The Aurora, Colorado shootings and sin

In the early hours of 7/20/2012, a single man executed a carefully designed plot and killed 17 people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The death toll will certainly rise higher in days to come. I have intentionally omitted this man’s name because he deserves shame, not fame. If only the news media would do the same!

People are totally mystified about one question: Why? What mystifies me is that this is still a question. Have we not seen enough wars, enough torture, enough human slavery, enough terrorism and enough mass murder to believe in sin in the human heart? Have we all forgotten the one (unnamed) man who murdered 69 teens in Norway just one year ago (7/22/2011)? It happens over and over; so, how can we not look for real answers instead of dwelling on pretended mysteries?

Okay, so millions do not want to hear what God says. They want to put pictures on Facebook, post their opinions, watch the latest videos, play the latest games or have sex with their latest partner. God has given them the ability to make such choices, and our distracted generations have firmly seized that opportunity. Since they do not want to address the serious issues of life, we should not be surprised when they have no clue about how evil occurs through human agents or how it exists within their own hearts.

In asking why, the public never looks beyond their own insensitivity to God. The biblical Book of Romans describes the situation like this:

28 Just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 3:28–32)

But just as God has described the cause of the shootings in detail, he has also provided a solution for human sin and its horrible consequences:

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8)

On the basis of Christ’s death for our sins, God offers complete amnesty to all who have ignored him in their rebellion and ignorance. But all amnesties have conditions. The condition for God’s amnesty is this:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John  3:16–18)

Sin caused the killings in Aurora. Human sin. Only God can fix what is wrong with humanity. I urge you to accept God’s amnesty by committing your life to Jesus Christ. Give him your allegiance so that you can be part of the solution to human sin rather than part of the problem.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:4–7

Genesis 9:4–7
“But you must not eat meat with its life (that is, its blood) in it. 5 For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative. 6 ‘Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind.’
7 But as for you, be fruitful and multiply; increase abundantly on the earth and multiply on it.”
(NET Bible)

Matters of life and death

Life is cheap, they say. But they don’t say it in heaven!

How will God curb the spread of violence that led him to destroy the original creation? How will justice be done on the earth? Who will be summoned to give an accounting to God for the loss of human life?

In the previous post we considered the general provision God made in allowing the animals for food (Gen. 9:3). Victor Hamilton explains how Gen. 9:3 relates to Gen. 9:4 when he says, “The pattern in this verse [9:4] and the preceding one is the same as that of 2:16–17: a generous permission (‘every tree of the garden,’ ‘every creeping thing’) followed by a single prohibition (‘of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,’ ‘flesh together with its lifeblood you shall not eat’).”[1]

There is an equating here of “blood” with “life” that does not resonate with contemporary readers. Perhaps the easiest way to understand this idea is that God is associating the shedding of blood with death. On one hand, this idea emphasizes the sanctity of life, which comes from God.

On another level the equation of death with shedding blood sets up the theology of the entire sacrificial system. Ultimately, Jesus’ blood was shed on our behalf; that is, he died in our place to pay for our sins (Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7).

The explanation above explains why Gen. 4:10 speaks of Abel’s blood crying out to God from the ground. The personified blood was crying out about Abel’s death at the hands of Cain.

Genesis 9:5
“For your lifeblood I will surely exact punishment, from every living creature I will exact punishment. From each person I will exact punishment for the life of the individual since the man was his relative.”

When we are reading the Bible, certain phrases should make us step on the brakes. “I will surely exact punishment” is certainly one of those phrases! Further, the phrase “exact punishment” is repeated three times in this verse, heightening its importance. A word study will help.

Word study: “require (someone’s life)”

The Hebrew verb darash, used three times in Gen. 9:5 for God’s personal response to someone taking a human life, means: “require (someone’s blood, life).”[2] The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says: “Finally, our root is used of divine vengeance on those who take a life. God will diligently seek restitution of a life for a life (Gen. 9:5).”[3]

So, NET translates the verb darash three times in Gen. 9:5 as “exact punishment.” In Genesis 9:5, to exact punishment is to require someone’s life. The only problem with the NET Bible’s translation choice is that the reader may wrongly think that the punishment falls short of death. NIV 2011 says “I will demand an accounting,” which is an abstraction similar to the NET. The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) translates, “I will require the life,” which finally sets matters straight. The New Living Translation (NLT) says, “I will require the blood … anyone who murders a fellow human must die.” That last is a paraphrase, but the meaning is correct.

Kenneth Mathews says, “The general rule is that human life when violated, either by animal or fellow human, required the life of the offender.”[4]

A second issue in Genesis 9:5 is the translation “lifeblood” (NET, ESV, NASB, and NIV 2011). You might think that this term translates a single word, but that is not the case. The NET Bible Notes say, “Again the [Hebrew] text uses apposition to clarify what kind of blood is being discussed: ‘your blood, [that is] for your life.’”[5] By “apposition” the Notes mean that “blood” and “life” are nouns which have a grammatical relationship to one another; in this case the relationship is expressed in the following way: “your blood . . . for your life.”

The result of this analysis is shown by Gordon Wenham’s translation of Genesis 9:5, which says: “But I shall require your blood for your lives, from the hand of every wild animal I will require it; and from man’s hand, from each man his brother’s life, I shall require the life of man.”[6] Genesis 9:5 makes an intentional reference to Genesis 4 and the murder of Abel. This verse directly implies that Cain was his brother’s keeper, and the rest of us are put on notice!

Perhaps you noticed that Wenham’s translation used the word “brother” instead of the NET’s “relative.” All human beings are made in God’s image; there are no exceptions.

