Posts tagged “Hebrew

Genesis 4:10-14, The Way of Qayin Was and Is the Way of the Serpent

The LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.   Now you are cursed because of the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  From now on, when you till the ground, it won’t yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out today from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face, and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:10-14)

The majority of our Bibles translate YHVH’s words to Qayin (Cain) as “What have you done?” but I say we should interpret this as “what have you made?”  The verb in question is the Hebrew asah, which is used interchangeably with its synonym bara (to create) to describe God’s ordering of the heavens and the earth, as well as His creation of Mankind (ref. Genesis 1-2).

By design, YHVH also responds with “asah” to Havah (Eve) and the serpent after their transgressions at the Tree of Knowledge (cf. Gen. 3:13-14).  These responses indicate that we who were created in the image of God are creative in nature, but we can “make” (asah) acts of mischief that are foreign to YHVH.  When we create such evil, God asks, “What is this you made?” for this is not the handiwork He respects.  Selah.

So the question to Qayin after he murdered his brother Hevel (Abel), “what have you made?” is similar to God’s response at the Tree, but it’s the fates of the serpent and Qayin that are eerily similar.  However, before delving into this mystery, we must understand how similar paths led to similar fates.

At first, both Qayin and the serpent were “the man”.  We know that the serpent was the wisest among the animals and Qayin was the stronger son who learned his father’s trade.  They were as privileged as royalty until someone else came along who – in their eyes – stole their favor.  To them, it wasn’t supposed to go down that way!

“Dumb humans, who don’t have any knowledge of good and evil? How could they be favored before me, the serpent, who is the wisest of all the beasts!? I will make them as I am and conquer them, and regain my rightful place over all creation!”

“Hevel!? That runt!? How can he be favored instead of me, Qayin!? I’m the one who was born strongest, and followed in my father’s footsteps!  Now it looks as if my parents favor him, along with God!  Nonsense! I will eliminate this competition, and regain my proper place!”

Thus the similarities in motivations led to similar fates:

 The Serpent’s Fate (Gen. 3:14-15)
Qayin’s Fate (Gen. 4:10-14)
Because you have made (asah) this…  What have you made (asah)? 
Cursed are you… Now you are cursed…
From all the cattle and every beast of the field… From the ground, which opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother by your hand.
Over your belly will you go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life. If you work the ground, it will not continue to give its produce to you. A waverer and a wanderer shall you become in the Earth.
And I will put enmity between your seed and her seed… he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel… It will come to pass, that anyone who comes upon me will kill me. 
X Rightly so. Whoever smites Qayin, seven times will I avenge him.  And YHVH set upon Qayin a sign, lest anyone come upon him to kill him.

Both the serpent and Qayin were judged by God for their mischief (what they made/worked), and cursed them from their previous, comfortable lives.  Both of them were informed of how they would experience life as a “wanderer”, and would have to rely on a new means of sustenance.  Both of them also knew of the enmity they would experience with Mankind in the future.

I’ve written before how at the Tree of Knowledge we became more like serpents than gods, and this seems to bring that theory home to roost.  Qayin’s motivations were like the serpent before him, which is why the shared similar fates. Thus we have our main takeaway:  God is showing us that we might all become like the snake. The serpent’s venom is within us. 

If we don’t control our lusts, we might go what the Apostle Yahudah (Jude) calls
“the way of Qayin” (Jude 11). Jude explains how this theme reoccurs throughout the Bible, and so we also have to expect it in our own lives.  We must constantly be on guard against politicians, pundits, predators, and false prophets who want to manipulate us, and subjugate us under an insatiable lust for power.

There is one and only thing that differs between the fates of the serpent and Qayin, and that is the mercy which is inexplicable to most of us.  We all struggle with Qayin’s “punishment” – or lack thereof.

