Gen 4: Crime and punishment, with redemptive hope
We may not realize that sin is a crime against God. Sin is lawlessness (1Jn 3:4); that is, it does not accept or live by any law that governs society, or that establishes what is good and what is evil. It is disobedience and rebellion against God and His Word. (Is 1:18-20) It began with Lucifer, now the Devil, and he brought it into Eve and Adam. Sin separates us from God our Father. (Is 59:2) Yeshua came to destroy the works of the devil, and to restore us to a relationship with God, knowing His holiness and righteousness, His goodness, His love. (1Jn 3:8)
Adam and Eve together sewed fig leaves to cover their shame of being naked. God did not accept man’s imperfect and inadequate attempt to hide their shame and guilt. God provided both of them skins of an animal – blood was apparently shed by an innocent substitute, whose life was given – as a covering to keep His eternal righteous judgment ‘on hold’, while in mercy He provided temporal redemption. Man, in our imperfection, does not want fellowship with the perfect and holy God.
When Adam sinned by disobeying God in eating the forbidden fruit, both he and his wife knew that something was wrong: there was now a knowledge of good and evil, which they had not known before. There had been only good. Sin was awakened in Man, and redemption becomes necessary. YHVH did know what evil would be, and how it would show itself. God is good.
Knowing evil is not what we want to know! We want to know what is pleasing to God. (1Cor 14:20) We are always tempted to choose what is not God’s will, to choose not to listen to and obey the LORD. God does not allow man with his sinful tendency to live forever in that state. God cast out Adam and Eve from His garden. When we recognize that God does judge sin, then it will put in us a desire to seek God’s mercy and redemption – even if our hearts are still hardened against Him, like we will see in Cain.
Gen 4:1 Adam intimately knew his wife, in obedience to God’s first commandment to be fruitful and multiply! It seems that while in the Garden of Eden, that they did not “know” each other; it also seems, because of that commandment, that they must not have been very long in the Garden before the serpent came to Eve. Eve understood that YHVH helped her acquire Cain, their son. God helps us when we obey Him.
v 2 Eve had another son, Abel. Cain worked in agriculture; Abel was a shepherd.
v 3-4 God’s ultimate redemption requires the blood of an acceptable sacrifice, which the sinner accepts. Man’s attempts to justify himself and to excuse our sins will not be accepted by God. Cain gave what he found near him of what was his and what was of his work: some plants, or fruit, or vegetables. Abel brought a select gift: he chose the best of what was his and of what held value to him, and it required the shedding of blood. God accepted (the Hebrew word is “yeesha”, similar to “save”) Abel and his offering. It is not written here if either of these offerings by Cain or Abel were for sin, or simply maybe what we call a tithe.
v 5 Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell (changed its appearance in anger), because God rejected (the Hebrew word has the same root as used for Abel’s acceptance) him and his offering. Cain had offered an imperfect and unacceptable sacrifice, like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve had used. Cain did not ask the LORD what he could offer that would satisfy Him.
v 6-7 God did not want to completely reject Cain, and offered him the chance to make good – to do what God wanted. But Cain stubbornly refused, which is idolatry. (1Sam 15:22-23) This is the “way of Cain”, which Jude writes about in his epistle. This “way” is characterized by those who know who God is, unjustly hate the ‘innocent’, refuse to feel any remorse over it, stubbornly do not repent when given the opportunities by God for acceptance by Him, seek their own righteousness by their works, and blame their suffering and punishment on those they envy, even on God.
Sin has a strong desire for us, even as does the woman for her man. We must rule over sin in our lives, if we want the blessing that comes with that; just as a wife must allow her husband to rule over her properly in order for God’s order and peace. (Gen 3:16; Rom 6) And the grace of God has come to help us! We need a blood sacrifice to appreciate the cost of our sin, but animals are not adequate to affect our conscience. We need the blood of the Son of God, Yeshua, and to apply His blood to our hearts, minds, eyes, ears, tongues. If we do not rule over sin in our lives, the enemy will rule over our life: sin will wait for us at our door, and one sin will lead to another sin, and so on, until and unless we confess our sin and repent of it, choosing instead to do what is good in God’s sight.
Am I/we going to be changed by the Word of God, or am I going to continue to do things my way? This question is always before us as we live in this body in this world.
v 8-9 Cain talked with his brother, very possibly about what God had said to him, and then he murdered his righteous brother. When God confronted Cain, Cain was still angry with God. He tried to justify himself and conceal his guilt. But YHVH knows everything, even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts! And we are our brother’s keeper, which fulfills our relationship in a family, and also that we must love our fellow man as ourselves (even though the Law had not yet come in).
v 10-16 God says to Cain that the blood of his brother Abel cries out to Him from the ground. It cries out vengeance, justice. This is similar to the cry of the saints under the altar asking God until when will He judge and avenge their blood on those who dwell upon the Earth?! (Rev 6:9-11) Praise God that the blood of Jesus cries out better things than the blood of Abel: it cries out forgiveness and salvation for all who repent and believe! (Heb 12:24) Remember: Genesis is the seed-bed and roots of all history afterwards, and of God’s plan and hope for the redemption of sinful people is built into His story.
