Annelise on “Hypocrisy or Loyalty ?”
The claim that another human being is the only way to follow or worship God should never be taken lightly. But when someone chooses not to accept Jesus, well-meaning Christians often ask: “Would you accept any proof for this? What would be enough for you to believe?”
Questions like this assume that the other person rejects a claim regardless of the clear and acceptable truth. Those who ask them feel that enough evidence is plainly laid out for Jesus being a king and restorer of Israel in David’s lineage, and the only way of knowing the presence and forgiveness of God in your life or community. The implication is that someone would only reject Jesus if they were hypocritical in their faith; surrendered to an unreasonable bias or fear rather than responding to the simple words of their Creator.
The New Testament portrays Jesus and his followers having the same attitude. According to these documents, they believed that most of the Torah observant leaders and teachers lived hypocritical lives. When these leaders did not treat Jesus as one anointed or sent by God, they were accused of not listening to God or relying on His mercy by faith.
Christian sources usually describe the Pharisees as caring more for their own traditions than for the heart of Torah, while rabbinic memory documents the same Pharisaic tradition having a heart for justice, kindness, devotion, and sincerity in obedience. It is the word of one side against the other. In any case, if the leaders really were hypocritical, it would certainly have been appropriate to emphasize the old prophetic message of sincerity and justice. But this issue is entirely separate from the fact that they rejected Jesus’ claims of a new fulfillment arriving. The important thing is that if these teachers, and many other Jews, did not disobey a clear and explicitly relevant Torah commandment when they rejected Jesus, then they did not reject God or His covenant in their choice.
How can that be a fair assumption? It is possible that Torah allows something even while it does not command it in detail. So with enough evidence, why can’t a future revelation show that something is not only allowed but also absolutely necessary? If the things claimed about Jesus were verifiably true, there would be no direct prohibition in Torah about accepting them. So if miracles were enough to verify Moses, why not for Jesus?
Part of the answer is that since Moses’ time, the Torah has described a complete path for a Jew returning to God, with every step detailed already. The whole path has always been available to walk on, and if someone does take it, then according to the Torah they have done enough. God promised that when the Israelites came under the curse and punishment of breaking His Law, they would be restored “when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today.” (Deuteronomy 30:2) This was the full answer that should have been given to a Jew in the first century who asked how he or she could be saved from judgment. If a Jew comes back to the original Torah wholeheartedly, thanking God for His mercy and not disregarding the things commanded under Moses, they have done enough.
You can’t just show that one ‘may’ do something, and then claim that an extra revelation shows that one ‘must’, if that new thing is not supported by something that God taught already Israel to test and accept.
A question emerges here. Jesus was not the first Jewish leader after Moses to say that the Israelites would be disobeying God if they ignored a new message not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. One example is Jeremiah, who said:
“Remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you; ‘Do not go to Egypt’… I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God in all he sent me to tell you. So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle.”
The difference is that God gave a clear directive for recognizing and following a prophet. To disobey Jeremiah would be against those commandments. But God never gave a way to recognize an incarnation claim. As for the claim about being the promised king, there is no commandment given in Tanach to recognize or accept that king until he is actually anointed and enthroned amidst the restoration.
A Jew who refuses to accept a claim like this is not ignoring or missing any instruction of the Law that God said would be the single way to return to Himself. One who is careful to turn towards obedience by action and by heart, with God’s help, also fulfills all the plain instructions of the prophets. He or she can stand confidently and thankfully as a part of the righteous witness community of Israel.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
After talking much about such un-Jewish concepts as “drinking his blood” and “eating his flesh”, which was “bread of life”, we read in John 6:65-66, “And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” So the Father didn’t want Jews to follow Jesus. His teachings were so un-Jewish, he even thought some of “the 12” might desert him (not just the one who was a “devil”). And according to the gospels, even most non-Jews, who seen or heard Jesus (directly and not by reading words about him in a book by unknown authors) likewise were neither “called” nor impressed by him enough to follow him.
I’m wondering…what’s the difference between the covenant with Abraham and the one with Moses in terms of finality/completeness? What if Deut 30:2 implies that people must return to these commandments, but doesn’t rule out that they would also return to any future things that God Himself (not by prophecy, as defined in Torah, but by some other credible way) added? I do feel that the Torah gives a sense of fullness and simplicity for all the coming generations, but can’t put my finger on why this feeling can’t be contradicted.
I also wonder why prophets can add temporary rulings if they can’t add permanent ones.
These questions don’t make Christianity more credible to me, but they do challenge the arguments I wrote above.
As far as 100% certainty that something is from God, so as not to do idolatry, goes… I also wonder how Abraham had 100% certainty that sacrificing Isaac was from God, because otherwise the attempt would have been completely against Him.
This is not my blog, and I respect that, However, I did want to point out that in Isaiah 48, G-d specifically said he was going to show Israel “new” things, later in the chapter calling Himself the “Redeemer” of Israel (which He of course also said in many other places in Scripture). In some cases, redemption seems to speak of purchasing back those who have erred; we know through Daniel’s prayer of Daniel chapter 9 and many other Scriptures that G-d is indeed a Merciful, Righteous, and Good G-d. In any case, to me, what trusting G-d is all about (which He clarified in many Scriptures that He desires – Isaiah 26:3, Psalms 78:21-22, etc.) is acknowledging that it is through G-d’s righteousness alone that we can approach Him.
I believe the difference between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants is that the Abrahamic Covenant is a one way Covenant, with G-d as the sole guarantor. It will be unbroken forever – those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse her will be cursed, and she will be G-d’s Love forever, Period. The Mosaic Covenant is a two-way Covenant, and G-d said that Israel’s own state of being blessed or cursed would depend on her obedience to it. As we see in Exodus chapters 20-32, less than 2 months after solemnly promising to obey the Covenant, they broke it and made a golden calf to worship. Then, through Deuteronomy and Jeremiah and other books, we are told that Israel repeatedly turned to other gods, breaking the very first commandment, and also the last mentioned in G-d’s same instructions there, that had been given in that two-way Covenant. (Just to be clear, I am not saying this to debase Israel in any way; I think this scenario represents humanity as a whole, not just Israel; we were given these stories in part, I think, so that all can see and acknowledge our human condition and thus trust in G-d’s righteousness alone. Only G-d’s one-way Covenant is truly dependable and will forever remain unbroken because He alone is Holy, Righteous, and Faithful forever.)
An important and beautiful thing, I think, is that the two-way Covenant cannot nullify the one-way Covenant that G-d had already established with Abraham, and therein we can humbly trust in the Perfect and Faithful G-d. His love for Israel as a nation and for us as individuals will continue to seek us out and draw us to Himself.
When Isaiah spoke of new things, I think that he meant new miracles and a new redemption… he didn’t speak about a new commandment, but a new exodus out of sinfulness into the restoration of the Mosaic covenant (on the basis of the other one-way covenants also…you wrote beautifully about those). The Torah predicted that the people would break it and come under its curse, and then come back to it by God’s mercy, through repentance. If there is a new covenant, it will affirm the old one; if people return to the old one, they’ve done enough. So what I was asking Yisroel in my question above was… what is it about the Mosaic law that makes it clear that it will be the full revealed underpinning of obedience for all generations? I can see some reasons to think this but I want to hear if there are others.
