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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Am I my Brother's keeper? Part Two of our look at Pain, and what it really means as we approach Yom Kippur



…Pain, Part Two… [1] [2] [3]
Days of Awe, Day 3


Genesis 4:3-12 (NET)
4:3 At the designated time9 Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering10 to the Lord. 4:4 But Abel brought11 some of the firstborn of his flock – even the fattest12 of them. And the Lord was pleased with13 Abel and his offering, 4:5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased.14 So Cain became very angry,15 and his expression was downcast.16
4:6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? 4:7 Is it not true17 that if you do what is right, you will be fine?18 But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching19 at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”20
4:8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”21 While they were in the field, Cain attacked22 his brother23 Abel and killed him.
4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”24 And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian [KJV: “keeper”]?”25
4:10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? 26 The voice27 of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 4:11 So now, you are banished28 from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 4:12 When you try to cultivate29 the
ground it will no longer yield30 its best31 for you. You will be a homeless wanderer32 on the earth.” [4]

It’s Day Three of the Days of Awe.

                Before we go on, let us return to point one: Point One: Is pain and suffering necessary?
I might not have answered this question to some’s satisfaction. Why would pain and suffering be necessary? Let us look at a classic Jewish tale:

"…A young man once came to Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.
'Rebbe, I can no longer believe in God. I can't believe in God because the world is so filled with pain, suffering, ugliness and evil. How could there be a God in such a world?!'
'Why do you care?' asked the Rebbe.
'What do you mean, why do I care? How could I not care? Innocent people suffer; the world is ruled by cruel people. Why does God allow it?'
Again, the Rebbe inquired, 'But why do you care?'
The young man screamed out: 'Someone has to care! Someone has to see the pain of the world and cry out! If not, all the suffering is meaningless. I care because I want a better world, not only for my children but for all children!'
The Rebbe responded, 'If you care that much, then God exists. You see, God exists in your caring.'…”[5]

In Zechariah we read:

Zechariah 13:7-9 (NET)

13:7 “Awake, sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is my associate,”
says the Lord who rules over all.
Strike the shepherd that the flock may be scattered;10
I will turn my hand against the insignificant ones.
13:8 It will happen in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds of the people11 in it will be cut off and die, but one-third will be left in it.12
13:9 Then I will bring the remaining third into the fire; I will refine them like silver is refined and will test them like gold is tested. They will call on my name and I will answer;
I will say, ‘These are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”13 ([6])

And in Malachi we read:

Malachi 3:1-7 (NET)

3:1 “I am about to send my messenger,1 who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord2 you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger3 of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord who rules over all.
3:2 Who can endure the day of his coming? Who can keep standing when he appears?

For he will be like a refiner’s fire,4 like a launderer’s soap.
 3:3 He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering.
 3:4 The offerings5 of Judah and Jerusalem6 will be pleasing to the Lord as in former times and years past.

3:5 “I7 will come to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break promises,8 and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans,9 who refuse to help10 the immigrant11 and in this way show they do not fear me,” says the Lord who rules over all.
3:6 “Since, I, the Lord, do not go back on my promises,12 you, sons of Jacob, have not perished. 3:7 From the days of your ancestors you have ignored13 my commandments14 and have not kept them! Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord who rules over all. “But you say, ‘How should we return?’ [7]

Pain and suffering can be destroying; they can also be the catalyst used to answer the question
‘How should we return?’

The question isn’t really is pain and suffering necessary, but more a statement: pain and suffering are inevitable.

The Letter from Ya‘akov (JAMES)
From: Ya‘akov, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah
To: The Twelve Tribes in the Diaspora:
Shalom!
Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and without reproach; and it will be given to him. But let him ask in trust, doubting nothing; for the doubter is like a wave in the sea being tossed and driven by the wind. Indeed that person should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord, because he is double-minded, unstable in all his ways.
Let the brother in humble circumstances boast about his high position. 10 But let the rich brother boast about his being humbled; since, like a wildflower, he will pass away. 11 For just as the sun rises with the sharav and dries up the plant, so that its flower falls off and its beauty is destroyed, so too the rich person going about his business will wither away.
12 How blessed is the man who perseveres through temptation! For after he has passed the test, he will receive as his crown the Life which God has promised to those who love him.[8]

Notice Ya’akov says “when” not “if”. Kefa (Peter) says much the same:

The First Letter from Yeshua’s Emissary Kefa: 1 Kefa (1 PETER)
From: Kefa, an emissary of Yeshua the Messiah
To: God’s chosen people, living as aliens in the Diaspora—in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bythinia—chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obeying Yeshua the Messiah and for sprinkling with his blood:
Grace and shalom be yours in full measure.
Praised be God, Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who, in keeping with his great mercy, has caused us, through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah from the dead, to be born again to a living hope, to an inheritance that cannot decay, spoil or fade, kept safe for you in heaven.

