This exploration venture is an investigation into what is “behind the fig leaf” and will be much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, in which each piece has four sides, mostly male or female shaped. Each such piece is also of multiple colors that have to match the piece next to it. Synonyms in the English language can amplify, spice up, or lend hues of color to each part, but referencing the literal Hebrew and the roots of the words provides an even richer dimension to the picture formed when all the parts are connected. If you have worked with a Hebrew Lexicon you will know what I mean.
The text that I want to highlight is Genesis 3:7, the one from which the title of this article is derived. I will be using the following reference materials: Strong’s Concordance, Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, and Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament and of course the Bible/scriptures.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings” (Genesis 3:7 emphasis added).
Why did Adam and Eve use the fig leaf to cover their shame? Obviously this “fig” is figurative, although some believe that they used the leaf (notice, the original states, “leaf” and not “leaves”) of the very tree whose forbidden fruit they tasted. In other words, the fig tree represented, or may have even been, the very tree of knowledge of good and evil. The meaning of the Hebrew word for fig makes it clear as to why YHVH would have told Adam not to eat the fruit of that particular tree, and why such a tree would be named as it was.
The Hebrew word “fig” is “te’ena”, spelled tav, alef, nun, hey (8384), with its root being alef, nun, hey (578). Several colorful meanings are seen in this root - mourn, mourning, lament, occasion, opportunity, ground for quarrel, pretext. A change of the final letter - from hey to chet (584) - makes it, sigh or groan. Change the hey to a yod (589) and it becomes “I” - individual self-identity; add to the first two letters (alef, nun) chet, nun and vav (587) and its meaning becomes “we”, a multiple of “I’s”. Before their disobedience, man and woman were only conscious of the light of creation emanating from the tree of life (and thus devoid of self-consciousness) , but when their “eyes were opened” they became self-conscious (the ego rising as a little self-contained god - “I”. Indeed they did became their own gods, in fulfillment of the word of satan).
Let’s continue by adding more colors to the ‘piece’ we just viewed. How about alef, nun, chaf (594), which is “plummet”, reminding us of the Fall. Or, alef, nun, nun (596) complain, murmur; alef, nun, samech (597) compel, constrain; alef, nun, kuf (602) cry, groan (as if wounded) or distress (as if in prison); alef, nun, shin (605) be weak, sick (or mortal 582). As you can see, there is more to the meaning of this word – fig – and its surrounding terminologies than just a rendition of a harmless fruit. It points to the fallen, contaminated, corrupted human condition. These adjectives designating negative, unloving, harmful, hurtful and damaging characteristics are fitting descriptions of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and its effect on mankind. Notice the meaning of the word for “evil” – rah - resh, ayin (7451) - distress, murmuring, unpleasant, calamity etc. This is what awaited man if he were to disobey YHVH’s voice, making it obvious why YHVH charged him not to eat of that tree.
Even more understanding, as to the fallen human condition, may be obtained by examining another piece of the puzzle found in the above quoted verse (3:7). The Hebrew word for “naked” - arum singular and arumim plural - is derived from the root ayin, resh, hey (6168): naked, nakedness, a desert waste; destitute, empty, pour out. To add a little more color, ayin, resh, mem, hey (6191; 6195) is guile, wiliness, astuteness, craftiness, prudence, subtlety, wisdom. Is this in any way similar to the description of another creature that was in that tree, of whom it says that he was “more cunning/subtle – arum - than any of the beasts of the field”? (3:1). Is his 'wisdom' seen in us when we have ... bitter envy and self-seeking in our hearts...? This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (James 3:14-15 emphasis added).
Let’s continue and investigate the word for “coverings” (2290), which appears at the end of the above-quoted verse – chagorot, of the root chagar; chet, gimel, resh - gird, gird on, gird oneself; hinder, restrain, closed in space. If we exchange the last consonant with an alef, we end up with chet, gimel, alef (2283) which means reeling; chet, gimel, hey - conceal, place of refuge, protection.
Thus it was actually a “girdle” or a “belt” that was the product of Adam and Eve’s making, not a covering (chaf, samech, hey, 3680), as the latter would not fit well the ‘section’ of the fig in our puzzle. “Stand therefore, having girded your waist (loins) with truth…” and “gird up the loins of your mind” (Eph. 6:14; 1 Peter 1:13) are actions designated to counter the ongoing condition of disseminating and proliferating lies, which begun the journey that humanity has been on ever since.
This fig leaf (with all of its direct meanings and derivations or connected terms) was sown (“taphar” tav, pey, resh, 8609) together collage or quilt style, and was attached by the humans to their bodies. But as if that were not enough, we go on reading: “And they heard the sound of YHVH Elohim walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH Elohim among the trees of the garden” (v. 8). The literal rendering, however, is not "among the trees", but “in the midst of the tree”. What? Yes, they actually hid themselves in the tree of knowledge of good and evil itself. It is no wonder that YHVH asked, "where are you Adam?” as He could not look upon a tree that represented the kingdom of darkness. “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness”, was declared by the prophet Habakkuk (1:13a).
The Garden of Delight has now become in Adam and Eve's languishing hearts an “empty desert waste”, even before they were expelled from it.