You wrote, “In any case, to me, what trusting G-d is all about (which He clarified in many Scriptures that He desires – Isaiah 26:3, Psalms 78:21-22, etc.) is acknowledging that it is through G-d’s righteousness alone that we can approach Him.” I definitely agree with that. The gift of being able to choose righteousness is not something we bring to God from outside what He’s given us; it is a gift from Him that we can choose to come close to Him with our capacity to choose His goodness!
But I heard an idea from a friend… I found it helpful but I want to know your thoughts on it. Christianity looks at humanity as if we are all birds with broken wings, and only when our wings are healed can we fly up to where God is. Whereas in reality, we are all birds with healthy wings that can fly to God if we choose to. Does this lead to pride in our inherent ability to come to our God, who is holy and worth everything? Not at all! It leads to humility for the gift of being created, endowed, with this ability to be righteous in the first place. And every human being has that. It is true that we can walk in darkness and confusion, or in light and clarity, about who God is. But there is no divide between those who accept a particular person, idea, or thing, and thus have their humanity filled with light by an intimate connection with God, and then on the other hand those who ignore or reject that person or thing and therefore sit in a darkness that eventually corrodes and dehumanises their soul based on complete separation from God. No… every human is in some sort of relationship with our father and king, from whom we come and from whom our choices to love Him and to do goodness come. All it takes is the choice to look to Him, and in His unspeakable mercy He gives us the chance to ‘choose life’… and He guides our hearts, as long as we simply and merely look to Him with willingness to learn and obey, in His own righteousness.
What I would love to hear your thoughts about is the imagery of the birds… where we can all come to God and choose Him just by our nature with which we were born, but we can be so thankful for this ability to do good… His goodness… being inbuilt in us by His kindness.
In fact, I believe that the above applies to Jews who don’t accept the Torah as well. I don’t believe that their souls are completely cut off from the light of God and unable to relate to Him at all, and that their humanity is fundamentally broken beyond recognition or comparison or meaningful connections with Jews who are living in surrender to God’s laws. Wherever a person is, they can turn to God and obey Him and come back to Him. No need was predicted for an ultimate sacrifice to allow God to look at us, embrace us, and cleanse us in our filthiness of sin.
But I was mostly talking about the claim that there is some other commandment not even mentioned in Torah (i.e. to accept Jesus) that would cut off even people who are keeping God’sMosaic commandments (including the heart of them) literally and with love and mean they are separated from Him. It’s just not the way Tanach portrays the human relationship with God.
Hmmm, those are interesting and eloquently presented thoughts. This is not my blog, and as I have already taken up pages and pages of one blog post in the past, I will try to respectfully keep my words to a minimum on this one. 🙂
First, I want to say that I think you touch on some issues from Christianity here, and I feel I should refrain from getting into that aspect except to say that I believe G-d has never changed who He is, what He is like, or how He desires that we view ourselves in relation to Him. At every point in history, including until today, I believe His message has always been that He wanted us to put our full trust in Him and to come to know that He alone is Righteous.
With regard to the imagery of birds, it does seem to me that the message throughout the Torah is more one of brokenness (apart from G-d) than of health because less than 2 months after the establishment of the Sinai Covenant, Israel broke it and then continued to do so many times throughout later generations. I see this as representative of all of humanity – Israel was definitely more righteous than most, from a human perspective, so these stories cannot possibly be meant to say that Israel alone had a problem with breaking covenants. I think, rather, that it was an example to teach us that if the BEST nation of people with the MOST COMPLETE introduction to and knowledge of G-d could not keep her Covenant, then all of the rest of us are faced with the same. Yet I believe that the message is also that He alone is Faithful when we are not, and He alone will ever love and pursue His beloved bride regardless of whether she responds in kind.
I guess that means I do view us as broken, in a sense, and partly because one of the beautiful names of G-d is the LORD who heals (Exodus 15:26 and many others).
That said, I do not believe anyone is totally cut off from G-d or unable to relate to Him at all; where there is a life, I believe there is a person loved by G-d…a G-d who knows fully and desires to be fully known, and who will continue to pursue each of us just as He continued (and still continues today) to pursue His beloved bride.
Of course Israel didn’t fully keep the covenant, but that’s why there was provision for restoration of it, I think.
I do agree that God promised to pour out the spirit of repentance in the time of Moshiach in a new way, and draw Israel back to Himself. In a way that is the healing that many righteous Jews are praying for, for their nation and for the world. But the spirit of repentance is also something that we as humans draw near to ourselves or push away. It’s kind of complicated.
I still feel that a lot of Christians have the sense that they have the ability to come freely into God’s presence and that other humans don’t unless they will accept Jesus. Of course that would be true if Jesus really is the only way to truly obey God and accept His forgiveness. But since I believe that he wasn’t/isn’t, I recognise a sense in Christians where they feel different from the rest of the world and they also feel a huge responsibility to share ‘the light of Jesus’… which means their friendships with non-Christians are totally affected by a sense of not being qualitatively the same (although all humans are equal and everything is by grace). The idea that either you’re connected to God or you’re not really affects the way my friends seem to relate to me now that I walked out of Christian belief and seek God in the context of Judaism. A real level of connection is lost, even though in my eyes the similarity is still there between us, and while some of my friends continue to really love me as a person and friend… the desire to let me see Jesus seems to be the main priority for most Christians in talking with me. It is very confusing not only to lose your community, but also to feel separated from their sense of full, living humanity in a sense, by their view of reality and of knowing God.
So I guess I’m trying to process that. But I bring this up because it’s not just an issue for me, but for so many people whose Christian friends see them like this. If it’s true then fine. But if it’s not true then it really puts a lot of emotional pressure on people and it makes friendships shallow. When Christians feel the ‘spirit of Moshiach’, of repentance and knowledge of God, has already poured out and that the Jewish people will not know it without accepting Jesus… and when those Christians extend friendship and love to Jewish people in the context of wanting to share that… then it’s a painful kind of friendship. Because Torah observant Jews who long to surrender more each day to the love and sovereignty of God already yearn for that same outpouring of God’s Presence and ways among Israel, but they are guarding against the worship of Jesus and will not accept it… not out of pride but out of truth and loyalty. The friendship gets confused and strained by that struggle of Christians to persuade Jews that everything they love and devote themselves to already is limited to Jesus, when Christians are not showing Jews any appropriate way to test or accept such a thing.
I think we do need healing, but the basic ability to choose to fly towards God in choices of goodness and obedience belongs to everyone. By grace. But not through Jesus.
I really shouldn’t be typing at all because of my wrists, I’m tearing my hands up. Still developing self-control to not write. I appreciate how humbly and lovingly you write about God though, thanks. I hope if you respond that someone else can reply to you.
I understand, and I truly feel there has been wrongful presentation of Scriptures in many circles. I do think there is an aspect of grace that requires we acknowledge the need we have for it in the first place, as well as the fact that sin brings death. In other words, although G-d is Merciful and Faithful, sin itself has a cost. That is why I think G-d so often mentions His redemption of Israel. I believe He expressed repeatedly in the Tanakh that He was willing to pay whatever price it took to draw her back to Himself, which to me, is a beautiful story of His Great Love for her.