I want to encourage you that there is always an answer for what we don’t understand in the Word of God.  The reasons for Qayin’s banishment are both practical and prophetic, and we will get to those answers soon, Lord willing! Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:1-3, Adam and Eve’s Not-so-Hidden Narrative

I have previously proposed that the serpent first encountered mankind when Adam “called out names to all the animals.” (Gen. 2:20) At that event, YHVH Elohim was also present “to see what the man would call them” (cf. 2:19). Furthermore, Adam wanted an ezer k’negedo (rescue as his opposite) in the same way God desired all mankind to have an ezer k’negedo (cf. 2:18, 21). At that moment, Adam’s will was the same as God’s will.

So the serpent found it impossible to “divine” and deceive Adam; Adam likely identified its trick and called out the derogatory name ‘nachash’! (Heb. for serpent, from the root for “to divine”).

This is not an earth-shattering revelation; God’s enemies cannot succeed if His people have a ‘let your will be done’ mentality. That’s been true since the Garden of Eden – literally!

So the serpent could not succeed (in regaining its lost power) if Adam continually followed God’s will. It needed a way to divert Adam’s will from YHVH’s. So it waited for the opportune time when the Presence was away:

And the serpent was clever from every beast of the field which YHVH Elohim made. And it said to the woman, “Even so God said ‘You will not eat from every tree of the garden.” (Genesis 3:1)

First, you may have noticed that the serpent’s statement is an incomplete sentence. In full disclosure, I couldn’t fully grasp the Hebrew. I was only slightly encouraged to learn that there is no consensus among Hebrew scholars as to what it says, but they do agree that the sentence is incomplete. The debatable part is the serpent’s first word af. From what I gather, it means something like “yet” or “although” because it seems to connect two sequential thoughts. For example, Psalm 44:9 denotes worship of the faithful… even so God has not turned to them. Or in Job 4:9, a figure says God puts no trust in angels… even so they who dwell in clay houses are destroyed…

So if the word af connects two relative ideas, what’s relative to the snake’s speech if it only seems to offer half a conversation? Well, let’s consider the last information we have before the snake slithers on scene. We see a joyful marriage of man and wife, and they were naked, but not ashamed (Gen. 2:24-25). Everything was awesome, right? Well, that’s what relative.

Everything was perfect; Even so, there was something unsettled in the happy couple. Though it’s not explicitly offered, it’s not hidden. We can still ascertain the couple’s dilemma based on the conversation that ensues.

So let’s compare the false prophet’s statement to the actual word of God. God never said ‘you will not eat of every tree of the garden.’ What He did say was “from every tree of the garden eating you will eat, but from the Tree of Knowledge you will not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it, by dying you will die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) So the serpent spun God’s original commandment in an entirely negative light. It omitted every detail about God’s luxurious gift, and focused on that lone. negative. aspect.

However, the serpent wasn’t the only one to spin God’s commandment:

“And the woman said to the serpent, “from fruit of the tree of the garden we may eat, and from fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden God said “You will not eat from it, and not lay a hand on it, lest we die.”” (Genesis 3:2)

If you compare her statement with God’s, you notice Eve both added and subtracted from the original Word. You may also know how dangerous that can be from the words of both Torah and Messiah:

  • You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you.(Deu. 4:2)
  • you no longer allow [a man] to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.” (Mark 7:13)

Nevertheless the entire word of blessing “eating you will eat” disappears from Eve’s lips. And likewise, eating from every tree became lumped into the fruit of just one tree. In other words, she makes everything God gave them 50/50 on-par with that one tree they couldn’t have. Next, she added the phrase “and not lay a hand on it.”

I proposed before that there was a purpose to the Tree of Knowledge, but it wasn’t for tempting Adam and Eve. Its purpose is open to conjecture, but it certainly wasn’t poison.

Eve is sometimes unfairly blamed, but she wasn’t there to hear the original commandment. Adam was responsible for teaching it to Eve, so it seems that he shoulders some of the blame for adding and redacting God’s Word.

But basically, Eve agreed with the serpent. The serpent said ‘you can’t eat it’ and the woman said ‘we can eat this… yep, you’re right, we can’t eat it.’ She would never rebuke the serpent as Adam had once done, because by this time the snake had learned their common denominator.

