Posts tagged “Cain and Abel

Genesis 4:25-26, The Gateway Transgression

Recently I suggested that the words of Lamech the descendant of Cain signaled “the beginning of the End.”  In spite of Lamech being a brutal tyrant incapable of accepting any responsibility for his injustices, he and his sons were still able to influence the entire world.  They taught them how to acquire wealth, developed agricultural tools and weaponry, and even taught them entertainment (cf. Gen. 4:20-22).  However, not all influence is beneficial.  The “fathers of” their innovations influenced the whole world, but only to the wrong side of the Great Flood.  As Messiah Yeshua taught about that Pre-Flood world:  “For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ship, and they didn’t know until the flood came, and took them all away…” (Matthew 24:38-39).  In other words, the influence of Lamech and his sons advanced “eating and drinking” (through the keeping of livestock and the cutting of tools), and the music to accompany this feasting and harem-building.

So for all their ingenuity and gifts to the world, Lamech and his sons had no mind at all for the Living God.  Neither did the rest of the world.  Eventually, all would perish in the Great Flood.

It didn’t have to end that way, because it didn’t begin that way.  Immediately after the words of Lamech we read:

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: …For God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, because Cain has slain him. (Genesis 4:25, DARBY)

I’ve written extensively how at first, Adam and Eve favored Cain instead of Abel, as Cain was firstborn, he was stronger, and had adopted his father’s trade – while Abel seemed more of an afterthought.  However, Eve’s words (presumably hers) indicate that after the Almighty publicly favored Abel before Cain, Adam and Eve suddenly realized that God’s favor was more precious than anything Cain could provide.  They realized that their “seed” was best served in the hands of one who could teach their posterity acceptance by the One True God.

So Adam and Eve saw that Cain just didn’t murder their son, but also generations of children who would’ve grown in the fear YHVH ElohimPerhaps we should see it this way as well.

However, life moves on, so Adam and Eve bore Seth with the goal of raising him to live as his brother Abel had lived – in the fear of YHVH, the Almighty.

So if we know Adam and Eve sought to raise their posterity after Abel’s example, but only eight souls out of all their descendants actually survived the Great Flood, we would rightly deduce that men strayed from the path somewhere on the ancestral line.

And that’s exactly what the Scriptures teach:

Seth also fathered a son, whom he named Enosh. At that time, profaning the name of the LORD began.  (Genesis 4:26, ISV)

A few Biblical translations are making editions (like the ISV version above) to portray this “beginning” (Heb. huchal) of “profaning” (qara – which means ‘calling’ or ‘profaning’), which has already been noted by several Christian commentators and the Jewish sages alike for thousands of years.

This translation better fits the surrounding context.  Case in point, if we omit the genealogy of Adam to Noah (which is most of Genesis 5), we are left with these key points in succession of scripture:

  • The history of Cain’s descendants, which culminates with Lamech’s violence and arrogance
  • When men began to “profane” the name of YHVH
  • When men began to multiply on the earth and were sensual, violent, evil, etc.

In other words, God’s word overwhelms us with the evil of Mankind leading up to the Great Flood.  However, Genesis 4:26 specifically uses the Hebrew huchal to show how the latter state “began”.

If we desire wickedness, we scoff at the “Great Flood story”.  ‘God destroy men who act exactly like me!? Preposterous!’ – so we dismiss this as fiction.

If we desire righteousness, we want to know how the latter state happened – a state SO BAD the Almighty said ‘I regret I made Man’!  So, we look to Genesis 4:26 and understand that these multiple offenses huchal (began) when men profaned the name of YHVH.  [Note: The Bible doesn’t actually say who profaned the Name; it passively says “at that time it was begun to profane in the name of YHVH.”  This was likely worded this way so the reader would not think that it was Enosh who started it, but Mankind in general].

The first three of the Ten commandments includes “you shall have no other gods before Me… you shall not make a graven image… and you shall not bring my Name to nothingness” (cf. Exod. 20). These were spoken from Heaven and etched in stone. All three are related, as all three describe profaning the Name. Profaning the Name is a gateway transgression;  a man’s future transgressions are rooted to this beginning – when a man forgets who the One True God is.  

This is exactly what happened during the time of Enosh.  Men forgot who God was, so the evil that followed was only a matter of time.

