A Monument to Man’s Futility

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. Genesis 11:1-9 ESV

With the opening verses of chapter 11, Moses provides an explanation of an earlier comment he made regarding Peleg, a descendant of Shem.

To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided – Genesis 10:25 ESV

The genealogy of Shem found in chapter 10 contains no lineage for Peleg. It simply mentions his name, then moves on to his brother Joktan. But Moses had a good reason for leaving out Peleg. He wanted to emphasize another major turning point in mankind’s story of expansion and moral degeneration. The sons of Noah were filling the earth, just as God had commanded. But as the genealogy of Ham revealed, the spread of mankind was accompanied by a rising number of people groups who would later be characterized as idolatrous, licentious, and evil. The existence of nations like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon was the direct result of Noah’s sons fulfilling God’s mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Their efforts had been successful.

the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. – Genesis 10:32 ESV

And Moses opens chapter 11 with a stunning revelation. There had been a time when all the nations of the earth shared a common language. This never-disclosed-before insight would have come as a shock to Moses’ Jewish audience. They were already having to deal with the fact that all mankind shared the same lineage. Their enemies, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Canaanites, and Babylonians, were actually their long-lost brothers. And now, they were learning for the first time, that there had been a point in time when all these disparate people groups had shared the same language.

One of the underlying and often overlooked themes in the book of Genesis is mankind’s reticence to obey God’s command to fill the earth. After the fall, the two sons of Adam and Eve chose domestication over migration and expansion.

Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. – Genesis 4:2 ESV

There is nothing inherently wrong with either of these professions. But it is apparent from the context that the two sons had both chosen to remain close to home. They had settled down not far from their mother and father. And their close proximity proved to be deadly. It was not long before “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8 ESV). And, as a result, God cursed Cain.

“When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:12 ESV

As part of his divine punishment, Cain was cast out of the comfort of his familial surroundings. He was forced to leave home. And his ban from his homeland is reminiscent of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. – Genesis 3:22-24 ESV

Adam and Eve had been cast out of Eden, but the divine mandate remained intact. They were to fill the earth. Ever since the fall, the trajectory of mankind was always intended to be away from Eden and into the world. But it seems that Adam and Eve didn’t wander far from the border of Eden. And their two sons chose to remain nearby as well. But after his sin, Cain was cursed to live the life of a wanderer – a nomad.

Yet, Cain ignored God’s edict and “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16 ESV). He blatantly refused to live under God’s curse, choosing instead to settle down.

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. – Genesis 4:17 ESV

Rather than wander, Cain settled down once again. And this same predisposition to ignore God’s mandate can be seen in Noah. When the floodwaters had receded and Noah was able to exit the ark, he and his three sons were assigned the task of fulfilling the divine mandate to fill the earth. But Noah decided to settle down instead.

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. – Genesis 9:20 ESV

And Noah’s seemingly innocuous decision had devasting consequences. It resulted in the cursing of his own grandson and a growing division among all his progeny.

As each new generation came into existence, they continued the slow but steady movement away from Eden. Moses indicates that “as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there” (Genesis 11:2 ESV). Whether they realized it or now, they were filling the earth. But, once again, mankind’s inherent desire for autonomy and self-determination raised its ugly head.

During Peleg’s lifetime, some of his relatives made the same fateful decision that Cain and Noah had made. They chose to settle down.

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” – Genesis 11: 4 ESV

These industrious individuals decided to make bricks and build a tower to the sky – intended as a monument to their own ingenuity and industry. Their ambitious building project was motivated by a desire to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). They wanted to be the determiners of their own fate and to control their collective destiny. Nowhere in this passage does Moses relate a command issued from God that they should construct a city. This had been their decision and it was purely self-centered and aimed at self-glorification. They wanted to make a name for themselves. Rather than choosing to glorify God, they attempted to glorify themselves. That same attitude is reflected in the words of one of their descendants, a powerful man who would build a great city and then one day proclaim:

“Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.” – Daniel 4:30 NLT

Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, would attempt to rob glory from God and suffer the consequences. He gloried in his greatness as a self-made man. But God would give this egotistical king a painful lesson in humility and divine sovereignty.  Nebuchadnezzar would have to learn “that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses” (Daniel 4:32 NLT).

And the overly ambitious and egotistical builders of the tower would learn a similar lesson about God’s sovereignty. When the Almighty saw what they were doing, He reacted immediately.

“Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.” – Genesis 11:6-7 NLT

There are some who believe that these people were attempting to build a tower that would allow them to access God. But up until this point in the story, mankind had always considered Eden to be the home of God. It’s interesting to note that Adam and Eve had been banned from the garden, the place where they had enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. And when their son, Cain, had been cursed by God, he “went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Genesis 4:16 ESV).

The story of mankind is characterized by a constant movement away from God. Made in His image and designed to reflect His glory, humanity has made a habit out of distancing itself from God. And the apostle Paul paints a rather bleak portrait of the fallen state of mankind.

Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. – Romans 1:28-32 NLT

In order to disrupt the self-aggrandizing efforts of the tower builders, God created an instant source of confusion by confounding their ability to communicate. In an instant, God turned their call to make a name for themselves into a cacophony of disparate languages. They could no longer understand one another. And with no common language, their ability to conspire against God evaporated.

Moses indicates that “the Lord scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city” (Genesis 11:8 NLT). This was a divine punishment that had sovereign consequences. God knew what He was doing. He was forcing humanity to obey His kingdom mandate and fill the earth. It was only in the fulfillment of that command that humanity could act as His image-bearers and bring glory to His name. His will would be done, whether they wanted to participate or not. And Moses states that “in this way, he scattered them all over the world” (Genesis 11:9 NLT).

But while the people dispersed, the tower and the city remained. The site became known as Babel. There is a powerful sense of irony in this story because the name Babel would become synonymous with the future nation of Babylon. In their language, Babel came to mean “the gate of God.” But in Hebrew, the word meant “confusion.” The site of Babel would become the future home of the mighty city of Babylon, the resplendent capital of Nebuchadnezzar’s vast domain. The very city over which he gazed and pridefully proclaimed, “Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”

Man’s incessant pride is nothing more than misplaced glory that always results in confusion and conflict. Man’s consistent attempts to dethrone God have always produced nothing but chaos. The psalmist provides a sobering assessment of humanity’s ill-fated and futile attempts to replace God.

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury. – Psalm 2:1-5 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Just and the Justifier

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” Genesis 9:8-17 ESV

God had just destroyed the majority of the human population because “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 4:5 ESV). Yet, because “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 4:8 ESV), he and his family were spared. And after delivering Noah from the floodwaters of judgment, God had “blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth’” (Genesis 9:1 ESV).

God was beginning again. He had preserved a remnant of His original creation in the form of a single human family and an assortment of living creatures, all of whom He had protected on the ark. Now, it was time to restart the process of repopulating the planet. So, God reiterated His kingdom mandate a second time.

“And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” – Genesis 9:7 ESV

Noah, “a righteous man, blameless in his generation,” who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV), was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the new father of the human race. This descendant of Adam was charged with the responsibility of procreating and repopulating the earth with more of his kind. And because Noah had proven himself faithful to God by doing everything he had been commanded to do, the future for humanity seemed bright. Surely this man would fare better than his ancestor. But as “righteous” and “blameless” as Noah may have been, he was far from perfect. As a descendant of Adam, Noah had inherited the same sinful disposition. He was faithful but still fallen.

