Posts tagged “Misinterpretation

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

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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 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 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.

Why Genesis 2:4 Should Be Divided

The following is the current translation of Genesis 2:4 in today’s most popular Bibles:

  • These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, (KJV)
  • This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. (NIV)
  • These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. (ESV)
  • This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth.

The Man and Woman in Eden

When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, (NLT)

Of all the top four English versions, I believe only the New Living Translation got it right, because it divides Genesis 2:4 into two parts. The NLT grouped 2:4a with the rest of the first week (Gen. 1:1-2:4a), while the second part is grouped with the creation of mankind (Gen. 2:4b-24). In this post, I will also propose why Genesis 2:4 should be read as separate thoughts.

In the other three versions, Gen. 2:4 is redundant and looks like circular reasoning – saying the exact same thing twice. While it is true Semitic writings feature synonymous parallels, this text doesn’t substitute synonyms for its nouns, nor is it poetry.

This awkward reading is the first indication that an improper scriptural division took place – perhaps 800 years ago! While chapter-and-verse divisions have given the Judeo-Christian world a valuable convenience, improper divisions can be misleading. I am not saying divisions are unnecessary, but I do believe after 800 years of scholarship that it might be time to reevaluate them.

First, let’s consider that Genesis 2:1-3, explaining the Seventh Day, is separated from the other six days of creation (Genesis 1). However, it makes more logical sense if it were read as one continuous thought with the rest of creation week. Assuming this for the sake of the argument, a “reorganized” Genesis 2 begins with the redundant Genesis 2:4.

Why Genesis 2:4 Should Be Divided

The first part of Genesis 2:4 reads: “this is the history of the heavens and the earth in their creation” (elleh toledot ha-shamayim v’ha-aretz b’hi-baram). Of course, this line is quite similar to Genesis 1:1’s “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Therefore, it might be that Genesis 1:1 and 2:4a are “bookends” for the Creation Week, acting as introductory and closing statements. There is nothing contextually wrong with this reading. The Hebrew elleh (this) can be an antecedent or precedent modifier; it can definitely be used as an antecedent, in this case describing things aforementioned (the creation of the heavens and the earth). While this is not “proof” by any stretch, the close resemblance of Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:4a is a second indicator that Genesis 2:4 should be split (the first being an illogical and awkward reading).

Additionally, the author of Genesis 2:4a uses the root bara (“create” in an absolute sense); bara is used five other times in Genesis 1 but not found again until Genesis 5 – the third indication Genesis 2:4a and Genesis 1 belong together.

Additionally, Genesis 2:4a also uses definitive articles ‘the’ with shamayim and eretz (ha-shamayim; ha-aretz) – also matching Genesis 1, but Genesis 2:4b (b’yom asot y’hwh elohim eretz w’shamayim) does not (Note: This could lead to different interpretations of the text, see below); In other words, we have a fourth indication the verses do not belong together.

Speaking of heavens and earth, the order in which the two terms appear in the written text is switched; in 2:4a hashamayim precedes haaretz, but in 2:4b eretz is before shamayim). This is the fifth indication that the two lines were written by separate authors.

By Context

Context also plays a part in determining its placement, and is the sixth indication Genesis 2:4 should be read as two thoughts. For instance, Genesis 2:4 reads “elleh toledot ha-shamayim v’ha-aretz b’hi-baram”, literally “This is the history (lit. generations) of the heavens and the earth in their creation.” However, in context, the rest of Genesis 2 doesn’t address “generations” of the heavens and the earth; it portrays an intimate creation of man and woman, and the role of mankind on the earth with His creator. The generations of the heavens and the earth are detailed in Genesis 1, which is a day-by-day historical account, which makes more sense. Likewise, the absence of a definitive article “ha” with eretz and shamayim in 2:4b can arguably be translated more generally as “land” and “sky” (b’yom asot y’hwh elohim eretz w’shamayim: When YHVH Elohim made land and sky…)

Additionally, the author of Genesis 2:4b uses the Hebrew word for day (yom) in the context of an idiom (b’yom; lit. “in the day” but simply meaning “when”), the title of YHVH, and lumps elements of creation together when read with Genesis 2:5: land, sky, shrubs, herbs, rain, etc.). Lumping these elements together does not describe a history, just an introduction to his real intent of portraying man’s relationship to YHVH Elohim.