We don’t know if they made idols, or imagined up other gods for themselves. Or, in business dealings, perhaps they took oaths in the name of ‘YHVH’ while swindling one another.  Perhaps they did all three.  Whatever happened, what we can know with certainty is that this is the moment in history when Mankind began its downward spiral, stemming from profaning the Name of YHVH Elohim. ♦

Genesis 4:23-24, Why Lamech’s Words Must Be Understood

In my last post I addressed the oxymoron of Cain “settling down” in a “land of wandering” and identified God’s riddle: if you’re apart from the Presence, it doesn’t matter how you reinvent yourself – you’re “wandering”.

Although Cain and his descendants appeared to be somewhat successful, it’s only according to the success of this life.  In the end, Cain’s lineage couldn’t separate themselves from the “way of Cain” (James 1:11). They would all ultimately drown in the Great Flood.  The last words we hear from Cain’s descendants are from a man named Lamech, the fifth from Cain:

And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.   (Genesis 4:23-24, KJV)

[Note: Several Bible translations offer “wounding” and “hurting” as past progressive verbs, but in Hebrew these words are not in verb form. Additionally, there are attempts to portray that Lamech smote a man due to a cause, i.e. “for my wound”; if that were the case, we’d expect the Hebrew kiy – which indicates a causal relationship.  However, the –l proclitic is used instead which indicates an action toward something. Therefore, I think the KJV’s translation and others like it are correct. ]

God allowed Lamech’s words for a reason, even if they seem completely out of place.  After all, these are the only words recorded from any of Cain’s descendants.  Could Lamech’s words be an out of place signal – like a road flare on a dark country road -designed to get our attention?

I believe they are. So let’s slow down and understand how God is warning us through Lamech’s words.

Understanding the context, Lamech’s speech occurs right after the Bible reveals how successful his three sons had become.  They were innovators who changed the world – rapidly, within one generation (vv. 20-22).  They taught men a better way to acquire wealth: they taught the dwelling in mobile tents instead of fixed fortresses which allowed for flocks and herds,  smithing metal into specific tools advancing agriculture and (perhaps) weaponry, and even taught entertainment through music and song – a respite from “the toil and stress of life” (ref. Gen. 5:29).

So these men became the “father of” an innovation and profession, which influenced the entire world.  But the one to benefit the most from their successes was… Lamech, the “father of the fathers of”!  He was likely well respected – so much so that Methuselah – a contemporary to Lamech’s three sons – might have named his own son “Lamech” in honor of Cain’s descendant (cf. Gen. 5:25).  So it’s likely Lamech was an influential man, and it’s therefore important to know what kind of man he was.

So when examining Lamech’s words to his wives, the first thing we must understand these are Lamech’s words – not the Almighty’s.  He said, “hear my voice… harken to my speech.”  Lamech is not prophesying.  Quite the contrary, actually. These are words that reveal the type of man he was, which is why God gave us them.

Lamech smote a young man of some stature, enough to make Lamech reasonably expect some level of retribution.  But Lamech never regretted murdering someone – he regretted that his victim might be avenged!  In other words, Lamech reacted like his forefather Cain, but this is not just Cain 2.0 – Lamech is far worse.  While Cain seemed resigned to his fate, Lamech promoted additional violence on top of his original murder! Indeed, Lamech was a diabolical character, a violent tyrant who would never face his guilt.

So in effect, Lamech instructs his two wives – the mothers of his three influential sons – to direct the family’s power toward such a vengeance that would make God’s wrath seem weak.  We don’t know if Lamech believed those words God once spoke over Cain, but it does seem like he’s mocking them, as if he could exceed God’s punishment by inventing more grandiose ways to destroy people.  So even if Lamech believed that YHVH God existed, he didn’t fear Him.  In fact, the brutal tyrant blasphemed God.

So now we understand Lamech’s words in their proper context.  Now let’s interpret them as a warning to future generations.

There are two lessons to learn from Lamech’s life, and they’re actually primers for the foundations taught in the Torah, reinforced by the Prophets, and solidified by Messiah Yeshua and His apostles.

The first lesson is: those with much destroy those with little.  These powerful types may not always destroy lesser-thans in a physical sense, but they nevertheless devour through threats, extortion, frivolous lawsuits, slanders, persecutions, and many other abuses of power.  The second lesson is connected to the first:  The rich and powerful own justice, too.  In other words, after the haves abuse the have-nots, and the abused cry out for justice, those have-nots are exterminated “seven and seventy” times over.

