Posts Tagged With: proverb

Masters

shackles     “No gods, no masters.” ― Margaret Sanger

 

In my last post, A Parable, we investigated the Hebrew word mashal found in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 translated as rule and master. We discovered that mashal is also the Hebrew word for a parable or proverb and how maxims actually do have dominion and power for those that have ears to hear. In today’s post, I hope to take us a little deeper into this correlation.

In Chavah’s encounter with the serpent, she found the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil to be three things:

  1. Good for food.
  2. A delight to her eyes.
  3. Desirable to make one wise.

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:6)

Why did Chavah consider something that YHWH said not to eat, “good for food?” Does she believe that YHWH is withholding something from her? Apparently, YHWH isn’t completely trustworthy in the eyes of Eve after her encounter with the serpent.

So, why did Chavah trust a walking[1], talking snake? Isn’t a serpent a created beast? As a beast, the serpent knows only what an animal is created to do. His dialogue with Chavah reveals the spirit of a beast, not a man. Anything an animal desires to do is a God given instinct. By pursuing these urges, the beast is actually being obedient to the Creator.

What are these desires? Beasts are “ruled” by the impulse to eat, sleep, procreate, and expand their territory.[2] These inborn urges drive the soul of an animal. If they see something they “desire,” they are never in disobedience by working to fulfill this want. These appetites ensure that these creatures are fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Therefore, an animal’s teshukah[3] (desire) is its master by the design of the Creator.

Humans and animals both have a nephesh, or a soul. Therefore, we also have appetites corresponding to an animal or beast. This part of our human nature is not evil in and of itself. The Creator made mankind this way and called it very good! Without these appetites and passions, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish our primary mandate as humans: to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.

However, unlike the beasts, we are NOT to allow ourselves to be ruled by these appetites and desires. Instead, with YHWH’s help, we are meant to master them. A human created in the image of Elohim masters his flesh or nephesh. This can only be accomplished by living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of Elohim (God).[4] Why? Because without the Word, we are ruled by the appetites of our nephesh and are no different than a beast of the field.

If our nephesh controls our actions, are we not our own masters? Isn’t that the real temptation the serpent presents to Chavah (Eve)? By allowing the nephesh to rule, one becomes like Elohim knowing good and evil and doing what is right in their own eyes. This is pure idolatry; with self being the idol.

This is the precise problem with the second and third observations Eve had of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.(Gen. 3:6 KJV)

The Hebrew word for pleasant is ta’avah; it means to long for, desire, lust, or delight. Its root word, avah, is defined as to wish for, desire, and covet. This is the same word used in the second set of the Ten Commandments for “You shall not covet…”[5] This is not surprising; since, it is usually one’s eyes that first longs for (covets) something that isn’t his to have. This is the purpose of YHWH commanding one to wear visual reminders of His commandments.[6] One cannot trust their eyes to remain faithful.

Not by coincidence, the Hebrew word for “desired” above is chamad. While it does mean delight, desirable, and even beloved; it also means to covet. It is the Hebrew word used in the first set of the Ten Commandments where it says, “You shall not covet…”[7] What exactly was it that Chavah coveted?

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)

Chavah could be her own master. She would decide what was good and evil in her own eyes and, in effect, be a better ezer kenegdo to Adam. Margaret Sanger[8] captured this human dilemma in parabolic form with her infamous words, “No gods, no masters.” She was certain that the only “master” of a woman’s body was the woman herself. In other words, Margaret’s desire was to do what seemed right in her own eyes. She was her own master or god knowing good and evil. Sadly, this is the battle of all men and women. Who shall rule us?

By listening to the walking, talking serpent or nephesh, Chavah began to have more trust not necessarily in the serpent, but in herself. This is the ultimate deception of the serpent. He is a beast perfectly designed to be ruled by instinct or nephesh. Chavah is meant to be ruled by the Word of God. So, what happened with Adam in this story?

Unlike Chavah, Adam was NOT deceived.

