Bereshith – Cain and Abel

In Bereshith 2:7, we read of how man was formed and where it was that יהוה Elohim placed him:

Bereshith 2:6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.  7And  יהוה Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 יהוה Elohim planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.

Focusing now on the “garden”, we find “two trees” planted “eastward in Eden”:

Bereshith 2:8 יהוה Elim planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. 9 And out of the ground יהוה Elohim made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Notice that the garden seems to be a smaller part of a location known as Eden.  Man is formed outside of the garden and placed into it by יהוה Elohim.  The word for “eastward” is miqadem whose root means “ancient”.  “Ancient” can be defined as the “establishment of truths from the very beginning”.  Thus we see that the garden was planted with His truth.  Let’s look at a couple of verses where we find this concept of “ancient” or “east”.  The first verse is a midrash on Bereshith and the garden:

Isaiah 46:10 Declaring from the beginning the latter end, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

“beginning” what will happen in the end  

  • Ancient times – All of Yah’s ways come from the east while all of man’s ways come from the west  
  • CounselPsalm 33:11 The counsel of יהוה stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.

A tree literally means “that which supports”.  In the garden were two trees – one with the counsel of life, and one with the counsel of death.

Micah 5:2 ” But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from ancient times, From everlasting.”

Let’s skip ahead now to the encounter with the serpent in chapter 3:

Bereshith 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which יהוה Elohim had made. And he said to the woman, “Has Elohim indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

The story is very familiar.  It is the supposedly minor details that we are going to be looking at.  Let’s compare this verse with what Elohim actually said:

Bereshith 2:16 And t יהוה Elohim commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.”

Did you notice that in 2:16 it says that יהוה Elohim actually “commanded” the man, but in 3:1 the serpent lessens the Creator’s words by asking if Elohim had “said”?  Not only did he change the verb, but the serpent left out the name יהוה, the part of His name which symbolizes relationship.  It is also interesting that the serpent approached the woman since it was Adam who had received the command from יהוה Elohim.  By the way, do WE ever lessen commandments by saying that they were only something that יהוה “said”?

The woman replies to the serpent:

Bereshith 3:2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, Elohim has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

In her correction to the serpent, Eve either exaggerates the divine commandment by adding to it (nor shall you touch it) or she simply quotes misinformation as received from her husband.  The serpent replies:

Bereshith 3:4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 “For Elohim knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil.”

In speaking to the woman, the serpent consistently uses verbs in their plural forms.  This is evidence that Adam was within earshot of the conversation.  In fact, this is indicated in the words of the next verse (with her):

Bereshith 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

It is hard for us to imagine how this could have happened.  The couple was living in an environment of beauty, tranquility and harmony.  They walked with the Creator.  It should have been a fairytale existence.  Still, Adam was not satisfied.  He wanted to be in control of his own life.  He did not want to be dependent on someone, even if it was his Creator.  

We wonder where this independence in Adam came from.  Yet, when we come to salvation through Yeshua do we willingly turn our lives over to Him and allow Him to be in complete control of our lives?  Do we “add to” or “take away from” the commandments He has given to us?  Do we wholeheartedly embrace Torah?   

We don’t have time to look at all of the ramifications of the sin of Adam and Eve, but let’s take a look at Adam’s punishment:

Bereshith 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

In verse 18, “herb” can also be translated as “grasses”.  Now instead of being able to eat from the Tree of Life, they must eat from these grasses of the field.  The staples of the Israelite diet in the land are barley and wheat.  It is notable that the first two festivals, Pesach (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost) focus on these two grasses.  On Pesach, Messiah is associated with the first fruits of the barley harvest; on Shavuot, believers are associated with the first fruits of the wheat harvest.  But on Sukkot, the focus is on fruit!  The festival of Sukkot is just a bit of a reminder and a foretaste of being back in the garden where the Tree of Life will once again bear fruit:

Revelation 22:2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Okay, let’s take another jump over to the story of Cain and Abel.  I am making the assumption that you already know the story quite well.  First, let’s take a look at the professions of the two:

Bereshith 4:2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

A man who is a “tiller of the ground” remains close to the ground. These farmers generally end up living in permanent dwellings such as houses.  The “keepers of sheep” wander with their flocks and generally live in tents.  The “tiller of the ground” is nourished by the produce and fruit of the ground while the “keeper of sheep” enjoys the meat and wool of his sheep.

