Questions, and Solutions to Those Questions, Which Arise in Genesis.
Why does Moses, revolving and considering the creation of the world, say: "This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth, when they were created?" [Genesis 2:4].
1. The expression, "when they were created," indicates as it seems an indeterminate time not accurately described. But this argument will confute those authors who calculate a certain number of years reduced to one, from the time when it is possible that the world may have been created.
And again, the expression: "This is the book of the generation," is as it were indicative of the book as it follows, which contains an account of the creation of the world; in which it is intimated that what has been related about the creation of the world is consistent with strict truth.
What is the object of saying, "And God made every green herb of the field, before it was upon the earth, and every grass before it had sprung up?" [Genesis 2:5].
2. He here by these expressions intimates in enigmatical language the incorporeal species; since the expression, "before it was upon the earth," indicates the arriving at perfection of every herb, and of all seeds and trees. But as to what he says, that "before it had sprung up upon the earth," he had made every green herb, and grass, et cetera, it is plain that the incorporeal species, as being indicative of the others, were created first, in accordance with intellectual nature, which those things which are upon the earth perceptible to the outward senses were to imitate.
What is the meaning of saying: "A fountain went up from the earth, and watered all the face of the earth?" [Genesis 2:6].
3. But here the question is how it could be that the whole earth was watered by one fountain, not only on account of its size, but also because of the inequality of the mountainous and champaign situations? Unless, indeed, just as the whole force of the king's cavalry is called "the horse," so the whole multitude of the veins of the earth which supply drinkable water, may perhaps be called the fountain, inasmuch as they all bubble up like a fountain.
And that expression is peculiarly appropriate which says that the fountain watered, not the whole earth, but its face; as in the living being it waters the chief and predominant part (the mind or the countenance). Since that is the most important part of the earth which can be good and fertile and productive, and that is the part which stands in need of the nourishment of fountains.
What is the man who was created? And how is that man distinguished who was made after the image of God? [Genesis 2:7].
4. This man was created as perceptible to the senses, and in the similitude of a Being appreciable only by the intellect; but he who in respect of his form is intellectual and incorporeal, is the similitude of the archetypal model as to appearance, and he is the form of the principal character; but this is the word of God, the first beginning of all things, the original species or the archetypal idea, the first measure of the universe.
Moreover, that man who was to be created as a vessel is formed by a potter, was formed out of dust and clay as far as his body was concerned; but he received his soul by God breathing the breath of life into his face, so that the temperament of his nature was combined of what was corruptible and of what was incorruptible. But the other man, he who is only so in form, is found to be unalloyed without any mixture proceeding from an invisible, simple, and transparent nature.
Why is it said that God breathed into his face the breath of life? [Genesis 2:7].
5. In the first place because life is the principal part of the body; for the rest was only made as a sort of foundation or pedestal, and then life was put upon it as a statue. Besides, the sense is the fountain of the animal form, and sense resides in the face.
Secondly, man is created to be a partaker not only of a soul but also of a rational soul; and the head is the temple of the reason, as some writers have called it.
Why is God said to have planted a Paradise? And for whom? And what is meant by a paradise? [Genesis 2:8].
6. The word paradise, if taken literally, has no need of any particular explanation; for it means a place thickly crowded with every kind of tree; but symbolically taken, it means wisdom, intelligence both divine and human, and the proper comprehension of the causes of things; since it was proper, after the creation of the world, to establish a contemplative system of life, in order that man, by the sight of the world and of the things which are contained in it, might be able to attain to a correct notion of the praise due to the Father.
And since it was not possible for him to behold nature herself, nor properly to praise the Creator of the universe without wisdom, therefore the Creator planted the outline of it in the rational soul of the principal guide of man, namely the mind, as he planted trees in the paradise. And when we are told that in the middle was the tree of life, that means the knowledge not only of the creature, but also of the greater and supreme cause of the universe; for if any one is able to arrive at a certain comprehension of that, he will be fortunate and truly happy and immortal.
Moreover, after the creation of the world human wisdom was created, as also after the creation of the world the Paradise was planted; and so the poets say that the chorus of musicians was established in order to praise the Creator and his works; as Plato says, that the Creator was the first and greatest of causes, and that the world was the most beautiful of all creatures.
Why in Adin, or Eden, is God said to have planted the Paradise towards the east? [Genesis 2:8].
7. This is said in the first place because the motion of the world proceeds from the rising of the sun to its setting. And it first exists in that quarter from which it is moved; secondly, because that part of the world which is in the region of the east is called the right side; and that which is in the region of the west is called the left side of the world.
Moreover the poet bears witness to this, calling the birds from the east dexteras or right, and those on the west sinistras or left; when he says, whether they go to the right to the day and to the sun, or whether they go to the left towards the dusky evening.
But the name Eden, when rightly understood, is an indication of all kinds of delights, and joys, and pleasures; since all good things and all blessings derive their beginning from the place of the Lord. Thirdly, because wisdom itself is splendor and light.
Why did God place man whom he had created in the Paradise, but not that man who is after his own image? [Genesis 2:15].
8. Some persons have said, when they fancied that the Paradise was a garden, that because the man who was created was endowed with senses, therefore he naturally and properly proceeded into a sensible place; but the other man, who is made after God's own image, being appreciable only by the intellect, and invisible, had all the incorporeal species for his share; but I should rather say that the paradise was a symbol of wisdom, for that created man is a kind of mixture, as having been compounded of soul and body, having work to do by learning and discipline; desiring according to the law of philosophy that he may become happy; but he who is according to God's own image is in need of nothing, being by himself a hearer, and being taught by himself, and being found to be his own master by reason of his natural endowments.
