Category Archive: Bible – OT – Genesis

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January 25, 2013

Rebekah Veiled (Gen 24:64-66)

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant has traveled to Mesopotamia to bring back a bride for Isaac.  At the end of the chapter, Rebekah, traveling with the servant, sees Isaac walking in the field and asks the servant who he is.  On hearing the answer, Rebekah then veils herself.  Why?

It’s certainly not the case that women in that day wore veils at all times, or even at times when they were around men.  After all, Rebekah has been traveling unveiled with Abraham’s servant up till now.  It is only when she sees her future husband that she covers herself with the veil.  She is veiled with regard to him, and that seems to symbolize that they are not yet one flesh.  There is a barrier between them; they cannot yet be face to face.

But why does Rebekah veil herself at this particular point in time?

In the story of Jacob and Leah and Rachel, though the text doesn’t mention it, it seems as if Leah must have been veiled on the wedding day or else Jacob would have recognized that she wasn’t Rachel.  But surely we aren’t to think that for the entire seven years that Jacob served for Rachel leading up to this wedding day, she was veiled.  Sure, she was his future wife.  But there’s no reason to think he didn’t see her face to face.  Rather, it makes sense that she wore the veil — or rather, Leah-pretending-to-be-Rachel, wore the veil — only on the wedding day, only during the hours leading up to the wedding.

If so, that would suggest that when Rebekah veils herself on seeing Isaac in the distance, she is doing so, not only in anticipation of the wedding, but in anticipation that the wedding is going to happen that very day.  She is not planning to veil herself for the next few weeks until some future wedding day.  She is not anticipating a period of courtship, of “getting to know one another.”  Just as she was willing to leave her home for the promised land the morning after Abraham’s servant arrived, so she is ready to get married instantly, without delay to the promised seed. She has agreed to marry Isaac and she is ready for the wedding today.  That’s faith.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:10 pm | Discuss (0)
December 29, 2012


Category: Bible - NT - Mark,Bible - OT - Genesis,Bible - OT - Isaiah :: Link :: Print

Isaiah 56 describes the good news of coming salvation in terms of the inclusion of eunuchs in the house of God.  Formerly, they were excluded from the assembly of Yahweh; they could not draw near to God (Deut 23:1).  But why were they excluded?

As with many other exclusions from the assembly — for instance, the exclusion of those who have an emission or who have touched someone who is dead — the reason is symbolic, symbolic of something in the Old Creation so that when Christ comes and we enter the New Creation these exclusions no longer apply.  Death results from sin, and if you touch someone dead it spreads so that you yourself are symbolically dead, and you may not bring that stench of death-as-a-result-of-man’s-sin into God’s presence.  So too with the eunuch.

What is a eunuch?  A eunuch is a man who is physically unable to beget, a man who by reason of damage to his organs of generation barren and fruitless.  His fruitlessness symbolizes those who do not bear fruit to God’s glory, and, as Jesus teaches, those who do not bear fruit will be cut off and burned (John 15).

But now associate that with Mark 11:12ff. and the cursing of the fig tree.  In my previous blog entry, I noted that Jesus, in his temple action, quotes from Isaiah 56 about his house becoming a house of prayer for all nations.  This is not a statement about how it was always supposed to be, but about the salvation that was still future in Isaiah’s day.  And Jesus makes it clear that that time of salvation is now here.  But the context in Isaiah 56 also talks about the eunuch who is not to see himself as a withered tree.  The fig tree that represents the fruitless temple and those who take refuge in it withers under Jesus’ curse, but when Jesus comes, eunuchs are no longer fruitless; they may enter God’s house and have a fruit better than sons and daughters and a name that will never die.

One step further: What’s the first reference to fig trees in the Bible?  Genesis 3, where Adam and Woman sew fig leaves into garments with which they hide their genitals from each other.  (Not from God: When he comes, they want something bigger to hide behind and so they hide behind the trees of the Garden.)  Specifically, then, the first appearance of fig leaves is as garments that cover the source of man and woman’s fruitfulness.

