Posts tagged “Apologetics

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 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

Genesis 3:16, The Song of Women

As I studied my next topic – Genesis 3:16 – I was challenged to understand exactly what it said. Judging from its various biblical translations, I’m the rule, and not the exception!

The NIV, ESV, and NASB seemingly agree that a woman’s lot in life is the physical pain of labor, but are ambiguous about her relationship to her husband, as witnessed by this example:

“To the woman [the LORD] said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”” (Genesis 3:16, NIV)

The reason it’s “ambiguous” is because the phrase “your desire will be for your husband” can mean a) ‘all women will desire to marry a husband’, b) ‘your desire will be for your husband to succeed’ or c) anything you desire will be reserved for your husband’s approval.

This latter point is the trajectory of the KJV family, akin to:

“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (KJV)

Note that the KJV versions read that women will experience emotional pain – “sorrow”, as opposed to physical labor pains, as read in the other most popular translations.

However, these translations are mild compared to the NLT or NET Bible:

“I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” (NET Bible)

OK then! This translation paints ALL women with the same strokes appropriate for Jezebel. It’s apparent that the NET Bible took this verse’s ambiguity to a whole new level.

What I’m trying to show is that interpretations of this verse are all over the map. Furthermore, some variations lead the reader down a dangerous path, ultimately portraying an unfair picture of both women and God. Consider the quotes from some of the most popular commentaries:

Matthew Henry: “The woman, for her sin, is condemned to a state of sorrow, and of subjection…”

Gill’s Exposition: “this is to be understood of her being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him…”

Ellicott’s Commentary: “Among the heathen the punishment was made very bitter by the degradation to which woman was reduced; among the Jews the wife, though she never sank so low, was nevertheless purchased of her father, was liable to divorce at the husband’s will, and was treated as in all respects his inferior.”

This was a small sample, but as we can see from the example of Ellicott, this verse is dangerous that it can be a pre-textual lens for interpreting other scriptures, which does nothing but produce incorrect assumptions about the role of women.

In such cases as these where translations and interpretations differ so greatly, it is usually due to the murkiness of the Hebrew which can cause confusion in the minds of translators. Upon further review, Genesis 3:16 is such a case. It does contain rare and uncommon words, and there’s even something different about its construction.

The transliterated Hebrew of Genesis 3:16 is:

el-ha-ishah amar har’bah ar’beh itz’vonekh w-heronekh’ b’etzev tel’diy baniym w’el-iyshekh’ t’shuqatekh w-hu yim’shal bakh’

Even those with no experience with Hebrew can hopefully still see the poetic license within this verse. Some phrases rhyme (i.e. “amar har’bah ar’beh”, “itz’vonekh w’heronekh”, “w’el-iyshekh t’shuqatekh”) and when pronounced in its entirety, the words are constructed to flow right off the tongue. Obviously, this is by design, because it’s a song.

Songs are strategically written for ease of memory, a benefit for societies steeped in oral tradition (like ancient Israel). In other words, when God inspires poetic justice within the pages of Scripture, it is because He wanted those words to sink deep into the recesses of Israel’s collective memory.

This is why the Song of Moses (see Exodus 15) – which celebreates the Exodus – appears in poetic form. It is why David put the “Song of the Bow” and the rest of his psalms in poetic form; his songs were designed to teach and commit to memory (2 Kings 1:17-25). Moshe wanted the Children of Israel to remember the horse and rider falling into the sea, while David wanted Saul and Jonathan to have a memorial as Yahudah’s first royal family.

So while there is a benefit to incorporating lessons into a song format for the sake of oral tradition, it does carry a disadvantage for modern cultures relying on a more literal tradition. In the case of Genesis 3:16, we seek literal lessons from a poetic context, which is definitely a problem.  We fail to consider that the normal construction of the Hebrew was deliberately altered for the sake of rhyming and flow, and also was constructed with rare and uncommon words for the sake of Semitic poetry.

In short, Genesis 3:16 is a challenge!  However, we will investigate it further, Lord willing. But let us go forward with the understanding that this is a loose poem that may not mean what we think it means. At a minimum, we must not make brash judgments about women based on how it reads (or how we think it reads) in English, and use it as a backdrop to judge other scriptures about a woman’s purpose. There is a fair amount of grief in life since the fall of Man, but I believe that God can bring beauty from that grief, and an inheritance for both men and women. Ω

Genesis 3:12, It’s All God’s Fault!

