Video on the Genesis lifespans

This video discusses the long lifespans that are listed in the book of Genesis.  Some explanations are given as to why it is scientifically possible for people to have lived hundreds of years in Genesis while life is much shorter today.  See Genesis lifespans for the full text of this video.

Jacob the Deceiver

It is interesting that some people offer an excuse that they can’t come to church or they can’t be a Christian because they’re not good enough.  Obviously the goal of church and Christianity is to make people more holy and Christlike but there has never been a holiness requirement to get in the doors of a church.

Instead, the Bible is full of scoundrels whom God chooses to use for His purposes and in spite of their flaws.  Jacob is one of many of these less than perfect people.  From the time of his birth, it would appear that Jacob has been branded.  Even before his birth it was prophesied that he, the younger would be the greater of the brothers.

At his birth, Jacob came out second, holding onto his brother’s heel.  Thus he was named Jacob which means “he grasps the heel.”  But this name has a double meaning – grasping the heel is a Hebrew idiom for a deceiver.  Now you’ll certainly think that this is a very odd thing to mean deceiver but we actually have a very similar expression in English.  If someone is deceiving another person in a joking manner we might say that they’re “pulling someone’s leg.”  The English expression might even be derived from the Hebrew one but I couldn’t begin to tell you how the expression ever came to be.  For our purposes it’s important to note that Jacob is named as a deceiver at his birth and he will live up to that reputation.

There is a bit of family heritage of deception for Jacob to follow.  We don’t think of Abraham and Isaac as deceivers so much but they both played the same trick, and Abraham did it more than once.  Because they thought that powerful men might kill them in order to take their wives they lied and said that she was a sister instead.

In Genesis 27 Isaac is old and believes that he is about to die.  He calls his son Esau in and asks that he prepare his favorite meal and then he will bless Esau.  Rebekah overhears this and hurriedly puts a plan in motion that allows Jacob to steal the blessing.

Jacob has already obtained the birthright from Esau in a less deceptive manner.  In short, his brother sold it for a bowl of soup because he was hungry.  A birthright traditionally meant that the eldest son received a double portion of the inheritance at the passing away of his father.  So this wasn’t just a symbolic thing but it was a very substantial amount of money that was paid for a bowl of soup.

With the blessing however, Jacob intentionally deceives his father.  He wears his brother’s clothing in order to smell like him and covers his arms and neck with fur because his brother is a hairy man.  This wouldn’t work if Isaac’s eyesight wasn’t failing but it is enough to trick his father into blessing him instead of his brother Esau.

This isn’t the end of deception in Jacob’s life however.  Unfortunately for him he will be the victim of deception as well.  Deception runs in his family not only from his father and grandfather but also on his mother’s side.  Rebekah played her own role in the deception of her husband Isaac.  But her brother Laban was also a deceiver.

As Jacob reaches his mother’s home he meets Rachel and immediately falls in love.  He agrees to work for Laban for seven years to be allowed to marry Rachel.  On the wedding night however, Jacob is deceived and the marriage is consummated with Leah in the darkness of the night.

After seeing what has taken place, Laban tells Jacob that tradition is that the oldest daughter must be married first.  Whether that was an actual tradition or not, seven years time would have been an ample amount in order to warn Jacob of this.  Instead, Jacob must work another seven years for Rachel.  The only upside to this ordeal is that he is allowed to marry Rachel “on credit” so to speak and can marry her as soon as the bridal week is completed with Leah.

The deception continues after Jacob has paid his 14 years of service to Laban.  He works for another 6 years and during that time Laban changes his wages 10 times.  Finally it is time to leave Laban but Jacob is afraid of a direct confrontation with his father-in-law so he leaves without warning.  Genesis 31:20 describes the situation succinctly: Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away.

Still there is one final deception involving Laban.  Rachel took her father’s household gods when they left but didn’t tell Jacob this.  There’s no indication why she did this.  They could have been valuable or it may have been a way of getting revenge on her father for the way he treated Jacob.

When Laban catches up to Jacob, because he didn’t know that Rachel had taken the idols, he states that anyone who is found with them will be put to death.  Obviously he would not have made such a statement if he had not been deceived by Rachel and not told about her theft.  Rachel then deceives her father by sitting on the idols and telling him that she can’t get up because she is having her period.

