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Commentary on Moses 4
TitleCommentary on Moses 4
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSmoot, Stephen O.
Book TitleThe Pearl of Great Price: A Study Edition for Latter-day Saints
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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4:1–4 Compare Abraham 3:24–28, which provides a similar account of the fall of Lucifer from the premortal council (compare Doctrine and Covenants 76:25–29). This material on the identity and origin of Satan is unique to the text and acts on both a narrative and theological level to introduce his character and purpose in the story. In the biblical account (Genesis 3:1, 14), a crafty or sly (ʿārûm) serpent is the antagonist who beguiles Adam and Eve into transgression. However, this serpent is not positively identified as Satan in the biblical account, although this interpretation became standard in later Jewish and Christian tradition. (This trend was picked up later in Islam, with the Quran explicitly identifying Satan as the one who tempted Adam and Eve.) Restoration teachings, including the details revealed in this text, help clarify much of what is missing or unclear in the biblical account.

4:6–7 These verses appear to indicate that Satan is not the serpent itself but rather that he manipulated the serpent into doing his bidding. Interestingly, some ancient Jewish and Christian sources speculate whether the serpent was possessed by Satan to speak to Adam and Eve. The parenthetical comment in this verse is also intriguing since it could be read as indicating that the “serpent” was one of the rebellious spirits who followed Satan in the premortal world. Either that, or it suggests that Satan had some measure of influence over animal life. Sought to destroy. OT1 reads that Satan “thought” to destroy the world.

4:8–9 Despite popular modern notions that Adam and Eve ate an apple, neither the kind of tree nor its fruit is specifically identified in the text. Some ancient interpreters suggested the tree was a fig tree (which would make sense considering Adam and Eve made fig-leaf aprons for themselves at Genesis 3:7), while others suggested it was a grapevine or even a date palm. And the woman . . . garden. This portion of text is missing from OT1 and was inserted into OT2.

4:10–11 The lie of the serpent is not that Adam and Eve would be like gods by partaking of the fruit (Moses 4:28; compare Genesis 3:22) but rather that they would not die in consequence of their action. Spiritually speaking, they died at the time they ate the fruit, after which they would physically die at the end of their mortal probation (compare Helaman 14:16).

4:13–14 With their eyes now open to the reality of good and evil, Adam and Eve recognize their vulnerability and nakedness before God’s presence (compare Moses 4:16), whereas previously they had no such recognition (3:25; compare Genesis 2:25). In response, they sew aprons (“girdles, loincloths”; ḥăgōrōt) for themselves to cover their nakedness and hide in the trees of the garden. Walking in the garden. In the Genesis account, Adam and Eve hide themselves when they hear the sound of God walking through the garden on a breezy day (Genesis 3:8). OT1 initially followed the Genesis text (“. . . they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden”) but was revised to “. . .as they were walking in the garden.” OT2 likewise changes the passage to “as they were walking” from “as he [God] was walking.” As so revised, Adam and Eve hide themselves while they are walking about the garden after hearing the voice of God (but not the sound of God walking in the garden).

4:15 In the biblical text (Genesis 3:9), God asks Adam, “Where are you?” (ʾayeâ). The rhetorical nature of the question has less to do with God somehow wondering where Adam is and more to do with the former calling on the latter to account for his present circumstances.

4:20–25 As punishment for their respective roles in transgressing His command to not eat the fruit of the tree, God dispenses punishments tailored to each participant: the serpent is to be debased and despised among the animals (a type for Satan), Eve is to bear children in pain (ʿeṣev), and Adam is to toil in hard labor as he supports himself and Eve. Notably, death is not decreed on either Adam or Eve as a punishment, suggesting that their foretold deaths (Moses 3:17) are perhaps not a God-ordained inevitability but a natural consequence of the Fall.

4:21 The antecedent to “he” at the end of this verse both here and in the biblical text (Genesis 3:15) is the woman’s seed. OT1 follows the King James Version by using the pronoun “it.” (OT2 initially follows OT1 but was revised to “he.”) The Hebrew pronoun (hûʾ) can mean either.

4:25 The final injunction of this verse plays on both the meaning of Adam’s name (derived from the Hebrew word for “ground,” ʾădāmâ) and the depiction of how God created Adam at Moses 3:7 (compare Genesis 2:7).

4:26 The name Eve (ḥawwâ) derives from the Hebrew root ḥyh, meaning “to live,” and is related to the word ḥāy (“living, alive”) used immediately after her name in this verse to describe her status as the “mother of all living.” This verse also indicates that the origin of Eve’s name ultimately comes from God, even though Adam is the one who names her. As said of Adam at Moses 1:34, here Eve is said to be the first of many women (with the possible additional reading that she is one of many Eves).

4:27 This verse is missing in OT1 and was inserted into OT2. The coats of skin (kātĕnôt ʿôr) serve as clothing for Adam and Eve as they prepare for expulsion from the garden. Due in part to the similarity between the words in Hebrew, a tradition arose in ancient Judaism holding that instead of coats of skin, Adam and Eve were clothed by God in radiant garments of light (kātĕnôt ʾôr). Other ancient sources depict Adam and Eve as exuding a divine splendor and glory before the Fall.

4:28–29 In the biblical account, God speaks to unnamed members of His divine council at Genesis 3:22. Here He speaks specifically to His Only Begotten and includes a reference to His earlier declaration at Moses 3:16–17 and 4:9.

4:31 The word cherubim (kĕrubîm, plural form of kĕrub) is likely connected to the Akkadian kāribu, which referred to divine beings who in ancient Mesopotamia served as gatekeepers of palaces and temples. Here they likewise act as sentinels who guard the path to the tree of life from unauthorized trespassers (including the recently fallen Adam and Eve). Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible the cherubim are depicted as being placed atop the ark of the covenant in effigy and worked into the embroidery of the tabernacle (see Exodus 25:18–20, 22; 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35; 37:7–9; Numbers 7:89) as well as into the decoration of Solomon’s temple (See 1 Kings 6:23, 25, 27–29, 32, 35; 7:29, 36; 8:6–7). Other biblical passages depict God as being enthroned above the cherubim, suggesting a close association with the divine presence (see 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Psalms 80:1; 99:1; Ezekiel 10:1–10).

4:32 The placement of this second injunction to secrecy is curious. But perhaps the injunction appears here because of the temple imagery that pervades the account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden—a fact that has been noticed and discussed by many scholars (see the bibliography for representative samples of this work). 

Scripture Reference

Moses 4:1