 Meanwhile, through trusting, you are being protected by God’s power for a deliverance ready to be revealed at the Last Time. Rejoice in this, even though for a little while you may have to experience grief in various trials. Even gold is tested for genuineness by fire. The purpose of these trials is so that your trust’s genuineness, which is far more valuable than perishable gold, will be judged worthy of praise, glory and honor at the revealing of Yeshua the Messiah.

Without having seen him, you love him. Without seeing him now, but trusting in him, you continue to be full of joy that is glorious beyond words.
And you are receiving what your trust is aiming at, namely, your deliverance.
10 The prophets, who prophesied about this gift of deliverance that was meant for you, pondered and inquired diligently about it. 11 They were trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of the Messiah in them was referring in predicting the Messiah’s sufferings and the glorious things to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that their service when they spoke about these things was not for their own benefit, but for yours. And these same things have now been proclaimed to you by those who communicated the Good News to you through the Ruach HaKodesh( [9] )sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things!
13 Therefore, get your minds ready for work, keep yourselves under control, and fix your hopes fully on the gift you will receive when Yeshua the Messiah is revealed.
14 As people who obey God, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. 15 On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; 16 since the Tanakh says,

“You are to be holy because I am holy.”a

17 Also, if you are addressing as Father the one who judges impartially according to each person’s actions, you should live out your temporary stay on earth in fear. 18 You should be aware that the ransom paid to free you from the worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you did not consist of anything perishable like silver or gold; 19 on the contrary, it was the costly bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah, as of a lamb without defect or spot. 20 God knew him before the founding of the universe, but revealed him in the acharit-hayamim ([10])  for your sakes. 21 Through him you trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory; so that your trust and hope are in God.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply, with all your heart. 23 You have been born again not from some seed that will decay, but from one that cannot decay, through the living Word of God that lasts forever.

24 For all humanity is like grass,
all its glory is like a wildflower
the grass withers, and the flower falls off;
25               but the Word of Adonai lasts forever.b
Moreover, this Word is the Good News which has been proclaimed to you. [11]

In your quiet time with God, ask Messiah if His suffering was necessary - and inevitable. The forty years of evil and degradation I went through on my journey to God was necessary and inevitable. I am not making light of anyone’s pain: no because I was hurt, I can empathize with another. We each are being uniquely led and shaped and molded to do what God intends for us to do: turn our pain and suffering into that which can help another. That leads us to our discussion today. 


Point Two: Do I have to be my brother’s keeper?

“What have I learned?” is the question I ask myself – hopefully you are exploring this question also. Maybe you aren’t even thinking about it, after all this is a “Jewish” thing… I think that this attitude is wrong, but hey, who am I? What good comes from a sincere searching of your heart and soul anyway? Why, you might discover things about yourself you do not like – or maybe you’d see the good that is in you also. God sees both – and weighs the balance. I’ve said this before – and it bears repeating:

“…What is reality? Have you ever tried to mich’tam [contemplate] what reality is? The vast majority of all human beings consider this time we spend from cradle to the grave as reality, but is it? Now before you think that I’m descending into some sort of philosophical quagmire, this is the point I’m trying to make: if you are reading this, then hopefully, you are open to the fact that there is a greater reality out there than just this in which we currently live. This life is temporal; that is, temporary. The greater reality is eternal, the realm of the spiritual.

To most, in the grand scheme of things, man has existed but for a pencil point on the timeline of history – at least that is the conventional wisdom, the collected wisdom of man steeped in its embrace of Darwinism and evolution. Call them what you will, Creationists see things a bit different, that mankind has been here almost since the beginning (minus about six days…).
One either believes God at His word or one does not, one either believes in the literal seven days of Creation or one does not. Mental gymnastics aside, what a person holds to in this arena defines their worldview; atheistic, mono-theistic, evolutionist, agnostic, creationist, believer or non-believer; the Word of God separates and defines the reality that one chooses to live in.  What religion one adheres to is also dependent upon on how one approaches the God of the Hebrew Scriptures;  does He exist or not? Thus the basis of all lives flow from and around the Hebrew Scriptures, independent of the world view one holds. Now before you say that is not really true, think carefully. Despite what you believe or do not believe, you have made a choice concerning the Scriptures of the Jews.
Are you Hindu? You’ve chosen the pantheon of 4.5 million gods to choose from. Buddhist? You’ve elected the spiritual journey of “supreme enlightenment”. Muslim? “…Muslims believe that the verses of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad by God through the archangel Gabriel (Jibrīl) on many occasions between 610 CE until his death on June 8, 632 CE.[12] While Muhammad was alive, all of these revelations were written down by his companions (sahabah), although the prime method of transmission was orally through memorization[13]…”[14] (throw in some Hebrew Scriptures and mix…)[15]