In the Adamic genealogy recorded in chapter five, it opens with the words:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. – Genesis 5:1-2 ESV

“Adam”(אָדָםāḏām) had been the name God gave to all mankind, and all mankind had been created in God’s likeness. When He had formed the first man and woman, they bore His image. They were intended to reflect His glory and to spread His image all across the planet by creating more of their own kind. More image-bearers. But Adam and Eve were not content to be mirrors reflecting God’s glory. Instead, they succumbed to the temptation of Satan and the desires of their own hearts. Rather than obey God, they chose to rob Him of glory by declaring themselves to be gods, with the sovereignty to decide for themselves what was right and wrong.

Adam and Eve dishonored God by disobeying Him. They rebelled against His divine authority and attempted to preempt His sovereign power with their own. And the apostle would later describe the nature of their crime.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:21-23 ESV

And Paul goes on to sum up the sin of Adam and Eve in far-from-flattering terms.

they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… – Romans 1:25 ESV

This predisposition for self-worship was passed on to the next generation. Their son, Cain chose to play god and took the life of his brother, Abel. And the genealogy recorded in Genesis chapter five reveals that Adam and Eve attempted to fill the void left by their murdered son.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. – Genesis 5:3 ESV

But something has changed. It’s subtle but highly significant. More than a century after God had created Adam to bear His image, Adam fathered a son in his own likeness. Seth proved to be the spitting image of his father, Adam. He was born under the curse and, as a result, inherited his father’s sinful disposition. Adam’s “one trespass led to condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18 ESV), including his own progeny.

All those who descended from Adam were guilty of exchanging “the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” (Romans 5:23 ESV). And that list included Noah and his sons. They had been delivered by God but still remained damaged goods. And God was well aware that the future of mankind was far from bright. He knew exactly what was going to happen. This is why He declared His covenant commitment to Noah and his sons.

“Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” – Genesis 9:9-11 ESV

Inherent in this promise is God’s understanding of mankind’s condition. He knew that humanity would continue to rebel against Him. It was only a matter of time before the wickedness of man spread through the earth like an infectious disease. Noah and his sons would soon father children, made in their own likeness. And the pre-flood moral conditions would be replicated all over again. But God made a covenant commitment to not repeat the judgment of the flood.

God is not suggesting that mankind will never again deserve His judgment. He is simply giving His commitment that He will never again punish mankind’s inevitable wickedness through a cataclysmic, worldwide flood. And what sets this covenant apart is that it is universal in scope and unconditional in nature. It applies to all humanity, and not just Noah and his sons. And it comes with no conditions or requirements on man’s part.

This covenant is based on the faithfulness of God. He knew all along that Noah and his descendants would fail to live up to their calling as His vice-regents. He had given them authority to rule over His creation as His stewards. But like Adam, they would prove to be less-than-faithful in their oversight of God’s kingdom. Inevitably, the descendants of Noah would repeat the sins of their ancestors. It was only a matter of time before God looked down and saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5 ESV). And while humanity would deserve God’s righteous judgment, He would refrain from destroying them.

And as a symbol of His covenant commitment, God provided Noah with a sign. He established the rainbow as a reminder of His glory and goodness. When the storm clouds of God’s judgment appeared in the sky, the rainbow would form, providing a powerful sign of God’s covenant commitment. Man would continue to sin, but God would refrain from meting out the full measure of His righteous indignation against them. Why? Because He had a plan in place that would one day resolve the problem of mankind’s obsession with sin and the divine requirement to deliver justice. Once again, the apostle Paul provides insight into this divine strategy for mitigating the problem of sin and the need for judgment.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. – Romans 3:23-26 NLT

According to His covenant with Noah, God would hold back and not pour out His judgment on sinful humanity. It would be well-deserved but God was willing to delay it until He could send His Son as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. In sending Jesus, God would prove Himself “just and the justifier” (Romans 3:26 ESV). Through the sacrifice of His Son’s innocent life, God would satisfy His righteous judgment against sin and provide a way for sinful men to be made right with Him.

He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. – Romans 8:3 NLT

The sins of mankind would continue, and God’s obligation to judge sin would remain. But He was willing to delay that judgment until such a time that He could pour it out on His Son. Adam’s sin left humanity under the curse of God’s wrath. But God had a plan in place that would fully satisfy His need for justice and His desire to justify.

For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:16-17 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A New World With New Rules

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.’ 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” 

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Genesis 8:20-9:7 ESV

Upon exiting the ark, Noah immediately demonstrates his immense gratitude for God’s salvation of him and his family. He erects an altar and offers sacrifices to God. But this response stands out as rather odd considering the context of chapter eight. Noah has just been spared from death. And he had been used by God to protect the lives of “animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens” (Genesis 6:7 ESV). God had given him the responsibility of gathering pairs of animals and placing them on the ark so that they might survive the flood.

“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.” – Genesis 6:19-20 ESV

And yet, chapter eight closes with Noah taking the lives of some of the animals he just helped save. This all seems so counterproductive. And where did Noah get the idea of constructing an altar and offering burnt offerings to God? This is the first mention of the term “altar” in the entire Bible, and it comes long before God gave to Moses His commands concerning the sacrificial system. It seems doubtful that this costly act of animal sacrifice was something Noah came up with on his own. God had obviously made preparations for just such an occasion because He had commanded Noah to “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3 ESV).

In Hebrew, the term translated as “clean” is טָהוֹר (ṭâôr), and it means “pure.” It was used to refer to that which was pure or clean physically, but also those things that were considered ceremonially and morally pure. God had specifically provided Noah with two different lists of animals to collect and protect on the ark. Of the “clean” animals, Noah was to gather seven pairs. But of those animals deemed “unclean” by God, Noah was to gather only one pair of each – a male and a female.

God was obviously making plans for the future. And He must have given Noah strict instructions as to how to differentiate between the clean and unclean animals. It is likely that God provided Noah with a similar list as that found in Leviticus 11.

“Of all the land animals, these are the ones you may use for food. You may eat any animal that has completely split hooves and chews the cud. You may not, however, eat the following animals that have split hooves or that chew the cud, but not both. The camel chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. The hare chews the cud but does not have split hooves, so it is unclean. The pig has evenly split hooves but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean. You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you. – Leviticus 11:2-8 NLT

God went on to give Moses a detailed list of all the sea creatures, birds, and winged insects that were to be considered clean and good for food. And it seems only logical that God provided Noah with a similar list. Otherwise, he would not have known which species required seven pairs rather than two. Since God had deemed these living creatures as clean and approved for eating, He was ensuring that humanity would have an ample post-flood food source. When Noah exited the ark, God gave him express permission to consume animals as well as plants.

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” – Genesis 9:3 ESV

While this verse placed no restriction on the eating of unclean animals, it is inferred by the surrounding context. The whole purpose behind God differentiating between the clean and unclean creatures was so that Noah and his family knew which animals were approved as sources of food. But God had a second reason for setting apart the clean animals and instructing Noah to collect more of their kind. He had obviously given Noah instructions regarding the offering these pre-approved creatures as animal sacrifices. All the way back in Genesis four, the two sons of Adam inherently knew that they were to bring offerings to God.

