Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 4:9–12

Genesis 4:9–12
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?”  10 But the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!  11 So now, you are banished from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  12 When you try to cultivate the ground it will no longer yield its best for you. You will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
(NET Bible)

Crime and God’s Punishment

In the Bible one often sees that the punishment fits the crime. Paul said: “Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). Jesus said, “The measure you use will be the measure you receive” (Matt. 7:2b).

If we care for no one except ourselves, then who will care for us? On the other hand, what will be the result of a life characterized by love and generosity? How will God intervene to see that this measure-for-measure approach is maintained?

Just as Adam and his wife were not free from God’s knowledge of their actions (Genesis 3:9–13), so Cain is forced to deal with God’s sudden arrival and penetrating question (Gen. 3:9, ESV): “Where is Abel your brother?”

Gordon Wenham offers insight into Cain’s defiant reply:

When Adam was challenged, he at least told the truth if not the whole truth (3:10), but Cain tells a bare-faced lie, “I do not know,” and follows it with an impertinent witticism, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Since Abel kept sheep and [“keeper”] is a term for shepherds (cf. Exod. 22:6, 9; 1 Sam. 17:20), Cain’s reply could be paraphrased “Am I the shepherd’s shepherd?”[1]

What can we say about Cain’s response to God’s question? It is clearly self-justifying. The response has the shameless audacity that characterizes those who have no grasp of the difference between an all-powerful God and a mortal man. Cain’s attitude can be found in many people throughout the pages of the Bible and in contemporary society. For this reason Jesus said, “If someone who is blind leads another who is blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matt. 15:14). For Cain the pit comes swiftly.

Genesis 4:10  But the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”

In saying “What have you done?” Victor Hamilton says, “God is making an accusation, not seeking information.”[2] The blood defiles the God-created ground, and the blood figuratively cries out to God for relief.

Genesis 4:10 contains a world of implicit theology: God monitors all human activity; God judges human actions; human acts have consequences; human life is sacred; bloodguilt cannot be ignored.

Genesis 4:11–12  So now, you are banished from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  12 When you try to cultivate the ground it will no longer yield its best for you. You will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”

Just as sin had waited to devour Cain, the ground swallowed Abel’s blood. The striking series of questions and statements, each two words long in Hebrew, tells a simple story:

Genesis 4:9          “Where is Abel” (literal translation)

Genesis 4:10        “What have you done” (literal translation)

Genesis 4:11        “Cursed are you” (literal translation)

Hamilton clarifies the idea of being banished or banned from the soil by saying that it “obviously means not that he is barred from contact with the soil but from enjoyment of its productivity.”[3]

Wenham says, “In Gen. 3 man is not cursed, only the ground and the serpent, so cursing Cain is a serious development.”[4]

The text of Genesis 4:12 is hard to translate. While NET says the land “will no longer yield its best,” the ESV says “it shall no longer yield to you its strength,” and the NIV 1984 and 2011 say “it will no longer yield its crops” (emphasis added in all cases). There is a big difference between the land yielding its best and yielding any crops at all! The NIV is more likely correct because Cain is condemned to be a “homeless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12, NET), a condition that prevents cultivation of crops, and he soon complains of being driven off the land (Gen. 4:14).

So, if Cain cannot enjoy the productivity of the soil, how will he live? The irony is that this man who killed his brother and denied any responsibility to care for him will now have to depend on his brothers for sustenance. Will they treat him with the selfishness of Cain or the generosity of dead Abel?

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 106.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 231.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 232.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 107.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 4:2b–5

Genesis 4:2b–5
2b Abel took care of the flocks, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the LORD.  4 But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock– even the fattest of them. And the LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering,  5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast.
(NET Bible)

A Gathering Storm

Each of us has likely both pleased the Lord and displeased him. We may even have done both in the same day! How do we determine whether we have pleased God or not? If we have displeased God, what is our appropriate response? If we have pleased God, what possible concerns might we have?

The narrator strips the story to its essentials, and that focuses our attention on the two brothers. We do not know the occasion or the method of sacrifice. All who read the story see the fact that God is pleased with one person/sacrifice but not with the other; this forces one to look back and see why.

