And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. -Dan. 5:22-23

Introduction

We have arrived once again at a vital time in American history. It is election day. During this political season a certain proverb often comes to mind which says, “Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble” (Prov. 25:19). I am constantly reminded that time after time human institutions fail. It should be no surprise, yet I find myself at time slumping in my seat, peeking through my fingers in disbelief at the choices set before us. Quite simply we are voting for pagans (and quite possibly have been with the majority of presidential elections). There is no way around it.

This election has been weighing on me a little more than previous elections. It may be because I am a little older. It may be because I have a growing little family of five and I legitimately have thoughts and questions about what the world will be when my children are my age. My duty as a husband and father are immediately brought to the forefront of my mind. Am I teaching those in my care how to live well, how to follow Christ no matter what? When the time comes, will I teach them how to die well? Barring the Lord’s return, if I leave them before they leave me, will I have given them the tools they need to navigate a barren land and remain faithful to God? It is interesting how the good providence of a dim political sphere rips the world and its system from your grip and gives you a clearer vision of what truly matters. It is times like these that often make me think more about those ultimate issues.

I was comforted by a familiar story from the book of Daniel recently and I believe the lessons from it are immanently practical for such a time as this. But familiarity has a curious way of making us overlook the obvious, and it may ultimately leave us ignorant of the truth that would otherwise transform us. I will offer no new things here, yet I pray by such a familiarity you will comfortably perceive its truth and be pierced by the comfort this story offers.

Background

The story of Belshazzar is the story of the last night of an empire. It is the story of imperceptible demise. Empires , however, do not fall over night. Sometimes giants take time to hit the ground.

Belshazzar was a man of advantage. He was not ignorant of the dealings of God in the world. He had an example of what God would do with a man who lived in rebellion against the voice of the Lord. That man was Nebuchadnezzar, his father. God humiliated his father and made him eat grass like a beast of the field (Dan. 4:28-33). God made him lose his mind. He made Nebuchadnezzar as stupid as the ox of the field. Sin always reduces a man to the level of a beast (Gen. 4:7).

We may confidently say that Belshazzar did not take heed to the dealings of God in the life of his father. In the truest sense of the word, Belshazzar was an existentialist. All that he cared about was the here and now. But a man is not a culmination of the here and now. A man is always a product of his past, whether he wants to admit it or not. Wise men take heed to the past. They cannot, nor can the nation they lead, move forward without a proper view of the past.

On the last night of the empire, Belshazzar was feasting. It was a great feast with much wine flowing. Once the wine was coursing well through his veins he called for the vessels of the Jerusalem temple to be brought out that they might drink from them in defiance of God. Belshazzar partied with what was consecrated to the worship of God. The kings, lords, his wives and concubines all drank from the sacred items of the temple. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Belshazzar drank in defiance of God, not knowing that very night was the last night of his empire and that very night his soul would be required of him.

Numbered, Weighed, Divided

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall. Though silently written the sound was deafening. Like mighty rushing waters, Belshazzar was swept away in fear. His mind was consumed with alarm. Life rushed out of his face, fleeing back to his heart in self-preservation. Groping for answers he called for enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. No one could answer, except one.

Daniel, the man of God, had answers…and he was willing to speak. Daniel’s answer was not one of hope, joy, political victory, or even long life. It was a message of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.

Daniel’s message was a message of the past. He reminded Belshazzar of the dealings of God with his father Nebuchadnezzar. He reminded him that it was the Most High God who gave to his father kingship, greatness, glory, and majesty. He also reminded him that it was that same God who stripped his father naked, drove him into the field, made him like a wild beast “until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will.

Daniels message was also a message of the present. God’s ways had not changed simply because the kingdom had been passed from one to another. Daniel rebuked Belshazzar and leveled five charges against him.

  • He did no humble his heart, though he knew how God had dealt with his father.
  • He made war against God. He had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven.
  • He desecrated what was holy. He drank wine from holy things.
  • He worshiped idols of silver and gold, bronze, iron, and stone.
  • He did not honor God, in whom was his very breath.

And then came the fateful words written on the wall.

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN

God had numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and brought it to an end. God had weighed him in the balance and found him wanting. God had divided his kingdom and given it to another. The imperceptible demise of the kingdom was now upon him like a roaring lion. That very night Belshazzar would stand face to face with the God who wrote those fateful words with His very finger and give an account of his life.

Shall Not The Judge of All The Earth Do What Is Right?

The story of Belshazzar is fascinating. I believe it offers three practical lessons (among many others) for the Christian.

First, God is utterly sovereign. He is meticulously sovereign. Maverick molecules do not exist in his universe. He will do what is right all the time because he is in control of all things. Kingdoms come and kingdoms go. One thing is certain – it is not only by God’s sovereign appointment that any particular ruler be established in a nation, but the very decisions of that ruler are not outside the bounds of his sovereign control. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1).