In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. – Genesis 4:3-4 ESV

Now, centuries later, and after God had spared Noah and his family. the offerings were to continue. This time, God must have instructed Noah to build an altar and offer up a portion of the clean animals as an offering of thanksgiving. But there is something more to this act of sacrifice. In giving up these particular animals, Noah was willingly diminishing his food source. He was letting go of the very thing that was supposed to ensure the future well-being of him and his family. And, in doing so, he was displaying his trust in God. Those animals sacrificed would never breed again. They would never serve as a source of food or clothing. Noah effectively gave them back to God. And God was pleased.

“…when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’” – Genesis 8:21 ESV

God made a categorical decision to never destroy the earth again, in spite of the fact that nothing had really changed. God reveals that, despite Noah’s obedient sacrifice, the heart of man remained as wicked and fallen as ever. God was starting over with Noah and his family, but He knew that they were damaged goods. In a way, the sacrifice of the “pure” animals was a foreshadowing of the sacrificial system God would ordain for the people of Israel. Because of their sinful dispositions, He would provide them with an ongoing means of atonement for sin, in the form of animal sacrifice. In time, those pure and undefiled animals would be necessary, not just for food, but for cleansing from sin. Why? Because despite the purging and purifying effects of the flood, the heart of man remained permanently marred by evil.

But God made a covenant commitment to Noah, promising to never repeat the devastating destruction of the flood. Instead, He would give humanity a second chance. God chose to give Noah and his family an opportunity to fulfill the same kingdom mandate given to Adam and Eve.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. – Genesis 9:1 ESV

Everything was starting over. The old world had been destroyed. God was beginning again with a new vice-regent: Noah. This “second Adam” was given dominion over all the creatures of the earth. He was awarded stewardship of God’s creation, but this time, God provided Noah with some new stipulations concerning his role.

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.” – Genesis 9:3-5 ESV

Unlike Adam and Eve, Noah and his family were given divine permission to use the animals as an alternate food source. But this alteration to their daily diet came with restrictions. They were not allowed to consume the blood of the animal. Much later, God would give the people of Israel further instructions and clarification regarding this ban on the consumption of blood.

“For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” – Leviticus 17:14 ESV

According to the creation account, every beast of the earth, every bird of the heavens, and everything that creeps on the earth contained the breath of life (Genesis 1:30). And when God had breathed the breath of life into Adam, he had become a living creature (Genesis 2:7). But the life of every creature is contained in its blood. This incredible substance, created by God, is what sustains the life of every living creature.

The main job of red blood cells, or erythrocytes, is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the body tissues and carbon dioxide as a waste product, away from the tissues and back to the lungs. Hemoglobin (Hgb) is an important protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of our body.

Blood carries the following to the body tissues:

  • Nourishment

  • Electrolytes

  • Hormones

  • Vitamins

  • Antibodies

  • Heat

  • Oxygen

  • Immune cells (cells that fight infection)

Blood carries the following away from the body tissues:

  • Waste matter

  • Carbon dioxide

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia

Life cannot exist without blood. And so, God put a prohibition on the consumption of blood. In the animal kingdom, this restriction is regularly ignored, and they suffer the consequences. Wild animals are destined to live in a perpetual cycle marked by carnivorous consumption. But for man, it was to be different. He was not to kill an animal and eat its blood. If he did, he would suffer the consequences. And if a man spilled the blood of a fellow human being, he would pay dearly.

“If anyone takes a human life, that person’s life will also be taken by human hands. For God made human beings in his own image. – Genesis 9:6 NLT

Things were going to be different in the post-flood world. In the antediluvian world, Cain had killed Abel and had lived to tell about it. Lamech had murdered a man and had bragged about it. But now, God would deliver stern judgment upon all those who took it upon themselves to play god and take human life.

And, having laid out the new rules of engagement in His recreated world, God reiterated His original mandate to humanity.

“…be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” – Genesis 9:7 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Right Man for the Task

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15 This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16 Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. Genesis 6:9-22 ESV

Despite the seemingly detailed genealogy found in chapter five, it is impossible to know exactly how much time had elapsed before God made the determination to destroy mankind. At least six generations had transpired, leaving a legacy of moral corruption and spiritual degradation. God’s assessment of mankind’s condition was not flattering or hopeful.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV

The problem was pervasive and it permeated to the very core of man’s existence. Far more than just a behavioral problem, the wickedness of humanity emanated from the heart. This was not a case of good people occasionally doing bad things. It was a pandemic of wickedness that flowed directly from the rebellious hearts of those whom God had created. And the prophet Jeremiah provides God’s further assessment of the fallen state of the human heart.

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
    and desperately wicked.
    Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
    and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
    according to what their actions deserve.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT

As God surveyed the state of affairs on earth, He discovered one man whose life found favor in His eyes. But this revelation did not come as a shock to God. He was not surprised or relieved by Noah’s seemingly inexplicable existence. In the midst of all decadence, immorality, and unrestrained evil, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). And God had sovereignly ordained Noah’s existence. From before the foundation of the world, God had a plan in place that included Noah’s birth, his faithful life, and his role as the future “savior” of mankind. Even Lamech, Noah’s father, had somehow understood that his infant son was destined to be some kind of deliverer who would rescue humanity from the curse. At his son’s birth, Lamech offered up a prayer of hopeful anticipation.

“May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” – Genesis 5:29 NLT

Noah was an anomaly. He was an alien and stranger who stood out from the rest of humanity. In reality, he was the sole image-bearer of God. In fact, Moses compared Noah to another godly man when he declared that “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). Noah was cut from the same cloth as Enoch (Genesis 5:22). In Enoch’s case, he had lived his life in faithful obedience to God and, as a reward for a life well-lived, God graciously transported him from earth to heaven.

Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him. – Genesis 5:23-24 NLT

But God had other plans for Noah. This righteous and blameless man had a divine assignment to fulfill. Because of His justice and holiness, God was obligated to punish wickedness. But because of His infinite love and mercy, God had a plan in place that would allow Him to redeem and rescue a remnant of humanity.

In some sense, Noah was an aberration, a departure from the norm. But in reality, he was a reflection of what God had always intended for mankind. Despite Moses’ description of him as “blameless,” Noah was not a sinless or perfect man. He too suffered from the effects of the fall. Like every other human being, Noah had inherited a sinful nature from Adam.

just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – Romans 5:12 ESV

Noah’s blamelessness refers to his wholeness. The Hebrew word is תָּמִים (tāmîm) and it means “complete, whole, entire, sound.” It has to do with integrity. Noah was not duplicitous or deceitful. He refused to live a compartmentalized life, attempting to hide things from God or displaying a false outer piety that camouflaged an impure heart.

Yes, because Noah was a descendant of Adam, he was a sinner just like all his peers. But despite his sinful disposition, Noah was able to maintain a vibrant relationship with God. He lived His life in keeping with the will of God, refusing to follow the example of his friends and neighbors. While “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT), Noah’s mind and heart were fixed on God. According to Moses, Noah was “the only blameless person living on earth at the time” (Genesis 6:9 NLT). And it will become increasingly clear just how willing Noah was to obey God – at any cost.

