You are on page 1of 3

Genesis 4:26 "began"

the meaning of Genesis 4:26. Most modern translations render it this way: NIV Gen 4:26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD. NASB Gen 4:26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD. NKJV Gen 4:26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD. ESV Gen 4:26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD. and the NET actually has: Gen 4:26 And a son was also born to Seth, whom he named Enosh. At that time people began to worship the Lord. But here is a problem I ran into. I heard a Hebraic teacher say that the last sentence of this verse is literally translated that "At that time men profaned or defiled the name of the LORD." Referring to the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan and the Rabbi Maimonides, he expounded that it was always held in Judaism throughout the pre-Yeshua era and in Yeshua's time that this verse signifies the beginning of idolatry among mankind. So, I began to look at the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan. Here are what they say (in the English translations) about Genesis 4:26b The Targum of Jonathan says: Quote: And Adam knew his wife again, at the end of a hundred and thirty years after Habel had been slain; and she bare a son, and called his name Sheth; for she said, The Lord hath given me another son instead of Habel whom Kain slew. And to Sheth also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord. The Targum of Onkelos says: Quote: And Adam knew yet his wife, and she bare a son, and called his name Sheth; Because, said she, the Lord hath given me another son instead of Habel, whom Kain slew. And to Sheth also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. Then in his days the sons of men desisted (or forbore) from praying in the name of the Lord. Here's Rabbi Maimonides on the subject of idolatry (he gets a little wordy, so I'll use ellipsis to condense) In the days of Enos the sons of Adam erred with great error, and the counsel of the wise men of that age became brutish, and Enos himself was (one) of them that erred....And in process of time there stood up false prophets among the sons of Adam, which said that God had commanded and said unto them, Worship such a star, or all the stars, and do sacrifice unto them thus and thus; and build a temple for it, and make an image of it, that all the people, women, and children may worship it. And the false prophet showed them the image which he had feigned out of his own heart, and said it was the image of such a star, which was made known unto him by prophecy. And they began after this manner to make images in temples, and under trees, and on tops of mountains and hills, and assembled together and worshipped them, etc. And this thing was spread through all the world, to serve images with services different one from another, and to sacrifice unto and worship them. So, in process of time, the glorious and fearful name (of God) was forgotten out of the mouth of all living, and out of their knowledge, and they acknowledged him not." And in the article "Torah and Science Co-exist in the World HaSham Fashioned" by Moshe D. Tendler he sums up the accounts with this: Quote: Modern science developed when there was a widespread intuitive conviction of the existence of order in nature, an intuitive conviction that we know so well from rabbinic statements regarding Abraham's search for God.

According to our tradition, this intuitive knowledge had been debased when earlier civilizations were derailed from the path of truth at the time of Enosh. In Genesis (4:26) we are told: "And to Seth, in turn, a son was born, and he called him Enosh. It was then that man first began to call on the name of God." Rashi defines "to call on the name of God" as "calling the names of men and the names of idols after the name of the Holy One, blessed be He--making them the objects of idolatrous worship and calling them deities." Pantheism began to reign.

Now, take a look at the way Brown-Driver-Briggs defines the Hebrew word "chalal" which is translated in English as "began." H2490 chlal BDB Definition: 1) to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, begin 1a) (Niphal) 1a1) to profane oneself, defile oneself, pollute oneself 1a1a) ritually 1a1b) sexually 1a2) to be polluted, be defiled 1b) (Piel) 1b1) to profane, make common, defile, pollute 1b2) to violate the honour of, dishonour 1b3) to violate (a covenant) 1b4) to treat as common 1c) (Pual) to profane (name of God) 1d) (Hiphil) 1d1) to let be profaned 1d2) to begin 1e) (Hophal) to be begun 2) to wound (fatally), bore through, pierce, bore 2a) (Qal) to pierce 2b) (Pual) to be slain 2c) (Poel) to wound, pierce 2d) (Poal) to be wounded 3) (Piel) to play the flute or pipe Notice that the primary and most widely used application is to profane, defile, pollute and desecrate. But the Complete Word Study Dictionary says this: H2490 lal: A verb meaning to pierce, to play the pipe, to profane. This word has three distinct meanings. The first meaning is to pierce or wound, either physically unto death (Isa_53:5; Eze_32:26) or figuratively unto despair (Psa_109:22). The second meaning of this word is to play the pipe, which is used only twice in the Old Testament (1Ki_1:40; Psa_87:7). The third meaning is to profane or to defile, which is used primarily of the ceremonial objects of worship (Exo_20:25; Eze_44:7; Dan_11:31); of the Sabbath (Exo_31:14; Neh_13:17; Eze_23:38); of God's name (Lev_18:21; Jer_34:16); of God's priests (Lev_21:4, Lev_21:6). However, it also refers to sexual defilement (Gen_49:4; Lev_21:9); the breaking of a covenant (Psa_89:31 [32], Psa_89:34 [35]; Mal_2:10); and making a vineyard common (Deu_20:6; Deu_28:30). In the causative form of this verb, it means to begin (Gen_4:26; 2Ch_3:2). --Complete Word Study Dictionary So the question is, which translation is correct? Do modern English translations which continue to translate chalal as "began" have it right? Or the Jewish sages who throughout the centuries believed it to mean the inception of idolatry and desecrating the name of the LORD? Not the beginning of the worship of the LORD as the NET has it. BTW: Adam Clarke's Commentary says this: Quote: The marginal reading is, Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord; which words are supposed to signify that in the time of Enos the true followers of God began to distinguish themselves, and to be distinguished by others, by the appellation of sons of God; those of the other branch of Adams family, among whom the Divine worship was not observed, being distin guished by the name, children of men. It must not be dissembled [sic: hidden, concealed] that many eminent men have contended that... which we translate began, should be rendered began profanely, or then profanation began, and from this time they date the origin of idolatry. Most of the Jewish doctors were of this opinion.

