Today we’re going to investigate a topic you may never have considered before: Was there cuddling in Eden?
The account in Genesis of the Garden of Eden is very brief. We only have a few pages of text to paint an image of God’s kingdom on earth before it deteriorated into corruption. Given the lack of information about the world in the beginning, we have to use our imagination and our reasoning to help fill in some of the details and to connect some of the dots. There is no direct evidence of cuddling anywhere in the Genesis account of God’s perfect world, but I believe there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest there likely was cuddling in Eden.
The first piece of evidence to consider is from Genesis 2:25 where it says, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” So humans were naked in Eden. This much is clear from the Genesis account.
Now consider in Genesis 3:8 where it says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” This passage takes place immediately after the fall. The act of hiding from God is a symptom of our fallen state, as indicated from the surrounding passages, but the part of this passage I want to highlight here is that there was a “cool of the day” in Eden. Contextually, I believe the cool part of the day is not the result of man’s fallen state but rather is part of the good arrangement God created in the beginning. It is tied to the cycle of evenings and days put into place during the seven days of creation. So in God’s original and perfect arrangement in the beginning, Got determined that it was good for there to be a cool part of the day.
Now let’s consider a third passage. In Genesis 2:20 it reads, “And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” In this passage Adam is looking for his mate, namely Eve, and could not find her among the animals because she had not yet been created. So God creates Eve, and Adam instantly recognizes her as his match and rejoices over her. The part of this passage I would like to point out is the descriptor of “helper” used to describe the animals. The hebrew word is ezer and is elsewhere used to describe Eve and also to describe God (Psalm 33:20 and in dozens of other places). It denotes someone of great benefit to the individual, in some cases even suggesting an indispensable quality. In what way then would animals be our helpers-of-great-importance?
As it states very clearly in Genesis 1:29, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” So God clearly did not have in mind that animals would be our helpers by being food for us to eat. They must be our helpers in some other way. It says in Genesis 2:15, “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” So it’s possible that animals helped us to take care of the garden in some way. But was that their only purpose? As noted in Genesis 2:20 quoted in the previous paragraph, Adam named each of the animals. This suggests he had a close relationship with them. In order to make sense of what way the animals must have been our ezers, let’s consider all the evidence together that we’ve gathered thus far:
- Adam and Eve were naked.
- There was a cool part of the day.
- The animals helped us in some very important way.
- And we knew the animals by name.
Given these pieces of evidence, it is at least plausible that during the cool parts of the day, and perhaps also throughout the night, animals would provide warmth to the man through cuddling. This would explain why they are referred to as our necessary helpers – our ezers. God didn’t say “It is not good for man to be naked. I will therefore make him furry and able to withstand the cool parts of the day and evenings alone.” Instead God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). To me this suggests that God found it good that mankind needed the animals for daily warmth, among other things. By cuddling with the animals, each of which we know by name, we reinforce our bonds of unity with each animal and rely on each other for necessary warmth. In this way we are continually each other’s ezer. And God saw all this as good and part of his perfect plan for the earth. Again, the evidence for this is circumstantial and I’m admittedly making some inferences, but I wanted to start off by showing first that this explanation is plausible and consistent with the limited amount of evidence we have available to us in the Genesis account. Now let’s consider whether it is also likely.
As we look around the world today at animals, both domestic and in nature, we see animals cuddle together and they learn to do so as babies. We see a mother and her babies all cuddled together. We see siblings cuddle. Cuddling not only generates physical warmth but also a feeling of comfort and security and a sense of connectedness between the cuddlers. This is why we see cuddling as one of the hallmark signs of a family or community, both in humans and in animals. Cuddling is quite often, in its most basic form, an expression of philia or kinship love.
Is cuddling therefore one of the good parts of God’s created world or is it a fallen behavior? No mention is made of it in the warnings after the fall, and based on the positive feelings associated with cuddling, it would be consistent with a perfect life in Eden. Therefore it makes more sense to me that it has its origin in Eden as one of the many good properties of the world God envisioned and created in the beginning, rather than being a product of the fallen world.
