+JMJ+ Welcome to The Story of Salvation, Part 6: Blessings and Curses. Boils down to this: one can live according to the covenant and keep it and reap the blessings, or live in a way that violates the covenant (covenants can’t actually be broken it but can be violated it) and so trigger the curses. Think of it this way: If I keep my hand off the stove when it’s on, I don’t burn my hand and I can cook my food. But if I put my hand on a hot eye of the stove, I’ll get burned. That’s a simplistic and very imperfect analogy but my point is that it’s not God being vindictive. He gave us a world and said, Live this way and you’ll be blessed, live this other way and you’ll bring all manner of deep, deep trouble upon yourself. And mankind has been awfully bad at following these simple instructions for thousands of years, proving to us that sin damages the one who sins and ripples outward to damage everyone and everything else, too. No sin is private.
We’ll be looking more at the curses in this post, mainly because mankind has spent so much time violating the covenants than keeping them, triggering the curses rather than the blessings. Hard-headed, stiff-necked, stubborn people, won’t listen, won’t mind–reminds me of me! We will look at the blessings, too, later. Notes and links will be at the end of this post.
The first transgression came soon after Adam and Eve began living on the earth. We don’t know how much time passed before they got into trouble but it doesn’t seem to have taken long. The serpent (which is probably not some cute little snake) tempted and perhaps intimidated Eve, she decided to disobey God, not because she was evil, then, but because perhaps she was understandably afraid. Then Adam, instead of protecting his bride, gave into fear (and fear of suffering) and disobeyed God, too. And things went downhill from there.
Lack of trust and disobedience.
Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden but still lived in Eden. They had a son name Cain and another son named Abel. Cain grew envious of Abel (not merely jealous, mind you) and slew him. We had the first sin earlier with the parents (disobedience, fear of suffering) and following on from there we had the sin of envy and already the first murder, and a fratricide, at that.
Envy and the first fratricide, murder of one’s brother.
Cain received a mark and it’s interesting to note here that Scott Hahn mentions in his book A Father Who Keeps His Promises (see notes at the end of the post) that the mark is said to be a covenant marking, the sign of a covenant oath. But it is not the sign of a covenant with God, oh, no, but of a covenant with the ancient evil one. And Cain went on to build a city, seeking to make a name for, not God, but himself.
Pride, and hubris, even self-worship.
Adam and Eve had another son and named him Seth. Seth had a son named Enosh and in the time of Enosh men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
A few things need to be explained here. First, the significance of the name, or shem in Hebrew. Cain’s line of descendants wanted to make a name (a shem) for themselves. Seth’s line called upon the name (the shem) of the Lord, they worshipped God. Two very different types of culture arose: the city of man and the City of God would be one way of looking at it. Remember this shem stuff. It will come up again later in our story in a very important way.
And where did they find wives to marry? We tend to think that things are happening one right after another at a pretty fast pace, but we don’t really know for sure how much time had passed. Cain and Abel both probably had plenty of time to marry, but where did they find wives? Probably among their own family. We don’t know the names of all of the children of Adam and Eve, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t more of them. So Cain and Abel probably married within the family. Who else? And there was as yet no prohibition against it.
Also remember that people lived a long time in those days, and that Cain is their first son and Abel is their second son, but this says nothing about how many daughters they already had or continued to have. By the time Cain slew Abel and left Eden, Cain was already married. He was banished for his crime, his sin of fratricide, from Eden and built a city (he and his wife and his own family and maybe his extended family).
Six generations later Cain’s line gives rise to Lamech who followed in Cain’s footsteps. Lamech took two wives, adding the sin of polygamy to the list.
Polygamy, lack of fidelity, and giving oneself over to lust.
But it doesn’t stop there. Boasted Lamech to his wife:
“I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain has avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-seven-fold” (vv. 23-24). As we’ve seen, the number seven is a covenant symbol. Here it signifies the maturation of evil over time in the line of Cain.Ibid., 80, Kindle version.
Unbridled lust is accompanied by violence. Evil is growing like a cancer in the line of Cain. The line of Seth is a righteous line. At first. The two lines produced cultures that were very different, but that would change. They at last began to intermarry and mix and then the righteousness of the Sethites was lost in the unrighteousness of the Cainites.
“…the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.” Gen. 6:1-4
In Hebrew “the men of renown” means literally the men of the shem, the men of the name, wicked tyrants who were making a name for themselves, unjust men who were building a culture of pure evil.”
“But what’s going on in the first two verses of this chapter? “The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair” (v. 2). Some translators see this as mythical language suggesting that the angels (or some other celestial beings) intermarried with earthly women. But nowhere else are angels called “sons of God” in Genesis. In addition, angels cannot reproduce like humans, as Augustine and Aquinas pointed out long ago. Besides, if angels were the primary instigators, why did God punish the entire world? Why not target the wayward angels and their evil offspring instead? The flood punished everyone but the angels.”
Then who were the sons of God? The Sethites, that family of God that built itself up by calling upon the name of the Lord.Ibid., 81-82.
When left unchecked, sin becomes institutionalized. In every age of salvation history, sexual immorality and violence go hand in hand, triggering the hard remedy of God’s judgment in the form of the covenant curses. And nothing institutionalizes sin more than marital infidelity. The whole culture gets clobbered, especially the children. And afterwards only a remnant survives, barely.Ibid., 83.
The desendants of the righteous Sethite line (men of reknown), eventually fell prey to the seduction of the Cainite women. And they married as they chose, which probably means that they began to not only marry these women but to also adopt their culture. In other words, to practice the sexual immorality that the Cainites practiced. And “violent men were born.”
We see it today in our own time. Back in the Biblical story things went on this way down to the time of Noah. And that is where we will pick up next time.
Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and most of all, become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture, by Scott Hahn. Paperback, Kindle. (Affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.) Logos or Verbum format. (Requires Logos or Verbum software.)
- Our Father’s Plan, series by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. Video series, from EWTN Religious Catalogue.
- The Bible Timeline Study, part of the Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. See this page with introduction and options.
Images: Cain and Abel, by Titian, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Lamech and his two wives, Cuzco School, Item 1753B, from the Project for the Engraved Sources of Spanish Colonial Art (PESSCA). Website located at colonialart.org. Date Accessed: 02/18/2021.
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