And said the man, “the woman which you gave with me – she gave it to me from the Tree, and I ate.”

Note that Adam specifically used the word immad, which always means with”. He did not say ‘the woman you gave TO me’, but “the woman you gave WITH me”, including himself with the woman as having been given by God to that place – near the Tree of Knowledge.

If we reverse engineer what Adam said, we read similarities to what scoffers say – that God set Adam and Eve up for failure:

“I ate, but only after the woman gave to me from THE Tree, which YOU put near us after YOU created us and put us together in the first place.”

Basically, Adam absolved all responsibility by deferring to God! We can’t interpret Adam’s tone, but depending on how we read his words, he was either justifying his actions or blaming God, but is there really any difference? They both place the onus for the transgression on God. After all, God designed everything, right? He created the snake with its craftiness, He put the Tree of Knowledge right there in front of them, ad infinitum – it’s as if God wanted Adam to fail, right?

God’s people – or at least, those we’d expect to be God’s people – still use this same justification today for the most ungodly acts imaginable. Usually, the proximity of the temptation (the Tree) is linked to the Creator in some way, even if they are subtle. Here are two real-world examples:

1. The Intern: A certain Christian leader is separated from his wife while leading a charismatic renewal. He becomes close with an intern (the Tree) on his staff and began what he called an “emotional affair”. The revivalist did not call it simply an “affair” or what it is, “adultery” – instead he deferred to his emotions. Though it’s subtle, He was inwardly blaming God for temptations he experienced within his natural flesh-and-blood prison, evoking emotions we all feel (which by the way was a result of what Adam did at the Tree). Basically, he said, “I’m only a fallen human, right?” To this day, that man and his now-second-wife admit they sinned, but “do not regret marrying (each other)”, which is to say that they don’t regret sinning.

2. The Prostitute: A certain televangelist spots a prostitute (a Tree) on the side of the road, and solicits her for sex. When confronted, the televangelist defiantly told elders of his denomination, “The Lord told me it’s none of your business.” It’s apparent that the televangelist thought that God wanted him to satisfy his sexual urges, making it an arrangement between “the Lord” and himself. In other words, he doesn’t regret sinning because ‘It’s the Lord’s business.’

In the first example the revivalist leader was subtly blaming God for his lack of self-control, while in the second example, the ‘prophet’ justifying his lack of self-control by bringing the Lord “in on it”. This follows in the manner of Adam, because whether blame or justification is deferred to God, the bottom line is:

It’s all God’s fault.

Let’s be clear, I think that the motivations for eating from any of these “trees” – lust, loneliness, power, jealousy, spite – are natural. So too is the manner of which these men reacted, out of places of panic, pride, or even shame. However, surrendering to nature, or having any reaction other than a fearful repentance is contrary to the meaning of life. We are to be a kingdom of overcomers, a tried but blameless people, who find forgiveness in Almighty God.

It would have been better for these men to react like David, after he fell at his own Tree (Bath-Sheva) and said, “I have sinned against YHVH.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

Adam’s reply (well you put the woman and that Tree here in the first place) is eerily similar to what scoffers say, as in: ‘God gave you those desires, so why should He be mad if you sin?’ Adam’s reply is also a near paraphrase of what deceived people say, which is similar to ‘well God must’ve put her in my path for a reason, she understands me, unlike my wife’.

Scoffers mock God for putting the Tree right next to Adam, accusing God of tempting mankind into sin. But I suggest that ‘the Tree in the midst’ is a lesson to us, as Adam and Eve’s posterity. There is no Tree of Knowledge anymore, but there’s an intern in our office, a prostitute in our path, and a Bath-Sheva off our balcony. There are drug dealers next door, and pornography with a click of the mouse. Indeed, every temptation is in our midst!

We are designed to overcome, but that only comes with obedience to God’s commandments. I know of One only – Messiah Yeshua – who was tempted in every way that we were, and yet overcame every sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). That’s why He’s the Anointed One, and consequently why He kept His anointing forever.

If we fail, it’s best to repent immediately like David, and not make it worse. Otherwise we blame God, or justify it to God, the penalty of which is the same as Adam’s – death! Therefore, let us react to the temptations all around us, not as Adam by blaming God, but as Messiah Yeshua, who would have no part of it. God has put us here to overcome, just as Messiah overcame, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Genesis 3:9-11, Is God Truly Omniscient?