If you are atheist, agnostic, Urantian, Unitarian, Christian or Jewish – no matter what you profess, you’ve made a decision, a choice. Your world view hinges on a decision you have made concerning the Hebrew Scriptures.

So what conclusion can be drawn from this? The choice is stark, black versus white: either the Hebrew Scriptures are right, or they are wrong.  Where does one stand? To put it simply is this: either the Hebrew Scriptures are  “Truth eternal” or they are the ranting and ravings of crazy men in the deserts of the Middle East, full of legend and falsehoods. If true, then shouldn’t they be accepted as the Word of God?  If false, then go on your way, and live in peace with your decision.

So where do you, dear reader, stand? It is an easy choice for me; I’m all in for this God of the Scriptures.  I’ll admit my bias upfront. The honest truth is, you have to suspend a critical mind, you have to shut down an intellectual pursuit of “Is it real or is it false?” and replace it with a blind, from-the-gut faith. One has to believe without sight, without absolute proof that God exists in order for God to become real to one’s self; He only shows up to those who abandon their disbelief and their “inquiring minds” for the existential reality of the Super-natural; take it on faith or go home.

Doesn’t one find it odd that all the ills of the world, the wars, the moral decays, the poverty, the greed, the ambitions, the decline of nations and civilizations all flow from whether or not a collection of writings by men some 3500 to 4000 years ago are actually the inspired Word of God or not? That from these words sprang a nation that continues to this day to be the lightning rod of not only world opinion, but also undying love or unquenchable hate. A relatively small group of people, who identify themselves as Jews, are on one hand the focus of a world gone mad, one that sees “Jews” under every rock, behind every ill, in control of all things, a force that has to be annihilated. On the other hand, they are the epicenter for the climatic and dramatic end of all things when their God [and according to my bias – The ONLY God] will return and recompense all their enemies for the evil that they have wrought upon them over the centuries, with a mighty army led by God’s own Son, slain before the foundation of the world in order that He might save it. Folks, you can’t make these things up. This is either Truth or it is not. Your take, your answer to this is the reality that we live in, but it is not reality.

So what is? Well, from the last couple of paragraphs, one thing is certain. It all revolves around a collection of books called the Hebrew Scriptures; thus by deduction one can say this: the basics of life are in the Hebrew. For me, I can see no other conclusion one can come to. The sum of all things revolve around not only the Hebrew language, but the Hebrew people.  You can draw lines around the ancient civilizations, the Egyptians, the Chinese, or pick one of your own; all of them have disappeared, all have evolved, yet only one civilization has stood despite every effort by countless others to wipe it out: the Jewish people. Their book of Scriptures (called the Tanach), the TORAH rolls of parchment, their way of life, their identities; all of these have faced persecution and trials that no other civilization that came under similar circumstances survived and despite all the trials the Jews endure. Their books endure. The TORAH endures. They endure. There is a reality here that we causally overlook. There is more to this story than meets the eye; the eternal dominates their history, and it bears a closer look from those of us outside of it, for it might just figure into our own survival as well.

This is the beginning point of understanding reality, the true reality. This is the reality that the heavens shout out in the splendor and the majesty of creation.  This is the reality that only intelligent design can explain. This is the reality that is a paradox; that all of history, the post that all of mankind’s dirty laundry hangs on, all his achievements and accomplishments, revolve around the Ten D’varim, ten words spoken to an ancient group of people from the twelve tribes of Israel and the multitude of others who left Egypt with them.  The cure for a sick world is found in these words, in this, the only reality that matters…” [16]

Does it matter what you believe? Does it matter who you believe? All good and all evil stems from the view of the world you hold. Either there is a God or there isn’t – what is your take decides the stake in which you play at this poker table we call life. All I can say to this is be sure you are right – there may be eternal consequences if you are not. Myself? I’ll hedge my bet on the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak and Ya’akov and the land and people of Isra’el.

