[b-hebrew] (no subject)

eric hirsch eric.hirsch.jr at gmail.com
Wed Nov 28 06:26:32 EST 2012

Yes, quite possibly, Eric. But it's not the only way to take the text. It
might be explaining human mortality, but it could also be explaining that
humans were not made immortal,  but mortal, albeit with a chance at staving
off death (note Gen 3.22).

Dean of Research,
Moore Theological College (moore.edu.au)
Sydney, Australia

From: eric hirsch <eric.hirsch.jr at gmail.com>
Date: Wednesday, 28 November 2012 9:56 PM
To: George Athas <george.athas at moore.edu.au>
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Mortality: the return to dust


No it didn't. But judging from what did happen as a result of the
disobedience, perhaps the construction was indeed intended to communicate
the idea of mortality.  I do not know of any one word in biblical that
means "mortality."  Psalm 82 says that the errant sons of Elyon will "die
like men."  Or as in 2 Isaiah, men are compared to transitory plant life,
scorched by a hot wind.  "All flesh is like grass."  The reference to being
"flesh also seems to have been a way that the concept of human mortality
was expressed.  So I think that it is valid to regard the use of the
construction to be a suitable way of expressing the idea of mortality.

Cursed ground-->dust of the ground-->body made of the dust of the
ground-->degeneration of the body (similar to thorn trees)--> mortality.
 So the story very much explains how and why it was that human beings are
mortal.  Qoheleth draws from this that "All is vanity."

Even though the motif of the tree of life is compatible with my
interpretation, I do think that it is a secondary expansion to the story.
 I have been exhorted not to stray from linguistic discussions, so let me
just present where I think the original story has been expanded by a
redactor (who knew P's creation story.)  The alleged expansion of enclosed
in brackets and in bold font.  The basic translation is that of the NASB
because of its use of formal correspondence rather than dynamic equivalence
and so is closer to the Hebrew.

2:4b  In the day that Yahweh 'elohim made earth and heaven, 5 when no shrub
of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet

[for Yahweh 'elohim had not sent rain upon the earth,]

 and there was no man to cultivate the ground,

[6 But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of
the ground.]

 7 Then Yahweh 'elohim formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life ; and man became a living being. 8
Yahweh 'elohim planted a garden toward the east, in Eden ; and there He
placed the man whom He had formed. 9 Out of the ground Yahweh 'elohim
caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food,

[and the tree of life in the midst of the garden]

 and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

 [10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden ; and from there it
divided and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is Pishon ; it
flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 The gold of
that land is good ; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. 13 The name
of the second river is Gihon ; it flows around the whole land of Cush. 14
The name of the third river is Tigris ; it flows east of Assyria. And the
fourth river is the Euphrates. 15 Then Yahweh 'elohim took the man and put
him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.]

16 Yahweh 'elohim commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden
you may eat freely ; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it dying, you will
die." 18 Then Yahweh 'elohim said, "It is not good for the man to be alone
; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19 Out of the ground Yahweh
'elohim formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and
brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the
man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to
all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the
field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So
Yahweh 'elohim caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept ;
then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22
Yahweh 'elohim fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the
man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said,

 "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh ;
She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."

[24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be
joined to his wife ; and they shall become one flesh.]

25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which Yahweh
'elohim had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed , has God said, 'You
shall not eat from any tree of the garden '?" 2 The woman said to the
serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat ; 3 but from
the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said,
'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' " 4 The serpent
said to the woman, "You surely will not die ! 5 "For God knows that in the
day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods,
knowing good and evil." 6 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. 7 Then the eyes of both of them
were opened, and they knew that they were naked ; and they sewed fig leaves
together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of
Yahweh 'elohim walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man
and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh 'elohim among the
trees of the garden. 9 Then Yahweh 'elohim called to the man, and said to
him, "Where are you?" 10 He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden,
and I was afraid because I was naked ; so I hid myself." 11 And He said,
"Who told you that you were naked ? Have you eaten from the tree of which I
commanded you not to eat ?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be
with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." 13 Then Yahweh 'elohim said
to the woman, "What is this you have done ?" And the woman said, "The
serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14 Yahweh 'elohim said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more
than every beast of the field ; On your belly you will go, And dust you
will eat All the days of your life ;

[15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed
and her seed ; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on
the heel."]

 16 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." 17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you
have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about
which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the
ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your
life. 18 "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat
the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken ; For you are
dust, And to dust you shall return."

[20 Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of
all the living.]

21 Yahweh 'elohim made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed

[22 Then Yahweh 'elohim said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us,
knowing good and evil ; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take
also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever "]

 23 Then Yahweh 'elohim sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate
the ground from which he was taken.

 [24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He
stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction
to guard the way to the tree of life.]

Eric Hirsch
Tetragrammaton Software

On Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 12:54 AM, George Athas <George.Athas at moore.edu.au>


I don't think your suggestion about the infinitive absolute + finite
cognate gives you the result you want. I think your reading can still be
valid, but not because that syntactical construction points to it. Rather,
it's just about interpreting the narrative.

Some other suggested interpretations:
The narrative never implies that Yahweh God makes the human pair immortal.
Rather, the implication is that they are very much mortal, but that access
to the tree of life staves off death. Thus, death begins when that access
is denied. This is quite similar to your suggestion.
The narrative portrays Yahweh God as gracious by not executing the human
pair immediately, but rather allowing them to live for hundreds more years.
The phrase 'on the day you eat' is idiomatic for 'when you eat', and is not
meant to be taken in a strictly literal manner.
There is more than one way to read this text. And the other suggestions you
allude to (that Yahweh God lies) are just some among the array of

Dean of Research,
Moore Theological College (moore.edu.au)
Sydney, Australia
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