Cain cultivates the ground like his father Adam, and Abel tends flocks. There is no reason to prefer one vocation over another at this time in biblical history.

In translating “at the designated time” (Gen. 4:3, emphasis added), the NET Bible may make matters seem more definite than they deserve. Most translations and commentators take some form of “in the course of time” (ESV, NASB, NIV, and RSV) as the meaning. To this point, there is no reason to believe any systematic sacrificial system had been established. That leads to the impression that the sacrifices were spontaneous, emerging from the heart of the person.

But, if the sacrifices come from the heart, what do they reveal? Victor Hamilton says, “Perhaps we are justified in seeing in Abel’s offering a gift that is of the finest quality, as opposed to that of his brother, which is more common.”[1] Of course, we probably would not be sifting for these differences except for the fact that God responds differently to the two men and their offerings.

Concerning the two men and their offerings, the NET Bible Notes say: “Here are two types of worshipers – one (Cain) merely discharges a duty at the proper time, while the other (Abel) goes out of his way to please God with the first and the best.”[2]

The author of Hebrews says the difference demonstrates the faith of Abel, a faith that caused the Lord to commend Abel as “righteous” (Heb. 11:4). Hamilton says: “Gen. 4 does not supply a reason for or an explanation of this divine choice. The NT will indeed address itself to this issue, but the OT itself is silent.”[3]

While we do not understand how the pleasure of God becomes known to the brothers, they immediately know. We are not told about Abel’s feelings, because the focus of the story again narrows to Cain alone. Cain becomes very angry — the Bible’s first mention of anger — but that is not all. The verb describing how Cain’s face changes is used for the collapse of a tent or a wall. The rejection from God rocks Cain to the core! Yet what comes to mind for Cain is not a thought of repentance or a plan for renewed efforts to please God. His faith-dead heart leads him another way.

Gordon Wenham correctly points out, “Being ‘very angry’ is often prelude to homicidal acts (cf. 34:7; 1 Sam. 18:8; Neh. 4:1; cf. Num. 16:15; 2 Sam. 3:8).”[4] Perhaps for this reason, Paul says: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. Do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph. 4:26–27). “Be angry” is a command, so not all anger is sin, but it can escalate swiftly!

Cain’s rage has opened the door to opportunity; it will not be long in coming.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 223.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 4:3.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 223.

[4] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 104.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:23–24

Genesis 3:23–24
23 So the LORD God expelled him from the orchard in Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken.  24 When he drove the man out, he placed on the eastern side of the orchard in Eden angelic sentries who used the flame of a whirling sword to guard the way to the tree of life.
 (NET Bible)

Point of No Return

Placing limits on humanity is something God has done in many ways through the ages. In the Garden of Eden he used words, but humanity did not listen.

What will it take to curb humankind’s penchant for rebellion? What do the steps God takes tell us about his character and his choices? If there is a final limit, what might God do upon reaching it?

A play on words is notable in this section. When the man might send out his hand and eat of the tree of life (Gen. 3:22), God sends out the man (“expelled him” Gen. 3:23) beyond the boundary of the garden. Gordon Wenham says, “God forestalls man’s next step towards self-divinization [i.e. making oneself like God] by his own preemptive first strike (cf. 11:7–9).”[1]

The verbs describing humanity’s expulsion are dramatic. Victor Hamilton says: “Man does not leave the garden of his own will. Nor is he gently escorted to the garden’s edge. In fact, he is thrown out!”[2] The same verbs are used to describe the expulsion of the Canaanites during the conquest under Joshua.

Just as the man had been given a set of duties in the garden (Gen. 2:15), he now receives the new duty “to cultivate the ground” (Gen. 3:23). This is Adam’s new life, and his eldest son Cain later follows in his steps (Gen. 4:2). Work for man has always been part of the created order, but it was not so difficult in Eden.

We have already seen that a person determined to have something, such as the woman desiring to be wise, may take measures to get it, no matter what the consequences. Adam is outside the garden, but what is to keep him from going back in to eat from the tree of life?

