Isaiah 61, Day 4

“Isaiah 61, Day 4”
Isaiah 61:10b
©️2020 by Gloria M. Chang

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation,
and wrapped me in a robe of justice…

Isaiah 61:10b

In paradise restored, the bride, the wife of the Lamb (Revelation 21:9), stands before the tree of life clothed once again in a robe of glory.

The Hebrew verb translated as “clothed” (from labash) makes its first appearance in the Bible before the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A longstanding tradition stemming from Jewish and patristic sources says that Adam and Eve were clothed in light prior to being clothed in skin after the Fall. 

The words for “light” (or) and “skin” (or) have the same pronunciation; they differ by their first letters (א aleph begins “light” and ע ayin begins “skin”). Interestingly, the pictograph for aleph is an ox head indicating strength and power, the letter for Father (Ab, Abba). The pictograph for ayin is an eye. When the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened, they saw that they were stripped of glory and received garments of skin out of the divine pity and mercy.

The Lord God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them (vayalbishem).

Genesis 3:21 

According to the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism:

An outer garment is called levusha, which is an acronym for lo busha, which means no shame, as one who is clothed is no longer ashamed.

The William Davidson Talmud, Shabbat 77b

In the state of innocence, “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame (lo yitboshashu)” (Genesis 2:25).

St. Gregory Palamas, a fourteenth-century Byzantine Greek theologian and monk of Mount Athos, teaches that Adam, before the fall, was clothed in a garment of glory irradiating the divine light. Thus “he was not naked, nor was he unseemly by reason of his nakedness. He was far more richly adorned than those who now deck themselves out with diadems of gold and brightly sparkling jewels” (Philokalia, Volume 4, 377). 

St. Makarios of Egypt, a fourth-century Coptic monk and hermit, speaks of “Adam’s original glory shining from the face of Moses” (Philokalia, Volume 3, 300).

As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he spoke with the Lord. When Aaron, then, and the other Israelites saw Moses and noticed how radiant the skin of his face had become, they were afraid to come near him.

Exodus 34:29-30

Peter, James and John fell prostrate before the Lord Jesus Christ on the mountain of transfiguration when the blinding splendor of his glory overwhelmed their sight.

The clothes of skin that replaced adam’s luminous rays covered up their shame and betrayal of God’s trust. The “garments” (beged) in Isaiah 61:10 has the meaning of treachery, disloyalty, and betrayal derived from the verb bagad, “to act or deal treacherously or deceitfully.” Several generations later, Jacob put on the garments/treachery (beged) of Esau in order to deceive his father Isaac and obtain his blessing (Genesis 27:15). 

The word for “robe” (meil) in Isaiah 61:10 is derived from the verb maal—to act unfaithfully or treacherously. Biblical words for clothing are unmistakably related to the divinely inspired narrative of creation, fall, and redemption. As theology and language are intertwined, the Hebrew Scriptures gave rise to a constellation of biblical concepts. The garments of skin are a symbol of rebellion. The removal of skin in the covenant of circumcision signifies intimacy between humankind and God. 

In the theology of St. Ephrem the Syrian, a fourth-century patristic poet immersed in the Jewish sources, the saints in heaven are robed in the glorious light that shone from Adam and Eve at the dawn of creation.

Among the saints none is naked,
for they have put on glory,
nor is any clad in those leaves
or standing in shame,
for they have found, through our Lord,
the robe that belongs to Adam and Eve.
As the Church
purges her ears
of the serpent’s poison,
those who had lost their garments,
having listened to it and become diseased,
have now been renewed and whitened.

St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Paradise VI.9,
Translated by Sebastian Brock

2 Replies to “Isaiah 61, Day 4”

  1. Thank you for these thoughts about our human clothes. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It’s protective covering so critical yet so vulnerable to wounding. A person whose blood is thin will have problems when even a slight cut opens the skin. Doctors prescirbe blood thinners for persons at risk of stroke from clots. These person are monitored regularly to insure safe levels.
    When God clothes our immortal bodies we will be as described above, “clothed in a garment of glory irradiating the divine light. Adam was not naked, nor was he unseemly by reason of his nakedness.” Being bathed in radiance will be a wonderful gift!

    1. You’re right–skin also speaks to human frailty and vulnerability. All the more reason to be grateful that the Word, the Light of the world, became flesh for us!

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