“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.” Genesis 2:21.
DEEP SLEEP. Hebrew TARDEEMAH, from the verb RADAM, to sleep. In this first reference to sleep in the Bible, we are presented with something akin to modern surgery, and the use of anaesthetics. We are not told how much time was needed for this surgery, but “the Lord closed up the flesh in its place”, quite like a modern operation. And then He brought Adam out of the “anaesthetic” and presented him with a wife.
We shall return to this again in the series, but for the moment it will be instructive to look at other references to “deep sleep” in the Bible.
“The Lord said to Abram, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.” And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?” So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.” (Genesis 15:7-12.)
The Lord explains to Abram how his descendents will undergo affliction but will ultimately be released and return to the promised land. “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, (and will serve them, and they will afflict them) four hundred years.”
There is a similarity between Adam’s experience and that of Abram’s seed. In each case a period of darkness (the deep sleep) occurred ending in magnificent blessing. Adam received his bride, and the children of Israel the Promised Land.
SAUL’S BAND OF WARRIORS
David was continually pursued by an angry and jealous King Saul. On one occasion he found Saul’s band of warriors fast asleep, and Abishai wanted to put an end to David’s troubles by killing Saul. “A deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them.” But David remonstrated with Abishai, saying, “Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD’S anointed, and be guiltless?” Furthermore David said, “As the LORD lives, the LORD shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish.” (1 Samuel 26:9-10,12)
An important principle is presented in this account. David forbids the execution of his enemy, now at his mercy. He recalls the words of the Lord to Moses, saying, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.” (Deut.32:35) Jesus emphasised this in the Sermon on the Mount. “I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
Peter and his friends were on their way to see Cornelius, a devout Roman Centurion who feared God, and requested to see Peter as a result of a vision he received. As they neared the city, Peter went up to the roof to pray. It was about noon, and he felt very hungry. But while his friends prepared some food, “he fell into a deep sleep and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.” This was puzzling to Peter because on the sheet were all manner of wild beasts, birds, and creeping things, in other words unclean creatures. But the Lord spoke to him saying, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” Peter was righteously indignant! “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” But a voice spoke to him the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” Three times this vision was repeated. On waking, Peter wondered what this could mean, but just then Cornelius’s three men arrived.
Gradually the meaning of the vision was revealed to Peter, but even then he found it almost impossible to believe. On arriving at the home of Cornelius, and receiving his news, Peter declared, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” Shortly afterwards Cornelius and his band received the Holy Spirit, as at Pentecost. (Acts 10:10-15,34-35)
Peter, having the keys of the Kingdom, opened the door to the Gentiles now that they had been cleansed.
Here are four very important occasions when men fell into a deep sleep by the Lord. (In Acts the text refers to the sleep as a “trance”, using the Greek word EKSTASIS but the same word is found in the LXX of Genesis 2:21 for Adam’s deep sleep.)
There is another important reference to deep sleep, and this will be left until the next edition.