God had originally charged Adam to guard the garden (Gen. 2:15), including the tree of life, but Adam failed to do so. God now takes measures to seal the entry by stationing “angelic sentries” with a flaming sword that whirls to block all paths to the tree of life. Hamilton says, “So then, man leaves the garden, and the opening behind him is barred. Paradise has been lost and forfeited. Christian theologians traditionally refer to this event as ‘the Fall.’”[3]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 85.

[2] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 210.

[3] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 210.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:20–22

Genesis 3:20–22
20 The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.  21 The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.  22 And the LORD God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”
 (NET Bible)

Cleaning Up the Disaster

A big issue for every one of us is how God will treat us when we rebel against him. And, of course, we all have done so both before and after trusting in Jesus Christ.

Would God have been justified in handing out sudden death? In addition to inflicting consequences for sin, what about divine grace and care? Does God offer further opportunity to fulfill his purposes for humanity or just a life of misery until death?

In the previous post we ended with Genesis 3:17–19 concerning Adam’s punishment for listening to his wife. Genesis 3:20 is about Adam naming Eve, and this is followed by God making garments of skin for the two (Gen. 3:21). One major question about Genesis 3:20 is how it fits the argument of the preceding and following verses. The probable answer appears to be that after God has declared judgment, a portion of humanity’s purpose still lies before the man and woman. Hamilton says, “In spite of man’s sin and disobedience, God’s original command to man to multiply and be fruitful is not withdrawn.”[1] To protect them during this remaining task, the man and woman need protective garments.

In the wreckage caused by sin, a life remains to be lived, difficult though it will be. Adam names his wife “Eve,” a name derived from an ancient Hebrew form of the verb “to live.” This appears to be a hopeful act.

Before implementing his declared judgments, the Lord graciously deals with the needs of the man and his wife (Gen. 3:21). They had no clue of the harsh conditions outside the garden and no knowledge of how to prepare for them. Hamilton says: “Adam and Eve are in need of a salvation that comes from without. God needs to do for them what they are unable to do for themselves. It is important for understanding the drift of this chapter that we note that the clothing precedes the expulsion from the garden. . . . It is probably reading too much into this verse to see in the coats of skin a hint of the use of animals and blood in the sacrificial system of the OT.”[2] We consider a hint to be exactly what the text offers, but not more.

Translation of Gen. 3:22 brings out the issue of how best to understand this verse. Gordon Wenham says, “The sentence ends in mid-air, leaving the listener to supply the rest of God’s thoughts, e.g., ‘Let me expel him from the garden.’”[3]

We have previously considered the identity of “us” (see Genesis 1:26) in the clause “the man has become like one of us” (Gen. 3:22). Wenham says “one of us” refers to “the heavenly beings, including God and the angels.”[4]

Since the man and woman have disobeyed God and have experienced good and evil, what is the risk that now concerns God? Hamilton summarizes: “Taken by itself the wording of v. 22 could suggest the man has not yet eaten of the tree of life. How else is one to explain the use of also . . . in the verse?”[5]

Will the man eat from the tree of life and live forever as a ruined creation? It is possible the man was already thinking of doing just that. God had something much better in mind! Paul tells us, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away– look, what is new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). God’s solution was not to make the best of a bad situation; instead, he provides for a new creation in Christ.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 206-207.

[2] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 207.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 85.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 85.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 209.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:1–2

Genesis 3:1–2
1 Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”  2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard;”
(NET Bible)

Off to a Bad Start

Satan’s question “Is it really true that God said . . .?” has vexed humanity down to this very day. Satan took on a poorly informed opponent and dealt humanity a mortal blow. His servants today question whether the great story of God redeeming humanity through Jesus Christ might simply be a story told by those who want to hold religious power over others.

How do we know what is true? If we pick the wrong answer to that question, how serious will the consequences be?

