Genesis 4:9, If You Can’t Love Your Brother, How Can You Love Your Brethren?

The LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?” He said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

After Cain smote his brother Abel, God begins to interrogate Cain even though He already knew the right answer (I’ve already written about why God would do this here).

It doesn’t surprise me that an all-knowing God asks questions of men, but what does surprise me is all the chatter over how Cain killed Abel.  Apparently it’s something inquiring minds want to know, but I think any investigation to uncover the murder weapon is just following a red herring.  The truth is, the weapon would’ve been included in the text had it been something we NEED to know.  That being said, there is one way we can uncover the lesson here that YHVH, the King of the Universe, wants our puny human minds to grasp.

If we read the text in Hebrew and identify trends in any words used repetitively, we can reduce some of our speculation.  It just so happens there is one word here that sticks out like a sore thumb, not just in this highlighted verse (of Genesis 4:9) but throughout the whole chapter.  That Hebrew word is “akhi”, the word for “brother”.  In the verses concerning Cain and Abel, akhi appears seven times (yes, there “seven” is again).  In fact, after YHVH asks, “Where is Abel your brother (akhi)?”, God ONLY refers to Abel as “your brother”.

The simple answer is that God isn’t concerned with us identifying the murder weapon. What He wants us to understand is that Cain targeted his akhi, his flesh and blood.

In response to God’s question (which is literally “Where did Abel your brother go?“), Cain literally responds, “the keeper of my brother is… me?” (If he would have said ‘Am I my brother’s keeper’ as is traditionally translated we’d expect shamartiy or shamartiy-o, as in the literalDo I keep my brother?). In other words, from my chair it looks like he’s implying “you’re laying this on me!?”  I believe this is fitting for Cain, the quintessential narcissist, who responds to adversity by eliminating the competition.

There is a big change from the backstory of Abel’s life once Abel’s sacrifice was looked upon by God.  Whereas at first Abel was almost an afterthought, Adam and Eve suddenly changed their minds and began to see the younger Abel as the seed to carry out God’s favor (cf. Gen. 4:25).  So when Abel gained this newfound favor by both God and their parents, Cain – as a narcissist – probably assumed that he lost their favor.

Thus Cain’s response “the keeper of my brother is me!?” might be understood with an air of both jealousy and insidiousness.  Cain thought everyone else was Abel’s keeper… everyone except himself, that is.  Cain’s unspoken narrative here is ‘You, O God, accept him, my parents favor him now… if you all love him so much, why didn’t you all protect him – why are you looking at me?)  Yes, I believe this reads like Cain was testing God, to see if YHWH would deliver Abel when Cain attacked him!

Cain failed to understand is that there was no reason to be enraged, as God told him (cf. 4:6).  The favor that comes from both God and parents isn’t a competition. Favor is meant to be shared; it’s not an exclusive entitlement!  I think this is the parshat (simple) and fundamental message of this early Scripture – a common truth that anyone reading the Bible would hopefully learn right away:  If you don’t love and preserve your brothers and sisters, you won’t have a home to come home to.  Like Cain, you will be a wanderer in the earth. You will ruin your life, and will set back the lives of your family as well.  As we continue to read this story, that’s exactly what we find.  Cain ruined his life and set back what his parents were hoping to accomplish.

And now for the prophetic implications of this verse.

The crux of the whole of Scripture, and the crux of what Messiah taught is:  you will not receive God’s favor if you are at odds with your greater “brethren”.  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ is well known throughout Scripture, but the spiritual implication is: if you can’t love and shomer (keep/watch over/preserve/protect) your mother’s son who is your akhi, how could you love your neighbor who is also your “akhi”?  In other words, with the Cain and Abel story, God prepares everyone to love his family that he may grow up to love his neighbors… even the brethren… our fellow believers in the Kingdom of God.  In fact, there is one akhi in particular that we are to cherish and keep.

In Psalms 22:22, David foresaw that the Messiah is THE akhi, who says in the Spirit: “I will recount Your Name to my brethren (akhi) in the great congregation.” Of course, the entirety of Psalm 22 depicts Messiah as being surrounded by the wicked, pierced feet and hands, with great thirst – basically, everything that occurred at Yeshua’s final Passover when the great congregation was assembled for a major feast (cf. Exodus 23:17)- we also see this word “akhi” to describe how Messiah viewed Israel as his brethren, his family.

So Messiah Yeshua was an akhi to Israel as Abel was to Cain… and like Abel, the favored One was murdered.

Psalms 22 reads He trusts in Yahweh; let him deliver him. Let him rescue him, since he delights in him” (vs. 8).  In other words, David foresaw that Israel would treat Messiah the same way Cain treated Abel – “I’m not his keeper… why didn’t You, O God, deliver him from my hand?”

And like Cain, Israel was allowed to survive… into a period of wandering, with a declaration that none should harm Israel if they find him, and so forth…  a great topic for another time. Ω

Genesis 4:8, Outside the Camp

After God shows Qayin (Cain) how to regain His favor, and warns him about the marriage-like entrapment with sin, we read Cain’s response:

And Cain saith unto Abel his brother, ‘Let us go into the field;’ and it cometh to pass in their being in the field, that Cain riseth up against Abel his brother, and slayeth him. (Genesis 4:8, YLT)

About half of our Bibles follow the Masoretic text (Mst) omission of Cain’s last words to Abel, but the other half DO include the words which both the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and Septuagint (LXX) reveal: “let us go into the field”.  This may seem trivial, but in reality it’s anything but. Cain’s words help shape a deep, mysterious secret (sod) that points to Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

First of all, without this phrase the Masoretic text doesn’t make sense. It basically says “And Qayin said to Hevel his brother […] and it was, in their being in the field…” The Masoretic text leaves the reader to wonder ‘what did Cain say?’ and doesn’t make any grammatical sense without the omission.  However, the other two sources (DSS and LXX) make complete sense.  “A matter must be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses.” (Deut. 19:15)

This is an important to witness because Cain’s own words accuse him of premeditated murder. Without his words, the text looks like Cain acted in a spontaneous fit of rage while working alongside Abel in the fields.  With them, the text proves that Cain planned the murder for some time.  It’s the evidence we need for a first-degree murder verdict of “guilty”.