Why does Moses say that every tree in the Paradise was beautiful to look upon and good to eat? [Genesis 2:9].
9. He says this because the virtue of trees is of a twofold nature, consisting in bearing leaves and fruit, one of which qualities is referred to the pleasing of the sight, the other to the gratification of the taste; but the word beautiful was not employed inappropriately. Indeed it is very proper that the plants should be always green and flourishing perpetually, as belonging to a divine Paradise, which as such must be everlasting; and it is fit too that they should never degenerate so as to lose their leaves.
But of the fruit he says, not that it was beautiful, but that it was good, speaking in a very philosophical spirit; since men take food, not only because of the pleasure which it affords, but also because of its use; and use is the flowing forth and imparting of some good.
What is meant by the tree of life, and why it was placed in the middle of the Paradise? [Genesis 2:9].
10. Some people have believed that, if there were really plants of a corporeal and deadly nature, there are also some which are causes of life and immortality, because, they say, life and death are opposed to one another, and because some plants are ascertained to be unwholesome, therefore of necessity there must be others from which health may be derived. But what these are which are wholesome they know not; for generation, as the opinion of the wise has it, is the beginning of corruption.
But perhaps we ought to look on these things as spoken in an allegorical sense; for some say the tree of life belongs to the earth, inasmuch as it is the earth which produces everything which is of use for life, whether it be the life of mankind or of any other animal; since God has appointed the situation in the center for this plant, and the center of the universe is the earth. There are others who assert that what is meant by the tree of life is the center between the seven circles of heaven; but some affirm that it is the sun which is meant, as that is nearly in the center, between the different planets, and is likewise the cause of the four seasons, and since it is owing to him that every thing which exists is called into existence.
Others again understand by the tree of life the direction of the soul, for this it is which renders the sense nervous and solid, so as to produce actions corresponding to its nature, and to the community of the parts of the body. But whatever is in the middle is in a manner the primary cause and beginning of things, like the leader of a chorus. But still, the best and wisest authorities have considered that by the tree of life is indicated the best of all the virtues of man, piety, by which alone the mind attains to immortality.
What is meant by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? [Genesis 2:9].
11. This indeed exhibits that meaning which is sought for in the letter of the Scriptures more clearly to the sight, as it bears a manifest allegory on the face of it. What is meant then under this figure is prudence, which is the comprehension of science, by which all things are known and distinguished from one another, whether they be good and beautiful, or bad and unseemly, or in short every sort of contrariety is discerned; since some things belong to the better class, and some to the worse.
Therefore the wisdom which exists in this world is not in truth God himself, but the work of God; that it is which sees and thoroughly investigates every thing. But the wisdom which exists in man sees in an incorrect and mixed manner with somewhat darkened eyes; for it is found to be incompetent to see and comprehend clearly and without alloy each particular thing separately. Moreover, there is a kind of deception mingled with human wisdom; since very often there are some shadows found which hinder the eyes from contemplating a brilliant light; since what the eye is in the body, such also is the mind and wisdom in the soul.
What the river is which proceeded out of Adin by which the Paradise is watered, and from which the four rivers proceed, the Phison, and the Gihon, and the Tigris, and the Euphrates? [Genesis 2:10].
12. The sources of the Deglath and of the Arazania, that is to say of the Tigris and Euphrates, are said to arise in the mountains of Armenia; but there is no paradise there at this day, nor do both the sources of both these rivers remain there. Perhaps, therefore, we ought to consider that the real situation of the Paradise is in a place at a distance from this part of the world which we inhabit, and that it has a river running beneath the earth, which pours forth many veins of the largest size; so that they, rising up together, pour themselves forth into other veins, which receive them on account of their great size, and then those have been suppressed by the gulfs of the waves; on which account, through the impulse given to them by the violence which is implanted in them, they burst out on the face of the earth in other places, and also among others in the mountains of Armenia. Therefore, those things which have been accounted the sources of the rivers, are rather their flowing course; or again, they may be said to be correctly looked upon as sources, because by all means we must consider the holy scriptures infallible, which point out the fact of four rivers; for the river is the beginning, and not the spring.
But perhaps this passage also contains an allegorical meaning; for the four rivers are the signs of four virtues: Phison being the sign of prudence, as deriving its name from parsimony; [from 'pheido', "parsimony."] and Gihon being the sign of sobriety, as having its employment in the regulation of meat and drink, and as restraining the appetites of the belly, and of those parts which are below the belly, as being earthly; the Tigris again is the sign of fortitude, for this it is which regulates the raging commotion of anger within us; and the Euphrates is the sign of justice, since there is nothing in which the thoughts of men exult more than in justice.
Why it is that he not only describes the situation of the Euphrates, but also says that the Phison goes round all the land of Evilat, and that the Gihon goes round all the land of Ethiopia, and that the Tigris goes toward Assyria? [Genesis 2:14].
13. The Tigris is a very cruel and mischievous river, as the citizens of Babylon bear witness, and so do the magi, who have found it to be of a character quite different from the nature of other rivers; however they might also have another reason for looking on it with aversion.
But the Euphrates is a gentler, and more salubrious, and more nourishing stream. On which account, the wise men of the Hebrews and Assyrians speak of it as one which increases and extends itself; and on this account it is not here characterized by its connection with other things, as the other three rivers are, but by itself.