And YHVH Elohim called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)

Skeptics cite this verse to levy charges against YHVH, with the accusation that God is not as omniscient as He claims. For example, the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible says, “There are some things that God doesn’t know and can’t see. God couldn’t see Adam and Eve when they hid in the Garden of Eden.”

This is a completely ignorant accusation, because it presumes that there is no logical reason for ever asking a question in which one already knows the answer. However, investigators, lawyers, and other leaders ask these ‘known answer questions’ every day, usually in the context of an investigation, cross-examination, or hiring process. When asked in the right way, these questions help establish truth and/or justice, for through one’s words is he vindicated or condemned (or hired or fired, or rewarded or punished, etc.). This is the same as Yeshua taught: “by your words shall you be justified, and by them shall you be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).

Known answer questions are asked against a backdrop of pre-existing laws, rules, or other expectations, such as in the following examples:

Peter answered [Shappirah], “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” She said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter asked her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? …She fell down immediately at his feet and died… Great fear came on the whole assembly, and on all who heard these things. (Acts 5:8-11)

“Yeshua …seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” He said this to try him, for he himself knew what he would do.” (John 6:5-6)

And within our featured context:

God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?(Gen. 3:11)

In these examples, the trying questions established truths included for others’ benefit, based on some preexistent standard. In the case of Shappirah, the standard was “you shall not tempt the LORD your God.” (Deut. 6:16) Peter confirmed her lie through her own words, but the result was a warning for anyone in a new covenant who maybe wanted to tempt God. In the case of Philip, Yeshua was testing him on his faith, based on Yeshua’s recent testimony that all would see “greater works” (cf. John 5:20). Yeshua was looking for someone else knowing “what God was going to do.” Lastly, in our featured context, the standard was YHVH’s previous commandment to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The cross examination that followed was a type of trial, to show Adam had transgressed the law by his own words.

If we think bigger, we can see that YHVH and His emissaries asked these questions for our benefit, because they were recorded in the Good Book – that we who follow in Adam and Eve’s footsteps may learn from mistakes of the past.

God knows, and will always know, everything. He will however afford each and every person a trial, in order for him to account of everything he or she has done in this life – even if God already knows. The results of this judgment-to-come prove that YHVH is just, but it also reproves the righteous – that God is serious about His law, which shows who He is and who He’s not.

I wish that skeptics could see that the prototype of the judgment-to-come, when God cross examines Adam in a human-esque form – which I believe is a prophecy of Messiah Yeshua judging humanity in His resurrected body – is not an indication of his lack of omniscience, but rather proof of a trial prosecution – that He will administer to vindicate or condemn every soul according to their works.

Liberal Christian Beliefs and the Genesis Accounts – Embracing the Future of a Non-Existent Past?

And [the serpent] said to the woman… (Genesis 3:1)

I’ll be the first to admit, the talking snake’ used to make me uncomfortable, so much so that I avoided it, wondering if it were some kind of metaphor. Eventually though, I came to the conclusion that I must face ‘the talking snake’. I realized that it was impossible to claim ‘the Bible is the inerrant Word of God!’ but then substitute metaphor for history when its stories disturbed my modern sophistications.

There are many liberal Christians (and for that matter Jews) who explain Genesis 1-3 as poems or metaphors, but what is the end of such reasoning? Figures like Moshe, David and even Yeshua quoted Genesis as actual history – do we know better than these unenlightened ones? And why not stop at Genesis – why not just explain the Exodus, the words of the Prophets, the nation of Israel, and the Resurrection of the Dead as additional moral metaphors, just like Aesop’s Fables?

So before I dive into Genesis 3 as historical fact and the lessons that transpired, I want to challenge these liberal beliefs. After all, if you cannot picture humanity in the Garden of Eden, then you also can’t picture yourself in the Kingdom of God, can you? …Now what do I mean by that?

Consider Adam’s creation. Let’s say you’re a liberal Christian, and you accept man’s proposal that evolution is the true anthropologic history of human beings. If that’s the case, then you could not literally believe that “Yahweh Elohim formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). But my question is, if you cannot believe the beginning, how can you hope for the end: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2). Did not Adam also awake from the dust? What’s the difference between his creation and your resurrection?

Herein lies my point. Every fulfillment that we hope for in Messiah Yeshua – which includes all the promises of God for the olam haba, are prototyped in Genesis. If we expect to enter the Kingdom of God, we must also embrace our ancestry in the Garden… for our salvation is seen through our past.