Even though Jacob has been blessed by God and has been following Him in his life, he will have a life changing experience when he wrestles with God.  Then Jacob’s name is changed from deceiver to Israel which means “he struggles with God.”  Jacob is no longer the deceiver that he once was.  But that doesn’t mean that his children still haven’t learned his ways.

Jacob is the victim of one more deception and it is perhaps crueler than any other that he was the cause of or the victim of.  Because of the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers, they sold Joseph into slavery but led Jacob to believe that he had been killed by a wild animal.  They even brought back his infamous coat of many colors covered in blood.

Jacob’s life was surrounded by deception and he was a victim of it as often as he was the culprit.  He had a family heritage of deception and ultimately he paid the price by passing the deception onto his children who ultimately deceived him as well.

The Sacrifice of Isaac

Isaac was born to Abraham at a very old age.  Abraham was 100 years old at his birth while his wife Sarah was just a young 90 years old.  Isaac was the child that God had promised Abraham 25 years beforehand when he called him to leave the land of Ur and to go to a place that he would be shown.  God promised to make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and they would possess a tremendous amount of land.

Abraham’s positive response to God by picking up everything and going to a place he had never been didn’t mean that there weren’t bumps along the way.  After about ten years of waiting on the Lord, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands.  Sarah gave her maidservant Hagar to Abraham to conceive a child for her and Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old.

Another 13 years pass and God speaks to Abraham and essentially tells him that the time has arrived for Him to begin fulfilling the covenant.  While I believe most people would understand considering the circumstances, Abraham had jumped the gun by 14 years.  Even though Ishmael is not the son that God had promised, God promises to make him into a great nation as well.  But Isaac would be the son of promise and the covenant that God had made to Abraham would be fulfilled through him and not Ishmael.

This sets the stage for Genesis 22 where God speaks to Abraham and asks for a sacrifice to be made.  God doesn’t ask for just any sacrifice but he asks that Abraham sacrifice his only son.  There is an obvious parallel here between the sacrifice of Isaac and God sacrificing His only Son.  One can imagine the great difficulty Abraham must have had when he was asked to give up his only son.  But God the Father must have had the same difficulty in giving up His only Son.

One might try to argue that God knew what would happen to Jesus and the decision to sacrifice His Son was easier for this reason.  There was obviously no faith required on God’s part.  But this also meant that God sent His Son into the world knowing exactly what Jesus would endure in life and in death.

While Abraham was certainly ready to sacrifice his son, he also expected to receive him back from the dead.  Abraham’s faith had grown since the time that he and Sarah had taken matters into their own hands and Ishmael was born.  Abraham knew that God’s promise was fulfilled through Isaac and that even if Isaac was sacrificed he couldn’t remain dead because there was a covenant between him and God.

Hebrews 11:17-19 tells of Abraham’s faith:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Abraham is told to go to the region of Moriah and he will make an offering on a mountain that God will show him.  As one may expect, this area is not a random selection by God but rather a very important place.  Mt. Moriah is one of several mounts that make up, or rather will make up after Abraham’s time, the city of Jerusalem.  So Abraham is instructed to travel to the site where Jerusalem will be in order to make the sacrifice.

But there is more significance than this.  Mt. Moriah is also where Solomon’s temple will be located and the sacrifices for sin would be performed.  It will be the location of the holy of holies, the most sacred part of the temple where the Ark of the Covenant resides and the presence of God Himself will be.

Through no coincidence I am sure, Mt. Moriah is also likely to be the place that Jesus hung on the cross.  You might wonder how that could possibly be if the temple was there but there are two very easy ways that this could be the case.  The first is that Solomon’s temple was destroyed.  Where Herod’s temple was built centuries later was not necessarily the exact same spot where Solomon’s temple had been.  The other easy explanation would be that while the temple was big, so are mountains and the temple and the spot of the crucifixion could have been on the same mount.  Realistically though, it is more likely that Herod’s temple was not in the same location as Solomon’s.

When the time comes for the sacrifice Isaac asks where the lamb for the sacrifice was.  I can only imagine that Abraham had to look away with tears in his eyes when he told his son that God would provide the sacrifice.  Of course Abraham is prevented from actually sacrificing his son and God provides a ram to sacrifice in place of Isaac.

