We study the Torah according to the triennial cycle every Sabbath. (Why?)
We must understand the paragraph divisions in Torah, which are inspired by the Spirit and preserved by Moses and the Jewish scribes (but discarded by the English translators), are key to help us understand what God is trying to tell us. He wants to be understood, and has provided these helps to aid us! We must also understand how the Spirit teaches through Torah by common theme.
The first teaching device which the Holy Spirit placed in Torah are His paragraph divisions! In Torah scrolls, copied without change from the original which Moses wrote on Sinai, there are two different types of paragraph divisions – a strong division and a weak division. Last week we learned about the first paragraph division, the strong paragraph division. This week we will learn about the second paragraph division, the weak paragraph division, marked by the Hebrew character stumah. (I mark the ends of these paragraphs in my English Bible with a penciled- in “s”.)
Gen 2:4-3:15 ends with a parsha (paragraph) stumah, a weak paragraph division.
Gen 3:16 ends with a stumah.
This means God considers this single sentence its own paragraph, teaching its own sub theme of a greater topic.
Gen 3:17-21 ends with a parsha p’tuchah, a strong paragraph division.
This means that God considers this section to be its own paragraph with its own sub theme; furthermore, that the entire passage from Gen 2:4-3:21 is teaching an overarching theme, with three sub themes (as the end of Gen 2:3 was where the last p’tuchah was found).
Right away in the beginning of this Torah portion, there is the establishing of a new pattern, which is different from the pattern established in the previous section. In last week’s Torah portion, every time God is mentioned, the Hebrew word used is Elohiym, a masculine plural noun meaning Supreme Being; i.e., He who created the heavens and the earth. This name reveals Elohiym’s plurality of being, His might and creative power, and His character of righteousness, justice, and sovereignty.
But in this week’s Torah portion, in almost every place that God is mentioned, it is translated as LORD God. The Hebrew for this is YHVH Elohiym. We are introduced to the four letters, the tetragrammaton, the personal name of Elohiym, meaning “I AM,” the self- existent One; also He was, He is, and He will be, or the eternal One. The personal name of Elohiym is pronounced Yehovah or Yahweh.
So why the change? Last week we saw that the second teaching tool God uses in order to instruct us is to establish a pattern in His Word (the first tool is the paragraph divisions of p’tuchah and stumah). This week we see a third teaching tool God uses in His Word – breaking a pattern previously established. Whenever we see a break in a pattern, we should ask ourselves, “Why the change?” Because the change is there deliberately; God is trying to tell us something!
Back to the paragraph stumah from Gen 2:4-3:15. What is the point of this paragraph, the main idea? Whenever we are faced with a section of Scripture bounded by the Lord’s paragraph markers, we should ask ourselves, “Why is this section a single paragraph?” What is the point God is trying to get across, by including all these verses (or limiting to these verses) in this paragraph? There is no right or wrong answer. The Holy Spirit will reveal things to us as we seek Him and ask (Joh 16:13).
The topic that I came up with, is that Disobedience to YHVH’s Command is the definition of Sin. For it is this incident, the Fall of Man, by which Sin is introduced into God’s perfect Creation (as we can see by reading the Apostolic portion of Scripture that accompanies this Torah portion). Notice that God does not end the paragraph, however, until He has given the promise of the Seed of the Woman, who will crush the head of the serpent! Even now, at man’s worst moment, God is extending grace and hope to him!
The theme of the paragraph stumah from Gen 3:16 is the punishment of the woman. The theme of the paragraph from Gen 3:17-21 is the punishment of the man. The word translated “pain” for the woman in verse 16 and the word translated “toil” for the man in verse 17 is the same word in Hebrew: itstsabon. They received the same punishment as a result of their sin: toil, or work. The woman’s work, I believe, is moreover lifelong, just as the man’s is. Her work is in not only bearing children, but rearing them, in making the home for her and her husband and her children to dwell in. His work is in provision – he goes out from the home, and procures by toiling the food (or material things) necessary to sustain himself and his family.
The men and women (and children) who understand God’s authority, order, and plan, and who order their lives in cooperation with Him and not in opposition to Him, will bring blessings upon themselves (see Psalm 1 from last week)!
So now that we have main ideas for the weak paragraphs, let’s see what the main idea is for the strong paragraph, from Gen 2:4-3:21.
Gen 2:4-3:21 ends in a p’tuchah.
a. Gen 2:4-3:15 (stumah) Sin is disobedience to God’s command.
b. Gen 3:16 (stumah) The punishment of the woman – work (painful toil).
c. Gen 3:17-21 The punishment of the man – work (painful toil).
What comes to my mind for the main idea of the entire section is that Sin Brings the Punishment of Work. Can it be that sin brings the punishment of works on mankind as well – working in order to earn righteousness before God? And here is another instance of the Lord’s grace: He established the seventh day as a day of rest, holy to YHVH, before sin, punishment, or work ever entered God’s perfect world. Yes, we have been punished with work as a result of our disobedience. But every seventh day, God lifts the punishment of work on our lives, and allows us to rest from our painful toil, as we remember that YHVH is our gracious and loving Creator, to whom we owe worship; to whom we bow the knee!
Finding Messiah in Torah
This week Messiah leaps off the page. He is the Seed of the Woman promised in Gen 3:15, who crushes Satan’s head and restores mankind to the perfection, communion with God, and rest we experienced in the Garden before the Fall of Man. He erases the effect of sin on His perfect Creation! There is an entire book in the fact that God chose to represent Messiah as the seed. In fact, my Hebrew teacher, Brad Scott, did write a book about it: The Principle of the Seed. It is fascinating and life- changing and I recommend it!