Before Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden, they experienced an environment that had qualities and symbols that were later reflected in the design and functions of the Mosaic tabernacle and the Jerusalem temple.1 This experience included God's presence and open communication with them (e.g., Genesis 2:16–18; 3:8–19). However, after Adam and Eve partook of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2–3), the Lord expelled them from the templelike setting of the Garden of Eden. According to Genesis 3:24, the Lord God "drove out the man." The English translation correctly represents the Hebrew root grsh, for Adam and Eve were not simply invited to leave the garden but were forcibly thrust out of it.2 In fact, the same Hebrew root is used in the Mosaic law with the meaning "to divorce" (Leviticus 21:7, 14; 22:13). God drove them out of the garden in the same manner that a married couple divorces—they are physically separated from each other. To punctuate this expulsion and to protect against the couple's return, God set up a number of safeguards to guard the path to the tree of life.
This chapter considers the path leading to the tree of life in the context of Genesis 3:24: the Lord God "drove out the man; and he stationed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming, revolving sword, to guard the path of the tree of life." In order to establish the proper setting for the path, I will examine the expressions in this verse that relate to protecting that path, with a particular focus on the words garden; cherubim; flaming, revolving sword; and to guard. Then I will address the question of the nature of the path. Lastly, I will investigate how one may journey past the cherubim and the flaming, revolving sword in order to return to the path leading to the tree of life.
Part 1: Protecting the Path
The Lord "stationed at the east of the garden of Eden . . ."3 The Hebrew root underlying the English stationed (shkn) ties the Garden of Eden to sacred space because it is the same root used to refer to the Mosaic tabernacle (mshkn) and the temple of Jerusalem.4 According to a prominent Hebrew lexicon, this root often signifies the "abode of Yahweh." 5 Biblical scholar Gordon Wenham has written that shkn in this verse means, "literally, 'caused to camp'" and "is particularly associated with God's camping in the tabernacle among his people (e.g., Exod. 25:8). . . . The word's cultic overtones are further reinforced by the presence of the cherubim." 6
The Hebrew root underlying the English word garden is gnn, signifying to "cover, surround, defend." 7 By way of illustration, the root is used in the Old Testament as follows: "For I will defend (gnn) his city to save it for mine own sake" (Isaiah 37:35); "I will defend (gnn) this city" (38:6); "As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend (gnn) Jerusalem; defending (gnn) also he will deliver it" (31:5); "The Lord of hosts shall defend (gnn) them" (Zechariah 9:15); and "In that day shall the Lord defend (gnn) the inhabitants of Jerusalem" (12:8). From the same root comes the word shield (magen),8 denoting an instrument of armor used by warriors to defend themselves from the enemy. The word garden in Hebrew (gan) therefore denotes "enclosure" 9 and gives the sense that a garden is an enclosed space (with a wall, thickets, or another protective covering) that is protected and defended against outside intruders (animals, thieves, and so on).
Further evidence of an enclosed garden is suggested by the fact that God stationed cherubim and the flaming sword at the east. Why would he station the cherubim at the east if the garden were open territory and an intruder could approach the tree of life from other cardinal directions?
This brings us to the narrative's threefold reference to "east," which is the direction of significance in Eden: (1) The detail about God's planting the garden in the east section of Eden (Genesis 2:8) suggests a primacy for the direction. (2) East is mentioned in connection with the four rivers of Eden (2:10–14; compare Enoch 18:19; 19:4). Eden is depicted as being established at the center of those rivers, perhaps providing the source of the water. Of special note in the narrative is that all four rivers are mentioned by name—Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates—yet only one of the four directions is mentioned. The third river flowed eastward, but the directional flow of the other three rivers is unknown, although these rivers probably flowed outward toward the remaining cardinal directions—north, south, and west. (3) After Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, God stationed cherubim and the flaming sword "at the east of the garden of Eden" (Genesis 3:24; Alma 12:21). Why at the east? Because the entrance to the garden was located there.10 By placing cherubim and the flaming sword at the east of the garden, God was blocking the path to the tree of life from an unauthorized return.
The Lord "stationed . . . cherubim."11 The etymology of cherubim (from the root krb) is uncertain, and most or all translations of the Bible transliterate rather than translate the word cherubim.12 Beyond its use in cherub or its plural, cherubim, krb is not attested in the Hebrew Bible. Scholars have likened cherub to the Akkadian karābu, which has the meaning of "pray, bless, greet (persons), worship (deities and persons), promise or offer a sacrifice." 13 Others relate cherub (krb) to the Hebrew rkb ("ride") or brk ("bless").14 None of these attempts to determine the etymology of cherub are satisfactory. As Menahem Haran has observed, "Now it appears that the name kuribu has so far been found only in Assyrian sources, which do not, however, describe the creature to which this name is assigned. Its identity in Assyrian examples seems therefore to be at present a matter of conjecture." 15
The primary mission of the cherubim, together with the flaming sword, was to serve as guardians of the path to the tree of life.16 For example, Victor Hamilton writes that "God stations the cherubim and the fiery whirling sword east of the garden of Eden to prevent reentry to the garden, as if reentry into the garden is only through an opening on its east side, much as the entrance into the tabernacle/temple complex was by a gate on the eastern side. In such a capacity the cherubim function much like the later Levites who are posted as guards around the tabernacle, and who are to strike down any person who encroaches upon the forbidden sancta (Num. 1:51, 53)." 17 Gerhard von Rad describes the cherubim as protectors18 that "had the duty, above all, of protecting sacred regions (1 Kings 6:23 ff; 8:6)." 19
Functioning as divine sentinels, the cherubim protect the tree of life so that humankind in its unworthy state cannot partake of the fruit of the tree (compare Alma 42:2–3). The cherubim's location in the temple was significant—placed on either side of the throne of God (mercy seat), embroidered into the veil, and situated along the path leading to God's presence.
