Discussing Torah matters because the Torah matters

Showdown in the Wilderness

The serpent wouldn’t appear unless the odds were in his favor. Like in the Garden, he waited until Adam and Eve were away from God’s immediate presence before he spoke up. So Jesus knows the serpent won’t emerge from the shadows until he has the advantage. Jesus knows what He has to do.

Venturing out like a trapper, Jesus disappears into the wilderness, alone. He makes Himself very weak, eating and drinking nothing week after week. He senses the serpent watching Him from a distance, monitoring His strength as it dwindles more and more everyday. The serpent is cunning, and patient, so he waits. And waits. And waits. Finally, after 40 days, the serpent sees that Jesus is very near death. The time is right. He comes out of hiding and strikes. 

Here we ask a relevant question. In the Garden, why did the enemy manifest as a snake? Of all creatures, why a snake? What is the deeper meaning of this? The answer is, in short, that the snake most embodies the essence of the enemy. 

Consider a snake’s unique use of constriction and method of consumption. Some snakes employ the force of constriction to take the life of their prey. We can imagine a circle’s circumference tightening inward, squeezing around the center. This is constriction, an outside-in motion. Not all snakes constrict, but all snakes consume their prey from the outside-in as the prey is swallowed whole and then digested inwardly. This is so instructive because the enemy, too, works from the outside-in. Examples may be helpful. 

We see his affect on Eve, for she saw that (1.) the tree was good for food, and (2.) that it was pleasant to the eyes, and (3.) that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, so she took the fruit and ate. Good for food has to do with the body, which is the outermost part. Pleasant to the eyes has to do with the intellect, which is inside the body. A desire to make one wise (like God) has to do with the spirit, desire being the innermost part. Suffice to say, the enemy’s deception took hold of Eve from the outside-in. 

In the Book of Job, the enemy moves in on Job. Reading the account, we find that Job’s servants and animals are first struck down in the surrounding fields. After this, Job’s house and family are targeted. Finally, Job’s own body and health are attacked. Once more we find this principle in effect: the enemy bringing death from the outside-in.

Study the characteristics of a snake and you will learn a great deal about the enemy. The snake epitomizes the enemy more than any other living creature. Therefore, the enemy finds expression as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. The Garden of Eden is a zone in which physical reality perfectly translates spiritual reality, where the truth of one’s essence comes through and there is no denying it. In the Garden, the enemy has no choice but to manifest as a snake, because that is his essence. Outside the Garden, the enemy gains a new power, an ability to manipulate his appearance. When the outside doesn’t reflect the inside––when something isn’t what it seems––it makes a mockery of God’s design. By manipulating his appearance, the enemy mocks God’s design. He didn’t have this power in the Garden, but man set him free, and now he exploits that power constantly. Now he can prowl around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Understand, though, that his essence never changes even though his masks often do. 

Out in the wilderness, the tempter approaches Jesus probably not as a snake, but as something else. The text isn’t explicit. Knowing the enemy likes to mock what is holy and good, it wouldn’t surprise me if the enemy approaches Jesus looking like someone He already knows and trusts. No matter what mask he wears, the enemy is what he is. Once a serpent, still a serpent. He presses Jesus from the outside-in. His first temptation takes aim at the body, which desires food. His second temptation aims at the mind and the emotions, as he invites Jesus to take a shortcut to being proclaimed Messiah. The enemy’s third temptation takes aim at the spirit, it being a matter of worship. 

We read that the tempter first says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus responds with a verse from Deuteronomy: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

The enemy then takes Him into Jerusalem and has Him stand on the pinnacle of the Temple. He says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

The enemy is referencing Psalm 91:12 & 14. Notice he skips over verse 13. Why does he skip over verse 13? Because 91:13 says, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” The enemy neglects this verse for obvious reasons.

Nevertheless, Jesus answers the enemy with a verse from Deuteronomy: “It is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Quoting Deuteronomy 6:16)

Now comes the third act. The enemy won’t hold back. As I imagine the scene, I sense the wind blowing against the sun burned face of Jesus as He stands on a high mountain alongside the enemy. Before them history is distilled into a single moment. Draped over the landscape beneath them, all the kingdoms of earth stretch out as far as the eye can see. Their brilliance lights up the sky. Each kingdom is portrayed in its highest grandeur. Rome in its prime; Persia at its best; China in its fullness; Britain at its pinnacle; the United States with its towering skyscrapers; first century Israel with His beloved Jerusalem. 

The enemy remains quiet and lets Jesus take it in. The enemy pretends to look too, but he has grown accustomed to this view. Besides, the one kingdom he really wants is not included in this panorama. This kingdom he eyes secretly. This is the kingdom still safeguarded within the thin frame of the Man standing next to him. So the enemy––the serpent known for his guile––remains patient. He keeps Jesus in his peripheral vision. Both of them are cast in the glow of this glorious summation of world history. The light reflects in Jesus’ eyes, and when the enemy finally turns to face Him, he is reminded of the way the light reflected in Eve’s eyes when she beheld the stunning beauty of the Tree of Knowledge. The enemy smiles and speaks. “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

We must note that the kingdoms of earth were the enemy’s to give, meaning the enemy had to have the authority to offer them to Jesus as a temptation. It’s not a temptation if he doesn’t actually have them to give. For instance, if I say, “I’ll give you a million dollars if you commit some sin,” it’s not a real temptation unless I actually have a million dollars to give you. If I don’t really have a million dollars, it’s a joke. It’s silly. There’s no true temptation unless I genuinely have the means to give you the money. And so in the same way, the enemy really had to have the authority to give these kingdoms of the world to Jesus. How did he acquire such authority? Well don’t blame God! God didn’t give it to the enemy. Man did! God gave man dominion over the world (Genesis 1:28-30), but when man took and ate the forbidden fruit, he succumbed to the will of the enemy. It was a trade off: the enemy gave what he had to man (the feeling of being like God) and man gave what he had to the enemy (the dominion of earth). So now, here’s the enemy and the second Adam. The enemy wants to make another trade: the enemy will give Jesus the dominion of earth if Jesus will make him God. The enemy is trading up! From feeling like God to being God! Of course, the enemy holds his cards close to his chest. He doesn’t show his desperation.

“All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me,” he says to Jesus. Underneath his calm demeanor, the enemy screams: “Jesus, no one will notice! It’s just you and me out here! This is the deal of a lifetime! The future of the world is on sale! You can have it to rule as you see fit, and I will stay out of it––if you’ll simply do the smallest action in this private place. No one will see! Come on, what do you say?”

No terrorism. No holocaust. No inquisition. No crucifixion. Jesus closes His eyes and the world’s brilliance disappears from his pupils. When they reopen, his eyes are illuminated from the inside, by the light of God’s Word. Jesus turns to the enemy and answers with a verse from Deuteronomy: “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” (Quoting Deuteronomy 6:13)

The enemy’s countenance falls through his feet and tumbles down the mountainside. He’s been caught, bested, and beaten. But note, his head is not yet trampled, so he departs, leaving Jesus alone to die. We are told that angels come and attend to Him (Matthew 4:11). Jesus is not expecting this, nor demanding it, but if they do not strengthened Him at this moment, it’s likely Jesus will die right here in the wilderness. Physically, He has come this close to death.

What a showdown, though! The very best against the very best. Examining their dialogue, we find that Jesus relied on the Torah to do battle. There were five books in the Torah He could have chosen from, but a single book––Deuteronomy––was enough to put down the enemy.

I am reminded of another great showdown: David vs. Goliath. Interestingly, when David went against Goliath, the account says that David “chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine . . . David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.” (1 Samuel 17:40,48,49)

David relied on these stones to do battle with Goliath. There were five stones in his bag he could have chosen from, but a single stone was enough to put down the enemy.

Although the enemy was beaten, the showdown wasn’t all the way over for David. Neither is it over for Jesus. Luke 4:13 tells us that “when the devil had finished every temptation, he left Jesus until an opportune time.” This opportune time won’t arrive until later, when Jesus (again near death) hangs on the cross. The enemy, speaking through those in the crowd, calls out, “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” (Matthew 27:40). Think back on the temptations: “If you are the Son of God...” “If you are the Son of God...” and now: “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross!” This is the fourth great temptation, and it goes to show that the showdown isn’t quite over between the tempter and the Son of God.

Neither was it over between David and Goliath. After dropping him with a single stone, David stood over Goliath and drew Goliath’s sword out of its sheath. Using Goliath’s own weapon against him, David cut off Goliath’s head. 

Hanging on the cross, Jesus looks down at the enemy. Before this, He had struck down the devil with a single book, but now, Jesus will use something else to finalize his victory. Death is drawn up in the hands of Jesus. Using the enemy’s own weapon against him, Jesus dies on the cross––and with that death, He crushes the serpent’s head.