If Mt. Moriah is where Jesus would also hang on the cross, then Genesis 22:14 provides a bit of prophetic foreshadowing.  So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Quite literally on that mountain it was provided, Jesus being the once for all sacrifice.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son as an offering to God but instead a ram was provided as a substitute.  While Solomon’s temple stood on Mt. Moriah sacrifices were made year after year as an atonement for sin, in order to cover up the sins of the people.  And then finally Jesus was provided as the once for all sacrifice for sin.  No more sacrifices were needed.  The blood of Jesus didn’t just cover up sin like the previous sacrifices did.  Instead it washed it away completely.  God provided it all on Mt. Moriah.

Promises to the Patriarchs

The intent of this writing is not to discuss the life and major events of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but rather to track the promises, blessings, and covenants that were made with the three patriarchs.

Out of all the people on earth, God chose to bless Abraham and his descendants.  Unlike in Noah’s day where Noah was apparently the only righteous person left, there is nothing spectacular about Abraham.  We can assume that he worshipped the Lord before God spoke to Him but he is not the only follower of God at the time.  God may have chosen Abraham because he was a man of great faith or there may be some other reason that Abraham is chosen.  The truth is that we don’t really know why Abraham was chosen by God as opposed to anyone else.  What we do know is that Abraham responded to God’s calling.

In Genesis 12, God calls Abraham to leave his country and family and to go to a place that God will show him.  At that time God makes several promises to Abraham which are found in Genesis 12:2-3:

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

After Abraham picks up his possessions and his family and goes, God makes another promise as they arrive near Shechem in Canaan.  Genesis 12:7 says, “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Of course there is a small problem with God’s promises because Abraham is 75 years old, his wife is ten years younger at 65, and they have no children.  If Abraham had any doubts about God’s plan early on, they aren’t stated.

In Genesis 13 Abraham and his nephew Lot decide that they can’t stay in the same place because their herds are too large.  Lot moves to the lush land to the east.  After they part ways, God speaks to Abraham again and expands upon the original promise that he was given.  Genesis 13:14-17 says:

14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”

Genesis 15 moves from simple promises of God to an actual covenant.  We can trust God to keep His promises but in Genesis 15 a covenant is made which would be the equivalent of a contract today.  This is a guarantee that what God has promised will be fulfilled.

Genesis 15 is the first time that the elephant in the room issue of offspring is addressed.  God promises Abraham that the promises will be passed on to his own flesh and blood and that the inheritance would not just go to a trusted servant as Abraham had apparently believed.  Genesis 15:6 is one of the more important verses of the Bible in that it explains the simplicity of faith to us.

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

In short, God said it, Abraham believed it, and that faith was rewarded.  This chapter doesn’t just address the issue of offspring however.  It once again renews the promise of land.  This is where God makes a covenant with Abraham and the promise of land is expanded.  Genesis 15 ends with verses 18-21.

On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—  the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,  Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”

If you look carefully, this land stretches down to Egypt and over to the Euphrates river in modern day Iraq.  The nation of Israel has never occupied all of this land.  There are three things that we can do with this promise then.  The first would be to dismiss it; God got it wrong and Israel just never became as great as was promised.

The second option is to spiritualize it.  There are many who believe that God is through working with Israel because they rejected their Messiah.  Therefore all of the promises that were given to Israel are being fulfilled or will be fulfilled within the church.  I personally believe that there are some problems with this view but that is a whole other topic.

The third option is to maintain that this is a literal promise that has yet to be fulfilled.  It’s much easier to see this being fulfilled since 1948 when Israel became a nation again.  If I had to guess, this won’t be fulfilled literally until the Millennial Kingdom but I could be wrong.  In the 1930’s or even the early 1940’s I’m sure that no one saw a way in which Israel would become a nation again so anything could happen.  Just know that this covenant has not been completely fulfilled if you take it literally.

Genesis 17 has another covenant given.  The covenant of circumcision is instituted.  God’s promise is expanded once again when Abram and Sarai are given new names, Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham is told that nations would come from him as well as kings.  He is also told that the covenant would be an everlasting covenant and his possession of the land would be an everlasting one.

