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Genesis 3:24

24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east sidea of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Read Genesis 3:24 Using Other Translations

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
After sending them out, the LORD God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

What does Genesis 3:24 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Genesis 3:24

So he drove out the man
Being unwilling to go out upon the orders given, some degree of force was used, or power exerted, in some way or other, to oblige him to depart; the word it is expressed by is used of divorces: there was a conjugal relation between God and man, the covenant between them had the nature of a matrimonial contract; which covenant man broke, though he was an husband to him, by committing idolatry, that is, spiritual adultery, not giving credit to him, but believing the devil before him; wherefore he wrote him a bill of divorce, and sent him away; drove him from his presence and communion with him, from his house and habitation, from his seat of pleasure, and garden of delight, and from all the comfortable enjoyments of life; an emblem of that separation and distance which sin makes between God and his creature, and of that loss which is sustained thereby:

and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden, cherubims;
the Septuagint version is,

``and he placed him, or caused him (Adam) to dwell over against the paradise of pleasure, and he ordered the cherubim''

But the words are not to be understood either of placing man, or placing the cherubim, but of Jehovah's placing himself, or taking up his habitation and residence before the garden of Eden, or at the east of it: while man abode in a state of innocence, the place of the divine Presence, or where God more gloriously manifested himself to him, was in the garden; but now he having sinned, and being driven out of it, he fixes his abode in a very awful manner at the entrance of the garden, to keep man out of it; for so the words may be rendered, "and he inhabited the cherubim, or dwelt over, or between the cherubim, before or at the east of the garden of Eden" F17; so the Jerusalem Targum,

``and he made the glory of his Shechinah, or glorious Majesty, to dwell of old at the east of the garden of Eden, over or above the two cherubim;''

or between them, as the Targum of Jonathan; and very frequently is Jehovah described as sitting and dwelling between the cherubim, ( 1 Samuel 4:4 ) ( 2 Samuel 6:2 ) ( 2 Kings 19:15 ) ( Psalms 80:1 ) ( 99:1 ) ( Isaiah 37:16 ) by which are meant not flying animals or fowls, whose form no man ever saw, as Josephus F18; nor angels, which is the more generally received opinion; for these were not real living creatures of any sort, but forms and representations, such as were made afterwards in the tabernacle of Moses, and temple of Solomon; and which Ezekiel and John saw in a visionary way, and from whom we learn what figures they were: and these were hieroglyphics, not of a trinity of persons, as some of late have stupidly imagined; for these were the seat of the divine Majesty, and between which he dwelt: and besides, as these had four faces, they would rather represent a quaternity than a trinity, and would give a similitude of the divine Being, which cannot be done, and be contrary to the second command; to which may be added, that the word is sometimes singular as well as plural: but these were hieroglyphics of the ministers of the word, whose understanding, humility, and tenderness, are signified by the face of a man; their strength, courage, and boldness, by that of a lion; their labour and diligence by that of an ox; and their quick sight and penetration into divine things by that of an eagle, which are the forms and figures of the cherubim; (See Gill on Ezekiel 1:10). Among these Jehovah is; with these he grants his presence, and by them signifies his mind and will to men; and these he makes use of to show them the vanity of all self-confidence, and to beat them off of seeking for life and righteousness by their own works, and to direct them alone to Christ, and point him out as the alone way of salvation; and of this use the hieroglyphic might be to fallen Adam, now driven out of Eden:

and a flaming sword, which turned every way;
a drawn sword, brandished, and which being very quick in its motion, as it was turned to and fro, glittered and looked like a flame of fire: this is not to be understood as by itself, and as of itself, turning about every way without a hand to move it, nor as with the cherubim, or as in the hands of angels, as in ( 1 Chronicles 21:16 ) or as being they themselves, which are made as flames of fire; but as in the hand of the Lord God, that dwelt between the cherubim; for so it may be rendered, "he inhabited the cherubim and that with a flaming sword" F19; that is, with one in his hand, an emblem of the fiery law of God now broken, and of the fire of divine wrath on the account of that, and of the flaming justice of God, which required satisfaction; and this turning on all sides,

to keep the way of the tree of life;
showing, that life and salvation were not to be had, unless the law and justice of God were satisfied; and that they were not to be expected on the foot of men's works, but only through Christ, the way, the truth, and the life; that no happiness was to be looked for from the covenant of works, now broke, nothing but wrath and vengeance; and that there must be another way opened, or there could be no enjoyment of the heavenly paradise.


FOOTNOTES:

F17 (Mybrkh ta) --(Nkvyw) "et habitavit super `seu' cum cherubim", Texelii Phoenix, p. 256. So (ta) sometimes signifies "upon", "above", or "with". See Nold. Ebr. part. Concord. p. 116, 121.
F18 Antiqu. l. 3. c. 6. sect. 6.
F19 (brxh jhl taw) "idque cum gladio evaginato", Texelius, ib.
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