There is an oft-repeated torah that forbids perverting justice for the poor (e.g. Exo. 23:6, Lev. 19:15, Deut. 16:19), and should we forget those commandments, they’re rehashed throughout the Prophets (Isa. 1:17, Jer. 5:28 et al).  Following suit, Messiah Yeshua taught that justice was one of the weightier matters of the Law (i.e. Matt. 23:23).   In short, justice is important to God, evidenced by His teaching of it throughout all of time.

So Lamech’s life is marred by the same injustices and transgressions which provoked God’s judgment of the pre-Flood world.  For example, Lamech’s wives’ names suggest beauty (Adah = adorned; Tzillah = respite), as does his daughter’s (Naamah = beautiful). Comparatively, the judgment before the Flood was “the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful” (Gen. 6:2).  Lamech was also one of those who took multiple wives, (Gen. 6:2) and Lamech’s violent murder  fits the bill for “the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.” (Gen. 6:11)  Indeed, Lamech’s life exemplifies every judgment of the pre-Flood world.

So now we know Lamech’s life and words in context, and he seems to exemplify everything God detested about that pre-Flood civilization.

What we know so far is:

Lamech was the ‘father of the fathers of’, a highly influential man.
Lamech was a brutal and diabolical man.
Lamech blasphemed God.
Lamech’s life exemplified every judgment of the pre-Flood world.

With this knowledge, I interpret Lamech’s speech as a warning of “the beginning of the End.”

There are even more prophetic clues bringing clarity to Lamech’s words; see if you can find them!   The clues begin right after Lamech’s speech in Genesis 4:24, and end with the judgments I’ve already mentioned in Genesis 6.  In the meantime, ask yourself the following questions:

How did Seth get his name?
Two family lineages are listed (Cain’s and Seth’s).  Who was Lamech’s contemporary?
Does the Bible offer any hints at how influential and respected Lamech was?
What happens when brutal tyrants are highly respected?
What did Messiah Yeshua say of the Pre-Flood world? How does that compare to Lamech’s family?

If we answer these questions, we will not only understand Lamech’s words in context, but understand them prophetically as a warning of the beginning of our end as well. ♦

Genesis 4:16-24, Cain’s Descendants and Implications for Today

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:16, NASB)

Many Bibles read that Cain lived in a place called “Nod”. However, what many readers lose in translation is that nod means “wandering”, and that nod is used just earlier in the phrase often translated as “a fugitive and a vagabond will you be in the Earth” (cf. Gen 4:12).  That phrase should probably be translated as “you will be wavering and wandering [nod] in the Earth”, which would put vs. 16 in proper context: as Cain enters a “land of wandering”, thus living out his judgment.

Previously I suggested there was a prophetic undertone to righteous Abel’s murder, which was followed by Cain’s “desolation” from the “Presence of God” (in other words, a prototypical “holy land”).  I believe this is a prophetic forecast for future “desolations” which occurred in the days of Moses, Judges, Prophets, the Babylonian captives, and ultimately, when Rome destroyed Israel in accordance with the prophecies of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).  Thus the pattern of desolation is imprinted here early in the Scriptures – as a prophecy of warning to future generations.

So Cain’s “desolation” begins in verse 16 – which is a glorious oxymoron.  How does Cain “settle” (Heb. yeshev) in a “land of wandering”?  Which is it – did he settle down or wander aimlessly?  Adding to this conundrum is what happens next:

Cain knew his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Enoch. He built a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:17)

The Hebrew word for “city” is iyr, which can designate any fortified place. Given that Cain was preoccupied with “anyone who finds me will smite me” (vs. 14), he likely built some sort of fortress.  At the same time, he named his son “Chanokh” (anglicized as “Enoch”) which is the same Hebrew word used when “dedicating” or “establishing” a memorial – i.e. how King Solomon “dedicated” the Holy Temple (ref. 1 Kings 8:23).  Therefore, when Enoch was born, it appears Cain was intending to re-establish himself!

So Cain built a fortress, he had a new family, and thus he “settled down” …but only according to man’s standard.  Prophetically speaking, Cain was still nod-wandering …according to the Word of God.  So the answer to the riddle is hiding in plain sight: Cain went out from the Presence… and was in the land of wandering.   If you are separated from the Presence of God, you’re “wandering”.  It doesn’t matter if you have the tallest castle with the thickest walls, or married to the prettiest wife with ten sons to carry on your legacy!  It doesn’t matter how you re-establish yourself; without the Presence, it’s vanity.