Taking another example, if the Tree of Life is a myth andwhich never existed, how then can it grow in the age to come (cf. Gen. 3:24, Rev. 2:7)?

Or, if an orchard of ever-bearing fruit is chalked up to an old farmers’ tale, how could God be expected to plant a tree “offering different fruits each month” (cf. Rev. 22:2)?

Even taking the example of my own faith nemesis, the talking snake – if I couldn’t believe God once gave animals the ability to speak (which would include Bilaam’s donkey -cf. Numbers 22:28), then it stands to reason that four living creatures in Heaven “having voices” would be just as ludicrous (e.g., Rev. 6:1).

So is this Genesis story a fairy tale, or not?

If you call it a myth, and you deny God created and sustained what Genesis portrays… then using the same logic, you must reject what the Bible calls “the restoration of all things” (cf. Acts 3:21)… for how can God restore what never happened?

Can’t you see, that ever-bearing fruit, thornless trees, healing waters, cherubim, gemstones, lush gardens, the Tree of Life, perfect climates, incorruption, even talking animals and ETERNAL LIFE, as well as anything else promised through the mouths of both prophets and apostles… is not new to the earth? Can’t you see when you reject your past you reject your future?

Just believe! The earth as we never knew it may be lost, but you must realize that you’re not waiting for anything new – you’re waiting for things to be re-newed. So, examine yourselves, you quasi-believers, you liberal theologians and cowards in spirit. Get past your insensibilities and comfort-levels. Accept that the Almighty was as powerful as He claims… lest you find your faith to be weak and meaningless when you need it the most.♦

Genesis 2:18 – When Did Good and Evil Enter the World?

The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Genesis 2:18)

The preceding line was a commandment given to Adam – one that forbade eating from the Tree-of-Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil. The same word in verse 17 for ‘good’ (Heb. tov) reappears in verse 18, as God says “it is not good for man to be alone”.

When God said this, Adam hadn’t yet eaten from the forbidden tree, so may conclude that he didn’t realize that companionship was “good”. However, God knew, and so declared Adam’s solitude as “not good” (in other words, evil).  Then, He immediately begins to counter  evil with a good work. Admittedly, God doesn’t need to say aloud what he finds obvious, but His words were recorded for our benefit – to show how God was always interested in countering evil with good, even before mankind knew the two existed.

Therefore, the above Scripture exemplifies that in the absence of mankind’s evil, God is and always has been determined to bringing about good for all mankind. “The God of the Old Testament” is often accused of being a bloodthirsty tyrant, but from the Beginning it was not so! According to this, it’s the nature of Yahweh Elohim to better mankind according to what He considers good.

Today, it seems every argument concerning morality focuses on what mankind considers good and evil. We hear it on our street corners and at our dinner tables: “‘I think this is right!’ …‘Well, I think you’re wrong, this is why!’” But in the end – or should I say, in the beginning – the only relevant dilemma is what GOD considers good and evil.

What actually occurred when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge was the opening of our eyes to the existence of good and evil. Afterward, we would forever gravitate toward one or the other, depending on the inclinations of our hearts and minds. However, was good and evil created that day? Of course not! It was hanging on that tree the entire time! (In case you were wondering, here’s why). It was also on the earth already, even in Eden. For when Adam was alone, God declared it to be “not good.” Good and evil did not enter the world like pagan myths suggest (i.e. Pandora’s Box); that is an extra-biblical concept. What really happened at Eden, was mankind gaining sight (“their eyes were opened” -Gen 3:7) to right and wrong – thus creating the human dilemma.

There are plenty of arbitrary arguments about what constitutes good or evil in the world, but I suggest they’re smoke screens to the real question. The real question is, “What is right and wrong… according to God?” This is the oldest dilemma in the history of the world – even older than the one facing mankind, as demonstrated by Genesis 2:18.

Therefore, all statements starting with “I think…” or “I feel…” or “Why should I…” are irrelevant. Conundrums which do not reach beyond this world are called “vanity”. However, if you ask “What does God think about such and such” then I would commend you for entertaining a conundrum that exceeds this world.

There is a lot of talk in our society today, but most of it a vanity-on-vanity debate. Many offer opinions about the news of the day, but it’s all about definitions. We try to define marriage, racism, sexism, gender, traditions and everything else under a fading sun. Many surrender to such vanity, but that’s because they fail to remember God’s original dilemma:

First, God saw the evil (The man is isolated). Then, God planned for good to overcome it (“I will make him a helper”). Then, God brought about His intent. For believers, this is the recipe for success. We must determine evil solely by God’s truth. Of course, truth lies at the source of knowing what God labels good and evil – which is found in the Word of God. His truth was recorded first in the Torah of Moshe and completely revealed through Messiah Yeshua. Everything else is simply man’s opinion – a byproduct of the Tree of Knowledge, and therefore worthless vanity.