Cain’s words are also important for uncovering prophetic patterns.  If you study the story of “Cain and Abel” for any length of time you might uncover allegories to the Messiah; for example, “the last shall be first, and the first last” (cf. Matt. 20:16) is comparable to Cain’s expectation of being the favored one.  ‘Hating his brother without cause’ (John 15:25) would be another.  Several such parallels are embedded in this story, and Cain’s words “let us go into the field” is yet another.

Messiah’s death outside Jerusalem fulfills major prophecies.  The Torah is filled with symbolism of the scapegoat (the goat on whom all the sins of Israel were laid) being banished and eradicated from the Tabernacle every Yom Kippor (The Day of Atonement).  Thus Messiah Yeshua fulfills the prophecy of becoming the scapegoat for all our guilt, shame, and transgressions.

Rav Shaul (aka the Apostle Paul) saw this very thing. Commenting on the Torah (cf. Lev. 16:27), he wrote how Messiah died “outside the camp”:

We have an altar from which those who serve the holy tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside of the camp. Therefore Yeshua also, that he might sanctify the people through his own blood, suffered outside of the gate.  Let’s therefore go out to him outside of the camp, bearing his reproach.  (Hebrews 13:11-14, WMB)

Yeshua Himself also emphasized his own death would be associated with the prophetic pattern of dying “outside the camp”:

There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a wine press in it, built a tower, leased it out to farmers, and went into another country.  When the season for the fruit came near, he sent his servants to the farmers, to receive his fruit.  The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another.  Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they treated them the same way.  But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But the farmers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” (Matt. 21:33-40, emphasis mine)

Therefore, we must understand that Cain’s premeditated murder of his brother Abel was an ancient foreshadowing of the murder of Messiah Yeshua.  Spawned by jealousy and an effort to eradicate the competition, the motives behind murdering both of these innocents were identical.  The sign was also exactly the same – as both men were led away from the place of sacrifice and worship, and died outside the camp!

For whatever reason, Cain’s words were not included in the Masoretic text.  However, when we read them in the two older witnesses we can be confident we are looking at a prophetic pattern, pointing to the premeditated murder of Messiah Yeshua forced from the place of worship, recorded by God for eternity, so that we might recognize Messiah through the prophecies that foretold of Him. Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 4:7, Sin Wants to Marry You

“But if you do not do good, sin rests against the gate. And toward you will be its attention, and you will rule among it.” (Genesis 4:7, my translation)

This is a difficult passage, and while I apologize for any offense caused by using my own translation, I wanted to record how I interpret this.

Sometimes we don’t always pick up God’s eloquence in Hebraic symmetries, but that’s exactly what’s occurring through the words of Genesis 4:7.  He is making a point we need to understand.

Many rightly interpret these words as a warning to Qayin (Cain) about the dangers of chatta’ah (sin)… and that’s true for the first half of the verse. “Sin” (Heb. chatta’ah) is portrayed like an animal that “rests” (Heb. rabats) right up against an entryway (Heb. pethach). In other scriptures, this “rest” describes flocks lying down in a well or in good pasture – because they know they will be watered or fed there (cf. Gen. 29:2, Eze. 34:14).  In other words, sin “rests” next to an “entryway” because it knows it will soon be well-fed there!

The question then becomes, what is the “entryway”?

All of this symbolism was likely familiar to Qayin. He likely saw, for instance, how Hevel’s (Abel’s) flocks lay in wait for his brother’s feedings at some pethach of an animal pen.  This pethach – likely a “gate” – guarded the animals from devouring Qayin’s fields.

In God’s words to Qayin, we perceive this “pethach” is a type of spiritual gateway that one “opens” – to sin!  God is saying is that when anyone refuses to “do good” (yatav) – which is to say, to do evil – he opens a gateway to his own ruin! Sin will destroy everything he wishes to protect!

And this spiritual gateway we know: it’s the heart.  It’s why all throughout Scripture we read things such as “these commandments I give you today will be on your heart” (Deut. 6:6) or “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The heart is the only thing YHVH sees in us: let’s make sure we’re pure in heart, and not open to the pollution of sin! For this reason this “gateway” appears at the very beginning – it establishes where sin actually occurs.

As for the second part of Genesis 4:7, most Bibles translate it something akin to “it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (i.e. the NIV). These translations cause the reader to see these words as a mitigation, but not so – it’s a consequence of opening up the gates to sin.

Before showing the extent of that consequence, we must first realize that the latter half of this verse is phrased exactly similar to an earlier verse. Transliterated from Hebrew, Genesis 4:7 reads:

w’eleykha t’shuqat-o w’atah tim’shal-b’o (“and toward you will be its attention, and you will rule among it”).

and this is the transliteration from Genesis 3:16:

w’el-iyshekh t’shuqat-ekh w’hu yim’shal-b’akh (“and toward your husband will be your attention, and he will rule among you”).

These are phrased the same for a reason, but God is not showing Qayin how to “mitigate” sin any more than he was showing women how they would be “mitigated” by husbands.