My own opinion is, that these expressions are all symbolical, for prudence is the virtue of the rational part of man; and it is in this that wickedness is sometimes found. And fortitude is that portion of the human character which is liable to degenerate into anger. And sobriety, again, may be impaired by the desires, but anger and concupiscence are the characteristics of beasts; therefore the sacred historian has here described those three rivers by the places which they flow round. But he has not described the Euphrates in that manner, as being the symbol of justice, for there is no certain and limited portion of it allotted to the soul, but a perfect harmony of the three parts of the soul and of the three virtues is possessed by it.
Why God placed man in the Paradise with a twofold object, namely, that he might both till it and keep it, when the Paradise was in reality in need of no cultivation, because it was perfect in everything, as having been planted by God; nor, again, did it require a keeper, for who was there to ravage it? [Genesis 2:15].
14. These are the two objects which a cultivation of the land must attain to and take care of, the cultivation of the land and the safe keeping of the things which are in it, otherwise it will be spoiled by laziness or else by devastation. But although the Paradise did not stand in need of these exertions, nevertheless it was proper that he who had the regulation and care of it committed to him, namely, the first man, should be as it were a sort of pattern and law to all workmen in future of everything which ought to be done by them.
Moreover it was suitable that, though all the Paradise was full of everything, it should still leave the cultivator some grounds for care, and some means of displaying his industry; for instance, by digging around it, and tending it, and softening it, and digging trenches, and irrigating it by water; and it was needful to attend to its safety, although there was no one to lay it waste, because of the wild beasts, also more especially in respect of the air and water; as, for instance, when a drought prevailed, to irrigate it with a plenteous supply of water, and in moister weather to check the superabundance of moisture by directing the course of the streams in other directions.
Why, when God commanded the man to eat of every tree within the Paradise, he speaks in the singular number, and says, "Thou shalt eat;" but when he commands that he shall abstain from the tree which would give him the knowledge of good and evil, he speaks in the plural number, and says, "Ye shall not eat of it, for in the day in which ye eat of it ye shall surely die?" [Genesis 2:16].
15. In the first place he uses this language because one good was derived from many; and that also is not unimportant in these principles, since he who has done anything which is of utility is one, and he who attains to anything useful is also one; but when I say one, I am speaking not of that which in point of number comes before duality, but of that one creative virtue by which many beings rightly coalesce, and by their concord imitate singularity, as a flock, a herd, a troop, a chorus, an army, a nation, a tribe, a family, a state; for all these things being many members form one community, being united by affection as by a kiss; when things which are not combined, and which have no principle of union by reason of their duality and multitude, fall into different divisions, for duality is the beginning of discord.
But two men living as if they were one, by the same philosophy, practice an unalloyed and brilliant virtue, which is free from all taint of wickedness; but where good and evil are mingled together the combination contains the principle of death.
What is the meaning of the expression, "Ye shall surely die?" [Genesis 2:17].
16. The death of the good is the beginning of another life; for life is a twofold thing, one life being in the body, corruptible; the other without the body, incorruptible. Therefore one wicked man surely dies the death, who while still breathing and among the living is in reality long since buried, so as to retain in himself no single spark of real life, which is perfect virtue. But a good man, who deserves so high a title, does not surely die, but has his life prolonged, and so attains to an eternal end.
Why God says, "It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help meet for him?" [Genesis 2:18].
17. By these words God intimates that there is to be a communion, not with all men, but with those who are willing to be assisted and in their turn to assist others, even though they may scarcely have any power to do so; since love consists not more in utility than in the harmonious concord of trustworthy and steadfast manners; so that every one who joins in a communion of love may be entitled to utter the expression of Pythagoras, "A friend is another I."
Why, when God had already said, "Let us make a help for man," he creates beasts and cattle? [Genesis 2:19].
18. Perhaps some gluttons and insatiably greedy persons may say that God did this because beasts and flying things were, as it were, necessary food for man, and his meetest helper; for that the eating of meat assists the belly so as to conduce to the health and vigor of the body. But I should think that by reason of the evil implanted in them by nature animals of all kinds, whether terrestrial or flying in the air, were in this age hostile to and contrary to man; but that in the case of the first man, as one adorned with every imaginable virtue, they were, as it were, allies, and a reinforcement in war, and familiar friends, as being tame and domestic by nature, and this was the sole principle of their familiarity with man, for this it was fit that servants should dwell with their lord.
Why the creation of animals and flying creatures is mentioned a second time, when the account of their creation had already been given in the history of the six days? [Genesis 2:19].
19. Perhaps those things which were created in the six days were incorporeal angels, indicated under these symbolical expressions, being the appearances of terrestrial and flying animals, but now they were produced in reality, being the copies of what had been created before, images perceptible by the outward senses of invisible models.
Why did God bring every animal to man, that he might give them their names? [Genesis 2:19].
20. He has here explained a great source of perplexity to the students of philosophy, admonishing them that names proceed from having been given, and not from nature; for a natural nomenclature is with peculiar fitness assigned to each creature when a man of wisdom and pre-eminent knowledge appears; and, in fact, the office of assigning the names to animals is one which particularly belongs to the mind of the wise man alone, and indeed to the first man born out of the earth, since it was fitting that the first of the human race, and the sovereign of all the animals born out of the earth, should have the dignity assigned to him.
For inasmuch as he was the first person to see the animals, and as he was the first person who deserved to govern them all as their chief, so also it was fitting that he should be their first namer and the inventor of their names, since it would have been inconsistent and mad to leave them without any names, or to allow them to receive names from any one born at a later period, which would have been an insult to and a derogation from the honor and glory due to the first born.