The situation was dire. The moral state of mankind had reached an all-time low. And their sinfulness had infected the entire creative order.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. – Genesis 6:11-12 ESV

God assessed His creation as having been ruined by mankind’s sinfulness. The Hebrew word, שָׁחַת (šāḥaṯ), can mean “spoiled, ruined, corrupted, or rotted.” The pervasive presence of wickedness, particularly in the form of “violence,” had permanently damaged what God had made. Mankind had un-made God’s beautiful creation. This Hebrew word is the same one used by the prophet Jeremiah when referring to a loincloth that God had commanded him to bury then later retrieve. He writes:

Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled (šāḥaṯ); it was good for nothing. – Jeremiah 13:7 ESV

That is exactly how God viewed the earth. It had been ruined or spoiled by the damaging effects of sin. Humanity had been given the divine mandate to “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). But rather than steward and care for God’s creation, mankind had contaminated and condemned it. To the point that it was “good for nothing.”

So, God divulged His plan to Noah.

“I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” – Genesis 6:13 ESV

But God followed up this less-than-happy news with the rest of His plan. He let Noah in on the role he would play in the redemption of creation. And this information must have left Noah’s head spinning. He was given very detailed instructions by God for the construction of an ark or large boat. And Noah is informed that first-of-its-kind vessel will become the key to God’s redemption of creation. And as if that wasn’t enough pressure for Noah to bear, God sealed the entire agreement with a legal contract.

“I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you.” – Genesis 6:18-19 ESV

But this covenant was not the terms of an agreement between God and Noah. God was not obligating Noah to uphold his end of the contract. This was a divine statement of promise, whereby God was guaranteeing to deliver Noah, his family, and all flesh from judgment. They would be graciously and miraculously spared.

All Noah had to do was believe and obey. His part was to build the ark and then to fill it with “two of every sort.” Not an easy task to be sure. But Noah’s construction of the ark was an act of faith, not a form of works. He didn’t earn his salvation. He received it as a gift from God. And the author of Hebrews makes this point quite clear.

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. – Hebrews 11:7 NLT

And Moses confirms that Noah obeyed God.

So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him. – Genesis 6:22 NLT

God had promised salvation, and Noah believed Him. And Noah proved his belief through faithful adherence to God’s command. Despite the formidable nature of the assignment and the countless questions that must have filled his head, Noah did exactly what he was told to do. And in doing so, he proved himself to be the right man for the task. The man of God’s own choosing.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Divine Intervention

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:1-8 ESV

Once again, Moses reveals that mankind was keeping the divine mandate to “multiply and fill the earth.” They were doing what God had commanded them to do. But the problem was that, because of the fall, mankind was no longer able to bear God’s image as He had intended. They had become damaged goods. Like a dirty mirror, their ability to accurately reflect His divine glory had been marred. Yet, according to chapter five, there was a still remnant of individuals who still chose to worship God. The ungodly line of Cain was balanced out by the more faithful line of Seth, illustrated in the life of Enoch, a man who “walked with God” (Genesis 5:21 ESV).

The genealogy of Adam, recorded in chapter five, provides an explanatory backdrop upon which to view the dark and depressing events of chapter six. Moses ends the genealogy with an introduction to Noah, who will play a major role in the next phase of God’s pre-ordained plan for mankind. Noah is not just one more name in a long list of Adam’s descendants. He is the whole point of the genealogy. Moses wants us to know that God planned for the coming of this one who would play the role of “savior,” bringing rest to those who had grown weary living under the curse that God had imposed because of Adam’s sin. Even Noah’s father somehow recognized that his infant son would play the role of a deliverer.

“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” – Genesis 5:29

When pronounced in Hebrew, Noah’s name sounded like the Hebrew word for “rest” or “comfort.” Lamech believed that his son would bring some form of relief from the constant struggle of attempting to eke out a living from the ground that God had cursed. He and his fellow inhabitants of the earth were looking for some form of salvation from the divine condemnation under which they suffered.

But even under the curse, mankind seemed to flourish. They continued to procreate and produce more of their kind. Moses declares that “man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them” (Genesis 6:1 ESV). Due to the extended life spans experienced prior to the flood, the reproduction cycle of humanity was greatly extended. As a result, they were able to “fill the earth” in a relatively short period of time. The lines of Cain and Seth both expanded rapidly, creating a perfect storm. These two divergent branches of Adam’s family tree would soon find themselves interacting with one another. The godly and the godless would inevitably end up crossing paths and even intermarrying with one another.

The next section of chapter six has developed a controversial reputation. In it, Moses states that “the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose” (Genesis 6:2 ESV). There are those who interpret this verse to mean that fallen angels procreated with the daughters of men. They arrive at this conclusion because every other time the phrase, “sons of God,” is used in the Old Testament, it refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). Proponents of this view also claim that the New Testament books of 2 Peter and Jude provide support for their assertion.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly… – 2 Peter 2:4-6 ESV

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. – Jude 6-7 ESV

But it would appear that these two passages refer to the original fall of Satan and the angels who joined him in his failed coup attempt against God. There is no other reference in the Genesis passage to angels. In fact, the very next verse reflects God’s anger with mankind, not angelic beings.

“My Spirit shall not abide in man forever…” – Genesis 6:3 ESV

It seems much more likely that “the sons of God” and “daughters of men” are intended as references to the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain. These two branches of Adam’s family tree had begun to merge through intermarriage, and the result was a further degradation of the spiritual seed of Seth. The appearance of men like Enoch became increasingly rarer. And God’s anger with mankind is reflected in His decision to dramatically shorten the average lifespan. The reference to 120 years, found in verse 3, is most likely a warning concerning the pending judgment of God. It refers to the length of time before God would destroy the earth with a flood. And as a result of this cataclysmic event, human lifespans will begin to drop precipitously.  No longer would humans live for seven to eight centuries. These protracted periods of existence had produced many children, but few faithful followers of God.

And it seems that with the longer lifespans, humans had enjoyed prolonged growing periods. Each stage of life, including adolescence, lasted longer in those days. As a result, men not only lived longer but grew larger. That seems to be the best explanation for Moses’ reference to the Nephilim. These were so-called “giants” who intermarried with the daughters of men and became “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (Genesis 6:4 ESV). There is only one other reference to the Nephilim in the Bible and it is found in Numbers 13:33. While some assert that the Nephilim were the offspring of angels who procreated with humans, this seems unlikely, since the Scriptures seem to teach that angels do not marry or reproduce (Matthew 22:30).

The entire focus of this passage is on humanity and not on fallen angels or some antediluvian super-species. Verse 5 clearly states the problem.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV

This isn’t about disreputable angels performing despicable acts with human beings. It’s not about a race of superhuman X-Men polluting the DNA of humanity. The problem is wickedness – pure and simple. The wickedness of man was great in the earth. And this wickedness included attitudes as well as actions. In fact, “everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil” (Genesis 6:5 NLT).

And what follows is one of the saddest statements found in Scripture.

And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. – Genesis 6:6 ESV

With this emotionally charged statement, Moses attempts to describe God’s sorrow over the state of His creation. Humanity’s downward spiritual spiral has come to the point of no return. God is not second-guessing Himself. He is not questioning the goodness of His original creation of man. At that time, He had declared all that He had made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31), including Adam and Eve. But their rebellion had brought death into the world. It had permanently marred their relationship with God and damaged the entire creative order. And the longer man lived and the more of his own kind he created, the worse the situation became. Until God intervened.