Conclusion 

Nothing I proposed in this post is earth-shattering; on the scale of relevance this would register a low input. However, this is a good example of improper biblical division, and can serve as a good reminder that while chapters and verses are convenient, they are not absolute.

I based my decision on at least six indications that Genesis 2:4 was written by two separate authors:

  • In its entirety, Genesis 2:4 is circular and doesn’t make sense in translated English or the original Hebrew.
  • Genesis 2:4a appears to be a closing statement, just as Genesis 1:1 is an opening statement.
  • The author of 2:4a uses the bara verb, which is used five other times in Genesis 1 but never again in the second creation account.
  • The author of 2:4a uses definitive articles (hashamayim and haaretz); the author of 2:4b does not.
  • The word order of shamayim and eretz is switched as one reads 2:4a to 2:4b.
  • The context of the statement “toledot hashamayim v’haaretz” – generations of the heavens and earth – matches the historical context of Genesis 1 but not the context of the second creation account’s focus on intimacy.

Genesis 2:4a should finish Chapter 1, and 2:4b should begin Genesis’s second chapter. This may seem like a minor thing, but I believe starting the second creation account with its rightful introduction will help alleviate confusion and help establish proper context, which I will address in later posts.

Genesis 2:4, In the Day of Fallacies

“This is the history of the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” (Genesis 2:4, emphasis mine)

The Hebrew word “yom” means a day – literally a 24-hour period – and we can see it demonstrated by six “evening and morning”-s throughout Genesis 1. As we turn the page, we read the phrase “in the day” (b’yom: yom attached to a –b proclitic indicating to a in/among/within type of preposition).

However, some use the Genesis 2:4 “in the day” way too metaphorically in order to justify longer timeframes of the Creation account in Genesis 1, most often to allow the Bible to “harmonize” with evolutionary theory. The thinking is, yom can refer to a period longer than an evening-to-morning day, since yom of Genesis 2:4 encompasses all six “days” of creation. Consider the following quotes:

As early as Genesis 2:4 we see yowm in the singular with an attached infinitive used to indicate an extended period of time.” (accuracyingenesis.com)

Here, the word ‘day’ (yôm) refers to all six creation days, a period longer than 24 hours. . . . the wording of this verse challenges the assertion that the word ‘day’ (yôm) in the creation account can only refer to a period of 24 hours.” (Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days, NavPress, 2004; p. 76. From creationbc.org)

The sad truth is that this assertion of an “extended” period of time for the b’yom of Genesis 2:4 is a textbook “it does not follow” fallacy. Case in point: Hugh Ross’s admittance in the above quote that yomrefers to all six creation days” (of Genesis 1), before proceeding to change the meaning of yom in Genesis 1 to a period of ages or aeons. However, if the context of Genesis 1 dictates six “evening and morning” solar days – which it certainly does, then Dr. Ross commits a non-sequitur by abandoning the very context of Genesis 1 he set out to judge.

[White Rabbit: The above non-sequitur is a good example of a Ph.D. committing a logical fallacy. We must always judge claims by content, without being intimidated by academic accomplishments].

In a more objective context, the phrase “b’yom” in Genesis 2:4 is an idiomatic expression similar to the English “at that time” or “back then”, but basically meaning “when”. This idiom is evidenced in other biblical passages (such as Gen. 35:3, Num. 10:10, or Psa. 20:1). Additionally, yom appears in other idioms and expressions, but as in all cases of biblical extrapolation, we make a final determination of a phrase’s meaning by context, context, and more context. In the context of Genesis 2:4, it is referring to the other things created during the timeframe – plants, animals, and man. Therefore, I understand that this b’yom is an idiomatic expression referring to the time when each of these things were created as a whole.