John 9: Apply as Needed

“Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 

That is the English version. Here’s the Hebrew version (reading right to left):

וייצר יהוה אלהים את־האדם עפר מן־האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה׃

Hebrew readers will notice something of interest. The first word of the verse is misspelled! The first word, vaiyitzer (ויצר), meaning “to form” or “formed,” is supposed to be spelled with a single yod. Yod is the letter that resembles an apostrophe (י). Yod is the second letter of the word vaiyitzer: ויצר. Yet in every Torah scroll in the world, this word is misspelled in Genesis 2:7, written with two yods instead of one. Elsewhere it is spelled with a single yod, but not here. Why is this? Why have the scribes so faithfully copied what seems to be a simple typo?

We have to be mindful that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a symbol. For example, the letter aleph symbolizes an ox; the letter beit symbolizes a house; the letter gimel represents a camel; the letter dalet represents a door. What does the letter yod represent? The letter yod represents a hand! 

Here we find meaning. When God formed adam (man) from the adamah (clay), He used both of His hands to do it! That’s why there are two “hands” in the vaiyitzer of Genesis 2:7––because God formed man from the clay using both of His hands. (At least, that’s the picture conveyed by the Hebrew.) 

If we jump forward to John 9, we find God reaching down and using both of His hands again. In John 9, Jesus spits on the ground and works His saliva into the mud. He then applies the mud to the eyes of a blind man. He tells the blind man to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means sent). Though the blind man cannot see Jesus, he listens to His voice and obeys the command. The blind man finds his way to the Pool of Siloam. There he washes, and his sight is restored. What just happened?

In Genesis 2, God forms man from the clay. Man’s creation is perfect. But then sin enters his being, and a tremendous amount of damage is done. Jesus comes to correct that damage. What does Jesus do? He goes back to the way God made man to begin with––with clay. But this time He doesn’t have to start from scratch. All He has to do is make some new clay, apply as needed, and form a new creation of the eyes. Once again something from God’s mouth (breath in Genesis 2, saliva in John 9) combines with the clay of the earth to bring man into fullness.

Why does Jesus go back to Genesis 2 to heal the man? Because the problem of blindness arises in Genesis 3. Of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the serpent said, “...in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman then sees that the tree was good for food, that it is pleasant to the eyes, and so she eats. Notice how much eyesight is involved here. Yet the moment “their eyes are opened,” they immediately start blocking things from their sight. They make themselves coverings, and they hide from God. They put God Himself out of view. 

Jesus is surrounded by people suffering the effects of the Tree of Knowledge. But the people fail to notice their condition because the effects are inherited from Adam and Eve. Like the blind man’s blindness, the effects of the fall trace back to birth. And since everyone is equally effected since birth, the damage is thus perceived as no damage at all. In principle, it takes a man with sight to know that a blind man is blind. An isolated group of blind people will not realize by themselves that they are blind. But this is the predicament in which Jesus finds Himself. He is amid a group of people who are spiritually blind, yet they don’t realize it. So He responds in a clever way. He singles out a beggar who is physically blind, and for this man Jesus performs a miracle of restoration. Baffled by this change in condition, the question they ask is, “How were your eyes opened?”

Eyesight is a central theme in John 9. We find various groups of people going back and forth about Jesus’ true identity. One group recognizes Him as a prophet, a man of righteousness, a man sent by God. Even though they can’t exactly understand it, they are humble enough to recognize the truth before them. However, the opposing group refuses to recognize Jesus for who He is, because, well, they are “like God,” determining good and evil, boxing in the truth according to the boundaries drawn up by their own understanding. For this group, the Tree of Knowledge stands in the way of the Tree of Life. God Himself remains out of view. 

To the latter group, Jesus says “...your sin remains.” But for the beggar, for the one in a position of humility, He makes a new creation of the eyes and says, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” Of all places, why does Jesus send the blind man to the Pool of Siloam? 

It is chosen for a reason. This particular pool, the Pool of Siloam, had been built during the reign of King Hezekiah some 700 years before the events in John 9 take place. It was designed to bring water inside the City so that, during a siege, Jerusalem could still access a safe water supply. The pool is fed by the Gihon Spring located outside the city walls. Water from this spring is channeled into Jerusalem via an underground passage. And this is why the Pool of Siloam is called Siloam which means sent, because the water is “sent” into the City.

How they made this thing bewilders the mind. In order to channel the water into the City, Hezekiah had to carve a tunnel through the earth no less than 583 yards long! He instructed his men to work from opposite directions. One set of workers started cutting into the rock on one end (from inside the wall) while a second set started cutting into the rock on the other end (from outside the wall). It’s an amazing feat of engineering that they met up in the middle! (Google Hezekiah’s Tunnel for more information.)

In 1880, an ancient plaque was discovered inside the tunnel. Today the plague is kept in a museum, it being among the oldest extant records written in Hebrew using the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. On the plague is an inscription that describes how the tunneling was completed. “The stone cutters wielded their picks, each crew toward the other, and while there was still 3 cubits to go, the voices of the men calling each other could be heard since there was an increase of sound on the right and the left. The day the breach was made, the stonecutters hacked toward each other, pick against pick, and the water flowed from the source to the pool, 1200 cubits.” (The Siloam Inscription)

Now there are a lot of places where this blind man could have washed the mud off. But Jesus said I want you to go to this pool. The pool that was created when Hezekiah was king. The pool that was created by two groups tunneling through rock toward each other. The pool that means sent. This is where I want you to go. 

It’s a picture. To the humble, Jesus says in essence, “If you draw near to me, I will draw near to you. You want the living water. You want life. You want back in the Garden. Well I’m working toward you, tunneling out from God’s Presence. You work toward me, tunneling in toward God’s Presence. You might be operating in darkness. But you can hear. You can hear Me working toward you. I am sent for you; you are sent by Me. Keep faith, and you will soon see as you ought to see.”

Genesis 23: Part of a Larger Portrait

In our English translations, Genesis 23 probably starts this way: “Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.” But note, this is not how every Torah scroll in the world reads. What the translators have covered is a curious rendering of Sarah’s length of years. The Hebrew in verse 1 actually says: “And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.”

It is as though the life of Sarah is being divided up into distinct time periods. Why this peculiar rendering? The Sages tell us: it is because Sarah had the wisdom of a 100 year old woman, the heart of a seven year old girl, and the beauty of a 20 year old young lady. At least, in Abraham’s eyes. Having withdrawn from the public, Abraham mourns her passing, and I can imagine sitting next to him and asking something like, “How old was Sarah? 127?” And thinking of her, he’d say after a moment, “She was a hundred. She was seven. She was twenty.” 

Abraham rises to find a place worthy of her burial. “His wife is to rest in a place that will be her permanent, everlasting burial site, and for this purpose Abraham seeks to acquire a piece of land in perpetuity. For many years he has dwelled in Canaan as a stranger; despite all his wealth, he has never sought to acquire even a square foot of land. After all, his calling is to be a wanderer. But now the necessity to bury his wife forces him, for the first time, to make a permanent acquisition of land. His wife’s grave is to be the first bond that will tie him to the land; it is to be the place that will draw him and hold him” (The Hirsch Chumash, Bereshis, pg. 503).

He goes to the Hittites (aka. the sons of Heth) in Hebron and there, at the city gates, he negotiates a real estate deal. Abraham has a certain cave in mind, so he speaks directly to the property owner. The person who owns the cave and the surrounding field is a man named Ephron. Ephron and Abraham go back and forth, and Ephron says the property is worth 400 shekels. A high price according to all commentators, but without complaint Abraham pays the 400 shekels in full, and having acquired the property, he buries his wife in the cave of the field. In time, Abraham himself will be buried alongside Sarah in this very cave, then later Isaac and Rebekah, and even Jacob and Leah. Today the cave––a very holy site––can be visited in Hebron. 

Examining the whole of Genesis 23, we’ll find that the chapter is characterized by ongoing repetitions. Every point is repeated and reiterated. Verse 17 enumerates literally every article of the property: “So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city.” The next part further adds: “…the cave of Machpelah, before Mamre, that is Hebron in the land of Canaan . . . the field and the cave deeded to Abraham by the sons of Heth as a property for a burial place” (23:19-20). The Torah itemizes the conditions, the details, and the individuals involved, leaving no room for ambiguity. From this we have to conclude that Genesis 23 constitutes a kind of legal document, a contract or deed with all of its stipulations, ensuring clarity of ownership while also citing the many witnesses who were present. Such a document protects one of the most historic transactions ever made, for it is the first piece of Holy Land ever procured by a Hebrew. If nothing else, chapter 23 is significant for this reason alone.

It becomes even more meaningful if we stand back and behold the wider panorama that Genesis 23 fits into. The sequence of events is important. In Genesis 23, Abraham procures a field. In Genesis 24, Abraham seeks a bride for his son Isaac. What does one have to do with the other? Everything, because the field and the bride are always connected. Permit me to elaborate. 

A theme we find throughout the Bible is the field and the bride, the field and the bride, the field and the bride. The two go together. I will bring up the story of Ruth since it is a classic example. In the last chapter (Ruth 4), a man named Boaz tries to sell a parcel of land (4:3-4). The potential buyer says, “Sure I will buy it.” Boaz says, “The day you buy the field you also acquire Ruth the Moabite” (4:5). It’s like: You want the field? Then you have to take the bride as well. But now the buyer declines. He wants the field but he doesn’t want to marry Ruth the Moabite. So he tells Boaz, “You buy it for yourself” (4:8). So Boaz does. Boaz himself redeems the field and the bride. 