Genesis 17 also tells us that God will bless Ishmael even though he is not the child that God had promised Abraham.  He and Sarah would yet have their own son at their old age.  Ishmael would be made great and would be blessed but God’s covenant would be with Isaac who would be born within a year.

In Genesis 22 Abraham is tested and called upon to sacrifice his son Isaac.  God spares Isaac and blesses Abraham once again by saying that his descendants would capture the cities of their enemies and that all nations on earth will be blessed through his offspring.  Originally God told Abraham that all people would be blessed through him, now they will be blessed through his offspring.  There is a present day blessing that surrounds Abraham and his descendants but ultimately this is a prophecy that Jesus would be a descendant of Abraham.

Not much is said about Isaac.  Only a few chapters of Genesis focus on him compared to Abraham and Jacob.  God renews His covenant with Isaac in Genesis 26 while there is a famine in the land and Isaac contemplated leaving for Egypt.  Instead God tells him to remain in the land where he will be blessed.

Isaac has two sons, Jacob and Esau.  God says that there are two great nations within Rebekah’s womb but one would be greater than the other.  It is Jacob who would be the greater nation.  We know that he bought the birthright from his brother Esau for a bowl of soup and that he deceitfully stole his father’s blessing.  More importantly though, Jacob is the one whom God will bless and to whom the covenant will be passed on.

Jacob must flee from his brother’s wrath over the stolen blessing and as he does so, God speaks to him in a dream at Bethel.  Genesis 28:13-15 records God’s words to Jacob.

13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

God is with Jacob over the next 20 years as he marries Leah and Rachel and fathers 11 of his 12 sons in that time.  After Jacob leaves Laban to return to his homeland he receives word that his brother Esau is coming to meet him.  Fearing the worst he sends his family away and cries out to the Lord for help.  Genesis 32 doesn’t record another confirmation of God’s covenant but is still significant because Jacob wrestles with God on that night.  Jacob will not let go until he is blessed.  His blessing was a new name.  Instead of being called Jacob, he would be called Israel which means “he struggles with God.”

Finally in Genesis 35, God speaks to Jacob once again at Bethel and blesses him and reconfirms the covenant one more time.  Assuming that this is written chronologically this last blessing is important because Genesis 35 also tells of Israel’s final son Benjamin being born.  But with joy also comes sorrow because Rachel dies while giving birth.  Israel’s family is now complete but at the cost of beloved wife.

The chapter then closes with the death of Isaac.  While Isaac thought that he was dying many years before as he called his sons to him, he has hung on for at least another 20 years.  But finally at the age of 180 he dies.  Thus the blessings and covenant are officially passed on to Israel where they will be fulfilled in his twelve sons.

Who or What are the Nephilim?

The story of the Nephilim is one of the more bizarre stories in the Bible.  If you enjoy stories such as Greek mythology you’re probably a fan of this story as I am.  The difference is that the story of the Nephilim is a true story unlike the stories of mythology.  The issue is what the story actually means and how literally should we interpret it.

In Genesis 6 we’re given an account of how wicked the world had become by the time of Noah.  In Genesis 6:1-3 we’re told that the earth is wicked and that God had numbered the days of humanity at 120 years.  But why were they considered so wicked?  We’re only given a few clues.

“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.  Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’”

The problem appears to be that the sons of God are intermarrying with the daughters of men.  But who are these two parties?  There are two commonly given answers.  The first is that the sons of God are those who are following God while the daughters of men are the pagans who have rejected God.  This is an intermarrying of faiths or what we might call being unequally yoked.  It is an understandable problem and one can see how the sons of God would be led away from God through this intermarrying.

The other possibility is that the sons of God are not human but rather angels who are fallen.  This is a problem on a whole other level than just an intermarrying of faith.  If this is taking place, women would be giving birth to essentially demonic children.  It is the kind of story that serves as the main plotline for a horror movie.

Some will immediately dismiss the notion of fallen angels marrying humans as absurd or impossible.  Some point to Matthew 22:30 that angels don’t marry.  Jesus said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”  Some have mistakenly taken this verse to mean that angels are neuter in gender and/or that they can’t marry.  Jesus never said that angels can’t marry, only that they don’t marry.  There is apparently no need for marriage in heaven.