the meaning turns on the meaning ascribed to the keyword , which appears to be the hophal of , which means "pollute, defile, profane," though some grammars note that in the Hiphal (active voice, causative) as well as the (passive voice, causative) Hophal, it can also mean begin... The LXX (translated in the 3rd century BC) uses e, from , which means "call." The rabbinic trad ition, I think, wants to reinterpret huchal because the generations leading back to Adam already had "begun calling upon the name of the Lord," and therefore should not be understood as "began" but as "profaned." The view that Adam's grandson started idolatry seems to come from the Zohar (written in medieval Aramaic). I also found reference to this thinking in Ginzberg's "Legends of the Jews":

Enosh was asked who his father was, and he named Seth. The questioners, the people of his time, continued: "Who was the father of Seth?" Enosh: "Adam."--"And who was the father of Adam?"--"He had neither father nor mother, God formed him from the dust of the earth."--"But man has not the appearance of dust!"--"After death man returns to dust, as God said, 'And man shall turn again unto dust;' but on the day of his creation, man was made in the image of God."--"How was the woman created?"- "Male and female He created them."--"But how?"-"God took water and earth, and moulded them together in the form of man."--"But how?" pursued the questioners. Enosh took six clods of earth, mixed them, and moulded them, and formed an image of dust and clay. "But," said the people, "this image does not walk, nor does it possess any breath of life." He then essayed to show them how God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam, but when he began to blow his breath into the image he had formed, Satan entered it, and the figure walked, and the people of his time who had been inquiring these matters of Enosh went astray after it, saying, "What is the difference between bowing down before this image and paying homage to a man?" The generation of Enosh were thus the first idol worshippers, and the punishment for their folly was not delayed long. God caused the sea to transgress its bounds, and a portion of the earth was flooded. This was the time also when the mountains became rocks, and the dead bodies of men began to decay. And still another consequence of the sin of idolatry was that the countenances of the men of the following generations were no longer in the likeness and image of God, as the countenances of Adam, Seth, and Enosh had been. They resembled centaurs and apes, and the demons lost their fear of men. But there was a still more serious consequence from the idolatrous practices introduced in the time of Enosh. When God drove Adam forth from Paradise, the Shekinah remained behind, enthroned above a cherub under the tree of life. The angels descended from heaven and repaired thither in hosts, to receive their instructions, and Adam and his descendants sat by the gate to bask in the splendor of the Shekinah, sixty-five thousand times more radiant than the splendor of the sun. This brightness of the Shekinah makes all upon whom it falls exempt from disease, and neither insects nor demons can come nigh unto them to do them harm. Thus it was until the time of Enosh, when men began to gather gold, silver, gems, and pearls from all parts of the earth, and made idols thereof a thousand parasangs high. What was worse, by means of the magic arts taught them by the angels Uzza and Azzael, they set themselves as masters over the heavenly spheres, and forced the sun, the moon, and the stars to be subservient to themselves instead of the Lord. This impelled the angels to ask God: " 'What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?' Why didst Thou abandon the highest of the heavens, the seat of Thy glory and Thy exalted Throne in 'Arabot, and descend to men, who pay worship to idols, putting Thee upon a level with them?" The Shekinah was induced to leave the earth and ascend to heaven, amid the blare and flourish of the trumpets of the myriads of angel hosts. - http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/loj/loj101.htm
You can find a bit more about this discussion on Torah.org: http://www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/575 ... .2.10.html