…and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:16b)

The Hebrew word for with is eem. It can mean with, by, or beside. The Hebrew allows one interpretation: Adam watched this whole debacle unfold and never protested the obvious (to him) deception of his wife. Why was Adam silent? Did he trust his ezer kenegdo to a fault? Or did he realize, as Dr. Moen suggests,[9] that he had an impossible choice to make:

  1. Eve, the only perfect one; made just for me. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.
  2. Elohim. YHWH. Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Regardless of why Adam remained silent, his sin was exactly the same as Chavah’s. He chose his own desires and passions instead of YHWH. In other words, Adam was mastered by his nephesh just as Eve was. The difference, I believe, is that Chavah didn’t realize (at first) what was happening, but Adam did. He was not deceived. He chose Chavah, the very delight to his eyes.

Essentially, both Chavah and Adam became their own masters. Their sin was idolatry. I don’t think we realize that this is what we are doing when choose to do what we want to do or not do. We usurp the highest authority in the Universe when we decide what is good and evil. Only YHWH has the right and authority to make these distinctions. We don’t have to understand his sovereign commandments. We simply are to obey them.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die!” (Gen. 3:4)

When we become our own god, we bring curses and death upon ourselves. Sure, the consequence may not be immediate. Adam and Chavah didn’t die… right away. This delay can only be the mercy and grace of YHWH. Sadly, when we are disobedient and nothing “bad” seems to happen, we believe the lie of the serpent and smugly think to ourselves that our DESIRE doesn’t lead to death or destruction either.

Ironically, the very thing a person ruled by their nephesh desires, to be their own master, is the very thing that enslaves them to sin and death. Meditate on that for a while…

So, what’s the parable or moral found in this story? How does this connect the two accounts in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7? What is the Creator teaching with the teshukah and mashal in Chavah and Cain’s predicaments? I hope to answer that in my next post, Slaves.


[1] I’m assuming he could walk since his curse after deceiving Chavah (Eve) would be that he would have to crawl on the ground from that point forward. Naturally, the inference is that before this encounter, he did not crawl on his belly.

[2] Dr. Hollisa Alewine, in her workbook The Scarlet Harlot, speaks to this dichotomy between the nephesh and the man made in the image of Adonai.

[3] Please see a more in-depth treatment of the Hebrew word teshukah in my series on the Biblical Role of Women.

[4] Dt. 8:3

[5] Dt. 5:21

[6] And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring: That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God. (Num. 15:39-40)

[7] “You shall not covet (chamad) your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Ex. 20:17) 

[8] Margaret Sanger is the “mother” of Planned Parenthood. I believe she is a prime example of a woman ruled by her nephesh rather than by the Spirit of YHWH.

[9] Audio file: The Scriptural Role of the ‘Ezer by Dr. Skip Moen. You can purchase it here: http://skipmoen.com/products/ezer/

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A Parable

Proverbs 1:1-7  The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;  (2)  To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;  (3)  To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;  (4)  To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.  (5)  A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:  (6)  To understand a proverb (mashal), and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.  (7)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NASB)

Back to the Beginning

In The Biblical Role of Women posts, we explored and compared Bereshit (Genesis) 3:16 and 4:7. These two verses are about Chavah’s (Eve’s) curse after the serpent deceived her and YHWH’s remarks to Cain before he killed Abel. If you will recall, YHWH’s statements in these verses contain some striking similarities, especially in Hebrew.

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16 NASB)

“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7 NASB)

In this post, instead looking at the word for desire, teshukah, as we did in the Biblical Role of Women, I want to explore the Hebrew word translated as rule and master. In each of the verses above, the same Hebrew word is used: moshal (משׁל). This is the verb form of the word mashal, which means proverb or parable. This Hebrew word is very interesting.

Strong’s defines the verb moshal as to rule: (have, make to have) dominion, governor, and reign. And defines the noun mashal as a sense of superiority in mental action; properly a pithy maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence a simile (as an adage, poem, discourse): – byword, like, parable, proverb.

