Billeder på siden

should have been connected with the negative alternative—namely, with the supposition of his evil-doing-that I should have been led to conclude à priori that something had fallen out before these last words. The following considerations will, I hope, convince most persons not only that is there a lacuna here, but that we may restore the words omitted, or their necessary tenor, with a very fair amount of probability.

In the first place, I would observe that, as Cain's murderous attack upon his brother is immediately connected with these words of the Almighty, and as there is nothing else to explain the deed which follows, it would be reasonable to conclude that the promise, which they involve, was addressed to Abel, and not to Cain. that supposition the case will be perfectly analogous to those of Esau and the brethren of Joseph, who formed plans for making away with their younger brothers respectively, in consequence of expectations interfering with the privileges of primogeniture (Gen. xxvii. 41; xxxvii. 18, sqq.). In the second place, a promise of this kind would convey to a younger son something not previously possessed by him, and which might therefore be considered as a reward to him and as a derogation to the first-born. But it would not have much force if it were intended only to confirm rights already existing, and necessarily taken for granted. The phrase in which the promise is contained is, mutatis mutandis, the same as that which proclaims the subjection of Eve to Adam. But there is no reason why it should not also express the degradation of an elder son from his hereditary privileges. Indeed, with regard to the most emphatic part of it, in bipa nas 'hattâh tim..shõl bố, thou shalt have dominion over him,' it is worthy of remark that the verb mâshal, used here, is the very word employed by Joseph's brethren, when they indignantly reject the inference to be drawn from his dream: A bivip-oș 'him mâshôl ti-m..shôl bânû, shalt thou actually have the dominion over us?' (Gen. xxxvii. 8). If therefore we had no evidence beyond that furnished by the latter part of our text, I should be convinced that in the passage, as it originally stood, the Almighty was introduced as addressing to Abel a promise, inconsistent with the birthright of Cain, and therefore serving as the suggestion and inducement for the fratricide which is described immediately after.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

A more accurate examination of the former part of the text will lead to the same conclusion. For it appears to me that the word ny s,'heth, which has given so much trouble to the commentators, is of itself sufficient to show that the birthright of Cain is referred to in this enigmatical and oracular sentence. If we turn to the passage in which the sin of Reuben is connected with


the loss of his birthright, we shall find this same word in an unmistakeable signification (Gen. xlix. 3):

[ocr errors]


jether s..'hêth w'-jether "hâz,

pa'haz..tâ kam-marm,'hal-tothar.

[ocr errors]


i. e., although thou, O Reuben, hast the pre-eminence in dignity and the pre-eminence in power, yet, as thou hast boiled over like water, be thou no longer pre-eminent.' I have followed Luther, Michaelis, Dathe, and others, in reading for 1, and have interpreted the word, with Gesenius, with a reference to water boiling and bubbling over. We have the same metaphor in the original force of the Greek xn and ßgis (see New Cratylus, pp. 412, 414); and the converse metaphor is involved in the Latin confuto, refuto. The prohibition in 'hal-tothar, nearly amounts to an abnegation, as in ch. xlix. 6. The word ng s..'hếth, which I have rendered 'dignity,' is properly the feminine form of the infinitive from N, to elevate, exalt.' Robertson (Clavis Pentateuchi, p. 252) is obviously right in his rendering of the word: eminentia, dignitas magna, nempe principatus primogenituræ proprius. Sic reddenda est hæc vox n, Gen. iv. 7. Ubi cum honorem, tum potestatem superiorem exprimit, qualis antiquissimis temporibus fuit primogenituræ prærogativa.' whole passage quoted above refers to the loss of Reuben's birthright: For he was the first born; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph' (1 Chron. v. 1). Now the words in Gen. iv. 7, are also addressed to an elder son; and the passage just quoted shows that the dignity of birthright might be forfeited by misconduct. What interpretation, therefore, of the question put to Cain would be more natural than this? If thou doest well, is there not, or hast thou not, the dignity or elevation of birthright?' And then the other alternative follows in a very just antithesis. For a signifies 'he couched or lay down like a quadruped;' and as in Gen. xlix. 9, it is opposed top me j..'qumenû, who shall rouse him up?" so here it forms a very good counterpart to y, the primary meaning of which is a lifting up' or 'exaltation.' It seems to me very probable that then at the end of non ought to be repeated before , and that we ought therefore to read ran ti-r..batz. So that the meaning of the words addressed to Cain is as follows: Dost thou not know that elevation (dignity, or primogeniture and its privileges)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

privileges) is dependent on thy doing well; and that if thou doest not well, thou art grovelling (πέπτωκας πτώμασιν χαμαιπετής) at the gate of sin?' This, I conceive, is quite sufficient as a declaration to the elder son of his forfeiture and degradation and if we compare this passage with ch. iii. 14-19, we shall see that the spirit of this antique style required that a corresponding announcement should be made to the younger brother. I have already shown that the next words must have been addressed to Abel, and I think that the following considerations will show that they were the conclusion of the promise vouchsafed to him.