In Genesis 3:16, those words were indeed spoken to Havah (Eve), which showed her (and thereby all women) that after a long day with the children, she would turn her attention toward her husband. Due to her obligations (in child-rearing, breastfeeding, etc.) he would “rule among her” meaning that he would be responsible for providing for her, elevating her, and expanding their dominion “as one flesh” (cf. Gen. 2:24).  Meanwhile, she provides support, counsel and – at times – opposition, for her own benefit as “one flesh” with her husband.

In Genesis 4:7, God is showing Qayin that sin wants to attach itself as “one flesh” with human beings.  Thus man “rules” among sin – feeding, nurturing, listening to the counsel of… sin! Thus sin wants to expanding its dominion by influencing man, as “one flesh” walking away from the goodness of God.

What God told Havah was a consequence of life after the Fall – at a point when she could no longer do anything about it. What God told Qayin is a consequence of choosing sin. The difference is, Qayin could do something about it!  In fact, according to His own words, God was trying to bring Qayin into “exaltation”  (cf. 4:7a). He offered Qayin “exaltation” first by the way, even before showing Qayin the downfall of his choices.

That is so God. God always pleads with people first, even before showing them the consequence of their actions. In the future He would do the same with prophets, but at His core He wants as many people to be “exalted” as possible. This “God of the Old Testament” is not the vengeful tyrant He’s made out to be – He was always not desiring anyone should perish, as Messiah Yeshua said (in John 3:16). In his words to Qayin, we can even see that YHVH doesn’t even want anyone to even open the door to sin – and begin a “spiritual marriage” for obligations and dominions that only lead us further away from the dominion of the One True God. Ω

Genesis 4:3-7, There Was Nothing Wrong with Cain’s Offering…

As time passed, Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground. Abel also brought some of the firstborn of his flock and of its fat. The LORD respected Abel and his offering, but he didn’t respect Cain and his offering… (Genesis 4:3-5, WEB)

I know during my lifetime I’ve heard dozens of sermons or teachings that identify Hevel’s (Abel’s) sacrifice as better because it was a blood atonement, as opposed to Qayin’s (Cain’s) non-blood sacrifice, which was supposedly from “abundance”.

There are problems with this interpretation for a number of reasons, but most of all, it dilutes the main point!

First and foremost, the Word explicitly says that YHVH “did not look upon (lo sha’ah) Qayin.” There was something wrong with Qayin – not his offering!

For further evidence of this, we need look only at the next few words (in my own translation from the Mst and DSS):

“…and Qayin became exceedingly angry, so that his face fell. And YHVH said to Qayin, why have you become angry? Is there not – if you do good – exaltation?” (Genesis 4:5-7)

Put another way, the word for “good” is tov and Qayin wasn’t doing good (yatav). Remembering that the only standard human had in those days was to choose between the spectrum of tov and ra (evil), YHVH was reminding Qayin that he should pursue “good”. But that’s not all – as they often do, God’s words contained a promise: that YHVH will “exalt” (s’et) Qayin if he would just choose the “tov”!

Most of our Bibles say “will you not be accepted?” but s’et means “elevated” in the context of God’s elevated state in His “majesty” and “excellency”. YHVH was actually showing Qayin how he could be “elevated” just as He did for his brother Hevel.

The bottom line is that if God does not “see” you, neither will he “see” your sacrifice. I love that this occurs with Qayin and Hevel in the Beginning, because this theme resurfaces throughout history, as the Prophets demonstrate:

–“As for the sacrifices that are made by fire unto Me, Let them sacrifice flesh and eat it, For the LORD accepteth them not.” (Hosea 8:13, YLT)

–“Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh.”For I did not speak to your fathers… concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’… (Jeremiah 7:21-23, GNT)

–It’s useless to bring your offerings. I am disgusted with the smell of the incense you burn… No matter how much you pray, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood… Yes, stop doing evil and learn to do right. See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.” (Isaiah 1:13-17, GNT)

Not surprisingly, THE Prophet (Messiah Yeshua) equated this same principle with the Kingdom of God, thus expanding earlier precedents:

–“…to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Now when Jesus saw that [the scribe] answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:33-34)

So, the truths that the Prophets spoke were the same as Messiah spoke, which is the same as YHVH spoke to Qayin, because of you know, the whole “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” thing. The message is, was, and always shall be the same: ‘Love me by being obedient, and I will accept your holy days, your sacrifices, your prayers, and your offerings.’

It’s clear that Qayin didn’t understand this, because he couldn’t be obedient, even when YHVH pleaded with him and showed him the path to “exaltation”. Hevel, on the other hand, DID get it.

Earlier I posted about the backstory of Qayin and Hevel, and by this point their life’s story reached its first culmination. Hevel had learned that the favor of parents didn’t equate to the favor of God, and that God wouldn’t limit him to his weaker (perhaps handicapped) physique. Hevel knew what he was in this life, but that didn’t stop him from offering in trust (cf. Hebrews 11:4). Hevel recognized a greater life and Universe – specifically, that YHVH was a faithful God, who would accept Hevel.

It’s not that Qayin lacked belief or even thankfulness, but what he did lack was humility. He was groomed to be “the Man” from childhood but wasn’t so in God’s eyes… at least not yet. The way I see it, he had options. He had been provoked to jealousy – a tactic God has always used to bring people into righteousness – but use that jealousy to learn from his brother Hevel in humility. After all, it’s not as if Qayin was rejected by YHVH forever; there is no reason to think Hevel and Qayin couldn’t be exalted together!