You see, the serpent exploited the unsettled narrative in Adam and Eve’s marriage. That lone tree grew in mystique until it became equal to everything YHVH gave them. Like all marriages, a husband and wife should carefully teach and observe the unadulterated Word without adding or redacting it, all the while thankful for every single BLESSING. However, that didn’t happen. They lost their thanksgiving, and in its place stood a negative narrative on everything… they couldn’t have.

And then the serpent entered stage right.

But the deception had roots in Adam and Eve well before the serpent joined the narrative.

If only I was there! I wouldn’t have focused on the one thing I couldn’t have… right?

Genesis 2:4-10 – Part 1: Run Down on the Run-On

Genesis 2 is admittedly a difficult passage to understand. The author uses ambiguous words, wordplays, idioms, grammar rules foreign to English speakers, and did not record events in a chronological order. In some places, the author(s) appear to leave incomplete sentences!

After interpreting Genesis 2:4-10, I found that I did not arrive at the same conclusions as the mainstream, but that’s fine, because I didn’t discover any common trends in its translation. At any rate, I feel that we are missing the point because we are so preoccupied by what the author said that we don’t consider what the author intended.

This first post is a study in the awkwardness of translation versus interpretation using Gen. 2:4-10 as an example, which concludes with my own interpretation of the text. Hopefully, it will also conclude with YOUR interpretation as well! The second post will be my apologetic explanation of why I think in Genesis 2, God puts man in his place, in more ways than we realize!

Translation Vs. Interpretation

Translation is difficult enough, but interpretation is an attempt to convey foreign thought into modern grammar and culture – which is far more challenging. As an example, the word-for-word, literal translation of Gen 2:4b-Gen 2:5d reads:

in day made yahweh elohim earth and sky and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every shrub of the field before it was in earth and every herb of the field before it sprouted when did not send rain yahweh elohim over the earth and man no to work the ground

You see, this is translated, but how do we interpret this!? Which words must we add (for it) to make sense in English? Should we insert ‘a’ or ‘the’ modifiers for the sake of ‘flow’? Do we translate words like shamayim by its practical term “sky” or by its more bias meaning of “Heaven?” What words should I capitalize? What about punctuation? How do I distinguish commas from periods; do I need brackets and/or parentheses?

However, the most important question of all is, ‘how do I determine the original author point-of-view and intentions!!?’

If I reading the above translation word-for-word, it may seem that Yahweh make heaven and earth, along with every shrub and plant before they even appeared on the earth… which is exactly how some interpret it! A certain religion headquartered in Utah interprets Genesis 2:5 to justify a “prior spirit creation“. In a similar vein, the 19th Century Methodist theologian Adam Clarke explained that this statement “describes how God made everything in maturity before placing it on the earth.” [N.B.: For the sake of brevity, I did not include other sources that support a similar interpretation, though there are several more.]

However, what if the statement “every shrub of the field before it was in the earth” is just an awkward way (for us) to say “before every shrub was in the earth”? Translated, this grammar confuses us Westerners, but it is just fine in Hebrew. You see, this second interpretation is vastly different than what some religions and theologians were inclined to believe because it accounts for the ancients’ style of writing. Now it’s true faulty interpretations could be nefarious, like say to satisfy a doctrinal agenda, but most of the time misreadings of the text miss something, like the context and culture of the ancient manuscript.

Returning to the translation of Gen. 2:4b-5, did shrubs and plants not sprout because there was no rain? Did God withhold rain because there were no men to work the ground, which suggests that all men were created to be farmers?

Furthermore, the translation “as is” suggests God delayed the creation of vegetation until He made man to cultivate the ground… sooooooo was mankind created before plant life? Isn’t that a contradiction of Genesis 1, where plants sprouted three days before mankind (cf. Gen. 1:11-13, 27-31)!? As exemplified at the 3:54 mark of this video, some theologians have just given up trying to harmonize Genesis 1 and 2, all because Genesis 2:4-7 is interpreted as if humans preceded vegetation.