Cain felt that his iniquity was too great to bear (or, to be taken away/forgiven) (v 13 in Hebrew). There is a weight of iniquity; and if we do not give it over to God in His manner, we will have to carry our own iniquity — and die with it. There is also a weight of glory, and Yeshua says that His burden is light. YHVH did not kill Cain for taking another’s life. (This law of retribution only came in after the Flood.) Cain was cast out into a wandering exile; outside the immediate presence of the LORD, which concerned Cain, even though he did not want to submit to His righteousness and grace; and he believed that whoever saw him would kill him. (There would have been other extended family members by that time, who may have wanted to avenge Abel’s murder.) Once again, it is Cain who is acting like the “poor victim”, although he is the unrepentant sinner and murderer! And, once again, God showed that He is merciful and does not delight in the death of the wicked. The first murder in history was a result of religious envy: God accepted Abel and his offering; God rejected Cain and his.
God put a mark on Cain to protect him from being killed, and God promised to avenge Cain seven times should he be killed for his murder of Abel. God prefers forgiveness and redemption over vengeance and death. What a great God we have! Then Cain went out from the presence of YHVH, and settled in Nod, east of Eden. Sin separates us from God.
v 17-22 Cain knew his wife, and they gave birth to Enoch. Cain built a city and named it after the name of his son. God is also building a city, the New Jerusalem, which is only for the children of God in Christ to live in forever. (Heb 11:8-10; Rev 21) Cain’s wife would have been one of his sisters, or cousins, or nieces. We do not know their ages. Until the Law (Torah) of Moses about 2600 years later, this was permissible. In these very early years of humanity, there was civilization: we have not only murder, but also agriculture; the beginning of nomadic life in tents and tending of livestock; musical instruments; mining and craftmanship of bronze and iron. We also have bigamy (polygamy). These all came through Cain and through his descendants – both the evil and the good.
v 23-24 Lamech, a descendant of Cain, is the first man to take more than one woman as his wife. Although there was not any law against it, nonetheless it was not the example or pattern which God established in the beginning of one man and one wife. (Gen 2:18-25; Mk 10:6-8;Eph 5:31-33) Lamech also calls his two wives together to inform them that he has killed a boy who injured him. Was this self-defense; or was it an excessive reaction of a grown man towards a younger person who somehow hurt him? In any event, Lamech is aware that YHVH had promised to avenge Cain seven times if anyone sought to avenge Abel’s murder against him. Yet Lamech presumptuously and intimidatingly claims for himself that he would be avenged 70×7 (or maybe 77) times if anyone sought to retaliate against him! Jesus tells us to forgive anyone 70×7 times if we have been sinned against. (Mt 18:21-22) The New Covenant brings in a higher realm of justice: love your enemy; and vengeance belongs to YHVH. (Dt 32:35-36; Rom 12:17-21)
v 25-26 Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, after Abel’s death by Cain. Then Seth had a son, named Enosh, which means “mortal man; frail”. Then people began to call upon the name of YHVH. In the fear of the true God and Judge, mortal man began to worship Him by name. Moses gives us many names of people in Gen 4 – 5. God, who created the heavens and the Earth and the seas, and all that is in them, also has a name: YEHOVAH. God continues His plan of redemption, which He purposed before time began, in the reality of sin and death. Praise God that He has become our Father through knowing Him personally because we know Jesus! And God knows us!
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
There is sin/crime; there is punishment. And there is the hope of redemption — in the way of YHVH, not in the way of Cain, nor of Lamech.