But if these are indeed fallen angels, they wouldn’t follow the rules of heaven.  Likewise, while there is no need for marriage in heaven, these angels would be here on earth.  So as they interact with humans they would take part in human activities, marriage being one.

It is at least theoretically possible that these are fallen angels that are called the sons of God.  Or they are religious followers of God on earth.  The next verse gives us reason why we should believe one or another.

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

The Nephilim are the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men.  If these are simply human offspring, they are particularly wicked as a product of their parents.  There have always been mixed marriages of the religious and non-religious, so this must be a special construct that is particularly wicked if the offspring are worthy of their own separate classification.

The biggest hang up with this theory of the Nephilim is why this offspring are the heroes of old, the men of renown.  This would seem to imply that there is something physically special and impressive about these offspring and there is no reason to reach this conclusion if these are just the product of a godly parent and an ungodly one.

On the other hand, if they are the offspring of an angel and a human, it makes good sense why they would have impressive physical qualities as well as requiring their own classification.  But is this just pure speculation?  In Greek mythology there are similar tales of gods having children to earthly women and it is possible that this is the true source of such myths.  Stories of demigods would have some slight basis in reality if that were the case.

There is more reason to believe this rather than just the fact that it is similar to some mythology.  In 1 Peter 3 there is a very odd allusion to the story of Noah.  Verses 19-20 state   After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.

Jesus is making a proclamation to imprisoned spirits from the days of Noah.  It does not say that these spirits are angels here.  It is possible that these are the spirits of the wicked specifically from Noah’s day, but why single out those from all of the wicked in history through Jesus’ day?  2 Peter gives us a better indication that these just might be angels to whom Jesus is making a proclamation.

2 Peter 2:4

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment;

We know that Satan took a third of heaven’s angels with him when he fell.  We also know that there are still fallen angels, we refer them commonly as demons, in the world today.  So the angels who sinned and have already been punished can’t be just a reference to those who rebelled alongside of Satan.  They must have done something so heinous that God sent them to hell before the rest of the demons.

Now we’re onto something.  I can’t be sure, so this still amounts to little more than reasoned speculation, but I believe that the Nephilim are the half-demon offspring of fallen angels.  It feels absurd and a bit scary as well, but no more than the reality that demons are real and influence our world today.  There are a group of angels that did something so terrible that God locked them away before the rest of the demons.  I believe that marrying humans and having children with them would certainly meet those criteria.

Although it feels more logical that the sons of God are just followers of God who are led astray by pagans, I don’t believe that this is the logical conclusion that we can reach based on what we’re told in Genesis 6.  This story is one right out of the pages of mythology and it seems absolutely incredible.  But on the other hand, so does the story of the world being so evil that God had to destroy it with a flood and we have no problem believing that.  So just maybe the Nephilim are something that seems too crazy to exist but actually did.

Why did people live so long in Genesis?

When you look at the life spans that are recorded in the book of Genesis it is easy to dismiss them as something that is an exaggeration or otherwise unbelievable.  In short, no one lives nearly that long today with all of our medical knowledge.  So why should we believe the biblical account that tells of tremendously long life spans?

For starters, the incredible life spans pretty much end after the flood.  We can’t know for sure how much the world physically changed as a result of the flood.  I’m not talking about just damage that was done as a result of floodwaters but physical properties of the earth that may have been different from today.  We simply can’t know how things were changed but we can speculate based on what the Bible tells us and some of what science is telling us as well.

Odds are good that the supernaturally long life spans are a result of a combination of many things.  So, what are the things that could have contributed to an exceptionally long life?  The first is that God is supernaturally expanding people’s life spans.  God keeps people alive longer so that they populate the earth.  With a normal life span and normal child bearing years, Eve may have been able to have between 20-40 kids.  I give that big range because Eve would have been an adult at creation and could have immediately started bearing children.  But of course perhaps she also starts aging like an adult from the beginning in which case when she would be 20 years old, perhaps she has the physical body of a 35-40 year old.  Whatever the case may be, even on the high end things with 40 children, it will be several generations before there is a sizable population on earth.  Can God wait out the natural process for the earth to be populated?  Of course.  But it is quite possible that God grants long lives in the beginning for the purpose of speeding up the population of earth.

