3:23 So the Lord God expelled him 1 from the orchard in Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken. 3:24 When he drove 2 the man out, he placed on the eastern side 3 of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries 4 who used the flame of a whirling sword 5 to guard the way to the tree of life.
1 tn The verb is the Piel preterite of שָׁלַח (shalakh), forming a wordplay with the use of the same verb (in the Qal stem) in v. 22: To prevent the man’s “sending out” his hand, the
2 tn The verb with the vav (ו) consecutive is made subordinate to the next verb forming a temporal clause. This avoids any tautology with the previous verse that already stated that the
3 tn Or “placed in front.” Directions in ancient Israel were given in relation to the east rather than the north.
4 tn The Hebrew word is traditionally transliterated “the cherubim.”
sn Angelic sentries (Heb “cherubim”). The cherubim in the Bible seem to be a class of angels that are composite in appearance. Their main task seems to be guarding. Here they guard the way to the tree of life. The curtain in the tabernacle was to be embroidered with cherubim as well, symbolically guarding the way to God. (See in addition A. S. Kapelrud, “The Gates of Hell and the Guardian Angels of Paradise,” JAOS 70 : 151-56; and D. N. Freedman and M. P. O’Connor, TDOT 7:307-19.)
5 tn Heb “the flame of the sword that turns round and round.” The noun “flame” is qualified by the genitive of specification, “the sword,” which in turn is modified by the attributive participle “whirling.” The Hitpael of the verb “turn” has an iterative function here, indicating repeated action. The form is used in Job 37:12 of swirling clouds and in Judg 7:13 of a tumbling roll of bread. Verse 24 depicts the sword as moving from side to side to prevent anyone from passing or as whirling around, ready to cut to shreds anyone who tries to pass.