The temple and those who use it as their hideout have fig leaves but no fruitfulness toward God.  They are Adam and Woman, covering their fruitlessness.  But Jesus exposes their fruitlessness.  They are eunuchs who are banned from His house.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:18 pm | Discuss (0)
December 21, 2012

Isn’t Jesus’ Love Enough?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Marriage :: Link :: Print

This morning, I read most of Justin Buzzard’s little book, Date Your Wife: A Husband’s Guide.  The title is somewhat misleading — very little of the book is really about having a “date” with your wife — and I have some quibbles about certain aspects of the content (religion vs. Christianity), but there’s some good, practical, and gospel-grounded stuff here.  I could say more, but this isn’t a book review and I have something else on my mind.

The foreword to the book is by Tullian Tchividjian and it contains a line that made me raise my eyebrows.  Here it is in context:

I enjoy receiving love from my wife.  I’m ecstatic when Kim loves me and expresses affection toward me.  Something in me comes alive when she does that.  But I’ve learned this freeing truth: I don’t need that love, because in Jesus I receive all the love I need.  This in turn liberates me to love her without apprehension or condition.  I get to revel in her enjoyment of my love without needing anything from her in return.  I get love from Jesus so that I can give love to her (10-11).

The line in question is in the middle of that paragraph: “I don’t need that love” — the love of a wife — “because in Jesus I receive all the love I need.”  At first, that sounds right.  Jesus is all we need, isn’t he?  If we have him, we have everything.  Doesn’t Paul say “For me to live is Christ”?

And yet here’s what raises a question in my mind.  In the beginning, on the sixth day, God creates Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes the Spirit into his nostrils and Adam becomes a living soul.  God then plants a garden in Eden and puts Adam into it.  This is not Adam’s garden; it is God’s garden, God’s sanctuary, and Adam is there as a priest to tend and guard it (language associated with priests later in Scripture).  God speaks to Adam and gives him permission to eat from every tree in God’s garden, with the exception of one.

But then God says something that ought to surprise us more than it does: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”  How was Adam alone?  Didn’t he have fellowship with God?  Of course he did!  Isn’t that fellowship enough?  Apparently not.  Shouldn’t Adam have said “I don’t need a wife (or her love or anything from her) because I have God (and His love) and that’s enough to meet all my needs”?  No. Adam had fellowship with God, but he also needed a wife.  And he needed a wife, not an angel, not an animal, but also not a male buddy or a female friend; he needed a wife, someone who was bound together with him, one flesh with him.

Of course, Jesus’ love for us is the foundation of all our blessings.  Certainly Jesus’ love empowers a man to love his wife, even when she isn’t lovely or isn’t loving him in return.  But a man who has Jesus and in him has fellowship with God still needs other people.  It is not good for him to be alone.  And it’s right for him to say to his wife, “I need you.”

Posted by John Barach @ 2:33 pm | Discuss (5)
December 14, 2010

Eye and Ear: Philosophy and Revelation

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis,Ethics,Theology :: Link :: Print

In his The Beginning of Wisdom, Leon Kass argues that the Bible is not just “not a work of philosophy”; rather, it is actually

antiphilosophical, and deliberately so.  Religion and piety are one thing, philosophy and inquiry another.  The latter seek wisdom looking to nature and relying on unaided human reason; the former offer wisdom based on divine revelation and relying on prophecy (3).

Kass sees a relationship between this distinction and the distinction between the sense of sight and the sense of hearing.  Philosophy, according to Plato and Aristotle, starts with wonder and wonder is provoked by sight:

It is especially those natural wonders manifest to sight — for example, the changing phases of the moon or the wandering motions of the sun and planets through the zodiac — that prompt the search for wisdom: “for of all the senses, sight most of all makes us know something and reveals many distinctions” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, 982a22-29] (3).

