Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Tale Of Two Siblings

Am I the Shepherd's Shepherd?

Cain killed Abel. God marked Cain and drove him away. But before God pronounced sentence on Cain, He asked him, "Where is your brother Abel?" I have to think God knew the answer, but wanted to see what Cain would say. The response was "Am I my brother's keeper?" I read many years ago that Cain really said "Am I the shepherd's shepherd?" I thought that "shepherd's shepherd" was more clever than "brother's keeper". Well, I began to study Hebrew not quite as many years ago, and while I'm not fluent, I can read it a little. What I learned is what the verse really says is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Just like all the translations said.

The translation "Am I the shepherd's shepherd" is out there. I found it in books and articles, some say it confidently, some explain the reasoning. I'll include more in the references, but here's a couple.

Cain’s response to God is an insolent witticism. Abel’s occupation is of course a keeper of flocks. Cain responds, literally, ‘Am I a shepherd to the shepherd?’ The implication that Genesis wants to convey is ‘yes! – you are responsible for your brother.’ - Crookedshore [1]
In the domain of shepherding, the shomer (the Hebrew word used for "keeper") is the keeper of the seedlot, the one who tends the sheep when they are not out grazing. Using this sense of the term. Cain is asking contemptuously, "Am I the shepherd's shepherd?" - The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis By Leon Kass [2]

I'll agree it may have been implied, but the Hebrew says "Am I my brother's shomer (keeper)?"

But that's not what I came here to say.


I want to share something about Cain and Abel's birth. It's been the source of discussion since ancient times. The reason is that it's worded oddly in the Hebrew. In all the standard translations into English, it just appears that the boys are brothers, but here's how it reads in the J.P. Green literal translation.

And she continued to bear his brother, Abel. And Abel became a shepherd of flocks. And Cain became a tiller of the ground. - [3]

Note Eve "continued to bear". Some rabbis suggest that means Cain and Abel were twins -  Genesis in Advance of Present Science [4]. Some say that all of Adam and Eve's children were born as twins, one boy and one girl - The Book of Genesis in Late Antiquity [5]. I favor the interpretation that Cain and Abel were twins. Supporting evidence below.

But that's not what I came here to say.

What's In A Name?

What's in a name? Maybe not so much in our names today, but Biblical names, especially in Genesis have meaning. Consider our cast of characters.

Adam - red clay, mankind, a man. The first several times "adam" is used in Genesis, it is "ha adam" or "the man". I assume God named Adam, but the name Adam is not used until Gen 2:20, after "the man" has named all the animals, as in "but for Adam there was not found a a helper suitable for him".

Eve - mother of all living. Adam definitely named Eve, in Hebrew her name is "Chavvah". If I may bend the translation of Gen 3:20 a little, "And the man called his wife's name Chavvah; because she was the mother of all chayyah (living)". It really says chay, but my version rhymes...

Cain - gotten, gained. It appears Eve named the boys. "There is some reason to believe from the expression, "I have gotten (qaniti) a man from the Lord" Genesis 4:1, that Eve herself had caught a glimpse of this meaning (Gen 3:15), though she applied it to the wrong party." - Barnes' Notes on the Bible [6]. Gen 3:15 reads "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel." We view it as a prophecy of the Messiah, in fact "Genesis 3:15 is known by the term Protevangelium, or 'first gospel'—a prophetic picture of the time when Satan would be defeated by the woman’s triumphant 'Seed.'" - Answers In Genesis [7].
Seth's Line Is The Gospel

Abel - breath that vanishes, worthless. When Eve named Seth (Appointed) , the replacement for Abel, it appears she understood that Cain wasn't the seed to crush the serpent's head - Don Stewart [8]. But when she named Abel (Hevel), it reads like he is an afterthought because she already acquired Cain. Some say Hevel means worthless - Trivial Contemplations [9].

But that's not what I came here to say.

Connection To The Tabernacle

This is what I came here to say.

