Some Notes on Moses 5:16 et seq.

This past Sunday I taught GD lesson 5.  At the beginning of class I talked a little bit about going to see The Saratov Approach.  I was kind of surprised it made it all the way out here to Chicago.  When I went to see it, I was sort of assuming I would be the only one in the theater, but I was pleasantly surprised that a pretty good sized crowd was present.  Although I only recognized one guy, my Mo-dar was burning and I’m pretty sure the audience was at least 80% Mormon; maybe even 90%. Then I had two class members read the recent SL Tribune article about the new pilot program where missionaries do service for a couple of hours a day.  I thought this was not only way interesting but also important enough to read the whole thing (and I passed around to the class the great accompanying picture of those young missionaries wearing jeans and work clothes). Then it was on to the lesson itself.

The lesson was supposed to be on Cain and Enoch, and I knew there was no way I could cover both, so I picked Cain, which I thought was the more interesting story. I explained to the class that I printed out the reading assignment, and then I compared it with the KJV, underlining the additions made by the JST (deletions are actually quite rare in the JST; word changes or additions are far more common.) If you really want to study Moses, it seems to me you can’t do it effectively unless you can see clearly what has changed in the text from the KJV exemplar.

Now, this part I did not raise in class, but I will do so here.  When you make this careful comparison between the two texts, you sometimes can sort of see Joseph’s thought process in making the change.  For instance, in KJV Gen. 4:1 it says that Eve “conceived, and bare Cain,” while in the next verse it omits the “conceived” and simply says “and she again bare his brother Abel.”  The Moses parallel (5:17) has “and she again conceived and bare his brother Abel,” thus using both verbs for both sons.  Genesis 4:14 begins “Behold, thou has driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid….”  The word “face” is used in quick succession in two different ways; Moses 5:39 harmonizes the first with the second: “Behold, thou has driven me out this day from the face of the Lord; and from thy face shall I be hid….”

Now the big thing that is going on in Moses 5 is that the evil of Cain’s heart has been personified by Satan. When I first started reading this, I just sort of assumed that was Joseph’s answer to the age-old puzzle as to why the Lord accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. But if you look closely, there may have been a textual circumstance that motivated making Satan a key player in this drama. Look at KJV Gen. 4:7: “and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Do you notice anything unusual there? The antecedent to the singular masculine personal pronouns “his” and “him” is not a person, but rather “sin,” which is something that has a desire and that is to be ruled over.  Now, this may just be archaic English usage, but the effect is to personify sin, and so to bring Satan into the story is a way of really personifying sin, big time. Note the KJV italics in “shall be”; Joseph was suspicious of KJV italics and his revisions had a tendency to center on them.  His revised wording in Moses 5:23 is “And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire.  And thou shalt rule over him.”  What the KJV is trying to say is that sin desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.  But in Moses this becomes Cain literally ruling over Satan, which we see for instance in Moses 5:30: “And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands.” To me this was all fascinating (but again, not something I broached in class).

In Moses 5:16, after Eve conceived and bare Cain she says “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Two interesting things here.  First, “gotten” is a translation of the Hebrew verb qaniti “created,” which is an intentional word play on the name Cain (HEB qayin). Second, the word “from” is meant to be a rendering of HEB et, which is usually the direct object marker but can also be used as a preposition, as here, meaning basically “with.” Now, the sense  of “with” could be with the help of the Lord, but it could also be “along with” the Lord; in the latter case, Eve says “I have created a man just as the Lord did!” (And this is indeed the NET traranslation.) To me that’s powerful.  First, look at the sense of wonder and awe in Eve over this thing that has happened.  Second, this really drives home for us that this power of what we call procreation is a divine, creative gift; when we bring children into this world, we are being god-like in the process.

I noticed some interesting contrasting pairs that are easy to miss without an awareness of the underlying Hebrew. In Moses 5:16 it says “Adam knew Eve his wife,” and we talked about the occasional euphemistic usage of the verb “to know” for sexual relations.  That meaning is clear here, but there are other places where it is less clear and debated (such as the situation with Lot and the visitors in Sodom). But what does Cain say later in the verse? “Who is the Lord that I should know him?”  This is material added in the JST; it is not in KJV Genesis, but it was interesting to me that Cain rejects the idea of having any sort of an intimate relationship with the Lord (using that same verb), who in contrast with Satan does sort of come off here as the more distant. In Moses 5:20-21 we read how the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering, but unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect. “Now Satan knew this, and it pleased him.”  What’s interesting here is that the “to have respect” in Hebrew means literally to be pleased with, to look upon with pleasure.  So the Lord was pleased with Abel’s offering, but he was not pleased with Cain’s offering, and Satan was pleased by this turn of events. Another example is in Moses 5:21-23. Cain was very wroth (lit. “it burned with him”; he was hot with anger) and his countenance fell (IE his face fell; he became downcast). Then, in verse 23, the Lord says “if thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted.” The Hebrew word underlying “accepted” is shi’et, which literally means “uplifting,” which would be an exact reversal of Cain’s being “downcast.”

A couple of other notes that I found interesting: The name Abel, HEB hevel, means a breath, vapor, and so when you’re reading the story and you hear his name it foreshadows his brief life and his quick demise. And in Moses 5:23, when the text says sin lieth at the door, the word lieth is really imagery from an animal who is poised to pounce, and should be rendered something like “and sin is crouching at the door.” I asked who has a cat or dog (lots of hands), and pointed out that even though they are domesticated you can still see that hunting behavior in them, where they crouch and are ready to pounce.  That is the imagery used for sin here, and to me the point is much more powerful if we frame it that way.

So our entire lesson consisted of a (careful) reading of all of eight verses.  But that’s the way I like it; there is too much way cool stuff there that we miss when we try to speed read right through it. The scriptures are like a fine wine (not that I would know anything about that!), and we have to give them room to really breathe.


  1. Very nice Kevin! I think it’s great your class has a good model of close reading to follow.

  2. Great post, Kevin. I’d enjoy being in your class.

  3. Kevin, if you are scheduled to give Lesson #6, pay some attention to the article on page 10 in the February 2014 Ensign. Written without disclosing its author, and as if it was Noah speaking, it claims that Noah took 120 years to build the ark. Certainly it took a long time to cut, trim to fit and install that gopher wood. The ark was longer than a football field and easily as wide. It was three stories high. And I have no idea how Noah and his three sons made the ark water proof. But 120 years before the floods came, they had a years worth of food to gather in and preserve. This is a mind boggling task. And for some of this 120 years, Noah was preaching repentance to mankind and only one of his three sons had been born. So did the Ensign exaggerate this a bit? I’d say it did.

  4. Ugh, that “Old Testamanet Prophets” section again. Between this and the “Conference Notebook” it’s like someone invited someone from “The Friend” over to write for adults. Both should come with a warning that this is not scripture, should not be treated as such, and is strictly a rhetorical device made up by the author. Someone should also go and explain why all the conference talks and most of the articles have footnotes.

  5. J. Stapley says:

    Cool stuff, Kev.

  6. You’re a superstar, Kevin Barney. Thanks.

  7. Not sure I can resist the urge to note that this post is shi’et.

  8. Apparently not!

  9. “The scriptures are like a fine wine…and we have to give them room to really breathe.”

    This. And all of it really. Thank you.

  10. Kool. I like to use alter’s book with Moses and KJV too.

  11. Good stuff, Kevin… as always!

  12. When I taught this lesson I tried to bring out the fascinating arc between Adam and Eve’s first experience with adversity and loss (5:10-11) in mourning for Cain (5:26-27) and God’s mourning over the loss of His creation (7:28-36).

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