But the Bible, unlike philosophy, begins with hearing, not sight:

For the Bible, in contrast, the beginning of wisdom comes not from wonder but from awe and reverence, and the goal is not understanding for its own sake but rather a righteous and holy life.  True, the Psalmist sings that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the sky proclaims His handiwork.”  But “the beginning of wisdom is the fear [awe; reverence] of the Lord, and good understanding comes to all who practice it.”  The path to wisdom and happiness lies not through wondrous sights seen by the eye but through awesome command heard by the ear….  Not the attractive, beautiful, ceaselessly circling, and seemingly imperishable heavenly bodies, but the awe-inspiring, sublime, ceaselessly demanding, and imperishable divine covenant and commandments provide the core of biblical wisdom.  The wisdom of Jerusalem is not the wisdom of Athens (3-4).

There is, of course, much more that could be said about philosophy and revelation as two competing paths to wisdom.

One might wonder if Aristotle’s view of philosophy is really determinative for all philosophy.  Aristotle says here that philosophy starts with seeing (though he himself, famously, stated that women have fewer teeth than men [HA 2.3.501b19-21], which suggests that his theory didn’t proceed from seeing at all).  But leave Aristotle aside.  What about other philosophers?  What about Descartes?  Surely not all philosophizing starts with sight and with wonder.

One might also ask if these two paths must compete, if one must necessarily choose.  After all, the “wisdom” that Aristotle is speaking of has to do with figuring out what we would call “astronomy,” not with the sort of wisdom we think of in connection with day-to-day living here on earth.

Scripture is not antiphilosophical in this sense: it does not oppose learning about the natural world by examining it — that is, by looking at it with our eyes.  God sees what He has made and evaluates it in Genesis 1, and from then on, sight in the Bible has to do with judgment.  God expects Adam and all his descendants to see the world (which is why He gave us eyes) and to make judgments about it, to learn how it works, and to learn wisdom from it.  Adam, for instance, might have learned what fruits are especially delicious by observing how the birds or animals flocked to those particular trees.

It seems to me, too, that Kass is partially right when he argues, along these lines, that we cannot learn how we ought to behave by watching the animals.  Few animals are monogamous, but God designed man and woman to marry (Gen. 2).  But on the other hand, the Proverbs, which surely are all about learning wisdom, instruct the sluggard to go to the ant to learn how to work (Prov. 6:6).  Here the sluggard is to observe — to see — and thereby to learn wisdom about how he is to live.

Nevertheless, this passage in Kass did intrigue me because it seems to me that there is a difference between seeing and hearing, between sight (where the seer is in control) and hearing (where the hearer cedes authority and control to the one making the sound, the speaker).  When it comes to wisdom, we are not to do “what is right in our own eyes” (i.e., make our own independent judgments about things, let alone judgments based simply on sight) but rather we are to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Hearing is primary because we are not autonomous; only when we submit to the Word are we enabled to see and judge correctly.  Hearing-wisdom comes first; seeing-wisdom follows.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:08 pm | Discuss (1)
September 16, 2009

Why Six Days?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

God had no reason to make the world in six days, except as a pattern for His image, man, to follow  — James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes, 11.

All too often, when we look at Genesis 1, we see it simply as a story about how the world was created.  It’s background for the rest of the story, and so it is important for that reason.  It is also something about which we debate.  Perhaps the first thing that comes to our minds today when we think of Genesis 1 is controversy: creation vs. evolution, literal chronological six-day creation vs. the framework hypothesis, and so forth.

Those debates are not unimportant, but we do Genesis 1 a diservice when we reduce it to a topic for debate or see it simply as background.  God did not have to create the world in six days.  He could have created it at once, already structured and populated and lit up the way it was at the end of Day 6.  But instead He didn’t.  He created with “problems” built in — dark, unstructured, unpopulated — and then spent six days fixing those “problems.”  Why?  If we don’t ask that question, we haven’t yet begun to see the importance of Genesis 1.

