Friday, February 12, 2016

Genesis 4-5 : Old testament Survey

Genesis 4: The First Sibling Rivalry

 

And so, as per genesis 3, Eve was to know the pain of Childbirth. She first bore a son named Cain, who was followed by another son, known as Abel  CAin and  Abel grew up, and Cain became a tiller of the soil, while Abel plied his trade as a shepherd.

The time came where they were to sacrifice to the God of heir father, and this is where the trouble began.  Cain showed up with some vegetables from his crop to offer.   While Abel brought the first born of his flock.  God accepted Abel’s sacrifice , but not Cain’s.

Why would that be, considering both men sacrificed from the fruits of their labours? what kind of God would do that kind of thing?

The first possible answer to that question can be prefaced by the old clich√©: “The devil’s in the details”

So let’s look at how the story is framed:

Genesis 4 3: (Jerusalem Bible) “Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Yahweh, while Abel for his part brought the first born of his flock and some of the fat as well. Yahweh looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offfering and Cain was very angry and downcast.  Yahweh asked Cain, ‘why are you so angry and downcast? If you are well disposed ought you not lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?’”

The implication here is that Abel obediently presented the first born of his flock AND a little something extra, which would indicate he was giving out f a genuinely grateful heart that sought after God, while Cain appears to be giving grudgingly out of a sense of obligation. There is no indication  that the sacrifice he brought  was the first fruits of his harvest.   Weight is given to this interpretation because it seems that God was gently admonishing him, and encouraging him to look at his heart and his attitude.

 

The other angle here, and I give less weight to it, is that Abel’s sacrifice was a blood offering, as if he knew that it required a blood sacrifice to atone for his sins.  The reason I give that less eight, is that it had not yet been revealed at that point that blood sacrifice was required.  that comes later as we will see.   If this is the case, then Cain’s sacrifice would not have been acceptable because it was not a blood sacrifice. As we shall see later when sacrifices are dealt with in more detail, Cain would have been expected to sell some of his produce and use the money to buy an animal for sacrifice.

 

This brings us to the point where we need to explain the concept of “Progressive Revelation” which is what the Bible is.  God progressively reveals himself to and through the Jewish people whom He chose for Himself for that purpose.  It should also be explained that  we are not to look upon the Jews as better or worse than any other people , but rather as the people through whom God chose to reveal Himself.  Some of the actions we shall read about as we move along in this survey would certainly indicate they were no less sinners than anyone else. Had God chosen any other people, The Chinese, the Afghans or whoever, the story would have been similar as the hearts of all men are sinful. Who can know it?

Sadly for Cain,  he chose poorly. he did not heed God’s admonishment, and instead resented his brother Abel and slew him by luring him out to the open country and killing him. 

 

Cain thought , like many of us, that he was too “small potatoes” for God to really pay attention to him, but God called him out and asked him (verse 9) “Where is your brother Abel” to which he replied as i he didn’t know “Am I my brother’s keeper?” . Then God put the facts of the case in very strong language  (verse 10) “What Have you done?” Yahweh asked. “Listen to the sound of your brother’s blood , crying out to me from the ground that has opened up its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands”..... tthen sentence was pronounced immediately “ When you till the ground it shall no longer yield you any of its produce. You shall be a fugitive, and a wanderer over the earth” .
Cain saw he had a tough road to hie ahead of him. He would live out the rest of his days as a beggar, a scavenger and a fugitive.  He pleaded for some mercy, and found it. He told God that his life would be in danger, and God put a ark on him, we do not know what it was, that would prevent whoever might come across him from striking him down.  He then went and settled, we are told, in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

At some point in his life, Cain had married, and had established a town which he named after his firstborn , and possibly only, son, Enoch.  The rest of the chapter goes into the genealogy of Cain’s line until the time of Noah. 
Many people get lost in the Old testament and give up because of the confusing genealogies, but I would urge  people to read them as they are an important part of the progressive revelation  of God, which all builds up to the coming of Christ in the New testament, and can help establish that  Jesus was very real, as we can actually trace his ancestors all the way back to Adam.
Cain’s descendants are listed in verses 17-24, and you can read about them for yourself.  8 generations down we come to a man named Tubal-Cain who is said to have discovered metallurgy, and he is worthy of mention, because his sister, Naamah is also mentioned. Though the Bible does not make the claim, some Jewish rabbinical and theological sources have said they believe Naamah may have been the wife of Noah, and Noah’s wife, whoever she may have actually been, was a redeemed woman as she was one of the survivors of the flood.  Why would this be an important detail?  It would indicate that even the line of Cain could receive redemption by God’s mercy.

The chapter closes with Adam “knowing” Eve once more and eve giving birth to a third son, whom hey named Seth.  and we learn that Seth lived into adulthood, and his line continued with a son named Enosh.

Genesis 5 is one long genealogy  which picks up at Enosh, and then introduces all of what were to be Jesus direct paternal ancestors down to Noah and his sons  It gives the name of the son of note, and the age at which that son was born, and how many years thereafter the man lived in each case, except that of Enoch, of whom it was said “walked with God” and became the father of Methuselah whose claim to fame is being the oldest man who ever lived (969 years). Enoch’s case is special, since it was said, again that he walked with God, then he vanished, because God took him.  A foreshadowing of the prophet Elijah, perhaps?  The chapter ends with Noah reaching the age of 500 years, and then fathering Shem, Japheth and Ham.

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