I raise these thematic questions because all of them are subjects of commentaries and articles internal and external to the Kingdom of God. However, all such arguments have one thing in common: they are interpretations. While interested parties should investigate Genesis 2’s many interpretations for themselves, I also challenge readers to compare parallel translations of Genesis 2:4-10 and observe the differences in punctuation, sentence division, and to consider what these readings imply from the text.

Let’s Run Down the Run-On

With so many different interpretations of Genesis 2, why not try it ourselves?

The first difficulty is getting past its form, which is similar to an English run-on sentence. The “run-on” has a clear break in verse 10, but in actuality continues to verse 25. My focus will be on Genesis 2:4b-10.

Thoughts of the author(s) are separated by clauses, which are introduced by vav (-v; often transliterated -w) conjunctions. –v/w is usually translated “and” but can also mean “and therefore, also, then, or yet.”

Though -v is often used in a continuative sense, it can also be adversarial (and vs. but, respectively). It may also introduce circumstantial clauses, causal clauses, comparative clauses, purpose clauses, etc.1

The lone exception is the Hebrew kiy. Like –v, it also introduces clauses, such as “object clauses, clauses introducing direct narrative, causal clauses, conditional clauses, confirmatory clauses, adversative and exceptive clauses, temporal clauses, or result clauses.”2 It has about two dozen translations in biblical texts.

To demonstrate the run-on, I’ve transliterated Genesis 2:4b to Genesis 2:10 (where the run-on clearly breaks), separating each clause containing its own verb, while leaving every conjunction as is.

As you read, YOU will be responsible for identifying each kind of clause (conditional, causal, etc) which will determine how YOU translate each conjunction (and, because, but, then, yea, etc.). Additionally, YOU will be responsible for punctuation, and the insertion of any words conducive to “flow”. Therefore, modifiers such as a/an/the will be marked by (?). Additionally, hads/haves may be required – even if the verb form is active yet the context implies a passive event. YOU will simply have to judge if the context warrants it. Yes, there will be some words requiring an extra English word or verb to work; I did not translate these but hyperlinked them so YOU may pick the translation and verb combination to make it work. Don’t worry, you can italicize such inserts, but YOU will also have to omit any words you deem unnecessary. For ambiguous words having two or more possibilities, I simply used hyphens and translated all possibilities… all for YOU. You are encouraged to read further in the Bible to find contextual clues, or to compare usage of terms elsewhere. You may even use other Bible translations if you do not like my listed options, but your final translation must be easy-to-read, which means YOU must rearrange the word order as they originally appeared.

Fear not! All of the rules I’ve just levied on YOU, dear reader, are used by all translators of every holy book, everywhere! Now, YOU get to play by the same rules. Have at it!

2:4b b‘yôm ásôt y’hwäh élohiym eretz v’shämäyim [in (?) day yahweh elohim made (?) earth/land vav (?) sky(ies)/Heaven]

2:5a w’khol siyach haSädeh terem yih’yeh äretz [vav every/any shrub of the field before it was/became in (?) earth/land]

2:5b w’khäl ësev haSädeh terem yitz’mäch [vav every/any plant/herb of the field before it sprouted]

2:5c kiy lo him’tiyr y’hwäh élohiym al-hääretz [kiy did not himitiyr yahweh elohim  over/upon the earth]

2:5d w’ädäm ayin laávod et-häádämäh [vav man/Adam ayin to work/till the ground/soil]

2:6a w’ëd yaáleh min-hääretz [vav mist/fog/river ascended from the earth]

2:6b w’hish’qäh et-Käl-P’nëy-häádämäh [vav watered/irrigated (?) entire face of the ground]

2:7a waYiytzer y’hwäh élohiym et-häädäm äfär min-häádämäh [vav formed yahweh elohim the man of clay from the ground/soil]

2:7b waYiPach B’aPäyw nish’mat chaYiym [vav breathed in face/nose (?) breath of life(ves)]