The literary creativity in Genesis is great, and nowhere more so than in Genesis 3:1. In the previous verse, Genesis 2:25, the word for “naked” is ‘arom, and in Genesis 3:1 the word for “shrewd” is ‘arom. Yes, the two words are spelled the same and sound identical, a situation that sometimes occurs in English. Gordon Wenham cleverly reproduces this play on words in English: “They [the man and his wife] will seek themselves to be shrewd (cf. 3:6) but will discover that they are ‘nude’ (3:7, 10).”[1]

Before going further into the details, let us take a moment to review a few points. First, the man was explicitly given the duty to guard the garden (Gen. 2:15). Yet, here is a dire threat confronting his mate! A great deal of blame has been placed on the woman in these events, but one must wonder whether the failure was shared. Second, consider that when the serpent approaches, the woman is alone. Did not God say that being alone was “not good” (Gen. 2:18)? While we are not given full details of this scene, what we do see is disturbing.

While we are making general observations, consider that in Gen. 1:2 we found the earth in a negative condition, a dark and formless waste of water. Now we see that evil incarnate has invaded Eden in the form of the serpent. Genesis says nothing about the origin of evil, but its fell presence is seen all too clearly. In spite of this danger, no harm need come to the man and woman if only they obey what God has said.

The serpent in Eden was not the same as those we have today. In time we will see that the serpent currently crawls on the ground as a curse from God beyond the curse that has fallen on all of creation due to sin (Gen. 3:14). Perhaps the serpent was formerly a possessor of the attractiveness that draws interest; think how we react to a puppy or the graceful strength of a dolphin. We simply do not know, so we should not assume too much about the world before sin ruined it.

The choice of the word “shrewd” (Hebrew: ‘arom) to describe the serpent may be because a similar word means “to practice divination,” a distinctly demonic activity that God forbids (Deut. 18:10). The word ‘arom refers to a characteristic that can be either a virtue or a vice. Wenham says, “On the one hand it is a virtue the wise should cultivate (Prov. 12:16; 13:16), but misused it becomes wiliness and guile (Job 5:12; 15:5; cf. Exod. 21:14; Josh. 9:4).”[2] Satan always distorts a virtue into a vice.

The first voice to speak to humanity other than God’s is that of the serpent. Satan’s strategy of deception against humanity begins in the most unlikely place, Eden. Victor Hamilton offers a slightly different translation to bring out the fact that the serpent’s “first words should not be construed as a question but as an expression of [feigned] shock and surprise.”[3]

Genesis 3:1b (Hamilton) says: “Indeed! To think that God said you are not to eat of any tree of the garden!”[4] This provocative comment is designed to engage the woman and start a conversation. It works! But a moment’s reflection leads to questions. Wenham says: “But how, the narrator expects us to ask, did the snake know anything about God’s command? If he heard that command, why has he so grossly distorted it?”[5]

Eve does not express any questions or show any sense of danger. After the narrator’s dramatic declaration that the man and woman are “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, ESV), we find the woman taking action independent of her mate. She begins (Genesis 3:2) by approximately expressing the general rule God had given the man (Gen. 2:16), but we will see tomorrow that she had a less accurate grasp of the one, specific exception (Gen. 2:17).

The Lord God had given Adam the truth about the garden, but, by failing to know it accurately, the woman quickly moved toward trouble. Ignorance was not bliss in Eden.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 72.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 72.

[3] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 188.

[4] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 186.

[5] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 73.

 

Exposition in Genesis 1–11: Genesis 1:29–31

Genesis 1:29–31
Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  30 And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground– everything that has the breath of life in it– I give every green plant for food.” It was so.
31 God saw all that he had made– and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

God Finds Satisfaction in Creation

The Bible shows that God is concerned about every aspect of our existence. Nowhere is this more obvious than when God made humanity and created an enormous food supply to sustain them. With regard to food, drink, and clothing, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matt. 6:32).

So, what will it take for us to focus on the goodness of God in providing for our needs? What will it take to pull us out of the mad scramble for material wealth and the security it allegedly provides?

The Old Testament writers use various means to emphasize ideas, and one of the most common is to use the word hinneh meaning “behold, see.[1] Curiously, the NET Bible translators say the word means “Look, this is what I am doing!”[2] and yet they represent it with “now” in the phrase “I now give.” This is under-translation; when the Bible emphasizes something, the translation should contain the emphasis in the text, not in the margin! For example, the ESV has “Behold, I have given you . . .” and the RSV, NASB and KJV do the same. In the NIV the word hinneh is not translated at all! NLT wins the prize with “Look!”

