Archive for June 22nd, 2009
June 22 “If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not well, sin lies at the door. And to you shall be its desire, and yet you may rule over it.” Genesis 4:7
Desire – Friedrich Nietzsche was a godless man, but godless men may still see quite clearly the plight and fate of human beings without God. Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power is very much at the heart of Eve’s disobedience and Cain’s fratricide. In fact, if we are reflective, we will soon discover that the will to power is at the heart of our own sin, as it has always been since our first parents elected to make choices on the basis of their own evaluation. In Nietzsche’s view, human beings must relinquish choice based on pleasure. They must turn to choice based on the manifestation of power. The right choice is what gives me greater power. Genesis would call this teshuqah. In order to understand the essence of sinful behavior, we must understand teshuqah (desire). Nietzsche is correct. It’s not about pleasure. It’s about power.
Teshuqah occurs only three times in Scripture. The first occurrence is in the fateful verse of Genesis 3:16: “your teshuqah will be for your husband yet he shall rule over you.” Teshuqah is intimately connected to two things: Eve and the Fall. It does not apply to Adam and it is not part of the world before eating from the Tree.
The second occurrence follows shortly after the first, in this verse. Now teshuqah describes an almost human-like, ominous presence that wishes to capture its victim and rule over it. The third and final occurrence is in Song of Songs 7:4. In a love poem, the women says, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”
It’s important to notice that teshuqah is associated with the verb mashal, a verb that means “to rule,” but not with radah, another verb that means “to rule.” God commands Mankind to radah over the rest of creation, but mashal is the verb used of the “rule” of the sun and moon over the day and the night. What’s the difference? Perhaps the pictographs help us here. Radah is the picture of “what comes from the path to the highest.” Radah is a verb about transferred authority. When men and women exercise radah, they act as God’s regents. They act on His behalf and, consequently, become paths that lead to the highest. When you and I fulfill God’s command to be fruitful, multiply, subdue the earth and take dominion over it (stewardship), our actions point toward the One who grants us the ability to do this. The predominate use of radah bears this out. It is most often used in settings with kings. It is royal language, but indiscriminate royal language, attributed to kings who rule compassionately as well as to those who rule by force. Zobel notes that strictly speaking radah has no religious usage because God is never the subject or the object of this verb. However, when God appoints humankind to rule (radah) over other things, what is implied is ruling according to the pre-established order of the Creator. God grants Man royal status and expects Man to govern in a way that maintains the divine order.
The pictograph for mashal is “to control chaos that destroys.” God puts the sun and the moon in the heavens to serve the plan of the proper order of day and night, seasons and times. Authority is not transferred to the sun and moon. They simple act as the vehicles by which God orders creation. Mashal is used to describe circumstances where a hierarchy implies control (like a king over a country or God over His people). But the emphasis is less on the controlling agent than it is on control itself. In Genesis 4:7, mashal expresses sin’s desire to establish a hierarchy and Cain’s need to refuse that hierarchy. In other words, God tells Cain that the ominous presence wishes to replace his self-control with control of its own. Cain has the ability to prevent this from happening if he masters his present state of mind and does what he knows is right.
Cain and Eve share a common thread. They both want what they want. They both faced the choice of listening to the external voice of the Lord or following the way of their hearts. The will to power resident within each of them opens the way for choosing “what is right in my own eyes.” Cain follows the pathway of his mother. Just as she failed to listen, he fails to listen. Cain, whose name means “bartered” or “acquired,” makes a deal with the devil just as he tried to make a deal with God. And just like Eve, Cain will spend the rest of his life pursuing the way he was designed but now with ‘atsav. He will die attempting to acquire in a land that no longer responds to his efforts. The last we hear of Cain, he is “building” (a incomplete action) a city for his own protection rather than accepting the protection God’s grace offered him.
What it means to be human, and what it means to act as an animal, is determined by the use of power, the power that resides within me as a moral free agent. I must decide if I will use the power of my passion and creativity under God’s authority or under my own. If I decide to ignore God’s rightful claim on my life, then the natural hierarchy of authority granted by God is disrupted. I attempt to become my own source of power. In this respect, I try to become like the gods. It is always a question of power and authority. I may domesticate the power God has given me by submitting to His rule, or I may act as though I am my own source.
Topical Index: power, control, sin, hierarchy, radah, mashal, Genesis 4:7, teshuqah