The "door-gods" of ancient Sumer correspond to the biblical cherubim. One such door-god was Ig-alima, the son of Ningirsu, who was "but a personification of the sacred door to Nin-Girsu(k)'s holy of holies, Gir-nun, in the temple E-ninnu in Lagash." 20 According to the Gudea Cylinder, Ig-alima's duties "as great door" of the temple were "to admit the righteous, to keep away the wrong-doer, to strengthen the houses, to embellish the houses, to give to his city (and) to his sanctuary in Girsu firmness (?), to establish the throne of destiny."21 In sum, it was Ig-alima's "function . . . to decide who should be admitted to the temple, i.e. to the god." 22
Kapelrud compares the duties of Sumerian door-gods to those of the biblical cherubim. He writes that "among Ig-alima's tasks as a doorkeeper was that of admitting the just and excluding the evil. This point may give us the clue to an O. T. figure of a similar character. After man's trespassing in Paradise, God placed guardians to keep him out of the garden (Gen. 3:24)." 23 Beyond the biblical cherubim and Sumerian door-gods, there are parallels between cherubim and protectors from other nonbiblical religious systems (e.g., Hittite, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian).24
The Lord "placed . . . a flaming sword which turned every way." Three features in this phrase perform together to cause fear in potential garden intruders. The first is the sword itself. With rare exceptions,25 the sword (hereb) in the Hebrew Bible refers to a weapon of war or an instrument of destruction (Numbers 19:16; Joshua 10:11; 13:22; 1 Samuel 17:51).26 Some swords were two-edged (Judges 3:16), an innovation that made their destructive quality even more potent. Perhaps the flaming sword of the Genesis account anticipated the "sword of the Lord," which is God's weapon that delivers judgment upon the wicked (Judges 7:20; Isaiah 34:6; Jeremiah 12:12; 47:6–7; compare Deuteronomy 28:22). Deuteronomy 32:39–42, written in poetic form, parallels judgment and the Lord's sword: "See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh" (emphasis added). Truly, the Lord wields his sword to deliver judgment on the disobedient (Exodus 22:24; Leviticus 26:25, 33; Isaiah 1:20; Amos 9:10).
The second feature in the phrase "placed . . . a flaming sword which turned every way" that causes fear is the flame of fire. Only here in Genesis is the Hebrew lahat ("flame") attested as a noun; in all other places the root is verbal and translates as "to blaze, burn" or "to scorch, devour."27 This indicates that the sword under discussion was exceptional; in addition to the danger of the blade itself, this sword burned or scorched its victims as it slashed and cut. A verse from Isaiah also connects fire and sword: "For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many" (Isaiah 66:16; see vv. 15, 17).
The third feature that may cause dread is expressed by the Hebrew verb hamithapeket, which translates into the English phrase "turned every way" (Authorized Version). This verb makes it clear that the sword is continuously whirling or revolving "round and round," 28 perhaps in a zigzagging manner, to protect the path. Such a revolving sword would make it impossible for unauthorized individuals to proceed along the path.
The three features—the sword, the blazing fire, and the whirling or zigzagging motion—present a frightening prospect to those who are not qualified to approach the tree of life. Combine this with Ezekiel's description of the cherubim, the living creatures who held the flaming sword: "This was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. . . . As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle." Ezekiel continues his description by describing the lightning speed of the creatures: "And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning" (Ezekiel 1:14; see vv. 5–6, 10, 13). This lightning-speed would make it impossible for unauthorized intruders to make it past the cherubim and flaming sword.
Perhaps a vague connection to the cherubim with the flaming sword is located in the Balaam narrative, where the Lord's angel has a drawn sword in his hand: "And the ass saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand. . . . Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face. And the angel of the Lord said unto him, . . . the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive" (Numbers 22:23, 31–33).29
". . . to guard the path of the tree of life." The Hebrew verb shmr, translated here as "to guard," has the sense of "to take care of, preserve, protect" or "to perform guard duty." 30 God established the cherubim and the flaming sword to serve as guards. Their function would anticipate the priests and Levites who served as guards of the tabernacle and temple (1 Kings 14:27; Jeremiah 35:4). Shmr is also used in connection with guarding captives (Joshua 10:18; 1 Kings 20:39).31
". . . the path." The Hebrew drk may be translated "way, road, path."32 In the context of Genesis 3:24, drk denotes a path or road leading to the tree of life. Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, drk may also refer to a road or path—for example, Genesis 16:7, a "spring that is beside the road to Shur" (NIV); Genesis 38:14 (also v. 21), "the road to Timnah" (NIV); and Deuteronomy 2:27, "we will stay on the main road" (NIV).33
". . . the tree of life." Sacred trees or plants figure prominently in ancient Near Eastern cultures. Not only are they mentioned or described in texts, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh,34 but there exist numerous art motifs of sacred trees that are displayed on jewelry, seals, sculptures, wall paintings, stelae, cylinder seals, monuments,35 and garments.36 The concept of sacred trees also belongs to the ancient Mediterranean communities and Far Eastern cultures.37 According to Amihai Mazar, these trees "have been and continue to be one of the most basic features of human religion in many cultures and periods." 38 These trees have supernatural or healing powers.39 The trees may represent a deity, a king, or a queen.40 Scholars have also associated the tree of life with the menorah, Jesus's cross, or Jesus Christ himself.41
The author of Genesis 2–3 refers explicitly to the tree of life on three occasions. Genesis 2:9 states that God planted "the tree of life in the middle of the garden" (my translation). In this account the tree is a definite tree (tree is preceded by the definite article the) and is located at the center of Eden's garden. The tree stands opposite the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," or the tree of death.42 The second and third references to the tree of life are mentioned in connection with God's desire to protect the tree (Genesis 3:22–24). Had Adam and Eve been permitted to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, they would have lived forever in an imperfect state of transgression. To prevent premature access to the tree, God established cherubim and a flaming sword at the east entrance of the garden.
