Death and Deception in Genesis 2-3

peter_kirk at peter_kirk at
Thu Dec 2 14:08:09 EST 1999

George, I wonder if you are trying to push the idiom B:YOM too far in 
order to protect God from the charge of deception. After all, one 
might naively argue, either God or the snake was right, and if the 
snake was not the deceiver, perhaps God was? On the other hand, we see 
many cases throughout the canon where God predicts that he will send 
death and disaster but afterwards relents - do we take his mercy as 
deceit? See for example Exodus 32:10, Numbers 14:12, Jonah 3:4 - all 
God's unfulfilled intentions of bringing death. The same idea occurs 
in Genesis 6:7-8, 18:16-33. So in the biblical narratives, although 
God of course not a liar, he is one who relents of bringing disasters 
which he has predicted.

So I would prefer to take it that God relented in his mercy (which 
possibly the snake had foreseen, as later Jonah did, 4:2), rather than 
stretch B:YOM (which means "at the time", not "at an indefinite time 
later"!) to 900 years or take the death as somehow spiritual only.

Peter Kirk

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Death and Deception in Genesis 2-3
Author:  <gathas at> at Internet
Date:    01/12/1999 21:22

> God did not say that on that day you will become mortal, or that
> 'eventually' you will die, he clearly states that they will die 'on that 
> day'

We need to understand Hebrew idiom here. The expression _b:yom_ might literally 
mean 'on
the day that...', but the meaning is 'when' or 'then' or 'whenever'. It is an 
signifying indefinite future time.

Think of the English expression "One day..." You might say, "One day, I'm going 
save my
money, buy that car and drive it to the Holiday Coast." You don't literally mean
that you
intend to do all those things in one 24-hour period. You're just talking about 
future time. It's the same sort of principle at work here in Gen.


> > In fact to Adam and Eve God must have seemed like the Liar, the prohibition 
> may not have meant all that it has become to mean today, maybe they thought
> that the fruit was poison and would kill them there and then, this of course 
> making it easier for Adam to eat as he saw that it had not killed Eve.

Maybe's have no real place in the discussion here. We have to consider only what
the text
has in its own scope. Yahweh is certainly not a liar in the narrative because he
says that
Adam would die and he did. Your understanding hinges on a rather literalistic 
understanding of the word _b:yom_, rather than a more probable idiomatic 
One has to ask what on earth Gen 2 is doing in the canon if it actually presente
as the liar. This would go completely against the grain of Genesis and the entir


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