Second, Christians must speak the truth in season and out of season (Ecc. 11:1-6; 2 Tim. 4:2). Sadly, religious speech is being attacked daily. What regret we would have as the people of God if in favorable times we were too afraid to speak out of fear of opinions, only to find in unfavorable times we are shut up under law from speaking? Daniel spoke, even as a captive in a pagan kingdom. He spoke plainly, boldly, and without compromise (Dan. 5:17). “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1).

Third, Christians must trust God. The Son of God, according to the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7-8), in his humanity, was not omniscient, nor was he omnipotent. God has concealed from us certain things that we might learn to trust him and be on the watch for his return (Deut. 29:29). If the Son of God, according to his humanity, was reliant upon the Father, if there was such an acquiescence of the heart of the Messiah to rest in his Father’s hands, if he was content in his humanity with not knowing all things (Matt. 24:36), can the believer do less? Is not Christ our example?

Conclusion

The times are uncertain and the future is unknown to all but God. The believer ought not let their heart be troubled. The rebel ought to fear. Their kingdom has long come to and end. Their captain has been chained and thrown into outer darkness. Thankfully for the believer we are not electing a Messiah. We already have one. Hallelujah! So, keep trusting believer. Keep speaking. Our King comes speedily!

Not only does the story of Belshazzar have much to say to us, but it has much to say to both Presidential candidates. Those words are this: God has established His kingdom. It will never be destroyed. It will not be given into the hands of another. A stone not cut with human hands will crush all other kingdoms and bring them to an end (Dan. 2:34). It will endure forever because its King lives forever. The bounds of your kingdom fall within the pale of the ultimate sovereign kingdom of God. The weight of your responsibility is enormous. Act wisely. True wisdom, fit for kings and judges, is found in obedience to Christ (Prov. 9:10). Are you truly wise, dear candidate? Or are “We the people” electing a fool? Are you of the stock of Belshazzar – proud, presumptuous, idolatrous, desecrating holy things? Do you find yourself in the bulls-eye of Psalm 2, raging, plotting, counseling how you may somehow shake off the rule of the Lord? Weighty questions indeed. Eternally significant questions for sure. Take heed to the words of one of the wisest kings who ever lived.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. -Mal. 1:11

In a previous article I explored giving as an essential part of corporate worship. In that article the central point was to press home the truth that giving is to be done in the corporate worship of God’s people on God’s day, not relegated to an online form or a box in a foyer. To summarize, giving is part of the regulative principle of the church. The central or spring-board text for that article was Acts 2:42. I believe that this text is also central with regard to what I am proposing in this article. I am not arguing here for the validity of prayer in worship. I am proposing that corporate prayer, in the New Covenant, is not to be offered by pastors alone, but by the men of the church.

Prayer is one of the primary ways we draw near to God. Prayer is not only primarily how we draw near to God individually, but how we draw near to God corporately as the church. Mal. 1:11 envisions this when he prophesies that “in every place incense is going to be offered to My name,” tying the Old Testament ritual of incense in worship to, among other things, the act of prayer (Ps. 141:2) in every place where God’s people are gathered (1 Tim. 2:8).  Isa. 56:7 calls God’s house, His corporate gathered saints, a house of prayer.

Even those I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

Saints may have their private prayer closets (Matt. 6:6) and rightly so. But as priests unto God (Rev. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:9), possessing the very keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19; Matt. 18:17-18), the local church has been given the right and privilege of drawing near to God corporately in prayer.

The Prayers

Acts 2:42 bring clarity to the practice of the early church with regard to the elements of worship.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (ESV)

This passage states that the church not only continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles (τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων), the fellowship (τῇ κοινωνίᾳ), the breaking of the bread (τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου), but in the prayers (ταῖς προσευχαῖς). Each of these elements are denoted by what is commonly called a definite article. I believe that in the context of Acts 2:42 this article used by Luke is spelling out the particular parts of the corporate worship of God’s people. The church received and obeyed the teaching of the apostles. The church contributed help. The church broke bread. The church prayed. Each of the elements in this passage point to the corporate nature of worship in the early church. The definite article seems to make this notion explicit.

They continued steadfastly (προσκαρτεροῦντες) in each of these things. This verb carries with it the idea of interaction, devotion, or to continue to do something with intense effort. They did these things not as passive participants, but with effort and with devotion. One could argue that hearing has an element of both passivity and activity, but the meaning of this text is clear. The hearing involved obedience (Jam. 1:22; 2:14-26). Not only this, the church actively contributed help monetarily, they actively broke bread, and they actively prayed. This was not an environment where prayers were offered in their hearing, but an environment in which they actively participated. They were not passive in any of the elements mentioned, not even prayer.