Rabbinic commentators argue that the tree of life was not simply in the midst of the garden but that it was in the center of the garden. For example, A. J. Rosenberg writes that "since Scripture is discussing the Garden of Eden, it was unnecessary to state that the Tree of Life was within the Garden. It could only mean that it was in the very center of the Garden." 43 Similarly, Targum Onkelos argues on the basis of the sentence syntax of Genesis 2:9 (translated in the King James Version as "the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil") that "the positioning of [the phrase] 'in the midst of the garden' after 'the tree of life' and before 'the tree of knowledge of good and evil' indicates that it describes a quality peculiar to the tree of life; thus, it is understood as 'in the center of the garden.' " 44 One archaeological study regarding an actual sacred tree located at the center of the Chalcolithic sanctuary of En Gedi supports the idea of the tree at the center.45 Modern biblical commentators, however, are divided on the idea of the tree of life being in the center of the garden.46
Having the tree of life at the garden's center enriches its symbolic significance as the focal point in the Eden narrative. This significance is enhanced even more by the fact that God was the divine planter of the garden (Genesis 2:9). "The fact that [Genesis 2:9] emphasizes not the tree of life but the tree's planter reinforces the idea that life is from God, not from the tree." 47 God retains complete power over the garden and its trees, for he can grant or deny access to the tree of life according to his divine purposes.
Part 2: The Nature of the Path
The Garden of Eden and the Israelite temple systems (the Mosaic tabernacle, Solomon's temple, Ezekiel's temple) that followed appropriately paid close regard to the "four fundamental modes of monumental architecture." 48 (1) Sacred space must have a precinct, which implies location and spatial demarcation. Whether or not a man-made edifice or structure is attached to the site is ultimately irrelevant. (2) It includes the "cairn, which makes the site visible from afar and indicates its importance." The writers of the scriptures have consistently associated the temple with a mountain. (3) Necessarily attached to sacred space is "the path that signals a direction." The path represents the way to approach the center of the precinct. (4) "There is the hut that acts as a sacred shelter." The hut may be represented by a sacred tree, a cloud, or in more developed forms, an edifice. In many of the Hebrew Bible's models the hut was represented by an edifice.
Item number 3, "the path that signals a direction," calls for our attention. According to J. G. Davies, "for a path to be identifiable, it must have (1) strong edges, (2) continuity, (3) directionality, (4) recognizable landmarks, (5) a sharp terminal, and (6) end-from-end distinction." 49 The Garden of Eden's path to the tree of life was clearly identifiable. Although the text does not mention the path's edges, the path was well defined and demonstrated continuity from point A (the eastward entrance) to point B (the tree of life). Its directionality likely was westward, as suggested by the garden's eastward orientation. The path's most recognizable landmarks were the cherubim and the flaming sword at one end and the tree of life at the other. The path abruptly terminated at the tree of life, the garden's center. The path's end-from-end distinction is also present in the garden narrative.
Besides the Garden of Eden narrative, three other scriptural texts identify a path that is associated with the tree of life, sacred waters, cherubim, or a combination of all four: Lehi's tree of life dream, John's vision of the celestial city, and the tabernacle and temple texts of the Old Testament.
Lehi's dream of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8; compare 1 Nephi 11; 15) refers explicitly to the path that leads to the tree of life. Lehi wrote, "And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood. And I also beheld a strait and narrow path, which came along by the rod of iron, even to the tree by which I stood; and it also led by the head of the fountain, unto a large and spacious field, as if it had been a world. And I saw numberless concourses of people, many of whom were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path which led unto the tree by which I stood. And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree" (1 Nephi 8:19–22).
This "strait and narrow path" was not the only path or road envisioned by Lehi. He also refers to "forbidden paths" (1 Nephi 8:28) and "strange roads" (v. 32) that were traveled by those who were lost. Nephi, who also saw the tree of life in vision, similarly wrote that lost persons were traveling on "broad roads" (1 Nephi 12:17).
John's account of the celestial city, similar to Lehi's dream, explicitly refers to a path or road in connection with the tree of life: "Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" (Revelation 22:1–2 NIV, emphasis added; see Ezekiel 47:7–12).50 Note that the path in this passage is not a simple footpath but a "great street" or a "main street." 51
The celestial city's landscape is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden's. Both feature a tree or trees of life, a river of water, and a path. Although cherubim are not mentioned in the immediate context (Revelation 21–22) of the celestial city, some scholars maintain that "the 'living creatures' of Revelation 4 and 5 and Isaiah 6 are similar if not identical beings" to the cherubim.52 If this is the case, then cherublike creatures do exist in the celestial city.
Similar to Lehi's dream of the tree of life and John's account of the celestial city, the tabernacle and temple texts also draw upon themes from the Garden of Eden. For example, symbolic representations of the cherubim were embroidered into the walls and veil of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, 31; 36:8, 35) and carved into the walls, doors, and panels of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:29–35; 7:29–36).53 In addition, two large cherubim were placed on either side of God's throne54 in the holy of holies (Exodus 25:18–22; 37:7–9; 1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; 1 Kings 6:23–28; 8:6–7). The cherubim were identical in size and possessed great wings, and each was made of olive wood and overlaid with gold. Ezekiel also refers to cherubim in his description of Jerusalem's future temple (Ezekiel 41:18–25).
