Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Remember that when Adam and Eve sinned they immediately perceived that they were naked? The nakedness of our first father and mother was a spiritual condition as well as a physical one. Now that they had broken away from God, they deeply sensed that they were vulnerable , uncovered, and exposed as sinful beings in the presence of holiness.
This sense of nakedness has passed down unto all of the children of Adam. All of us feel the need for some kind of covering of our innate shame. Even unbelievers in God have a psychological need for some sense of justification of their own lives, often seeking it in “do-goodism”.
Adam and Eve constructed clothing of fig leaves in their vain attempt to deal with the sense of shame, caused by the fall. None of us want to have to appear naked before the Holy God, therefore we seek a covering.
But the fig leaves proved to be inadequate. They didn’t truly remove the shame, for Adam and Eve fled from God, even though they were clothed in fig leaves . On the Judgment day, all of the accumulated “fig leaves” will prove to be insufficient as a covering for our shame.
The problems with fig leaves are manifold. First of all , they are the solution initiated and enacted by man. It was Adam’s idea, his own solution to the profound spiritual, moral and psychological problem of nakedness, ie shame.
The fact that Adam’s solution to the outcome of sin was rejected by God, is an early testament to what Paul the apostle would make so clear, in Romans 3;
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.(Romans 3:20)
We can not be saved by good works,(fig leaves) , for God doesn’t accept them as satisfaction of His broken law. The solution can’t come from fallen man, the best that man can do to justify himself, in the sight of God is as abominable as filthy rags,
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.(Isaiah 64:6)
Secondly, Adam’s solution to the shame problem didn’t address the real problem. In trying to cover over with fig leaves the sense of shame for what he had done, he showed a failure to appreciate the true nature of his sin, as well as the impact of it upon his God. He was trying to remedy guilt feelings, but not true moral guilt.
We men don’t merely feel guilty, we are guilty. We have broken God’s law, and by our self-will, disrupted God’s universe. All of our sins are against God himself. If there is to be a solution to the estrangement they have wrought, it has to come from God.
All of the false religious systems of the world, developed by the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are man centered. They are designed to recover the lost sense of covering, the “rightness” with God that Adam once took for granted and that even fallen men acutely sense.
They are mere fig leaves, man centered works systems which prove wholly insensitive to the true claims of God and to the deepest need of man, which is not the eradication of guilty feelings, but the expiation of true and deep guilt.
This is the significance of the animal skin coverings. The fig leaves had to be removed, Adam and Eve had to forswear their own solution to the shame problem, in order to accept God’s solution, which was the animal coverings.
On a practical level it must have horrified them to see the dead lambs , rams or bulls that God skinned as He made them coverings. They had never seen physical death, the shedding of blood, or the tanning of hides.This was God’s solution? It seemed so harsh, so barbaric, so bloody!
Surely fig leaves was a more compassionate way of clothing oneself!
But the bloody skins were God’s way, not the fig leaves, and like every other detail in this hugely significant chapter, they are of vast theological import. What is God teaching by this act of clothing them?
Substitution; The wages of sin is death, therefore someone must die for sin, either the sinner or an innocent substitute. God’s way of dealing with the shame of sin, is by the substitution of life for life.
It would later emerge in the unfolding of God’s revelation that God knew we would sin and fall and need such a covering, and had already provided Jesus as “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world”.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;(Revelation 5:9)
But for the first couple, the testimony was the promise of the “seed of the woman” and the freshly slain animals, whose death provided an adequate covering.The first lesson God taught the newly fallen couple was the lesson that to them, worship would only be possible by way of blood sacrifice.
This they would pass on to their sons, one of whom would virulently reject the revelation, the other one would die as a martyr to it.