But we may also adopt this idea, that the giving of names to the different animals was so easily arranged that the very moment that Adam gave the name the animal itself also heard it; being influenced by the name thus given to it as by a familiar indication closely connected with it.
Why does Moses say, "He brought the animals to Adam, that he might see what he would call them," when God can never entertain a doubt? [Genesis 2:19].
21. It is in truth inconsistent with the nature of God to doubt; therefore it does not appear that he was in doubt on this occasion, but that since he had given intellect to man as being the first man born out of the earth and endowed with a great desire for virtue, by which he was made thoroughly wise as if he had been endowed with wisdom by nature, so as to consider all things like the proper Ruler and Lord of all, God now caused him to be influenced to display the proper performance of his task, and saw what was really the most excellent point of his mind.
Besides this, by this statement he evidently indicates the perfect free-will existing in us, refuting those who affirm that everything exists by a certain necessity.
Or else because it belonged to man to employ the animals, therefore he also gave him authority to give them names.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And whatever he called each living thing, that was the name thereof?" [Genesis 2:19].
22. We must consider that Adam gave names not only to all living creatures, but also to plants, and to everything else which is inanimate, beginning with the more excellent class; for the living creature is superior to that which has not life. Therefore the scripture considers the mention of the better part sufficient, indicating by this mention to all who are not utterly devoid of sense, that he in fact gave names to everything, since it was easy to fix names to things without life, which were never likely to change their place, and which had no passions of the soul to exercise, but the giving of proper appellations to living creatures was a more difficult task on account of the motions of their bodies and the various impulses of their souls, in accordance with the imagination and the variety of the outward senses, and the different agitations of the mind from which the effects of their works proceed. Therefore the mind could give names to the more difficult classes of living creatures. And on this account it was a very proper expression to employ, that he gave them names as being easy to name, because they were near.
What is the meaning of the expression: "But for Adam there was not found a helper like to him?" [Genesis 2:20].
23. Every thing was helping and assisting the prince of the human race: the earth, the rivers, the sea, the air, the light, the heaven. Moreover, every species of fruit and plant co-operated with him, and every herd of cattle, and every beast which was not savage. Nevertheless, of all these things which were assisting him, there was nothing like himself, inasmuch as they were none of them human beings. Therefore, God gave a certain indication that he might show that man ought to be an assistant to and co-operator with man, being endowed with perfect similarity to one another in both body and soul.
What is the meaning of the statement, "And God sent a trance upon Adam, and caused him to sleep?" [Genesis 2:21].
24. How it is that man sleeps is a question which has caused an extraordinary amount of perplexity to philosophers. But yet our prophet has distinctly explained this question; for sleep is in itself properly a trance, not of that kind which is more nearly allied to insanity, but of that which is in accordance with the dissolution of the senses and the absence of counsel; for then the senses withdraw from those things which are their proper object, and the intellect withdraws from the senses, not strengthening their nerves, nor giving any motion to those parts which have received the power of action, inasmuch as they are withdrawn from the objects perceptible by the outward senses.
What the rib is which God took from the man whom he had formed out of the earth, and which he made into a woman? [Genesis 2:21].
25. The letter of this statement is plain enough; for it is expressed according to a symbol of the part, a half of the whole, each party, the man and the woman, being as sections of nature co-equal for the production of that genus which is called man. But with respect to the mind, man is understood in a symbolical manner, and his one rib is virtue, proceeding from the senses; but woman, who is the sensation of counsel, will be more variable.
But some think that the rib means valor and vigor, on which account men call a boxer who has strong loins eminently strong.
Therefore, the lawgiver relates that the woman was formed out of the rib of the man, indicating by that expression, that one half of the body of the man is woman. And this is testified to by the formation of the body, by the way in which it is put together, by its motions and vigor, by the force of the soul, and its strength; for all things are regarded as in a twofold light; since, as the formation of the man is more perfect, and, if one may so say, more double than the formation of the woman, so also it required half the time, that is to say forty days; when, for the imperfect, and, if I may so call it, half section of the man, that is to say the woman, there was need of a double allowance, that is to say, of eighty days, so that the doubling of the time required for the nature of the man might be changed, in order to the formation of the peculiar properties of the woman; for that body, and that soul, the nature of which is in a twofold ratio, the body and soul, that is, of the man, require but half of the delineation and formation: but that body of which the nature and construction is in the ratio of one half, namely, that of the woman, her formation and delineation is in a twofold ratio.
Why Moses calls the form of the woman a building? [Genesis 2:22].
26. The union and plenitude of concord formed by the man and woman is symbolically called a house; but every thing is altogether imperfect and destitute of a home, which is deserted by a woman; for to the man the public affairs of the state are committed, but the particular affairs of the house belong to the woman; and a want of the woman will be the destruction of the house; but the actual presence of the woman shows the regulation of the house.
Why, as other animals and as man also was made, the woman was not also made out of the earth, but out of the rib of the man? [Genesis 2:21].
27. This was so ordained in the first place, in order that the woman might not be of equal dignity with the man. In the second place, that she might not be of equal age with him, but younger; since those who marry wives more advanced in years than themselves deserve blame, as having overturned the law of nature. Thirdly, the design of God was, that the husband should take care of his wife, as of a necessary part of himself; but that the woman should requite him in turn with service, as a portion of the universe. In the fourth place, he admonishes man by this enigmatical intimation, that he should take care of his wife as of his daughter; and he admonishes the woman that she should honor her husband as her father. And very rightly, since the woman changes her habitation, passing from her own offspring to her husband. On which account, it is altogether right and proper that he who has received should take upon himself the liability in respect of what has been given; and that she who has been removed should worthily give the same honor to her husband which she has previously given to her parents; for the husband receives his wife from her parents, as a deposit which is entrusted to him; and the woman receives her husband from the law.