Keep in mind, Jesus tells us what “the field” represents. “The field is the world” Jesus explains to His disciples in Matthew 13:38. Jesus then tells His disciples two short parables that run like this: 

(#1) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” 

(#2) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

In both parables, a man gives up all that he has in order to acquire that which he truly desires. But in the first illustration, the man buys the field to get the treasure. In the second illustration, the man buys only the treasure itself––a pearl of great value. That the treasure is a pearl is interesting, because Proverbs 31:10 CJB says: “Who can find a capable wife? Her value is far beyond that of pearls.” The writer associates the great value of a capable wife with the value of pearls! Taking this into account, I think there are hints here to Jesus’ redemption of the world and the Bride. He is the one who gives up all that He has to purchase the field and the treasure itself, the pearl of great value––the excellent wife. You know, we often talk about how Jesus wants to redeem His people, but He also wants to redeem the earth––the creation itself. He’s not content until both are restored fully and completely. 

Paul raises his hand with a comment to make. He says in Romans 8:19, 22-23 (ESV): “For the creation (the world) waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God (His people) . . . For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves . . . groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies.” In other words, the world is longing for redemption just as we––the Bride of Messiah––are longing for redemption. The world and the Bride are in this together: both fallen, both groaning, both eagerly awaiting the return of our Kinsmen Redeemer––the One who has redeemed the field and the Bride. 

Our need for redemption traces back to Genesis 3 when man sinned and the earth was cursed. “To Adam God said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you’” (3:17). Here pain was introduced, and death and mourning were introduced. Man was exiled from God’s Presence and the earth began its time under the penalty of man’s sin. The field and the Bride, joined together and fallen. 

But we leap to the other end of the Bible where John writes: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:1-5 ESV). How awesome! We witness here the correction to Genesis 3. The earth is made new, and man is returned from exile to once again dwell in God’s Presence. The redemption of the field and the redemption of the Bride––together they fell, together they are restored.

We return to our question: what does Genesis 23 have to do with Genesis 24? Let’s zoom out even more to include Genesis 22, the chapter in which Abraham goes to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Chapter 22, 23, and 24... what is the panorama portrait here?

There is a far greater story being alluded to by these chapters. Its grandeur is quite staggering. The story is that of the New Testament: God the Father gives up His only begotten Son, Jesus. What follows is then the death of His beloved Jerusalem. Jesus foretells of Jerusalem’s death, as we read:

“And when Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you...’” (Luke 19:41-44. Note that Jesus personifies Jerusalem as if it is a mother.)

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37-39, Jesus speaking to Jerusalem.)

Upon its death, Jerusalem goes “underground,” its people fleeing to areas around the Mediterranean, its spirit going undercover for a time. The tent” goes vacant... temporarily. Because the Master is not done; the story is not over. He sends His Spirit to seek the people out, both Jews and Gentiles, to return them to the land, to be His Son’s Bride. His Spirit goes out into the world and finds a Bride who is willing to take the cup and commit her life to the Son, sight unseen. The Spirit guides the Bride to the Son, and testifies on her behalf (read Genesis 24 for these details). And in the end, she––the new Jerusalem––is brought to the same space where the Father’s beloved Jerusalem once dwelt before her death (like Isaac brought Rebekah to Sarah’s tent!). And here, in this special place, the New Jerusalem resides. The New Jerusalem is a bride adorned for her husband. She and the Son are married, and He loves her. From that day on, they never depart from the land––just like Isaac and Rebekah never leave the land.  

Genesis 22, 23, and 24 are hinting at a much bigger plot. And Genesis 23––the part where Abraham withdraws to mourn the death of his wife Sarah, his paying a high price to secure a place for her in perpetuity, her going underground––is all the more meaningful when understood in this greater context. To spell it out: Abraham pictures God the Father; Isaac pictures the Father’s Son, Jesus. Sarah pictures Jerusalem, the City of David. Rebekah pictures the New Jerusalem, the City of the Son of David. And Hebron? Well Hebron itself has its connections to Jerusalem (read 2 Samuel 5 & 6). Give it some thought and see what you think.

Before we finish here, we must note one last thing about chapter 23. It is a detail revealed only in the Hebrew. The high price that Abraham paid to secure the field in perpetuity was 400 shekels. 400 happens to be the numerical value of the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet: the letter tav (ת). The letter tav represents a crossBecause it is with the cross that God paid in full, acquiring the title deed of the earth (see Revelation 5:9) and securing a place for which His family can together spend their future at rest.

Genesis 24: Eliezer and the Holy Spirit

67 verses! No doubt, Genesis 24 is the longest chapter in all of Genesis. 

In a book that includes the invention of the universe, the creation of man, the destruction of the world, the scattering of peoples and languages, all of these epic occurrences that could fill many books by themselves, it’s extraordinary that this particular story––a servant’s mission to find a bride and bring her back to the masters son––is the longest chapter in Genesis. Can it be because it is among the book’s most meaningful chapters? Certainly! 

Genesis 24 reminds me of a scene where two guys are flying over the Pacific Ocean in a commercial airliner. Hours and hours go by and still there is no end to the ocean beneath them. Finally one guy turns to the other and says, “Man, the ocean is big!” The other guy says, “Yeah and that’s just the top of it!” This chapter, the biggest and broadest in Genesis, is just like that––wide but very deep. Half-jokingly, I like to say that Genesis 24 is where God sits down and says, “I’d like to tell you a little bit about the Holy Spirit.”

Who is Eliezer?

Eliezer is not once called by name in Genesis 24. Instead the chapter refers to him only as “Abraham’s servant” or as “the servant,” the man who “had charge of all that Abraham had” (24:2). But we know it’s a man named Eliezer because, back in Genesis 15:2, Abraham says that if he should go childless, the heir of his house would be Eliezer of Damascus. From this we learn that Eliezer of Damascus is Abraham’s senior servant, the oldest of Abraham’s household, the one set to inherit Abraham’s whole estate. It is this Eliezer of Damascus who scores the starring role in Genesis 24. It is this Eliezer of Damascus who seeks a bride for Abraham’s beloved son Isaac. 

To review Genesis 24 in two paragraphs, the chapter goes as follows: Abraham tells his head servant (Eliezer) to go and find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant connects to his master in an intimate place, swearing that he will do so. He departs on a long journey. The servant eventually comes upon a well where he sits down and prays. He is then approached by an attractive woman named Rebekah. Abraham’s servant runs over to her and says, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She gives him a drink, and then she says, “I will draw water for your camels also.” Eliezer gazes at her in silence as she draws water for his ten camels. When she finishes watering his camels, Eliezer gives her a gold nose ring weighing a half-shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten shekels (one shekel’s weight for each camel she watered). He says to her, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” She tells him, and she invites him to spend the night. Eliezer bows and worships God because he knows he has found the one! 

Rebekah’s brother Laban invites Abraham’s servant into their house. Eliezer tells the family who he is, what mission he is on, and what took place earlier at the well. Laban, Rebekah’s brother, listens to the story and realizes that this pairing is a match made in Heaven. Laban says, “Take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has spoken.” Again Abraham’s servant bows. He brings out jewelry of silver and gold, and garments, and gives them to Rebekah. He gives precious things to Rebekah’s brother and mother. They all eat and drink together, and Eliezer spends the night. In the morning, Rebekah and Eliezer set out together. A journey ensues: Eliezer is returning to his long-standing home with Abraham and Isaac; Rebekah is venturing toward her new home, following Eliezer wherever he takes her. Soon enough, Isaac sees in the distance his father’s servant leading Rebekah, his bride-to-be, toward him. As Rebekah gets closer and closer to Isaac, she asks, “Who is that man walking in the field to meet us?” Eliezer answers her, “That is my master [Isaac].” She dismounts the camel and veils herself. Eliezer greets Isaac first, telling him everything that he has done. Isaac then takes Rebekah into the tent of Sarah his mother, and there, Rebekah becomes his wife. “He loved her,” we are told by the very last verse.

Now look over the chapter again but wearing this lens: Abraham is the Father. Isaac is the Son. The father’s servant, Eliezer, is the Holy Spirit. Rebekah is us––the Son’s Bride.