There are still believers that are comparable to Qayin. We all know them; they think they are the only learned ones, anointed ones, the best worshippers, etc. Yet this competitiveness is offensive to the Almighty, especially if it’s “the man”. If one has the whole “field” so to speak – i.e. the pastor – what occurs? Jealousy, followed by a move to thwart, silence, and/or hijack an authentic work of YHVH!

Whoever is elevated by YHVH should be elevated by all, that we may all be preserved and exalted with God.

To the believer, I’m sure he can draw even more similarities with Qayin and Hevel and the manifestation of Messiah Yeshua – the last being first, pride vs. humility, provoking to jealousy, rejecting the Way, etc. And yet, it will get even deeper as the story continues! Ω

Genesis 4:1-2, Cain and Abel’s Backstory

The man had relations with Eve his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “I produced a man with Adonai.” Then she gave birth again, to his brother Abel. Abel became a shepherd of flocks while Cain became a worker of the ground. (Genesis 4:1-2, TLV)

If we’ve read the story of Cain and Abel, we know their occupations, and we know they both made sacrifices to God. We know about Cain’s jealousy and uncontrollable rage that led to the murder of his brother Abel. We then can’t understand why Cain was spared and wonder about the mark given him.

But there are additional clues in the Hebrew that shape a backstory we might not have considered.

So the story begins with Adam knowing Havah (Eve), who becomes pregnant. Havah names the baby “Qayin” but there is one word she says – 0th – that doesn’t translate well, but nevertheless should be understood correctly in order for us to understand the implications on Adam and Havah’s family.

About half the Bible translations read something like “I have acquired a man from the LORD” (the oth is underlined) while the rest say “with the LORD” or even “with the help of the LORD”. The reason there are so many discrepancies is that the translators are all trying to capture the essence and relevance of oth.

The use of oth has an air of transformation about it, as it’s used in situations where one entity approaches another for a specific action, such as:

  • parties approaching other parties and making war with them (1 Kings 16:22, 20:25)
  • a people leaving an area to go and live among another group (Judges 1:16)
  • a man approaching his wife to have children with her (1 Chr. 2:18)
  • changing the state of gold into a specific shape (Exod. 39:3)
  • the Almighty being with someone in power (Gen. 49:25, Josh. 14:12)

So in the case of Havah, she was also naming him with the expectation of Qayin’s transformation into manhood, as she never said ‘I acquired a ben’ (lit. “son” or “male-child”), but ish, the word for an adult “man”. She looked at her baby and believed he would transform one day into “a man before YHVH”. Havah didn’t just give Qayin a name, but a motto as well (i.e. Qayin: “a Man before YHVH”). In other words, from the time Qayin was born, he was groomed and expected to become a man that in the presence of YHVH would be favored in everything he did.

As we read further along, there appears additional clues hinting at this interpretation. The next clue happens when Havah bears another son. However, this time no inspiration for the baby’s name is offered. His parents call him “Hevel”, which actually means “vapor”, “breath”, “futility”, “uselessness”, “vanity”, “vanity of vanities” (as in the book of Ecclesiastes), or “worthlessness”. For whatever reason, their parents saw Qayin as a brute, but also saw Hevel as a figure of nothing, a vapor – maybe not even expecting him to survive. The differences between the two extremes makes me think that Qayin and Hevel were growth-discordant (unequal) twins. After all, the text shows us that Qayin was exceptionally strong – strong enough to till the ground that YHVH had cursed (Gen 4:12). The name given to Hevel seems to suggest that he was a “runt”.

We also know from the text that the family’s life revolved around Qayin, as “Hevel became a ruler of flocks, but Qayin became a tiller of the ground”. Of those two, whom do we suppose had the favor of their father Adam? The one who followed his father’s footsteps, that’s whom! Adam would have been the one to teach Qayin the fields, and therefore the first to verify Havah’s prophecy from birth at how gifted and favored they were to have such a strong son, as Qayin tore up the fields before his father Adam. Hevel, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to have the strength for farming, and also doesn’t appear to have the confidence of Adam. Instead Hevel filled a secondary and support role for the family, keeping “flocks” of animals (n.b. the Bible does not specifically say ‘sheep’), presumably for grazing Qayin’s fields free of thorns and weeds (cf. Gen. 3:18) and for skins for clothing (cf. Gen. 3:21; n.b.: according to the Bible it appears that men did not start eating animals until after the Flood – cf. Gen. 9:3).

I envision that Qayin was raised believing that he was special, and groomed to excel. He worked side by side his father. His mother thought he was exceptional from birth.

Then there’s Hevel, who was thought of as a fleeting “vapor”, maybe not even expected to live. When compared with his brother Hevel’s own name is an insult – you can “acquire” and do something with Qayin, but you can’t possess a “mere breath”.

As the story progresses, these nuggets of background information can help shape the narrative of “Cain and Abel”. Qayin was the mighty one, favored of his parents, while Hevel was weaker, perhaps a runt in a set of twins. And while the strong one was favored by Adam and Havah – there was a better favor to come that everyone missed. That is, everyone except Hevel, who exceeded in the favor of the Almighty more than his stronger, elder brother – you know, the one whom the world was supposed to revolve around.

Ain’t it funny how nothing ever changes?

And that backstory is what can really shed light to why everyone in this family reacted the way they did. And if you think you’ve seen this story before, all that means is that this backstory has weight and meaning even in the year of our Lord 2016. Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:22-25, Answering Uncomfortable Questions

“The LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—” Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22-24, WEB)

I admit it. This passage provokes me to ask so many uncomfortable questions. Who is the “us” that God addresses? Why put the cherubim in the East – couldn’t someone enter through the other three directions? What exactly is “a flaming sword of itself returning” (as the awkward Hebrew reads)? And how long was Paradise guarded?