2:7c way’hiy häädäm l’nefesh chaYäh [vav was/became the man to being of life]

2:8a waYita y’hwäh élohiym Gan-B’ëden mi-Qedem [vav yahweh elohim planted a garden in eden from East/long ago]

2:8b waYäsem shäm et-häädäm ásher yätzär [vav emplaced/gave there the man whom he formed]

2:9a waYatz’mach y’hwäh élohiym min-häádämäh Käl-ëtz nech’mäd l’mar’eh [vav yahweh elohim sprouted from the ground/soil every tree delightful to sight]

2:9b w’tôv l’maákhäl [vav good to eat]

2:9c w’ëtz hachaYiym B’tôkh’ haGän w’ëtz haDaat tôv [vav (?) tree of the life(ves) in center of the garden vav (?) tree of the knowledge of good vav evil]

2:10a w’nähär yotzë më-ëden l’hash’qôt et-haGän [vav river sprang from Eden to water/irrigate the garden]

2:10b vmi-SHäm yiPärëd [vav from there it parted/divided/scattered/separated]

2:10c w‘häyäh l’ar’Bääh räshiym [vav was/became four heads.]

So, did you get something similar to me?

In the day Yahweh Elohim made land and sky-
before any shrub of the field was on Earth,
before any plant of the field had sprouted,
when Yahweh Elohim did not bring rain over the Earth,
without a man to work the soil.
Yet fog ascended from the Earth
and watered the whole face of the soil.
And Yahweh Elohim formed “the man of clay” from the soil
and breathed into his face a breath of life.
Then man became a living being.
Now Yahweh Elohim had planted a garden in Eden long ago,
and there emplaced the man whom He formed.
Now Yahweh Elohim sprouted from the soil every tree pleasing to sight,
and good for food –
including a tree of the Life in the midst of the garden,
and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now a river flowed from Eden and irrigated the garden;
but from there it was scattered
and became four heads.

In my interpretation, the clauses are variable, the -vav conjunctions do not always begin continual clauses, and I’ve used “now” to denote clauses which are clearly not chronological. I used scare quotes to carry over an intricacy of the text. Additionally, I used hyphens and different translations for some of the words, including where I think verbs are better understood in a different tense!

If you’ve played along you may have arrived to a different conclusion. Hopefully, I’ve at least demonstrated how difficult translating versus interpreting can be, especially with awkward readings in Hebrew. Once again, I invite enquiring minds to read parallel versions of this passage, to see how many scholars can reach different conclusions.

In my next post, I will defend my own interpretation by establishing the author’s point-of-view and thus, proper context.♦

¹ Mickelson, A Berkeley. “Interpreting the Bible”. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1972; p. 141.
² ibid.

Genesis 1:1, The Beauty of ‘Bara’

In my last blog post on Genesis (Beresheeth) 1:1, I described the significance of the words “In the beginning God” which introduces the curious mind to the Set-Apart Scriptures and also begins to answer what I call the Two Big Questions: ‘Where have I come from?’ and ‘Where am I going?’ I proposed that God made no pretext but immediately takes responsibility for ownership of the heavens and the earth and implies an ending by declaring a “beginning”.

Now let’s dig a little deeper, unraveling a potential mystery hidden beneath the words. There is a hidden beauty in Hebrew of Genesis 1:1, transliterated here as:

~    b’resheet                 bara      elohim et hashamayim v’et     haaretz ~
(In the beginning) (created) (God)     (the heavens) (and) (the earth)

[White Rabbit: the ‘et’ is the Aleph-Tav phenomenon in Hebrew. It marks the direct object to denote which noun is receiving the action of the verb. In this case, the heavens (shamayim) and earth (aretz) are the direct objects of ‘bara’. Now, the alef is the first letter in the Hebrew alef-bet, and tav is the last. So in other words, this is the “Alef and the Tav”, the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalent of “Alpha and Omega”[1] which is why it carries such a mysterious significance. Despite being a marker of a direct object, it only appears 22 times throughout the Tanakh, so that when it is used, it’s significant. This will surely be a topic in later posts, but for now, there is a deep mystery surrounding the use of alef-tav, especially when it appears alongside ‘elohim’. It’s like a title “Elohim Alef-Tav” which certainly reminds me of someone…]

