Of Fig Leaves and Fear

“Adam, where are you?”

God came searching. He knew where Man and Woman were, of course, but in asking, he points out to us that something big has changed.

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

“Who told you that you were naked?” God replies.

I’ve been studying fig trees this week — connecting dots throughout Scripture and science and finding some remarkable new-to-me things I didn’t know before. Maybe you will find them as intriguing as I did.

“They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

The fig tree features prominently in Scripture. It is the third tree mentioned in Genesis, after the Tree of Life and the Tree of Judgment (Knowledge of Good and Evil). Because Adam and Eve made their clothes from fig leaves, Talmudic rabbis reasoned that the forbidden fruit they ate was a fig, not the apple we picture today. (Genesis Rabbah 15:7) I assumed it wasn’t an apple, but hadn’t thought about the incredible, edible… fig.

Most people think the reason the first couple hid themselves was out of shame, however, that’s not even in the passage. The truth is that it was fear. “I was afraid,” Adam says.

Why? He was vulnerable – he had no weapons; no defense and remember that God had said:

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

Genesis 2:17

Adam and Eve basically put two and two together and figured out that their deaths were imminent, so it would be best to hide and protect their most vulnerable body parts. (Some scholars even suggest the fig aprons were rudimentary belts to hold weapons!) Put yourself in their… well they didn’t have shoes, so… stand barefoot naked in a forest and think about their predicament.

Even as their self-covering attempts failed, so do ours. We can’t hide from God, because He sees everything: “No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

Edward Mwanisa said it this way: “Sin creates fear. We often choose the way of sin to feel free, but instead of giving us freedom it makes us fearful. We fear the outcome of our choice. We’re afraid of what people will think of us. We’re afraid of the consequences, and so we point the finger at someone else, just like Adam and Eve both did (Gen. 3:10–13).”

Surprisingly to Adam and Eve, God did not attack them. Yes, He confronted them with the truth of their sin, and declared the consequences of what they had done, but the remarkable thing is that He promised a future where restoration would take place. He offered love – a love they surely didn’t deserve – one that would overcome their guilt and fear.

Detail of Zampieri – Adam and Eve

More About Figs in the Bible

Did you know that the milky sap of fig trees can cause extremely painful skin irritations? The leaf and root sap are the most potent parts. It makes me wonder if part of the curse on plants specifically included this poisonous substance.

I can imagine ancient parents telling their children: “Don’t ever make clothing out of fig leaves. It’s a reminder that God sees our nakedness anyway and we cannot hide from Him!”

So, Do You Like Figs? Let me know in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Of Fig Leaves and Fear

  1. Thanks for providing a devotional moment for me this morning. I have often thought the same about the irritating sap of fig trees. But I hadn’t really spent time pondering the ashamed vs afraid aspect of the story even though it’s right there, plain as day. And to answer the title question, from your FB link, I love figs! I believe they are the most perfect fruit God created!

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