Since Eliezer scores the starring role in this chapter, I want to keep the focus on him. So here are 14 ways to answer the following question: How is Eliezer a picture of the Holy Spirit? 
  1. Eliezer had charge of all that Abraham had. Understand, the Holy Spirit is God’s own Spirit! And it’s His Spirit that controls and moves and accomplishes things. The Holy Spirit is the One who travels into the world to seek a Bride for the Son.
  2. Eliezer is sent by the father just like the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father. Eliezer acts on the father’s behalf. Eliezer works to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham, just as the Holy Spirit works to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham. 
  3. Although I used Eliezer’s name in my chapter summary, in truth Eliezer is not mentioned by name in the whole chapter. Instead he is identified as Abraham’s servant. In other words, Eliezer’s identity is always connected to the master. The two characters are intertwined. So, too, the Holy Spirit’s character is always intertwined with the Father.  
  4. Three times in one chapter we see Eliezer bowing and worshiping the Lord. This is the spirit of the Holy Spirit, so to speak. It makes sense that we encounter the Holy Spirit in our worship, humility, and prayer, because this is where the Holy Spirit finds expression. Note also that Eliezer––a picture of the Holy Spirit––is a war hero, one who goes into battle to rescue the lost.
  5. Eliezer travels to the city of Nahor (24:10) to find Rebekah. He goes to the slayer or piercer, because according to Hebrew scholar Julius Fürst, Nahor means slayer or piercer (Source). Jesus was slain. Jesus was pierced. Yet God sends His Spirit to the very people who did it, to call out from them a Bride for His Master’s Son. 
  6. Eliezer does not act according to human logic. Abraham instructs him to go to my family. Yet what does Eliezer do? Eliezer goes to a community well and prays, Lord may the first girl that gives me water be the one for Isaac. This is not logical! The entire community uses this well! What are the chances that the first girl to give him a drink is also related to Abraham’s family? The likelihood is slim to none, so Eliezer would seem to be wasting his time as he waits at this well. A logical person would have done this instead: he would’ve approached someone in the city and said, “Hey, I am trying to find certain family here. Do you know where their descendants live?” “Oh they’re in that house down the street, there on the right.” A logical person would have gone to that house, knocked on the door, introduced himself and said, “I’m Abraham’s servant. I’m looking for a girl to marry Abraham’s son. Are any of your daughters ready for marriage?” Such an approach is logical, right? It makes sense on paper. But see, the Holy Spirit isn’t too concerned with making sense on paper. The Holy Spirit defies formulas, defies description, defies the limits of human logic. Eliezer does not abide by human logic just as the Holy Spirit does not abide by human logic.
  7. Eliezer runs to Rebekah (24:17). He initiates their interaction. Likewise, the Holy Spirit eagerly comes to you. The Holy Spirit initiates. But you must respond. If you are unwillingly to follow, God does not hold the Holy Spirit responsible. (See 24:8.)
  8. Eliezer gives Rebekah a nose ring weighing one half-shekel. What is this about? Well a half-shekel represents a contribution to God, per Exodus 38:26 & 30:11-13. Half a shekel is very meaningful when you consider it in light of Jesus’ conversation with Peter in Matthew 17 (click here to see why). And it’s significant that he gives her––not an earring or a ring for her finger––but a ring for her nose. The nose is where life is breathed in. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. The nose is also the instrument of smelling, and smelling is the most spiritual of the five senses. You see, two of your senses (seeing and hearing) can sense something far away without any physical contact. Taste and touch, on the other hand, require you to be in direct contact with the thing you are sensing. But smelling is unique, because it is in between the others. It can sense something far away, yet invisible molecules of that thing are making direct contact with your nose. Smelling combines the direct contact of taste and touch with the far-awayness of sight and sound. So where physical and spiritual connect, where life is breathed in, that is where Eliezer places the ring of gold. 
  9. Eliezer doesn’t pass out applications and pick the best applicant. He doesn’t look for the richest girl. Instead he looks for the girl with kindness and compassion in her heart. Notice, her test involves two aspects. First she answers the spoken request: “Give me a drink of water.” She gives him a drink of water. But then she also senses a need that is not verbalized: the camels are thirsty too! She works to meet that need as well. This precisely is the kind of bride that God is seeking for His Son. Not someone who follows the letter of the law alone, but the spirit of the law as well. To look beyond the obvious and sense what is unspoken, the spirit of the matter. Rebekah thought, “Okay here’s a man who is thirsty. He asked for a drink; I’ll give him a drink. But what about his camels? He didn’t say anything about his camels, but they must be thirsty as well. I want to meet that need too.” Rebekah has a heart that Eliezer, like the Holy Spirit, gets excited about.  
  10. Eliezer is like the Holy Spirit in that he manages everything, but everything belongs to the son. Reference John 16:13-15 where the Son says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” 
  11. After their meeting at the well takes place, Eliezer goes back and tells Rebekah’s family what happened, how they met. So the special encounter between Eliezer and Rebekah is retold to her family. And it’s here, when Rebekah hears this retelling, that she comes to understand her destiny. Back when she was drawing water for the camels, she didn’t realize what would come of her actions. She doesn’t really put it all together until she hears it through Eliezer’s voice as he recounts the story. And in this way, it is by the Spirit that we discover our calling. 
  12. He gives gifts, garments, and precious things. In my translation it says costly ornaments. I know other translations say precious things. But note, “this term rendered precious things, as may be seen in Songs 4:13, is used to express exquisite fruits or delicacies, and precious plants or flowers” (Source). Rashi concurs, as he translates v.53 to say delicious fruits. So Eliezer gives gifts, garments, and delicious fruits (Source). I like this translation better because it yields an insight. Eliezer gives gifts to the bride, and he gives her a new garment. But he does not give her the delicious fruits. Those he gives to her brother and to her mother. After all, the fruits are not for Rebekah. The fruits are because of Rebekah. They are for the others. In like manner, the Holy Spirit gives us gifts (1 Corinthians 12), but the fruit of the Spirit are for everyone around us. 
  13. Eliezer does not accept delay. When Laban wants Rebekah to stay for another 10 days before leaving, Eliezer doesn’t want to wait around. He wants to act. He wants to move. He tells them, “Do not delay me” (24:56). This is indicative of the Holy Spirit. 
  14. Eliezer leads the bride home. He guides her to the son. It’s interesting that she is carried by the very camels that she watered the night before. It’s like her good deeds service the thing that bring her to the son. But it’s Eliezer who is leading the way. Now Rebekah has never seen Isaac before. She asks Eliezer, “Who is that man walking toward us?” And Eliezer says, “That is my master.” I love this so much, because we serve a Messiah whom we’ve never seen. But we know Him through the Word. Through the promises He’s extended to us. We know Him through what the Spirit is revealing to us. Just as Eliezer introduces Isaac to Rebekah, it’s the Spirit who introduces the Bridegroom to the Bride. And the Spirit tells the Son all that He has done. And then we, the Bride of Messiah, enter into Sarah’s tent. We are grafted into Abraham’s family, and we are loved by the Son. 

The Tower of Babel

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9 ESV)

Heres how I would pitch the movie: the camera pans across a wide plain, and mankind says, “Come, let us make bricks...” And then, “Come, let us build a city and a tower into the heavens . . . let us make a name for ourselves...” And then God says, “Come, let us go down and confuse their language...” So when Babel is calling together the nations and saying let’s go up!, God calls together His legions and says let’s go down! It’s like a battle scene, where two sides rush the field toward one another. Except in this case, the field is vertical. It’s heaven versus earth. Earth is attempting an invasion into heaven. But God, with his army of angels, falls upon the city, infiltrates the tower, and confuses the frequency of their radios. The people don’t know what to do, so they scatter. The defeat is great for mankind is no match for the Heavenly Host! God and His angels return to Heaven, victorious. The credits roll and Psalm 89 plays...

Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord,
    your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord?
    Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,
God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
    and awesome above all who are around him?
O Lord God of hosts,
    who is mighty as you are, O Lord,
    with your faithfulness all around you?
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
    the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.

I must say though, in Genesis 11, mankind has come up with something unique. They have devised a plan in which they would effectively recreate Adam. With all of humanity concentrated into a single structure, under one name, with one language, in theory mankind would wield as much power as Adam had. Nothing would be impossible for them. But as the people migrated and gathered together for the first time, the first thought that occurred to them was not “Let us glorify God as Adam did; let us serve Him with our united energies” –– but “Let us make a name for ourselves.” 

Hearing this phrase, we realize that “we are standing at the threshold of world history, Rabbi Hirsch writes. “Mankind gathered in a plain where they sought to manufacture the needed materials by their own strength and ingenuity. They came to recognize the great power of a community: If all join forces and work together, man can overcome and master nature. They decided to create a structure that would be an everlasting monument to the power of the community and its preeminence over the individual

“Here lies the danger. An individual will ultimately realize by himself that his powers are limited. Not so the community. For the community is indeed strong, and so it may easily come to regard itself as the highest goal––as though the individual has value only through the community. The individual is thus nullified by the collective. 

“If the community declares: We want to join forces so that we may establish ourselvesif the individual is called upon to be a servant of the community but not to serve God; if the community presents itself as an end, instead of a means to an end––then mankind’s whole moral future is lost. The result is that man discovers his own power and becomes proud of the artificial means at his disposal. The idol of hollow aims is created, aims that bring about no blessing. For the sake of these aims, the individual is expected to sacrifice his life, and the community renounces its allegiance to the individual. Individuals, of course, weep at the loss of a loved one, but when the community builds its edifice of glory the toll in human life is of no importance. The community says: “Let us burn whatever there is, never mind what we destroy, as long as it will aid in building the edifice of our fame, renown, and glory.” Millions may die, yet the community is easily comforted and adds new layers onto the edifice of glory. Thus, the community becomes an end in itself. The community no longer exists for the sake of the individual. Instead, individual members are compelled, or enticed by artificial means, to submit and to sacrifice themselves for the whole.