So where did things go wrong? When did cuddling with animals cease to be the norm?
Animals became afraid of mankind when we began seeing them as food rather than as our friends and helpers (Genesis 9:2). That fear caused them to begin fleeing and hiding from our presence, just as Adam and Eve fled from God’s presence out of fear after the fall. We thereby lost our dominion and also our connectedness to the animals. Along with that connectedness, we presumably also lost the physical act of cuddling.
Or maybe we lost that even earlier?
One of the first mentioned acts after the fall is hiding and clothing out of fear (Genesis 3:7). First the clothing of fig leaves and then that of skin, presumably animal skin (Genesis 3:21). So instead of being unafraid and cuddling with our living animal friends, we are afraid and kill the animal to take their skin to cover ourselves. Cuddling provides a mutual benefit between the two cuddlers whereas killing the animal to take their skin is parasitic and born of fear, which is very clearly described as a fallen behavior that was not present prior to the fall.
Given that we see animal babies cuddling with their siblings and with their parents, we see people cuddling, and we see a need for clothing after the fall but not before, it seems most likely to me that cuddling with the animals is the link that makes the rest of the story make sense. Cuddling warms the body and the heart and is born of love. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), I believe it is most likely that cuddling originated with God and was part of his good plan for the earth from the beginning. Moreover I believe it was lost during the fall when fear was introduced into the world, necessitating the use of animal skin to keep warm in place of cuddling with the living creatures of the earth that we know by name.
I’d like to say one more thing about our inherent need for cuddling. It is not merely a matter of staying warm in the cool parts of the day. There is something fundamentally necessary that goes beyond temperature control. Several scientific studies have shown that babies require a great deal of physical touch in order to develop properly on an emotional, cognitive, and even physical level and that animals are the same way. We appear to be designed such that physical closeness to each other is necessary for our health and well-being. The loss of cuddles with the animals and thereby the loss of closeness with them after the fall would partly explain the misery and hardship of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:19, Genesis 3:16), despite being clothed and thereby protected from the low temperatures of their environment. Staying warm is only part of why cuddling is necessary. It is also needed in order to continually renew our sense of philia or kinship with the animals and with all of creation.
Ok so what if I am right? What if cuddling was in fact a thing that happened in Eden? What is the relevance of this revelation for us today?
If cuddling is good and originated in Eden when the world was perfect, it will very likely be part of the afterlife of the restored world. The fall represents a deviation from God’s plan for the earth. To repent (i.e. to turn back) and to no longer deviate from God’s plan for the earth means to work toward restoring the earth to the way God intended it to be from the beginning rather than to continue destroying the earth and rejecting his ways (Revelation 11:18). If cuddling with animals was part of God’s plan for the earth, then we ought to make great effort to restore our relationship with the animals. Not only is it better for the animals but it is also necessary for our own well-being to regain our ezer and thereby our dominion over creation. It may not be sufficient, but if my analysis is correct, restoring our relationship with our animal ezers is certainly a necessary component to unburdening ourselves of our lives of hardship and misery in our fallen state.
Lastly, it helps bring to life the prophecy in Isaiah 11:6, which promises, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” Are they merely sitting beside each other unafraid or are they cuddling in the cool part of the day as God intended? And in what way will a little child lead all the animals? The child will lead the way Jesus leads – through love. And if cuddling is a way to show love, we all know how eager children are to run up and hug an animal. This is true dominion. This is how we ought to lead. We must change and return to God’s ways. As Jesus put it, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
I found an interesting article on animal skins in Genesis. It sheds some light on the subject, and some doubt that the skins referred to there are animal skins. It does not look like I can add a link or a document here? Can I email you the article, if you would like to read it? Thanks Craig.