The second possible explanation for long lives is genetics.  In short, there is a longevity gene.  Noah is the last to have it before it is lost with the flood.  He passes it on to his children, but they only receive half of the benefits because they don’t receive it from their mother.  Their half gene is then passed on to their children who only have one quarter of the benefits as Noah.  This would explain why the ages rapidly decrease and at a rate that is essentially halving every generation.  If you look at the generations following Noah, they are roughly half of Noah and then half again the following generation.

The third explanation is the environment before the flood.  Going back to the second day of creation, we should note what takes place.

Genesis 1:6-8

 And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so.  God called the expanse “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

We know that the air contains moisture and that clouds are a collection of water in tiny droplets but this appears to be more.  At creation, the earth is more like a tropical rain forest that does not need rain because of the canopy of water overhead.  Genesis 2:4-6 gives more indication as to what all of this looked like.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-  and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.

There was no rain and the earth essentially took care of itself because of the streams that sprung up and the moisture in the air.  The thick atmosphere served as protection from the sun and numerous harmful things like radiation which we know about now.  There is no telling what kinds of diseases did not exist because it could not live in such an environment.  Obviously fewer diseases mean fewer things to die from.

There is one more likely difference that contributed to long lives and that is atmospheric pressure.  The water in the air weighs more than simple oxygen and thus creates more pressure.  Scientists have researched this and believe that the atmospheric pressure was possibly double what it currently is.  Now I couldn’t begin to tell you how that is a benefit aside from the fact that it apparently is.  If you’re interested, there are all kinds of research into how greater atmospheric pressure my help the body heal.  Hyperbaric chambers are designed specifically to increase the pressure around the body which helps with oxygen in the bloodstream.  Football players have started using these in their homes to recover from injuries.  The medical community is using them for everything from treating burns, to carbon monoxide poisoning, to healing crush injuries.  There are also studies being conducting regarding the use of hyperbaric chambers for the treatment of autism and even certain types of hearing loss.  In other words, the world before the flood could have been an environment that allowed the body to heal itself much better than today.  If the body is capable of healing itself better, longer life spans would naturally follow.

As a man of faith I don’t have a problem just believing the ages given in the Bible as truth.  The Bible is full of miraculous events so I don’t have any difficulty accepting supernaturally long life spans.  But I also believe that God uses natural phenomenon to accomplish incredible things as well and there are some natural things that could have been different about the ancient world that would have led to much longer lives.  Whatever the case may be, the incredible life spans drop off after the flood so that by the time of Abraham people were living roughly as long as we do today.  God may have still blessed people with long lives but it was a matter of 110 or 120 years which isn’t unbelievable compared to the 7,8, or 900 years before.

Cain and Abel: A Lesson in Worship

The story of Cain and Abel is one of the more tragic stories of the Bible because Abel’s death seems so needless.  The story is more than just an intense sibling rivalry however.  To view it as just a matter of jealousy or the first murder in the Bible is really missing the point.

The story of Cain and Abel is in Genesis 4, immediately following the fall of man.  One way of looking at this story is to see how quickly sin grows and escalates.  Yeast is used in the Bible as a picture of sin because of the way it grows and this is definitely what Genesis 4 shows.  Even though a number of years pass for Cain and Abel to be born and grow into men, the narrative of Genesis goes from a relatively innocent sin of eating forbidden fruit to murder in the following chapter.

The real story of Cain and Abel is a matter of worship however.  And it is a very important matter that I believe the church doesn’t always get.  Take a look at verses 2-4 of Genesis 4.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.

If this were the first time you read this passage, you might not think that there was anything wrong here.  Cain and Abel both brought an offering to the Lord in accordance with their occupation.  But there are two things wrong with Cain’s sacrifice.

We’re not told in Genesis 4 why Cain’s sacrifice is wrong, but we know elsewhere in the Bible that sacrifices involve the shedding of blood.  This may seem barbaric to our modern sensibilities but all of the blood sacrifices pointed to the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross.  It is reasonable to believe that Cain and Abel both knew that an acceptable sacrifice was a blood sacrifice because this is the sacrifice that was established in Genesis 3 after the fall of man.