Why do I bring this up? How does this fit in with what we are discussing, pain? Look again at what I surmised:

“…Doesn’t one find it odd that all the ills of the world, the wars, the moral decays, the poverty, the greed, the ambitions, the decline of nations and civilizations all flow from whether or not a collection of writings by men some 3500 to 4000 years ago are actually the inspired Word of God or not?...”

Think about this if you will. If the words of Scripture are the only true words of the Creator of all things (and I mean true as the transcendent God of heaven and earth inspired the mere mortals He chose to record them and then the way He Himself preserved them in the original language), then shouldn’t we as those who claim to be believers take them to heart? Our mission in life is to live a life that reflects the truth of God, the love of God and the willingness of God to forgive. Too often though, we don’t even have a clue as to what that is supposed to look like. We have given our understanding of God’s word over to a preacher/teacher/priest/rabbi/Inman/whatever and their flashy PowerPoints and carefully controlled cadence and rhythms to be our substitute for the hard work of diligently studying the Scriptures to see if these things are so or not. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: don’t trust me – take all that I say back to the word of God and faithfully and humbly ask God and the Spirit to lead you into truth. If what I say lines up – then ponder it and go back to the word for more understanding. If not, then challenge me, correct me – I am teachable and correctable, but you have to build that upon the word, not man’s traditions or interpretations. That said, let’s go on…

Cain asked God: “..Am I my brother’s keeper?...”

Let us look at the Hebrew:

Gen 4:9  ויאמרH559  יהוהH3068  אלH413  קיןH7014  איH335  הבלH1893  אחיךH251  ויאמרH559  לאH3808  ידעתיH3045  השׁמרH8104  אחיH251  אנכי׃H595  

The word highlighted is the word that is translated as “keeper”. I want to give you the definition of it from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT):

“…2414     שָׁמַר (šāmar) I, keep, guard, observe, give heed.
2414a     שָׁמְרָה (šomrâ) guard, watch (Ps 141:3, only).
2414b     שְׁמֻרָה (šĕmūrâ) eyelid (Ps 77:4, only).
2414c     שִׁמֻּר (šimmūr) night watch (Ex 12:42, only).
2414d     שֹׁמְרוֹן (šōmrôn) Samaria.
2414e     אַשְׁמוּרָה (˒ašmûrâ), אַשְׁמֹרֶת (˒ašmōret) night watch.
2414f     מִשְׁמָר (mišmār) guard, guard post.
2414g     מִשְׁמֶרֶת (mišmeret) obligation, service.
šāmar is used 420 times in the Qal, 37 times in the Niphal, 4 times in Piel and Hithpael. The Akkadian cognate shamāru means “wait upon,” “attend to”; the Phoenician, “watch, guard”: the Arabic samara “watch.” The closest synonym is nāṣar “watch,” “guard,” “keep,” “observe,” which is used in much the same way as šāmar. There are other verbs which occasionally overlap one of the uses of šāmar, but which are otherwise quite distinct.

The basic idea of the root is “to exercise great care over.”
 This meaning can be seen to underlie the various semantic modifications seen in the verb: In combination with other verbs the meaning is “do carefully or diligently”. Thus Prov 19:8, “Give heed to understanding”; Deut 11:32, "Be careful to do (i.e. perform carefully) all the statutes and ordinances) and in Num 23:12, speak carefully or faithfully.

Secondly it expresses the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, statutes, etc. This is one of the most frequent uses of the verb. Thus in Gen 18:19 Abraham is to command his children to keep the way of the Lord, that is, give careful heed to God’s ways (cf. also Ex 20:6; Lev 18:26; Deut 26:16; Ezk I 1:20). It should be noted that the observance of God’s laws was not to be a matter of theory only or of perfunctory compliance. The expression “to do them” is frequently appended, such as in Ezk 37:24. Proverbs 4:21 states they are to be kept in the heart. Furthermore, the expression is used not only of an obligation to laws, etc, but also to a sacred occupation such as the priesthood (Num 18:7).

A third ramification is “take care of,” “guard.” This involves keeping or tending to things such as a garden (Gen 2:15), a flock (Gen 30:31), a house (II Sam 15:16). Or it may involve guarding against intruders, etc., such as the cherubim guarding the way to the tree of life in Gen 3:24, or gatekeepers (Isa 21:11) or watchmen (Song 5:7). The same is true with regard to persons. Thus Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper” (Gen 4:9). David frequently speaks of God’s care and protection in such passages as Ps 34:20 [H 21]; 86:2; 121:3–4, 7, and others. In Job 2:6 God uses šāmar in his injunction to Satan not to touch Job’s life. Again, David touchingly admonishes Joab, before he enters battle against Absalom to “watch over Absalom for me” in II Sam 18:12.