Why, when the man saw the woman who had been formed in this manner, he proceeded to say: "She" for "this," 'touto') "is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she has been taken out of man?" [Genesis 2:23. Woman, virgo, or virago, is here looked upon as derived from vir, "man;" he also derives 'gyne' from 'gennao'.]
28. He might have been amazed at what he had seen, and have said in a negative manner: How can this exquisite and desirable beauty have been derived from bones and from flesh which are endowed with neither beauty nor elegance, being of a form so far more beautiful, and endowed with such excessive life and grace? The matter is incredible because she is like; and yet it is credible, because God himself has been her creator and painter.
Again, he might have said affirmatively: Truly she is a living being, my bone and my flesh, for she exists by having been taken from that bone and flesh of mine. But he makes mention of his bone and flesh in a very natural manner; for the human or corporeal tabernacle is the combination of bones, and flesh, and entrails, and veins, and nerves, and ligaments, and blood-vessels, and breathing tubes, and blood. And she is called woman (in Greek 'gyne') with great correctness, as the power of producing with fertility, either because she becomes pregnant through the reception of the seed, and so brings forth; or, as the prophet says, because she was made out of man, not out of the earth, as he was; nor from seed, as all mankind after them; but of a certain intermediate nature; and like a branch, brought out of one vine to produce another vine.
Why he says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh?" [Genesis 2:24].
29. He here orders man to behave himself towards his wife with such excess of affection in their intercourse, that he is willing to leave his parents, not in order that by that means it may be more suitable, but as they would scarcely be a motive for his fidelity to his wife. And we must remark, that it is very excellent and prudently done, that he has avoided saying that the woman is to leave her parents and cleave to her husband, since the character of the man is bolder than the nature of the woman; but he says that the man ought to do this for the sake of the woman; for he is borne on by a cheerful and willing impulse to the concord of knowledge, to which, becoming wholly devoted, he restrains and regulates his desires, and clings to his wife alone like bird-lime. Especially because he himself, delighting in his master-like authority, is to be respected for his pride: but the woman, being in the rank of a servant, is praised, for assenting to a life of communion.
And when it is said that the two are one flesh, that indicates that the flesh is very tangible and fully endowed with outward senses, on which it depends to be afflicted with pain and delighted with pleasure, so that both the man and woman may derive pleasure and pain from the same sources, and may feel the same; aye, and may still more think the same.
Why both of them, the man and the woman, are said to have been naked, and not to have been ashamed? [Genesis 2:25].
30. They were not ashamed, in the first place, because they were in the neighborhood of the world, and the different parts of the world are all naked, each of them indicating some peculiar qualities, and having peculiar coverings of their own. In the second place, on account of the sincerity and simplicity of their manners and of their natural disposition, which had no taint of pride about it. For ambition had as yet no existence. Thirdly, because the climate and the mildness of the atmosphere was a sufficient covering for them, so as to prevent either cold or heat from hurting them. In the fourth place, because they, by reason of the relationship existing between themselves and the world, could not receive injury from any part of it whatever, as being related to them.
Why does Moses say that the serpent was more cunning than all the beasts of the field? [Genesis 3:1].
31. One may probably affirm with truth that the serpent in reality is more cunning than any beast whatever. But the reason why he appears to me to be spoken of in these terms here is on account of the natural proneness of mankind to vice, of which he is the symbol. And by vice I mean concupiscence, inasmuch as those who are devoted to pleasure are more cunning, and are the inventors of stratagems and means by which to indulge their passions. Being, forsooth, very crafty in devising plans, both such as favor pleasure and also such as procure means of enjoying it. But it appears to me that since that animal, so superior in wisdom, was about to seduce man, it is not the whole race that is here meant to be spoken of as so exceedingly wise, but only that single serpent, for the reason above mentioned.
Did the serpent speak with a human voice? [Genesis 3:2].
32. In the first place, it may be the fact that at the beginning of the world even the other animals besides man were not entirely destitute of the power of articulate speech, but only that man excelled them in a greater fluency and perspicuity of speech and language. In the second place, when anything very marvellous requires to be done, God changes the subject natures by which he means to operate. Thirdly, because our soul is entirely filled with many errors, and rendered deaf to all words except in one or two languages to which it is accustomed; but the souls of those who were first created were rendered acute to thoroughly understand every voice of every kind, in order that they might be pure from evil and wholly unpolluted. Since we indeed are not endowed with senses in such perfection, for those which we have received are in some degree depraved, just as the construction of our bodies too is small; but the first created men, as they received bodies of vast size reaching to a gigantic height, must also of necessity have received more accurate senses, and, what is more excellent still, a power of examining into and hearing things in a philosophical manner. For some people think, and perhaps with some reason, that they were endowed with such eyes as enabled them to behold even those natures, and essences, and operations, which exist in heaven, as also ears by which they could comprehend every kind of voice and language.
Why did the serpent accost the woman, and not the man? [Genesis 3:2].