“I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” – Genesis 6:7 ESV

The one who had created it all would choose to destroy it all and start over. God would begin again. The Creator would re-create. The life-giver would choose to destroy all life and then reanimate and rejuvenate His creation once again. But His destruction would not be complete. He would graciously spare some. God would preserve a remnant of His creation in order to fulfill the plan of redemption He had developed long before He pierced the pre-creation darkness with the light of His glory. God would use a man named Noah to act as His agent of redemption and recreation. In the midst of all the moral darkness and spiritual apathy of his age, this one man found favor in the eyes of the Lord. He would become the vessel through whom God was spare a remnant of fallen humanity and carry out His grand plan of redemption.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Bearer of Bad Fruit

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
    you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
    then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. Genesis 4:17-26 ESV

One of the key themes found in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis is that of fruitfulness. God expected His creation, both plant and animal, to multiply and spread across the face of the earth.

 

The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. – Genesis 1:12 ESV

It would appear from the preceding verse, that God started the entire process with plants that grew from seeds. In other words, the plants didn’t suddenly appear as fully grown and mature specimens.

Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed – Genesis 1:11 ESV

The Hebrew word Moses used is דָּשָׁא (dāšā’), and it means “to sprout, to cause to shoot forth.” God created the seeds, planted them in the ground, and then caused them to grow. It is likely that the whole process took place in record time as God miraculously sped up the entire growth cycle.

When it came to the living creatures, God created them ex nihilo – out of nothing – forming them as fully grown and completely mature. It was necessary to create the adult male and female of each species in order for them to procreate and make more of their own kind. But while God made only one male and one female human, He appears to have made countless living creatures.

“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” – Genesis 1:20 ESV

“Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” – Genesis 1:24 ESV

And in both cases, God commanded all the living creatures to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:22 ESV). They were to fill the seas, the sky, and the earth with more of their kind. And Adam and Eve were given the same mandate, which they faithfully obeyed. The first couple used their God-ordained gift of procreation to produce two sons: Cain and Abel. Eve’s earlier decision to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit had not impaired her own fruit-bearing capacity. But according to the curse God placed on Eve and her female descendants, child-birth would always be accompanied by pain. And, in the case of Eve, her fruitfulness was accompanied by the unexpected specter of death, as her firstborn son went on to kill his younger brother. She and Adam had faithfully multiplied their kind, but in taking the life of his innocent brother, Cain had committed an act of treacherous subtraction. From this point forward, life and fruitfulness would be accompanied by death and barrenness. Sin had entered the scene and nothing would be the same anymore. The creation had been marred. And as the book of Genesis unfolds, the darkness that had once held sway would return.

Even Cain, the convicted murderer, was capable of producing more of his own kind. One of the questions that always comes up at this point of the creation story is “Where did Cain find a wife?” According to Genesis 5:4, Adam and Eve “had other sons and daughters.” So, it would seem that Cain eventually ended up marrying one of his own sisters. While God would later ban such inter-family relationships (Leviticus 18:9), there was no such prohibition at this time. God had clearly intended for Adam and Eve’s descendants to intermarry and populate the planet.

Cain’s wife proved fruitful and bore him a son, whom Cain named Enoch. And then the text provides an interesting aside, stating that Cain built a city, which he named after his son. This decision to construct a city in which to dwell appears to fly in the face of the curse that God had placed on Cain.

Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:11-12 NLT

Cain decided to ignore God’s curse and built himself a permanent home. And it was in this location that his son carried on the divine mandate and made more of “their kind.”

Enoch had a son named Irad. Irad became the father of Mehujael. Mehujael became the father of Methushael. Methushael became the father of Lamech. – Genesis 4:18 ESV

This one simple sentence contains five generations of Cainites. This branch of Adam’s family tree proved to be fruitful in more ways than one. Not only did they procreate, but they proved to be creative. Lamech’s son, Jubal, became “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (Genesis 4:21 ESV). His other son, Tubal-Cain, became a “forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22 ESV).

Mankind was not only expanding but exploring all the myriad possibilities available to it as God’s vice-regents. They display a divinely sanctioned enablement for ingenuity and creativity that was unavailable to the rest of the living creatures. Humanity, made in the image of God, was capable of accomplishing great things. But because of the fall, man’s capacity for good would always be accompanied by a penchant for evil. According to the apostle Paul, the sin of Adam was passed down from generation to generation.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. – Romans 5:15 NLT

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone – Romans 5:18 NLT

Every child born to Adam and Eve came into the world bearing their proclivity for sin and rebellion. And it hadn’t taken long for Cain to exhibit his inherited propensity for evil. And some six generations later, Lamech would display a striking resemblance to his ancient forebearer. He would follow in his patriarch’s footsteps, committing yet another act of fruit-less-ness. Lamech would boastfully brag about his murder of an adversary.

“I have killed a man who attacked me,
    a young man who wounded me.
If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times,
    then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!” – Genesis 4:23-24 NLT

There is no sorrow or regret in Lamech’s words. He is justifying his actions and even threatening to do the same thing again, with God’s blessing. He seems to believe that if God was willing to avenge a murderer like Cain, then God would certainly excuse his justified act of self-defense. Lamech is claiming to have God on his side. But he misses the whole point behind the story of Abel’s death. In killing his brother, Cain had arrogantly abrogated God’s right to determine life and death. He had spilled the blood of his brother and God had declared His dissatisfaction.

“What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” – Genesis 4:10 NLT

The branch of Adam’s family tree that led through Cain was producing bad fruit. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus delivered a powerful lesson concerning the fruit-bearing properties of trees.

“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:17-20 NLT

And, in Genesis 4, Moses traces the lineage of Adam and Eve through a different branch of the same family tree that would prove to produce a different quality of fruit.

Adam had sexual relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to another son. She named him Seth, for she said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” – Genesis 4:25 NLT

God graciously replaced what Cain had taken away. Adam and Eve continued to be faithful and fruitful, producing yet another son who filled the void left by Abel. And this son, Seth, would go on to father his own son, a man named Enosh. And then Moses reveals the dramatic difference between these two branches of the same family tree.

At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name. – Genesis 4:26 NLT

While Lamech, the arrogant descendant of Cain, was busy glorying over his taking of another man’s life, the descendants of Seth were glorying in the author of life. In these two distinctively different branches of Adam’s family tree, we see the grace of God displayed in all its glory. God was going to faithfully keep the promise He had made concerning the seed of the woman. In keeping with the protoevangelium, or first gospel, recorded in Genesis 3:15, God would see to it that a godly offspring would “spring forth” from the line of Adam.

“And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 NLT

For every Lamech, there would be an Enosh. For every lost Abel, God would provide a Seth. He would maintain the line of Adam and keep the hope alive.

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:17 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Innocent Blood Spilled

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Genesis 4:8-16 ESV

As a child of Adam and Eve, Cain had inherited the mandate given to them by God. Like his mother and father, he was to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). The Hebrew word for dominion is רָדָה (rāḏâ), and it conveys the idea of rule or reign. God had created mankind with the expectation that they would rule over and care for the world He had created for them. That capacity to serve as His designated caretakers was to reflect their close association with Him. They bore His image.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26 ESV

But once sin entered the world, man’s ability to reflect the glory of God became dimmed and diminished. At the core of man’s problem was the desire to rule according to his own standards. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve had fulfilled her longing to be like God, knowing good from evil. She sought autonomy, the freedom to run her own life on her own terms. But she soon found out that she couldn’t even “rule over” her base desires. “She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it” (Genesis 3:6 NLT). 