“Tradition has it that this project was undertaken under the leadership of Nimrod. [The Torah supports this idea, as it says in Genesis 10:8-10: Cush fathered Nimrod. Nimrod was the first on earth to be a mighty man . . . The beginning of his kingdom was Babel . . . in the land of Shinar.] Indeed, only a mighty man like Nimrod can sway people to make such a sacrifice. Not even he will succeed if he doesn’t know how to kindle their enthusiasm for his aims, if he does not know how to identify his own glory with that of the masses who sacrifice themselves for him. A Napoleon or an Alexander knows how to charm the masses and win their devotion not with promises of gold and riches, but merely with a bit of ribbon in the lapel of a jacket.

“The event in Genesis 11 is not the only instance in history where lust for glory prompted the building of a “tower” and the indiscriminate consumption of all else. This event is a reoccurring phenomenon in world history. History, for the most part, tells only about towers of imaginary glory, which Nimrod and his successors enticed, or forced, their nations to build. But simple human values, a person’s conduct in the privacy of his own home––about such things history books do not tell. Such things are recorded only by Elijah and the Messiah, the heralds and agents of mankind’s ultimate redemption, and signed by God as witness.” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Chumash, Bereshis, pg. 266-269.)

Suffice to say, Genesis 11 is an ancient warning given to all citizens throughout history. The tower represents the State, and its suppression of the individual. But God values the individual more than He does the State. After all, with the exception of Israel, no State is saved. There will be no Rome in Heaven. The flag of Greece will not fly behind the Pearly Gates. The United States Congress will not convene in God’s Kingdom. God is not interested in spending eternity with a global superpower. Rather, He wants to spend eternity with you, an individual. 1 Peter 2:5 tells us what God is accomplishing with individuals: “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house...” Stones, like people, are each unique; there are no two exactly alike. God––a master stone mason––skillfully handles our differences and patiently works with them. Using love as His mortar, He brings us together to accomplish His great work. But the State would seek to accomplish something else: to turn stones into bricks. Bricks are manufactured to be exactly the same. They are interchangeable, easily stacked, and easily replaced. The State, if given absolute power, would margin off our differences and mold us into a thing that can be used to prop itself up. It would do this to you, your son, your grandson, and his son, because you see the State is never big enough. Construction seemingly goes on and on and on. The Tower of Babel went unfinished in Genesis 11 because the State is always unfinished. It requires more and more bricks to satisfy its endless desire to rise. And what does the State use for mortar? What is the slime holding the bricks in place? Materialism. Materialism is the tar that entraps the bricks. At least that is the case in 21st Century America.

It seems like Americans are being made into bricks, set to the form of political correctness. Notice, we are increasingly limited in what we’re allowed to talk about publicly. What is deemed “acceptable social dialogue” is a packaged language, uniform in many ways. Tolerance and diversity are proclaimed in the streets, but only if you agree with the terms of those declaring it. You see, if your beliefs differ from popular science and secularism, then you best keep quiet. Leave your religion at church––don’t bring it to the voting booth! Don’t talk about it in public. Don’t express it in writing. “Fit into this shape and be part of what we’re building here, understand? If you find it hard to accept, here’s a new house, a new car, a new trip, a new TV, a new TV show. Whatever it takes to get you quiet and get you comfortable.” Certainly the materialistic hold on us makes for a sticky situation. But it’s the kind of thing Christians are up against today in our country. Indeed, the spirit of the tower remains alive and well. It was never finished.

Again, the tower represents the State and its suppression of the individual. As we think about this, I want to compare two structures that are not far apart in the Bible: the tower constructed by the people in the plain of Shinar and the altar constructed by Noah in the mountains of Ararat. Both of these structures were built (banah, בנה) by man, and in both cases, a large portion of humanity was involved. (Noah was an eighth of the world’s population when he built that altar.) However, there are some key differences: Babel’s structure was made of bricks; Noah’s was made of stone. Babel’s was a collective work; Noah’s was a personal work. Babel’s was dedicated to man’s glory; Noah’s was dedicated to God’s glory. Babel’s elevated Babel; Noah’s elevated all the earth (as it is said, his altar of stone was a continuum of the earth, lifting it heavenward). Babel’s sent up a spirit of pride; Noah’s sent up a spirit of humility. Babel’s tower rose high into the sky; Noah’s “tower” was only a few feet tall, and yet, his ascended far higher. Babel’s tower merely wanted to reach the heavens, but Noah’s actually did! For we read that Noah’s made it all the way up to the Lord as a pleasing aroma. But for Babel, God had to go down and see it. He had to step down from Heaven. So we can infer that Noah’s efforts ascended higher than Babel’s. Meaning: the efforts of a single man devoted to God will surpass the efforts of an entire nation devoted to itself.

Let’s conclude with one last comparison. Genesis 11:6-7 reads: “And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’”

We compare this to an earlier passage from Genesis: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—’ therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:22-24). 

In both passages, God reaches into the course of history and intervenes directly. If God hadn’t intervened, man would have lived forever and anything we proposed would have been possible. Now these may seem like good things at first... Living forever? Doing the impossible? Why would God intervene and prevent such things from happening?

Well, the context is important. In the context of Genesis 3, to live forever is to be separated from God perpetually. In the context of Genesis 11, to accomplish anything we propose is to accomplish nothing that you propose. God separates us from the Tree of Life (temporarily) so that we may break free from our fallen state. God separates us from one language (temporarily) so that we may break free from a fallen State.  

Cain: From Messiah to Mob Boss

“The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. 
For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, 
while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. 
Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be. 
God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. 
Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone. 
God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”  
- John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, pg. 160.

Two brothers at the threshold of history bring an offering to the Lord. Cain, a worker of the ground, brings the fruit of the ground. His younger brother Abel, a keeper of sheep, brings the first of his flock and their fat portions. It’s the heart that makes a difference: Abel brings his best because his heart is given totally to God. Cain does not lay down his best because he keeps mostly himself in view. When the Lord favors one to the other, Cain takes offense. He is ignited with anger. He decides that he will eliminate his brother.

We must inquire: just why is Cain so angry? Is Cain simply a hot-head prone to extreme temper tantrums? Or is there something else, something more to the story? If we backtrack a number of years, we find there is more to the story...

It’s man’s last day in the Garden of Eden and the serpent is luring Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. She eats it. She hands it to Adam and he eats it too. Later they hear God walking in the cool of the evening, so they hide among the trees from which they are supposed to eat. God questions them and they confess. He asks Eve, “What is this that you have done?” She answers, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” God then curses the serpent. He says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Now Eve, overhearing this, is particularly interested because she is the woman and this involves her directly. She carries these words with her as she and Adam are escorted from the Garden wearing the garments that God has fashioned them from animal skin. 

In the wake of Eden, the enmity between the woman and the serpent intensifies. Smelling the sweat when Adam returns from his work everyday, anticipating the tremendous pain each time she nears childbirth, more and more Eve despises the serpent that deceived her and stole so much from them! She has only to close her eyes to picture it as if it happened yesterday. And every time she thinks about it, her soul tumbles into a dark cellar of remorse. But then she clings to the light, to the promise that God made before them: that her offspring will crush the serpent’s head. Indeed, he will kill the serpent! And then maybe, just maybe, his victory over the enemy will restore their access to the Garden. 

Enter Cain. Cain is Eve’s firstborn son. In her eyes, he is the promised child! He is the fulfillment of God’s promise! Eve harbors a special hope for her firstborn son. She entertains this thought often, that Cain is the one destined to get them back into the Garden where they belong! 

We have to understand that Eve is a human like anyone else, and we humans tend to be very near-sighted. Eve believes the fulfillment of the promise will come to pass in her own lifetime. She underestimates God’s plan for salvation. She does not foresee the big picture: that God will come to Mary, the woman, thousands of years later, and deposit within her the Son of God, God Incarnate, and that He will be the One who crushes the serpent’s head to fulfill the Lord’s great promise. No! She can’t possibly foresee such a wonder. She thinks in terms of human logic which is, again, so often near-sighted. She naturally assumes that her offspring––literally, her offspring––will fulfill the promise. She has no reason to think otherwise. And lo and behold, her firstborn child is a son. She names him Cain, for “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” she says. It sounds like something Mary could have named Jesus. Yes, as far as Eve is concerned, Cain is the savior!

From a young age, Cain grows up thinking this, too. His parents tell him about the Garden, tell him about serpent, tell him about the promise. His eyes widened every time he hears it: his mother saying, “God promised that my seed will crush the serpent’s head.” Cain is infatuated by the idea that he is the chosen one, the one to redeem his mother, to avenge his family, to return them to the Garden that he so desperately wants to see. He works the ground everyday in preparation for their return to Eden. The promise comes to define his identity. The vengeance he seeks supplies his warrior spirit with purpose. Working the fields as much as he does, he encounters a snake every so often, and the thrill of killing it––of crushing its head with his heel––is deeply satisfying. He continually waits for the day it will happen, the day in which he crosses paths with the serpent. For that is the day he will prove his worth; that is the day he will save the world.    

