Posts tagged “Mistranslation

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. ♦

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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 3:22-25, Answering Uncomfortable Questions

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

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

Who is this “us”?

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

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

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

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

Why Put the Cherubim in the East? 

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

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

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

“The Sword that Turned Itself Back”

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 2:18-24, God Appoints Spouses

And said Yahweh Elohim, “Not good the man be to his self! I will eseh him a rescue as his opposite.” And Yahweh Elohim had formed from the clay every beast of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see how he would call them. And all by which the man called the living beast – it is so named. And the man called out names to all livestock, and to birds of the sky, and to all beasts of the field; but for Adam there was not found help as his opposite. Yahweh Elohim befell a deep sleep over the man, and he slept. And He took first from his side, then closed up flesh in its place. And Yahweh Elohim built the side which he took from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh. Thus I will call her ‘woman,’ because she was thus taken from man.” For yes, a man leaves his father and his mother, and clings to his wife: and they become as one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24, my literal interpretation except for eseh)

The Hebrew word eseh is universally translated “to make” in Genesis 2:18, but I’m not sure it fits the context of the next six verses. Eseh appears often in the Hebrew Bible –2,633 times – and is translated at least 100 different ways according to the Strong’s reference. As Strong’s suggests, it can fit “a wide variety of applications.” It is very similar to “make” in English, as in “I make dinner.” “Make dinner” doesn’t mean dinner is created out of thin air; ‘make’ describes several actions with just one word. “Make” sums up the washing, prepping, mixing, cooking, and serving of dinner. The same logic must be applied to the eseh of Genesis 2:18.

Translators seemingly favor “make” because they equivocate verse 18 with the formation of Eve from Adam (vs. 23), but the context uses different verbs to describe how God eseh-s a rescue for Adam (“helpmate” is closer to rescue). God orchestrates many actions to bring about the man’s “rescue”.

In vs. 19, the verb bo (to come/to bring) is used instead. In vs. 20, matza (“did not find”) appears. In verse 22, banah (to build) describes the construction of a woman. Finally, in the actual matchmaking event, bo describes the presentation of Eve to Adam. All these verbs elaborate God’s originally intent: to eseh a rescue for Adam. The eseh refers to the overall process – it doesn’t necessarily refer to the creation of Eve.

I believe that the choice of eseh in vs. 18 was by design. The reason being, couples may feel like God makes, brings, finds, appoints, establishes, or any of the 100+ arbitrary translations used to describe how God enjoined them – just like the Adam and Eve story. 100 couples might each use 100 different descriptors to tell their own marriage story, but they’d all be “right”.

I think the best all-encompassing translation for this eseh is “appoint”. For example, God eseh-s the sun and moon for a purpose… “to RULE over day and night” and “for seasons” (Genesis 1:7, Psalm 104:19). Translators also favor “make” in Genesis 1:7, but “appointed” makes more sense as “rule and dominion” reflect a royal appointment. Genesis 1 is poetry and metaphor, but it’s the same description of God eseh-ing Shaul (Saul) and David to RULE the kingdom of Yis’rael, or God appointing Moshe and Aharon (1 Samuel 12:6). There are several other examples showing eseh’s association with royalty, which is why “appoint” should usurp biblical translations for eseh in Genesis 2:18. I believe this would assist readers in the following ways:

1) Along with ezer properly translated as “rescue” (instead of the implied inferiority of “helpmate”), a translation of “appoint” for eseh will undoubtedly show women were created as equal counterparts to men.

2) It will give men a sense that women are likened with royal authority, as they are appointed to be mens’ rescue. They are in charge of mens’ well-being, and respite from labor. A man should keep his wife happy as his co-regent “queen”, as she keeps him happy.

3) “Appoint” would ease the contrast between women and animals throughout the next six verses. It will easily teach how animals do not meet the standard of male companionship. However, as the passage ends with the first marriage “appointed” as one flesh, it will teach males to speak to women as a queen, not as an animal!

4) No man or woman should fear asking God for help in finding a spouse. God longs to bring marriages together; a good translation of “appoint” establishes that truth starting in Genesis and continuing throughout the Scriptures – including the words of Yeshua:

He answered, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.(Matt. 19:4-6)

God IS actively interested in appointing a wife to every man! If God appointed the sun and moon to their courses, then how much more will He appoint a bride? We can say it 100+ different ways, but God appoints spouses. He gets it done. He makes marriages happen. He does it out of love.♦

Genesis 2:18, There is No Such Thing as a “Help-Mate”

And Yahweh Elohim said, “Not good the man be to his self! I will appoint him [ezer] as his opposite.” (Genesis 2:18, my interpretation)

What if “helpmate” did not actually appear in Genesis 2:18?

“lo-tov heyot ha-adam l’vad-o / eeseh-l’o ezer k’neged-o” (not good be to his self / I will appoint for him aid as his opposite)

This is the only passage “ezer” is translated as “helper”, “helpmate” or “help-meet” in the whole Hebrew Bible, which is quite suspect. Such a translation makes it seem like a woman was designed for a support role, an ‘executive assistant’ to a man’s entitlement of ‘CEO’. The rest of the passage hangs on the proper translation of ezer; if it implies a sense of inferiority, then women would be viewed slightly more valuable than the cattle or birds of the air which Adam would eventually name (see vv. 19-20).

The fact is, the rest of God’s Word does not define ezer with even a hint of inferiority. In actuality, it fits a context similar to:

And the name of the one- Eliezer, for [Moses said] “the God of my father (brought) my ezer, and he would take me from the sword of Pharaoh.” (cf. Exodus 18:4)

Moshe felt rescued from the hand of Pharaoh, as ezer describes a type of deliverance or relief from distress. In the Psalms, the power to “ezer” is ascribed to Yahweh, continuing the praises of Moshe in the Torah. According to the rest of Tanakh, YHVH brought ezer by swallowing up Pharaoh’s armies in the Sea of Reeds, or becoming an ezer to shield Israel. Therefore, Almighty God didn’t just “assist” Israel, He brought about great rescues!

Thus, it seems the real reason God created a woman was for a man’s rescue… and how does she rescue him? As the text literally says “not good the man be to his self” it’s apparent she rescues a man… from himself!

This is not to say that men are complete messes before women enter their lives… sorry ladies. The text also says that a man’s alternative is “to be to his self.” God calls such solitude as “not good”, a paraphrased way of saying “it’s evil.” Therefore, a woman’s open arms rescue him from a boring, lonely, and thus evil life. Yet there is even another way a woman rescues a man from himself.

The word ezer is paired with neged, meaning a “counter, opposite, side.” When placed together in the phrase “ezer k’negedo“, it means “rescue as his opposite.” This phrase appears not once, but twice in the passage (vv. 18 and 20) to emphasize the role of a woman, which reads like an oxymoron! So how does a woman rescue but oppose a man at the same time?

She does this by providing her point of view. You see, women have to counter the rationale of their men with her intuition and reasoning, which may save him from making mistakes and error. For this reason, society makes a grave error by condoning that women be and think exactly like men. The Bible would argue that she must be a type of opposite to think differently and provide such intelligence to her spouse! Otherwise, the world would be trapped in man-think and be doomed.

A man with his wife is like a man talking to himself in a mirror… but his reflection – his opposite – answers. So it is when a man looks at his wife. For this reason the Scriptures are filled with words such as:

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:28)

Such words are a continuation of the precedent set forth by God in the Beginning. From Genesis to Ephesians and beyond, it’s quite clear the text of the Bible calls woman complete and utter equals to men, a valuable rescue in the life of man. It is not right to call her a “helper”. She can and does provide so much more. ♦

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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