Day 4

We got the Internet back up yesterday; it turned out to be a cable in the wrong slot. Of course, our Internet access goes out so frequently due to failure to pay the bill that no one thought to check that.

I spent more time with my partner last night and this morning. I love her so much but this is the worst week to be spending this much time together. I had to tell her as much because I kept snapping at her and she got upset.

Part of it is that I haven’t told her or anyone about this project yet. Granted, it hasn’t even (as of my writing this) gone online yet, but still. Part of me doesn’t want her to know so that I can just write it in peace without having to worry about the opinions of someone I know and love. She’s a Christian with a fairly literal interpretation of the Bible and I know we’re going to clash theologically. We already have, and if she reads this we will have many more occasions to do so. On the upside, we might be able to understand each other better after a few more such discussions, and if we can get through this we could probably get through anything.

But! Once again I am pressed for time. This is what’s stressing me out because she doesn’t realize I’m waking up extra early every day and that I need to take upwards of an hour to write these posts. So here we go with…

Genesis 4

Oy. Here begins the genealogy stuff. There must be a point and a purpose but… right now, this early in the morning, it just makes my head hurt.

Let’s start with Cain and Abel, one of my favorite stories in the Bible. Cain is not only the first murderer, assuming one accepts the account of creation, but the first wise-ass. Cain invented sarcasm.

Cain and Abel, brothers, sons of Adam and Eve, both bring offerings to the Lord. Now the Lord “respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Genesis 4:4-5). The Lord appears to have done this to teach Cain a lesson. Cain gets upset and angry, but the Lord tries to tell him to “rule over [sin].”

God says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” as written in Genesis 4:7. I find this interesting because it makes me think of, again, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. In that book, one of the titular agreements is “Always do your best,” or “I always do my best.” By doing one’s best, Ruiz writes, one can never blame oneself or feel guilty. If one tries to do more than their best, one will become frustrated and overexerted. If one tries to do less than their best, one will judge oneself and feel guilty. God even says, “If you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” In TFA, Ruiz writes that anything, especially emotions, that go against ourselves are sins, because through those emotions we do harm to ourselves.

It would seem to me that God is telling Cain to do his best, and not worry so much about the outcome. Cain becomes angry, jealous, or envious, which is a result of inner feelings or emotions. Cain feels inadequate, it seems, in the eyes of the Lord, and so instead of looking inward, he looks outward. Cain cannot spend his anger attacking the Lord, so he goes for the easiest related target: Abel, the object of his jealousy and envy.

And this is the part that gets me every time. Cain kills Abel, and when God comes asking where he went, Cain says, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

Wow. Cain literally mouths off to God. I don’t think he thought this one through. So God destroys Cain’s livelihood, it seems, by telling him “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you” (Genesis 4:12). And then Cain is “driven […] out” by God, crying “I shall be hidden from Your face” (Genesis 4:14).

In other news, now I know where the band name “Avenged Sevenfold” comes from. Should anyone kill  Cain, “vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold,” so sayeth the Lord, Genesis 4:15. (The direct quote shows up in Gen 4:24.)

The website christnotes.org explains the story thusly: Abel came to God humbly and offered the firstborn of his flock as a valuable sacrifice to the Lord. Cain “showed a proud, unbelieving heart.” I’m not entirely sure where they get that out of the scripture, but it makes for an interesting explanation. To me, it seems like Cain was a farmer, so he gave God his crops as an offering. But maybe there’s something I’m missing?

The website goes on to mention that Cain and Abel are representative of two types of believers: “proud, hardened despisers of the gospel method of salvation, who attempt to please God in ways of their own devising; and humble believers, who draw near to him [sic] in the way he [sic] has revealed.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t understand this chapter until somewhere down the road.

So Cain leaves the land of his birth and dwells “in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.” I have heard before that the word “Nod” is somehow related to an old Hebrew word for “wander,” and christnotes.org says that Nod means “shaking” or “trembling.” This interpretation is new to me, and the site says that this “shows the restlessness and uneasiness of his spirit.”

“They that depart from God cannot find rest any where else.”

— Matthew Henry’s Commentary, christnotes.org

Cain leaves the “land” and “sight” of God, be this physical or metaphorical, and goes elsewhere. He takes a wife (who?) and has a child named Enoch. Then there is a city that gets built and a whole lot of begetting. Long story short, after a while comes Lamech, who appears to be just as troublesome as his ancestor.

First he takes two wives, which is apparently also a sin according to christnotes.org, even though if you’re reading the Bible like I am and not yet as a whole, this isn’t quite clear. I guess Genesis 2 might imply that the rule is one man and one woman.

