on Genesis 4 :26
Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord - 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 Adam's family, among whom the Divine worship was not observed, being distinguished by the name, children of men. It must not be dissembled that many eminent men have contended that הוחל huchal, 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, and Maimonides has discussed it at some length in his Treatise on Idolatry; as this piece is curious, and gives the most probable account of the origin and progress of idolatry, I shall insert it here.
"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 their error was this: they said, Forasmuch as God hath created these stars and spheres to govern the world, and set them on high, and imparted honor unto them, and they are ministers that minister before him; it is meet that men should laud, and glorify, and give them honor. For this is the will of God, that we magnify and honor whomsoever he magnifieth and honoureth; even as a king would have them honored that stand before him, and this is the honor of the king himself. When this thing was come up into their hearts they began to build temples unto the stars, and to offer sacrifice unto them, and to laud and glorify them with words, and to worship before them, that they might in their evil opinion obtain favor of the Creator; and this was the root of idolatry, etc. 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 there was found no people on the earth that knew aught, save images of wood and stone, and temples of stone, which they had been trained up from their childhood to worship and serve, and to swear by their names. And the wise men that were among them, as the priests and such like, thought there was no God save the stars and spheres, for whose sake and in whose likeness they had made these images; but as for the Rock everlasting, there was no man that acknowledged him or knew him save a few persons in the world, as Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Sham, and Heber. And in this way did the world walk and converse till that pillar of the world, Abraham our father, was born." Maim. in Mishn, and Ainsworth in loco.
1. We see here the vast importance of worshipping God according to his own mind; no sincerity, no uprightness of intention, can atone for the neglect of positive commands delivered in Divine revelation, when this revelation is known. He who will bring a eucharistic offering instead of a sacrifice, while a sin-offering lieth at the door, as he copies Cain's conduct, may expect to be treated in the same manner. Reader, remember that thou hast an entrance unto the holiest through the veil, that is to say his flesh; and those who come in this way, God will in nowise cast out.
2. We see the horrible nature of envy: its eye is evil merely because God is good; it easily begets hatred; hatred, deep-settled malice; and malice, murder! Watch against the first appearance of this most destructive passion, the prime characteristic of which is to seek the destruction of the object of its malevolence, and finally to ruin its possessor.
3. Be thankful to God that, as weakness increased and wants became multiplied, God enabled man to find out useful inventions, so as to lessen excessive labor, and provide every thing indispensably necessary for the support of life. He who carefully attends to the dictates of honest, sober industry, is never likely to perish for lack of the necessaries of life.
4. As the followers of God at this early period found it indispensably necessary to separate themselves from all those who were irreligious and profane, and to make a public profession of their attachment to the truth, so it should be now. There are still men of profane minds whose spirit and conduct are destructive to godliness; and in reference to such the permanent order of God is, Come out from among them, touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. He who is not determined to be a Christian at all events, is not far from being an infidel. Those only who confess Christ among men shall be acknowledged before his Father and the angels of God.
on Genesis 4 :26
A son is born to Sheth also, whom he calls Enosh. In this name there is probably an allusion to the meaning of sickliness and dependence which belongs to the root. These qualities were now found to be characteristic of man in his present state.
The closing sentence signalizes a remarkable event, which took place at the birth of Enosh, about two hundred and forty years after the creation of Adam. "Then was it begun to call upon the name of the Lord." The solemn invocation of God by his proper name in audible and social prayer and praise is the most usual meaning of the phrase now before us, and is to be adopted unless there be something in the context or the circumstances demanding another meaning. This involves also the first of the meanings given above, as we call God by his name in oral worship. It includes the third in one of its forms, as in praise we proclaim the name of our God. And it leads to the second, as those who call on the name of the Lord are themselves called the children of God.
Some change is here intimated in the mode of approaching God in worship. The gist of the sentence, however, does not lie in the name "Yahweh". For this term was not then new in itself, as it was used by Eve at the birth of Cain; nor was it new in this connection, as the phrase now appears for the first time, and Yahweh is the ordinary term employed in it ever afterward to denote the true God. As a proper name, Yahweh is the fit and customary word to enter into a solemn invocation. It is, as we have seen, highly significant. It speaks of the Self-existent One, the Author of all existing things, and in particular of man; the Self-manifest, who has shown himself merciful and gracious to the returning penitent, and with him keeps promise and covenant. Hence, it is the custom itself of calling on the name of Yahweh, of addressing God by his proper name, which is here said to have been commenced.
At first sight, with our habits and associations, it seems a very strange thing that calling upon the name of the Lord should only begin two hundred and forty years after the creation of man. But let us endeavor to divest ourselves of these limitations, and rise to the primeval simplicity of man's thoughts in regard to God. We read of God speaking to man in paradise, but not of man speaking to God. In the examination that preceded the sentence passed upon the transgressors, we hear Adam and Eve replying to the questions of God, but not venturing to open a conversation with the Most High. If the feeling of reverence and solemn awe did not permit such a liberty before the fall, much more would the super-added sense of guilt after that event restrain man from making any advances toward the infinitely holy Being whom he had so wantonly offended. The rebuking examination, the judicial sentence, and the necessary execution of this sentence in its preliminary form, were so prominent and impressive as to throw into the background any intimations of the divine mercy with which they were accompanied. The latter, however, were not unnoticed, or without a salutary effect on the primeval pair. Adam believed the indications of mercy, whether in word or deed, which God gave him. Faith was prompt and natural in that early stage of comparative nearness to God, to his manifest presence and his conspicuous wonders of creative power. It was also a native tendency of the human breast, and would be so still, had we not become so sophisticated by education that doubt has come to be the prominent attitude of our minds. This faith of the first pair led to confession; not directly, however, to God, but indirectly in the names Adam gave his wife, and Eve her first-born son. Here humble, distant, self-condemning faith solilloquizes, or, at most, the penitent pair converse in humble hope about the mercy of the Most High.