But something else happens that shakes Cain to the core. Bringing an offering to God alongside his brother one day, God favors his brother and his brother’s offering. Wait! This is wrong! According to the rules of Cain’s universe, Cain is supposed to be the chosen seed! Why is his offering not accepted? Why is he not accepted? The issue is larger than the offering alone. This concerns Cain’s very identity. It’s about his perceived role in life. Over the years, Cain has come to develop a messiah complex, but God’s disregard causes him to question everything. He becomes angry because he is offended, and he is afraid to accept the implications. Such anger aggravates the anger already within him, for he has spent much of his life kindling an anger toward the serpent, a hatred that he could always justify with noble intentions. But now the noble intentions melt away to expose the furnace of his ego underneath. Is Abel the chosen one?

Cain uses his cunning. Before killing his brother, “Cain speaks to Abel his brother” (Genesis 4:8).  This chilling detail is preserved because it is part of the plot. It’s connected to the murder. Just like the serpent used words to lure Eve to her fall, here Cain uses words to lure Abel to his fall. And Abel trusts his older brother like his mother once trusted the serpent. We see from this that Cain’s crime is not a crime of passion. It’s instead a crime of calculation, a premeditated murder of the first degree. “Let’s go out to the field,” Cain says according to the Septuagint. “Come with me,” I hear him saying. Soon sensing their isolation in the field, he strikes, unleashing the lethal venom of his rage. It happens fast. He puts Abel on the ground in the blink of an eye. Cain isn’t even breathing hard when he looks down at his brother’s motionless body, the stolen life of a person who trusted him. And then it occurs to him, a thought Cain tries to put away quickly: that in his jealousy, he has become the serpent! He has become the very thing he was supposed to kill!

God speaks to Cain. “Where is your brother?” He inquires. Now as a principle, whenever God asks a question, it’s never because He needs the answer. God already knows the answer! He asks the question only because He wants you to contemplate the answer. He asks for your sake, not His. But Cain refuses to go there. Whereas his parents hid among the trees, Cain hides beneath lies that foliate with excuses. He responds, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s keeper?” My, what a turn of events! Not that long ago, Cain used to think of himself as his brother’s savior, as his family’s avenger. He used to fantasize of his returning them to the Garden of Eden. But no, not anymore. Not with his brother laying facedown in the open field. Now the idea of being a savior is sickening to him. He rejects the notion altogether. And in so doing, he rejects his place within the family. It is decided: he will leave them all behind. He will go his own way. God tells him as much, declaring, “You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” And this is exactly what happens, but not before Cain is cursed from the ground. The Lord, having seen how Cain misused his strength, says to him, “When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength.” Cain responds in turn, “My punishment is too great to bear . . . From your face I shall be hidden.” Cain then departs from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife, he goes on to settle in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

In the land of Nod, Cain begins a new enterprise: the city. He builds a city and names it after his son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17). Cain compares himself to the boy. Whereas Cain was the son who grew up in the shadow of a place he could not have, his son Enoch would grow up in a place to possess and call his own. This thought pleases Cain a great deal. We soon see the City of Enoch flourishing with activity: Cain’s children have children who have children who have children, many of whom reside in the city. Many of Adam’s children and grandchildren migrate into the city as well. Eventually the urban qualities of city-life emerge: production, technology, innovation and music. The City of Enoch is the first of its kind. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. 

Why does Cain build a city? As Rabbi Hirsch explains, “Cain is cut off from the soil; the land no longer supports him. Unlike the countryside, the city is detached from the soil and from agriculture. In the countryside, the fields are cultivated; in the city, man is cultivated. In the city, the slumbering capabilities of man are awakened. Man, as it were, is awakened. Now Cain no longer needs the ground to yield him its produce. He is his own field. His mind produces mechanical skill, the mighty lever for industry, and thus landless Cain regains his ground. The villages bring the produce of the fields to the cities, obtaining in return the benefits of urban industry” (Hirsch Chumash, Bereshis, pg. 140, 144). In this way, Cain positions himself such that others come to him. And in exchange, his city offers them technology and entertainment. In the Garden he was not welcome, but in Enoch, all are welcome, for “I am more welcoming than God” Cain concludes.

Cain develops into a kind of mob boss in his later years. To elaborate, everybody in town knows who Cain is. He’s a powerful man; it’s his city; he pulls the strings, and business is good. His reputation precedes him. Whenever he walks into a room, heads turn and no introductions need be made. And everyone knows, too, that he’s a killer, a murderer.  Cain is calloused to his past and that makes him calloused in the present. His temper inclines him toward brutality at times. Also fitting for a mob boss, he is a made man. God put a mark on him such that, if anyone comes against him, he will be avenged sevenfold (Genesis 4:15). Therefore nobody messes with Cain. He’s protected. He does as he pleases in the City of Enoch. And be advised: if you cross him, he’ll come have a talk with you, maybe like the one he had with his brother on that fateful day. 

Away from the public and alone with his thoughts, the mob boss occasionally reflects on his youth, on the life he left behind. At that time so long ago, he really did believe that he would kill the serpent and save the world. But now he shakes his head when he thinks about it. He pities that boy in the field crushing the head of a worthless garden snake. How deceived he was. How much he has changed since then. Now he loves snakes! In fact, he keeps several as pets. They remind him just how far he has come.  

Deep down he remains bitter toward God––even though they haven’t spoken in years. Why didn’t God accept him as the chosen one? That is, after all, all Cain ever wanted as a young man. Didn’t he earn it? He comes to scoff at the promise altogether.

He remains bitter toward his parents––even though they haven’t spoken in years. In his mind, it is their fault that he believed something so foolish. It is their fault that his offering was disregarded by God. He brought it believing that he was the messiah! But clearly there is no such thing. Yes, Cain concludes once more that his parents are the ones to blame for his confusion. They are to blame for his false perception of himself. They are to blame for his anger. And so he goes on, blaming them. But little does he realize, Cain has again become the thing he hates. His own children––separated from God, raised to think they own the world––take from Cain a false perception of themselves, one that will inspire their eventual destruction. Not a single descendant will survive the flood. 

But that’s far off. Tonight, with the sun setting behind him, Cain––now a man nearing 700 years old––surveys from his rooftop balcony what the City of Enoch has become. He is proud of this place, of his legacy. He has lived up to his name, having acquired so much power and respect. His favorite pet snake coils around his arm as he peers down at a group of young prostitutes walking the city street below. He doesn’t recognize them, but he knows what they do. These service the out-of-towners who visit Enoch regularly to trade and to indulge in the city’s finer things. Cain feels sorry for the out-of-towners. He remembers working the ground once like them, but now sweating is as behind him as it is beneath him. He hires others to sweat. Let the outsiders toil in the sun, but let the residents of Enoch enjoy themselves. If only his parents could see how great he has become. Cain kills this thought as soon as the field resurfaces in his mind. He shifts his focus back to how beautiful his city looks at sunset.

Meanwhile, from Heaven, God surveys the catastrophic corruption of His creation. The spectacle pains His Spirit. In God’s view, the City of Enoch is far from beautiful, and the city is but a microcosm of the world at large. As we read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12).
Here let’s make a note in the margins of the story. The word that best describes this period in history is the word “corrupt” (shachath in Hebrew, pronounced shaw-kaat). It is repeated three times in Genesis 6. But “corrupt” is the simple translation because the Hebrew word shachath is very meaningful. Shachath is like a mixture of dark hues which color the world of Cain and his powerful family. The following Scriptures show the shades of shachath:

* Jeremiah 13:7: “Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the loincloth from [the hole in the ground] where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was spoiled (shachath); it was good for nothing.” From this passage, we see that shachath means rotten or spoiled, good for nothing. In such a state, something is ruined beyond repair. It is the result of remaining in a place of darkness. 

* Jeremiah 18:4: “And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled (shachath) in the potter’s hand, so he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.” As seen here, the potter doesn’t like how the clay is settling. A deformity has undermined the project’s purpose, so the potter sees fit to rework the clay into a new vessel. 

* Exodus 32:7: “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted (shachath) themselves.’” This verse leads into the incident of the golden calf. In this instance, shachath refers to idolatry and gross immorality. The people were “feasting and drinking and indulging in revelry” (Exodus 32:6).  

* Proverbs 28:24: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt (shachath), their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” 

* Genesis 38:9: “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife, he would waste (shachath) the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother.” In this usage, shachath refers to the misuse of something meant for life, the mockery of something sacred.

* Exodus 21:26: “If a man hits his male or female slave in the eye and the eye is blinded (shachath), he must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye.” Here shachath is related to violence. It can mean blinded, damaged, or disfigured. 

These verses unite a spectrum of meaning. Shachath means to be rotten, ruined, defected, deformed, wasted, blinded, immoral, damaged or disfigured. It’s the misuse of something meant for life, the mockery of something sacred. It’s the fool who commits vile acts and says in his heart, “There is no God.” A mixture of such ideas describe the corrupt state of humanity before the flood! A sad sight, yes, but not to Cain. Returning to the story, we see that Cain perceives otherwise. 