Frequently the verb is used to speak of personal discipline, the need to take heed in respect to one’s life and actions: Ps 39:2 “I will heed my ways”; and Prov 13:3, of guarding the lips.

A fourth category is the meaning “regard” “give heed to.” It is used of a man’s attitude of paying attention to, or reverence for, God or others. Thus in Hos 4:10, Israel has abandoned paying heed to God. Psalm 31:6 [H 7] speaks of those who revere (šāmar) vain idols. In another related use, the Psalmist says in Ps 130:3, “If Thou shouldest mark (šāmar, truly pay attention to) iniquities, who would stand?” (see also Job 13:27). This may be used in a hostile sense as in II Sam 11:16, or in an expectant sense, as in Zech 11:11 and Ps 59:9.

The last category has to do with “preserving,” “storing up,” such as the anger against Israel which Edom cherishes and preserves (Amos 1:11), or knowledge in Mal 2:7. So also with food in Gen 41:35 and I Sam 9:24, or anything that is precious (Ex 22:7 [H 6])…”[17]

In effect, Cain asked God “…Do you expect me to be the one to care for or guard my brother?” Again, the definition of the basic root of the word is to “to exercise great care over.” So what do you think God expects of us? Is our brother’s pain our pain? His suffering our suffering? Does our own pain stop us from caring for another?

                Who are we if all we care about is our own troubles, our own circumstances? Do we lose some of our humanity when we withdraw into ourselves? Yes, we hurt. Can’t that place of pain also become a place of healing as we reach out to comfort another, does not just for a time our own pain recede? I live with physical pain every day, yet if I ask, God eases the pain so I can do what I need to do. In my spiritual pain, He does the same – but only if I am willing to reach out to help another. You might say that that’s one broken person trying to help another broken person… I say – yep, that’s it exactly. In my brokenness, I am made complete when I shove my pain aside to help my brother. I still have to deal with my pain, but in the process, as I help another, a pathway to helping my self becomes a bit clearer, a bit less strewn with the wreckage that blocked a resolution before. If I exercise great care for the wellbeing of another, God exercises great care over my own. Measure for measure. Even, just scales.

That is how God works. I have seen it over and over again.

So let me ask the question again:

Do I have to be my brother’s keeper?

I better be, for then He keeps me.

We’ll continue this up in our next segment. But ponder what you have gone through in life – the ups and the downs, the pain and the joy, the suffering and the healing. All that you have been through makes you uniquely qualified to help others that are going through similar circumstances. May it would just be one person – maybe a group – it doesn’t really matter. God has groomed you for a time such as this – be ready to move into it. Continue to reflect on the days to come, these Days of Awe. See how your life has been guided to bring you to this point. If you are in pain, if you are suffering, I want you to know there is hope, that there is peace. Around the world, so many are in distress – rise above your pain and cry out to God for Him to help another. Put your pain aside, if just for a moment, and ask God to be merciful to a stranger, to a man, woman or child that desperately needs Him. He knows and sees all the horror that we as humans inflict upon one another – yet because of His great long-suffering Himself, He restrains judgment, calling all to repentance and salvation through our Messiah Yeshua. Doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble or persecution or terror in our lives; what it means is that He will raise us up in that day to be with Him. Pray for one another – as we do, remember, you could be the stranger that someone is praying for. Measure for measure. God is faithful.

Till next segment, may God richly bless and keep you my beloved.