Just as the pastor does not receive and obey the apostles teaching in place of the church, just as he does not give contributory help in place of the church, just as he does not take communion in place of the church, so he does not pray in place of the church in corporate worship. Each of the elements are activities of the church. If the command to pray according to Acts 2:42 can be fulfilled solely by the pastor, upon what consistent basis could not the bread and wine be partaken of by the pastor alone? I don’t know upon what consistent basis someone could argue against the  latter application (bread and wine) and embrace the former application (prayer). Both are elements. Both are mentioned in Acts 2:42. Can both be withheld from the congregation? Can one? This may be overly simplistic, but I think what has been said so far makes clear at least one of the implications of the passage and opens up for discussion the logical conclusions that follow when the church is excluded from praying corporately.

The Men

With Acts 2:42 spelling out clearly that the church ought to pray in its corporate meetings, there is a qualification that must be mentioned. The New Testament teaches that the men of the church are the ones who should pray in corporate worship. 1 Tim. 2:1-12 is one place that clearly teaches this truth.

1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Paul is writing to Timothy and instructing him how a church should function. Verses 1 and 2 teach that, among other things, all types of prayers are to be offered up to God by the men of the church for all types of people (cf. Acts 2:42). Verses 8-12 proceed to spell out how both men and women are to function in the corporate gathering. In comparison to the function of men mentioned in verse 8, verses 9-12 speak clearly of the attitude, apparel, and obedience of godly women in the church. Verse 8 clearly spells out the function of the men.

Verse 8 states that “in every place the men should pray”. The place in which Paul is speaking is not the believer’s home, or prayer closet (although both of these are surely good and necessary, cf. 1689 Baptist Confession chap. 22, para. 6). Paul is speaking of churches. This conclusion cannot be determined by syntax alone, since ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ simply means in every place. Contextually, however, the place in which Paul is speaking of is clear. His instructions to Timothy are instructions for the churches. Comparing this text with 1 Cor. 1:2 where Paul is addressing the church at Corinth “with all who in every place (ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ) call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” it is clear that Paul is referring to the saints worldwide, gathered together in local bodies to worship.

Paul desires that the men should pray. The reference here is not to the elders (Οἱ πρεσβύτεροι) but to the men (τοὺς ἄνδρας). The word ἄνδρας means adult male. The noun in verse 8 is plural. The men here in verse 8 are set in contrast to the women (καὶ γυναῖκας) in verse 9. Though it must be admitted that Paul’s emphasis is not primarily on the role of men and women but on the priority of prayer in the churches, the point cannot be ignored. Choice implies meaning. Paul chose to make the distinction and he chose to give precise ecclesiastical instructions, so the distinction matters. Simply put, in the analysis of 1 Tim. 2:1-12, Paul has something different to say to the men of the church as opposed to the women. The men should pray.

John Gill offers clarity on this passage. He states,

In this declaration of the apostle’s will concerning prayer, he only takes notice of “men”; not but that it is both the duty and privilege of women, as well as men, to pray in their houses and closets; but because he is speaking of public prayer in the church, which only belongs to men, he speaks only of them; and his will is, that prayer should be performed by them everywhere, or in any place, in any part of the world where they lived. Now was the prophecy in Malachi 1:11 fulfilled, and now was the time come our Lord refers to, John 4:21. This seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish notion, that the temple at Jerusalem was the only place for prayer, and that prayer made elsewhere ought to be directed towards that.

Solidarity and Corporate Relationship

It must be admitted that solidarity and corporate relationship are a fundamental fabric of the basic institutions of God in the world. We see this in the family, the state, and the church. In the family the husband is chief representative. In the state our officials hold this capacity. In the church it is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ who holds this title. On an all inclusive scale we find Adam as a prototype regarding solidarity and corporate relationship for the entire human race.

Corporate solidarity is the foundation for basic human institutions, but we cannot assume that since there is corporate solidarity in these institutions we have warrant to infer that corporate solidarity with regard to prayer in the church can be relegated to a single ecclesiastical figure. We have express Apostolic command for the prayers of the church. The men are to pray. If there is to be some sort of solidarity found in the activity of prayer in the church the most basic level seems to be found in the men of the church. I think we can safely say that whatever belongs to the function of the men of the church, it is certainly not fitting for a woman to attempt (cf. 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9). “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13).

Additional Light

A few passing comments on at least two other texts are in order.

The first text is 1 Cor. 14:33b-35. In this passage Paul is speaking of the role of men and women in the church. It reads as follows:

33b As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Verse 33b is clear. Paul is speaking of the corporate gathering of the church. The term “their husbands” in 1 Cor. 1435 is τοὺς ἰδίους ἄνδρας signifying an adult male. Verses 34 and 35 are in accord with 1 Tim. 2:1-12.

The second text is 1 Pet. 3:7. It reads as follows:

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

If a husband lives with his wife in an inconsiderate, disrespectful way it not only affects his marriage, it affects the church. The prayers of the men will not only be hindered in private, in the grace of joint spousal and family prayer, but also in public assembly of the church where they are to pray without wrath or doubting, lifting holy hands to the Lord (cf. 2 Ki. 7:2; Jam. 1:6). There is harmony between Peter’s instructions in 1 Pet. 3:7 and Paul’s instructions in 1 Tim. 2:8.