Someone will say, “Are you making too big a deal out of this?” Perhaps, but the identification of food looms large at my house. Nobody wants to be called to the very first supper by a whisper.  :-)

God speaks to the man and the woman (“you” plural in Hebrew) in verse 29; animals will be addressed in verse 30. Wenham cites another scholar who documents “other [non-biblical] texts to show that there was a widespread belief in antiquity that man and the animals were once vegetarian.”[3] While Genesis 1 does not forbid eating meat, the practice is not explicitly mentioned until Genesis 9:3, after the fall into sin (Genesis 3) and the flood (Genesis 6–8).

Genesis 1:30 defines the food supply for all animal life on earth. Note carefully that humankind has been separated from all the rest of life on earth. That is fully in keeping with the fact that man and woman are the only portion of the living creation made in God’s image. We have already seen that when God speaks things happen immediately. So, Genesis 1:31 finishes with the words “It was so.” Unfortunately, a time will come in the great story of Genesis when God will speak and it will not be so, but that will be addressed in another post.

Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made– and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

Once again the NET Bible buries the emphatic hinneh (behold, see, look) in a marginal note; the only remnant of its emphasis is in the exclamation point. In contrast, the ESV says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a, emphasis added). Wenham says of this use of hinneh that it is “suggesting God’s enthusiasm as he contemplated his handiwork.”[4]

The problem of evil in the world is well-known, and the issue has been extensively discussed. Those who do not know God look upon a world filled with instances of evil and ask how God could possibly be good. Genesis explains that what God made was “very good” to the point of arousing his enthusiasm, so the cause of evil must be found elsewhere. Later in this study we will see where.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson, 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) hinneh, behold, see, q.v.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 1:29, fn 5.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 33.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 34.

 

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 1:28

Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.
(NET Bible)

The mission God gave humanity

Humanity had a God-given mission to accomplish from the very beginning. God did not leave the man and woman in doubt about whether there was a God or whether he had orders for those he had made.

What would God say about humanitys management of the ecosystem? What would God say about the extensive extinction of species under our care? What would God say about the attention we devote to our comfort compared to the attention we give the mission he assigned to us so long ago? We are going to find out!

Blessing from God has already occurred in Genesis 1:22, when God blessed the creatures that swarm in the sky, the land and the sea. But there is a major difference between Gods communication in Genesis 1:22 and his communication in Genesis 1:28. In both cases God pronounces a blessing, but only to the man and the woman does he speak –God said . . . to them (Gen. 1:28, emphasis added). In this indirect way we learn that the man and woman had the ability to communicate with God, and they understood what he said.

Another implicit lesson in Genesis 1:28 is that God wanted the man and woman to know what he expected of them. He did not leave them without guidance. You may be thinking, Well, of course! But some who (allegedly) believe in God do not believe as you do. For example, the deists, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, held that God created the world but had nothing further to do with it; man was left with only the guidance of reason. Deism is very far from Genesis! Genesis teaches that God communicated with humankind from the start and made clear what he wanted.

So important is this theme of blessing that commentator Gordon Wenham says, Genesis may be described as the story of fulfillment of the divine promises of blessing.[1] So, of what does a blessing consist? Consider the following Word Study.

Word Study bless

The Hebrew verb barak occurs in an intensive form in Gen. 1:28 where NET translates it as God blessed them. The word means: to bless = to endue [i.e., to furnish with a gift] someone with special power.[2] In this verse it appears that the power is to reproduce, to subdue the earth and to rule over the creatures God has made.

In addition to the mandate to reproduce and fill the earth, humanitys rulership is stated even more strongly than it was in Genesis 1:26. Not only does God say to rule over the creation but also to subdue it. The latter verb is the Hebrew verb kabash, which means subjugate[3] [a seldom-heard English word which means to bring under control, conquer[4]]. However, God does not say that the man and woman should rule or subdue other human beings or each other.[5] In addition, animal life was not granted as food until after the flood (Gen. 9:3). A manager of the world has to know these things!

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 24.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) barak, bless, q.v.

[3] HALOT, kabash, bring under control, q.v.

[4] subjugate. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 28 Aug. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subjugate>.

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 139, fn 21.