Amein


[1] Authors note: Use of information from Jewish-themed websites should not be construed as these sites endorsing or confirming any thesis introduced by the author of this epistle. I present the information from their respective sites for instructional purposes only and/or to aid in the readers understanding of the subjects discussed and in full respect of the sensitivity of the subject matter at hand.
[2]Author’s note:  Throughout this study I’ll be using the Net® Bible and  the Net® Notes: within the notes you’ll see symbols like this: ( א B Ψ 892* 2427 sys). These are abbreviations used by the NetBible© for identifying the principal manuscript evidence that they (authors and translators of the NetBible©)  used in translating the New Testament. Please go to  https://bible.org/netbible/ and see their section labeled “NET Bible Principals of Translation” for a more complete explanation on these symbols and other items pertinent to the way the NET Bible uses them.
[3] Author’s Note: In these studies I have used the notes that come along with the passages I cite from the sources that I cite: these need a bit of a disclaimer though. As in all things, not everything that is footnoted is something that I necessarily agree with, especially if it contradicts what I believe pertains to any matters of the Torah or the commandments of God. I give you the notes as they are written by the authors of the material I cite from, so that you can see the information contained within them. It truly is not my place to edit or correct them; if they state anything that is in opposition to what I teach, then so be it. I will address these issues if requested, but for the sake of brevity (as if any of these posts of mine are brief ) I insert them and let them stand as they are. If I don’t agree with them, why do I include them you might ask? I don’t believe in censuring anyone’s opinions or scholarship; as I would not want mine censured, so I will not do to that to another. As Rabbi Hillel once stated, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole Torah. Go and learn it.” Torah leads me to respect others, even if I disagree; it leads me to present both sides of the coin, even if it could mean I’d lose part of the argument. That is not to say I should not challenge something I believe contradicts the truth of God’s word; that I will do in the main body of my epistles; that is where my gentle dissent belongs. Most (but not all) of the differences will come when I quote from the NET® Bible (but not exclusively); it has a decidedly Western/Greek mindset to it, but as a wise man once said “How do you eat chicken? Swallow the meat and spit out the bones..” I do though want to present the NET® notes because there is a wealth of information and research contained within them that I hope you find helpful.
[The following notes are taken from the NET Bible® footnotes, copyright (c) 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from www.bible.org, n.d. Numbering system is unique to NET® Notes. For more information see footnote #2 and 3.]
9 tn Heb “And it happened at the end of days.” The clause indicates the passing of a set period of time leading up to offering sacrifices.
10 tn The Hebrew term מִנְחָה (minkhah, “offering”) is a general word for tribute, a gift, or an offering. It is the main word used in Lev 2 for the dedication offering. This type of offering could be comprised of vegetables. The content of the offering (vegetables, as opposed to animals) was not the critical issue, but rather the attitude of the offerer.
11 tn Heb “But Abel brought, also he….” The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) stresses the contrast between Cain’s offering and Abel’s.
12 tn Two prepositional phrases are used to qualify the kind of sacrifice that Abel brought: “from the firstborn” and “from the fattest of them.” These also could be interpreted as a hendiadys: “from the fattest of the firstborn of the flock.” Another option is to understand the second prepositional phrase as referring to the fat portions of the sacrificial sheep. In this case one may translate, “some of the firstborn of his flock, even some of their fat portions” (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV).
sn Here are two types of worshipers – one (Cain) merely discharges a duty at the proper time, while the other (Abel) goes out of his way to please God with the first and the best.