Much more could be said here but the implications of 1 Tim. 2:1-12 and 1 Cor. 14:33b-35 for sure, and possibly 1 Pet. 3:7, are that women should not lead the church in prayer. Leading the church in prayer is the distinct function of the men of the church.

Fleshing It Out

Some might be wondering how they would ever communicate the truth that only the men are to pray without offending women in the congregation. Others might be wondering how this looks from a practical standpoint. Since the former of the two may be a Gordian knot that only sensitivity, time, and careful pastoral instruction can solve, I would like to offer at least two solutions to the latter.

First, fleshing out the truths of scripture regarding the men of the church praying may be as simple as an elder making the issues of prayer known to the congregation during corporate worship and calling on specific men in the congregation to pray for the things mentioned. If there is tension regarding the role of women versus men on this matter this may be a healthy solution since most will not offer a rebuttal on the spot. It may open up opportunity for questions later which can be handled in the sensitive, careful, and patient way that only a pastor can. This option offers a little more control over who prays yet leaves the scriptural teaching of the men of the church praying in tact.

Second, if there is a healthy understanding of the function of men and women in the congregation simply opening up a time for corporate prayer (possibly with an elder mentioning from the pulpit some of the prayer needs) allows for the men to pray as they are led. This option clearly leaves the scriptural teaching of the men of the church praying in tact.

Conclusion

Corporate prayer, in the New Covenant, is not to be offered by pastors alone. It is to be offered by the men of the church. All types of prayers for all types of people in every gathering of the saints on the Sabbath are to be offered as incense in God’s name. I realize that good men differ on these things, but I believe this to be the clear teaching of the Bible.

Updated 8.18.16

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” (Gen. 4:1)

Introduction

Specific details about the coming Redeemer as understood by those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture are hazy at best. It would be foolish to think in light of many New Testament passages that explicitly tell us that the former things were in fact under construction (Heb. 1:1, 11:13; 1 Pet. 1:10-11; Titus 1:2; Rom. 4:1-5; Jn. 8:56) that those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture had a robust understanding of the coming Redeemer. The Old Testament’s own intertextuality, its own subsequent revelation making explicit only what was implicit in prior revelation, shows the reader an unfolding story, a light slowly dawning over time (2 Pet. 1:19). Light cast from the New Testament back onto the Old Testament gives the reader a divine and infallible commentary on what God meant in the many ways He spoke in the former times (Heb. 1:1-2). A first read of the Bible lends even the novice the simple understanding that the things mentioned in the early pages of Scripture are organically growing, progressively unfolding, subsequently revealing themselves, and pointing to the culmination of all of history in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ (Jn. 19:30).

Recently an excellent article entitled “The Faith and Hope of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and Moses” was published which re-kindled thoughts in my mind about a topic that I began thinking about many months ago regarding Eve and what I believe to be a profession of her faith in the promised One to come in Gen. 4:1. What is fascinating about the article is that it traces the faith of those between the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden-temple of God to the account of Abraham. It is an exploration of Heb. 11:13-16 and the saints from the early pages of Scripture listed there. The article asks the all-important question: where did they [Abel, Enoch, Noah, etc.] get their information on which their faith was set? It proposes that Gen. 3:15 is the highly probable and rudimentary promise upon which their faith was set. I agree.

The article, however, stops at Abel (using the list from Heb. 11 as its guide). John Calvin, speaking of the weighty task of searching the mind of God in the Scriptures, and more specifically speaking of the mystery of the predestination of God, gave wise advice when he said,

…when the Lord closes his holy mouth, let us also stop the way, that we may not go farther.[1]

We would be wise to heed this advice in our examination of the Scriptures as well. Is this the case, however, when it comes to the character Eve? Is such a question regarding Eve’s faith fanciful speculation or is it of such an esoteric nature that it is practically meaningless? Is this simply theological gobbledygook? I do not believe so. I think with the proper theological framework we can push further into the issue of the faith of those mentioned in the early pages of Scripture. We can push back further than those mentioned in Heb. 11:13-16. My reasoning for this is the fact that the promise in Gen. 3:15 involves two more very important people. Those people are Adam and Eve. This at least opens the possibility that both Adam and Eve had faith in the promise because the promise was given to them.

Again, before we embark on this journey, we must admit that if Eve understood the promise of Gen. 3:15 her understanding at best was hazy, even though there was direct revelation from God regarding a Redeemer to come. We have to admit that her understanding of the things promised was incipient. But incipient faith has as its object something concrete. I believe that Eve’s faith had as its concrete object the coming Redeemer. I believe that Eve was a Christian, anachronistically speaking. Her understanding of the details was hazy. It was not as sharply defined as ours today, yet it was nevertheless concrete (Gen. 1:1-2).

How Are They To Believe In Him Of Whom They Have Never Heard?