In the New Testament we have the following references to Abel. The Epistle to the Hebrews states (xi. 4): πίστει πλείονα θυσίαν Αβελ παρὰ Κάϊν προσήνεγκε τῷ Θεῷ, δι' ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη εἶναι δίκαιος, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ δι' αὐτῆς ἀποθανὼν λake. And in Matthew's Gospel (xxiii. 35) we find the following expressions : πᾶν αἷμα δίκαιον ἐκχυνόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος Αβελ τοῦ δικαίου. From these passages, I think we may fairly infer that in the original text of the book of Genesis the Almighty declared to Abel that, having offered his sacrifice in faith, and as an atonement typical of the Messiah's mediatorial death, he was held to be righteous; and, as a corollary to the contrary declaration to Cain, that his brother's birthright was transferred to him. The following sentences, which I have derived from other parts of the book of Genesis, appear to me to contain the necessary sense of the words omitted in the text under consideration :

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Or in English characters: û-l..-Hevel 'hâmar; kî "hasîthâ 'hêth had-dâvar haz-zeh (Gen. xxii. 16), w..he'hemantâ bî, hinnêh 'he-hsh..vehâ lekâ tzedâqâh (xv. 7), vě-tih..jeh g..vir l..aˆh¥ kâ (xxvii. 29). That the force of this supplement may be more immediately obvious, I subjoin a literal version of the context, in which the interpolation is placed within brackets: And it came to pass after a lapse of time that Qain brought of the fruits of the ground a min hâh or gift to Jehovah: and Hevel, he also brought of the first-born of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah paid attention to Hevel and to his min hâh. But to Qain and his min hâh Jehovah paid no attention. And wrath was kindled in Qain and his countenance fell. Then said Jehovah to Qavn: 'Why is wrath kindled to thee?

And why has thy countenance fallen?

[ocr errors]

Is not dignity this, to do the deeds of the righteous?

If thou doest not well, at the door of sin thou art crouching.

[ocr errors][merged small]


"[And to Hevel he said :

'Since thou hast done this thing, and hast placed thy trust in Jehovah, Lo! I have counted thy faith as the meed of the righteous for thee; Lo! thou art lord and king in the room of thy first-born brother ;] His desire shall be thine, and thou shalt domineer o'er him.'


I venture to hope that, as far as internal evidence is admissible in such a case, the reasonableness of my suggestion will speak for itself. That such lacunæ in the Hebrew text are not uncommon, that they are indicated in the MSS., and recognized by the Masora, is well known. Thus, in the very next verse there are indications of a lacuna in many of the MSS., and, as Rosenmüller mentions, • ipsi Masoretharum nonnulli codicibus Hebraicis hanc notam adscripserunt: D'DE VYDN NPD (lacuna in medio versu). contra, et quidem plerique, monent lectorem NPDD N, nullam esse lacunam.' Now as I do not believe there is any necessity for the proposed addition of nilkâh has-sâdeh, let us go into the field,' in ver. 8, I am disposed to believe that the Masorethic note properly belonged to ver. 7, and its contradiction to ver. 8, after the note had got misplaced.


If any one object to the proposed addition, because, as Abel was killed, and did not supersede his brother, no transfer of birthright could have been promised to him, I will just say in passing- for a full examination of the point would carry us into dogmatic theology -that the privileges bestowed upon Abel, like those involved in the blessing conferred upon Jacob, were properly of a spiritual nature, and the Jews seem to have understood expressly that these prerogatives were unaffected by his death. Thus the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says twice that, though dead, Abel is still a preacher of faith in the atonement (xi. 4 : di' avtñs [Tñs Qvoias] ἀποθανὼν ἔτι λαλεῖ; xii. 24: αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ κρείττονα λαλοῦντι παρὰ τὸν "Αβελ).

b I have given a sort of hexameter cadence to the words of Jehovah which appear to be rhythmical in the original. The same has been done, I presume involuntarily, in the authorized version of Isa. i. 2, 3.







For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.'

FEW Few passages of the sacred writings, unconnected with any of the more important doctrines of religion, have given rise to a greater variety of opinion, or been the subject of more discussion than that above quoted. This may have arisen partly from the sentiment that it has been supposed to convey, and partly from the language in which it is delivered; while not a few, viewing it in the light of what they suppose the Apostle ought to have written, rather than in that of what he has actually written, have explained it more according to their own preconceived notions than according to any fair exegesis of his words.

Passing various less important or probable opinions entirely by, it may be remarked that the main difficulty of the passage lies in the word nuxóun, and that in explaining this word we have simply to determine between the conditional meaning 'I could wish, and the meaning of the past I wished.' In the former case we shall have to refer the sentiment to Paul the believer, in the latter to Saul, the persecutor of the followers of Christ; and hence it is obvious that if grammatical considerations do not absolutely require us to adopt one of these meanings to the exclusion of the other, we shall have facilities afforded us for coming to a decision by considerations arising from the fitness or unfitness of the sentiment in the circumstances under which it was uttered.

The most important argument urged in favour of the meaning 'I wished or prayed,' is unquestionably the assertion that it is not grammatical to render the simple imperfect by the meaning of the conditional. This argument has lately been brought forward by Professor Dunbar, who says, 'it is absurd to say with some critics

a In the Biblical Review for October, 1848.


« ForrigeFortsæt »