The tree of life of the Mosaic tabernacle and subsequent Israelite temples is represented by the seven-branched lamp stand, or menorah.55 Exodus 25:31–40 describes the menorah as a tree. The menorah had the appearance of an almond tree, with its trunklike base, seven branches, and blossoms or flowers. The menorah, as an important religious symbol for the Israelite community, is given due consideration in the Pentateuch. The scriptures set forth its construction (Exodus 25:31–40; 37:17–24), consecration (30:26–27; 40:9), placement in the tabernacle (25:37; Numbers 8:2–3), and the manner of transporting it (Numbers 3:31; 4:9). This sacred object was also located in Solomon's temple (1 Kings 7:49), wherein ten pure gold menorahs were used: five stood on the north and five on the south of the holy place of the temple. The second temple (the one that bore Herod's name) also boasted a lamp stand, although the sources regarding this are unclear and contradictory.56
As a physical, inanimate object, the menorah was not the tree of life itself but a representation of it. Located in the holy place in both the tabernacle and temple, it was overlooked or guarded by the cherubim that were featured on the walls.
The large basin of water that belonged to the courtyard of both the tabernacle and Solomon's temple parallels the waters of Eden, and the eastward orientation57 of the garden parallels similar motifs belonging to the tabernacle and temples of Jerusalem.58 Many temples were situated so that the entrance faced eastward. The Garden of Eden, with its templelike qualities, produced the prototypical pattern for subsequent Israelite temple orientation.
Within the tabernacle and Solomon's and Ezekiel's temples (and spoken of in the Temple Scroll), a path was established that led the entire distance from the courtyard's outside walls to the holy of holies. Often the path consisted of a straight-line axis and possessed vertical aspects, an ascension, and an eastward orientation.59 The scriptural texts set forth the path's form, its approachability, and various architectural safeguards that protected the precinct from impurity and desecration and discouraged unqualified persons from approaching too close to the center. These architectural safeguards included horizontal zones, walls, and gates or veils.
For example, the wall as an architectural component formed one of the most basic and important elements in sacred dwellings. Each wall served to demarcate space between the sacred center and the profane field.60 "The wall in combination with the terrace can provide horizontal definition," suggests Martienssen.61 The wall creates a frame around a designated spot, a pronounced border that all can see and that no one can misapprehend. Jonathan Z. Smith's vision of the experience within the temple is instructive. He sees the architectural components functioning together to produce a centripetal apparatus. That is to say, the people were held in their place between the four walls of a single court or sphere, pushing toward their God while at the same time having their approach arrested by the walls, gates, and stairs.62
Notwithstanding these architectural safeguards, the path provided passage for ritually qualified individuals (i.e., those who had participated in the rites or gestures of approach). The path traversed through three chief horizontal zones—the courtyard(s), the holy place, and the holy of holies. Each zone was demarcated with walls, but gates 63 and veils 64 allowed ingress and egress from zone to zone. Raglan writes that "gates and doors mark the division between the sacred and the profane world." 65 Eliade proposed that the threshold and the door "are symbols and at the same time vehicles of passage from the one space to the other." 66
Part 3: Safely Returning to the Tree
Although the Garden of Eden narrative sets forth aspects about the tree of life, the cherubim, the flaming sword, and the path, the narrative provides no information about how Adam or Eve or any individual could safely return to the tree via the path, past the guardians and the flaming, revolving sword. In fact, Genesis 3:24 ("and he stationed . . . cherubim, and a flaming, revolving sword") concludes the Garden of Eden narrative. The next passage begins with "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain" (Genesis 4:1) and continues with the story of Cain's fallen countenance and the subsequent murder of his brother Abel. There is no explanation of how one may return to the tree; the author of Genesis abruptly discontinues one story and moves to the next. None of the remaining narratives in the book of Genesis unambiguously return to the topic of the tree of life.
The other three scriptural texts—Lehi's dream of the tree of life, John's vision of the celestial city, and the tabernacle and temple texts—do indeed provide information about how one may journey past the guardians to the path that leads to the tree of life. Lehi's dream plainly sets forth the manner by which a person travels the path to this tree—one must hold on to a rod of iron that extends along the path to the tree (1 Nephi 8:19–20). The rod of iron symbolizes God's word (11:25). Nephi's brothers inquired, "What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?" Nephi responded, "It was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction" (15:23–24).
John's revelation explains what one must do to eat of the tree of life: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). The phrase "to him that overcometh" is found seven times in the letters to the seven churches (vv. 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21) and is directed to each individual who overcomes the world. The word overcometh 67 refers to prevailing over Satan and the wicked world. This is accomplished through obedience to God's laws. In John's own words, "Blessed are they that do [God's] commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (22:14). Presumably, when one enters the city's gates, he or she is on the main road that leads to the tree of life.
The texts pertaining to the Mosaic tabernacle or to the Israelite temple systems set forth how one may approach the symbolic representation of the tree of life—the menorah—that was located in the holy place of the tabernacle. Gestures of approach 68 are rituals 69 or religious gestures 70 conducted by those who occupy the path that leads from the profane to the sacred. Those who wish to leave profane space and approach the sacred center must participate in these gestures. Inasmuch as the concepts of sacred and profane have reference to two antithetical powers—the profane contaminates, the sacred sanctifies—the two must be strictly separated,71 and gestures of approach serve to separate the two. "Any attempt, outside the prescribed limits, to unite sacred and profane brings confusion and disaster." 72 The entry into the sacred is potentially dangerous. Those who enter or serve in the sacred arena when unprepared are subject to death by the hands of man or by the power of God.73
The gestures of approach are as follows:
1. The removal of profane items. Moses was commanded by God to remove his shoes—"put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). Joshua, Moses's successor, had a similar experience (Joshua 5:15).74
2. Ritual ablutions—for example, immersion (Hebrew tevilah) and the cleansing of hands and feet. It was incumbent upon a priest to ritually wash his hands and feet lest he incur the death penalty by the hand of heaven: "For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet thereat: When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not" (Exodus 30:19–20; see 29:4).