Now, her first-born son, Cain, finds himself struggling with his own incapacity to control his inner desires. After having his offering rejected by God, Cain became filled with rage and consumed by bitter jealousy against his brother, Abel. And God warned him, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV).

God described sin as a deadly predator, waiting to pounce on its unsuspecting prey. And Peter would later describe Satan in similar terms.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. – 1 Peter 5:8-9 NLT

It’s interesting to note that God told Cain he must “rule over” sin. The Hebrew word is  מָשַׁל (māšal), and it means “to rule, have dominion, reign.” Like the rest of creation, this deadly “beast” crouching at Cain’s door should have been under his dominion. Cain had been given “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV).

But as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Cain had no ability to control the raging beast that crouched outside the door of his heart. Rather than be the subduer, he would become subdued and find his life consumed by the “desires” תְּשׁוּקָה (tᵊšûqâ) of sin. What happens next is the first recorded occurrence of premeditated murder.

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. – Genesis 4:8 NLT

The oldest extant manuscripts of the book of Genesis (Smr, LXX, Vulgate, and Syriac) record this brief but extremely insightful statement from Cain to his brother Abel. He had a plan in mind. Sin had already consumed his heart and was had taken full control of his faculties. At that moment, he had become a slave to sin. Any hope he had of experiencing autonomy and the free expression of his will was gone. It was Jesus who told the self-righteous Pharisees, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34 ESV).

And the apostle Paul echoed the words of Jesus when he warned the believers in Rome, “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT). Then Peter provides another sobering statement regarding sin: “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19 ESV). The proof of these words is lived out in the life of Cain.

And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. – Genesis 4:8 ESV

The text provides no indication as to how much time had passed since Cain’s offering had been rejected by God and his decision to commit this heinous crime. But enough time had passed for him to calm down and regain control of his overheated emotions. Yet, instead, Cain had grown increasingly more incensed over the rejection of his offering and what appeared to be his brother’s favored status with God. So, he took matters into his own hands and made a determination to eliminate the competition. In taking his brother’s life, Cain exhibited his desire to “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 ESV). He had designated himself the sole arbiter of right and wrong. Cain had become the judge, jury, and executioner. And it’s interesting to note that, at his birth, Cain’s mother had declared, I have created a man just as the Lord did!” (Genesis 4:1 NET). She had taken credit for giving her son life. Now, that very same son had given himself the prerogative to take life. Cain spilled the innocent blood of his brother.

And, once again, God steps into the scene, posing a simple, yet illuminating question.

“Where is Abel your brother?” – Genesis 4:9 ESV

God was not looking for information. He was seeking a confession. He wanted Cain to take responsibility for his egregious actions. But instead, Cain feigns ignorance and displays a fair amount of insolence.

“I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:10 ESV

Cain’s response to God is filled with irreverence and pride. He displays no fear of or respect for the Almighty. In fact, he actually questions God’s divine capacity to care for His own creation. By stating, “am I my brother’s keeper,” Cain was suggesting that the guardianship of Abel was God’s responsibility, not his. In a way, Cain was blaming God for Abel’s death. He was accusing the Almighty of failing to keep track of His own creation.

But, unwilling to play Cain’s little game of rhetoric, God posited a second question: “What have you done?” (Genesis 4:10 ESV). Once again, God is not asking for insight or information. He knew exactly what had happened and why. This question was meant to cause Cain to consider the ramifications of his actions. In Cain’s mind, with the killing of his brother, he had accomplished his objective. But now, God was letting this overconfident, self-obsessed man know that his actions would have long-lasting and devastating consequences.

“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” – Genesis 4:10-11 NLT

As the sins of man increase, so does the intensity of God’s curse. This indictment from God against Cain and his descendants is an extension of the curse God had leveled against Adam.

“…cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread…” – Genesis 3:17-19 ESV

Because of Adam’s sin, God had cursed the ground. But now, God was cursing Cain and banishing him from the ground. This man, who had been “a worker of the ground” (Genesis 4:2 ESV) and had “brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3 ESV), would now find the ground unproductive and unfruitful. The one who had placed all his faith in his capacity to provide for himself would now be ejected from the very land that had met his needs. He was cast out.

Just as Adam and Eve had been banished from the garden because of their disobedience, Cain was exiled from his family because of the murder of his brother. He was cast adrift and doomed to “be a homeless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12 NET). In murdering his brother, Cain had destroyed his relationship with his mother and father. He had forfeited his right to benefit from the bounty of God’s creation. This imagery of being cast from the land is found throughout the Old Testament. In the book of Leviticus, God provided Moses with a series of sober warnings concerning the land of Canaan, the land of milk and honey that He was giving to the people of Israel as their inheritance.

“So do not defile the land and give it a reason to vomit you out…” – Leviticus 18:28 NLT

Cain had defiled the land by spilling his brother’s blood. Now, he was having to pay for it. And, in a statement of regret, but not repentance, Cain declared his punishment to be more than he could handle.

“My punishment is greater than I can bear. – Genesis 4:13 ESV

Cain feared retribution. He distinctively knew that there might be payback for his crime against Abel. But God assured Cain that his punishment would be far more difficult than death at the hands of an avenger. God was going to spare Cain and allow him to live with his guilt and condemnation for the rest of his life. In a rather strange turn of events, God pledges to become Cain’s “keeper.” In His infinite grace and mercy, God would spare the murderer and prolong his life. He would protect the guilty one who had chosen to take the life of the innocent one. And all of this points to the coming of a future Son of God whose innocent blood would be spilled so that condemned sinners might find life.

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. – Romans 3:25-26 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Curse Conceived

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:1-7 ESV

God had banned Adam and Eve from the garden, but He had not stripped them of their divine mandate to rule over His creation as His vice-regents.

Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” – Genesis 2:28 NLT

Even in their fallen condition, their ability to procreate remained intact. They were still free to produce more of their kind and fill the earth. But it will soon become evident that their capacity to reproduce would result in far more than pain in childbirth for Eve. The fruit of Eve’s womb would result in a harvest of sorrow and suffering as one of the lingering and all-pervasive side effects of sin began to manifest itself. Yet, chapter four opens up on a seemingly positive note.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain… – Genesis 4:1 ESV

The New Living Translation puts a bit less poetically.

Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. – Genesis 4:1 NLT

The first couple began a family and gave birth to their first child, a son, whom Eve named Cain. There is an interesting and somewhat controversial debate over exactly what Eve meant when she declared the name of her son. The English Standard Version translates it as “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” But the New English Translation provides a distinctively different take:

“I have created a man just as the Lord did!” – Genesis 4:1 NET

The reason for this disparity has to do with the Hebrew words Moses used to record her statement. The English phrase “I have gotten” is one word in Hebrew – קָנִיתִי (qaniti), and it has a variety of meanings, including “to get, to acquire, or to create.” When pronounced in Hebrew, it sounds similar to Cain’s name – קַיִן (qayin). It would seem, considering the context of the creation account and Eve’s original desire to be “like God,” that she is displaying a bit of hubris over her life-giving power. In essence, she is declaring her god-like capacity to create life ex nihilo (out of nothing), just as God had done. That is what leads her to exclaim, “I have created a man just as the Lord did!”