To begin I think it would be helpful to ask an important question: from where did Abel receive the information of his faith? His parents were direct recipients, along with the serpent, of the promise and he is, after all, listed in the “faith chapter” of the Bible. In fact he is the first one in that list. It is important to understand that there is a God given antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman in Gen. 3:15. God has forever placed enmity between belief and unbelief. It is this antithesis that marks the distinguishing line in the sand between belief and unbelief. It is this antithesis that is so starkly contrasted in the reality of heaven and hell.

One practical implication of this antithesis is the fact that no matter what side of the line you are on, you will never commend what you do not cherish.[2] What do I mean? It is very likely that Abel received the promise from his parents because His parents cherished that very promise. His parents would have commended to him what they cherished themselves. Being the second child born on Earth is this completely out of the question (Rom. 10:14-15)? How was Abel to believe without a preacher? His father was a prophet, priest, and king in the Garden-temple of God, set there to spread the glory of God over the face of the Earth (Gen. 2:15). His wife as his helpmate partnered in this task. Surely, not having attained the promise of eternal life by disobedience and having received the promise of One who would gain eternal life for them by obedience (Rom. 5:21), Adam would have passed this promise onto Abel. It seems very likely and natural that Abel would have heard of the Redeemer from his parents. Where else would he have heard it? Abel’s faith was in the One who would not simply take them back to the Garden but his faith was in the One who would take them all the way to glory, the original goal of his father’s failed obedience. Through faith, though Abel is dead, he still speaks!

Cain would have been no different. He would have heard of the promised One from his parents, maybe even with a little twinkle in his mother’s eye as she pondered in her heart whether or not her son Cain would be that very One to deliver them and take them to glory. Cain knew what God expected as an offering to foreshadow this One who would come, an offering directly tied to the promise of Gen. 3:15 (cf. Gen. 22). But he did not offer what God required and God had no regard for his rebellion (Gen. 4:3-4; Heb. 11:4). Abel, however, was obedient. Owen says his giving was a “holocaust”[3], a total consummation of the offering. Cain gave without a judgment as to what was best. He gave without thought. Abel gave with faith because he was regenerate. Cain did not because he was not. Cain was proven to be of the flesh, a murderer.

John Owen comments:

Cain considered God only as a creator and preserver, whereon he offered the fruits of the earth, as an acknowledgment that all these things were made, preserved, and bestowed on man, by him; but he had no respect unto sin, or the way of deliverance from it revealed in the first promise. The faith of Abel was fixed on God, not only as a creator, but as redeemer also; as him who, in infinite wisdom and grace, had appointed the way of redemption by sacrifice and atonement intimated in the first promise. Wherefore his faith was accompanied with a sense of sin and guilt, with his lost condition by the fall, and a trust in the way of redemption and recovery which God had provided. And this he testified in the kind of his sacrifice, which was by death and blood; in the one owning the death which himself by reason of sin was obnoxious unto; in the other the way of atonement, which was to be by blood, the blood of the promised Seed.”[4]

Notice that Owen recognizes that both Cain and Abel had revelation of the first promise. They both knew what Gen. 3:15 meant. Cain’s offering, according to Owen, was in direct contrast to the deliverance revealed in the first promise, which he was repulsed by. God’s judgment of Cain seemed to be, at least in part, on the basis of the knowledge that Cain possessed of the promise. This corresponding with him being made in the image of God and the work of the law being written on his heart (Rom. 2:15), Cain was without excuse (Rom. 1:20).

Matthew Henry comments,

We may believe that God commanded Adam, after the fall, to shed the blood of innocent animals, and after their death to burn part or the whole of their bodies by fire. Thus that punishment which sinners deserve, even the death of the body, and the wrath of God, of which fire is a well-known emblem, and also the sufferings of Christ, were prefigured. Observe that the religious worship of God is no new invention. It was from the beginning; it is the good old way, Jeremiah 6:16.

Henry makes note that, although no explicit revelation was given in Genesis regarding how Adam, and thus his progeny, were to worship, God commanded Adam after the fall to make sacrifice, and this sacrifice prefigured the Redeemer.

But the question remains: did Eve have faith in the coming Redeemer? She had the information. She had the promise. More specifically did she believe that she was bringing forth that Redeemer by the birth of the firstborn, Cain? I believe that an answer to the second question is an answer to the first. Eve had faith in the Redeemer to come. The immediacy of her hope, however, was more distant than she could have ever imagined (Heb. 11:13).

The Data of Gen. 4:1

Genesis 4:1 is the record of the firstborn child of Adam and Eve. The text itself is simple enough yet contains theologically rich material. What I believe we find in this text is the very faith and hope of Eve.

To begin it is worth noting the firstborn’s name. His name is Cain. His name (transliterated qayin) in the simplest terms derives its meaning from the Hebrew word qanah which means to acquire, to possess, to purchase, to recover, or to redeem. It is found in many places in the Old Testament in its different forms. It is used in Gen. 14:19 to signify God’s origination, creation, and possession of the entire cosmos. It is used in Deut. 32:6 to signify the God as the Father or Creator of the people of Israel. In Ex. 15:16 and Ps. 74:2 it signifies God’s redemption or purchasing His people. In one sense it means to subjugate a thing.

