Clothing in Genesis

This article represents a thought provoking and spiritual survey of the clothing of Genesis.

The Clothing in Eden, Gen 3

Not a few have noted the various links between Genesis, the first book in the Bible, and Revelation, the last book. The key number in both is seven. One tells of the old creation, the other of the new creation. What was lost by the Fall in Genesis is restored by redemption in Revelation. Much more could be said in this way, but one other feature in both books that may not have been noticed by all readers, is the reference to clothing. In the description of most of the figures in Revelation, attention is drawn to what they wear. Likewise, Genesis emphasizes the attire worn by its different individuals.

Shortly after the Fall had taken place, our first parents discovered their need of clothing. Not that the temperature had dropped, or that they sought to escape sun-burn, but they had become conscious of shame. The fig-leaved branches (leaves) they sewed together were not made to fit them for the presence of God, but rather to make them acceptable to each other. They had acquired such a sense of shame that parts of their bodies, formerly attractive, had now to be covered. God, who had created their bodies, manifested His care for them in that He provided them with proper clothing. He could easily have created coats out of nothing, but He was pleased to dress them with coat, of skin. They were taught two lessons by this act. Firstly, that they needed the entire body covered, not just their loins; and secondly, that only through death could the needed provision be obtained. They saw each other dressed in the beauty of the slain animal. When God put them into the garden, they were displaying His handiwork, and when they were banished from it they were displaying that they were fallen creatures indebted to the animals around them.

The spiritual lessons in this are important for all to learn. Most can see in the death of the animal here, the first reference in Scripture to the great subject of sacrifice. What is never taught in the New Testament is that God clothes us with the righteousness of Christ. The idea that God reckons to His children the righteous life Christ lived while on earth, is a teaching which is foreign to the Word of God. When Paul speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new man, he is not referring to a judicial act, but rather to a new way of living. Just as Adam and Eve wore the beauty of the victim which died, so saints, by the help of the Holy Spirit, are enabled to manifest in their daily conduct, the features of the One Who has died for them. The injunction to clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” is in contrast to gratifying the desires of the sinful nature” (Rom 13:14). Man has changed little from the beginning, for he still thinks that if he covers gross evils he is doing well, but this is comparable to the “fig leaves”. God, on the other hand, takes delight in seeing the features of Christ reproduced in His people, not only in a partial way, but in their entire personality. Christianity is not natural refinement, but a divine work in the souls of men which gives them a new manner of life that can be seen, not only by God, but by their fellows.

In the world at the present time, strenuous efforts are being made to remove the consequences of the Fall, so that partial nakedness has ceased to be viewed as shameful. Many photographs which now appear in the public press would never have been printed in days past. What is more extreme is the occurrence of mixed nude bathing, which is tolerated in some lands. Whatever be the changes in the world as to style or behavior, the Christian has no sympathy with such evils, but obeys the Word of God by being modestly attired at all times.

The Covering of Noah, Gen 9

In contrast to the fully clothed pair who left the Garden is the case of Noah. He had become drunk and as a result had lost all sense of shame. Apparently, Ham did not view his father’s nakedness with deep concern, but told his two brothers. They in turn regarded the matter as serious. The two of them reversed backwards toward their father and dropped over him the garment they were carrying. Thus they covered his shame, and did so without defiling themselves. There was a solemn outcome to this sad event, for Ham’s son Canaan was cursed for his father’s part in it, and Shem was blessed for his careful action.

There is a close connection between the fall of Adam and the fall of Noah. Adam was head of the old world, and Noah was head of the new world. In both cases, the fall followed a time of blessing and promise. Both are linked with a garden planted. Both fell because of what they partook. Both were shamefully exposed. And both were clothed apart from their own efforts. just as Adam’s sin affected his posterity, so the fall of Noah affected all that sprang from him.

The garments given to Rebekah, Gen 24

The next reference to clothing in Genesis is when the servant of Abraham gave Rebekah raiment after he had been assured that she would be given to Isaac. The costly gifts bestowed upon her, were a token of the wealth she would enjoy in her relationship with him. Possibly before this time, she had never handled gold or silver. The garments received must have been viewed by her with admiration, for they were in sharp contrast to the homely dress of a shepherdess.