3. Anointing with olive oil, which was first poured upon the recipient's head and then smeared (Exodus 29:7). The rite followed the ritual ablutions with pure water but preceded the vesting rite. The locale where the anointing rite took place was significant. For the priests of the Mosaic law, the anointing rite took place at the door of the temple court. Hence the gestures involved in the anointing prepared the individual to approach the holinesses located within the walls of the temple. Those who received the anointing were sanctified and set apart from the profane world and were thus required to adhere to certain responsibilities (Leviticus 21:10–12), but they were also offered special privileges (6:20–22; 16:32–34; Numbers 4:16; 18:8). In connection with the anointing, priests were sprinkled with oil mixed with the blood of a sacrificial victim (Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30).
4. Offering of a variety of sacrifices for various occasions. These included burnt offerings (Leviticus 1:3–17; 6:8–13), grain offerings (2:1–16), peace offerings (3:1–17), sin offerings (4:1–5:13), and trespass or guilt offerings (5:14–6:7).
5. Investiture of special vestments (Exodus 28) that were deemed to be holy (vv. 2–3). The ordinary priestly vestments consisted of four parts—breeches, a headpiece, a girdle, and a tunic. The high priestly vestments consisted of eight pieces, the four belonging to the priest plus an ephod, robe, breastplate, and frontplate (29:5–6). The high priest wore four vestments on the Day of Atonement. They were white in color and included a girdle, tunic, mitre, and breeches.
These gestures of approach sanctified and prepared the individual for entrance into the holy. Only after the gestures of approach were individuals permitted to approach Deity in his state of holiness.
Violating Sacred Space
The scriptures offer examples of individuals who violated sacred space. Isaiah 14 records an instance of one such transgressor who presumably encountered the flaming, revolving sword. The text in part reads:
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned. (Isaiah 14:12–20, emphasis added)
In this text, Lucifer makes five statements (each beginning with the personal pronoun I) that indicate his desire to encroach upon God's holy, heavenly sphere: "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation [or "in the Mountain Assembly" for the gods],75 in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:13–14). Nine words are associated with Lucifer's goal to elevate himself to God's exalted sphere: ascend (twice), heaven, exalt, stars, mount, heights, clouds, and most High. Lucifer, however, did not succeed in his quest. Two phrases in the text suggest that he was halted by the flaming, revolving sword: "how art thou cut down to the ground" (v. 12). The verb cut conveys the idea that Lucifer was cut with a sword, an action explicitly referenced in verse 19: "thou art . . . thrust through with a sword."
A second text refers to the king of Tyre (perhaps a symbol of some unnamed person). The Lord commanded Ezekiel to
raise a dirge over the king of Tyre, informing him that the message of the Lord Yahweh is as follows: You were once a seal of intricate design, full of wisdom, perfect in beauty. You used to live in Eden, God's garden. You wore precious stones of every kind—sard, topaz, moonstone(?), gold topaz, carnelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, garnet and emerald—and the mounts and settings you wore were made of gold and had been fashioned on the day you were created. With a winged(?) guardian cherub I set you. On God's sacred mountain you lived, and amidst blazing gems you walked about. Your conduct was blameless from the day you were created until wrongdoing was discovered in you. Your extensive trading filled your habitat with violence and you committed sin. So I removed you in your sullied state from the divine mountain, and the guardian cherub banished you from the habitat of the blazing gems. Your beauty gave you a proud attitude. With your splendor in mind, you used your wisdom perversely. So I threw you down to the ground and exposed you to the gloating gaze of other kings. Your serious wrongdoing involved in your wicked trading led you to sully your sacred places. So I made fire issue from your habitat and it consumed you. I turned you into ashes before the gaze of all who saw you. All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you. You have become a victim of terror and will be no more for ever. (Ezekiel 28:11–19) 76
This passage from Ezekiel makes straightforward references to the Garden of Eden with the expressions "Eden" and "God's garden." 77 Furthermore, the passage makes it clear that Eden represents sacred space with the phrases "God's garden," "God's sacred mountain," "divine mountain," "guardian cherub," and "sacred places." The king of Tyre, who inhabited the garden for a period of time, was once "full of wisdom" and "perfect in beauty" and "blameless." He wore precious stones, which were perhaps symbolically associated with the precious jewels located on the high priest's breastplate (Exodus 28:15–21). In time, however, the king became wicked. The text sets forth his state of wickedness: he became guilty of "wrongdoing," and he "committed sin"; the king's beauty gave him a "proud attitude," and he kept his "splendor in mind." He was guilty of "serious wrongdoing" involving his "wicked trading." This led the king to "sully," or pollute, the sacred place in which he lived.
It was because of the king's great wickedness that the Lord, together with the guardian cherub, cast him out of the Garden of Eden. "So I [the Lord] removed you in your sullied state from the divine mountain, and the guardian cherub banished you from the habitat of the blazing gems." The king's removal from the garden recalls Adam and Eve's banishment from the Garden of Eden. The Ezekiel text, however, has a different ending than the Genesis narrative does. Whereas Adam and Eve are allowed to live outside the sacred garden, the king is destroyed, presumably by the guardian cherub's flaming sword.78 Two references communicate the idea of death by the flame from the sword. The first is found in the Lord's words to the king: "I made fire issue from your habitat and it consumed you." The second sets forth the end result of this fire and its consummation: "I turned you into ashes." The Lord concludes with this promise to the king: "You have become a victim of terror and will be no more for ever."