13 tn The Hebrew verb שָׁעָה (shaah) simply means “to gaze at, to have regard for, to look on with favor [or “with devotion”].” The text does not indicate how this was communicated, but it indicates that Cain and Abel knew immediately. Either there was some manifestation of divine pleasure given to Abel and withheld from Cain (fire consuming the sacrifice?), or there was an inner awareness of divine response.
14 sn The Letter to the Hebrews explains the difference between the brothers as one of faith – Abel by faith offered a better sacrifice. Cain’s offering as well as his reaction to God’s displeasure did not reflect faith. See further B. K. Waltke, “Cain and His Offering,” WTJ 48 (1986): 363-72.
15 tn Heb “and it was hot to Cain.” This Hebrew idiom means that Cain “burned” with anger.
16 tn Heb “And his face fell.” The idiom means that the inner anger is reflected in Cain’s facial expression. The fallen or downcast face expresses anger, dejection, or depression. Conversely, in Num 6 the high priestly blessing speaks of the Lord lifting up his face and giving peace.
17 tn The introduction of the conditional clause with an interrogative particle prods the answer from Cain, as if he should have known this. It is not a condemnation, but an encouragement to do what is right.
18 tn The Hebrew text is difficult, because only one word occurs, שְׂאֵת (et), which appears to be the infinitive construct from the verb “to lift up” (נָאָשׂ, naas). The sentence reads: “If you do well, uplifting.” On the surface it seems to be the opposite of the fallen face. Everything will be changed if he does well. God will show him favor, he will not be angry, and his face will reflect that. But more may be intended since the second half of the verse forms the contrast: “If you do not do well, sin is crouching….” Not doing well leads to sinful attack; doing well leads to victory and God’s blessing.
19 tn The Hebrew term translated “crouching” (רֹבֵץ, rovets) is an active participle. Sin is portrayed with animal imagery here as a beast crouching and ready to pounce (a figure of speech known as zoomorphism). An Akkadian cognate refers to a type of demon; in this case perhaps one could translate, “Sin is the demon at the door” (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 29, 32–33).
20 tn Heb “and toward you [is] its desire, but you must rule over it.” As in Gen 3:16, the Hebrew noun “desire” refers to an urge to control or dominate. Here the desire is that which sin has for Cain, a desire to control for the sake of evil, but Cain must have mastery over it. The imperfect is understood as having an obligatory sense. Another option is to understand it as expressing potential (“you can have [or “are capable of having”] mastery over it.”). It will be a struggle, but sin can be defeated by righteousness. In addition to this connection to Gen 3, other linguistic and thematic links between chaps. 3 and 4 are discussed by A. J. Hauser, “Linguistic and Thematic Links Between Genesis 4:1–6 and Genesis 2–3, ” JETS 23 (1980): 297-306.
21 tc The MT has simply “and Cain said to Abel his brother,” omitting Cain’s words to Abel. It is possible that the elliptical text is original. Perhaps the author uses the technique of aposiopesis, “a sudden silence” to create tension. In the midst of the story the narrator suddenly rushes ahead to what happened in the field. It is more likely that the ancient versions (Samaritan Pentateuch, LXX, Vulgate, and Syriac), which include Cain’s words, “Let’s go out to the field,” preserve the original reading here. After writing אָחִיו (’akhiyv, “his brother”), a scribe’s eye may have jumped to the end of the form בַּשָּׂדֶה (basadeh, “to the field”) and accidentally omitted the quotation. This would be an error of virtual homoioteleuton. In older phases of the Hebrew script the sequence יו (yod-vav) on אָחִיו is graphically similar to the final ה (he) on בַּשָּׂדֶה.
22 tn Heb “arose against” (in a hostile sense).
23 sn The word “brother” appears six times in vv. 8–11, stressing the shocking nature of Cain’s fratricide (see 1 John 3:12).
24 sn Where is Abel your brother? Again the Lord confronts a guilty sinner with a rhetorical question (see Gen 3:9–13), asking for an explanation of what has happened.
25 tn Heb “The one guarding my brother [am] I?”
sn Am I my brother’s guardian? Cain lies and then responds with a defiant rhetorical question of his own in which he repudiates any responsibility for his brother. But his question is ironic, for he is responsible for his brother’s fate, especially if he wanted to kill him. See P. A. Riemann, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” Int 24 (1970): 482-91.
26 sn What have you done? Again the Lord’s question is rhetorical (see Gen 3:13), condemning Cain for his sin.
27 tn The word “voice” is a personification; the evidence of Abel’s shed blood condemns Cain, just as a human eyewitness would testify in court. For helpful insights, see G. von Rad, Biblical Interpretations in Preaching; and L. Morris, “The Biblical Use of the Term ‘Blood,’” JTS 6 (1955/56): 77-82.
28 tn Heb “cursed are you from the ground.” As in Gen 3:14, the word “cursed,” a passive participle from אָרָר (’arar), either means “punished” or “banished,” depending on how one interprets the following preposition. If the preposition is taken as indicating source, then the idea is “cursed (i.e., punished) are you from [i.e., “through the agency of”] the ground” (see v. 12a). If the preposition is taken as separative, then the idea is “cursed and banished from the ground.” In this case the ground rejects Cain’s efforts in such a way that he is banished from the ground and forced to become a fugitive out in the earth (see vv. 12b, 14).
29 tn Heb “work.”
30 tn Heb “it will not again (תֹסֵף, tosef) give (תֵּת, tet),” meaning the ground will no longer yield. In translation the infinitive becomes the main verb, and the imperfect verb form becomes adverbial.