The spiritual teaching of these presents is that they typify the graces of the Spirit, referred to in Galatians 5. Just as she shared the wealth of Isaac, whom she had never seen, so we share the wealth of Christ, whom we have not seen. They were an earnest of what she was yet to enjoy The indwelling Holy Spirit is our earnest of the inheritance that will be our portion. Possibly she was wearing one of these garments when she met Isaac. Of this we are sure, the graces bestowed upon the saints by the Spirit will not be left behind when we meet Christ in the air. It was a costly experience for Rebekah to part with her mother and brother, knowing she would never see them on earth again, so these gifts were no small encouragement to her to make the sacrifices. Saying goodbye to all that is dear to us in the world can be costly, but our portion in Christ, which the Spirit enables our hearts to enjoy, causes us to sing, “Farewell vain world, your charms are spread in vain, I’ve heard a sweeter story, I’ve found a truer gain”.

Jacob wears Esau’s garment, Gen 27

The part played by raiment the deception of Isaac by Jacob the time when he obtained blessing was not a small one. Rebekah was determined at all costs to secure the blessing for her favorite son. No sooner had she learned that Esau was about to obtain it than she set about a plan that would avert this happening. Though twins, yet the two boys were distinct as to their skin, for the elder one was covered with hair. That being so, even their blind father could, by feeling, easily distinguish his sons. Both Rebekah and Jacob knew that to prevent the blessing going to Esau and to secure it for the younger son, the problem of identification would have to be addressed. Rebekah was shrewd enough to evise a plan which overcame this problem and succeeded in securing the blessing for the one she desired. Her plan was to make the soup of the flesh of kids instead of soup made of venison. Instead of Jacob coming to his father dressed in his own clothes, he was robed in garments of Esau. Not only so, but the skins of the kids were put upon Jacob’s hands and wrapped around his neck so that when he was handled by Isaac the latter would think that he was handling his hairy son, Esau. In spite of the suspicion aroused by the sound of Jacob’s voice, Isaac accepted that he was embracing Esau, and while doing this, smelt the fragrance of his raiment, which reminded him of the smell of a field which the Lord had blessed. Obviously, the old man had become dull in most of his senses, except his hearing. He had lost his sight, so he could not use that vital faculty. He could not distinguish between soup made of the flesh of goats and soup made of venison, therefore he had lost his sense of taste. He could not detect the difference between the hairy skin of Esau and the skin of kids, so his sense of feeling was impaired, nor was he aware that the fragrance he smelt was partly from goat skins as well as from the garment worn by Jacob, this implies his sense of smell was also impaired. To take advantage of an old person with such weaknesses was indeed a serious evil.

There are important principles to be learned from this story. One is that if anyone acts contrary to the revealed will of God, which Isaac did at this time, he cannot count on God to direct him in his actions. God had promised that the elder would serve the younger, but Isaac sought to reverse this. A second principle is that to obtain what is right by trickery cannot be condoned by a righteous God. The third principle is that the success of a scheme does not justify it. Many have asked, “What would have happened had Rebekah not intervened and obtained the blessing for Jacob?” The simple answer is that the Lord would have overruled and fulfilled His purpose. Perhaps it should be noted that Jacob in a later day reaped what he sowed on this occasion, for his sons deceived him with Joseph’s coat.

Clothes changed when going to Bethel, Gen 35

After the slaughter of the men of Shechem, it became almost impossible for Jacob to dwell in that area. The Lord directed him to return to Bethel and build an altar there. Immediately it dawned upon him that it was in that place he had his wonderful revelation of God, and that the awe he then felt in the presence of God would still be needful when he returned. Much that he had tolerated in his household would need to be cleared away. He was no idolater himself, but idols had been introduced into his house, together with those things which were associated with them. In the midst of these instructions, there was a specific reference to the change of garments. The presence of God required cleanliness as well as the removal of all traces of idolatry.

In this brief reference to garments, it can be seen that God demands purity in those who draw near to Him. In the Tabernacle service, those who ministered in the sanctuary wore linen attire, and on the Day of Atonement, Aaron had to change from his robes into linen garments (Lev 16:4). The garments of heaven are likewise white according to Revelation. If the assembly is the house of God, then it follows that all who belong to it should be characterized by purity. There is much that is defiling in the world, and because we are in it we are in danger of being contaminated by our contacts with it. Because of our relationship to God and His house, we seek grace to walk in separation from the world and keep ourselves like the “few names in Sardis which did not defile their garments” and who were promised that they should be “clothed in white” (Rev 3:3,5).

To be continued