I do believe that all who truly seek Him diligently in Scripture, with humility of heart and acknowledging sin before a Righteous yet utterly Faithful and Merciful G-d, will find Him there.
P.S. I also feel that G-d’s establishment of Yom Kippur (Lev. 16…saying this was to be done every year for all time, for all of the sins of all of Israel) was an indication that no one fully kept the Covenant…because if they had, there would have been no need for this provision.
Shalom and blessings!
Sorry, I replied to this briefly in the comment above; I placed it wrongly in the thread.
On a similar note, https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/blood-atonement/#comment-4205
I understand what you are saying; I personally see G-d as having established the blood sacrifice from the very first one recorded in the Bible, before the Temple – that of Cain and Abel. I do believe there can be an overemphasis on the sacrifice itself, however, to the exclusion of other issues, including the heart condition before G-d (i.e., self-righteousness can also be present in those who look to a form of atonement – and their own position – in itself instead to the G-d who gave it, perhaps not realizing that what the blood sacrifice really represents is that sin brings death…and I believe He desires this acknowledgment of sin and its cost and an acknowledgment of the fact that His acceptance of us is based on His Righteousness and Forgiveness and Mercy, not on our own merit). I think G-d does indeed note several times that the sacrifices themselves did not really count for anything without the humble acknowledgment of sin in the first place (i.e., although in many places in Scripture He does say that Israel has robbed Him of sacrifices, He also indicates in Isaiah 43:22-25 and other places that what He really desired was that they realize the work of cleansing their sin was based on His own Righteousness, despite their sin, and not based on their own merit because of some form they followed – including any merit from dead animals).
Those are my final thoughts. 🙂 Shalom.
It seems that some are almost obsessed with the concept of sin. Just as some are obsessed with not just sacrifices, but with “blood” sacrifices. Genesis doesn’t tell us that God initiated sacrifices or offerings or gifts to God. It appears a man voluntarily initiated it (and not a blood one – the one who did offer animals though, died) and apparently not for any sin or guilt or fear any other apparent reason. For the first people, there were many commands. No warnings about sin or sins, except for one consequence for ONE particular disobedient act or sin. “Death” was not sort of invented because of that one particular act, for we assume that mortality was originally part of the human condition – one needed to eat to live, since otherwise there would be no need for food or for “tending the garden” And there was a “Tree of Life” in the center of the garden freely available to the people with no commands to not eat of it or to eat of it. Also, most of verses related to “salvation” in the Tanach, are not of being rescued from “our sins”, but from other people (their sins of being an enemy).
Our primary purpose/s in Life is not that of trying to avoid sinning or atoning for our sins, etc. but in living and trying to live a righteous life. God knows our capabilities & our handicaps. One thing that we were commanded on was to be Holy just as God is Holy. If God has that sort of faith in us, why are we arguing against those views. Instead of obsessing about our “sinful nature”, God commanded us to emphasize our “Holy nature”, our being created in the “Image of God”. God believes in us, why don’t we believe in our worthiness, our righteous nature?
It was G-d who established Yom Kippur to be done every single year, not man (Leviticus 16), and that was before the Temple existed. G-d is the one who said there that sin did need to be atoned every single year for all time, which indicates that sin was always present and that it was a concern to G-d.
And surely you cannot be suggesting that Abel acted wrongly when it was G-d who explicitly said in Genesis 4 that He accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected that of Cain.
As I search the Scriptures, I find chapter after chapter in which G-d discusses (at length) mankind’s sin – Isaiah chapters 43 and 48 and 59, Jeremiah 16 and 17, Psalms 78:58, 106:36, Deuteronomy 32, and many, many others. Isaiah 59 explicitly says “Your iniquities have been a barrier between you and your G-d…” (Isaiah 59:2), and from the very beginning G-d established that sin does result in death when He told Adam and Eve that on the day they disobeyed Him and ate of the fruit He commanded them not to eat, they would die.
This problem of sin is indeed G-d’s own concern, as He reiterates over and over in Scripture. However, I can certainly agree with you that Scripture also clearly shows us that His Righteousness and a humble focus on Him should be what that realization leads to, not to a continual dwelling in it. Daniel, one of the extremely godly men of Scripture, shows what our humble and broken attitude before G-d should be in his beautiful prayer of Daniel chapter 9.
There is a difference between a realization that “sin is always present” and over emphasizing or being “obsessed” with sin. A Day of Atonement (mainly for unintentional sins) for 364-365 days of sinning, does not seem unreasonable or does not show any extreme concern by God, “now that we became like God, KNOWING good from bad”. We can be Holy without extreme effort. Stop making God some type of unmerciful, unloving, sadist.
“Rejecting” might be a bit extreme when looking at Cain’s offer” (a sacrifice which seemingly was not commanded or even asked for by God). God even wonders & asks Cain, “Why are you distressed, And why is your face fallen?” Cain seems more concerned than God, who seems to say “Why? Get over it, it is no big deal. SURELY if you do right, there is uplift” and “You KNOW….”
Again, what other concern did God have about Adam & Eve’s capacity or capability to sin? How many things or sins did God warn them about? What were the costs of those unmentioned sins??
You can look at things negatively or positively. Why search for those things that makes humans look like “evil beasts” instead of like “partners with God” or “children of God”? As Holy beings, not slime, filth? Be free from such un-Godly nonsense. Why look at God as some type of “meanie” or worse yet as your concept of the imaginary, man-created “devil”?
God mentioned only one sin in the Garden of Eden: disobedience. And for that sin, the result was death, according to G-d.
“It was G-d who established Yom Kippur to be done every single year, not man (Leviticus 16), and that was before the Temple existed.”
You cannot ignore the fact that the entirety of the description of the Yom Kippur service is introduced in Lev 16:1-3 with the admonition that Aron may not enter the Holy of Hollies at any time, but only at this one designated time – i.e Yom Kippur. This is critical in understanding that the Yom Kippur service described in Lev 16 is specifically tied to the presence of a Temple and a Holy of Hollies. (In fact, it serves largely to atone for the sin of profaning the temple itself which is explicit in the verses.) While the Temple proper may not yet have been built, the Tabernacle – which was very much a temple with a HoH, surely was. The enduring atoning quality of Yom Kippur, which surely is eternal, as you continually point out, has it’s sacrificial services as an eternal requirement conditional on the presence of the temple. But G-d also made clear (Lev 26:31) that the temple may not always be present and when there is – temporarily – no temple the sacrifices may not be brought.
I am sorry if I have offended anyone; however, I am not seeking to look at human beings as evil beasts; I am merely noting what G-d Himself said in His Holy Word. G-d did indeed say that He paid heed to Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering, He paid no heed. The fact that Cain went on to murder his own brother should be a clear indication that his heart was not right.
In any case, my point about what G-d said to Adam and Eve is that He, not man, is the one who said that sin led to death. I am sorry if that makes G-d look like a meanie – but it is in fact exactly what happened, and if we truly seek the restoration of Israel (which I pray for daily), we must look at the attitudes and prayers of those godly men who also prayed for her restoration in the past (i.e., Daniel’s prayer in Daniel chapter 9). And there, what we see is indeed a full confession of sin and acknowledgment of G-d alone as worthy, holy, and righteous.