High Priest only allowed to
enter Holy of Holies
on Yom Kippur
The story of Cain and Abel foreshadows a ceremony at the Tabernacle thousands of years later. Consider this, the righteous one was killed, the guilty one was sent away. This is exactly what happens during Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement in English. Two goats were selected, one goat sacrificed for the Lord (who was treated more "humanely" than Abel), and one goat to be removed, Azazel in Hebrew often translated scapegoat in English. The Azazel goat bore the guilt of the nation of Israel.

Lev 16:5 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two he-goats for a sin-offering, and one ram for a burnt-offering.
6 And Aaron shall present the bullock of the sin-offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself, and for his house.
7 And he shall take the two goats, and set them before Jehovah at the door of the tent of meeting.
8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for Jehovah, and the other lot for Azazel.
9 And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for Jehovah, and offer him for a sin-offering.
10 But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before Jehovah, to make atonement for him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.

20 And when he hath made an end of atoning for the holy place, and the tent of meeting, and the altar, he shall present the live goat:
21 and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, even all their sins; and he shall put them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a man that is in readiness into the wilderness:
22 and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a solitary land: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness

According to Jewish sources, the two goats were to look identical, preferably twins - Double Portion Inheritance [10]. Humanly, there was no way to tell them apart. Without God's inspiration, we could not tell right from wrong. After the High Priest cast lots, he would tie a red cord on a horn of the Azazel. The crimson red dye in the cord came from a grubworm - Gospel In A Grub [11]. Twin goats - twin brothers. Makes sense, evidence, not proof.

It's easy to see that Jesus the Messiah fulfilled the role of the first goat, sacrificed for the Lord. There are different interpretations of the Azazel goat. Some say it pictures Jesus, some say it pictures Satan. Based on Rev 20 and the book of Jude where stars picture angels, I personally believe that the Azazel pictures Satan, not Jesus. Cain was evil and guilty, and was sent away into the land of Nod (Wandering). Satan is evil and guilty, and will be sent away to the abyss and then to black darkness. Jesus is righteous and does not fit the symbolism associated with Cain or Azazel. You can read more about The Day of Atonement at United Church of God God's Holy Day Plan - Atonement [12]

Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3 and cast him into the abyss, and shut it , and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time.
Jude 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy A Tale Of Two Sighs [13] or The Gospel In Six [14].


See also
"Am I My Brother's Keeper?: Christian Citizenship in a Globalized Society" by Mark W. Scarlata
"On Stone and Scroll: Essays in Honour of Graham Ivor Davies" edited by James K. Aitken, Katharine J. Dell, Brian A. Mastin

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Tale Of Two Seas

And Four Rivers

And Seven Oceans

And Water, Lots of Water

Jordan River
Let's get to the bottom of it...

The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are both fed by the Jordan River, separated  by only 63 miles, yet these two "seas" couldn't be more different (technically, they're lakes). Galilee, also called Kinneret, Chinnereth, Gennesaret, or Tiberias,  is full of life, including 35 species of fish - Sacred Places In the World [1]. The Dead Sea is just that, dead. In Hebrew, it is known as the Salt Sea. It is so salty (35%) that nothing plant or animal lives in it.

One analogy likens water to the Holy Spirit - Bill Hogan [2], Rabbi Dov Greenberg [3]. When the Spirit flows through us like the Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee, life is produced in abundance. In other words, Jesus must flow through us, producing fruit like love, joy peace, etc. When one keeps the Spirit for themselves, perhaps through selfishness, greed, or fear, it becomes stagnant, not producing fruit. The Dead Sea would be the extreme example of this. This works equally well if you substitute the word Blessings for Holy Spirit. "Freely you have received, freely give".