From his balcony, Cain hears the sound of feasting and drinking, the kind of revelry that proves the City of Enoch is alive and well. Nothing will ever change this soundtrack insofar as he can ascertain. But Cain does not anticipate what is to come. He does not realize that God will soon rework the earth into a new vessel by adding water and reshaping the clay model. Also, something else escapes Cain’s awareness. To see it ourselves, we have to return to the very field that Cain never wants to revisit.

Back in the field hundreds of years earlier, we wince as Cain strikes his brother down. Not long after the deed is finished, God asks Cain a question: “What have you done?” God says, “Listen! Your brother’s bloods cry out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). This is no typo! In Hebrew, the word “blood” is plural in this verse. Abel’s bloods (במי) cry out to God. What are we to make of this? 

From Leviticus 17:11, we learn that “The life (or soul) of the flesh is in the blood...” So the very life of a thing is found in the blood. Apply this truth to the plural bloods of Abel. When Cain kills his brother Abel, Cain does more than end the life of one man. He also ends the potential that is intended to come out of that man. Abel’s entire lineage is stunted! Here’s how Matthew Poole’s Commentary puts it: “In the Hebrew it is bloods to charge Cain with the murder of all those that might naturally have come out of Abel’s loins” (Source). Keeping with this concept, the victims of Cain––Abel and his unborn descendants––cry out to God from the ground. 

God does not ignore the plea of Abel’s bloods. Those lives escape the actions of Cain even though Abel does not. At least, this is what Eve concludes. Genesis 4:25: “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’” It is reasonable to suspect that Seth is the first son born after Abel’s death. Eve may even be pregnant with Seth when she receives the news that Abel has been killed. Such a timeline would explain Eve’s special connection between the two of them. In her mind, God has predestined one to replace the other. Eve sees in Seth something significant: he isn’t just another child; he’s an instead of child. According to Eve, Seth will take Abel’s place. In a sense, Seth is Abel

What we’re talking about is substitution. Substitution, at its depth, is such that the substitute becomes the substituted! This level of thought is portrayed in the Bible. For instance, when the ram becomes a substitute for Isaac, the ram goes to its death as Isaac. Understand, Isaac dies that day! Because the ram dies in his place. We perceive the paradox: Isaac climbs off the altar and yet his place in the world is offered to God. The ram dies and yet the ram’s death is Isaac’s death. In the same vein, Jesus’ death on the cross is your death. Jesus dies in your place. He dies as you. Dead but yet alive, now you go on living as a living sacrifice as did Isaac. 

The Hebrew word at the heart of substitution is the word tachat (תחת). It means “instead of.” Tachat is the word used when “Abraham takes the ram and sacrifices it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (Genesis 22:13). It’s the word used in Exodus 21:23-24 where we encounter the following idiom: “If there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” The principle in this verse is restitution (not vengeance), and the word translated “for” is the word tachat. You might say, “eye instead of eye, tooth instead of tooth...” Here’s the idea: if someone damages your eye, then he must pay you what is equivalent to the value of an eye. The money will be in place of your eye. If someone damages your hand, then he must pay you what is equivalent to the value of a hand. The money will be in place of your hand. Again, the principle is restitution. Determine the value of what is taken, then the taker must offer something of equal value to stand in its place. 

In Eden, Adam and Eve steal from God the one piece of the Garden that is off-limits. It can be said, then, that the first sin is an act of theft. In fact all sin is theft, in that sin is to seize that which God has deemed off-limits. This is why Jesus is crucified between two thieves. It’s a picture of the whole problem with its one solution (Jesus) at the center. It is here that Jesus extends His substitution to every sinner in history. It is here that He becomes the thief that is you. In your place, He yokes Himself to the original thief: the serpent! The yoke that binds the two is death itself. The serpent, being so entangled, cannot slip the grip when it happens: Jesus is crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5); it is the Lord’s will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10). Thus He and the serpent are crushed at once. But God raises Jesus from the dead because it is impossible for death to keep its hold on Him (Acts 2:24). Jesus resurrects––bruised but yet alive, wounded but triumphant. 

Looking again at the word tachat, this incredible scene is foretold. It is hidden in the very letters of the ancient Hebrew word. 

Every Hebrew letter is a symbol, and every Hebrew letter is a number (since Hebrew is alphanumeric). In Hebrew, the letter chet is the number 8, and throughout Scripture the number 8 represents new beginnings, or new life. The letter tav is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and it symbolizes a cross even according to non-believing Jews. (Note that the cross becomes more evident in Paleo-Hebrew.) Set together, the letter tav and the letter chet spell the word tachat: that is, tav-chet-tav. So get the picture: we have a cross on the left and a cross on the right. In between them, we have the number 8 representing new life. Amazing! To students studying Jesus’ language, the word tachat is a picture of Calvary, where Jesus––between two crosses––dies instead of you. Where He makes restitution for what was taken in the Garden. Where He renders the enemy powerless by crushing the serpent’s head to fulfill the promise God made before Adam and Eve, the very promise Cain comes to disavow, the very promise to which Eve clings even after she loses understanding. What an remarkable thing! 

Remember that verse from Genesis 4? We read: “...Eve bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’” It’s our word: tachat! Yes, as far as Eve is concerned, every child that Abel was supposed to have, Seth will have instead, for Seth is appointed to be in Abel’s place. We might say that Genesis 5 lists Abel’s descendants, those born to Seth instead. The bloods that cry out to God are the very lives that Seth now brings into the world. Through the act of substitution, there is restitution. The potential of Abel escapes the field to which Cain almost confines it. And out of that potential comes the seed of Messiah, the One who will ultimately restore man’s access to the Garden. These are truths that Cain will never comprehend: that man is returned to Eden not by an act of vengeance but by an act of substitution; that the blood of his murdered brother contains the voice that will save the world. Only in the course of history will such a truth be revealed. For now, Eve knows only the pain of the immediate. And this brings us back to the story at hand.

Eve weeps when Adam, with blood on his hands, returns from his work to tell her about the body found in Cain’s field. Cain, her beloved firstborn––the one whom she thought would kill the serpent––has instead killed her son Abel. It doesn’t make sense! This is not how it was supposed to happen. 

Cain somehow senses the pain he has caused his mother. Instead of facing it and asking for forgiveness, he decides to leave without delay. He tells his sister––the woman whom he has married––to gather their belongings. They will head east because Cain wants to get as far away from the Garden as possible. Giving no notice, they are gone, and Eve is left with so many questions that Adam doesn’t know how to answer. While Cain runs away from the field, Eve can’t seem to leave it. She finds solace in the idea that her newborn baby will stand in place of the son who died, but still, she does not understand the promise anymore. Her offspring was supposed to crush the serpent’s head! Yet with each passing decade, with each passing century, she watches the enemy’s head grow larger and more menacing while she and her husband grow weaker and more irrelevant. Sometimes she pulls out the garment that God made for her when she left Eden, and for long moments by herself, she stares at it without saying a word. 

.     .     .     .     .

There is a party in the City of Enoch. Another one, bigger than the last. God is watching the revelry from above. He has been patient, refraining from intervention. We know this because one of Seth’s descendants––Methuselah––lives to be 969 years old. Methuselah means “his death shall bring,” and he dies the very same year that the flood occurs. Suffice to say, Methuselah becomes the oldest person in recorded history because God keeps holding off His judgment. God is slow to anger so Methuselah just goes on and on living. But it can’t keep going on this way. The corruption and violence only continue to escalate, and God would be unjust to let it persist. 

The enemy down on earth marvels at his work. Of course he credits himself entirely for the corruption of all flesh. It is a job well done. God had tried to have a bride, but the enemy has stolen her away, and now she is his bride and he feels like God. However, the Lord did a subtle something many years ago that the enemy didn’t notice, nor expect. He freed Abel’s potential from the field, and using Seth in Abel’s place, He brought along a descendant named Noah. God now whispers to Noah and instructs him to pitch together some wood. Noah obediently goes to work, hammering down one board at a time. The project begins to take shape outside of town, somewhere off the enemy’s radar. Meanwhile, the enemy busies himself with the kingdoms of the world, thinking it is here that he will have the greatest impact for his ongoing domination. Even if the enemy is aware of Noah’s project, I suspect he is so drunk on his own success and so possessed by his own ambition that he underestimates the significance of one layman’s contribution to the world (a mistake he will not make in the future). Had the enemy been concerned about Noah’s project, I imagine he would have called together the kings of the earth to ride up on the construction site and burn the boat to the ground. But as it happens, the ark is completed, the project is finished, and God’s plan is set into motion. At the appropriate time, the fountains of the deep burst forth and the windows of heaven open wide. The release of water is on a scale so massive that it is difficult to fathom. Yet no matter how high the floodwaters rise, the ark abounds all the more (a nod to Romans 5:20). 

The enemy watches water pour over the horizon from the same balcony that he used to share with Cain, back before Cain was buried with honors. The historic City of Enoch––this pinnacle of achievement for the both of them––disappears from the map as a wall of water advances faster and louder than an army of chariots. All life––crowned with its corruption and violence––comes to an abrupt end. And for the first time in a long time, the enemy is speechless. Without the kings of the earth, without the servants he had produced and the dominion he had claimed, the enemy has neither hands nor feet with which to carry out his desires. Suddenly he finds himself back where he started. He is a lonesome, low creature without any legs or arms with which elevate himself.