I also do not mean to offend with regard to the sacrifices. My point was that G-d is the One who established them, and in saying they were to be “for all time” (and having clearly preferred the blood sacrifice that Abel brought…and having also been the One to establish Yom Kippur for all time), I think He was showing that sin is always present and that it does indeed concern Him greatly. My point is not at all to focus on the period during which there is no Temple; my point instead is to show that G-d has always, in every account, shown that sin is indeed a huge problem of humanity. If we ignore these many, many clear Scriptures that tell us exactly what He said about it, then I do not think we can truly claim it is His heart that we seek.
I am not being negative in saying this; I am reporting what I find as I search Scripture after Scripture, account after account of mankind’s failure but G-d mercies…each of which reads the same. I read with hope about Israel’s past restoration and about her future restoration, and what I find every time is a surrounding context of acknowledgment of guilt and sin. Before the past restoration, as I’ve already stated, we read Daniel’s full confession of utter guilt, contrasted with G-d’s compassion and forgiveness. After that, G-d Himself has and will again vindicate His beloved bride, based on His righteousness, His sovereignty, and the position HE has given her, above all other nations. And I hope that Israel’s restoration is what all of us seek.
Freedom, on my part I don’t see offense nor do I mean any. But often a little exaggeration or “force” is needed to cause us to see things that are clear to others who hold other opinions. To find, sometimes one must seek “outside the box”. Many people read the Hebrew Bible, especially Genesis, superficially. They often “parrot” some “well worn party line”. I like to ask questions that hopefully prompts one to seek an answer on their own. I like to show things that many often overlook when they are stuck in their “religious rut”. The average Bible reader is not too “detail oriented” and yet they also can’t see the “big picture” that clearly. Be not afraid to read and study and wonder about those ancient verses. It will deepen & strengthen your relationship with God, as it may also test your faith, your whole old world-view.
Back to Adam & Eve (A&E). Did you know that God said to the first humans, “See, I give you every seed- bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed- bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food.” Eve seen this one fruit that was “good for food”. So, by “disobeying”, she also obeyed God. I see a loophole there for those skeptics & “haters” who preach “the disobedience” of sinful Man. But, there are other verses that also confound or refute the “fallen Man” hypothesis.
There are several good in depth studies of the complex A&E story, especially by Jews who know the Hebrew language well and don’t rely on a biased translation of a translation of a translation. So, there was one sin only, only one way to disobey God? In the middle of the Garden? Sounds like a setup? Or a test, for a couple of sweet, innocent kids? They did not surely die, so the test was probably passed, right? Now earlier, if A& E did not eat food, they would die, right? Or was food a waste of precious resources & eating was a nonsensical waste of time for these “immortals”? Die? Yes, eventually. That was before the “sin”. And surely, they did NOT die, did they? Well, eventually, says the shallow reader. After their “spanking”, why was God so nice to his still innocent, but maturing, young children? Making them garments & clothing them. God helping Eve give birth to her sons. That sounds more being nice than exacting some punishment? Woman & God as partners creating new life; a “bundle of Joy” in “the image of God”.
Back to Abel. No, I was not suggesting that Abel somehow acted wrongly. I was giving the plain facts of the story. I was putting the often heard hypothesis of the “efficacy of blood”, or blood as some sort of “spiritual cleanser” or “magic”, up against the fact that the one who pleased God and offered “blood” (& perhaps despite it included blood) was the one who died. Man (who is much, much more than blood) has power over the “blood”. And the one committing a sin because of passion & misplaced emotions, is not punished with death and not even treated unjustly (in fact, he is protected or “saved” from those who might justifiably fear one who killed his brother (yes, we are our sibling’s keeper). There are several “strands” that hold some of the Genesis stories together as one story. One that we see here is the progression of concern from the individual to a family, to a community or a tribe, to a nation, to the world. And each relating in both similar and dissimilar ways with God.
I do compare with Hebrew. I do not read biased translations. And throughout the entire Bible, for those who truly wish to see what G-d Himself says, rather than just what we wish to think about ourselves, I see G-d’s clear presentation of mankind’s fallen condition (and the importance that we acknowledge that). One need look no further than the prayers of the most godly men in the Bible to realize they were deeply aware of their own sin…which led them to greater appreciation of His amazing Forgiveness and Mercy. It is a very, very clear theme throughout the entire Tanakh, and I encourage you to study it.
Wishful thinking is putting aside the few examples I gave and not honestly answering those basic questions. And the question is “how far fallen down is fallen” when God can say to a people in general to be Holy as God is Holy? How could God be so naive or err so in judging the heart and mind or the true nature of “such fallen people”? Why promote an attitude that leads many people to be ridden with guilt or to escape life or give up life or to surrender to outside forces? Hopeless when the next tragedy hits them or when God doesn’t “answer their prayers”. If there is nothing inside us or if only despair or “sin” brings us to God, how pitiful indeed we are? Or is that “the true image” of God that we are reflecting?
I did not see any basic questions in your imaginative account, which directly contradicts what G-d said happened in the garden. Yes – G-d gave them MANY, MANY trees to eat from that were “pleasing to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:8). It was not only the tree of knowledge of good and bad (the forbidden) but also the tree of life in the middle of the garden. And yes, He did in fact say only ONE thing they could not do, as recorded (Genesis 2:17). And no, Eve most certainly did not “also obey G-d” by disobeying Him; that is utter heresy.
How far fallen down is fallen? Was that the question? I thought you were merely thinking out loud. Here is G-d’s description of fallen: “All have turned bad, altogether foul; there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalms 14:3).
“…you devote your mouth to evil, and yoke your tongue to deceit; you are busy maligning your brother, defaming the son of your mother. If I failed to act when you did these things, you would fancy that I was like you; so I censure you and confront you with charges. Mark this, you who are unmindful of G-d, lest I tear you apart and no one save you” (Psalms 50:19-22).
I recommend you read the entire book of Hosea, too, as well as Jeremiah. Sin is not at all an amusing matter to G-d, and He condemns it repeatedly throughout Scripture.
P.S. I can assure you, as would all who know me well, that I do not read the Bible superficially. I study it daily, and seeing within it G-d’s clear condemnation of sin and the repeated accounts of our tendency toward it (Deuteronomy 32:16–31 / Judges 3:7–8, 10:13 / 1Kings 22:53; 2Kings 21:21 / Isaiah 43, 48, 59, / Jeremiah 2:11–36, 3:12–14, 8:19; and the entire chapters 16 and 17 of Jeremiah as well / Psalms 78:58, 106:36, most of the book of both Hosea and Malachi, and many, many more – too many to list) only makes me appreciate His Forgiveness more. I will not contradict G-d or pretend He did not say what He clearly DID say, all throughout Scripture. Doing so does not honor Him. I am sorry if it offends you, but His Word, not ours, is the Word of G-d. It behooves all of us to search the Scriptures (all of them, not just the “pleasant” ones) to truly know Him as He chose to reveal Himself and not as we wish to pretend things are by rationalizing away what His Word says. He did clearly state, from the very beginning, that the punishment for sin (the only sinful option presented in the Garden of Eden) was death. He clearly showed His opinion of sin and its immense cost right there.