Let’s consider that Cain and his descendants (cf. Genesis 4:18-24) had quite the accomplishments – specifically, three of Cain’s fourth-great-grandsons revolutionized agriculture, the performing arts, and metallurgy (vv. 20-22).  In fact, these three sons – along with their father Lemech – would yield tremendous power and influence over the rest of the world, for it is written of them that they were “fathers of” all those who followed their trade.  In fact, Methusaleh, who was the same generation as Lemech the descendant of Cain –might have named his own son “Lemech” (who turned out to be the father of Noah, see. Gen. 5:25-30) in honor of him.

Cain’s descendants were sons of a desolation, and I write about their accomplishments and influence because of a strange trend I’m witnessing in Christian churches and especially in the Messianic faith.  You see, there is another group of people who are sons of a desolation, and who are likewise highly influential and successful all over the world.

I speak of today’s Jewish community.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood as anti-Semitic.  It’s not anti-Semitic to identify how disproportionately successful Jewish people are in today’s society when compared to the success of other cultures and communities.  I find zero fault in anyone capitalizing on opportunities.

The fault I find is actually with Christians and Messianics.  As Christians/Messianics, we believe that the last desolation of Jerusalem occurred for a reason, one which was specifically prophesied by Messiah Yeshua.  Like Cain, these men went into all nations – wandering you might say, and immediately built shtetls and communities, and “settled down” so to speak.  As the centuries passed, Jews were unfairly persecuted, but eventually, they began to be innovators in the sciences, arts, and various industries.

However, while no one claims the descendants of Cain were successful because of Providence, why are Christians and Messianics claiming that today’s Jewish community is successful because of God’s favor?  This type of success is only measureable in this life, and doesn’t have any bearing on the age to come.

Just ask Cain’s descendants.  Their success and influence couldn’t save them from the Great Flood; in fact, we could argue that it helped contribute to the Great Flood!  And the success of anyone today – Jewish or Gentile – will not him in the upcoming Yom haDin (Day of Judgment).

Therefore, we must stop calling “favor” what the world calls “success”.  They are not necessarily compatible.

Now, in future posts I’ll discuss how Cain’s descendants could’ve been saved from the flood, just as Jews are returning to Israel in preparation for end-time fulfillments.  For now though, let not sons and daughters of God be swayed by anyone’s success in this life.  For as the ancient world was swayed by the influences of Cain’s descendants and drowned, what would become of us if we falsely confused God’s favor with human success? ♦

Genesis 4:10-15, Prophetic Patterns in the Cain and Abel Story

The story of Qayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) offers practical knowledge about favor and jealousy, but perhaps more importantly, offers a great deal of prophetic revelation.

Perhaps no revelation is more apparent than “many who are first shall be last, and the last first.” (Matt. 19:30) This cornerstone teaching of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) was forecast long ago through the lives of these two brothers – not because Qayin was Hevel’s senior, but because Qayin had pride with an expectation to be “first”, compared to Hevel’s humility and servanthood as the “last”.

However, this is not the end of the “last shall be first” pattern.  The Scriptures soon show how Avraham is favored before his father Terah.  Then, Itzak (Isaac) is favored before Ishmael, followed by God judging Esau in favor of Ya’akov (Jacob), whose son Joseph is favored over his brothers, and so forth.  Through these examples a mystery is revealed to us: God’s favor does not come through entitlement.

The “last shall be first” is not the only prophetic pattern forecast in the Qayin and Hevel story. We also first witness the reoccurring pattern of  “wandering”.

During his judgment, Qayin was fearful that he would be “wavering and wandering” over the Earth (cf. Gen 4:14), but that particular word, “wandering” (Heb. nood) – is used elsewhere to denote how God “removes” Yis’rael in highly troubling times:

“ADONAI had told David and Shlomo his son… I will not have the feet of Isra’el wander any longer out of the land which I gave their ancestors — if only they will take heed to obey every order I have given them and live in accordance with all the Torah that my servant Moshe ordered them to obey.” But they did not take heed; and M’nasheh misled them into doing even worse things than the nations ADONAI had destroyed ahead of the people of Isra’el.Moreover, M’nasheh shed so much innocent blood that he flooded Yerushalayim from one end to the other..”. (2 Kings 21:6-9, 16 CJB)

By the time of King David, YHVH had already caused Yis’rael to “wander out of the Land” at the hands of Philistines, Assyrians, and other nations due to the breaking of her covenant.  By the time of M’nasheh, God’s prophets warned of the same fate for similar transgressions, and for the shedding of innocent blood.

