God is a question asker. Going back to the first book of the Bible we catch God asking questions of Adam and Eve. For an omniscient being he asks lots of questions. In Genesis 3 he asks four, in Genesis 4 he asks two and in the book of Job God asks that book’s unbearably stressed namesake sixty questions!
Questions are asked to gain information but they are also statements. God’s questions reveal something about who he is and how he feels about us. Yet, as we read his questions we cannot hear his tone of voice. This might cause us to think that God is asking the question for the sake of information or that his question is purely rhetorical, even accusatory. The tone of voice says everything. It can accuse or console, encourage or reject.
“Who told you that you were naked?” (CEB) This is the question as it appears in an English translation of the text.
“WHO TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE NAKED?!?!?!” This is the question as it sounds in some of our reading ears. It accuses and attacks. It’s not a question at all but an accusation and a gesture of shame.
“Who told you that you were naked…?” (heavy sigh with barely audible moan) This is another way we may hear the question as an expression of disappointment. God is discouraged by our behavior so he gets huffy. We don’t think that God grieves our behavior for what it does to us but he’s disappointed and a little bit angry because of what it does to him. He manipulates with the emotions our behavior evoked in him.
Is God asking this question with disappointment? Is he asking in anger? Is God trying to say anything at all? What does God’s tone of voice tell you?
Let us hear the question asked again, “Who told you that you were naked?” Can you imagine this question be asked in a tone of concern? The voice is calm and clear without overtones of anger or disappointment
Could it be that when YHWH asks, “Who told you that you were naked”, he’s really saying, “You may not be wearing any clothes but that does not mean that you are naked.”
What if he continued with the explanation that nakedness and nudity aren’t the same. “Being without clothes or the need for them is the way I created you. It’s not a state of shame, deprivation, or harm. However, being naked is a state of shame that begets hiding, secrecy. Nakedness is a fruit of deception, a lack of trust, and a fear of friendship.”
God’s question isn’t accusatory but healing. In essence he’s asking, “What happened to you?” Ignoring neither the pain nor the disobedience he goes for the cure.
What if God’s question could be read for the statement that it is about Adam and Eve’s (and our) original, created goodness? Not merely created innocent they are, to use God’s own language, created good. Yes, the Fall happened. Sure, the damage has been done and cannot be immediately undone. Yet, God’s question is a challenge to a lie that Adam and Eve believed through their behavior of hiding and their emotion of fear. God’s question expresses concern for them. Even here he loves them more than he loves himself.
What did God’s tone of voice sound like? Did Adam and Eve hear a voice of accusation, anger and shame? Or, did they hear God’s question in a tone of voice that demonstrated love, evoked concern, and challenged their behavior with the truth that they were made for more.