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Adams Garments - the Legend

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife
did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Adam's garment From Noah to Ham to Nimrod to Esau

Nimrod's power, according to some ancient traditions, came from Adam's garment. The garment was passed down to Noah. When Noah was drunk and asleep in his tent, Ham stole it to give to his son, who he knew would not receive the birth right and priesthood blessing, which accompanied the garment. Noah cursed Canaan for this reason: he would not receive a birthright nor the blessings with the garment he possessed. The garment passed down to Nimrod, who became a mighty hunter in the world before/against God (both translations work). Joseph Smith taught that before Nimrod, the world was a paradise, and behind him a wasteland. He used the garment to attract animals to him, as did Adam and Noah; however, he would then slaughter the animals. The tradition states that Esau slew Nimrod and stole the garment. He was pursued by Nimrod's men, when he came to Jacob, asking for food. Jacob knew the garment belonged with the birthright, and so he traded for it. Esau literally traded the garment and his birthright (and priesthood blessing) for a mess of pottage.

There are several sources that talk about Adam's body being created "bright and brilliant" and that he and Eve were placed in the garden where"God clothed them with glory and splendor." But when they ate the fruit, they were "stripped of the light with which they had been clothed ...they were naked ... [and] they made to themselves aprons of fig leaves" (Temples of the Ancient World, p.653)

"When God created me out of the earth along with Eve your mother, I used to go about with her in a glory which she had seen in the aeon from which we had come" (Apocalypse of Adam)

The Stolen Garment

by Hugh Nibley

Nimrod claimed his kingship on the ground of victory over his enemies; his priesthood, however, he claimed by virtue of possessing "the garment of Adam." The legends of the Jews assure us that it was by virtue of owning this garment that Nimrod was able to claim power to rule over the whole earth, and that he sat in his tower while men came and worshiped him. The Apocryphal writers, Jewish and Christian, have a good deal to say about this garment. To quote one of them: "the garments of skin which God made for Adam and his wife, when they went out of the garden, were given . . . after the death of Adam . . . to Enoch"; hence they passed to Methusaleh, and then to Noah, from whom Ham stole them as the people were leaving the ark. Ham's grandson Nimrod obtained them from his father Cush. As for the legitimate inheritance of this clothing, a very old fragment recently discovered says that Michael "disrobed Enoch of his earthly garments, and put on him his angelic clothing," taking him into the presence of God. This garment of Enoch was supposed to be the very garment of skins that John the Baptist wore, called by the early Christians "the garment of Elias." An Arabic "Life of John the Baptist" says that Gabriel brought it to John from heaven as "the garment of Elijah"; "it went back," says John Chrysostom, "to the beginning of the world, to the times before which Adam required covering. Thus it was the symbol of repentance." Others believed it was the same garment that Herod and later the Romans put under lock and key when they wished to prevent the people from putting it on a candidate of their own choice, and tell how the Jews tried to seize the garment by force and put it on John the Baptist, thus making him, instead of Herod, their high priest. Whatever its origin, the wearing of a garment of repentance, symbolic of life of man in his fallen state, was known to the most ancient Christians and practiced by certain ultra-conservative cults down to modern times.

Incidentally the story of the stolen garment as told by the old rabbis, including the great Eleazer, calls for an entirely different rendering of the strange story in Genesis 9 from the version in our King James Bible. They seemed to think that the cerwath of Genesis 9:22 did not mean "nakedness" at all, but should be given its primary root meaning of "skin covering." Read thus, we are to understand that Ham took the garment of his father while he was sleeping and showed it to his brethren, Shem and Japheth, who took a pattern or copy of it (salmah) or else a woven garment like it (simlah) which they put upon their own shoulders, returning the skin garment to their father. Upon awaking, Noah recognized the priesthood of two sons but cursed the son who tried to rob him of his garment. By an extremely common type of substitution, the simlah of Genesis 9:23 could very easily stand for an original tsimlah, a copy, imitation, pattern, or by an equally common type of transposition for Salmah, a garment or mantle, as in Micah 2:8. Even as it stands simlah means only a woven garment and can hardly refer to the original skin article. This is, apparently, the source of the widespread legend that Ham stole the garment of Noah and claimed to possess the priesthood by virtue of his illegal insignia. Ham's descendants, Cush and Nimrod--both Africans, though Nimrod in his wandering moved to Asia--made the same claim. It is interesting that according to certain ancient scriptures which the Latter-day Saints claim have been restored by revelation in our own age, Pharaoh (who represents the Afro-Asian line of Cush-Nimrod) was blessed as to the kingship but cursed as to the priesthood, and he offered Abraham the privilege of wearing his own royal insignia in hope that Abraham would return the compliment by allowing Pharaoh to wear his priestly ones (Abraham 1:26-27). According to a very old tradition, Pharaoh coveted the priesthood of Moses exactly as his ancestor Nimrod did that of Abraham, and it was said that the Pharaohs of Egypt dressed in a skin garment "to show that their origin was older than time itself."

According to the Talmud, Nimrod's "great success in hunting was due to the fact that he wore the coat of skin which God made for Adam and Eve." There is a tradition that Nimrod, becoming jealous of the rival hunter Esau (so much for chronology!), lay in ambush for him but was defeated by Esau, who cut off his head and "took the valuable garments of Nimrod, . . . with which Nimrod prevailed over the whole land (or earth!), and he ran and concealed them in his house." These garments, says the report, were nothing less than the birthright which Esau later sold to Jacob.

Two significant conclusions come from all this: (1) that any historical reconstruction of what actually happened is out of the question, what has come down to us being a mass of conflicting legends and reports, and (2) that these conflicting legends and reports nevertheless agree on certain main points, that they are very old, and were considered by the most learned Jews to present matters of great importance, whose significance escaped later ages. The priests and kings of antiquity certainly wore such garments, and the skin garment was often imitated in woven materials; in fact, the skin garment was itself held to be a substitute for a still older garment made of the leaves of the ficus religiosus.

I make no apology for conducting you into these lost bypaths of the past. You have often proclaimed it your professional obligation to be interested in all things, and especially the unusual. Still there is such a thing as going too far, and it is high time I was showing you what a sober, factual, and common-sense document the book of Ether really is. Let us return to Babel.

Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol.5, Part.2, Ch.1, pp. 169-171