Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Genesis 4:1: “Eve Bears a Manchild” – Messiahship of Yeshua

“Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gained a male child with the help of the LORD’” (NJPS).

Genesis 4:1

“Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gained a male child with the help of the LORD’” (NJPS).

reproduced from the forthcoming Salvation on the Line, Volume III

posted 03 October, 2019


“Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gained a male child with the help of the LORD’” (NJPS).

Most when encountering Genesis 4:1, and the statement of Eve when giving birth to Cain, “I have acquired a man with HASHEM” (ATS), would at the very most deduce that Eve has looked with favor on the birth of her new son, and anticipates good things from him. We know the sad truth from Genesis 4 onward, that this is not the case, and that Cain was responsible for the first homicide. Yet, is there any hint in Genesis 4:1 about the Messianic expectation? At least one Messianic examiner has actually concluded that in the narrative statement qaniti ish et-YHWH, “I-brought-forth man with Yahweh” (Kohlenberger),[1] that there is a clue about the theology of Incarnation, of God manifesting Himself as a human. Arguing against the common English rendering, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD” (NASU), Arnold G. Fructenbaum extrapolates the following conclusion:

“Few Bible translators really understand what Eve was saying here, which is why our English translations do not read as [I have gotten a man: Jehovah]. Eve clearly understood from God’s words in Genesis 3:15 that the serpent would be defeated by a God-Man. She obviously thought that Cain is Jehovah. Her basic theology was correct: Messiah would be both man and God. It is her application of the promise that was wrong.”[2]

Most of today’s Christian English Bibles render qaniti ish et-YHWH along the lines of “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (RSV), “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” (NIV), or “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD” (NRSV). The two major Messianic versions similarly have, “I have acquired a man from ADONAI” (CJB/CJSB) or “I produced a man with ADONAI” (TLV). Fructenbaum takes issue with these sorts of renderings, arguing that any addition of “with the help of” is something inserted by translators: “I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah” (American Standard Version). This, he concludes, is due to the influence of the Septuagint translation of Genesis 4:1 ektēsamn anthrōpon dia tou Theou, “I have acquired a man through God” (NETS).

How could one jump to the conclusion that qaniti ish et-YHWH would give some support for a future doctrine of Incarnation, where God could enter into the world by being born as a human? Among the extra-Biblical references provided by Fructenbaum is how the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan paraphrased Genesis 4:1 as, “And Adam knew Hava his wife, who had desired the Angel; and she conceived, and bare Kain; and she said, I have acquired a man, the Angel of the Lord.”[3] He takes this as evidence that Eve, even though incorrect, thought she was giving birth to a supernatural entity, as the malakh ADONAI or malakh YHWH is frequently concluded by Protestant examiners, and many Messianics for that matter, to be a pre-Incarnate manifestation of Yeshua.[4]

Ultimately for anyone concluding that qaniti ish et-YHWH could be representative of Eve’s thought that she had given birth to either God in the flesh, or some other supernatural entity, is going to come down to Hebrew grammar. In Everett Fox’s Five Books of Moses specialty translation, Genesis 4:1 is rendered eclectically as “Kaniti/I-have-gotten a man, as has YHWH!”[5] It is footnoted how “as has YHWH: Hebrew difficult.”[6] Others, however, seeing the presence of the preposition et, conclude that this is nothing more than “with.” A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, referencing Genesis 4:1 and other Tanach passages, consider the usage of et here to be one of accompaniment:

“This preposition shows attendant circumstances: [attah u’banekha ittakh], ‘you and your children with you’ (Num 18:2), [v’yithalleikh Chanok et-ha’Elohim], ‘And Enoch walked with God’ (Gen 5:22), [v’yehi Elohim et-ha’na’ar], ‘God was with the young boy’ (Gen 21:20). A finer nuance of the usage is the personal accompaniment, which expresses accompaniment for the purpose of providing help: [qaniti ish et-YHWH], ‘I have gotten a man with the help of YHWH’ (Gen 4:1), [ki m’et Eloheinu ne’estah ha’melakhah ha’zot], ‘They knew that this work was accomplished with the help of our God’ (Neh 6:16).”[7]

In his unique commentary on Genesis 1-4, C. John Collins does recognize how some have taken Genesis 4:1 as a proof text for the historic Christian doctrine of the Incarnation—God in human form. Yet, in raising grammatical points, he also asks the critical question of considering what was in Eve’s mind, at so early a moment in human history:

“Now for the syntax of… (‘et-yhwh). From a purely syntactical point of view, the interpretation of it as apposition is unexceptionable: ‘I have gotten a man, namely, the LORD.’ But though the syntax is fine, the content is jarring, to say the least! To take [et] as ‘with,’ that is, ‘with the help of,’ is also quite reasonable, though the parallels are few: 1 Samuel 14:45 uses the virtually interchangeable preposition… (‘im) in the required sense: ‘for he has worked with [the help of] God this day.’

“If we were just looking at the number of parallel constructions available to us, we would say that the appositional interpretation is stronger: Christians naturally think of the incarnation, but the question is, what did our author present Eve as thinking? With only Genesis 3:15 to go on, even under the strongest messianic reading of it, there is little reason to suppose that this was part of her or the author’s thought world.”[8]

It is hardly inappropriate to take the Hebrew qaniti ish et-YHWH as representing “I have gained a male child with the help of Hashem” (Israel Bible). While it is appreciable that some want to supply robust defense of the doctrine of Incarnation, from an early verse such as Genesis 4:1, in this writer’s view this is simply too speculative, and perhaps even a little forced.


NOTES

[1] Kohlenberger, 1:8.

[2] Arnold G. Fructenbaum, Ha-Mashiach: The Messiah of the Hebrew Scriptures (San Antonio: Ariel Ministries, 2016), 5.

[3] BibleWorks 9.0: Targum Pseudo Jonathan on the Pentateuch.

[4] Consult the relevant Tanach entries in the preceding Salvation on the Line, Volume I

[5] Fox, Five Books of Moses, 25.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bill T. Arnold and John H. Choi, A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 101.

[8] C. John Collins, Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), pp 197-198.