Part 1 of this article examined expressions from Genesis
3:24 that reveal much regarding the nature of the cherubim, the sword, and the
path and the manner in which the cherubim and the flaming, revolving sword
serve to guard the path to the tree of life. Part 2 discussed the physical
characteristics of the path. Part 3 drew on Lehi's tree of life dream, John's
vision of the celestial city, and the tabernacle and temple texts of the Old
Testament to explain how one journeys past the guardians and enters the path
leading to the tree of life—namely, by holding on to the rod of iron (the
word of God), overcoming the world, and participating in the gestures of
approach. All three components are obligatory for those who wish to approach
the tree of life and partake of its fruits. Anyone attempting to travel the
path in order to enter the Lord's sacred temple must first obtain the
authorization provided by those components. Those who fail to do so will be cut
down by the sword, burned by the sword's flame, or both.
Donald W. Parry, professor of Hebrew Bible at Brigham Young University, has authored or edited more than a dozen books that are directed to the academic community. These include works on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Isaiah, and 1 and 2 Samuel. He has also authored books for nonspecialist readers, including Understanding Isaiah, Temples of the Ancient World, and Symbols and Shadows: Unlocking a Greater Understanding of the Atonement. Since 1994, he has been a member of the international team of translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was recently appointed to serve on the Biblia Hebraica Quinta team, which is producing the new edition of the Hebrew Bible for scholars and translators.
1. According to Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis 1–15 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 1:86, in the Garden of Eden "there is a remarkable concentration of powerful symbols that can be interpreted in the light of later sanctuary design." These symbols collectively combine "to suggest that the garden of Eden was a type of archetypal sanctuary." See also Gordon J. Wenham, "Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden Story," in Proceedings of the Ninth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies/Jerusalem Academic Press, 1986), 19–25; and Donald W. Parry, "Garden of Eden: Prototype Sanctuary," in Temples of the Ancient World: Ritual and Symbolism, ed. Donald W. Parry (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1994), 126–51.
2. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. Edward Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 176.
3. Unless otherwise noted, the translation of Genesis 3:24 is mine and the translations of other Bible passages are from the King James Version.
4. Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 2:647; see also Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1015.
5. Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 2:647.
6. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 86.
7. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 170.
8. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 171.
9. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 171.
10. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 210.
11. For various approaches to the status and nature of the cherubim, see Robert H. Pfeiffer, "Cherubim," Journal of Biblical Literature 41/3–4 (1922): 249–50; Édouard (Paul) Dhorme, "Les Cherubins," Revue biblique 35 (1926): 328–39; and William F. Albright, "What Were the Cherubim?" Biblical Archaeologist (1938): 1–3.
12. Referring to the Hebrew ha-kerubim, John W. Wevers, in Notes on the Greek Text of Genesis (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993), 50, writes, "The concept was foreign to the Greek, and the translator took over the Hebrew word into Greek. . . . In due course the word was adopted into Latin as cherubim (Vulg)."
13. D. N. Freedman and M. P. O'Connor, "kerûb," Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 7:308; also Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 2:497.
14. Freedman and O'Connor, "kerûb," 308.
15. M. Haran, "The Ark and the Cherubim: Their Symbolic Significance in Biblical Ritual," Israel Exploration Journal 9 (1959): 93.
16. The cherubim were guardian creatures, a function shared by winged creatures of other ancient Near Eastern religions. See James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 163–65.
17. Hamilton, Book of Genesis, 210. See also Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 96, emphasis removed.
18. Gerhard von Rad, "The Tent and the Ark," in The Problem of the Hexateuch (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984), 108.
19. Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), 95.
20. A. S. Kapelrud, "The Gates of Hell and the Guardian Angels of Paradise," Journal of the American Oriental Society 70/13 (1950): 152.
21. Kapelrud, "Gates of Hell," 152 (the question mark is in the original).
22. Kapelrud, "Gates of Hell," 155.
23. Kapelrud, "Gates of Hell," 153; see 154–55.
24. For guardianlike creatures associated with sacred trees in various ancient Near Eastern religions, see Kapelrud, "Gates of Hell," 154–55; T. Stordalen, Echoes of Eden: Genesis 2–3 and Symbolism of the Eden Garden in Biblical Hebrew Literature (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 293; Roger Cook, The Tree of Life: Image for the Cosmos (New York: Avon, 1974), plates 2, 3, 19, 47 and figures 18, 23, 24, 25. Depictions of the Assyrian tree of life generally show either animals (generally ibexes, gazelles, goats, and stags), supernatural characters, or humans flanking the tree. See Simo Parpola, "The Assyrian Tree of Life: Tracing the Origins of Jewish Monotheism and Greek Philosophy," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 52/3 (July 1993): 164–65.
25. Exceptions include Exodus 20:25 and Ezekiel 26:9, which refer to an iron tool or chisel.
26. The Hebrew verbal root hrb, with its meaning "to slay," is the same root used to formulate the Hebrew word for sword (hereb). The connection, therefore, between "to slay" and "sword" emphasizes the fact that the sword is an instrument of destruction.
27. Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 2:521.
28. Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 1:254.
29. "The idea is clear: a revolving or zigzagging sword, especially one wielded by angels, is one that is sure to hit and bring death (cf. Num 22:23, 31, 33)." Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 86.
30. Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 4:1582–83.
31. Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1036.
32. Koehler and Baumgartner, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 1:231; Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 202.
33. For other examples of drk as a way, road, or path, see Genesis 35:3; 48:7; Deuteronomy 19:3.
34. The epic focuses on Gilgamesh, who obtains a plant that restores his "life's breath." Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 96.