In this world we are caught in a sea of vanity, but like our God, we must rectify it and bring about justice, mercy, and truth – whatever counters the evil we face on a daily basis. This may seem elementary, but it is really anything different than this:

Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

Just as God beheld Adam in an evil situation (no companionship), He countered it with a good work (making a helper). In the example from Matthew, Yeshua teaches us to think the same way – when we see evil (hunger, thirst, nakedness) we should counter it with a good work (meeting the need). We would only be doing exactly what God has shown us by His example.

Human beings must stop being the arbiter of good and evil and make our decisions according to God’s standards, found in His Word. Otherwise, we will have 7 billion different versions of right and wrong, which we inherited from the Tree of Knowledge. This is the same reason we have so many different religions and political positions in the world today. I say there is only one truth, which is what God alone considers good and evil.♦

Genesis 2:17, ‘You will die before the day is over!’ — Say what?

“And from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will not eat – for when you eat from it, by dying you will die.” (Genesis 2:17, my translation)

The Skeptic’s Annotated Bible (SAB) criticizes this verse: “God says that if Adam eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then the day that he does so, he will die. But later Adam eats the forbidden fruit (3:6) and yet lives for another 930 years (5:5).”

The SAB commentary isn’t surprising, given that several Biblical translations of Genesis 2:17b seem to concur:

  • because on the day you eat from it, you will die!” (Common English Bible)
  • If you eat any fruit from that tree, you will die before the day is over!” (Contemporary English Version)
  • If you eat fruit from that tree, on that day you will certainly die!” (Easy-to-Read Version)
  • You must not eat the fruit of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.” (Good News Translation)
  • because you will certainly die during the day that you eat from it.” (International Standard Version)
  • Don’t eat from it. The moment you eat from that tree, you’re dead.” (The Message)
  • Beware: the day you eat the fruit of this tree, you will certainly die. (The VOICE)

I’ve posted before on what I think the Hebrew says literally (‘in the day you eat from it, dying you die’), but I hope that novices can see that several tidbits of the above translations are far from warranted! The phrases ‘before the day is over!’, ‘certainly/surely die’, ‘the same day’, even ‘moment’, are imaginations, and nowhere near inspired from the text. I will address these poor translations in a moment, but I will first focus on the translation of “in the day.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about the Hebrew idiom b’yom. In that previous post I noted how a pseudo-theologian with a Ph.D. used this idiom to prove his Old Earth  agenda. In Genesis 2:17, there just seems to be a hesitance to interpret (as opposed to translate) this idiom. It’s unfortunate that nearly all the popular translations leave the idiom as “in the day”. A few of them, such as the ESV and RSV, provide a footnote explaining it metaphorically means “when”, but none of them interpret the idiom for their cross-culture, Western audience within the text itself. Some, like the samples listed above, take the idiom way too literally as a 24-hour period (i.e. before the day is over!)

I understand some readers may want idioms translated literally, but when it’s coupled with other poor translations like the latter clause of this verse (such as “you’re dead” or “you will certainly die!”) it breeds confusion and contempt. It leads to accusations of Biblical contradictions.

The latter clause means that if Adam ate from the forbidden tree, he would experience “death by dying”, which happened exactly how God warned – Adam began to die when He disobeyed the commandment. I realize there’s a campaign to portray the God of the Old Testament as a stone cold killer, but the language was not a stay of execution like some would spin it!

The ironic thing is that our English-speaking ancestors were closer to the original Hebrew than what we have today:

  • “for in whatever day thou shalt eat thereof, thou shalt die by death.” (Wycliffe, 1395)
  • “for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt die the death.” (Geneva Bible, 1599)
  • for in the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die.” (Young’s Literal Translation, 1862)
  • For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” (Douay-Rheims American, 1899)

It seems the closer we get to “modern” or “contemporary” English, the further we get from the intent of the original Scriptures!

Believers everywhere intend to rightly divide the Word of Truth (see 2 Tim. 2:15). If we are seriously invested in scriptural accuracy, we should probably demand better biblical translations – lest before the day is over they mislead us in a moment with the Message of God’s Word in Common, Modern, and Contemporary English! ♦

Genesis 2:16-17, Who Can Eat from the Tree of Knowledge?