Great insights you write about. I have always thought that in the act of naming animals before the fall, that humans had a relationship with them beyond what we see now with most animals, likely more of a relationship perhaps similar to the ones we have with our dogs and cats and such. There is also an element of cultivating the earth and its inhabitants in Genesis (3v1); animals were called wild before the fall. I wonder if this meant the same thing as after the fall? Clearly there must have been a difference between what wild would look like if animals were not already fallen before the fall (there are those that think animals may already have been fallen), and even if they were fallen, a difference between what they were like then and what we know them as today would still be reasonable as to ascertaining their level of wildness. Given Genesis’ genre according to scholars is known as prose narrative, with some embedded pieces that are poetic and sometimes future-oriented, it stands to reason given we live after the cross and can see God’s entire revelation of himself through Christ, we may have had a relationship with them similar to our pet relationships. We may also have been meant to tame many of them – verse 3 infers that perhaps one of duties was just this as part of cultivating the garden!
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For many the creation stories (there are two) are not to be taken literally. Yet, in trying to explain cuddling, that is what you have done. Fundamentalists would perhaps be in agreement with your proof-texting, but not other Christians. The two creation stories (Gen 1 and 2) are generally not seen as literal, but as a way of explaining origins. So we have no actual proof that only Adam and Eve existed, or for that matter that such an Edenic life existed prior to expulsion.
Another problem with this is that you have mythologized animals. Animals are not “warm and fuzzy”. They live in a kill or be killed world. For every cute puppy or kitten, there are many rabid dogs, wild wolves and hungry lions. Some animals are social and develop partners, but it is unclear as to how much they comprehend, plan, investigate and so on.
You have an interesting interpretation of why humans were naked, and what that nakedness entailed. But here is another view. Why did God make the humans’ body so vulnerable? We have no fur, nor claws and are thus not well protected by only wearing skin. Animals can –and do– cause humans great harm by scratching, biting, and otherwise injuring us. We need clothes for protection not just warmth.
Finally I point out that it is recorded that God made the clothes, (Gen 3:21) They therefore do not seem to be made out of fear after being rejected by God, that is if, you follow the narrow proof-texting that you have used throughout the rest of this passage
You are free to believe as you see fit, and if this interpretation fits into your worldview, then fine. But there are a number of problems from a theological p.o.v that may require more thought. . . Peace.
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Thanks for your comment, Scott. You’re not the only one who holds these views, so I will address them here.
The first is your belief that the Genesis account of creation is not to be taken literally. I believe it is. There are parts of the bible that are not to be taken literally. For example, Daniel’s vision. But immediately following the vision is an explanation of what the vision means. Similarly, Jesus often spoke in parables and then explained to his disciples what the parables meant. These are instances in which the text specifies that the story is to be taken symbolically rather than literally. There is no such contextual indicators that suggest the creation account is not to be taken literally. On the contrary, multiple references are made elsewhere (in Psalms, in the gospels, in the letters of the early church) to confirm that the creation account and that of life in the garden are intended to be taken literally. So in order to say the bible is not sufficient evidence to prove the creation account, you must also call into question every other part of the bible. At that point we no longer see the bible as an authoritative text. In my blog posts I do in fact make the assumption that the bible is the authoritative word of God.
Secondly, you say that animals live in a kill or be killed world and you seem to believe that it was always this way. I believe this state of the world is a result of the fall. No mention of killing is made in the garden prior to the fall. And there are prophetic revelations (Isaiah 11:6, Hosea 2:18) that suggest a return to the life in Eden. Death is specifically mentioned by God as the forewarned consequence of the fall. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 15:21 and Romans 5:12) where it says death entered into the world through man, and Jesus is pointed to as the way out of the fallen world and its ways – a return to God’s ways. I believe this is an important point not to overlook because the account in Genesis of creation and of life in the garden is the only time in the entire bible where God refers to the state of the world as “good”. So rejecting it as myth or mere symbolism rather than an ideal to strive for misses out on essential guidance for how God wants us to be.