35. See Parpola, "Assyrian Tree of Life," 161–63; see also Parpola's accompanying notes and bibliography. According to Parpola, there are "hundreds of available specimens of the Late Assyrian Tree" (p. 163).
36. For the tree of life displayed on royal garments, see Austen H. Layard, The Monuments of Ninevah, from Drawings Made on the Spot (London: J. Murray, 1849), plates 5 and 6b (garment of Ashurnasirpal II); Jeanny V. Canby, "Decorated Garments in Ashurnasirpal's Sculpture," Iraq 33 (Spring 1971): 31–33, plate XVIII; and Eva Strommenger and Max Hirmer, 5,000 Years of the Art of Mesopotamia (London: H. N. Abrams, 1964), plates 251 and 254.
37. Amihai Mazar, "A Sacred Tree in the Chalcolithic Shrine at En Gedi: A Suggestion," Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society 18 (2000): 31; and Cook, Tree of Life: Image for the Cosmos.
38. Mazar, "Sacred Tree in the Chalcolithic Shrine," 31.
39. Howard N. Wallace, "Tree of Knowledge and Tree of Life," in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:658.
40. Parpola, "Assyrian Tree of Life," 167; Geo Widengren, The King and the Tree of Life in Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Uppsala, Sweden: A. B. Lundequistska, 1951), 42–58.
41. On the association of the tree of life to Jesus's cross or to Jesus himself, see the chapters herein by Margaret Barker, "The Fragrant Tree" (pp. 64–65, 75–76); John W. Welch, "The Tree of Life in the New Testament and Christian Tradition" (pp. 82–83, 86, 88–91, 95–99); C. Wilfred Griggs, "The Tree of Life in John's Gospel" (pp. 112, 115, 122, 125–27); Jaime Lara, "The Tree of Life in the Catholic Religious and Liturgical Imagination" (pp. 175, 176, 178–81); and Charles Swift, "'I Have Dreamed a Dream': Lehi's Archetypal Vision of the Tree of Life" (pp. 139–42). See also Rivka Nir, "The Aromatic Fragrances of Paradise in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve and the Christian Origin of the Composition," Novum Testamentum 46/1 (2004): 30; Max Wilcox, "'Upon the Tree'—Deut 21:22–23 in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature 96/1 (1977): 85; and Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (New York: Pantheon, 1958), 7:110–21.
42. On the tree of knowledge of good and evil as the tree of death, see Ingvild Saelid Gilhus, "The Tree of Life and the Tree of Death: A Study of Gnostic Symbols," Religion: A Journal of Religion and Religions 17/4 (1987): 337–53.
43. A. J. Rosenberg, Genesis: A New Translation (New York: Judaica Press, 1993), 1:40.
44. Yisrael I. Z. Herczeg, trans., Rashi: The Torah, with Rashi's Commentary (Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 1994), 25. See Ramban Nachmanides, Commentary on the Torah: Genesis, trans. Charles Chavel (Brooklyn, NY: Shilo Publishing House, 1999), 71.
45. Mazar, "Sacred Tree in the Chalcolithic Shrine," 31–36. Mazar argues that this sanctuary had a sacred tree at its center and a stone platform built around the tree.
46. In his translation of Genesis 2:9, for example, Wenham places "the tree of life in the middle of the garden." Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 44. Compare Esther C. Quinn, The Penitence of Adam (University, MS: Romance Monographs, 1980), 113, and Mircea Eliade, "The Yearning for Paradise in Primitive Tradition," Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 88 (Spring 1959): 257–60; but contrast Hamilton, in Book of Genesis, 162, who places the tree in the midst of the garden rather than in the center.
47. Hamilton, Book of Genesis, 163. See Paul Watson, "The Tree of Life," Restoration Quarterly 23/4 (1980): 235.
48. As identified by J. G. Davies, "Architecture," in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade (New York: Macmillan, 1987), 1:386–87. The quotations immediately following are from this source.
49. Davies, "Architecture," 391.
50. It is probable that Ezekiel saw the same tree and received the same understanding as John; compare Ezekiel 47:1, 8, 12.
51. David E. Aune, Word Biblical Commentary, Revelation 17–22 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), 52c:1136.
52. James M. Boice, Genesis: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 1:243. "It is probable that the [seraphim] of Is 6:2–6 are another form of the cherubim. The [Apocalypse] of the seals Rev 4–6 combines them in four [creatures]." Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 501.
53. Ancient Assyrian religion had the equivalent of the Israelite cherubim according to Menahem Haran, "The Ark and the Cherubim: Their Symbolic Significance in Biblical Ritual," Israel Exploration Journal 9 (1959): 30–38, 89–94.
54. For a discussion of the ark of the covenant as God's throne, see Gerhard Von Rad, "The Tent and the Ark," in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984), 103–24.
55. For the menorah as a representation of the tree of life, see Carol Meyers, The Tabernacle Menorah: A Synthetic Study of a Symbol from the Biblical Cult (Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1976).
56. Meyers, Tabernacle Menorah, 36–38.
57. "Eastward orientation" is in point of fact a redundancy because orient has etymological ties to the term east. Landsberger explains that "etymologically, 'orientation' signifies a turning toward the east." Franz Landsberger, "The Sacred Direction in Synagogue and Church," Hebrew Union College Annual 28 (1957): 181.
58. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 86. On the subject of spatial orientation, see John Wilkinson, "Orientation, Jewish and Christian," Palestine Exploration Quarterly 116 (January–June 1984): 16–30; L. A. Snijders, "L'orientation du temple de Jérusalem," Oudtestamentische Studiën 14 (1965): 214–34; Hans-J. Klimkeit, "Spatial Orientation in Mythical Thinking as Exemplified in Ancient Egypt: Considerations toward a Geography of Religions," History of Religions 14/4 (1975): 266–81; B. Diebner, "Die Orientierung des Jerusalemer Tempels und die 'Sacred Direction' der frühchristlichen Kirchen," Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 87/2 (1971): 153–66; and Bezalel Porten, "The Structure and Orientation of the Jewish Temple at Elephantine—A Revised Plan of the Jewish District," Journal of the American Oriental Society 81/1 (1961): 38–42.