I recognize transliteration is a junkyard dog version of its pedigree form, but it serves our purpose well enough. It is melodious enough, but I wonder, “why the generic bara?” Bara is a term that describes something new and is usually translated “create” but not always. I mean, this is THE first line in the whole Bible, couldn’t God have used a more glamorous verb to describe His creative power? After all, ‘bara’ is one of many terms used to describe God’s creation, and it often appears jumbled together with superior, more poetic synonyms in several synonymous parallelisms found throughout the Word of God:

“For, behold, he who forms (yatsar) the mountains, and creates (bara) the wind, and declares (nagad) to man what is his thought; who makes (‘asah) the morning darkness…” (Amos 4:13, emphasis mine)

“For the LORD who created (bara) the heavens, the God who formed (yatsar) the earth and made (‘asah) it, who established (kuwn) it…” (Isaiah 45:18, emphasis mine)

Now, the above is just two examples, but other candidates are natah (stretch out), parah (bring forth), tsamach (to erupt/spring up), and even tsavah (command/appoint). These verbs and even more are used to describe the creation power of God.

‘Bara’ certainly is a logical candidate, but any of these verbs could have worked. After all, Genesis 1:1 is only an introductory statement for the detailed step-by-step account of the creation week featured in the rest of the chapter. We’d almost expect the verb ‘naga’ (declared) or the beautiful ‘tsava’ (appointed) to prepare us for all the  “And God said/then God said/and God blessed them and said” statements which ensue. Other scriptures describe the heavens coming into being by the word of God [2] or that the worlds were framed by the word of God [3], so why this generic ‘bara’? Couldn’t there have been a more dramatic verb to highlight the first existence of our heavens and earth?

The answer, I believe, is in the pattern, and Elohim Alef-Tav gave us an absolute gem. As we saw in the transliteration, the very first word the Bible is b’resheet. The second is ‘bara’, so in effect we have two sequential b-r words kick-starting the Set-Apart Scriptures (Note: In ancient Hebrew, there were no vowels. Vowels were invented by scribes in later centuries). Now, you might be thinking “coincidence, please”, and it would be just a coincidence- if this were any other literary work. But this is in the very Word of God; no word was chosen by accident. Now, in Hebrew there exists a phenomenon that simply doesn’t exist in English, which is that every letter corresponds with a real word. So, given that we have two consecutive words beginning with the Hebrew letters ‘bet’ and ‘resh’, we can investigate this pattern which is laid out for us. Now ‘bet‘ corresponds with the Hebrew ‘bayit’ which is a house, and ‘resh‘ literally means head, but most often in the sense of a something new (like in b’resheet- “beginning”, or as in rosh chodesh-“new moon”). So, in other words, God is trying to get our attention by reiterating a picture of a new house.

Now, what is God trying to say by “new house”? Well, in ancient Israel, and every other culture, a young man built a new house when he was ready… to choose a wife. You see, a man would get engaged to a wife, but then would leave her with her family while He left to build them a house, usually in his father’s estate. And that, of course, reminds us of Messiah Yeshua. This is the context of His words just before He left us the first time, with the promise of a return for His bride:

“In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.” (John 14:2-3)

Last time I suggested that God implied an ending by establishing a “beginning”. This time, I suggest God is hinting at that ending through the choice of His words. He created us with the intent of selecting a bride, and He started building a house for that Bride when He built the heavens and the earth. This is the reason He bothered with “bara”-ing us. His estate is vast, there is plenty of room, and He promises to return for us. That is our destiny and the ending He always designed us to have.


[1] Cff. Revelation 22:13.

[2] 2 Peter 3:5.

[3] Hebrews 11:3.