Genesis 9:6 (ESV)
“‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.’”

As usual, the ESV, shown above, sticks closer to Hebrew word order. Wenham says, “The tight chiastic formulation (shed, blood, man, man, blood, shed) repeating each word of the first clause in reverse order in the second emphasizes the strict correspondence of punishment to offense.”[7]

On the other hand, the NET correctly stands with NLT and CSB among major translations in saying of the slayer “by other humans must his blood be shed” (NET) rather than “by man shall his blood be shed” (ESV, NASB, NIV 2011, and RSV).[8] Such details may seem beneath mention except for the fact that this verse forms the primary biblical basis for capital punishment. Details matter in God’s inspired Word!

The one who upholds the dignity of humanity is God; we are made in his image, and he takes that very seriously. God strongly upholds the value of man in spite of man’s tendency to rebel and sin. Think about that the next time you hear someone demean a person or make light of human death.

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) 314.

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

[3] R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer and Bruce K. Waltke, eds. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, (TWOT) 2 vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1980) darash, require (someone’s blood, life), q.v.

[4] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996)  403.

[5] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:5.

[6] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 151.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 193.

[8] E. Kautzsch, ed., A.E. Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1910) 323 (§ 109i).


 


 

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 4:6–8

Genesis 4:6–8
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? 7 Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”
8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
(NET Bible)

A Dark Heart and a Dark Act

Any military veteran can tell you that it is never good to underestimate your enemy. Making matters worse, enemies do not always identify themselves as such. Sin is such an enemy, preferring to lie in wait for us or to deceive us into disobeying God.

How can emotions cloud our view of danger? How does information from God help us recognize the threats of sin? What resources do we have to defeat sin?

It is striking to see that God talks to Cain (Gen. 3:6), but Cain makes no reply! Not even Jonah in his fury practiced such stony silence (Jonah 4). Indeed, no other biblical example of such silence comes to mind. Alan Ross credits Derek Kidner with the observation “that Cain would not be talked out of his intended sin, even by the Lord himself.”[1]

Genesis 4:7  Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”

Many experts call Genesis 4:7 the most obscure verse in Genesis, though that is not apparent to the reader of the English Bible. Most of the difficulty occurs in Genesis 4:7a, which will be demonstrated below in the diversity of translations:

ESV:               “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (also NIV and RSV)

NASB:             “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” (NASB uses italics for words supplied to complete the meaning.)

Hamilton:       “Look, isn’t there acceptance if you do well . . . ?”

Wenham:        “Is there not forgiveness if you do well?”

The ideas of being accepted or forgiven or having one’s countenance lifted up are all part of the possible meaning of the original verb. NET tries to split the difference by saying “you will be fine,” which sounds contemporary and takes no explicit position. Not only is this verb flexible, but the sentence ends abruptly, a phenomenon similar to God’s remarks in Genesis 3:22 which also end abruptly. In both cases the abrupt ending is immediately followed by dramatic action; in Genesis 3:23, God swiftly and forcefully expelled the man and woman from the garden; in Genesis 4:8, Cain suddenly murders his brother.

Not only does God offer Cain acceptance and forgiveness, he also gives a clear statement of danger and a challenge to overcome it (Gen. 4:7b). Personified sin faces Cain as surely as it had confronted Eve in the garden. Though sin first occurred in Genesis 3, the first explicit mention of the word occurs in Genesis 4:7.

The personification of sin in Genesis 4:7 should be a somber warning to all of us. Remember that the serpent in Genesis 3 was personified evil, not merely a member of God’s creation. When NET says “sin is crouching,” the standard lexicon says the verb means: “literally sin is a lurker, meaning sin lurks.” [2] A dictionary meaning for “lurk” is “lie in wait, lie in ambush.”[3] God warns Cain that sin is waiting to ambush him! Sin is personal evil, and it does not fight openly.

God also tells Cain what he must do about this lurking danger: “It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it” (Gen. 4:7b). Victor Hamilton says:

The word for urge [NET, “desires”] here . . . is the same word used in the previous chapter for Eve’s feelings toward Adam (3:16). Similarly, what Cain can do to sin—you are the one to master . . . it—is described with the same verb used for Adam’s actions with Eve (“he shall be master over you,” 3:16).[4]

You can see that these chapters contain a constant and complex interplay of literary elements.

Genesis 4:8 contains another of those mysteriously abrupt sentences, which Hamilton explains:

It has long been observed that this verse omits what Cain actually said to his brother. The [Hebrew] text simply reads “And Cain said unto Abel his brother. When they were in the field . . .” On the basis of the ancient versions most modern translations insert something like: “And Cain said unto Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field.’”[5]

Two excellent English translations of Genesis 4:8 show the difference, as follows:

NET: Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

ESV: Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.

As you see, NET adds the words “Let’s go out to the field” on the basis of several ancient translations of the Old Testament. The ESV sticks with the shorter version given by the Hebrew text. This writer joins Wenham and Hamilton in thinking the ESV translation is preferable. “Cain rose up” (ESV) fits with the ambush theme of God’s warning. The truncated sentence fits the pattern of the previous examples (3:22 and 4:7): sudden action follows immediately.

Cain thinks he has ambushed his brother, but sin has ambushed Cain! From that fateful day to this, the killing has never stopped. Sin lurks to ambush you at this very moment!

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



[1] Alan P. Ross, Creation and Blessing (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1988) 158.

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

[3] “lurk.” WordNet® 3.0.Princeton University. 23 Sep. 2008..

[4] 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) 227.

[5] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 229.