When God Abandoned the Garden of Eden: A Forgotten Reading of Genesis 3:24

in Vetus Testamentum
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Genesis 3:24, the final verse in the Eden Narrative, states that God stationed “the cherubim and the spinning-sword-flame” east of the garden of Eden, from which he had recently expelled Man. Or so it does in its masoretic version. Four Targumim, however, reflect an ancient, divergent vocalization of the verse’s fourth word. In this vocalization, the verse must be read as stating that God himself settled east of the garden. This divergence profoundly affects the meaning of the entire Eden Narrative. The targumic reading is grammatically and stylistically sound, and, conceptually, it fits well in the verse’s textual setting. Moreover, a deliberate alteration from it to the masoretic reading would fall squarely into an independently identified pattern of theologically-driven changes in vocalization. The targumic reading may therefore be closest to the original authorial intent.

Vetus Testamentum

A Quarterly Published by the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament




Thus le Déaut, Targum., p. 99; M. Maher, The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan: Genesis (ArBib; Collegeville, Minn., 1992), p. 30.


Geiger, Urschrift, p. 320; B.J. Schwartz, in A. Berlin and M. Z. Brettler (eds.), The Jewish Study Bible(Oxford, 2004), p. 245. See also Tg. Neof., Tg. Neof. marginalia, Sifraad loc., b. Yoma56b; J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16 (ab 3; New York, 1991), p. 1035.


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