Are these just coincidental consistent theological overtones within the analogia fidei? Could the name Cain be an intentional play on words? Could it be that in intention of Eve, by the very name of her son, she had in mind a possession, or an inheritance, or a subjugator – in a word, a serpent crusher?

At the birth of the firstborn Eve exclaims that she had acquired (qaniti) a man. This is significant. The promise of Gen. 3:15 was the promise of a man. “He” was promised to come forth to be the serpent crusher, and “his” heel would be bruised. It is interesting to note the birth of Cain in comparison with the birth of Abel. Eve did not respond the same way at the birth of Abel as she did at the birth of Cain. It simply says that “she gave birth to his brother Abel” (Gen. 4:2). The comment is almost made in passing. It seems, however, that Eve saw in Cain the failing hope that he was the promised Redeemer and because of this named her second son with purpose as well. Abel which means vanity, breath, fleeting, or emptiness seemed to be Eve’s reflection of the failing hope she had in Cain. This is telling.

Later in Gen. 4, after the defect of Cain, Eve exclaims at the birth of Seth, “God has appointed me another offspring (zera, cf. Gen. 3:15) in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” The close connections of seed, redeemer, inheritor, subjugator, etc. in the theological narrative here are simply too strong to overlook. Eve’s mind was not so soon removed from the promise, even in the light of Cain’s life. Her exclamation at the birth of Seth was proof. One wonders if the birth of a firstborn female to Adam and Eve would have evoked the same reaction.

Eve not only exclaims that she has acquired a man, but that she acquired “a man, with the help of the LORD.” And here we meet with a slight difficulty. Those dealing with the text at this point have two choices. The choice comes down to the meaning of the word transliterated ‘eth (אֶת). Here are the two choices with the disclaimer that I am no Hebrew scholar.

The first choice is to recognize ‘eth as a preposition. If the meaning of ‘eth is to be taken as a preposition then one must supply the phrase the help of since this actual phrase is not in the original and must be contextually implied. Therefore ‘eth would simply mean with at this point. The NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV, and NET take this route. The LXX takes this route as well.[5] It reads, “Εκτησάμην ἄνθρωπον διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ” (transliterated Ektesamen anthropon dia tou Theou). The use of the preposition dia + the Genitive tou Theou signifies the means by which this happened. It was through the Lord. The NET notes on this passage disclaim the second use below as “a fanciful suggestion [that] is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen. 3:15.”[6] The NET seems to reject a redemptive historical hermeneutic with regard to Gen. 3:15. Of course with all that has been said up to this point, I heartily disagree with the NET.

The second choice is to recognize ‘eth as an accusative marker. In other words, ‘eth is used to denote the direct object of the verb. If the meaning of ‘eth is to be taken as an accusative marker then the LORD must be the direct object of the verb qaniti (to get, acquire) and not the man, thus rendering an understanding of the verse, “I have gotten a man, the LORD.” It is interesting to note that ‘eth is used two more times in this verse. It is used in conjunction with two other nouns, namely, Eve (‘eth Chavvah) and Cain (‘eth Qayin). Adam knew (verb, yada) Eve (direct object, ‘eth Chavvah). And she birthed (verb, yalad) Cain (‘eth Qayin). In both instances ‘eth is not used as a preposition, but as an accusative marker indicating the direct object of the verb. It seems that the use of ‘eth as a preposition in reference to Eve and Cain would seem to render the sentence unintelligible.

The English translations mentioned above make a switch from using ‘eth as the accusative marker in relation to Eve and Cain to the use of ‘eth as a preposition in relation to Yahweh (‘eth Yhvh). Thus they render the direct object of the verb “acquired” (qaniti) to be “a man” (ish), with (‘eth) the help of the LORD (Yhvh). Again the words “the help of” are implied by translators to make the translation smooth since the Hebrew word help is not in the text.

Some weighty exegetes throughout history have made significant note of this use of ‘eth. The commentators that I interacted with who disagreed with the use of ‘eth as an accusative marker never seemed to disagree on the grounds of syntax, but on the grounds of the impossibility of Eve having any reference to the promise of Gen. 3:15. One commentator called such an exposition “too refined for the time.”[7] One must wonder, as mentioned above, how Abel received the information of his faith if the impossibility of Eve having any reference to the promise were true. How could the very one who received the promise have no reference to it, yet the son of her flesh who had yet to be born at the giving of the promise have faith in it? The question is rhetorical. Here are a few exegetes that affirm the use of ‘eth as an accusative marker and see its use operating within the analogia fidei.

Matthew Poole comments:

From the Lord; or, by or with the Lord, i.e. by virtue of his first blessing, Genesis 1:28, and special favour. Or, a man the Lord, as the words properly signify: q.d. God-man, or the Messias, hoping that this was the promised Seed.