Taking such clearly demonstrated idioms out of context to suit a cause, like harmonizing evolutionary theory, is misrepresentation. I fear that such misrepresentation occurs when a mindset (i.e. theistic evolution) trumps over what the Bible says in its original context.

This will certainly not be my last post challenging such misuse of Scripture, and the fallacies surrounding them, all the while presenting what the Bible truly says.♦

Genesis 1:1, God Created the Heavens… Which One?

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

In this verse, “heavens” is the translation from the Hebrew shamayim. Judging from what we see in both religious and skeptic sources, it would seem shamayim means the following:

  • Skeptic’s Annotated Bible: “the earth and “heaven” are created together “in the beginning,” whereas according to current estimates, the earth and universe are about 4.6 and 13.7 billion years old, respectively.”
  • The Good Atheist: “Even at the very beginning, it doesn’t sound like anything a scientist would say when describing the birth of the universe.”
  • Apologetics Press: “The most fundamental question that a person can (and should) ask is: “Where did the Universe and everything in it (including myself) come from?” … It is fitting that the only God-inspired book in the world—the Bible—answers this very question in its opening statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.””
  • Institute for Creation Research: “the absolute origin of the universe.”
  • Answers in Genesis: “God created the space-mass-time universe
  • The International Standard Version: Translates Genesis 1:1 as “In the beginning God created the Universe.”

These definitions attempt to extrapolate shamayim (as recorded in Genesis 1:1) to represent the entire Universe, with its 170 billion+ galaxies, septillion stars, and countless more planets, asteroids, and other phenomena. That seems like a pretty big place, but is this what the Scriptures describe? What if we read the Bible without any outside noise to see how the Bible alone defines “shamayim”?

First of all, shamayim does appear in its plural form [the –im suffix denotes plurality of Hebrew nouns] hence shamayim is correctly translated as ‘heavens’ in half of English bibles translations (NIV, ESV, NASB et al). However, like some other Hebrew words, shamayim does not appear in the singular, thus it also can be correctly rendered ‘heaven’, which is the preference in the other half of English translations (KJV, ERV, WBT, JPS et al). Ambiguous translations like these arise; when they do we should rely on context for  proper interpretation. Fortunately for some words like shamayim, they reappear multiple times throughout a particular context- in this case, throughout the Creation week.

In terms of composition, Genesis 1:1 is a topic sentence, establishing the main point (“God created the heavens and the earth”) before the following material elaborates (how it was created). It is also an introductory sentence and has a conclusion statement counterpart in Genesis 2:1- “The heavens, the earth, and all their vast array were finished.” These two sentences act as ‘bookends’ for the creation week; they describe the events written following and preceding Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 2:1, respectively. Therefore, the shamayim in Genesis 1:1 is the same shamayim in Genesis 2:1, as is every shamayim in between. Therefore, I suggest translations of shamayim should be consistent to avoid confusion. They are the same after all. For example, this is how the NIV translates Genesis 1:1 and 1:7-8:

“1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

“7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.””

Both of the bolded words above are shamayim. However, the NIV translates it into two separate words, and the first is plural and the second is singular! However, they both describe the same event! This allows too much flexibility, which leads to applying Genesis 1:1 to the Universe (as exemplified above), and then extrapolating the same shamayim in Genesis 1:8 to just the Earth’s sky and/or atmosphere.  For the average reader, it’s nearly impossible to ascertain truth with multiple translations for the same word within a passage designed to be one complete thought.