Who is this “us”?

On God saying “Behold, the man has become as one from us”, a great deal of Christian commentaries exclaim something like ‘It’s the Godhead!’ but I’m afraid that these are merely confirmation biases to promote Christian doctrines of the Trinity. However, I think there IS evidence that this refers to the cheruvim that would guard Eden shortly thereafter. This becomes apparent when we compare other supernatural utterances of God in the first-person plural (“we”, “us”, etc.).

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) once heard the voice of YHVH saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isa. 6:8) Upon closer inspection of the context, YHVH says this when surrounded by seraphim (“flames”, denoting fiery angels). He also uses the first person plural at the Creation of Mankind (cf. Gen. 1:26), and from other Scriptures, it’s clear that angels were in fact present at Creation (i.e. Job 38:27).

So, there IS a biblical precedent for God using first-person-plural speech with various manifestations of angels. In the case of Genesis 3:22-24, the context points to cheruvim. This is further evident by the use of the –ha proclitic, Hebrew’s definitive article. In other words, it says “the cheruvim” (hacheruvim), as opposed to just “cheruvim” (as some English translations drop the definitive article completely). So, if one sees “the cheruvim”, he might ask, ‘which cheruvim?’ The answer would be, ‘the ones God was just speaking to when He said, ‘Behold, man has become as one from us…

The cheruvim are the same as the Four Living Creatures (cf. Ezekiel 1:1-15, 10:10-14, and Rev. 4:6-8) who appear on and off again for the same reason as they appeared in Eden – judgment. They are often associated with fire, whether they pass coals of fire to “the Man in Linen” to be scattered over Jerusalem (cf. Eze. 10:2), which is a symbol for passing on the wrath of God from Heaven to the dimension of Earth (Rev. 15:7). Therefore, I make the argument that the placement of the cheruvim at Eden is a result of God’s judgment on Adam.

Why Put the Cherubim in the East? 

The use of the word qedem does mean “East”. However, it also means “ancient”, “long ago”, or “in front of”. I believe the latter “in front of” is the intended meaning.

It is possible that qedem means “East” to denote direction, but it proffers the question, ‘East of what?’ Where Adam was created, or East of Israel? Secondly, it may be adding to the story to suggest that Adam was driven out toward the East (where the cherubim were supposedly placed). I’m slow, but I would think that God would not just protect one side of Eden!

Let’s consider that qedem was first used when God planted the Garden (Genesis 2:8) to which the context says “a river flowed from Eden to water the Garden”. In this case, the Garden is “in front” of the greater land of Eden. Later – here in Genesis 3:24 – we read how the cheruvim were placed “in the front” – the same place Adam entered into and was later expelled from Paradise.

“The Sword that Turned Itself Back”

However, though the cheruvim were in “the front” of the Garden, they had that flaming sword which “turned itself back” to cover everything behind them. This means there wouldn’t be any way to circumvent the cheruvim to connive a way back to the Tree of Life. The text suggests that the cheruvim were first placed between Adam and the Garden, and then immediately burned Paradise with a consuming fire.

Just as Ezekiel saw the cheruvim move as one unit with a wheel, that “when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them… for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels (Ezekiel 1:20)” the sword of flames returned on itself with the cheruvim who directed it. In other words, the cheruvim were placed at the front, and turned back with the sword to completely burn the Garden to a crisp. Thus the cheruvim preserved the way back to the Tree of Life.

So the cheruvim were not guarding it but for a brief moment in time – they were not there to preserve the Garden, but the “way”, meaning they were meant to keep Adam from “stretching forth a hand to take from the Tree of Life.” Thus, Adam was there to see it go up in smoke, and completely erased from the Earth forever.

Sometimes, it’s a hard lesson to learn that best way to preserve something is to completely destroy it, and then to start anew.

From hereafter, cheruvim would keep guarding the Way to the Tree of Life – on the mercy seat of the Ark that no one was allowed to open, the Glory of the Temple that no one could enter, and the Great Throne that no one could stand upon… until that time when Someone proved worthy enough, and become caretaker of the Tree of Life in Heaven. Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:21,Yes, There is Hope for Us Yet

“Yahweh God made coats of skins for Adam and for his wife, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21, WEB)

We’ve now come full circle from the start a theme beginning in Genesis 2:25: “The man and his wife were both naked, but were not ashamed.”

Chronologically, this gifting occurred shortly after the worst judgment of mankind ever, after YHVH reminded Adam that “dust you are, and to dust shall you return” (vs. 19), thus sentencing us to a temporary life in a decaying body.

However, almost immediately after this judgment, we find hope! There are many positive implications of YHVH stooping so low as to make human beings coats of animal hides (As a quick side note, God Himself demonstrates here that animals are far lower of value to Him than Mankind, as He kills them for men’s clothing).

The first implication is that of God’s character. He brings about His word as we expected – He did warn Adam that he would “die by dying” if he disobeyed the commandment – and yet, He shows compassion in a way we do not expect. The is the first instance of a reoccurring pattern God wants us to remember, a pattern best summed up in the poem of Iyov (Job): “Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be Yahweh’s name.” (Job 1:21, WEB) Throughout the Scriptures this pattern reappears – that where YHVH is generous, He will also be just, and where YHVH seems harsh, He will also show compassion.

YHVH made those coats so man would learn to have hope. As Iyov also said, “Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects. Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He wounds, and binds up. He injures, and His hands make whole.” (Job 5:17-18) Here He shows – right from the get-go – that even after He judges us, we can approach God with hope. He cares for the lives of us descendants of Adam and Eve. Male or female, it makes no difference – He made coats for both.