59. See, for instance, B. L. Gordon, "Sacred Directions, Orientation, and the Top of the Map," History of Religions 10/3 (1971): 212.
60. Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1959), 25.
61. Rex D. Martienssen, The Idea of Space in Greek Architecture (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1956), 8; see Rudolf Arnheim, The Power of the Center (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 51.
62. Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place: Toward Theory in Ritual (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 65. Arnheim utilizes similar imagery when he writes that a tall wall or tower arising from the center "will be seen essentially as a centrifugal vector emanating from the massive center of the building." Arnheim, Power of the Center, 22.
63. The meaning of the Hebrew verbal root of gate (sha'ar) during the biblical period was to "break . . . through," to create a "gap" or "opening," to "split, divide." Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1044–45; compare Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (Leiden: Brill, 1953), 1001–2.
64. Umberto Cassuto, in A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1967), 359, points out that the Hebrew word for veil (parokhet) is derived from a verb stem that is unattested in the Hebrew Bible—prkh, which means to "close" or "to shut." Prkh can also mean "to separate" or "to divide." Walter C. Kaiser Jr., "Exodus," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 2:461–62. These definitions conform to the scriptural usage of veil, for according to Exodus 26:33, the function of the veil is to divide the holy place from the holy of holies.
65. Fitzroy R. S. Raglan, The Temple and the House (New York: Norton, 1964), 26.
66. Eliade, The Sacred and Profane, 25. See Martienssen, Space in Greek Architecture, 4; and Ad de Vries, Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing, 1974), 143.
67. Overcome is also used in association with those who are faithful (Doctrine and Covenants 61:9; 63:20), those who believe that "Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5), those who obey the commandments (D&C 50:35), and those who are "born of God" (1 John 5:4).
68. It is difficult to ascertain who first coined the phrase "gestures of approach." Certainly it is now a common expression. See, for example, Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, trans. Rosemary Sheed (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1958), 370–71; and Baruch M. Bokser, "Approaching Sacred Space," The Harvard Theological Review 78/3–4 (1985): 279–80, 299.
69. This accords with the standard dictionary definition, which defines rite (from the Latin ritus) as "a formal procedure or act in a religious or other solemn observance." The Oxford English Dictionary, prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 13:990. See James C. Livingston, Anatomy of the Sacred: An Introduction to Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1989), 98, where the author defines a religious ritual as "an agreed-on and formalized pattern of ceremonial movements and verbal expressions carried out in a sacred context" (emphasis removed).
70. According to Raglan, the rite of transition is common to many religions. He further observes, "This ritual gradually dwindles, but people still mark their transition from the profane to the sacred sphere by removing their hats—or their boots." Raglan, The Temple and the House, 31.
71. Speaking of sacred and profane space, Davies writes, "The one is potent, full of power, while the other is powerless. They cannot therefore approach one another without losing their proper nature: either the sacred will consume the profane or the profane will contaminate and enfeeble the sacred." Davies, "Architecture," 384.
72. Davies, "Architecture," 385.
73. The laws regarding trespass into sacred space are well defined in the rabbinic literature. The Mishnah asserts that one of the thirty-six most punishable transgressions of the Torah is entering the temple while unclean (M. Kerithot 1:1); also, when a ritually impure priest ministered, he was not taken to a court of law, but "young priests" took him from the courtyard and with clubs broke his head (M. Sanhedrin 9:6; 10.1). Likewise, if a nonpriest served in the temple he was killed either by strangling or by "the hands of Heaven" (M. Sanhedrin 9:6, 10.1; see BT Sanhedrin 81b). Furthermore, if a priest lacked atonement and deliberately entered the temple court, he incurred the penalty of excommunication. According to a prescription based upon Leviticus 16:2, a priest who stepped across the prescribed boundaries of his zone (beyond the first eleven cubits of the entrance to the tripartite building, compare BT Yoma 16b) received forty lashes, or if he entered within the veil of the holy of holies he incurred death at the hands of heaven (BT Menaḥot 27b; compare T. Kelim 1:6), meaning no human punishment would be rendered. Foreigners who trespassed the temple precinct were also subject to death (BT Sanhedrin 83b).
74. Rabbinic literature sets forth the idea of removing profane items before entry into sacred space. Compare Exodus Rabbah II.6; BT Yebamot 6b, 102b; M. Berakot 9:5; BT Berakot 61b–62b; Ecclesiastes Rabbah IV.14.
75. For this reading, see John D. W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary, Isaiah 1–33 (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987), 24:207.
76. Translation by Leslie C. Allen, Word Biblical Commentary, Ezekiel 20–48 (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990), 29:90. See also Allen's accompanying critical notes on pages 90–92.
77. Allen summarized the content of Ezekiel 28:11–19 by stating, "Basically it makes use of a version of the garden of Eden story that appears in Gen 2–3." Word Biblical Commentary, Ezekiel 20–48, 94. E. O. James, in The Tree of Life: An Archaeological Study (Brill: Leiden, 1966), 74, makes a similar statement when he writes that Ezekiel 28:11–19 is "the Phoenician counterpart of the Genesis myth."
78. With a variety of approaches, scholars associate the flaming sword of Genesis 3:24 with the fire that consumes the king of Tyre. See, for example, Leslie, Word Biblical Commentary, Ezekiel 20–48, 95.