33. The serpent, having formed his estimate of virtue, devised a treacherous stratagem against them, for the sake of bringing mortality on them. But the woman was more accustomed to be deceived than the man. For his counsels as well as his body are of a masculine sort, and competent to disentangle the notions of seduction; but the mind of the woman is more effeminate, so that through her softness she easily yields and is easily caught by the persuasions of falsehood, which imitate the resemblance of truth.
Since therefore, in his old age, the serpent strips himself of his scales from the top of his head to his tail, he, by his nakedness, reproaches man because he has exchanged death for immortality. His nature is renewed by the beast, and made to resemble every time. The woman, when she sees this, is deceived; when she ought rather to have looked upon him as an example, who, while showing his ingenuity towards her, was full of devices, but she was led to desire to acquire a life which should be free from old age, and from all decay.
Why the serpent tells the woman lies, saying, "God has said, Ye shall not eat of every tree in the Paradise," when, on the contrary, what God really had said was, "Ye shall eat of every tree in the Paradise, except one?" [Genesis 3:4].
34. It is the custom for contending arguers to speak falsely in an artful manner, in order to produce ignorance of the real facts, as was done in this case, since the man and woman had been commanded to eat of all the trees but one. But this insidious prompter of wickedness coming in, says that the order which they had received was that they should not eat of them all. He brought forward an ambiguous statement as a slippery stumbling-block to cause the soul to trip. For this expression, "Ye shall not eat of every tree," means in the first place either, not even of one, which is false; or, secondly, not of every one, as if he intended to say, there are some of which you may not eat, which is true. Therefore he asserts such a falsehood more explicitly.
Why, when it was commanded them to avoid eating of one plant alone, the woman made also a further addition to this injunction, saying, "He said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it?" [Genesis 3:3].
35. In the first place she says this, because taste and every other sense after its kind consists in the touch appropriate to it. In the second place she says it that it may seem to condemn them themselves, who did what they had been forbidden. For if even the mere act of touching it was prohibited, how could they who, besides touching the tree, presumed to eat of the fruit, and so added a greater transgression to the lesser one, be anything but condemners and punishers of themselves?
What is the meaning of the expression, "Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil?" [Genesis 3:5].
36. Whence was it that the serpent found the plural word "gods," when there is only one true God, and when this is the first time that he names him? But perhaps this arises from there having been in him a certain prescient wisdom, by which he now declared the notion of the multitude of gods which was at a future time to prevail amongst men; and, perhaps, history now relates this correctly at its first being advanced not by any rational being, nor by any creature of the higher class, but as having derived its origin from the most virulent and vile of beasts and serpents, since other similar creatures lie hid under the earth, and their lurking places are in the holes and fissures of the earth.
Moreover, it is the inseparable sign of a being endowed with reason to look upon God as essentially one being, but it is the mark of a beast to imagine that there are many gods, and these too devoid of reason, and who can scarcely be said with propriety to have any existence at all.
Moreover, the devil proceeds with great art, speaking by the mouth of the serpent. For not only is there in the Divinity the knowledge of good and evil, but there is also an approval of what is good and a repudiation of what is evil; but he does not speak of either of these feelings because they were useful, but only suggested the mere knowledge of the two contrary things, namely, of good and evil. In the second place, the expression, "as gods," in the plural number, is in this place not used inconsiderately, but in order to give the idea of there being both a bad and a good God. And these are of a twofold quality. Therefore it is suitable to the notion of particular gods to have a knowledge of contrary things; but the Supreme Cause is above all others.
Why the woman first touched the tree and ate of its fruit, and the man afterwards, receiving it from her? [Genesis 3:6].
37. The words used first of all, by their own intrinsic force, assert that it was suitable that immortality and every good thing should be represented as under the power of the man, and death and every evil under that of the woman. But with reference to the mind, the woman, when understood symbolically, is sense, and the man is intellect. Moreover, the outward senses do of necessity touch those things which are perceptible by them; but it is through the medium of the outward senses that things are transmitted to the mind. For the outward senses are influenced by the objects which are presented to them; and the intellect by the outward senses.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And she gave it to her husband to eat with her?" [Genesis 3:6].
38. What has been just said bears on this point also, since the time is nearly one and the same in which the outward senses are influenced by the object which is presented to them, and the intellect has an impression made on it by the outward senses.
What is the meaning of the expression, "And the eyes of both of them were opened?" [Genesis 3:7].
39. That they were not created blind is manifest even from this fact that as all other things, both animals and plants, were created in perfection, so also man must have been adorned with the things which are his most excellent parts, namely, eyes. And we may especially prove this, because a little while before the earth-born Adam was giving names to all the animals on the earth. Therefore it is perfectly plain that he saw them before doing so. Unless, indeed, Moses used the expression "eyes" in a figurative sense for the vision of the soul, by which alone the perception of good and evil, of what is elegant or unsightly, and, in fact, of all contrary natures, arise. But, if the eye is to be taken separately as counsel, which is called the warning of the understanding, then again there is a separate eye, which is a certain something devoid of sound reason, which is called opinion.
What is the meaning of the expression, "Because they knew that they were naked?" [Genesis 3:7].
40. They first arrived at the knowledge of this fact, that is to say, of their nakedness, after they had eaten of the forbidden fruit. Therefore, opinion was like the beginning of wickedness, when they perceived that they had not as yet used any covering, inasmuch as all parts of the universe are immortal and incorruptible; but they themselves immediately found themselves in need of some corruptible coverings made with hands. But this knowledge was in the nakedness itself, not as having been in itself the cause of any change, but because their mind now conceived a novelty unlike the rest of the universal world.