Adam and Eve’s fig leaves did not cover their spiritual nakedness even though it may have physically covered their bodies.  God had to provide the skin of an animal to cover them which meant that blood had to be shed to cover their nakedness.  Cain and Abel would have known this story and it is likely that all sacrifices were to involve the shedding of blood.  So that being the case, Cain’s sacrifice is not acceptable to God.

We often like to tell God how we’re going to worship Him rather than listen to how He demands to worship.  It’s not an audible thing but in our actions and attitudes we tell God that we’re not getting up too early to worship, because Sunday is our only day off.  Or maybe we declare that we can only give a certain amount of money because money is tight and bills are due and God understands.  Or maybe we tell God that we aren’t going to attend a church that sings boring hymns or we aren’t going to attend a radical one where people raise their hands.  We often tell God how we will and won’t worship Him rather than seeking out how He desires to be worshipped.

There is another thing that makes Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable however.  It is subtle but the text tells us that Cain gave some of the fruits of the soil.  Later on God established a sacrifice known as firstfruits but this is not the case here.  This isn’t the first of Cain’s harvest.  It’s not said or even implied that it’s the best of the harvest.  It’s probably the leftovers.  It’s probably whatever would have otherwise gone to waste anyway.  It is just some fruit.

Now compare that sacrifice to Abel’s.  Abel did bring the firstborn of his flock and it is the best portions, the fat portions.  It isn’t a sickly animal that he had no use for, instead it is the best that he had.

Attitude matters as much as what we give.  Paul tells us to be cheerful givers.  I believe in a ten percent tithe and I believe that God blesses those who do so.  But people should give to the Lord because they want to do so and not because I instructed them to do so.  If you give ten percent to church because you feel obligated to do so, you’re not going to be blessed as if you gave it freely.

So God confronts Cain about his sacrifice.  Picking up in the middle of verse 4 it says:

The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

It is implied here that Cain has done wrong with his sacrifice.  His sacrifice is not acceptable and he knew it.  As I already said, I think that Cain knew that the physical substance of the sacrifice was not what God wanted but I also believe that the attitude towards the sacrifice is not one of thanksgiving.  It is a begrudging sacrifice that is probably just given out of a sense of duty.

The story ends unhappily.  Cain kills his brother Abel.  There is probably jealousy involved and there is undoubtedly anger as well.  Cain has no reason to be angry with his brother because Abel gave a proper sacrifice.  God didn’t play favorites with Abel so there is no reason to be jealous.  If Cain had done as he should have done, he would have been accepted by God as well.  But he didn’t and he is cursed and given a mark so that no one kills him.

I’ll very briefly address two areas of controversy in this passage before I close.  We have no idea what this mark is.  Some people have said that God made Cain black as his mark and therefore dark skinned people are descendents of Cain.  I’ll just say that there is no reason to conclude that based on this passage.  It would in some way explain the hardships that dark skinned people have endured if they were in fact cursed but that would also somehow excuse the atrocities that they have suffered at the hands of light skinned people as we would say they somehow deserved it.  So, I think that to say Cain’s mark is one of skin color is a dangerous assumption that shouldn’t be made.

The other question that people like to ask is “where did Cain get his wife?”  Of course the question is valid for all of the early generations that are descended from Adam and Eve.  We are only told of three children that Adam and Eve had but they undoubtedly had many.  Given their supernaturally long lifespans, God may very well have extended Eve’s child bearing years and it is at least possible that she had hundreds of children.  That’s purely speculation on my part.  And of course those children would have children and could have started to do so as soon as puberty began.  Mathematically there could be a sizeable population in a short number of years.

Genetics is the real issue though.  It is immoral, illegal, and disgusting to have sex with a relative today.  But in Cain’s day it was a different culture and we see this even later on in Genesis.  More importantly though, there is a reason why relatives can’t have children with one another today.  Our genetics are too similar and birth defects are likely.  Adam and Eve carried the genetics for the entire human race however.  One child may be born with blond hair and blue eyes while the next may have a dark complexion with dark hair and brown eyes and the third child may have a fair complexion with red hair and green eyes.  Adam and Eve’s children would have been genetically diverse unlike our children today.  So even though the thought of marrying a sister or cousin makes us cringe today, it wasn’t immoral then and there wouldn’t have been the harm that we have today.