31 tn Heb “its strength.”
32 tn Two similar sounding synonyms are used here: נָע וָנָד (na vanad, “a wanderer and a fugitive”). This juxtaposition of synonyms emphasizes the single idea. In translation one can serve as the main description, the other as a modifier. Other translation options include “a wandering fugitive” and a “ceaseless wanderer” (cf. NIV).
·         End “NET®” notes
 [4]  Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
·        
 [The following notes are taken from the NET Bible® footnotes, copyright (c) 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from www.bible.org, n.d. Numbering system is unique to NET® Notes. For more information see footnote #2 and 3.]
10 sn Despite the NT use of this text to speak of the scattering of the disciples following Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27), the immediate context of Zechariah suggests that unfaithful shepherds (kings) will be punished by the Lord precisely so their flocks (disobedient Israel) can be scattered (cf. Zech 11:6, 8, 9, 16). It is likely that Jesus drew on this passage merely to make the point that whenever shepherds are incapacitated, sheep will scatter. Thus he was not identifying himself with the shepherd in this text (the shepherd in the Zechariah text is a character who is portrayed negatively).
11 tn The words “of the people” are supplied in the translation for clarity (cf. NCV, TEV, NLT).
12 sn The fractions mentioned here call to mind the affliction of God’s people described by Ezekiel, though Ezekiel referred to his own times whereas Zechariah is looking forward to a future eschatological age. Ezekiel spoke of cutting his hair at God’s command (Ezek 5:1–4) and then of burning a third of it, striking a third with a sword, and scattering the rest. From this last third a few hairs would survive to become the nucleus of a new Israel. It is this “third” Zechariah speaks of (v. 9), the remnant who will be purified and reclaimed as God’s covenant people.
13 sn The expression I will say ‘It is my people,’ and they will say ‘the Lord is my God’ is reminiscent of the restoration of Israel predicted by Hosea, who said that those who had been rejected as God’s people would be reclaimed and once more become his sons and daughters (Hos 2:23).
·         End “NET®” notes
[6]  Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
·         [The following notes are taken from the NET Bible® footnotes, copyright (c) 1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used by permission from www.bible.org, n.d. Numbering system is unique to NET® Notes. For more information see footnote #2 and 3.]
1 tn In Hebrew the phrase “my messenger” is מַלְאָכִי (malakhi), the same form as the prophet’s name (see note on the name “Malachi” in 1:1). However, here the messenger appears to be an eschatological figure who is about to appear, as the following context suggests. According to 4:5, this messenger is “Elijah the prophet,” whom the NT identifies as John the Baptist (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2) because he came in the “spirit and power” of Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:11–12; Lk 1:17).
2 tn Here the Hebrew term הָאָדוֹן (haadon) is used, not יְהוָה (yéhvah, typically rendered Lord). Thus the focus is not on the Lord as the covenant God, but on his role as master.
3 sn This messenger of the covenant may be equated with my messenger (that is, Elijah) mentioned earlier in the verse, or with the Lord himself. In either case the messenger functions as an enforcer of the covenant. Note the following verses, which depict purifying judgment on a people that has violated the Lord’s covenant.
4 sn The refiner’s fire was used to purify metal and refine it by melting it and allowing the dross, which floated to the top, to be scooped off.
5 tn Or “gift.”
6 map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4.
7 tn The first person pronoun (a reference to the Lord) indicates that the Lord himself now speaks (see also v. 1). The prophet speaks in vv. 2–4 (see also 2:17).
8 tn Heb “those who swear [oaths] falsely.” Cf. NIV “perjurers”; TEV “those who give false testimony”; NLT “liars.”
9 tn Heb “and against the oppressors of the worker for a wage, [the] widow and orphan.”
10 tn Heb “those who turn aside.”
11 tn Or “resident foreigner”; NIV “aliens”; NRSV “the alien.”
12 tn Heb “do not change.” This refers to God’s ongoing commitment to his covenant promises to Israel.
13 tn Heb “turned aside from.”
14 tn Or “statutes” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); NIV “decrees”; NLT “laws.”
·         End “NET®” notes
[7]  Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
[8] Stern, D. H. (1998). Complete Jewish Bible: an English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) (1st ed., Jas 1). Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications.
[9] Ruach HaKodesh: Holy Spirit
a Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7
[10] acharit-hayamim: literally “the end of days”
b Isaiah 40:6–8
[11] Stern, D. H. (1998). Complete Jewish Bible: an English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) (1st ed., 1 Pe). Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications.
[12] Esposito, John L. (2000-04-06). The Oxford History of Islam. Oxford University Press. pp. 76–77.
[13] Al Faruqi; Lois Ibsen (1987). "The Cantillation of the Qur'an".Asian Music (Autumn – Winter 1987): 3–4.
[15] This is not to denigrate the Qur'an but truth is truth; even their scholars will admit that their holy book uses “…Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Lot, David, Solomon, Elias, Elisha, Hood, Thul-Kifi, Enoch, Jonah, Job Shu’aib, Saalih, Ezra, Zachariyyah, John, Jesus..” as sources:
[17]Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (939). Chicago: Moody Press. [formatting and emphasis is mine…]