The bringing of an offering to God was a step in advance of this penitent, humble, submissive, self-accusing faith. It was the exact counterpart and representation by a well-devised symbol of the nature of the offerer's faith. It was therefore a confession of faith and certain accompanying feelings toward God by a symbolic act. It was quite natural that this mute sign should precede the actual address. The consequences, however, of the approach of Cain and Habel were calculated to deepen again the feeling of dread, and to strike the onlooker mute in the presence of the High and Holy One. Still would this be so in that infantile state of man when one thought would take full possession of the soul, until another was plainly and directly brought before the attention. In this simple, unsophisticated state of the penitent, we can conceive him to resign himself passively to the merciful will of that Maker whom he has grievously offended, without venturing to breathe a wish or even to lift up a note of thanksgiving. Such mute acquiescence in the divine will for two hundred and forty years was well-befitting the humble penitents of that infantile age, standing in solemn awe under a sense of their own demerit and of the infinite holiness of the Majesty on high. There were even an eloquent pathos and power in that tacit reverence suited to move the heart of the All-searching Spirit more than ten thousand voices less deeply penetrated with a sense of the guilt of sin and the beauty of holiness.
At length, however, Sheth was given to Eve, and accepted by her as a substitute for Habel. Enosh, the child of sorrow, was born to him. Collateral with this line of descent, and all the anxieties and desires which it involved, was the growth of a class of men who were of the spirit of Cain, and receded further and further from God. In these circumstances of growing iniquity on the one hand, and growing faith on the other, believing reason comes to conceive the full import of the mercy of God, freely and fully accepts of pardon, and realizes the peace and privilege which it bestows. Growing man now comprehends all that is implied in the proper name of God, יהוה yehovâh, "Jehovah," the Author of being, of promise, and of performance. He finds a tongue, and ventures to express the desires and feelings that have been long pent up in his breast, and are now bursting for utterance. These petitions and confessions are now made in an audible voice, and with a holy urgency and courage rising above the depressing sense of self-abasement to the confidence of peace and gratitude. These adorations are also presented in a social capacity, and thereby acquire a public notoriety. The father, the older of the house, is the master of words, and he becomes the spokesman of the brotherhood in this new relationship into which they have spontaneously entered with their Father in heaven. The spirit of adoption has prompted the confiding and endearing terms, "Abba, Father," and now the winged words ascend to heaven, conveying the adorations and aspirations of the assembled saints. The new form of worship attracts the attention of the early world, and the record is made, "Then began they to call upon the name of the Lord," that keepeth covenant and mercy.
Here we perceive that the holy race has passed beyond its infancy. It has learned to speak with God in the language of faith, of conscious acceptance, of freedom, of hope, of love. This is a far nobler attainment than the invention of all the arts of life. It is the return from that revulsive dread with which the conscious sinner shrank back from the felt holiness of God. It is the drawing of the divine mercy and love let into the penitent soul, by which it has come to itself, and taken courage to return to the merciful Yahweh, and speak to him the language of penitence, of confession, of gratitude. These believing penitents, chiefly it is to be supposed in the line of Sheth, of which this paragraph speaks, began to be distinguished as the followers of the Lord; whereas others at the same time had forgotten the Lord, and renounced even the form of reverence for him. The seed of the woman was now distinguished from the seed of the serpent. The latter are in a spiritual sense called "the seed of the serpent," because they cling to the principles of the tempter; and the former may in the same sense be designated "the seed or sons of God," because they follow after him as the God of mercy and truth. Thus, the lamentable fact obtrudes itself upon our view that a portion of the human family have persisted in the primeval apostasy, and are no longer associated with their fellows in acknowledging their common Maker.
The progress of moral evil in the antediluvian world was manifested in fratricide, in going out from the presence of the Lord, in personal violence, and in polygamy. The first is the normal character of all murder; the second gave scope for the third, the daring and presumptuous violence of the strong; and the fourth ultimately led to an almost total corruption of manners. It is curious to observe that ungodliness, in the form of disobedience and departure from God and therefore of the practical breach of the first commandment, and unrighteousness in the form of murder, the crime of masterful passion and violence, which is the transgression of the first commandment concerning our neighbor, are the starting-points of sin in the world. They do not seem to have yet reached idolatry and adultery. This appears to point out that the prohibitions into which the law is developed in the Ten Commandments are arranged in the order of time as well as of nature.
The preceding chapters, if written in substance by Adam, formed the primeval Bible of mankind. But, whether written at that time or not, they contain the leading facts which occurred in the early history of man in relation to his Maker. These facts were well known to the antediluvian world, and formed the rule by which it was to be guided in approaching to God, presenting to him an acceptable offering, calling upon his name, and so walking with him in peace and love. Here we have all the needful germs of a gospel for the infantile race. If we ask why they were not effectual, the answer is at hand. They were effectual with a few, and are thereby proved sufficient to recover man from sin, and vindicate the mercy of God. But the All-wise Being, who made man a moral agent, must thoroughly guard his freedom, even in the dealings of mercy. And in the folly and madness of their self-will, some will revolt more and more. The history was written for our learning. Let its lessons be pondered. Let the accumulated experience of bygone wanderings recorded in the Book of God be our warning, to return at length with our whole heart to our merciful Father.
on Genesis 4 :26