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« Basics of Verbal Aspect: 5 of 5 by Constantine Campbell | Main | Word study on ekklesia ("church") — Monday with Mounce 15 »


I never knew that Cain was sacrificed by John Walton!

Good post! I've always found the Genesis text providing the account of the respective offerings of Cain and Abel to be less explicit and overt than we would like. I think for this reason people have struggled to import reasons for the one's being acceptable (that of Cain) and the other's unacceptable. It is perhaps anachronistic to read the absence or, conversely, the presence of blood back into the account (though please see my comment/question below). Though the text is not overly elaborate and giving, I think the case can be made for Abel's and Cain's respective offerings being made with proper and less than proper attitudes. That Abel offered the "fat portions" communicates that he was willing to part with and give his best to God. Cain's donation was perhaps just given in the spirit of an obligation to meet and/or fulfill.

But here's my pertinent comment or question. In Genesis 3, while Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves for themselves to cover their nakedness, God, in fact, provided them with the skins of animals as a covering. Once again, the text in Genesis is not explicit; it fails to provide any commentary or explanation. But this has not stopped expositors through the years from positing that blood was spilled to provide those animal skins. This is logically true, no doubt. The question, however, would be: Did the blood spilled by God in providing those skins serves as a covering/kafar/atonement for the sins of Adam and Eve? Genesis, for its part, is silent. Many commentators feel this is the reason why God, not satisfied with the fig leaf coverings, went out of His way to provide animal skins. The same expositors reason that blood had to be shed. Question: Do you believe this is why God provided the animal skins? And, secondly, given this precursor for the necessity of blood, do you think that this has led many expositors to differentiate between the respective offerings of Cain and Abel on the basis of the presence of blood or lack thereof?

If God's act in providing skins were doing something as important as establishing the basis for the sacrificial system, the failure to mention all of that would be inexplicable. We would have to read instructions, reasons, and function all into the silence of the text. This is hermeneutically questionable.

Thanks, Dr. Walton. But I am again confronted with some of my own nagging questions. If you'll allow me the same slack that God extended Abraham in Genesis 18 ("But if there are 50 ... 45 ... 40 righteous in those cities, you won't still destroy those cities, will you?"), I will pose them here, with your permission.

I cannot refute your assertion that if God were setting up the doctrine and practice of atonement by blood sacrifice, the silence in Genesis 3 would be somewhat puzzling. Yet, equally puzzling is God's provision of animal skins over and above Adam's and Eve's already having covered themselves with fig leaves. There had been no death until this point in Genesis. God's provision of skins would have necessitated the killing of animals (unless there's some method or process for removing the skins of animals without killing them that I'm unaware of). Why then would God kill animals/His own creation if not to provide a blood covering for the sins of our first parents? Why the extraneous detail about the animal skins otherwise? And can we really truly say that any details in the text are extraneous in the first place?

While there is no explicit record that God gave Adam and Eve instruction on the blood atonement, is it perhaps helpful to recall that the biblical author (Moses) is recording this for Israel's sake? Israel did not lack for elaborate, detailed instructions about atonement by blood sacrifice. Leviticus is rather detailed and lengthy. Is it not possible that Mosaic and Post-Mosaic Israelites would have wondered, if not questioned aloud, why the truth of Leviticus 17:11 was mandated of Israel, yet not necessary for anyone living before Sinai. How was it that our first parents were able to maintain their fellowship with God despite their sins? On the other hand, we say and believe that it is a timeless principle that "without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin." So, while there is no explicit revelation, implementation, inauguration of blood atonement in Genesis 3, can it not be possible that the detail of God's provision of the skins was recorded for our benefit?

Further, can we be so hasty as to exclude further revelation to the ancients and the patriarchs merely because the text is silent about it? For example, the laws concerning clean and unclean animals aren't given until Leviticus 11. Yet, meanwhile, Noah is told to take seven pairs of clean animals onto the ark in contrast to one pair of all the unclean animals. God must have had to fill Noah in on which animals were clean and which unclean. Otherwise, Noah would not have been able to obey God's directives. Israel which received this revelation would have had a very specific understanding of what the author of Genesis meant by clean and unclean animals.

In addition, when Abraham and Isaac make their way to Mount Moriah, Isaac, very poignantly, asks his father, "Where is the lamb ("seh") for the olah ("burnt offering")? Amazingly, that verse (Gen. 22:7) furnishes us with the very first occurrence of the word "seh." How can Isaac possibly have known to ask his father the whereabouts of the lamb/seh? How could he have known that the sacrifice of a "seh" was necessary? One can only assume that there was revelation given that exceeds what the reader has access to.

Moreover, Jesus himself said that Abraham rejoiced to see his day." I'm not going to pretend I can ever fully appreciate the extent of Abraham's knowledge of "Jesus' day," or what Jesus meant by that exactly. But perhaps the ancients/patriarchs knew a whole lot more than what we give them credit for.

All of this goes back to my earlier question. Why would God find it necessary to provide skins for Adam and Eve even after they had covered their nakedness with fig leaves? Why did God kill an animal when death had not heretofore ever occurred? It is hard to imagine this as an extraneous detail. And it is hard to imagine that it could have served any purpose other than allowing the reader (at least!) to know that blood was shed subsequent to the sins of Adam and Eve. This certainly fits with later biblical revelation. I can't imagine God doing it for any other reason. Was He concerned for fashion? I doubt it. Comfort? Do animal skins breathe better than fig leaves? I know I am being silly right now. But if not to shed blood, why else did God find it necessary to put the first animal(s) to death to provide a covering for Adam and Eve who had already covered themselves with fig leaves?

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