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

This verse provokes a reasonable question from both skeptics and believers: ‘If God didn’t want Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, why put it within his reach?’

Skeptics usually ask this question from a sarcastic point of view – often accusing God of entrapment. Believers on the other hand ask this question to better understand God’s will. However, both sides seem to think it would make better sense for God to put the Tree of Knowledge as far from Adam as possible so he would not sin.

I believe the answer to the question is more simple than complex. First, let’s look at what YHVH actually says to the man:

In the day YOU eat from it, dying YOU shall die.” (vs. 17). The Hebrew records the –echa suffix making it quite clear God is speaking directly to Adam. However, the Bible never claims the tree’s fruit wouldn’t be eaten… it only says mankind is forbidden to eat it. This of course provokes another question: ‘who CAN eat the fruit?’

The Tree of Knowledge was in a garden planted by God. He is the owner; its trees and fruit belonged to Him. Adam worked and preserved the garden but was allowed to reap its bounty – including the fruitful delicacies that were seemingly always in season. However, the placement of the Tree of Knowledge at the center of the Garden shouldn’t be viewed solely as the entrapment or temptation of Adam. Perhaps there is another explanation.

God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Spirit is the form by which God is historically known – omnipresent and always near. Of course, God never changes – He was Spirit when Adam kept the Garden of Eden. However, the Bible records God in another form back then:

“And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day… the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:8-9, ESV)

Sometimes, God manifests Himself in our dimension, though He is always Spirit. In such manifestations, He walks, He talks, and looks like a man. In fact, His whole purpose of creating Mankind was to eventually become a Man, as He did through His promised visitation to Israel as Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). In those days, He was accustomed to eat and drink with those who desired His company. After ultimately demonstrating God’s plan of atonement through His death, He even ate in His resurrected body:

“Yeshua himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. He said to them, “Why are you troubled? …Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” …While they still didn’t believe for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. He took them, and ate in front of them. He said to them, “This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:36-44)

God is Spirit indeed, but in times past and future, He desires to eat and drink with men. At His last Passover, Yeshua gave us a glimpse of this fellowship in the olam haba (age to come):

He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will no longer by any means eat of it until it is fulfilled in God’s Kingdom.” He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until God’s Kingdom comes.” (Luke 22:16-18)

There is a day known to God when we will once again eat with Messiah Yeshua in His Kingdom. Until that day, we find joy that God has always desired fellowship with men by eating and drinking in flesh and bone:

The LORD appeared to (Abraham) by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and saw that three men stood near him. When he saw them, he ran to meet them… and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please don’t go away from your servant. Now let a little water be fetched, wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. I will get a piece of bread so you can refresh your heart… He took butter, milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them. He stood by them under the tree, and they ate. (Gen. 18:1-8)

Just as He did through the life of Yeshua, YHVH ate with His servants. He dined with Avraham, and He walked and talked in the Garden of Eden to have fellowship with Adam. Unfortunately, Adam failed where Avraham later succeeded.

The Tree of Knowledge’s fruit was tasty, being “good for food” (Gen. 3:6). However, no one may eat from the Tree of Knowledge unless first possessing “knowledge of good and evil”. Based on the Scriptures, YHVH was the only one who was able to eat from both the Tree of Knowledge AND the Tree of Life concurrently. When broadcasting how mankind became like God -“knowing good and evil” – God knew Adam might also become like Him by eating from the Tree of Life, and thus regain immortality (see Gen 3:22). However, as Genesis 2:16-17 clearly shows, Man was never forbidden to eat from the Tree of Life! Adam had possessed eternal life before he lost it; it was a gift of God (isn’t it interesting that eternal life has always been a gift of God?)! However, as YHVH possesses both eternal life and the knowledge of good and evil, He alone could eat from both trees at the same time.

Conclusion

The Tree of Knowledge’s sweet fruit wasn’t meant to entrap Adam – it was for YHVH to eat while He fellowshipped with Adam Man-to-man. I believe YHVH expected Adam to offer Him the sweet fruit in the same way Avraham offered YHVH a fatted calf. This is evidenced by YHVH’s question after Adam fell, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9) It’s as if God was saying, ‘you used to run to greet me, where are you today?’ However, Adam didn’t run to YHVH that day – His eyes were opened to evil, and mankind would forever run the opposite direction, with the evil inclination of his heart.♦