The next lesson is that the cost of YHVH’s favor is not free; it costs something. The coats He made for Adam and Chavah were made from skin; an animal had to die for each of them. This is an indication that death would be required in exchange for His coverings – and from that time, sacrifices and offerings were made in an ongoing exchange for YHVH’s favor, forgiveness of sins, and His fellowship. It was a conundrum for Adam and Chavah, they were happy to know God still cared for them, but they also heard the bleating of the animals while they were made into skins, all the while bearing responsibility for their deaths, as this never would have happened had not Adam allowed death to enter the world.

Continuing down this same vein of reasoning but digging even deeper, we take further solace in what YHVH made: two ketoneth. Ketoneth has a much deeper meaning than the “tunics” or “garments” we read in the NKJV, NIV, NASB, or ESV. This is the same ketoneth as in “the ketoneth of many colors” that Yaakov (Jacob) made for Yosef (Joseph), or that David made for his virgin daughters (cf. 2 Sam. 13:18). It was valued enough to be considered a treasured possession, as the sojourners donated kat’not for the building of the Temple and Jerusalem’s walls (cf. Ezr. 2:69; Neh. 7:70,72). We must understand that the ketoneth touched one’s skin and was made from the finest (most comfortable) threads – especially linen – which was therefore considered the most sought after and desirable of all types of garments.

Additionally, the entire ensemble of clothing merely complimented the ketoneth. Robes (aka outer garment), breastplates, sashes, belts, tallits, etc. – were in some way wrapped, tied, or laid on top of the ketoneth, but the ketoneth was always adorned first.

Therefore, as the most essential piece of clothing for comfort and aesthetics, it was the only priestly garment given the “kodesh” (“holy”) label (cf. Lev. 16:4).

Now, let’s compare what the Almighty made for Adam and Chavah – two kat’not (one ketoneth for each of them) – with what Adam and Chavah made from fig leaves – two chagorot. Now most English translations call Adam and Chavah’s inventions as “aprons” (cf. Gen. 3:7), but in reality this word is used for soldiers and in times of trouble, as it literally means “armor”. I’m not saying Adam and Chavah wanted to fight YHVH, but I am highlighting a deep sod mystery. The Torah is mysteriously saying is that in man’s natural, naked state, he naturally makes war with the Almighty – in rebellion and transgression. However, God’s natural state (if it be right to say “natural” with God) is to gift us with coats of many colors like those of Yosef or Aharon the High Priest. As beloved sons, virgin daughters, and high priests wore these precious garments, so are WE precious in His sight.

The deep mystery is that Mankind must stop trying to make chagor-armor for itself, and stop preparing for war with the Most High. We must surrender to Him, and let Him clothe us with a coat worthy of those who will serve Him as favored sons, daughters, and priests of God!

Genesis 3:20, Life in a Dying World

“The man called his wife Havah [life], because she was the mother of all living.” (Genesis 3:20, CJB)

Doesn’t this seem like an awkward insert to the story? It’s sandwiched between the judgment of Adam and Chavah (Eve), and “YHVH Elohim made for them two aprons of skin, and clothed them” (vs. 21).

This is another one of those biblical verses that seems to be out of chronological order – again. We expect at least a little time to pass before Adam calls his wife by an actual name (“Chavah”), and not immediately after they were judged – especially while half-naked and ashamed!

The reason for this literary schizophrenia is one of contrast. The last line before verse 20 is “for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (vs. 19). YHVH had just explained to Mankind how he would eventually die, but nevertheless God inspired the Word to contrast this death sentence with an immediate pronunciation of life.

The implications then become obvious. Given that every word of the Bible is God-breathed (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16), we can deduce that God inspired the insertion of the woman’s new name as ‘life’ – right after depicting every man’s eventual death – to mitigate the sinful tendency of men to subjugate women beneath men.

As I’ve written before, there is an earlier verse which reads “and he [the husband] shall rule for you [the wife]” (vs. 17). However, this is not some manifesto decreeing the women should be subjugated. Indeed, men must rule on behalf of their wives when they cannot – specifically, while pregnant or in the many subsequent years of child rearing.

Despite all the politically correct nonsense running afoul today, God’s Word has always maintained that women are the better nurturers of children – up to about 12 years of age – before the children grow into the father’s business. Women are not just biologically made for children, but their desire to bear children is ALSO natural. In the Bible, some of the most righteous women the world has ever known – such as Chavah, Leah, Rachael, and Hannah – had one thing in common. They all thanked God after He opened their wombs. Other women too numerous to mention harassed prophets to pray for their wombs, bravely approached kings for infant justice, and in all cases, bore children despite the fact they could lose their own lives in the process! Motherhood has ALWAYS been the crown of women, and that’s why I refuse to be unapologetic for this. The voices of the women of the Bible more than prove this without my help.

I want to behold my wife the same way Adam viewed his wife: as a vehicle of life in the midst of a dying world. Believe it or not, I will die one day – but at least I can look at my wife and see life – through the lives of my children. And since wives throughout history have proven their willingness to die for their children, I must protect and cherish my wife as a partner in the legacy that is LIFE. I must rule for her when she cannot to help her, and lift her up – but certainly not to diminish her.

And that’s exactly why God placed this little scripture out-of-order. He wanted men to see right away that his wife produces life, and must be protected, cherished, and above all, elevated. She offers us a legacy that we will never achieve on our own. Our “rule” must be one to provide health, pleasure, and prosperity.