Therefore, in the reading of Qayin and Hevel, YHVH shows that the punishment for Qayin’s refusal to listen to YHVH, and the shedding of Hevel’s innocent blood, is a “wandering from the land” – a foreshadowing of what the Prophets  call “desolation” (at least, how most Bibles translate various words to be “desolation”).  Moshe (Moses) saw and warned of Yis’rael’s future desolation to the nations just a few years after the Exodus (Lev. 26:33).  Yeshayahu (Isaiah) also saw that Yis’rael “would become without inhabitant” (Isa. 6:12).  There are dozens of other warnings in the Prophets but the highest example may be the desolation foretold by Daniel – due to the fact that Messiah reiterated it (cf. Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; Matthew 24:15).

The long and short of it is that the desolation of Yis’rael is a common theme reappearing throughout the Scriptures. It’s warned of throughout the Prophets, witnessed in the times of Judges, and fulfilled in both the desolations of Shomron (Samaria) and Yahudah.  However, it’s greatest fulfillment came after the appearance of Messiah Yeshua, when Rome utterly destroyed Yerushalayim.

Thus we realize that the banishment of Qayin – who ignored the pleading of God and shed the innocent blood of Hevel – is a prophetic forecast of the desolations witnessed throughout time – occurring due to similar motivations as Qayin’s.  Yis’rael would ignore the pleadings of God through his prophets, and shed innocent blood, ultimately executing their own Messiah!

And of course, all this shedding of righteous blood comes with a price:

 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matt. 23:35)

So there were many desolations of Yis’rael, but one noteworthy point to mention is that even in His wrath, God never made a complete end of Yis’rael.  He wouldn’t excuse their guilt, but He also wouldn’t forget His mercy.  For these reasons He commanded that the nations whom He chose as the instruments of His wrath would treat Yis’rael well.

This decree of not harming Yis’rael began with Avraham, “by blessing will I bless those who would bless you; and cursing upon those who curse you” (Gen. 12:3), and in spite of God allowing Yis’rael to enter all her desolations, that same expectation of respect for Yis’rael never changed.  As the prophet Tzecharyah (Zechariah) declared, ““I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. I am very angry with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, but they added to the calamity”” (Zech. 1:14-15).

Previously I suggested that death was too good for Qayin, and while that may be true to his personal circumstance, I further suggest that Qayin was allowed to live in his isolation because it’s a prophecy of all the future times Yis’rael would be desolated – but not completely destroyed.  Hence, Qayin was allowed to live because Yis’rael would always be allowed to live.

In short, “Qayin and Hevel” is one grand prophetic revelation about all the times Yis’rael ignored the pleadings of God for repentance, killed its prophets and shed innocent blood, and entered into desolation, while at the same time, being allowed to live.  If we can grasp this concept, the rest of the Word of God will become much more compelling to us as readers as we will understand the prophetic patterns laid out for us to follow. ♦

Genesis 4:10-15, Why Was Cain’s Life Spared?

There seems to be a lot of speculation and struggling with Qayin’s (Cain’s) punishment – or lack thereof – as some believe that Qayin should’ve lost his own life after murdering his brother Hevel (Abel), based on comments from skeptics and even some believers in Internet Land.  On the flip side is Christian flag-waving of the “Grace” extended to Qayin; according to Christians, this is one proof that Jesus was always the ‘God of the Old Testament’.

The way I see it, the problem is that both sides of the debate perceive an inconsistency between how God views premeditated murder in other parts of the Bible (i.e. the Torah or “Law”), versus how God allows Qayin to keep his life after such a blatant example of… premeditated murder!  However, I suggest both views are missing key points of information in what I call ‘The Curious Case of Qayin’.

First of all, nothing in the Law and its punishments for murder were applicable until Yis’rael made a covenant with God at Horev (cf. Exod. 24:7).  With respect to how God banished Qayin thousands of years earlier, comparisons to other parts of the Bible would be irrelevant, except that it does raise questions about the eternal nature of God, and how we’d expect His judgments to be uniform throughout time.  That’s an important question, and I will answer it shortly.

As for this being “Grace”, indeed there are many instances of grace in the Tanakh, but I  can’t include Qayin’s judgment among them.  Grace entails complete forgiveness and a restoration of the soul, but that is not what I see in Qayin.

So this leaves two questions: why was Qayin’s life spared and if it’s not grace, what is it?

I say the answer is in plain sight.

First, let’s clear up an assumption that many of us may have.

