Genesis 3 & 4

Ok, so everything was going great for all of two books, and then the serpent appears; the first, and one of the few, talking beasts in the bible. “The woman says to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’’” (Genesis 3:2-3, NRSV)

God is a liar. He tells the man and woman that if they eat fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they will die. Then they eat of the fruit. Then they don’t die. One of the most important things I learned in the last year and a half of teaching is that if you want your subordinates to do or not do something you have to assign a reasonable punishment and then follow through. Death doesn’t seem reasonable and God doesn’t follow through. He is new at this, however, and perhaps this will be a learning experience for him.

The woman “…took of [the tree’s] fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (3:6, NRSV, emphasis added)

I always thought that she ate the fruit without the man knowing, and then went to him and was like, “Here, eat some of this fruit that I didn’t pick off the tree that God forbade us to eat from.” Au contraire! The dude was right there, and then when God gets pissed the man tries to pass all the blame onto the woman: “’The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate,’” (3:12, NRSV), and even worse, God buys the man’s B.S. and rebukes the woman and gives her painful childbirth. Gender equality: 1 (from 2:23-24), Patriarchy: 1.

Shortly after this God says, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” (3:22, NRSV) Who is God talking to? This is the first of many passages in the Old Testament that refer to other gods. In this passage God might actually not be talking to other gods, but he is at least talking to the cherubim or other order of angels. The issue of the existence of other gods will be more important in a few books.

The man and woman are banished from Eden and they “know” each other resulting in the fabled sons Cain and Abel. Abel offers to God the “firstlings of his flock” and Cain offers to God “the fruit of the ground.” For some unexplained reason God favors Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s. This seems contradictory to God’s pro-vegetarianism statement in Genesis 1.

Once again God is acting unfairly toward one party. Each brother made an offering in his own kind, but God isn’t satisfied. The only explanation I can think of is that perhaps God was testing Cain, to see how he might react. I think it is fair to say that Cain fails the test. Then god exiles him, but bestows upon him a mark (the Mark of Cain) so that people will not kill him. Who are these people that Cain is afraid of, by the way? Cain is the son of Adam and Eve, the first and only people created by God. How could there be other people that might kill Cain? Did God only create some humans? Did God create other humans after Adam and Eve and we just don’t know about it? Either way it is obvious that we cannot take the bible to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Finally, Cain’s great-great-great grandson, Lamech, “took two wives.” Gender equality: 1, Patriarchy: 2.


Danny Taft said...

I think god favors Abel's gift because he gave up the firstlings, arguably the most delicious (e.g. veal, suckling pig, eggs etc.) of his flock of wild animals which he had tamed.

Cain, on the other hand, just grabs some fruit and veggies off the ground. This is just stuff that God created and Cain picked it up and regifted it (to exactly the same guy who gave it to him in the first place.) Sure, maybe he planted an orchard or a garden or something, but really he's just some regifting jerk.

I've always assumed that there were parts left out of the written versions of the bible, just to keep things relatively brief. Also, I always assumed that, since these stories were originally told around a campfire, there are probably some elaborations and/or misremembered moments. Not to make excuses, I just never really took everything as 100% truth anyway.

jdk said...

Very interesting interpretation. I know that later on in the bible there is a section describing the rules for sacrifice, and that for some things you sacrifice animals and for some things you sacrifice grains. Cain and Abel were around before any of those laws were written, but maybe it was one of those times for an animal sacrifice and Abel hadn't received the memo.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe...we might not know or understand everything about the Bible.
I didn't sit in my Physics classes and mock the teacher every time something didn't make sense to me. Some concepts took some time.

God is not a liar. Adam and Eve DID die. He did not say they would die immediately. Such poor analysis from a physics teacher reflects the current state of our public education...I hope you fare better with Statics and Dynamics. Your reading comprehension and logic skills are severely lacking.

jdk said...

Anonymous: I think it is ludicrous to argue that God's threat of death was fulfilled because they eventually died. If they had not eaten from the tree they would have died anyway.

I could threaten my students that if they don't hand in their lab reports they will die...eventually. I cannot believe that this is what God's original commandment against eating the fruit meant. It would have been essentially meaningless, and God would appear weak which is obviously not the case if one reads ahead a little bit.

Thank you for your comments, though. I appreciate that you took the time to read my thoughts and respond.

rdbhcx said...

@Danny Tuft
It says in 4:2 that Cain was a tiller of the ground. Given God's curse of the ground earlier (3:17-19), I don't think it's much more a regifting than Abel's. They're both working to grow something and both are using resources created by God. However, other than that, I agree with you.

I've also heard the interpretation that Cain should have offered animals because sin requires blood to cover it. They have the lambskin garments that God made for Adam and Eve as an example. However, the problem with this is that there is no mention of a sin by Abel nor Cain.

"In bringing the offering he did, Cain denied that he was a sinful creature under the sentence of divine condemnation. He insisted on approaching God on the ground of personal worthiness. Instead of accepting God's way, he offered to God the fruits of the ground which God had cursed. He presented the product of his own toil, the work of his own hands, and God refused to receive it (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis)."
Again, I don't see the difference between Cain and Abel. Actually, I don't understand this commentary at all.

I'm looking forward to future posts, jdk. I like your commentary.

Anonymous said...

JDK, you said- If they had not eaten from the tree they would have died anyway.
- - - -
Not so. God originally created mankind to be immortal but upon their disobedience (sin), death was introduced. I thought you may have been familiar with that premise.

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Mark Weston said...

"Not so. God originally created mankind to be immortal but upon their disobedience (sin), death was introduced. I thought you may have been familiar with that premise."

This gets into whether the death intended was a 'spiritual' or an actual, physical death. Also open to interpretation is whether the death would be immediate or forthcoming. Since it was not immediate, most seem to side on the Fall being a ‘spiritual’ death.

One could get into arguments about whether it would be possible for man to be immortal. Did the 2nd law of Thermodynamics only start after man’s disobedience? Certainly someone as powerful as God could have set it up so that biology / the laws of physics / etc. would allow man to be immortal. However, I’m not really going to get into that.

A simpler, more direct argument comes from scripture itself, which I interpret to show that man was originally mortal. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

#1. God is worried about mankind eating from the fruit of the tree of life and then becoming immortal:

"Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22)"

This is just before mankind is kicked out of Eden. The simplest interpretation here is that man didn’t already live forever. As stated, he would have to eat the fruit to do so. For the immortal argument to hold, it would have to read like (huge run on sentence incoming): “Behold, the man who was previously immortal, somehow, but who has died a spiritual death and is now mortal and will eventually die, has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, which he hasn’t done before (otherwise he would be immortal), and eat, and then live forever, even though he was immortal before and didn’t need to eat of this fruit, but he has to now, also, by the way, get out of my garden before you do so.” Which interpretation do you prefer?

#2. No, really, God is worried about us eating from that tree. Just in case, He puts up a bouncer to insure we don't get to eat of the tree of life and become immortal.

"So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)"

Man didn’t know he could eat of the tree of life and live forever. He eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, figures this out (above quote) and lest this occur, God immediately banishes man from the garden and sets up a guard specifically to prevent this.

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