The theme of the Bible is not simply redemption.  In fact, that becomes an important theme only in Genesis 3.  But from Genesis 1 on, we have another prominent theme, the theme of maturation.  God creates the world and then works with it, maturing it, making it more and more like heaven: lit up, structured, populated.

But that process isn’t complete by the end of Day 6: God tells man to be fruitful and multiply, thereby indicating that the completion of the heavenization of the world is a task given to man.  As Jordan says,“Man is to labor to take the raw material of the earth and remodel it according to the heavenly blueprint: ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’” (Through New Eyes, 42).  And therefore what God does in the six days is designed to teach us wisdom about our own work.

And even if we get distracted by controversies or, for some other reason, fail to see this theme clearly in Genesis 1, we recognize it implicitly.  After all, it’s the basis of our own seven-day week.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:41 pm | Discuss (0)
September 10, 2008

The Light of the Reformation?

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In the comments on the previous entry, someone pointed me to this quotation from the Reformation Study Bible on Genesis 11:10-26:

As is common in ancient genealogies, it is apparent that this genealogy contains gaps. It if were precisely sequential, the events of chs. 9-11 would cover less than three centuries, all of Abraham’s ancestors would have been still living when he was born, and Shem would outlive Abraham by fourteen years. The purpose of this genealogy is to record the advances of the messianic line.

Given that I wrote a fairly lengthy couple of responses, I thought it might be helpful to move that material up here as a main entry.

In my response, I’m drawing (heavily, I might add) on James Jordan’s The Theology of Biblical Chronology and From Creation to Solomon (Studies in Biblical Chronology 1 and 2).  The latter opens with an essay an essay interacting with the arguments of Francis Schaeffer, B. B. Warfield, and William Green on the subject of the chronologies in Genesis 5 and 11, on which, I suspect, the author of that note in the Reformation Study Bible is drawing.

1. As is common in ancient genealogies, it is apparent that this genealogy contains gaps. 

Notice that the RSB approaches this question from the standpoint of “ancient genealogies,” not directly from the standpoint of Scripture itself.  But so what if “ancient genealogies” do contain gaps? How does that make it “apparent” that this genealogy contains gaps? So far, the quotation provides no proof of gaps.

2. It if were precisely sequential, the events of chs. 9-11 would cover less than three centuries, all of Abraham’s ancestors would have been still living when he was born, and Shem would outlive Abraham by fourteen years.

So? Apparently we’re supposed to take this statement as some sort of reductio ad absurdum: because we think it’s absurd that Abraham’s ancestors would still have been living when he was born, we must conclude that there are gaps in the genealogy.  But why should we think that it is absurd for Abraham’s ancestors to have been living when Abraham was born? What is strange about that?

3. The purpose of this genealogy is to record the advances of the messianic line.

It sounds as if (following Warfield and Green?) the RSB is suggesting that this passage can have only one purpose and, if that purpose is “to record the advances of the messianic line,” then the passage cannot also intend to give us an accurate chronology of this period.  But there’s no reason to believe that a passage of Scripture has only one purpose.

Those are all the “arguments” the RSB puts forward for not taking Genesis 11 (or, for that matter, Genesis 5) as an accurate chronology.  Not one of them is compelling.  But we can press further:

4.  The RSB note keeps talking about the “genealogy.”  But a genealogy and a chronology are two different things. They happen to go together here, but they are distinct.

Even if there are gaps in the genealogy here, even if “X begot Y” can be applied broadly enough so that X could really be the grandfather or great-grandfather of Y, so what? Genesis 5 and 11 still tell us how old X was when Y was born and how many years X lived after Y was born. Whether Y was X’s son or grandson or great-grandson doesn’t matter for the chronology.

Jordan’s charge of gnosticism, it seems to me, still sticks. The gnosticism here comes in this form: “The purpose of these passages is not to give us accurate dates, a reliable chronology. It is only to give us something else (e.g., a history of the advances of the messianic line).”  The gnosticism is the belief that we can discount the chronology and still cling to the message of the text, as if the chronology isn’t part of that message.