Now here are some places shamayim is used from Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:1:

In the beginning, God created the shamayim and the earth. (1:1)

God said, “Let there be an expanse in the middle of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse “shamayim”. (1:6-8)

God said, “Let the waters under the shamayim be gathered together to one place, and let the dry land appear” (1:9)

4 God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the shamayim to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs to mark seasons, days, and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the expanse of the shamayim to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the shamayim to give light to the earth. (1:14-17)

God said, “Let the waters abound with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the shamayim.” (1:20)

The shamayim, the earth, and all their vast array were finished. (2:1)

From these occurrences, this is what we do know about shamayim:
1. shamayim divides the surface of the earth from everything above.
2. Bodies of water (clouds perhaps) different from bodies of water on the earth were originally in the shamayim.
3. The sun, the moon, and the stars- two great luminaries with their vast array give light on the earth and are for signs and seasons-were placed in the shamayim.
4. Birds can also fly in the shamayim.

So this is what we know about shamayim: it hosts the sun, moon, stars and… birds? So we see, shamayim does not match what we currently know about atmospheres, the solar system, light years, etc. In fact, it seems that Genesis 1 only records things which we can see… from the perspective of the earth!

Is there further evidence of this? Yes, of course! First of all, we must see where God was when “He created the shamayim and the earth.” Genesis 1:2 says this:

“The earth was formless and empty. Darkness was on the surface of the deep and God’s Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters.”

So, we see God came down in the beginning, and created the shamayim while hovering above the surface of earth. Secondly, we have already seen how God hung the sun, moon, and stars “to give light on the earth”; they were also “for signs and seasons”. This is to say, unless we can see its light from the earth, it does not apply to Genesis 1. This is further evidenced by the decree for them “to be signs and for seasons”. It is self-evident, that if these created lights cannot be seen from the earth, they are not a sign, and likewise do not apply to the Genesis account. However, God’s design of the constellations, the cycles of the moon, eclipses, and the planets- indeed, we see their beauty as gifts.

Many skeptics, apologists, and translators alike want the shamayim of Genesis 1 to represent the entire Universe, as noted above. While doing so fits their purposes, I suggest that it is a mistake and adds to the Bible as its written. The heaven above us- shamayim– is like a living painting which constantly changes. It glimmers like diamonds, it weeps with rain, it winks at us like a crescent of the moon. God has brought it a long way from the darkness that encompassed this small corner of space like in the beginning; it is now teeming with light and wonders. However, shamayim is only what we can see with our collective naked eye- nothing more, and nothing less. It does not apply to the rest of the Universe.

Now, should we be ignorant of the greater Universe beyond our beautifully designed shamayim? Of course not! The Bible gives us a glimpse of that beauty beyond as well:

“But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens [shamayim v’shamye hashamayim] can’t contain you; how much less this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

We have always known of a vast Universe of possibility beyond that which we can see with our eyes (and also what we can conceive by our puny minds). Whatever the Universe is, it’s not big enough to limit our God. However, He does want us to know the beauty of our own shamayim, which is why we must stop extrapolating Genesis to represent beyond what we can see. For example, Genesis 2:1 says “the shamayim, and the earth, and all their vast array were finished”. If we assume here that shamayim means “the Universe”, we limit God from further creating anything else throughout time and space. But if we limit ourselves to read what’s simply written in Genesis, ascribing to it only what we can see, then God’s creative power remains limitless.

I’m not suggesting that arguments for the “Age of the Universe” or scientific observations are false; I’m just saying that Genesis 1 should not be evidence for such arguments. It might be true for our own galaxy, but even that is pushing the limitations of Genesis. Genesis 1 simply does not discuss the creation of time, matter, or even other galaxies besides the Milky Way. That information- at least from a biblical perspective- is pure conjecture. Information about “the heaven of heavens” may be hidden from us, but in the end, does it really matter?

What is obvious is that God chose this corner of space for us, as the Scriptures point to one certain truth: God created a shamayim for us somewhere, and that place is wonderfully here. Since the beginning of our time until now, we live under these “shamayim” discovering the One who made them- with us on His mind.♦