The English Standard Version translates the Hebrew preposition, אֶת (ʾet) as “with the help of the Lord.” But it could just as easily be translated as “along with,” which would give it a more comparative meaning. In a sense, Eve is expressing that, due to her ability to create life, she bears a likeness to God. They have this one thing “in common”: The ability to create life. This interpretation of the verse makes much more sense considering the context of all that has happened thus far in the narrative, and all that will happen in the verses that follow.

Cain’s name means “possession,” and it would seem that Eve believed her son belonged to her. She had created him and, therefore, he was her possession. But it would not be long before Eve realized the folly of that assumption. Cain would grow to be a self-possessed young man who had inherited his parent’s predilection for autonomy and self-rule. He would be owned by no one, including God.

Not long after the birth of Cain, Adam and Eve welcomed a second son into the world, whom they named Abel – הֶבֶל (heḇel). In Hebrew, his name carries a somewhat ominous and foreboding character. It can be translated as “breath,” but also as “vapor” or “vanity.” It seems likely that Eve had a more positive thought in mind when she named her second child, but there is a prophetic character to her words. As will become readily evident from the context, Abel’s life will be short-lived. His “breath” will abruptly cease due to the possessive nature of his brother, Cain.

As Moses prepares his readers for what is to come, he provides them with a brief description of the two brothers.

Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. – Genesis 4:2 ESV

Moses provides no decisive chronology in the text. There is no indication as to the age of the two brothers when this event took place, but both are old enough to share in the responsibility to care for God’s creation. It’s important to note that, of the two brothers, Cain was actually doing exactly what God had originally commanded his father to do.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. – Genesis 2:15 ESV

Each brother was carrying out God’s mandate to “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). Abel had become a shepherd. Cain had become a farmer. Moses makes no attempt to compare one to the other or to give any sense of superiority to either man’s choice of occupation. They were both doing the will of God.

But at some point in time, both brothers made the decision to bring an offering to God. Nowhere in the text does it indicate that God required this of them. It simply states, “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:3-4 ESV).

Both men brought an “offering” – מִנְחָה (minḥâ). This is a rather generic term that could include any type of gift or tribute. There is nothing to suggest that God had demanded a particular type of offering. As will soon become evident, the problem lie not in the nature of the offering but in the heart of the giver. Moses points out that “the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard” (Genesis 4:4-5 ESV). Another way to put this is that God accepted one brother and his gift while rejecting the other. Cain got snubbed by God. But why? What was the problem?

The author of Hebrews provides us with insight into what happened that day.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. – Hebrews 11:4 ESV

It seems that the sole differentiator between the two sacrifices was the faith of the two brothers. One exhibited faith while the other did not. But how is that displayed in the context of Genesis 4? To understand what is going on, one must take a close look at what the two brothers brought to God. The nature of their gift reveals the character of their faith.

Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Genesis 4:3 ESV). Moses doesn’t elaborate as to the nature of the “fruit,” but simply reveals that it came from the ground. It could have been some form of grain, grapes, figs, or even olives. Cain was a horticulturalist, so he brought a portion of what he had raised. But Abel brought “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions” (Genesis 4:4 ESV). This phrase could just as easily be translated as “from the fattest of the firstborn of the flock” (NET Bible Study Notes). There is nothing to indicate that Abel offered a blood sacrifice. At this stage in man’s relationship with God, there had been no decree given that required the death of an animal as some form of atonement. These were both meant to be offerings of gratitude to God for His goodness and provision.

But what stands out is that Abel offered up the fattest of the firstborn of his flock. And when he gave these animals to God, they become the Lord’s possession. Abel was making a permanent commitment of his most prized possessions. Once given to God, they would no longer be available to Abel for food, breeding, or the manufacture of wool for clothing. He was giving up a prime source of future sustenance. In so doing, he was committing his future care to God. He would no longer have those animals as resources on which to rely. That is why the author of Hebrews described Abel’s offering as “a more acceptable sacrifice.” His gift was an outward expression of faith, displaying his determination to trust God for his future well-being. 

Yet Cain gave God a portion of his produce. In other words, he offered God some of the fruit his plants had produced. But notice that he did not give God the plants themselves. Cain did not give God his best fruit-bearing tree or most productive vine. There was no ultimate sacrifice of future fruit-bearing potential. He still had all his trees, crops, and vines. Whatever he gave up could be easily replaced with the next harvest. So, in a sense, Cain was placing his faith in his own fruit-producing capabilities. He would meet his own needs. Cain exhibited his proclivity for self-sustenance and autonomy. He was not going to give to God what he believed to be rightfully his.

So, when God rejected his offering, Cain grew hot under the collar. He literally burned with anger. This response reveals a lot about Cain’s inner disposition. He had expected God to bless him on his own terms. Yet God had rejected his self-prescribed offering. Moses doesn’t reveal how God displayed His favor for one and not the other. But it is clear that Cain knew his offering had not measured up to God’s expectations. What he failed to comprehend was that his heart was the problem. So, God asked him, “Why are you so angry?…Why do you look so dejected?” (Genesis 4:6 NLT). And then God followed up His questions with the following lesson on godly living in a fallen world.

“You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” – Genesis 4:7 NLT

God wanted Cain to know that acceptance by God was based on faithful obedience to His will and humble reliance upon His provision. Cain needed to need God. But he desired self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He wanted to be the master of his own fate. And God warned him that the path of autonomy would never lead to self-control. It would always result in slavery to sin and captivity to the flesh. The apostle John would later explain what was at the root of Cain’s problem.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. – 1 John 3:12 ESV

Cain was already under the mastery of sin, and his behavior reflected the scope of his captivity. He was a man trapped and controlled by evil. And it would not be long before his anger turned more violent and deadly.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

A Garden of Earthly Delights

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14 And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  Genesis 2:8-17 ESV

Once again, Moses provides some much-needed context to set up the next phase of the creation account. He relates that God planted a garden in a region known as Eden. The Hebrew word of “garden” is גַּן (gan), which was typically used to refer to an orchard. In this eastern section of Eden, God had prepared a grove filled with trees that were “pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9 ESV). From the wording of the text, it appears that God did not create fully grown trees, but chose instead to have them grow from seeds.

…out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree… – Genesis 2:9 ESV

In Hebrew, the term, “spring up,” means “to sprout, spring forth, to grow.” It should not be overlooked that God caused these trees to spring up from the “ground”(ăḏāmâ).  God used the same ground from which He had formed Adam (‘āḏām) to produce the food that would feed and sustain him. And Moses points out two particular trees that existed in the garden God had created: The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These two trees will become key factors in the unfolding story.

It was in this idyllic spot that God placed man. This location was intended to be much more than a home for the first couple. In a sense, it was to be a place of worship, a precursor to both the tabernacle and temple that God would later ordain as holy sites in which His presence might dwell and His people could worship Him. In this setting, Adam and Eve would enjoy unbroken fellowship with God. Chapter three reveals that God regularly made His presence known to the first couple.

