Eve, attempt to clothe ourselves in self-righteous good works. We go to church, perform religious duties, and piece together “fig-leaf” coverings of our own making. But God says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). It is only by God’s grace that we are saved from sin through faith in Jesus Christ, “and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). When the prodigal son returned home, his father, with grace and forgiveness, said, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him” (Luke 15:22). Like our heavenly Father, the father in the parable embraced his repentant son and placed his best cloak over him—what mercy, love, and compassion!

With garments of skin, God covered Adam and Eve, thereby expressing His grace and forgiveness in the face of sin and judgment. This act reminds us that salvation is all the work of God in Jesus Christ. We are redeemed from the fall through the gracious intervention of God. We can lift our voices and sing with all the redeemed, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).

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What is the significance of the garments of skin that God made Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21)?
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This page last updated: January 25, 2023