John Trapp comments:

Ver. 1. I have gotten a man from the Lord. Or, that famous man, the Lord; as if she had brought forth the man Christ Jesus. These were words of hope not of substance {verba spei, non rei};

Matthew Henry comments:

Perhaps she thought that this was the promised seed. If so, she was wofully disappointed. Abel signifies vanity: when she thought she had the promised seed in Cain, whose name signifies possession, she was so taken up with him that another son was as vanity to her.

John Gill comments:

I have gotten a man from the Lord; as a gift and blessing from him, as children are; or by him, by his favour and good will; and through his blessing upon her, causing her to conceive and bear and bring forth a son: some render it, “I have gotten a man, the Lord” איש את יהוה “virum Dominum”, Fagius, Helvicus, Forster, Schindler, Luther, Pellican, Cocceius; “virum qui Jehovah est”, Schmidt. ; that promised seed that should break the serpents head; by which it would appear, that she took that seed to be a divine person, the true God, even Jehovah, that should become man; though she must have been ignorant of the mystery of his incarnation, or of his taking flesh of a virgin, since she conceived and bare Cain through her husband’s knowledge of her: however, having imbibed this notion, it is no wonder she should call him Cain, a possession or inheritance; since had this been the case, she had got a goodly one indeed: but in this she was sadly mistaken, he proved not only to be a mere man, but to be a very bad man: the Targum of Jonathan favours this sense, rendering the words,’I have gotten a man, the angel of the Lord.’

Gill’s comments are insightful. He see the fact that Eve had “imbibed this notion” of the promise in the naming of Cain. According to Gill, Cain’s very name was evidence that Eve hoped in the promise of Gen. 3:15. It would seem odd to name her son “a possession” or “inheritance” if there were not some theological milieu from which Cain’s name sprung forth from her mouth in jubilant exclamation.

John Owen, making an observation on Heb. 4:6 and the rest that still remains for the people of God, says:

Obs. 4. 3. Some promises of God, as to their full accomplishment, maybe confined unto some certain time and season, although they may have, and have, their use and benefit in all seasons; and until this is come there can be no failure charged, though they be not fulfilled. Thus was it with the great promise of the coming of Christ before mentioned. It was given out from the foundation of the world, Genesis 3:15, and in the counsel of God confined to a certain period of time, determined afterwards in the prophecies of Jacob, Daniel, Haggai, and otherwise. This all the saints of God were in expectation of from the first giving of the promise itself. Some think that Eve, upon the birth of Cain, — concerning whom she used these words, “I have obtained a man from the LORD,” which they contend should be rendered, “the man the LORD,” — did suppose and hope that the promise of the exhibiting of the blessing Seed was accomplished. And if they looked for him on the nativity of the first man that was born in the world, it is very probable that their hearts were frequently made sick, when their hopes were deferred for four thousand years. See Genesis 5:29; Genesis 49:18, compared with Luke 2:30, Exodus 4:13. And many a time, no doubt, they were ready to call the truth of the promise, and therein the faithfulness of God, into question. Great desires they had, and great expectations, which were frustrated. Hence our Savior tells his disciples, that “many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which they saw, and saw them not,” Matthew 13:17. They desired, hoped, prayed, that the promise might be fulfilled in their days; which yet it was not. Hence our apostle tells us that “these all died in faith, not having received the promise,” Hebrews 11:13; that is, not the accomplishment of it. Yet this their disappointment did not in the least shake the stability of the promise; for although it was not yet actually fulfilled, yet they had benefit from it, yea, life and salvation by it.[8]

Owen’s comments are helpful. Not only does he see a pattern of hope in the promise from the most primitive days on Earth, he also recognizes along with many other commentators that Eve, upon the birth of Cain, “looked for [the Redeemer] on the nativity of the first man that was born in the world.”

Owen also makes reference to Gen. 5:29 which shows Lamech looking for a Redeemer by naming his son Noah. This is a very similar pattern to the exclamation of Eve at the birth of Cain. It is interesting to compare the genealogy listed in Gen. 5 (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah) with the list of names mentioned in Heb. 11. Could this be a list intentionally selected by Moses to communicate a deep theological truth? It is interesting to note that Seth was not Adam’s only son, yet only Seth is mentioned by name in Gen. 5. It must be asked: why are the specific names mentioned there deliberately picked out of the story line of redemption by Moses when the text clearly says that every single man listed “had other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 30)? I believe it is because stock can be put in a name in the story line of redemption, as is evident with Adam, Cain, Seth, Noah, and our Lord (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:21, 23) to name a few. The very name Yahweh lends credence to this fact as well (cf. Gen. 1:1-2:3 and its use of Elohim and Gen. 2:4-25 and its use of Yahweh). Eve in naming her son Cain was no different. The parallel theological structure of Gen. 5 in comparison with Heb. 11 seems to be tracing a line of faith in the Redeemer to come.

