After eating of the forbidden fruit they noticed they were naked. It’s interesting to notice that awakening to their shameful state did not occur until Adam ate himself. This may, or may not, be associated with the fact that God had given the instructions regarding the forbidden fruit before Eve was created. However, Kissling informs us, “According to Jubilees 3 Eve clothed herself with fig leaves before she gave the fruit to Adam, who ate and then made his own garment of fig leaves. But Genesis says that only after both of them ate were their eyes opened.”[1] Regardless, they both had shame because of the guilt they felt for what they had done. They tried to cover their shame. Genesis 3:7 says, “And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

I failed to mention when writing about the “fruit” that Eve and then Adam ate was traditionally understood by Jewish Rabbis to be figs. As one web writer says, “Traditionally, in Judaism, the fruit is described as a fig. Even in Michelangelo’s famous painting of the tree on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, we find that the fig tree won the day when it came to depicting the tree of the forbidden fruit. The depiction of this fruit as a fig is fairly natural from the description in Genesis 3:7 of what immediately follows the eating of the fruit.” They used the fig tree leaves to make loin clothes. Maybe this is why Jesus seems to have inexplicably cursed a Fig Tree in Mark 11:12-14. It says, “The next day, as he left Bethany, Jesus was feeling hungry. He noticed a leafy fig tree in the distance, so he walked over to see if there was any fruit on it, but there was none—only leaves (for it wasn’t yet the season for bearing figs). Jesus spoke to the fig tree, saying, “No one will ever eat fruit from you again!” If this was the fruit tree from which Adam and Eve ate, and thus disobeyed God for the first time, Jesus’ statement might be prophetic looking forward to his eventual reign upon the earth where there will be no more sin against God. Notice that Mark’s passage also mentions that the tree is described as a “leafy fig tree.” Thus, the coverings of shame and guilt that Adam and Eve used are suggested.

They used the fig leaves and tried to cover up their shame because of their guilt. But it seems that at this time it was “subjective guilt” rather than a declaration of a verdict, i.e., judicial guilt. One of my Seminary classmates wrote an article for the Michigan Theological Journal and said, “The biblical text does not show a connection between Adam and Eve’s experience of subjective guilt and God’s personally causing these specific emotions of guilt. Subjective guilt is more precisely a post-fall natural human response to original and personal sin. Moreover, this experience of subjective guilt is not presented in a positive or motivational sense. The text does not indicate that these feelings came from God, nor did these subjective guilt feelings motivate Adam and Eve to contrition or repentance. Their immediate actions were to cover themselves with fig leaves. They felt an inner experience of self-accusation and shame apart from an immediate external threat. Adam and Eve subsequently did develop an external fear of God’s wrath which must be seen as distinct from their subjective feelings of guilt.”[2] Exell wraps up his thoughts with this comment: “Sin is able to make the most excellent and glorious of all God’s creatures vile and shameful:—1. It defaces the image of God. 2. It separates man from God. 3. It disorders all the faculties of the soul. Men are more apt to be sensible of, and to be more affected by, the outward evils that sin brings upon them, than with the sin that causeth them.”[3]

[1] Kissling, Paul J. 2004–. Genesis. The College Press NIV Commentary. Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

[2] Restum, John A. 1990. “Genuine Guilt or Self Atonement: A Theological Assessment.” Michigan Theological Journal 1, no. 2: 180.

[3] Exell, Joseph S., and Thomas H. Leale. 1892. Genesis. The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary. New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company.