Endorheic Watersheds

Guelta de Tikoubaouine
But there is more to the story. The Jordan is an atypical river. The vast majority of rivers or watersheds flow to an ocean or an actual sea, like the Mediterranean. The Amazon and the Nile rivers are each more than 4000 miles long, vying for the title of longest river on Earth, but they both eventually reach the sea - Wikipedia [4]. But the Jordan is an Endorheic watershed, meaning it doesn't reach the ocean - UNEP [5]. The Dead Sea in this case is called a terminal lake. Some Endorheic watersheds are blocked from the ocean by mountain ranges, the Caspian Sea for example. In the US, Great Salt Lake, Utah, and Pyramid Lake, Nevada are terminal lakes, not as salty and not lifeless like the Dead Sea. Endorheic rivers can also flow into the desert and simply evaporate, rivers like Oued Iherir and Oued Imirhou that flow out of Tassili n'Ajjer (Plateau of rivers) mountains in Algeria - AGRIS [6]. These rivers dry up rather than flowing into a terminal lake. They do leave small lakes called Gueltas [7] in their paths, which may or may not persist through the dry season. Intermittent rivers are called wadis [8] in the Middle East and washes or arroyos [9] in English. National Geographic [10] highlights eight rivers like the Colorado River in the US that have gone from normal (reaching the ocean) to Endorheic because mankind has overused the rivers for irrigation and drinking water. One could liken the Tassili n'Ajjer rivers to a person like a caregiver who gives themselves up completely for others.

Undersea Rivers

Cenote Angelita
More unusual rivers exist. Under the sea. These are not simple ocean currents, but flowing water (often fresh) at the bottom of the oceans. One such river, complete with trees, in the Sea of Mexico is called Cenote Angelita - The Watchers [11]. Another is formed in the Black Sea as it empties into the Mediterranean. "Mediterranean water flows into the Black Sea as part of a two-way hydrological exchange. The Black Sea outflow is cooler and less saline, and floats over the warm, more saline Mediterranean inflow." - Black Sea [12]

Not-So-Dead Sea

Dead Sea Works

However, the Jordan is different in that the Dead Sea is below sea level so there can be no path to the ocean. Despite the spiritual analogy above, the Dead Sea is actually an interesting place, unique on Earth. It is the lowest elevation on the globe, its water is ten times saltier than the oceans. And the Dead Sea is now the site of big business. The Dead Sea Works extracts and exports 3.3 million tons of potash per year from the Dead Sea - the potash is used for fertilizer - Evolution [13]. Tourism to the Dead Sea draws more visitors than Tel Aviv beach resorts - Bloomberg [14]. The Dead Sea is not so dead, it generates billions of dollars every year.

Dead Sea Sinkhole
It is not quite dead biologically either. Divers have discovered large craters at the bottom with fresh water pouring out and microorganisms thriving - Breaking Israel News [15]. Not only that, in recent years, due to the Dead Sea level dropping, sinkholes are appearing near the shore of the sea. Some of these sinkholes are filling with fresh water and support fish - Youtube [16]. Samantha Siegel [17] sees this as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Ez 47:1-10. It may be a foreshadowing of fulfillment, but verse 8 says that a river will flow from the Temple in Jerusalem and heal the Sea. Taken literally, it hasn't happened yet.

Rivers Of Living Waters

So how well does the analogy hold?  Are people in general or Christians in particular like the Jordan River producing a Sea of Galilee or a Dead Sea? Are these the only two choices? Remember most rivers empty into an ocean, but the Jordan is an Endorheic river, and a unique one at that. Remember there are other kinds of rivers, even in the oceans. One other possible interpretation that occurs to me is the power of living water. Christians normally associate the phrase living water with Jesus words in John 7.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

But the term Living Water was in use long before.

Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water which has gathered by God’s design.
Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water, a pool of sorts, which has gathered by God’s design. That is to say, there was no human intervention, no one dug a hole, no one collected water in jars to fill the pool. This collection of waters might be a river or a sea. The water source came about as part of the Almighty’s plan, which gives it the nomenclature: Living Water.
The Mayim Chayim (Living Water) has some important spiritual qualities. According to the Torah, a source of Living Waters cannot be defiled. Mayim Chayim overcomes defilement, but defilement can never overcome Mayim Chayim. When something becomes defiled, or ritually unclean as defined by the Biblical standard, whether a person or an object, it must be immersed in Living Water to be declared “clean.” - Pneuma Review [18]

Living Water can not be defiled. Does that mean the water from the Jordan River that flows into the Dead Sea is still Living Water? Thousands of people depend on the Dead Sea for their living. Ironic, huh?

From a certain point of view, the spiritual analogy of the two seas makes sense. But it isn't the whole story. I don't know what analogies there might be for other types of rivers, I invite you to share your thoughts.