The Firstborn Male

Something in passing must be asked and answered regarding the significance of the firstborn male at this point. Why were these godly men and women down through the ages naming their sons, and in some instances their firstborn son, with reference to the promise? Is it because they hoped in the promise? I believe so! “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13,39-40)

Ex. 13:2 gives clear command for the consecration of the firstborn in Israel. This consecration was directly connected to the law of the Passover (Ex. 12:3-11) signifying the salvation of God’s people. The consecration of the firstborn explicitly spelled out by there Moses seems to be based on the rudimentary theology of Gen. 3:15. It was not inconsistent with what was incipient in the promise of Gen. 3:15 and seemed to build upon it by father steps. It also pointed back to the promise of Gen. 3:15.  Simeon knew of this. He knew of the promised Redeemer, the Firstborn, and he hoped in Him. In Lk. 2:30 he saw this promised One, this true Firstborn Son, which all names and ceremonies foreshadowed and he held Him with his very arms. His eyes had seen the salvation of the Lord. With that said, Cain and Noah seem to be at least two pre-Mosaic examples of consecrated firstborn males. Their very names signify this. Their parents were hoping in the promise.

Further, could it be that the hope of rest promised by God in Gen. 2:1-3 (cf. Heb. 4:1-11) is never divorced from the idea of the consecration of the firstborn male to the LORD? This consecration carried on until the true Firstborn, the Seed of the woman, came into the world. Again, Simeon seemed to make this connection and rejoiced. The Redeemer was here. And upon His resurrection, the Firstborn rested from His works, works of redemption, subjugation, and serpent crushing, just as God did from His at creation (Heb. 4:9-10). The Firstborn delighted in His works. The Firstborn was satisfied in His works. The Firstborn was refreshed by His works.[9] What Eve had hoped for in the birth of Cain had finally come in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The Faith and Hope of Eve

I believe all of this to be significant evidence that Eve was a Christian. She hoped in the promised Redeemer to come. I believe her faith would have been operating from the same principle as the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Moses. It was faith in the promise. She believed a prior promise, and thought she had birthed it. Sadly, though, she did not birth a Redeemer. She birthed a destroyer. Everything from Gen. 3:15 points to a Redeemer, the One who would bring His posterity to glory, the very thing Adam failed to do. This was the faith and hope of Eve.

 

Deceived by subtle snares of hell,
Adam, our head, our father, fell;
When Satan, in the serpent hid,
Proposed the fruit that God forbid.

Death was the threat’ning: death began
To take possession of the man
His unborn race received the wound,
And heavy curses smote the ground.

But Satan found a worse reward;
Thus saith the vengeance of the Lord
“Let everlasting hatred be
Betwixt the woman’s seed and thee.

“The woman’s seed shall be my Son;
He shall destroy what thou hast done;
Shall break thy head, and only feel
Thy malice raging at his heel.”

He spake; and bid four thousand years
Roll on; at length his Son appears;
Angels with joy descend to earth,
And sing the young Redeemer’s birth.

Lo, by the sons of hell he dies;
But as he hung ‘twixt earth and skies,
He gave their prince a fatal blow,
And triumphed o’er the powers below.[10]

 

[1] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/romans-9.html

[2] Cf. Gen. 3:15 with Gen. 4:26. John Owen, in a sermon on Cain's first born son Enoch, comments, "The state of things at this time in the world was very evil and corrupt, as being far engaged into that condition which, not long after, came unto a universal apostasy, Gen. vi. 5, 11–13. In the days of Enos there had been some reformation attempted, as the children of God by profession had separated themselves from the profane and wicked posterity of Cain, Gen. iv. 26: but at this time the degenerate offspring of Seth, the generality of visible professors, began to mix themselves in society, have communication and practice wickedness with the profane, scoffing, apostate world; an account whereof is given, Gen. vi. 1–4. And as those days were full of sin, so were they full of danger, persecution, and oppression, unto all that feared God. This Enoch in his prophecy expresseth a sense of the “hard speeches,” — that is, revilings and reproaches, — that were cast upon God; that is, on his servants and his ways: and we do know that such things in a multitude of ungodly men, accompanied with power, do not use to go alone. And, besides, the whole earth was then filled with violence and oppression; wherein those who feared God had no doubt the greatest share in suffering." (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/owen/sermons.vi.xv.html)

[3] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/joc/hebrews-11.html

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.academic-bible.com/en/online-bibles/septuagint-lxx/read-the-bible-text/bibel/text/lesen/stelle/1/40001/49999/ch/98b041dc65b204e6fc0dc2ddca8c51df/

[6] https://net.bible.org/#!bible/Genesis+4

[7] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/genesis-4.html#1

[8] https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/joc/hebrews-4.html

[9] Ibid., See Owen's comments on Heb. 4:9-10.

[10] Isaac Watts, http://www.hymnary.org/text/deceived_by_subtle_snares_of_hell