We have in ch 4 of the first book of the Bible the core essence of the religious spirits which motivate and distinguish those who profess to know God (there is nothing new under the sun):
–New Testament Christianity: knowing God the Father and His Son; faith based upon the shed blood of Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous wrath and His love, forgiving our sins and accepting us fully as sons in Messiah’s death and resurrection. God justifies us by our faith in Yeshua/Jesus and His sacrifice for us and our sins. (Heb 11:4)
–Islam: denies the Father and the Son; self-righteousness; multiple wives; knows that God has shown mercy to the Jews and to Christians; yet a vengeful spirit based on rejection, which is used to kill, and to intimidate others not to challenge their beliefs and actions
“Surely I am coming quickly”. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah be with you all”.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, May 10, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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Continents stream through the gates of Jerusalem,
converging rivers of faces pumping life’s blood
through chambers of this heart of all cities,
pilgrim faces black as Sudan and white as Sweden,
bronzed as Ishmael and Isaac regathered,
yellow as China and Japan and red as Jeronimo
stepping the ancient stones of Jeremiah,
ethereal as Jacob’s angel and fierce as Cain,
naïve as Eve swerving the mysterious
narrow passageways of pulsing antiquity,
tides gushing through the gates of Damascus
and Jaffa and Zion in flowing currents
of curious quest for the most elusive Source,
the Amazon and Euphrates and Columbia
and Nile join here in holy confluence,
not a face among them the same in wonder,
mine one in the churning global heartbeat!
Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published two illustrated books of poetry, and painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.
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The need to make a dent in the universe
Do you feel the need to make a dent in the universe? I think we all do. But what about our other needs, like food, water, shelter, money, love? Which needs are more important than others? Can we really make a dent in the universe if we have nothing in the bank account? Maybe we can at least make a dent in making a dent in the universe…
In dreams begins responsibility. Adam Lee Rosenfeld, of the indie rock band Har Adonai, shares his lifelong pursuit of finding and creating beauty and truth. Check out more episodes here
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Zionism and justice
Ten or so years ago I walked into an airport bookstore and saw Jimmy Carter’s (then) new book on Israel and the Palestinians. At the time, there was been quite a commotion over this book. Carter used the word ‘apartheid’ to describe the potential of Israeli policies – I feared the worst. What I found was a rehashing of the same ideas as the “peace now” groups in Israel: Israel should pull back from the “West Bank” and return to the 1967 U.N. accepted borders. Minor adjustments could be made for security, including keeping some settlements. This would entail trading some land on the Israel side of the old border (the green line). Really, this was not much different than the Barak negotiated plan offered to Arafat in 2000. Carter’s book sadly had a tone of blaming Israel for the present stalemate. I found it to be over the top. Many factual errors were documented by reviewers such as Harvard University’s Alan Dershowitz.
For the sake of our readers then and now, I think it is important to have a short and solid statement of response. Messianic Jews are Biblical Zionists. Zionism is the view that it is important for Jews to return to the Land of Israel and that this is a just and right cause. Biblical Zionists add that this land has been given to the Jewish people as their homeland, which is a Scriptural teaching. There is a clear promise of a returning to the Land repeated again and again throughout scriptures. The question remains, where should followers of Yeshua stand, both Jew and Gentile?
Does God Have a Say?
Most justice commentators and policy makers today ignore the most important point: God is the owner of the whole earth, He has the right to allocate land as He sees fit. Eventually all land will be allocated by God, but as a precursor to this just allocation, God challenges the world to accept His allocation of one very small piece of property, a property the size of New Jersey. Although former President Carter means well, and does claim to be representing Christian values, his unwillingness to embrace God’s Word on this matter places him strictly within the camp of secular humanism.
The most important thing for us as committed disciples of Yeshua is God’s will. This is always the first justice issue. Looking back on the 19th century, England was influenced by the Bible and had embraced as their national destiny the role of restoring Israel as a nation. God was allowed to speak. What a difference a century makes!
But what about Palestinian rights?
Some say that the Palestinians have been displaced from land they had occupied for hundreds of years and this is unjust. It is crucially important to break the deception of this argument. First, we must ask at what point a people cease to have claim to their land? Let us say that one nation displaces another and then occupies that land for ten years. Can the former people who were displaced come back and justly retake their land? Most would say yes. What about in fifty years? What about in five hundred years? An absolute right is not given to keep possession of a land that was obtained by expelling the original occupants, even many years after the fact. Native Americans lost most of their land but now seek compensation after hundreds of years. We think that such arguments are credible; otherwise we would say that the occupation of the land by Europeans for hundreds of years nullifies any claim. Justice issues cannot be solved by this argument, especially since God has spoken on this issue.
In addition, most of Israeli land was not gained by pushing Palestinians off their land. From the 1880s to 1948, the Jews returned to a desolate land that was sparsely populated and purchased the land for their settlements. State owned land passed from the Turkish Empire to Britain and then to Israel. In the 1948 and 1967 wars, Israel did displace some Palestinian occupants, but many of these were for security reasons.
On the basis of the justice issues, the U.N. voted to form the state of Israel in 1948. For a brief period, the world entertained the just cause of the Jewish people. The countries of the world had proven that they could not be trusted with the protection of their Jewish minority. Therefore the U.N. voted to give the Jews their own state on land they reclaimed from desolation as well as land purchased from Arab owners who gladly sold the land in exchange for the funds they received.