One more thought: It unfitting that this note was found in the Reformation Study Bible, which purports to be “bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture” (an unfortunate slogan, that! — as if poor Scripture is dark until the Reformation begins to shine some light on it).

I say it is unfitting because the Reformers themselves wouldn’t have agreed at all with such a statement.  Martin Luther wrote:

But Noah saw his descendants up to the tenth generation. He died when Abraham hwas about fifty-eight years old. Shem lived about thirty-five years after Abraham. Shem therefore lived with Isaac about 110 years and with Esau and Jacob about fifty years. It must have been a very blessed Church that was directed for so long a time by so many patriarchs who lived together for so many years” (Commentary on Genesis, p. 199).

Luther is wrong about the dates, but the quotation shows that he doesn’t believe there are gaps in the chronology.

Calvin writes: “The world … has not yet attained six thousand years” (Institutes I.14.1). Elsewhere he talks of those who mock the Bible’s teaching on predestination, the Trinity, and biblical chronology: “They will not refrain from guffaws when they are informed that but little more than five thousand years have passed since the creation of the universe” (III.21.4). And, in his commentary on Daniel, Calvin recommends Oecolampadius’s work on biblical chronology.

Archbishop Ussher famously developed a chronology of the world, which is sometimes ridiculed, but he wasn’t alone in holding to the accuracy of the biblical chronologies. Similar views were held by John Owen, Matthew Henry, and, more recently, C. F. Keil and Geerhardus Vos.

That is “the light of the Reformation,” and it isn’t shining here in the Reformation Study Bible‘s comment at all.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:51 pm | Discuss (16)
September 5, 2008

Evangelical Gnosticism vs. History

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

If downgrading the material world is one part of the gnostic tendency in evangelicalism, a tendency to eternalize time is the other.  The Bible is filled with chronological information, and it clearly presents an unbroken chronology from the creation of the world to the Babylonian exile.  Nobody in the Church ever questioned this until the late nineteenth century.  It has become commonplace now, however, to hear that the Bible is not really concerned with chronology, that there are “gaps” in the biblical chronology as it stands, and so forth.  Indeed, the nineteenth century became an age of gap theories as far as evangelicals were concerned: Gaps were inserted between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, into the chronologies of Genesis 5 and 11, into the chronologies of the kinds of Israel and Judah, and into the seventy weeks of years in Daniel 9.  Such a cavalier approach to a text that abounds in detailed chronological information is only possible when men have already begun to think that chronology and history are not all that terribly important. — James B. Jordan, Creation in Six Days, p. 76.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:54 pm | Discuss (3)
September 4, 2008

Brueggemann on Lamech

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

How strange is this?  Here’s a chunk of Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis 5:

Worth noting is the attitude and presentation of Lamech here (vv. 28-31), quite a contrast to the vengeful man of 4:23-24.  While the contrasting presentation of the same man may be explained on grounds of different sources, it is important that this two-sidedness is preserved in the tradition.  Lamech prefigures the tendency we all know of trying to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24); in his case, self-security (4:23-24) and the vision of uncursed earth (5:29) (p. 69, emphasis added).

Why in the world does Brueggemann think that the Lamech in Genesis 5 is the same guy as the Lamech in Genesis 4?  According to the text of Scripture itself, Genesis 4’s Lamech is a descendent of Cain, while Genesis 5’s Lamech is the descendent of Seth.  I suppose with some genealogical jiujistu you might be able to construct some way for them to be the same person, but why?

It’s far more fruitful to notice the similarities between these two Lamechs and to compare and contrast them.  Not only do they share the same name, but they are both associated with the number seven: Cain’s Lamech is the seventh from Adam and he speaks of a vengeance that involves multiples of seven; Seth’s Lamech lives seven and seventy and seven hundred years.  But what a difference in character: the one a violent and self-reliant man, but the other hoping in God’s promise of rest through the seed, the son.