Men of the world, don’t be foolish. You and your wife are one flesh; your success is mutual. There are several cultures in the world that have devalued women, and stripped them of their honor, but don’t be like them. By naming his wife “Chavah” Adam has proven that whoever suppresses his wife suppresses his own soul, and whoever devalues his spouse, spoils his legacy of life.

Genesis 3:17-19, Adam’s Intentions Led to his Downfall

“And to Adam he said: Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, which I commanded you, saying ‘you shall not eat from it’, cursed is the ground in your cause. In stress will you eat from it all the days of your life. Brambles and thorns will it sprout to you, and you will eat the crop of the field. In the sweat of your face will you eat bread, until you return to the ground, for from it you were taken, because dust you are, and to dust will you return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Let’s remember how this scene was originally set. At the beginning of Genesis 2, the writer offers a preamble which basically says ‘when God made heaven and earth, and before any shrub was cultivated, and any crop had grown… no man had ever tilled the ground…’ (ref. Gen. 2:4-5) Finally, the writer has brought us full circle, explaining why men share their lives with back-breaking physical labor – especially in the fields.

The author also reiterates why it happened, but first, there are two minor points which can help us understand the context a little better:

1) Stress. I think ‘stress’ is the emphasis to humans, in order to contrast the stress-free Eden with the post-rebellion world. God speaks the Hebrew itzavon to both Adam and Chavah (Eve). Read this post to understand why I think itzavon = “stress”.

2) Brambles and Thorns. We shouldn’t focus on the physical aspect of “brambles and thorns”, but rather the stress it causes. Yes, these two words are associated with the verb for “prick”, but the aggressive nature of these types of plants is the real focus, i.e. Hosea 10:18, where they are depicted as rapidly overtaking the altar of an idol. Every plant with stingers and thorns – such as blackberries, nettles, thistles, etc. – sprouts rapidly from seed, and can aggressively take over a disturbed field if left to its natural devices.  The main takeaway is that though man cultivates a field, thorny weeds would also “sprout”, causing frustration and many man hours to eradicate in the “sweat in his face”… and unnecessary stress.

Aside from these minor points, there is one specific phrase that seems to jump off the page:

“arurah ha-adamah ba-avurekha”

This is an obvious rhyme meaning “cursed is the ground in your cause”. Though the majority of Bible translations read “sake” in place of the Hebrew “abur”, this is a confusing choice. In modern English “sake” is synonymous with “benefit”, which is the exact opposite of a curse! Secondly, abur usually means “cause” or “intent” elsewhere, as in the following examples:

  • “And yet for this I have caused thee to stand, so as to show thee [Pharaoh] My power… (Exodus 9:16, YLT)
  • “For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom.” (2 Samuel 17:14, KJV
  • In order to bring round the appearance of the thing hath thy servant Joab done this thing… (2 Samuel 14:20)

The ground was cursed not for man’s “sake” or “for his own good” as some commentators have suggested, but for Adam’s intentions – chief among them his desire to be his own, autonomous god separate from the Most High’s sovereignty. Adam became carried away with the luxurious fruit of Eden, its running (living) waters, the gemstones, and a physical body continually in its prime – in other words, Adam lived like a god long enough to think he was one! Now, he would find it more difficult to think that way, when he fought aggressive weeds, the sweat in his eyes, and of course, the aging process leading to an eventual death. Real “gods” do not experience any of these stresses of life.

This specific word abur solidifies a lesson reiterated throughout the Word of God: that what we do in rebellion is only sequential to the original intentions within us. This is exactly the same as Messiah Yeshua taught:

“But the things which proceed out of the mouth come out of the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimony, and blasphemies. (Matthew 15:18-19)

God has always emphasized from the Beginning that mankind’s intentions are what actually lead to his downfall. Nevertheless, though God seems to be harsh here, I find grace in these songs to both Adam and Chavah, especially in light of the rest of Genesis.

Forsaking today’s political correctness and its lies about gender expectations, the truth is that men and women are better off in intimate marriages. In fact, it’s the only way for society to preserve itself. Genesis 3:16-19 is not just a poetic judgment, it contains commandments designed to set Mankind on a course back to God! Because as soon as we turn the pages of Genesis, what do we see? Instead of the one-man-one-woman pattern of marriage, man “corrupts his way” (cf. Gen. 6:12). Harems were formed by the celebrity-like “Nephilim”, who eventually learned that the easiest way to feed their clans was through violence and unjust gain (cf. Gen. 6:1-13). Presumably, they robbed and killed other clans who grew crops (a serious commodity in times of a curse) “in the sweat of their face.” In the end, God says something similar to what He previously had said about Adam’s “cause”:

And YHVH said… I will not alter again the ground for the intentions of man, though the conceptions in the heart of man is evil from his youth…” (Genesis 8:21)

Yes, the Hebrew for “intentions” is once again abur, and is synonymous for what we imagine in our minds. It’s the same intentions that led to our expulsion from Paradise, to drown in the Great Flood, and by any and every other course leading to our demise.  By that time our intentions will have destroyed us in the End of Days will have destroyed us countless times since the Beginning of time. This is what God says to Adam, and what He’s also telling all of us. Ω

Genesis 3:16, No Place for a Woman?

In my last post I proposed that Genesis 3:16 is a song designed to recall the lessons of God. This of course proffers the question, ‘what’s important about this word to women that needs remembering?’

I’ve already proposed why Genesis 3:16 can be dangerous – it can cause unfair judgments about a woman’s “place”, and also God, who supposedly “cursed” her. There are also several deviations in this verse’s translations, my fear being that one can make this verse say anything he wants!

However, an accurate understanding can alleviate these concerns.