Your third point is a question about why God made us vulnerable and that the purpose of clothing may also have to do with protection from animals rather than just protection from the cold. As mentioned in the article, I believe God found it good that we needed to rely on each other, whether for warmth or fellowship or whatever other necessities of life. The only thing mentioned in the creation account as not being good is man’s being alone: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). So I believe fellowship between all God’s creatures was part of God’s good plan from the beginning. I mention this also in the concluding paragraph when I talk about leading as a child. It is very possible that you are correct that the clothing also protected Adam and Eve from the threat of animal attacks after the fall, but from the context of what life was like in the garden, there was no such threat prior to the fall and therefore no reason to protect against it. We all lived without fear or threat of harm. We all trusted in God and he kept us secure. Contrast these traits with those described immediately after the fall: shame, fear, seeking to rule over each other, hardship, misery, death, etc.
Your final point about God clothing Adam and Even with the skins is an important point that I addressed in another blog post entitled, “Greater than Jonah”. God is often referred to in the bible as causing things. For instance, God caused the flood in Noah’s time, God punishes those who deviate from his ways, and God is the prophesied cause of the destruction in Revelation. Yet God forewarns of such consequences and says they will only come about if we go against God’s ways. Moreover, if we repent and turn back to God’ ways, he will relent of the forewarned destruction. So in some real sense even though God is attributed as the author of such events, they are contingent on our own behaviors as to whether they happen or not. God forewarned that death will enter the world if we disobey, and immediately after we disobey, death enters the world. In one sense God caused it, but in another very real sense we caused it and God warned us that it would be the consequence of our disobedience. As it states in 2 Peter 3:9 God does not want anyone to perish but for everyone to repent and return to his way – and his way is to love each other. If we repent and return to God, he will relent of the forewarned consequences of disobedience. He is a loving, merciful, most forgiving God.
Hopefully these responses help to clarify my position on these issues. Peace to you too and to all of God’s creation.
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I love your article Craig. I have had the exact same thoughts about Eden for a very long time. We only have to look around us to see that humans cannot live without companion animals (I am especially talking about normal humans) – they always need a dog or cat to enrich their home lives. They take the dog for walks and surfing even hiking and there are so many incidences where animals have rescued humans in whatever form necessary. Think of the true story: “A Street Cat named Bob” and many others.
No …. we only have to look around us to see we were designed to protect and help animals not eat and exploit them.
People who think otherwise do not that a Kingdom Principle understanding of Eden and that Eden will be returning some day when the new Earth is created and Jesus rules with peace and justice.
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Thank you for your comments!
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I firmly agree with this and have experienced it in my own ways. Having an animal has been a source of comfort and calming in my life and that includes a great deal of cuddling for security both by my animal and myself. It’s a peaceful loving interaction between animal and human that I think God intended it to be. Sadly not all animals are tame since the fall. The not being tame I believe has to do with distrust and the falling into sin. Wild animals do not trust humans from the start. They defend and protect themselves when they feel threatened. But I have also gently tamed many wild animals simply by showing love in a trusting environment. Once they see you are a loving safe person they too become a gentle loving creature. And a lot of that has to do with Patience and gentleness for our fellow companions wild or not. That’s not to say you can go be a friend with bears running wild. But there are some that have become tame through a gentle patient person showing them pure love. And yes even a tiger and bear! I’ve seen these wild animals find a sense of safety in a human who took the time to show them love and actually run up to these people and hug them. There are videos on YouTube about that showing this kind of love. I do believe it is possible and even wild animals need to be reminded they are loved. Even if it means. Not hurting them. Not eating them. As a sign of loving them. Even the wild animals can be seen cuddling their young and mates. It’s a natural thing I believe God instilled in us to show love.
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Awesome blog you have hhere
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