…the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day… – Genesis 3:8 NLT

And in that same chapter, it becomes clear that Adam and Eve were accustomed to communicating with God. This garden-temple was meant to be a place of intimate communion between man and his God. And its beautiful surroundings point to the glory and holiness of its designer and creator. There was a river that flowed into the garden, providing pure drinking water for Adam and nourishment for the trees. Moses describes the prevalence of gold, bdellium, and onyx stone – natural resources that would later become coveted for their rarity and subsequent value. These same precious metals and priceless stones would become key decorative elements in the tabernacle and temple that God would ordain.

“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them. Here is a list of sacred offerings you may accept from them:

gold, silver, and bronze;
blue, purple, and scarlet thread;
fine linen and goat hair for cloth;
tanned ram skins and fine goatskin leather;
acacia wood;
olive oil for the lamps;
spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense;
onyx stones, and other gemstones to be set in the ephod and the priest’s chestpiece.

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them.” – Exodus 25:1-8 NLT

While we can’t know for certain the exact location of the garden, Moses’ description of the four rivers provides a general idea of where this region may have been. Two of the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates are located in what would become the land of Babylon. What is interesting to note is that these two rivers flow from the north to the south and encompass two regions that would later be associated with Abraham: Ur and Haran.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. – Genesis 11:31 ESV

God would call Abram and command him to travel to a land that would become an inheritance to his ancestors.

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. – Genesis 12:1-5 ESV

And God would later describe two rivers that would form the boundaries of the land that He would give to Abram’s descendants.

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…” – Genesis 15:18 ESV

The land that God promised to give Abram’s offspring, the nation of Israel, would stretch from the Nile in the west to the Euphrates in the east. So, the garden in which God placed Adam must have been somewhere within this vast region. And this insight was meant to provide Moses’ readers with a reminder that, from the very beginning, God had intended this land to be the home of His children and the place where He dwelled among them. But this recounting of the creation story was also meant to remind every Israelite who would read it of their own rebellion and subsequent rejection from the land.

Moses makes it clear that God placed man in this very spot and gave him a job to do.

The Lord God took the man and placed him in the orchard in Eden to care for it and to maintain it. – Genesis 2:15 NLT

This verse helps to explain one of the responsibilities that had come with the command that God had given to Adam and Eve:

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

Adam had been placed in the garden by God and ordered to manage and maintain it. But the garden would also provide for all of Adam’s needs. It was a place of complete sufficiency that was intended to sustain mankind for generations to come. It was in the garden that Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply. But, ultimately, God expected them to leave the garden and fill the earth with more of their kind. They were to procreate and populate the entire earth and, in so doing, spread the image of God all throughout His creation.

But upon placing Adam in the garden, God gave him yet one more command that came with a sobering warning.

Then the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat fruit from every tree of the orchard, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die.” – Genesis 1:16

Adam was free to eat from every tree of the garden except one. That means he had free access to the tree of life, and it would appear that this one tree was to be the means by which God sustained and prolonged Adam’s life. As long as he had access to the tree of life, he would live. But there was another tree that would produce the opposite effect. If Adam ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Here, for the first time, we see the disparate distinction between life and death, blessings and curses. As long as Adam obeyed the will of God, he would live. But if He chose to disobey, his actions would result in a deadly curse from God.

And as will soon become apparent, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil offered a tantalizing fruit that could give man the ability to self-govern. It would appeal to his desire for autonomy and self-rule. The knowledge of good and evil refers to man’s inherent desire to decide for himself, to self-determine what is right and wrong. In essence, to be his own god and create his own sense of what is just and acceptable behavior. Adam had everything he needed to live in unbroken fellowship with God, but that relationship required that he constantly submit his will to that of God. As long as he did, he would thrive and enjoy the undiminished blessings of God. But, we know how the story ends, because Moses provides all the sordid details.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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So Easily Deceived.

I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge?  – 2 Corinthians 11:1-7 ESV

The debate that Paul was waging with his adversaries in Corinth was about far more than his authority and who was going to get credit for the spiritual state of the Corinthian church. This was about deception. Those who were standing against Paul and his ministry were actually leading the Corinthians astray. They were proclaiming another Jesus, promoting a different spirit, and preaching a different gospel. And the thing that bothered Paul the most was that the Corinthians “put up with it readily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:4b ESV). Maybe it was because these “super-apostles,” as he sarcastically refers to them, were skilled in speech and the Corinthians found themselves easily swayed by their rhetoric. With Paul physically out of the picture, it was easy for them to tear about his message and discredit his ministry. He was not here to defend himself. Which is what led him to write this letter. And Paul is forced to remind them of their long-standing relationship with him.

He begs them to bear with a “little foolishness” as he recounts his role in their “betrothal” to Christ. What makes it all so foolish is the fact that he is having to take time to remind them at all. Paul had been the one to introduce them to Christ. Like a father of a bride, he had given them in marriage to Jesus and his goal was to keep them pure until the day their marriage was consummated. It was not enough to Paul that they came to know Christ, he wanted them to remain pure until the day He returned for them or called them home. And yet, he found that they were easily deceived. He even compares them to Eve, who had been deceived and led astray from the truth of God by Satan in the garden. Her deception resulted in her banishment from presence of God. And Paul fears that the Corinthians, due to their willing reception of the false teaching of his critics, would be “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3b ESV).

It is important to note that as Satan led Eve to question the veracity and reliability of God’s word, so these false teachers were causing the Corinthians to question the very heart and soul of the gospel that Paul had preached. They were offering a different gospel that promoted a different Jesus. While Paul does not elaborate on what their message was, it is clear that they were leading the Corinthians astray. The apostle John describes these kinds of people as having the spirit of the Antichrist.

But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. – 1 John 4:3 NLT

I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. – 2 John 1:7 NLT

Whether these people were denying the incarnation of Jesus or questioning His death and resurrection, we do not know. But it is clear that their message was in direct opposition to the one that Paul had preached. And they had found the Corinthians to be a willing and receptive audience. This was particularly disturbing to Paul, because he had sacrificed so much to ensure that they heard the unadulterated gospel. He brought them the good news of Jesus, free of charge, with no strings attached. He had not come to them demanding that they idolize him or treat him like a god. He humbled himself so that they might be exalted to a right relationship with God through a knowledge of Jesus Christ. He took a backseat, playing the role of the humble mouthpiece for God. He had simply been the messenger, the bearer of good news. And now, to hear that they were so easily accepting another version of the gospel, was disturbing and disconcerting. But Paul was not one to sit back and let his work among the Corinthians go to waste. He loved them too much.

The gospel is always under attack, and most often from within. Satan is the great deceiver and he would much rather promote a slightly false version of the truth than an outright lie. He tends to blend truth with just enough falsehood to make it palatable, but just as deadly. He is more than willing to have people accept Jesus, as long as it is a slightly different Jesus. He loves the idea of a Jesus who was a good man and lived a life worth emulating. He likes to promote Jesus as the great teacher and moral prophet. He prefers a Jesus who was nothing more than a martyr to a cause. But the Jesus Satan promotes is never the Son of God and Savior of the world. He is never the selfless, spotless sacrifice that paid the penalty for man’s sins. He is never the source of man’s justification and the power behind his sanctification. He is never the resurrected and ascended King of kings and Lord of lords who sits at the right hand of God the Father and is one day going to return. That is the Jesus of the gospel. And any other Jesus is a false Jesus.