Friday, January 10, 2014

Before the Flood

I'm doing my OT reading this year out of the Hebrew and Greek versions of the OT, side by side.  This is a large undertaking for me, which involves getting up early and committing real time, but so far I'm on track.  The immediate fruit has been to see that the vocabulary in the first seven chapters of the OT is heavy in terms that have priestly and temple significance, even if that doesn't always come through in translation.  There's way too much to capture in this blog, but let me throw just out a few points:

  1. The ritual actions in Genesis 3 are unmistakable, but maybe we haven't thought all the way through them.  For one thing, the garment of 'skin' in Genesis 3:21 is a garment of 'or in Hebrew, spelled 'ayin-vav-resh (the names of the three Hebrew letters in the word).  Well, 'or, spelled aleph-vav-resh, means 'light.'  These two words are pronounced identically in modern Hebrew, and have always been pronounced very similarly.  God clothes Eve and Adam in garments of light.  In verse 22, "Yahweh of the Gods" pronounces that "Man has become like one of us."
  2. In the same segment, Adam is cursed that he will eat his bread by the sweat of his brow.  Eating bread and being dressed by God are both temple ritual actions, and connected in the Sermon on the Mount (more about this in the next class, for those of you who don't already know what I'm talking about).  This suggests that the curse is the sweat, not the bread part.  Similarly, it suggests that childbirth is not a curse -- the curse is the sorrow.  If anything, the implication is that childbirth, at least in some circumstances, is a sacred act.
  3. Adam is commanded to 'work' ('avad in Hebrew) and 'keep' (shamar) the Garden.  These are temple-priestly verbs -- 'avad means to perform ordinances, and shamar means to keep covenants.  It is very striking, then, that the same words reappear in the story of Cain.  Cain, first of all, is given to Eve by the Lord (like Samuel and Jesus), punning on the sound of the name 'Cain' in Hebrew (Hebrew prophets, including Nephi, thrive on puns and wordplay).  In Hebrew, Cain is an 'oved of the earth -- not a 'tiller,' but a 'worker,' using the same word that means 'perform ordinances.'  Interestingly, his brother Abel is a shepherd, a common image for priests and kings.  In terms of vocabulary, the story we're told here is about a rivalry between two priests.  After Cain kills Abel, he justifies himself by asking 'am I my brother's keeper?', where 'keeper' is shomer.  Cain is an 'oved, a temple priest, but he does not shamar, keep his covenants. 
  4. After this incident, God marks Cain with a 'sign' ('ot in Hebrew).  Elsewhere, the heavenly bodies are said to be or provide an 'ot.  So are the Virgin and her sons.  Here's another piece of vocabulary for understanding the Visionary Men: stars = angels = priests.  Nephi knows this vocabulary.  Cain is a priest who falls from his station, but who still should not be killed, because of his priestly status.
Keep up the study!

1 comment:

  1. Adam and Eve received a garment of light while in the garden which was replaced after the Fall.

    Hugh Nibley
    Adam, when he came to earth, had a garment. He received a garment of light, when, in the Garden of Eden . . . So Adam lost his garment of light at the Fall and had to clothe himself in a garment of skin, a reversal of the process. His new leather garment was nonetheless a glorious one, a sign of authority. Eisler calls it the garment of protection. It was necessary to protect Adam in his exposed and fallen state. Because he had gotten himself into a dangerous position in which he needed assurance and protection, he received this kind of garment. He could no longer wear his glorious one; it was up above, waiting for him. (Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, 123-24)

    Adam and Eve were changed after they took of the fruit of the tree of good and evil.

    James E. Talmage
    [when the temptation came in the Garden of Eden] the woman was captivated by these representations; and, being eager to possess the advantages pictured by Satan, she disobeyed the command of the Lord, and partook of the fruit forbidden. She feared no evil for she knew it not. Then, telling Adam what she had done, she urged him to eat of the fruit also.

    Adam found himself in a position that made it impossible for him to obey both of the specific commandments given by the Lord. He and his wife had been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth. Adam had not yet fallen to the state of mortality, but Eve already had; and in such dissimilar conditions the two could not remain together, and therefore could not fulfil the divine requirement as to procreation. On the other hand, Adam would be disobeying another commandment by yielding to Eve's request. He deliberately and wisely decided to stand by the first and greater commandment; and, therefore, with understanding of the nature of his act, he also partook of the fruit that grew on the tree of knowledge. The fact that Adam acted understandingly in this matter is affirmed by scripture. Paul, in writing to Timothy, explained that "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (1 Tim. 2:14) The prophet Lehi, in expounding the scriptures to his sons, declared: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25) (Articles of Faith, pp. 59, 65)