The flaming sword

Yes, good one…hmmmm…maybe symbolic? Or used a known word as descriptive for something they could not quite describe??

So what do YOU think, Jpm “Phil”? I am still trying to fit Walton’s “Eden as temple” imagery (rough term for it that I just made up) into all this cherbim-with-flaming-sword thing. Maybe the use of ANE terms to describe something they could not really describe in human terms??

Dear Robin,
The description of Eden in the OT has nothing to do with anyplace on Earth, and I have lived in the most idilic places on Earth! Only when we hit Genesis 4 does it reflect the Earth we know.

There are plenty of other non-biblical revelations that confirm the non-material garden, but you can stick with the Genesis description of it.
Best Wishes, Shawn

The most “idillic” [idyllic] places on Earth today may have nothing to do with Eden, for that matter. The area around Lake Van, somewhere at the bottom of the Persian Gulf —I have read various pieces putting Eden in one or the other of these places…Non-biblical revelations do not count. Walton seems to have seen the descriptive from the first 2 or 3 chapters as depicting an early “temple-and-temple-garden” motif that would have spoken in a certain way to earliest listeners to the account. That is, temples had a certain “look” or design and often had a garden right outside the temple — with many exotic or interesting trees. A garden would have seemed like paradise anyway to someone in a desert clime where eking out an existence was tough. If they had 125-degree days in that area in the second or third mill BC— like they do today — I can imagine why a “garden” and “in the cool of the evening” would appeal…It worked for Nebuchadnezzar’s wife!!

Well Robin, I am in the non- historical, metaphorical camp. I believe it speaks truth but the gap is just to wide for me to jump to believe it represents material history when you have trees with fruit of supernatural powers, talking snakes, etc. The flaming sword specifically probably represents the divide from God due to sin, and the bitterness and pain of exile from God presence.


Thanks — was wondering. I am “somewhat in between.” Talking snakes I do not know about — but a symbolism of some other sort of creature talking to “Eve” and “Adam” sort of works for me. An actual pair of humans? And who knows about the trees? Maybe different kinds of trees but also “one or two” that we no longer see? Call me “agnostic” on it…But I believe the event (the fall) happened…The placement of gardens alongside temples in ANE thinking and a “representative” situation using the imagery of that era — I suppose makes some sense. I do not know. My church is pretty YE so I never get far with the subject there before someone hits me with stuff about the fallacies of different dating methods…Appreciate your response.

Some have offered that Eden / Fall / Cain vs. Abel represents a deep mythic memory of the agricultural revolution = Genesis 3:19

The transition from the good old days of hunting and gathering to the hardships of farming and the conflict between urban farmers and surrounding relic populations of hunters

If so, a whirling flame sounds like the whirling wall of torches ancient hunter gatherers would wield to protect their campsites from wild lions and what not?


Biblical descriptions of cherubim (Ezekiel 1;10) are composite creatures (like griffins or sphinxes). Here in Genesis, the cherubim guard the way to the tree of life, now forbidden property of God. From guarding the tree of life to the ornamental representation over the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant to the accompaniment of the chariot/throne in Ezekiel’s visions, cherubim are always closely associated with the person or property of deity.

They are “Stationed,” literally, “caused to camp,” שׁכן (qal), is particularly associated with God’s camping in the tabernacle among his people (Exodus 25:8).

In Israel pictures of cherubim adorned the walls of the tabernacle and temple (Exodus 26:31; 1 Kings 6:29), a pair of solid cherubim formed the throne of God on the ark (Exodus 25:18–22), and a very large pair guarded the inner sanctuary of the temple (1 Kings 6:23–28).

“The flame of a revolving sword.” This phrase is without exact parallel in the OT, but fire is a regular symbol of the presence of God, especially in judgment (Exodus 19:18; Psalm 104:4).

“Revolving,” מתהפכת, is the ‘hithpael’ participle of הפך “to turn,” hence “to turn itself.” It is used of the cake which “rolled” into the camp of Midian in Judges 7:13.

The image is that of forked lightning, zigzagging - backward and forwards. So you get the idea - a revolving or zigzagging sword, especially one wielded by angelic beings, is one that is sure to hit and bring death (Numbers 22:23, 31,33). In other words - don’t approach.

So is this merely paradigmatic or in some sense a real event in primeval history?

Both sword and fire are frequent Biblical symbols for truth and God. In this case, the truth is twofold.

  1. Without a relationship with God, an eternal existence lacks that which makes such an existence worthwhile and will become a hell, just as many who have contemplated immortality have concluded.
  2. The self-destructive habits of sin stand in the way of spiritual life, eating away our free will, identity and everything of good within us. Thus only when sin is removed can the spirit be imperishable, and thus the spiritual body must be resurrected.

I do nit know what ROC stands for but it is right. the flaming sword is a symbolic way of indicating that God insured that anyone who was unworthy of eating from the Tree of Life could not. It was only through the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross that opened the way to eternal life to all Christians. What is truly remarkable is that the “Tree of Life” is the “Tree (Cross) of Sacrifice.”

God the Father so loved humanity that He sent His only Son into our broken world, so that whomever trusts in Jesus Christ shall never die, but have an everlasting relationship or communion with Him.

When people trust in Jesus and the Love of God then their sin is forgiven and they receive the Holy Spirit and our full relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lost because of sin, is restored and we become part of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus calls us back to our true humanity, not to an imposed set of rules. Jesus loved the Father, and loved humans, individually and collectively.

Because Jesus would not deny Himself and His love for others the World, us, killed Him on the Tree. Jesus nonetheless forgave and forgives us .

When we accept His forgiveness and follow Him by trusting in His love, we receive in full eternal life or reconciliation with God. If we don’t we don’t we don’t.


Hi everyone

Thanks for the replies! Im a bit busy so ill get to replies ASAP!

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Yes it seems like it was indeed it’s own entity now.
However because you all have distinct views on the matter and how it should be interpreted, I am a bit lost. I need to look into genesis more and see what i believe. Semi historical? Or Allegory as a whole?
Thanks everyone for your contribution.

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You are right…When it came to the specific question (that is, the one you first asked), I tend to look at what various biblical commentators have to say – and then sort through it… They can say various things on an issue, or they can be reasonably close in agreement (depending on the subject at hand). They also get into the nitty-gritty details of word meaning in this or that ancient language, usage by this or that group or in that other piece of contemporary or nearly contemporary literature. It has always seemed to me the closest method of getting an unbiased thought — if that is ever possible. A general consensus on a thing works, I suppose…

It was an interesting exercise for me too — and probably for others as well. As for Genesis as a whole—it is a lengthy book and, presumably, covers billions of years (if you assume an old universe) in its first chapter (s) – which does leave room for lots of bare-bones or skipped-over stuff!! Some aspects of it (the whole book) have some corroboration in terms of names and places and cultural details… buty a lot falls into the long-ago. Human pre-history or human early history is generally a big question mark any way. Good luck!

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