Two of the wars fought after this decision led to border changes, these were in 1948 and 1967. Throughout history justice was played out this way: the aggressor rightly loses land and is penalized if defeated in war. This principle of historic justice is ignored by U.N. resolutions. Aside from reference to God’s promise, Israel has a justice issue to have their own country in their own land. This is the most outstanding claim of justice in history. This is a claim that should be recognized by the whole world in the light of Jewish historical suffering.
In her classic study “From Time Immemorial,” Joan Peters debunks the idea that most Palestinians are from long term landed descendants. She uses census figures from the Turkish Empire to show that the majority of the Palestinians are recent 20thcentury immigrants to the land.
The Palestinians do have one justice claim. It is the claim of the stranger in the midst of Israel. They are to be treated generously and with justice. However, this refers to a category of people who are willing to live in a land they accept as having been given to the Jews by God. This is not referring to a people that seek to destroy the Jewish State! The big justice issues are all on the side of Israel (we could refer to them as macro-justice issues). The Palestinians do have some micro-justice issues as “strangers in the midst”. The Arabs have property in the Middle East that is so extensive that the justice issue is made even clearer.
The Bible indicates that there will be a great return to the land of Israel before Israel comes to faith in Yeshua. We see this in Ezekiel 36 and 37 as well as Matthew 23:37-39. Only after this return will Israel be filled with the Spirit. Until then, there will be ups and downs.
Why does the world oppose Israel?
So why is the world so against Israel? Among the Arabs, the issue is not really empathy for Palestinians. The Arabs prove they are more than willing to murder each other in Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza. The issue is spiritual. It is the pride that the land was under Moslem government and therefore should always so remain. The loss of Jerusalem strikes at the heart of the pride of Islam: that is, Islam has superseded Judaism and Christianity. The rest of the world wants to have peace by appeasing the Muslim world. This is sheer foolishness. They fail to realize that Islam’s intentions for world conquest cannot be appeased. All the nations seek a world order that excludes the God of the Bible, who is the God of Israel. But God will not allow this. Israel, even in her unbelief challenges this view, but will fulfill that role completely when she comes into her fullness of faith through Yeshua Hamashiach.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, May 3, 2019, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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Cleanse the unclean
PARASHAT EMOR (SAY)
VAYIKRA (LEVITICUS) 21:1–24:3
The Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) have a great deal to say about cleanliness. Nothing unclean could come before God, because He is holy. As I was reading this week’s Parasha (Scripture portion), two specific instances caught my attention because they connect to Messiah’s ministry of cleansing while He was on the earth:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the bread of his God. ‘For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. ‘No man among the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, is to come near to offer the LORD’s offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. ‘He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, that he may not profane My sanctuaries. For I am the LORD who sanctifies them.’” So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel.
In light of these above verses, it’s quite astonishing that Yeshua reached out and healed those who, on the outside, had some type of a “defect”; He healed the blind, the leper, the lame, etc. While the restriction was specifically against the Priests, there is an important spiritual principal at work here. Yeshua healed people so that they could be clean and made whole before God the Father. He makes us all worthy of coming before a holy God to offer our lives as a sacrifice.
It is also interesting that an animal with any defect could not be offered to God as a sacrifice:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering —for you to be accepted — it must be a male without defect from the cattle, the sheep, or the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you. And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow, or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the LORD. In respect to an ox or a lamb which has an overgrown or stunted member, you may present it for a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. Also anything with its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut, you shall not offer to the LORD, or sacrifice in your land, nor shall you accept any such from the hand of a foreigner for offering as the food of your God; for their corruption is in them, they have a defect, they shall not be accepted for you.’”
When reading the above scriptures, I am reminded of a well-known story from the book of John, chapter 5:
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Yeshua saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Yeshua said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
Yeshua went up to Jerusalem since this was one of the appointed times to offer sacrifices before the LORD. The account tells us of the pool of Bethesda, which in Hebrew means “the house of grace”, and was located near the Sheep Gate. The location of the pool is significant because sheep and goats were offered as sacrifices, so there is a connection between the cleansing pool and the sacrifice. And, as we read before, if the animals had any defect, they could not be offered as a sacrifice.
Yeshua came to this specific place to perform an amazing miracle of healing a man who was lame for 38 years. This man could not physically go and offer sacrifices, and was anyway forbidden from entering the sanctuary. The fact that Yeshua had compassion on him and chose to heal him shows His heart for making a person worthy before God Almighty.
Yeshua’s blood cleanses and heals us so that we may be worthy to come before the Almighty! As our High Priest, He is constantly interceding on our behalf, and presenting our lives as a sacrifice to the Father. I am so grateful for His sacrifice and His work on my behalf. I hope you are too!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.