The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible defines both words together since they are cognates. Rule, dominion: The dominion one rules over. Also the comparison of things as a rule of measurement. Compare: To compare one thing to another in the sense of a rule of measurement, often a proverb or parable.

Thus, the Hebrew word for rule and dominion is also the word for a proverb or parable. Think about that for moment. How are these words related in the Hebraic mindset? Rabbi David Fohrman, in his book The Beast that Crouches at the Door,[1] suggests that the reason people tell parables is to interpret reality. In our day-to-day experiences of life, things can happen that are hard to make sense of or understand. We need something to “compare it to.” This is how a story, parable, or proverb “rules” over our experience. They point out what is important in our circumstance so that we can understand and grow. Is this not what a (good) ruler does for us? He sorts out our circumstances and directs our paths.

Proverbs 1:1-7 is quoted at the beginning of this post. Look at the words that Solomon used to describe the function of a proverb or parable (mashal) in these verses: to know, to understand, to perceive, to receive, to attain, and to increase in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, judgment, and equity. A parable opens the door for us to perceive or understand something that to us, is hidden. By relating a message in story form, the moral or lesson is left up to the hearer to discern or interpret. Is this not why Yeshua concludes many parables[2] with: “He that has ears to hear, let him hear?

Whether a particular connection or comparison is understood also depends on what or who controls the heart of a person. At least, this is the conclusion of King Solomon in verse 7. What Solomon points out is that a person that fears YHWH can “hear” what the proverb or parable is teaching. Conversely, those without YHWH as their Master and Elohim (God), have no real wisdom or knowledge. A life devoid of the governing Word of the Creator is nothing more than the unbridled desire, passion, and appetites of a fool. In other words, what rules or controls the person is their own nephesh or soul. Are you starting to see the pattern of mashal’s integrated uses of to rule and a parable?

Solomon wants to teach his children with the authority of a proverb. This is the purpose of a parable. They contain the power (rule; dominion) to change a person’s perception of life, circumstances, and even their worldview. That’s pretty powerful! They are the lighthouses that reveal the shoreline on a dark and foggy night. Do you ever find that your “vision” is blurred by your situation? Have you ever felt that you are at a crossroads? I know I have on numerous occasions. We all need a mashal that will shift our lenses so that YHWH’s purpose and will comes into our focus.

If we listen (shema) carefully, YHWH gives these mashalim (proverbs/parables) to us all the time. They definitely are found in Scripture, but they also occur in our day-to-day lives. For example, the other day I was correcting my son for the umpteenth time for something we’ve covered again and again. I was frustrated by his lack of compliance and apathetic attitude. I vocalized my disappointment by saying that all he had to do was simply obey what I said. “Why can’t you do that?” I asked.

Immediately, I felt YHWH say to me, “That’s how I feel. You do the same thing to me all the time. Why can’t you also simply obey me?” Wow, talk about feeling like a hypocrite! My loving Father used my son as a living parable to teach or direct my focus to a problem I couldn’t “hear” without this powerful comparison. If I change my actions because of this mashal, then I have increased or attained wisdom as the verses quoted above in Proverbs attest.

In the account with Eve and Cain, is there more to the proverbial story than we’ve previously conceived? Isn’t there always? We find the exact same Hebrew structure in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. Teshukah and Mashal. Passion, desire, and appetites compared with dominion, rule, and mastering. Is YHWH highlighting something for us here in the beginning? Is there a parable that will direct us further? I hope to explore this in my next post called Masters.


[1] I have a digital version, so page numbers do not correlate properly. You can find his musings of moshal/mashal in chapter 12. The hard copy can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/The-Beast-That-Crouches-Door/dp/0983269041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386891475&sr=8-1&keywords=the+beast+that+crouches+at+the+door

[2] Mt. 11:15, 13:9, 13:43; Mk. 4:9; Lk. 8:8; 14:35, and other places phrased slightly different.

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