An Educational Commentary on the Bible (2)

By Rodney N. Kirby (1980)

Biblical Educator, Volume 2, no. 9 — “Genesis and Ancient History,” (Genesis 4)

As Christians, we presuppose the complete truthfulness of scripture as God’s Word. We know that the Bible, because it is the Word of God, Who cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), cannot be false at any point. Therefore, when we find a conflict between a particular Scripture and the opinions of men, we must hold to the truth of Scripture. “Let God be true, though every man be false” (Rom. 3:4). This does not only have reference to “religious” matters; the Psalmist said, “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right” (Ps. 119:128).

In the Christian school, therefore, teachers must take as the starting point of their instruction the revealed truth of Scripture. Whatever is written in the Bible must be taken as true; whatever is learned from other sources must be fit into the framework provided by Scripture. We do not accommodate scripture to “science” but rather accommodate science (or history, geology, economics, etc.) to the Bible. An excellent example of this kind of reconstruction is Donovan Courville’s The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications (Loma Linda, CA; Challenge Books, 1971). These two volumes are a reconstruction of ancient history, particularly Egyptian history, on the basis of the accuracy of Scripture.

Our text for this month has application to the subject of ancient history. There are very few extra-Biblical sources for this period of history. (This is not difficult to understand, on Biblical assumptions. Given the kind of flood described in Gen. 7-8, we would expect virtually all records of pre-flood civilization, except those, carried through Noah, to have been destroyed.) This forces us to rely almost exclusively on Scripture as our primary source. What few other sources there are (ancient legends, etc.) must he used purely as supplements to the Biblical record.

In chapter 4, we gain some insights which go contrary to an evolutionary concept of ancient history. We are often told that primitive man originally was a forager and a hunter. Only much later did he learn to domesticate animals and cultivate crops. In vs. 2, however, we see that these abilities were present in man almost immediately after the fall. Early man was no dunce; he soon developed the art of music (vs. 21), and of metallurgy (vs. 22).

Economically and sociologically speaking, early man was not a loner, who tried to be self-sufficient, and who much later learned to live in communities. Verse 2 shows us that Cain and Abel understood the concept of the division of labor, each man developing his own particular talents to the fullest and concentrating his efforts, resulting in greater overall productivity. This division of labor is also evidenced in verses 20-22.

Also man was not a nomad, as we are often led to believe; Cain built a city soon after his murder of Abel (vs. 17). Earlier than this, the existence of agriculture (vs. 2) pretty much excludes nomadism, as does the division of labor concept. They would have to live near each other in order to utilize each other’s products. Apparently, Adam and Eve settled with their children very near the garden of Eden (cf vs. 16).

This matter of nomadism brings up an interesting point in regard to our present society. We live in a basically nomadic society; people are constantly “on the move”—from one job to another, from one town to another, etc. It is becoming more and more rare for a person to live in the same city where his parents and grandparents grew up. Children frequently go to college far away from home. Pastors take a position in a small church merely as a “steppingstone” to bigger and better things (a First church in a large city). Businesses move employees to different cities on a regular basis.

Rather than settling down in one place to subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28) and causing it to bring forth produce (Gen. 2:15), modern man prefers to wander over the land, looking for whatever produce he can find for the taking. Men no longer work hard to develop their talents and build up their businesses, but rather flit around from one job to another to try and find just a little more money, or less work. (This is greatly facilitated by modern unemployment compensation and welfare practices.) Besides this desire of men to wander, the Scripture speaks of wandering as a curse upon disobedience. This is seen here in our text, in the curse of God upon Cain (vs. 12), and later in the curse upon Israel for refusing to enter the Promised Land (Num. 14).

Several times the prophets pronounce a curse on Israel by saying that they will wander (Lam. 4:15; Hos. 9:17). In contrast, the righteous are “firmly planted” (Ps.1:3) and are secure in the land (Mic. 4:4). The blessings of the covenant include this rootedness in the land — not incessant wandering. Nomadism, rather than being an early stage of man’s development, is a sign of cultural degeneracy. While it may not be a sin for an individual to move far from his family (cf. Abraham), yet it is a sign of a degenerate culture — notice the forced migrations in Cambodia today.

In our schools, we must take this into account. When we study a society which exhibits such a nomadic life, we are looking at a culture which has turned away from God’s Word of dominion. We also must counsel students in high school to try to break this nomadic mindset. They should look forward to settling permanently in a locale, to develop their God-given gifts to the fullest. Constantly packing up and moving everything one owns is a tremendous waste of time, energy, and money.

Christian history teachers must get to work now reconstructing ancient history to conform to Scripture. It will be long work, requiring a more detailed knowledge of history than I have. However, Courville’s work shows us that it can be done, if we work with diligence.

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