He then clothed them with skins – whose skins? Did that, too, require a death? Skins do not grown on trees. And before that, He cursed the serpent – “more cursed” than all cattle and wild beasts (Genesis 3:14) and told the woman, “I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing; in pain shall you bear children” (Genesis 3:16). That was not some imaginative picture of G-d “helping” her to give birth; it was Him stating a painful punishment for her sin. And to Adam, He said, “Cursed be the ground because of you…thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18). Then He “banished” them from the garden of Eden and “drove the man out” (Genesis 3:23), so let us not distort Scripture to pretend sin was really not such a serious issue.
As for Cain and Abel, it is not giving the plain facts of the story to pretend that the first sacrifice was really Cain’s sacrifice – because telling only part of the story is telling a lie. The TRUTH is that Abel’s sacrifice was the first ACCEPTED sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was utterly rejected. (Do you imagine that G-d did not instruct or communicate with them at all? G-d essentially told Cain that he had no reason to be upset – he already knew what he was required to do.) And Abel’s death that ensued proves, if anything, the sinful heart of Cain and that Cain was not at all seeking to follow G-d’s ways. G-d then “banished” Cain to be “more cursed than the ground” and a wandered forever, not to be in G-d’s presence again (Genesis 4:11-13). So please do not twist Scripture. If there is anything at which I am utterly appalled, it is when people willfully pretend G-d’s Word says something other than what He clearly said. This theme of mankind’s huge problem of sin (and the curse that it brings) is listed in detail throughout many many chapters of book after book of the Bible. As in Deuteronomy 28 – the first 14 verses relate to blessing, while the 55 remaining verses of that chapter relate to curses. So sin is indeed a very large problem, and it does indeed create a barrier between us and G-d (Isaiah 59:2).
Yet the beautiful end result of acknowledging these truths – of sin and of our deep need for forgiveness – is that we learn only more deeply to truly appreciate all that we have been forgiven, leading to a heart humility before our Holy and Righteous G-d.
Trying to get this back to “loyality and honesty”. One thing to consider is that there are different ways at looking at the nature of sin (with a couple different Hebrew words for “sin”), or the nature of Man or the nature of God. There are Christian views and there are Jewish and Judaism’s views. Not all of the OT or the Tanach are about Israel or Jews or Hebrew’s and some of them are influenced by Egypt or by Canaan or by Babylon (as is Daniel). There is one theology of those who see evil as a force mainly from the outside (or inherent in our flesh), with wars between “good and bad” (even in the “heavenlies”) , between demons or a devil on the one hand and God or People on the other. There is another theology that sees all of Creation under the control of One God, which means that when bad things happen in your life (or in your community/nation), you (or all Israel) is to blame. When an enemy attacked Israel, you first blame it on one or another type of “sin” of “all the people” or of the leaders or priests. The people would blame themselves and their failure to be righteous, or because of their sins or their disobedience to God. Others in another time and place will blame their troubles on the “devil” (“the devil made me do it”, I am saved, I did not sin). The sins of Christians or of the Churches or of their “chief priest or priests” should likewise be blamed instead of redirecting the blame on demons, satan, the devil, “evil principalities”, or “the Jews”.
Daniel was a holy man of G-d. Please do not malign those whom G-d honored. And this issue has nothing whatsoever to do with “Christian” views or “Judaism” views; it has to do with reading Scripture honestly without twisting it to pretend it says something G-d did NOT say. G-d is the one who condemned sin. He is also the one who “called names” if you want to put it that way; it was not an issue of people blaming themselves; G-d Himself said outright that they were corrupt and had wearied Him and that He would punish them severely for their sin (over and over in Scripture).
And of course Christians have to blame themselves for their sins; what does whether a person is “Christian” have to do with anything? G-d condemned sin, and very harshly, and that assessment has nothing to do with whether a person is Christian or Jew (I see this as a distraction).
The point is that sin is a HUGE, HUGE DEAL throughout the entire Tanakh. G-d emphasized it repeatedly. And not with pretty, imaginative stories, either. The Jews – the BEST possible nation – were repeatedly condemned by G-d for their sin, and that only demonstrates that the rest of us are even more sinful.
True acknowledgment of G-d’s Word does lead to an acknowledgment of sin; it also leads to forgiveness and mercy for those who admit that what G-d says (not what they pretend) is Truth. And therein they find that His love is still everlasting and that we have every reason to have the utter humility that G-d requires of us.
Freedom, you quote a bit of scripture, but you tend to skip over parts that don’t agree with you. I am not providing my answers nor attempting to prove any particular point, I am asking questions or offering other scriptures to get “below the surface level” of those scriptures. Perhaps you assume I don’t read the Tanach daily or that I have not read the same verses that you have read? Or that by asking questions, that somehow I don’t allow scriptures to question my beliefs? I guess questioning has something to do with imagination, so I see you can be imaginative or speculate also, as in the case of Abel. I guess one can question God, so what is wrong by questioning “Godly men” (or rather one’s seemingly reverence – idolization? – for those men).
Genesis 1:27-28. “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase”.
So, Man is in God’s image (so, was that image taken away and if so, when?). And God blessed them (how long does a blessing from God last?). And they should increase (which they did after “the fall” with God knowing the path Man did & would continue to choose?)
Again, after the fall for some reason it needed to be repeated in Genesis 5:1-2., that Man was created in the likeness of God and they were blessed and were called Man.
Genesis 2:17. “but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.” (no scripture twisting, but when did both of them die?)
Genesis 3:22. “…Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should … live forever!”. Now in the image of God and like God, what else (perhaps not of God?) was in Man that Mankind was yet worthy could increase fill the earth with his human nature,
Hopefully, I can continue later.
That is a false accusation. Very honestly, I had to wonder whether you were standing in front of a mirror when you accused me of skipping over the parts of Scripture that I don’t like. You are the one who outright lied, distorted Scripture, and restated what happened in the garden in a way that COMPLETELY contradicted what G-d said happened and the way He said it happened.
Moreover, what you are saying is ridiculous. Of course I love to read blessings. Who doesn’t love to read that? Yet the TRUTH is that, as I mentioned previously, the curses are clear, as is G-d’s assessment of mankind and sin. Have you read Deuteronomy 28? Because if you had, you would have noticed that less than 1/4 of the chapter deals with blessings, while more than 3/4 of it deals with curses.
Now let us look at the parts YOU’VE skipped over above, verse by verse.
Genesis 1:27-28. “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase.”
That’s wonderful! And here we clearly see that when G-d cursed the woman one chapter later – “I will make most severe your pangs in childbearing; in pain shall you bear children” (Genesis 3:16) – He was NOT in fact “helping her to give childbirth” as you previously pretended. He had ALREADY given her the ability to bear children, as you pointed out above. So THIS curse for her sin, in chapter 3, was not a “blessing in disguise” nor had she “actually obeyed G-d” while disobeying Him. She sinned, plain and simple, and she brought a curse on herself.
How long does a blessing last? It lasts the same amount of time as a curse lasts. G-d in His mercy clothed Man DESPITE man’s sin – with whose skins? Did this require a death too? Skins don’t grow on trees; they come from living beings that have been killed for their skins. So now Man has set off a curse not only for himself but for the entire Earth, and even animals must die on account of his sin.