Why they sewed fig-leaves into girdles? [Genesis 3:8].
41. They did this in the first place, because the fruit of the fig is very pleasant and agreeable to the taste. Therefore the sacred historian here, by a symbolical expression, indicates those who sew together and join pleasures to pleasures by every means and contrivance imaginable. Therefore they bind them around the place where the parts of generation are seated, as that is the instrument of important transactions.
And they do this, secondly, because although the fruit of the fig-tree is, as I have already said, sweeter than any other, yet its leaves are harder. And, therefore, Moses here wishes by this symbol to intimate that the motions of pleasure are slippery and smooth in appearance, but that they, nevertheless, are in reality hard, so that it is impossible that he who feels them should be delighted, unless he was previously sorrowful, and he will again become sorrowful. For to be always sorrowing is a melancholy thing between a double grief, the one being at its beginning, and the other coming before the first is ended.
What is meant by the statement that the sound was heard of God walking in the Paradise? was it the sound of his voice, or of his feet? and can God be said to talk? [Genesis 3:8].
42. Those gods who are in heaven, perceptible to our outward senses, walk in a ring, proceeding onwards by a circuitous track; but the Supreme Cause is steadfast and immovable, as the ancients have decided. But the true God gives some indication also, as if he wished to give a sense of motion. For in truth even without his uttering any words, the prophets hear him, by a certain virtue of some diviner voice sounding in their ears, or perhaps being even articulately uttered.
As therefore God is heard without uttering any sound, so also he gives an idea of walking when he is not walking, nay, though he is altogether immovable. But do you not see that before they had tasted of wickedness, as they were stable and constant, and immovable and tranquil, and uniform, so also in an equal manner must they have looked upon the Deity as immovable, as in fact he is. But they once had become endued with cunning, they, by judging from themselves, began to strip him of his attributes of immobility and unchangeableness, and conjectured that he too was subject to variation and change.
Why while they are hiding themselves from the face of God, the woman is not mentioned first, since she was the first to eat of the forbidden fruit: but why the man is spoken of in the first place; for the sacred historian's words are, "And Adam and his wife hid themselves?" [Genesis 3:9].
43. The woman, being imperfect and depraved by nature, made the beginning of sinning and prevaricating; but the man, as being the more excellent and perfect creature, was the first to set the example of blushing and of being ashamed, and indeed, of every good feeling and action.
Why they did not hide themselves in some other place, but in the middle of the trees of the Paradise? [Genesis 3:9].
44. Every thing is not done by sinners with wisdom and sagacity, but it often happens that while thieves are watching for an opportunity of plunder, having no thoughts of the Deity who presides over the world, the booty which is close to them and lying at their feet is by some admirable management wrested from them without delay: and something of this kind took place on the present occasion. For when they ought rather to have fled to a distance from the garden in which their offense had taken place, they still were arrested in the middle of the Paradise itself, in order that they might be convicted of their sin too clearly to find any refuge even in flight itself. And this statement indicates in a figurative manner that every wicked man takes refuge in wickedness, and that every man who is wholly devoted to his passions flies to those passions as to an asylum.
Why God asks Adam, "Where art thou?" when he knows everything: and why he does not also put the same question to the woman? [Genesis 3:10].
45. The expression, "Where art thou?" does not here seem to be a mere interrogatory, but rather a threat and a conviction: "Where art thou now, O man? from how many good things art thou changed? having forsaken immortality and a life of the most perfect happiness, you have become changed to death and misery in which you are buried."
But God did not condescend to put any question to the woman at all, looking upon her as the cause of the evil which had occurred, and as the guide to her husband to a life of shame.
But there is an allegorical meaning in this passage, because the principal part is the man, his guide, the mind, having in itself the masculine principle, when it gives ear to any one introduces also the defect of the female part, namely that of the outward sense.
Why the man says, "The woman gave me of the tree, and I did eat;" [Genesis 3:12] but the woman does not say, "The serpent gave to me," but, "The serpent beguiled me and I did eat?"
46. The literal expression here affords grounds for that probable opinion that woman is accustomed rather to be deceived than to devise anything of importance out of her own head; but with the man the case is just the contrary. But as regards the intellect, everything which is the object of the outward senses beguiles and seduces each particular sense of every imperfect being to which it is adapted. And the sense then, being vitiated by the object, infects the dominant and principal part, the mind, with its own taint. Therefore the mind receives the impression from the outward sense, giving it that which it has received itself. For the outward sense is deceived and beguiled by the sensible object submitted to it, but the senses of the wise man are infallible, as are also the cogitations of his mind.
Why God curses the serpent first, then the woman, and the man last of all? [Genesis 3:14].
47. The reason is that the order of the verses followed the order in which the offenses were committed. The first offense was the deceit practiced by the serpent; the second was the sin of the woman which was owing to him when she abandoned herself to his seduction; the third thing was the guilt of the man in yielding rather to the inclination of the woman than to the commandment of God. But this order is very admirable, containing within itself a perfect allegory; inasmuch as the serpent is the emblem of desire, as is proved, and the woman of the outward sense; but the man is the symbol of intellect. Therefore the infamous author of the sin is desire; and that first deceives the outward sense, and then the outward sense captivates the mind.
Why the curse is pronounced on the serpent in this manner, that he shall go on his breast and on his belly, and eat dust, and be at enmity with the woman? [Genesis 3:16].
