Three associated questions:
1. In Genesis 3:24, why is [the Hebrew] translated "flaming sword" rather than 'enwrapping drought'? [as it possibly could be].
Since the point of Eden seems to be that it was well-watered and therefore anything would grow there, and the punishment was to have to make a living cultivating cursed soil,
2. isn't this a way of providing drought wherever Adam went so that he couldn't escape his punishment or find his own way out of it without God?
3. Also, if he was looking for the path to the tree of life, what better way to hide it than to make the whole ground look like the path so that it disappeared?
UK Apologetics :
Okay, let us look at this. We can learn a lot by comparing translations:
Gen 3:24: 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. (KJV)
After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (NIV).
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. (NLT)
So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (ASV).
So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (NASB).
So he drove the man out, and placed cherubim east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming, turning sword to guard the way to the tree of life. (LEB).
And God casted out Adam, and setted before (the) paradise of liking cherubim, that is, (he gave it into the) keeping of angels, and a sword of flame turning about to keep (charge of) the way of the tree of life. (And so God cast out Adam, and to the east of the Garden of Eden he placed cherubim, and a sword of flame which turned about, to guard the way to the tree of life.) (Wycliff Bible).
He drove the man out, and set kherubs at the east of the park of Eden, with the blade of a sword flashing in every direction, to guard the path to the tree of life. (Moffatt).
Those comparisons immediately tell us that the verse is well translated just as it stands.
You ask, why a "flaming sword"? 'Sword' here is from the Hebrew 'khehreb.' Though this particular word could possibly mean 'a sharp drought,' it is unlikely to mean this in this particular context, nor indeed is this the usual Hebrew word for drought. All the major English translators are agreed on this; in checking about twenty of them I failed to find a single one which thought differently. Interestingly, when 'drought' is mentioned in the Old Testament, this particular Hebrew word is never used - look it up in Strong's Concordance! After checking 'khehreb' in over a hundred Old Testament instances (using 'Strong's,' of course) I gave up finding anywhere where the meaning was clearly drought - I only found 'sword.' The flaming sword depicts the sword of justice, repelling the transgressors from the seat and source of happiness and life.
I read your associated comments with interest but I don't think we need look beyond 'sword' as a good translation of 'khehreb.'
Robin A. Brace. May 20th, 2012.