Of course there is still an aspect in which we are in G-d’s image – we can reason, we can communicate, we can understand love, and we can respond to love. We have the ability to choose to humble ourselves and accept what G-d has said as Truth. In all of those ways and more, we are still in the image of G-d.
As for when they died, that is a question I recommend you ask G-d. Clearly, some aspect of their originally innocent and good being died as soon as they ate of it because they instantly knew shame and fear for the first time in human history (Genesis 3:7-11). If they hadn’t been ashamed, they wouldn’t have felt the need to suddenly cover themselves. And then began the accusations and excuses (Genesis 3:12-13). Clearly, G-d was not duped into believing it was really “someone else’s fault” that each chose to disobey Him, because He then proceeded to curse each of them in turn (Genesis 3:16-19).
As for Genesis 3:22? Why did you stop there? “So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Eden…He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery, ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23-24). In other words, man was NO LONGER welcome in the beautiful garden. He was NO LONGER welcome to eat of the tree of life, which G-d had previously created for him. And G-d NO LONGER wanted him to live forever.
As for worthiness to fill the Earth with human stature? It’s called G-d’s love DESPITE man’s evil, and not because of it. Have you read Malachi? Hosea? Jeremiah? Daniel? And no, it is not idolatry to note that G-d honored humble men such as Daniel whom He blessed with truths to preserve for the rest of us (G-d-breathed writings). They were not perfect men – but they did honor G-d, and it was precisely the fact that they KNEW they were unworthy and sinful, yet also knew G-d’s goodness was everlasting and trusted in Him, that G-d found pleasing. In other words, look at the prayers of the people G-d HIMSELF said pleased Him, and you will find, in every case, that they were men who saw themselves as utterly unworthy before a Perfect and Holy and Righteous G-d. David, too, was one G-d called a “man after G-d’s own heart” (1Samuel 13:14). Was he perfect? No – he committed adultery and even killed the woman’s husband. But what we do find as we carefully research his life to see why he was so pleasing to G-d is that he claimed no worthiness in himself at all; rather, he said he was “born with iniquity”…and he trusted in G-d that He would not despise a “contrite and crushed heart” (Psalms 51:3-19).
And it was this man, a man after G-d’s own heart, who said the following: “Man’s deeds are corrupt and loathsome; no one does good…All have turned bad, altogether foul; there is none who does good, not even one…” He was speaking about mankind in general there.
He also says the following: “Men speak lies to one another; their speech is smooth; they talk with duplicity. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, every tongue that speaks arrogance” (Psalms 12:3-4). And so on, with great humility expressed throughout the majority of the Psalms. THIS was a man G-d said was someone after His own heart.
Conversely, here is what G-d had to say about people who pretend all is well: “Inasmuch as they have misled my people, saying “It is well,” when nothing is well, daubing with plaster the flimsy wall which the people were building, say to those daubers of plaster: It shall collapse; a driving rain shall descend — and you, O great hailstones, shall fall — and a hurricane wind shall rend it… I will raze it to the ground so that its foundation is exposed; and when it falls, you shall perish in its midst; then you shall know that I am the LORD. And when I have spent My fury upon the wall and upon those who daubed it with plaster, I will say to you: Gone is the wall and gone are its daubers, the prophets of Israel who prophesy about Jerusalem and see a vision of well-being for her when there is no well-being — declares the LORD God” (Ezekiel 13:10-16).
G-d has never, throughout any of the accounts in the Tanakh, condoned flattering lips that claim all is good and well when it isn’t. He has also never condoned self-righteousness. We see plenty of that in the people G-d rejected. “Saul said to Samuel, ‘But I did obey the LORD!…'” later seeking out a way to save face for himself and not be shamed, instead of fully admitting his guilt as we see David repeatedly do: “Please honor me in the presence of the elders of my people…”
Was G-d fooled by his claims of worthiness and self-righteousness? He was not; G-d rejected him, giving his throne to another (1Samuel 15:19-31).
That is the same exact story we see throughout the entire Tanakh. I do not say these things to be mean but rather because they are true; far better for the beloved of G-d to recognize and acknowledge sin NOW, while there is time to repent and truly know Him as He has revealed His Faithfulness and Mercy despite our sin. As long as we claim we are really “fine” and “worthy” on our own merit, there is no room for humility. And as long as you continue to distort Scripture, I will continue to expose the lies, because I am very jealous for the TRUTH of the Word of the LORD my G-d; I desire to see His people know Him in TRUTH and HUMILITY, embracing G-d’s TRUE Word that Israel may be restored to Him. And that will not happen as long as people continue to embrace lies (Zechariah 8:16, 18).
Actually, I will leave this issue in G-d’s hands. I think I have already presented Scriptures to show why I see humility and integrity – and an honest acknowledgment of sin, as G-d confronted it – as utterly essential before the LORD. He gave a clear picture of Israel’s exile and restoration in the past (and the humble hearts and prayers that preceded and immediately followed her restoration) in Daniel chapter 9 and in Nehemiah chapter 9 as well, and He also clearly showed that the same humble attitude will be necessarily present before her future restoration (Micah 7:9-16 and many, many other examples in Scripture). That is my primary concern here – to move toward that end, abandoning the self-righteousness and pride that G-d said He hates. I will be deeply, deeply disappointed if Israel’s restoration does not take place during my lifetime, and I seek to do everything in my power to encourage truth and humility in the way that G-d said pleases Him. He has always responded to truly humble and broken hearts that acknowledge their own sin and His Holiness, and He will again.
However, this is not my blog, and I have already stated what I believe is TRUTH and why. Please direct any further thoughts or queries to the rabbi.
Thank you, and Shalom.
Finally, you are beginning to do more than parroting old familiar verses (while still repeating some). And yes, I am obviously skipping over verses, but that is as a response, to include them in with those that you have selected, so that they be not skipped over. For instance, we can not pretend God dealt with Eve only, or mainly, in Gen 3.16. It was not I who thought of it as a “blessing in disguise”. Nor can we ignore that sin occurred when Man was in a blessed state. Nor can we pretend that A&E were “adults” already with knowledge of good and bad (or of death & sin). And that was repeated in Gen 5.12, perhaps for those who may have forgotten.
You brought up several other interesting scriptures that pretend to the subject of this blog, so I may reply with scripture on them. I see some of what I was trying to draw out of you toward your last paragraphs. And some might be relevant & worth commenting on.
Please direct your queries to the rabbi, not to me. I do not parrot familiar old verses; I thoroughly study the Tanakh and seek the truth. If you have heard those same verses elsewhere, perhaps others have read the same Scriptures I have read; my point in all of this is that we must recognize and acknowledge sin and our need for humility, not pretend that “all is good and well, and we are worthy!” as you have done, or pretend that someone (i.e., Eve) was “really obeying G-d” when G-d says she did NOT obey Him, or that G-d really didn’t curse her for her sin; He merely “helped her give birth” when that is an outright lie and directly contradicts Scripture. He cursed her for her sin; period. Or the false claim that G-d’s outright and very clear curses and condemnation of sin really are not what He says they are (they are indeed exactly what He says).