I’ve heard people recommend Brueggemann from time to time, but my opinion of him as an exegete has reached a new low.  Anyone read the rest of this commentary?  Any reason to keep it?

Posted by John Barach @ 10:19 pm | Discuss (0)
October 10, 2007


Category: Bible,Bible - OT - Genesis,Hermeneutics :: Link :: Print

It’s come to my attention that there are some people who teach that we shouldn’t identify something in the Old Testament as a type of Christ unless the New Testament makes that identification explicit.  So it’s okay to say that the rock in the wilderness was a type of Christ because Paul says so in 1 Corinthians 10.  But it’s not okay to say that the story of Joseph is a type of Christ because the New Testament never says so, even though it should be clear to any Christian reading Genesis that Joseph is rejected by his brothers, goes down to the pit, rises again in glory, ascends to the throne at the right hand of the king, is reconciled to his brothers, and ends up feeding the world, so that all the nations are blessed in him.  In spite of how much that sounds like Christ, this view says, the New Testament doesn’t say explicitly that Joseph is a type of Christ and therefore we shouldn’t either.

Here’s a question I have for such people: When God says in Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent, do you think that’s talking about Christ’s victory over Satan?  Surely the answer would be “Yes.”  I don’t think that’s the only thing that promise refers to.  It includes other victories over enemies, other crushings of the heads of serpents, such as Jael’s crushing the head of Sisera or David’s crushing the head of Goliath.  But surely that promise ultimately points to Christ’s victory over Satan, the crushing of Satan’s head.

But where does the New Testament ever make that typology explicit?  There are certainly passages which talk about Christ triumphing over Satan (e.g., Col. 2:15), but they don’t allude to Genesis 3:15.  In Revelation 12:9, we hear about the “great dragon,” who is “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan,” but even here we don’t hear that Christ crushed his head.  Instead, we’re told that war broke out and Michael won the victory and cast the serpent to the earth.

The only fairly clear allusion to Genesis 3:15 that I can think of in the New Testament is in Romans 16:20: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”  But here it’s the church which has Satan crushed under its feet.  Granted, the church is the body of Christ, and so this may be (and I think is) a fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, but it certainly doesn’t state explicitly that Genesis 3:15 is speaking about Christ.

Furthermore, the only explicit connection to Genesis 3:15 here in Romans 16 might be the term “crush.”  After all, Genesis 3:15 says nothing about feet, and Romans 16:20 says nothing about the serpent, its head, or its bruising of someone’s heel.  In fact, you’ll search the entire New Testament and never once find any reference to the serpent bruising someone’s heel, let alone Christ’s heel.

If you can find another passage in the New Testament that explicitly indicates that the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 is a type of Christ, please point me to it.  But I don’t think there is one. 

On the principle of the people I mentioned in the opening paragraph, then, we may not say that Genesis 3:15 is speaking of Christ.  But surely it is.  And just as surely, then, the principle must be wrong.  If it is the case that we may not identify something as a type unless the New Testament does, then Genesis 3:15 doesn’t speak of Christ.  If Genesis 3:15 does speak of Christ, then we may indeed draw typological connections even if the New Testament doesn’t.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:41 pm | Discuss (14)
September 11, 2007

Beast, Woman, & Man

Category: Bible - NT - Romans,Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In a footnote in The Gospel in Genesis (p. 101n6), Warren Austin Gage points out that when Paul traces the revelation of God’s wrath against ungodliness in Romans 1:18-32, he follows the order of God’s judgments in Genesis 3:14-19: first the beast (Rom. 1:23, 25; Gen. 3:14-15), then the woman (Rom. 1:26; Gen. 3:16), and finally the man (Rom. 1:27ff.; Gen. 3:17-19).