Where is Abel, your brother?  And Cain answered, “I don’t know! The keeper of my brother… is me?” (Genesis 4:9)

We read this dialogue and always assume that God and Qayin were alone.  But the text suggests there were witnesses.  For example, by the time she had Seth, Havah (Eve) knew Hevel’s fate , and seemed to be a bit hostile to Qayin (cf. Gen. 4:25).  If Qayin was banished immediately, how could Havah know this information?  Therefore, I suggest that the following dialogue makes much more sense… in the presence of witnesses, likely other “sons and daughters” birthed by Havah (cf. Gen. 5:4).

What have you made? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.” (vs. 10)

Even in death, God hears a righteous person more than the wicked who remains alive, because “YHVH is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32).  By listening to the voice of Hevel, God is advocating for the victim.  Thus everything hereafter should be understood as God honoring what the blood of Hevel spoke.

And now, you have been cursed from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand, because you would work the ground.  No longer will it yield its produce to you… (vs. 11-12)

Qayin knowingly buried his brother in the same grounds that he worked.  In doing so, God judged those grounds to now be Hevel’s final resting place – instead of a cultivated field. If the sinister Qayin remained, he would disrupt Hevel’s resting place for the sake of “produce” (the Heb. koach can mean “strength” but when used with soil it should be understood as “produce”) – even with his brother secretly buried beneath it!  Thus God obviously judged in favor of Hevel and dismissed Qayin from those lands.

A vagrant and a wanderer will you become in the earth.” (vs. 12)

“Fugitive and vagabond” is a seriously unhappy translation of two words that are almost the same, found in the obviously poetically Hebrew ‘na wa nad’.  In fact, this is the only place where “fugitive” and “vagabond” are used for each word, respectively.  Since there is no consistency in how each of these words are translated, the interpretation of na wa nad is open to suggestion.

I say that this term, obviously used to describe Qayin’s future, should be compared with his past.  Previously, he was “the man” and was stable, grounded, and secure.  Now, his future would be the exact opposite – unstable!  As long as we understand that it’s the exact opposite of him being “the man” alongside his parents, we understand the intent of Qayin becoming “na wa nad” – living life alone without the stability always provided for him.

Then Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to endure.” (vs. 13)

The real reason Qayin was allowed to live jumps right off the page… right here.

God – Who I think was deferring to the blood of Hevel for judgment – knew that Qayin would’ve preferred a coward’s death to facing a life filled with adversity.  In this respect I think Hevel knew his brother quite well!  Notice how much that fear of adversity is evident in Qayin’s response below:

“Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will smite me.” (vs. 14)

Ironically, Qayin would’ve lived a lot like someone else in the story – wandering to and fro, fearful of prey, living away from the cultivated fields… that sort of reminds me of how a shepherd would live, is it not?  It seems to me that Qayin’s judgment has an air of becoming like his brother Hevel was in life – who coincidentally is now crying out to God through his blood.  It’s nothing short of poetic justice that Qayin has to live as Hevel was. I believe that Hevel wanted his brother Qayin to see life as he’d seen it.

Notice how the Almighty never said anything about killing Qayin, and how that was purely Qayin’s invention?  Again, if we assume this exchange had witnesses, it makes more sense.  I say Qayin was subtlely inviting anyone – a witness per say – to find him and kill him, to alleviate the one thing Qayin couldn’t bear: adversity.  I think Qayin was so fearful of real life that he wanted to be ‘offed’.

Which is then why the Almighty ensured Qayin would live:

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And the LORD set a sign on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (vs. 15)

The mysterious mark/sign of Qayin only makes sense if witnesses overheard these words.  It’s my opinion that this declaration is the mark of Qayin.  True, this is a protection of Qayin’s life, but this was not for Qayin’s benefit – it was done for Hevel.  I believe Hevel – as a righteous man – had compassion on his murderer.

This doesn’t mean he wanted his brother excused!  Up to this point, Qayin never laments his murderous act – he only laments its consequences!  Therefore, Qayin would not learn any remorse through death.  Thus Qayin was allowed to live to learn remorse, and perhaps humility for what he did.  This is the poetic justice the blood of Hevel wanted, which God honored.

So, Qayin was neither offered Grace, nor was he given murder.  Qayin was given the punishment that fit Qayin – which was exactly what he deserved. If anything, this is one indication that we all will get what we deserve. The question is, do we want God to listen to us, even in death? Or do we want God to set His face and dismiss us from His presence?  Ω

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 4:1-2, 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