Lies and pretenses of wellness do not lead to Israel’s restoration. Humility and an acknowledgment of our sin and shame before a Holy G-d do.
I’d like to comment on one theme you’ve repeated several times. That being the offerings of Cain and Abel and your understanding that the scriptural message is that Cain’s failure was his offering of produce rather than livestock,,i.e. a blood offering. For the sake of convenience I’ve transcribed the JPS translation of Genesis 4:1-7 for reference.
1 And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’
2. And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering;
5 but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6 And the LORD said unto Cain: ‘Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.’
You continually insist that we all read what scripture says and not what we impute to it. I agree.
Do your really see that scripture here is castigating Cain for his failure to bring a livestock offering? A few questions:
1) Based on your understanding, why does verse 2 bother telling us their respective occupations? It would seem irrelevant since both Cain and Abel clearly had the ability to choose the form of offering they brought. Was this just incidental trivia?
2) Why does verse 3 emphasize that Abel’s offering consisted of “firstlings” and “the fat thererof”, when based on your understanding the key point was that it was livsetock rather than produce. Again was this incidental trivia?
3) Why – even by your reasoning – would blood offering even have any relevance here since these offering were a “mincha” (the Hebrew Word mincha is used no less than three times in this passage) a gift offering, rather than a sin offering (Consider the “Bechor” and “Bikurim” offerings wherein God instructs the Jewish people to sanctify the firstborn animals AS WELL AS first produce offerings as an expression of gratitude and subservience) .
4) Why when God rebukes Cain (verse 7) does He say absolutely NOTHING about what you consider his key failing – ie not offering blood. Rather God admonishes Cain to choose to DO GOOD and that if he DOES WELL he will prevail over sin. (And BTW virtually every Christian translation of verse 7 conveys the same core message: Do well, and prevail. Is God actually admonishing Cain to – gasp – do good acts?)
In an earlier post you said of this passage
“The TRUTH is that Abel’s sacrifice was the first ACCEPTED sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice was utterly rejected. (Do you imagine that G-d did not instruct or communicate with them at all? G-d essentially told Cain that he had no reason to be upset – he already knew what he was required to do.”
My answer is: I don’t know what God did or didn’t communicate to or instruct Cain. What I do know is that neither do you. You are reading such prior communications into this passage when they are not there. You are the one imagining that Cain and Abel had been instructed the to offer blood. And you are the one imagining that it was his form of offering rather than it’s quality that constituted his failing. Absolutely none of this is in the scripture.
Honestly now, isn’t the far more obvious explanation that the Torah bothers to tell us their occupations precisely to explain WHY they each offered what they did and that each one had the opportunity to sanctify his respective offering?
Isn’t the far more obvious explanation for the emphasis of “firstlings” and “fat” in order to demonstrate that Abel’s elite offering was more wholehearted and sincere than Cain who offered undistinguished samplings of his produce.
And lastly, why not take God’s admonishment at face value of what it says rather than what you’d like to think it says: – Repent. Do well. Be a master over sin rather than the reverse. Did Cain know what God meant by doing well? He probably did. Did it have anything to do with offering blood? Only in your imagination. I can think of many many things that God may have had in mind by “doing well”.
You yourself said earlier that clearly Cain was less sincere. I agree fully, Therein was his failing. They were each granted a realm of agriculture and while Abel demonstrated his gratitude with an elite wholehearted offering, Cain did not.
Let’s stick to what it says in scripture.
I just finished noting that I was done posting and to please direct any further queries to the rabbi. 🙂 However, I think we were both posting at the same time, so I will respond to yours.
I first want to clarify that my statement that Abel brought a blood offering was not meant to insist that G-d HAD definitely told them what to bring Him; rather, it was in response to what I have heard as a continual argument – that the blood offering was NOT established by G-d (not true: see Leviticus 16) and that G-d “only allowed animal sacrifices because of the culture of the day” (also not true: note the first sacrifice – Cain and Abel). In other words, G-d did indeed establish the blood sacrifices, and He did indeed also say that sin would result in death (in His command to Adam and Eve), and if He had in fact “only allowed animal sacrifices because of the practices of the other nations in the culture of the day” then He had ample opportunity to show precisely that in the very first sacrifice ever recorded. In the story, for example, Abel could have brought crops. Instead, He did happen to accept Abel’s sacrifice of a blood offering and reject Cain’s sacrifice of the fruit of his crops.
Now, that said, I realize that my response was rather zealous (I feel there were some clear and highly upsetting distortions of what G-d said happened), but what I was primarily seeking to emphasize there is that the claim that the first sacrifice really was supposedly only man’s idea, not G-d’s, and that the first offering wasn’t an animal sacrifice is a distortion of the truth – Abel’s sacrifice was in fact the first accepted sacrifice. I clearly do not know what G-d did or did not tell them – but I do know that in His later curse of Cain, Cain had to depart from His presence, and that implies that it was possible to be in His presence before that point. It is also a fact that when He later established sacrifices to be performed “for all time” in Leviticus 16 (and again, I am not trying to get into the whole issue of the period without a Temple but rather am pointing out G-d’s own clear establishment of the yearly blood atonement), He did happen to establish animal sacrifices. HE, not man.
In response, however, yes – I do believe G-d told us their respective occupations for a reason. It could be to show that Abel had already chosen in his heart to raise what G-d could have (or may not have) required they bring as a sin offering, so that he could bring that to the LORD of his own, or it could be to show that each simply brought what he had. Or it could be a combination of that and other things. Regardless, as you rightly pointed out, I do agree with you that Abel’s offering of the firstlings was definitely relevant. G-d does NOT say that Cain brought the best of his crops, and I have noted that as well. Perhaps that also demonstrates both hearts – I cannot say for certain. Nevertheless, for whatever reason, the sacrifice that G-d accepted there did happen to coincidentally be an animal sacrifice – the same as He later required yearly. Again, that is not meant to say that a gift offering of grain COULD NOT HAVE been acceptable to G-d but rather to refute the argument that G-d really preferred grain and only accepted animals because of the culture of the day.
As for why a blood offering would have any relevance here, I agree with you that gift offerings were the firstfruits of all animals and produce – in fact, it was only the yearly atonement done by the high priest (in Leviticus 16) that absolutely could not be anything except animals, the blood of which G-d said must be used to cleanse the altar and holy place. The personal sacrifices of Leviticus 4-7 were already allowed to have substitutes (flour) if they could not afford the bigger or smaller animals. So again, my point here is that not that G-d COULD NOT HAVE accepted a sacrifice that wasn’t a blood sacrifice but rather that WHAT HE DID SHOW repeatedly throughout Scripture was that godly men tended to bring blood sacrifices (we always see the men of G-d sacrificing animals to G-d throughout Scripture, and those sacrifices are particularly emphasized at times when Israel confessed sin – i.e., 2Chronicles 29, 30, 35). So in saying what I said – perhaps too strongly – my point was to refute the claim that this animal sacrifice was perhaps accepted by G-d only DESPITE being a blood sacrifice.