Posted by John Barach @ 2:27 pm | Discuss (1)
August 7, 2007

Thorns and Sweat

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

In his Trees and Thorns, James Jordan points out the connection between Genesis 2:5 and Genesis 3:18.  In Genesis 2:5, we’re told that before the Fall there were no shrubs and, while there were grain plants (Gen. 1), they hadn’t sprouted.  Because of man’s sin, however, the shrubs come up and the grain plants sprout in a way that carries out God’s judgment:

The judgment pronounced by God in Genesis 3:18 is phrased in terms of the two kinds of field plants.  The shrubs will now grow “thorns and thistles,” and the grains are eaten by the sweat of the brow.  The orchard trees are not mentioned, and in a sense are excluded.  Throughout the Old Covenant, men were never allowed to drink wine in the presence of God, and the Nazirite had to swear off all grapes and raisins as well.  The priests were, however, allowed to eat the showbread and the cereal offerings in holy places.  Man could fellowship with God in the field under the Old Covenant, but he was not admitted back into the Garden until the New (p. 10).

This judgment, therefore, points forward to one of the great privileges of the New Covenant.  We not only eat bread in God’s presence, which is something only the priests did in the Old Covenant; we also get to drink wine at God’s Table, which even the priests didn’t get to do.  The judgment is still in place and we still eat our daily bread by the sweat of our brow, but because Jesus bore the thorns and died, we get to eat bread and drink wine by the blood and sweat of His brow.

Posted by John Barach @ 2:34 pm | Discuss (1)
July 31, 2007

Names and the Original Language

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Link :: Print

This afternoon, I read part of G. C. Aalders’ commentary on Genesis.  I was struck by the frequent repetition of a certain warning.  It shows up first when we hear about Eve naming her son “Cain” and punning on the Hebrew word for acquiring.  We aren’t to make too much of that, Aalders cautions.  “It should be borne in mind that Eve did not speak Hebrew” (p. 118).

The warning comes up again in connection with Abel, whose name means “futility” in Hebrew.  What did Eve have in mind when she gave him that name?  Uh uh.  You don’t ask that question: “There is … no way of knowing just what Eve had in mind with this name.  Again, we must be reminded that Eve did not speak Hebrew” (p. 119).

We go a bit farther and we hear about Cain building a city and naming it after his son, Enoch.  “Attempts have been made to relate this name to similar names that appear later,” Aalders says, “but we should remember that Cain did not speak Hebrew” (p. 130).

What about the other names in this chapter?  Same thing.  “All attempts to discover meanings for the names which are listed here on the basis of similarity to various Hebrew words end in complete failure” (p. 130).  That goes for Adah and Zillah, too: “Once again, we caution against treating these names as being Hebrew before the Hebrew language was a reality” (p. 130).

The same is true at the end of the chapter.  Yes, Aalders says, the name “Enosh”

is formally the same as a Hebrew word which means “man” or “humanity.”  We may not conclude from this, however, that this is the meaning of the name Enosh.  We are reminded, once again, that prior to the confusion of speech there was no Hebrew language.  The similarity between the name given by Seth and the similar Hebrew word must be explained by the existence of a Hebrew word which happens to have the same sound (p. 135).

Aalders doesn’t address the pun on Seth’s own name in Genesis 4:25.

Get the picture?  Time and again, we’re told that the meaning of these names — and even the pun by which Cain’s name is explicitly related to the Hebrew word for acquiring — are not to be matters of our inquiry because, Aalders says, the people back then didn’t speak Hebrew.  The names just happens to have the same sound as some Hebrew words.

How do we know that?  Aalders points to the confusion of tongues at Babel, but the fact that tongues were confused doesn’t necessarily mean that no one retained the original language that everyone once spoke, does it?

Doesn’t the evidence seem to suggest that Hebrew was the original language?  If not, then the original language was one from which all the puns could be translated exactly into Hebrew, and having done some translation myself, I find it hard to imagine such a language.  But for some reason, for Aalders and for many others, the idea that Hebrew might have been the original language is the one thing we must not consider possible.

After all, Aalders tells us so every few pages.

Posted by John Barach @ 3:49 pm | Discuss (3)

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