The first phrase in the song is:

el-ha-ishah amar har’bah ar’beh itz’vonekh w-heronekh

Our focus should be on “itzavon” because it is a common theme of another song. God also says that MEN will experience “itzavon”: “Cursed is the ground because of you, in itzavon will you eat of it all the days of your life… (Gen. 3:17)

So if we interpret itzavon correctly, we can identify the theme of these poetic songs spoken to both men AND women. We will ALL experience itzavon; these songs merely elaborate HOW we will experience it. In this case of women, itzavon is directly related to how many pregnancies and (therefore) children she will have. In the case of men, itzavon results from hard labor, primarily in the production of food.

The word itzavon only appears three times in the Hebrew Bible, two of them occurring in these two songs. However, it’s its third and final occurrence – seemingly evoked over a millennia later while recalling these songs – that really shapes our interpretation:

This one will console us from our work and from the <itzavon> of our hand. (Gen. 5:29)

Therefore, itzavon is something needing consolation or comfort. It has nothing to do with the physical pain of childbirth. If itzavon is what a tired mother feels, or a farmer worrying if his crop will feed his family, then I understand itzavon as “stress”.

We can also look at itzavon’s close relative, etzev, which comes from the same root and appears in the next line of Chavah’s song:

b’etzev tel’diy baniym

This is simply a poetic parallel to the first line. In the first line God says, “I will multiply your stress and your pregnancies” and then He reiterates in the second, “in <etzev> you will bear sons.Etzev has multiple meanings (vessel, hard work), but in a negative context, it describes work that keeps one so busy as to cause the loss of sleep:

It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of <etzev>; for so he gives his beloved sleep. (Psa. 127:2)

Therefore, the “bringing forth” of sons is not describing the birth process. It describes a mother’s hard work that causes stress and sleep deprivation! If that were not enough, the song continues to describe how she will inevitably, after a full day of dealing with the children, interact with her husband as he returns from the fields:

w’el-ishekh t’shuqatekh w’hu yim’shal-b’kh

Most of the controversy surrounds the two verbs, t’shuqah and mashal. Most translations render t’shuqah “desire” despite its mere three occurrences in the Hebrew Bible (cf. Gen. 4:7, Songs 7:10). However, t’shuqah comes from a primitive root meaning “stretching out”, as all concordances attest. Fortunately, the Septuagint allows us to see the consensus of 70 Jewish scribes who utilized the Greek word “apostrophe” in place of t’shuqah. Apostrophe means “turning”, which I interpret as a turning of attention that wives and husbands commonly afford each other at day’s end. This translation also fits the Beloved’s attention to the Shulamite in lieu of the fields (Songs 7:10), and sin’s attention toward Qayin (Cain) when he stumbles (Gen. 4:7).

Let’s remember that both the woman’s and man’s day is spent in itzavon. Their only relief from such stress is each other, but the problem is this “attention” (t’shuqatah) leads to… more children! Additionally, many children were required to help in the unforgiving fields “on account of the land which YHVH had cursed” (Gen. 5:29). In those days children weren’t a choice, they were a matter of survival.

Fields can be neglected for other duties (trading, bartering, selling, etc.), but children cannot. Generally speaking, the woman was always the de facto caretaker, because she had to (for breastfeeding and so forth), while the man completed other tasks “in the sweat of his face” – scavenging, plowing, etc. However, because the mother had to be there, the Word says that the husband “will rule among you.” I think “rule over” invites a negative connotation that is NOT present. The –bet (b) proclitic is used; this has a sense of saying “the husband will rule in your presence”.

Additionally, the verb mashal is often used in conjunction with the duties of a ruler – specifically, how he divides and provides the key resources of his kingdom, household, empire, etc. Examples of this include Yosef (Joseph) “ruling” over Egypt (Gen. 45:8), Avraham’s servant Eliezer “ruling” the goods of Avraham’s house (Gen. 24:2), even the sun and the moon “ruling” in the day and night (Gen. 1:17-18).  In the context of Genesis 3:16, it appears Adam is put on notice, as he is the one to responsible for the provisions and survival of his wife and children. Thus, man is judged by the real head of the family – God – on how he “ruled” on behalf of his family.  This is hardly divine privilege (neither man nor woman gained anything that day – everything was a demotion), it’s another thing to be stressed about, because as everyone knows, life is tougher now.

These words to Chavah are NOT a curse, nor do they condemn women to a lesser state.  Men and women were created as equals, but it’s obvious that women are bound to their children for their well-being and survival as a matter of circumstance.  Children need breast milk. Families need food. The mother and father had to provide both, respectively, if their families were to survive.  And it’s precisely this element of provision that is the X-factor in the post-Eden world. Before the Tree, God provided everything, and humans wanted for nothing. Now, humans must provide everything just to survive!  This element of provision is what causes so much itzavon in life – “stressing” about finances, resources, children etc, etc. The stress we carry daily started right here immediately after the incident at the Tree.

We mustn’t denigrate women to a lower state because of what Chavah did or think this a curse. This is only a circumstance within the context of a marriage with many children – a normalcy throughout history. However, throughout the Word of God, many women, such as Devorah (Deborah), Miriam (Moses’s sister), the Queen of Sheva, Anna the prophetess, and Junia the apostle appear to be highly regarded leaders in the company of men.

When the days of childrearing become stressful, and mothers are at wits’ end, they recall this poetic, rhyming and rhythmic song, as a memorial to what she lost in Eden. All the while the fathers sing their own song.

And these are not just songs, they’re actually commandments to follow to remain in the will of God. All will be explained, God willing.

To be continued! Ω