You asked why I believe that when G-d rebukes Cain, He says absolutely nothing about the blood offering but rather tells him to act in the way he knows he should act. I do not take it in a hostile way that you noted that “gasp” He actually did want good works 🙂 – because I see that you have clearly determined that I must be a Christian and therefore must think G-d does not desire that we seek to please Him through what we do. I assure you, that is not what I think. I do agree with you that we can read too much into the passage – what G-d actually said was that Cain already knew what he was required to do. In whatever it was that he DIDN’T do, it’s clear that his heart wasn’t right and that he went on to murder his brother. He quite possibly could have also pleased G-d with a gift offering of grain if his heart had been right – but the argument that G-d only accepted animal sacrifices “despite” their being blood sacrifices, with the implication that He really desired something else, is false (that is my point), because we see the opposite demonstrated all throughout Scripture.
In conclusion – I do believe G-d would not have left them guessing about what they were supposed to do. Godly men – including Abraham – are persistently presented in the Tanakh as offering blood sacrifices (in the case of Israel, particularly with acknowledgement of sin, as already noted above in 2 Chron 29, 30, 35, etc.). And G-d Himself provided a ram, not a pile of fruit, for Abraham to offer in place of Isaac.
However, I do also agree with you that I do not know what Cain and Abel were instructed to do; all I do know is that arguments claiming that G-d accepted blood sacrifices long ago “only because of the culture of the day,” or that He “really would have preferred fruit or grain,” are not accurate. He could have shown that from the beginning and all throughout Scripture, if that were the case – and that isn’t what He showed at all.
Thank you for your comprehensive and gracious reply.
Two last points:
1) Could we then agree that (and I’m not suggesting that YOU are a christian) that if someone were a christian and argued that the preferential treatment of Abel’s offering was scriptural PROOF of the significance of blood offerings – in the christian sense – that he would be wrong.
2) You said that: “I see that you have clearly determined that I must be a Christian and therefore must think G-d does not desire that we seek to please Him through what we do. I assure you, that is not what I think.”
So if I may make the logical inference, then, you DO believe that G-d desires that we seek to please him through what we do.
Maybe it’s my lack of reading comprehension skills, but throughout the course of your comments on this blog, you have seemingly made great efforts to say that the belief that we can please G-d through our actions is false.
Hi again, Yehuda,
Thank you for your pleasant response as well. 🙂
And in response to #1, Yes, I would absolutely agree that we cannot say the preferential treatment of Abel’s offering is Scriptural PROOF of the significance of blood offerings. That is not to nullify the other things I mentioned (about what G-d indicated and established Himself through Scripture), but I am highly opposed to pulling out a Scripture here and there presenting it as a “proof” of anything. I believe G-d presents Himself to us comprehensively throughout Scripture, and the humble and truthful heart that truly seeks Him will find Him.
In response to #2, Yes, I absolutely do believe G-d desires that we seek to please Him and walk in His ways. I also believe that a truthful and humble heart will see that it falls short (I see this demonstrated throughout the prayers of the men G-d listed as godly, ones who pleased Him, throughout Scripture), so this issue of seeking to please G-d, know Him intimately through Scripture, and worship Him alone should lead not to self-righteousness but rather to humility.
I see it as an intricate process, really. As we truly come to know G-d and worship Him, we realize and are appalled at how far short we have fallen (as King Josiah did when the Law was read to him) from fulfilling His standard, and as seen throughout the prayers of godly men, this leads us to brokenness and repentance.
But the claim that G-d does not desire that we seek Him or that He is not pleased when we do so is completely contradictory to Scripture. He reveals Himself, I believe, to those who seek Him in humility and truth, acknowledging Him and His Word alone as Truth. I do NOT think He is pleased when we seek to explain away or rationalize our sin, or when we are self-righteous and refuse to acknowledge His condemnation of sin and its cost. But the concept that G-d does not really care whether we seek to please Him is completely contradictory to Scripture; He repeatedly said to prepare our hearts to know Him, and He does care that we do so.
I hope that answers a little with regard to my feelings on it.
Thank you again for your responses I an glad that we agree at least on the specific points we discussed above.
I’d like to elaborate a bit on your thoughts above on the second point. I think the following are your key points and I hope I am not doing any violence to them by presenting them as a short outline:
– “Yes, I absolutely do believe G-d desires that we seek to please Him and walk in His ways.”
– “I also believe that a truthful and humble heart will see that it falls short.”
– “seeking to please G-d, know Him intimately through Scripture, and worship Him alone should lead not to self-righteousness but rather to humility”
– “As we truly come to know G-d and worship Him, we realize and are appalled at how far short we have fallen…this leads us to brokenness and repentance.”
– “I do NOT think He is pleased when we seek to explain away or rationalize our sin, or when we are self-righteous and refuse to acknowledge His condemnation of sin and its cost.”
– “But the concept that G-d does not really care whether we seek to please Him is completely contradictory to Scripture; He repeatedly said to prepare our hearts to know Him, and He does care that we do so.”
I don’t think there is any sincere and reasonably knowledgeable Jew who would disagree with any of the above. Virtually every nuance of what you wrote is reflected in Jewish thought, and liturgy particularly that of the days of repentance and Yom Kippur.
I think there is a tendency among many Christians (and I am not saying you are one of them) to attribute the self-righteousness you abhor to Judaism as a rule. Let’s be clear about something. If a belief system believes that we have an obligation to try to please G-d – and we both agree to that – that presupposes that we have a pretty good idea of WHAT it is G-d wants of us. The fact that a Jew believes he knows what G-d wants him to do, does not in itself make him self-righteous – certainly no more so than a christian who believes HE knows what G-d wants. For a Jew to believe that he has somehow MASTERED the task of pleasing G-d would indeed be self-righteous and no devout Jew believes that.
To think otherwise about Judaism is ignorant at best and anti-semitic at worst.
Well said! – I would add that if you want to see the attitude of a contrite, humble and joyful Jew – read the Psalms – you’ll see how much emphasis is placed on sin how much is placed on thanksgiving etc. – The Psalms reflects the heart of Israel and it remains – in Jewish circles the most often read book in the Bible after the five books of Moses for this reason
Thank you, Yehuda!
I would definitely agree with you that there are certainly many self-righteous Christians – and I am not offended if you do view me as one of them 🙂 – I haven’t stated anything in regard to that, and I was merely joking about the “gasp.”
I also agree that believing one knows what G-d wants does not equate to self-righteousness. As you said, it is not the knowing of what G-d wants but the believing that one has attained it (or is attaining it) by one’s own righteousness that would make one self-righteous. The most godly men in the Bible – the ones G-d said pleased Him, and ones He loved and rewarded – were so humble, having understood that by comparison, our hearts are corrupt – for He alone is Worthy and Righteous and Holy.
I do not believe the religious name by which a person calls him or herself, or the church or synagogue he or she attends, has anything to do with godliness. Horrible atrocities have been committed by some among every religion in the name of “G-d,” and on the other hand there have been some from among every group, I believe, who do respond in humility to the LORD and truly seek to know and love Him through His Word. I believe truly knowing G-d is a heart issue, in other words, and that anyone who seeks Him in His Word, in humility and truth, will find Him there.
P.S. I am also not meaning to imply that “all beliefs are fine” – I do consider it key to truly and humbly learn and love G-d’s Word, where Truth is found. I merely meant that a name or an organization cannot make one godly; it is a heart issue, I believe.