Genesis 3:10, What Sound Did Adam Hear?
“I heard Your sound in the Garden and I was afraid because I am naked, and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:10)
Of the ten most popular Biblical translations, only the KJV and its surrogates (since 1611!) translates the ambiguous Hebrew word qol in vss. 8 and 10 as “voice”. The others render it “sound”, unless you read the NIV and NLT, which didn’t even bother translating qol at all! But I digress.
It’s obvious “sound” is the correct interpretation. Speech is produced from a voice, so qol’s other meanings – such as sound or noise, more likely fits the context. ‘Noise’ has an unfavorable connotation implying a degree of annoyance; therefore ‘sound’ is the best option. This is important because the correct interpretation of qol in vss. 8 and 10 carries prophetic weight. If we interpret it as ‘voice’, we envision God (or say, His convoy) proclaiming words we don’t get to know, but somehow this utterance made Adam and Eve hide.
However, if we read that Adam heard YHVH’s ‘sound’ – then we become enlightened. First, we realize Adam had previously experienced this particular sound as he said, “I heard Your sound…” However, before His disobedience, Adam had no reason to fear this sound – but this time, he was deathly afraid. That’s because the sound Adam heard unmistakably signified the appearance of YHVH into the Earth. Of course, the question which remains is, what was the sound?! We will theorize the sound’s identity, but first there still remains at least one glaring clue we can garner from the text.
Verse 7 records Adam and Eve using fig leaves to sew themselves garments, but when they heard the “sound of the LORD” they immediately ran from that fig tree into the canopy of the woods. If we don’t have a green thumb we might not realize that fig trees require a space in open sunlight; they cannot survive in shade… where Adam and Eve chose to hide. This means that it was in this open space that YHVH expected to encounter Adam. That’s why when YHVH appeared – likely in that spot – He asked, “Where are you?” (vs. 9). This makes perfect sense because in Scripture, the fig tree symbolized not only a place of study and prayer, but also a place of meeting– i.e. “In that Day everyone will invite his neighbor under his vine and his fig tree” (Zech. 3:10). The sound that Adam heard was YHVH’s call-to-assembly, the only problem was, YHVH was the only one who wanted to meet!
Now the sound Adam heard was (like all things from the LORD) meant for man’s benefit, as once upon a time, Adam met with God face-to-face, exactly how Moshe talked with YHVH in the Tent of Meeting (cf. Exodus 33:11). That area near the fig tree was Adam’s place of meeting – a type of Holy Place on the already holy grounds of Eden. However, instead of meeting God face-to-face, Adam and Eve hid from His face (vs. 8, Heb. panay = ‘face’).
This reminds me of another face-to-face meeting with YHVH, heralded by a certain sound, and producing a similar reaction:
“…all the people, seeing the thunders and the lightning, and the sound of the shofar, and the mountain a smoke. And the people saw it. They trembled, and stood from afar. They told Moshe, “You speak with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” [(Exodus 20:18-19) Note: “thunder” is also Heb. qolot – plural form of “qol”.] In other words, just like Adam, the Israelites also heard His sound, and hid themselves.
In the book of Revelation, there is an oft-repeated phrase “There were lightnings, sounds, and thunders; and there was a great earthquake…” (i.e. Rev. 16:17). This is similar to… the conditions seen on Mount Sinai! Furthermore, Revelation 4:5 specifically states these sounds proceed from the Throne of God. And since this lightning-and-sound combo happened at the end of every prophecy in Revelation about the end of time, we shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction of God’s enemies: “The kings of the earth, the princes, the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains. They told the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16-17)
So, we have ourselves a pattern. First, the “sound of the LORD” occurs. Then, the majority flee and hide themselves from fear. Then, YHVH appears for His visitation. Lastly, a few people joyfully and ecstatically meet the LORD. (Note: Moshe was so eager to meet the LORD that he almost disobeyed God. Read Exodus 19:16-25 as an excited, expectant Moshe).
In closing, the sound Adam heard was a call that mankind should prepare himself, for he is about to meet God. I believe that Adam heard a shofar blast – as witnessed at Mount Sinai and throughout Revelation. Furthermore, based on the other parallels with this story to end-time prophecies, I believe Adam hearing a shofar blast compares to the day Messiah Yeshua will return “with a mighty blast of the shofar.” (1 Thess. 4:16). It could have been some other sound – such as thunder – but I think the shofar is the only sound which is unmistakably tied to YHVH’s appearing.
One day, mostly everyone –both small and great, rich and poor- will hide themselves, like their ancestor Adam, but a few of us will hear the shofar blast and rejoice. We will be going to see God face-to-face (Rev. 22:4), like Moshe spoke with YHVH as a friend.♦