On the Translation “Cool of the Day” in Genesis 3:8

A coworker brought the following passage to my attention from the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. This is from the book of Genesis and is written by John Walton.

Cool of the day (3:8).  This traditional translation is problematic. No precedent exists for interpreting the word for ‘wind’ (rûaḥ) as ‘cool.’ An alternative using comparative information is that the phrase should be translated ‘wind of the storm.’ The basis of this alternative is the claim that the word usually translated ‘day’ (yôm) could possibly be translated as ‘storm.’ Support is drawn from an Akkadian cognate umu and the existence of two other biblical contexts where this alternative meaning might apply (Isa. 27:8; Zeph. 2:2). The resulting interpretation is that Adam and Eve heard the (terrifying) sound of God going through the garden with a storm wind. If so, then God is coming in judgment rather than a daily conversation, which explains Adam and Eve’s desire to hide.

“The problem is that though this Akkadian word is connected with the storm, it is more often a ‘storm demon’ or a deified personification of the storm. Thus, it is difficult to argue that the Akkadian word means ‘storm,’ and one cannot therefore carry it over to a few ambiguous Hebrew occurrences.

“The verb expresses ‘walking’ in the garden means ‘to circulate about’ and can be used in judgment contexts (Zech. 6:7). Yet in Genesis Adam claims that he hid, not because he was afraid but because he was naked. The meaning of the text therefore remains obscure and the proposed alternative interpretation offered on the strength of ancient Near Eastern information should be judged inadequate. The insufficiency of the alternative does not tacitly support the traditional translation, since that has no support either. (34-35)

The NET Bible translates this as “the breezy time” and offers the following text note:

“The expression is traditionally rendered “cool of the day,” because the Hebrew word רוּחַ (ruakh) can mean “wind.” U. Cassuto (Genesis: From Adam to Noah, 152-54) concludes after lengthy discussion that the expression refers to afternoon when it became hot and the sun was beginning to decline. J. J. Niehaus (God at Sinai [SOTBT], 155-57) offers a different interpretation of the phrase, relating יוֹם (yom, usually understood as “day”) to an Akkadian cognate umu (“storm”) and translates the phrase “in the wind of the storm.” If Niehaus is correct, then God is not pictured as taking an afternoon stroll through the orchard, but as coming in a powerful windstorm to confront the man and woman with their rebellion. In this case קוֹל יְהוָה (qol yÿhvah, “sound of the Lord”) may refer to God’s thunderous roar, which typically accompanies his appearance in the storm to do battle or render judgment (e.g., see Ps 29).

Here’s how some other versions have it:

The Message; HCSB; NRSV; Revised English - “evening breeze

NLT  – “the cool evening breezes were blowing

ESV; NIV; NASB; KJV; NCV; RSV; New Jerusalem - “cool of the day

CEB – “cool evening breeze

Wycliffe Bible – “at the wind after midday

NAB – “breezy time of the day

Douay-Rheimsafternoon air

God’s Word – “cool of the evening

Young’s Literal – “breeze of the day

 

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One thought on “On the Translation “Cool of the Day” in Genesis 3:8

  1. Pingback: Would you like to meet God in the cool of the evening in Eden or in the midst of a thunderous windstorm of his judgment? | Read Between The Pages

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