Cain and Abel will set the paradigm for these two lifestyles; one which keeps his eyes on יהוה, and the other which worships the earth and his own skillfulness in the world.  While it is true that Adam and Eve tended to the garden, Cain was now tilling cursed ground, outside of the garden.  What are the differences between the farmer and the shepherd? 

“Agriculture demands all a person’s physical strength.  The concept of ‘Kayin,” (Cain, meaning acquisition) – self-recognition and the pride associated with acquiring – are most evident in the farmer. 

“In contrast, the life of the shepherd is concerned principally with living things.  His care of them includes sympathy for suffering.  His acquisitions are portable.  The flock needs the shepherd’s care, but their existence is not in his hands.  Thus the shepherd is protected from the danger of overestimating his own value and that of his property.  His profession does not occupy all his strength and efforts.  He is able to meditate more on Godly matters as David did.

“But why does the Torah prefer shepherds to tillers of the ground?  Did God not place Adam in Gan (Garden) Eden in order ‘to work it and to guard it?’  …working the land involves the concept of private ownership – acquisition – by the farmer, and the Holy Scriptures do not recognize a private individual’s rights over land, except under the known conditions and limitations.”

But man needed to work the ground once he entered the Promised Land.  Most of the great patriarchs that we read about were shepherds in a period preceding Israel’s settlement of the land. 

“The Torah anticipates the chronic dangers inherent in agriculture and prescribes the remedy.  Shabbat and shemitta (the sabbatical year) forever testify that the earth belongs to God, and man is His servant. 

The agricultural laws, such as the prohibitions of mixing seeds and the instructions for when to eat of the fruit of young trees on one hand and the positive injunctions of leftover produce for the poor on the other remind man of God’s presence, cautioning him to maintain brotherly and neighborly love. 

We can now see Cain in light of his profession. Becoming a farmer had a negative influence on Cain’s character and this caused Elohim not to accept his offering.  Abel appears to have demonstrated a quality of heart and mind that Cain did not possess.  It is a fundamental principle of Judaism that the act of worship in making offerings must come from genuine devotion of the heart…a circumcised heart.

Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered to Yah a more excellent sacrifice than Cain

Although sin may indeed “crouch at the door”, nevertheless “we can rule over it”:

Bereshith 4:6 So יהוה said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Let’s look at the word interpreted “door”.  We will see this “door” in several significant verses throughout the Scriptures:

  • Door of the ark (Bereshith 6:16)
  • Door of Abraham’s tent (Bereshith 18:1)
  • Door of Lot’s house (Bereshith 19:11)

A “door” is an entrance to “something”, thus the question for us is – sin is lying at the door to what?  יהוה admonished and rebuked Cain and set before him a choice.  It appears that Cain had an opportunity to repent of his error, but he went on to follow temptation and kill his brother.  What would have been his positive choice?

Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Yeshua…He is the same yesterday, today, and forever…rebukes and chastens us.  But His desire is for us to “be zealous and repent”.  It is the “door” of our hearts that He stands and knocks at.  If we “open the door”, He will come in.  This makes us overcomers of our sin!  

Here’s one more little tidbit on “doors”.  The letter dalet (d) is a picture of a door.  We are familiar with the name, יהוה.  Let’s add the door (d) to HIS name. Now we have the name Yehuda (Judah, from which we get the term Jews), the tribe from which Yehshua came.  Yehshua, in all His Jewishness, is the door (d) to the heart of   יהוה as represented by the tribe from which He came.

Okay, here’s the last little thought.  After the loss of Abel, the son that was born was named Seth.  He in turn named his son Enosh.  Enosh means “man” in the same way that Adam means “man”, but Enosh puts emphasis on the mortality and frailty of man.  It comes from a root which means “to be sick”.  Man was learning, and this is reflected in the name Enosh.  He saw his sin sickness and would later come to realize that only by opening the door to the Messiah would he find restoration and wholeness.  It’s still our choice.  Open the door.  

Shabbat Shalom!

Henry Mate

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