The serpent perceives his defeat already, but the defeat is felt most when the floodwaters subside and Noah’s ark touches down on Mount Ararat some time later. To appreciate the gravity of this moment, we have to look into the Hebrew. Here we visit three Hebrew words and one Hebrew letter.

The first Hebrew word is shuph. In the Garden of Eden, God says the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). The word translated “crush” is the word shuph, which can mean bruise, crush, or to fall upon.

The second Hebrew word is arar. It means “curse.” Arar is spelled ארר. This word is used by God when He curses the serpent, saying, “Cursed are you...” (Genesis 3:14).

The third Hebrew word: Ararat. This is the name of the mountain upon which the ark comes to rest. In Hebrew, the word Ararat is spelled אררט. 

On to the Hebrew letter. As I mentioned before, every Hebrew letter is a symbol. So, for example, the letter aleph represents an ox. The letter beit represents a house. The letter gimel is a camel, the letter dalet a door. The letter we want to look at is the letter tet. What does the letter tet represent? The letter tet represents a snake! (Reference) You can see that the letter even resembles a snake with its curled tail on the right and its head lifted up on the left:

Now putting it all together, we glimpse the enemy’s humiliation at Ararat:

It’s the place where God’s plan for salvation falls upon the head of the cursed serpent. The weight of the ark drives itself deep into the wet mud of Ararat, bruising its cold and slimy surface. Even more, the sharpest bruise done to Ararat is a footprint put in the mud, that of Shem’s wife as she steps off the ark and her heel presses into the new world. For it is she who carries the Messianic seed which will one day crush the serpent’s head for good!

Gazing down at this footprint in the ark’s enormous shadow, the enemy discerns his ultimate defeat with an inevitability that bears down on him. You and I know what is slated for the serpent. There is, however, a question that remains unanswered, a question that we now ponder. We ask: what about his servant, Cain? 

1 John 3:12 says that “Cain belonged to the evil one,” yet Cain appears to have escaped judgement, dying a rich man in the comforts of a flourishing city. Unlike the serpent, Cain is not alive to witness the flood. He never sees the destruction of his legacy. So where is justice done in this regard? Well it should be said that his death in Enoch is not the end of him. If the tale of his life is a mansion to be explored, here two tour guides (Daniel and John) lead us to a hidden room at the end of a long hallway, a room that size can’t describe. Only with our imaginations can we turn the doorknob to peak carefully into this holy space. 

We identify Cain one last time, spotting him in the front row of an audience made up of all humanity. The audience is silent. The audience is kneeling. The audience is illuminated by immense firelight. 

Before them, thrones are set in place and the Ancient of Days takes His seat. His clothing is white as snow, the hair of his head white like wool. His Throne, encircled by an emerald rainbow, is flaming with fire, its wheels all ablaze. From the Throne strike flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and rolls of thunder. A river of fire is flowing, coming out from before Him, emptying into a lake of fire prepared for the enemy and his angels. Thousands upon thousands attend to Him, while ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him. The court is seated, and the books are opened. Today is Judgement Day. 

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God...” (Romans 14:11-12).

“...not even the Father judges anyone, for He has given all judgements to the Son...” (John 5:22).

Cain is motionless, kneeling in silence like everyone else at this moment. He is captivated by the One seated upon the Throne. All at once he is mesmerized and terrified. Part of him is afraid to look; part of him can’t look away. This is the One––it’s Him! The Messiah, the Promised Seed, God Incarnate. Cain is awestruck. He has no vocabulary to describe the majesty that maximizes every molecule in front of him.

It is not long before the life of Cain is called into motion. Cain is unable to hide when he is summoned forward. He steps onto something like a sea of glass. It is water so still and undisturbed that it may as well be glass, clear as crystal, reflecting the radiance of the Throne like a tranquil lake would reflect the sun at sunrise. By Jesus’ beckoning alone is anyone allowed to stand and walk on this water. As Cain approaches the Throne––albeit staying at some distance––he is blasted with a sudden gust of wind.  Overwhelmed with fear, he sinks to his knees. 

The Ancient of Days addresses him directly, asking, “Where is your brother?” 

Cain finds the ability to speak. “He is here, Lord.” 

“Why did you regard your brother with contempt?” 

“I was jealous, Lord.” 

“You did not do well: you murdered your brother.” At this statement, the chambers swell with a thunderous roar. The audience behind Cain raises an outcry that upsets the glassy floor beneath his feet. “Peace! Be still!” the Lord calls out, and at once, the cry of Abel’s bloods ceases and the sea of humanity is calm. He looks at Cain. “You were jealous because you were afraid. Why were you so afraid?”

Cain is taken back by his own answer: “I wanted to be You. I wanted control. I wanted the authority to determine the course of my life. I was afraid to accept anything less.” The words come out of him as though he is not the master of them anymore. 

Watching this scene unfold alongside Daniel and John, we are reminded of the Pharaoh in Exodus. Pharaoh would be warned of a coming plague, but again and again he would harden his heart and refuse to listen (Exodus 7:13, 22-23, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:7). Finally after five plagues come and go, we read that “the Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart...” (9:12). This language is not used in the previous plagues (except once as a forewarning to Moses), but we find it more as the story continues. Before the arrival of the eighth plague, the Lord says to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart . . . so that I may perform these signs of mine . . . that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians . . . and that you may know that I am the Lord” (10:1-2). The Lord hardens Pharaoh’s heart at every plague thereafter (10:20, 27, 11:10) “so that His wonders may be multiplied in Egypt” (11:9). 

For a length of time, Pharaoh has the power to choose. He can choose to surrender to Moses and release the Israelites, or he can harden his heart and refuse to listen. At first Pharaoh is entirely free to decide one way or the other. But after choosing the latter option time after time, Pharaoh’s freedom to choose is removed. It is decided: God will use Egypt as a backdrop to display His Mighty Hand, and Pharaoh has no choice but to continue down the path he has chosen. 

And so it is with Cain on Judgement Day. For so long Cain has made the choice to harden his heart. But now, standing in God’s presence like Pharaoh once stood in the presence of Moses, Cain has lost the ability to choose otherwise, for he has already chosen and there is no going back. Bound to his decision, Cain will be used as an instrument that heralds the holiness of God. 

Cain speaks again, discovering the words as he hears them out loud. “When my offering was not regarded, I was afraid that You wanted less for me than I wanted for myself.” 

“Cain, the son of man, let the Son of Man tell you: I wanted more for you than you can imagine. I made you the eldest brother on purpose! You were meant to be the elder who guided the beginning generations to Me. All of the world was made to look up to you. You, the eldest brother, had their ear and their hearts. I gave you such influence that lineages of men would heed your example. And even after you became faithless, I remained faithful, for I cannot deny Myself. I entrusted you with a gift, and having given it to you, I would not take it away. But entrusting one with such influence, I require humility as a counterbalance. Instead you were filled with pride. Instead you were filled with resentment and anger. Reveal your heart, Cain.”

Cain spits before the Throne, but it evaporates in midair. What is happening?! Cain is mortified, embarrassed beyond measure and afraid for his life, but there is no stopping his words or his actions. They escape without control. The truth of his heart cannot be concealed in this place. His soul is exposed. 

The court, silent and still, waits for the One seated on the Throne to speak. After a moment, He does. “You murdered My brother. And whatever you did to the least of My brothers, you did it to Me. And because you did it to Me, I wanted to forgive you. I wanted to stand in your place before this court.” 

Cain’s countenance changes. He doesn’t understand.

“A son of yours spoke of vengeance once. He said, ‘If Cain is avenged seven times, then I seventy-seven times.’ But I say how many times shall I forgive one who sins against Me? Up to seven times? I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Cain, I was eager to forgive you, always waiting for you to ask for it, always waiting for you to be forgiving of others––like your parents, whom you never forgave.” 

Cain has no words. He just stands there dumbfounded as the proceedings go on, each deed and careless word being brought before the Judge until all are accounted for, each time the Judge asking if there is in the book a request for forgiveness, each time the bookkeeper answering, “There is none.” Finally after all is heard, these words are spoken: “Cain, the court will grant you your choice. Your will be done in Heaven as it was on earth. I permit you to follow after the authority you have chosen. And may My Father’s Authority be glorified. Let it be known that whoever loves God is known by God. Now depart from Me, for I do not know you.”

A book is closed and instantly Cain finds himself among the audience again. He remains on bended knee until an angel approaches his position.

“So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous” (Matthew 13:49).

He looks up at the angel, one of thousands in attendance. But this angel is unique because this angel speaks with Cain’s voice! It’s with his own voice that Cain hears, “Come with me.” There’s a flashback to that fateful day when he spoke to his brother Abel. Cain cannot control his reaction: there is no struggle; there is no spoken response. God’s Justice is perfect, and in this place, perfect justice is not complicated. Cain is compelled to simply stand and follow the angel escort to the left of the Throne Room. And as he follows behind the angel, he glances down and realizes that the mark on his body is gone.