Then Lamech has a whole family of people that proceed to become craftsmen, farmers, and musicians (Genesis 4:20-22). From the commentary found on christnotes.org by Matthew Henry, this just showcases the sin of the family, because instead of teaching people about God, Lamech and his family are concerned with worldly things. Even the aforementioned city is due to Cain’s lingering dissatisfaction and unease. He cannot obtain the wonders of heaven, and so he builds a city here on earth. So should we all go live in the woods? Should no one create wonders on earth?

I think the importance here is that we not forget God and heaven while concerned with earthly matters during our human lives. We can integrate the spiritual into the material; perhaps not literally, but like a televangelist who uses the marvels of modern technology to preach the gospel, or even the bookmakers who printed the Bible on a press rather than write it by hand, it is possible to use technology wisely and to our spiritual advantage.

Anyway, so Lamech gets all uppity and starts striking down people who hurt him, saying that “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, / Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:24). What a guy.

And so ends the story of Cain and his family, at least as far as Genesis 4.

My time is running short today, but I wanted to address a few things that I forgot in previous chapters. Firstly, I wanted to make the observation that there are a number of parallels between Eve and the Greek Pandora. This is not news to many, but the resemblance is interesting. Pandora, however is deliberately sent to men to cause harm. One could say that this is not the case for Eve, but in a roundabout way, if God never wanted Man to fall, one would think he could have prevented it. As I said before, the Fall of Man appears to be necessary. Why else would a Redeemer be needed?

There are other interesting parallels between the ancient Greek myths and the first few chapters of Genesis. In Hesiod’s Theogeny, Prometheus plays a trick against Zeus (the powerful divine father figure) related to two separate sacrificial offerings. In this myth, Zeus revokes mankind’s fire privileges, but Prometheus steals that back. In retaliation, Zeus sends Pandora and all the ills of the world are set forth upon mankind, etc., etc.

In Works and Days, Hesiod writes that “had Prometheus not provoked Zeus’s wrath, ‘you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste’” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus).

Does this sound familiar? “In toil you shall eat of it, all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,” and “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.” So sayeth the Lord, Genesis 3:17-19.

Zeus in his myth and God in the Bible both take away mankind’s easy life. In a way, one could take this for a piece of evidence related to the mythology of the Bible. I tend to say that, once again, all stories have a purpose, and if one believes that God guides or at least has a hand in the world, it is impossible to say that something exists either for no reason or for a reason that would go against God and his Word.

So to me, these old myths and legends are good stories. They have tales to tell and lessons to learn, and in a way, the humans of old would have had to learn these lessons before the cultures of Judaism and Christianity came along.

I asked my partner why God is so different from the Old Testament to the New. The Old Testament has animal sacrifices, destruction of cities, pillars of salt, and so on and so forth. The New Testament has Jesus Christ who came to save humanity and absolve all of their sins. So which is it? If God is infinite and unchanging…

Well, her explanation, which I particularly enjoy, is that it’s not God that was different, it’s humanity. In the Old Testament, mankind is in its infancy. How do you discipline a child? Regardless of whether it is right or best, we train children via punishment and reward. God used animal sacrifice and the like as ways for people to show their faith and humility, their submission to the Lord. God gave mankind a path to salvation via sacrifice. Time needed to pass before it would be right for Jesus to walk the earth and offer salvation through the redemption of mankind’s sins.

Also as a quick aside, salvation and redemption are not the same thing. This might not be news to you but it was to me. Redemption is when Jesus died on the cross, and chose to take the weight of all man’s sin. Salvation is what humans receive when they accept redemption. Or something like that.

Well, I deviated quite a bit from Genesis 4 today, and I’ve definitely pushed my time. I hope anyone reading this is happy and enjoying their day, and if not, work through your troubles. Do not be like Cain, always a vagabond, or a fugitive. It seems like we have everything we need in this world, in this life, from our food and shelter to medicine and entertainment, but at our very core, there is a spiritual need from which we turn away. I heard a Christian radio station give the advice once to “rest in God,” and I agree. Find the love and acceptance that is always there for you. Rest and fall into the arms of God the way a child rests in the arms of its mother or father.

If nothing else, know that I am here, thinking of you, wherever in this world you may be. We may not always get along, or we may not always like each other, but we can make the decision to love and respect one another. So go forth into this day, go forth with strength and power, but go forth with humility. There is always something new to learn, and every experience is a new lesson.

Despite what anyone else says, God loves you. I love you. Whoever you are.