48. The words in themselves are plain enough, and we have evidence of them in what we have seen. But the real meaning contains an allegory concealed beneath it; since the serpent is the emblem of desire, representing under a figure a man devoted to pleasure. For he creeps upon his breast and upon his belly, being filled with meat and drink like cormorants, being inflamed by an insatiable cupidity, and being incontinent in their voracity and devouring of flesh, so that whatever relates to food is in every article something earthly, on which account he is said to eat the dust.
But desire has naturally a quarrel with the outward sense, which Moses here symbolically calls the woman; but where the passions appear to be as it were guardians and champions in behalf of the senses, nevertheless they are beyond all question still more clearly flatterers forming devices against them like so many enemies; and it is the custom of those who are contending with one another to perpetrate greater evils by means of those things which they concede. Forsooth they turn the eyes to the ruin of the sight, the ears to hearing what is unwelcome; and the rest of the outward senses to insensibility. Moreover they cause dissolution and paralysis to the entire body, taking away from it all soundness, and foolishly building up instead a great number of most mischievous diseases.
Why the curse pronounced against the woman is the multiplication of her sadness and groans, that she shall bring forth children in sorrow, and that her desire shall be to her husband, and that she shall be ruled over by him? [Genesis 3:16].
49. Every woman who is the companion for life of a husband suffers all those things, not indeed as a curse but as necessary evils. But speaking figuratively, the human sense is wholly subjected to severe labor and pain, being stricken and wounded by domestic agitations. Now the following are the train in the service of the outward senses: the sight is the servant of the eyes, hearing of the ears, smelling of the nostrils, taste of the mouth, feeling of the touch.
Since the life of the worthless and wicked man is full of pain and want, it arises of necessity from these facts that every thing which is done in accordance with the outward sense must be mingled with pain and fear. In respect of the mind a conversion of the outward sense takes place towards the man not as to a companion, for it, like the woman, is subject to authority as being depraved, but as to a master, because it has chosen violence rather than justice.
Why God, as he had pronounced a curse on the serpent and on the woman which bore a relation to themselves and to one another, he did not pronounce a similar one upon the man, but connected the earth with him, saying, "Cursed is the earth for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee, and thou shalt eat the grass of the field: in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread?" [Genesis 3:17].
50. Since all intellect is a divine inspiration, God did not judge it right to curse him in the manner deserved by his offense; but converted his curse so as to fall upon the earth and his cultivation of it. But man, as a body of co-equal nature and similar character to that of the earth and understanding, is its cultivator. When the cultivator is endowed with virtue and diligence, then the body produces its proper fruit, namely sanity, an excellent state of the outward senses, strength, and beauty. But if the cultivator be a savage, then every thing is different. For the body becomes liable to a curse, since it has for its husbandman an intellect unchastised and unsound. And its fruit is nothing useful, but only thorns and thistles, sorrow and fear, and other vices which every thought strikes down, and as it were pierces the intellect with its darts.
But grass here is symbolically used for food; since man has changed himself from a rational animal into a brute beast, having neglected all divine food, which is given by philosophy, by means of distinct words and laws to regulate the will.
What is the meaning of the expression, "Until thou returnest to the earth from which thou wast taken;" for man was not created out of the earth alone, but also of the divine Spirit? [Genesis 3:18].
51. In the first place it is clear, that the first man who was formed out of the earth was made up both of earth and heaven; but because he did not continue uncorrupt, but despised the commandment of God, fleeing from the most excellent part, namely, from heaven, he gave himself up wholly as a slave to the earth, the denser and heavier element.
In the second place, if any one burns with a desire of virtue, which makes the soul immortal, he, beyond all question, attains to a heavenly inheritance; but because he was covetous of pleasure, by which spiritual death is engendered, he again gives himself over a second time to the earth, on which account it is said to him, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return;" therefore the earth, as it is the beginning of a wicked and depraved man, so also it is his end; but heaven is the beginning and end of him who is endowed with virtue.
Why Adam called his wife Life, and affirmed to her, "Thou art the mother of all living?" [Genesis 3:20].
52. In the first place, Adam gave to the first created woman that familiar name of Life, inasmuch as she was destined to be the fountain of all the generations which should ever arise upon the earth after their time.
In the second place, he called her by this name because she did not derive the existence of her substance out of the earth, but out of a living creature, namely, out of one part of the man, that is to say, out of his rib, which was formed into a woman, and on that account she was called "life," because she was first made out of a living creature, and because the first beings who were endowed with reason were to be generated from her. Nevertheless, it is possible that this may have been a metaphorical expression; for is not the outward sense, which is a figurative emblem of the woman, called with peculiar propriety "life?" because it is by the possession of these senses that the living being is above all other means distinguished from that which is not alive, as it is by that that the imaginations and impulses of the soul are set in motion, for the senses are the causes of each; and, in real truth the outward sense is the mother of all living creatures, for as there could be no generation without a mother, so also there could be no living creature without sense.
Why God made garments of skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them? [Genesis 3:21].
53. Perhaps some one may laugh at the expressions here used, considering the small value of the garments thus made, as if they were not at all worthy of the labor of a Creator of such dignity and greatness; but a man who has a proper appreciation of wisdom and virtue will rightly and deservedly look upon this work as one very suitable for a God, that, namely, of teaching wisdom to those who were before laboring to no purpose; and who, having but little anxiety about procuring useful things, being seized with an insane desire for miserable honors, have given themselves up as slaves to convenience, looking upon the study of wisdom and virtue with detestation, and being in love with splendor of life and skill in mean and handicraft arts, which is in no way connected with a virtuous man.
And these unhappy men do not know that a frugality, which is in need of nothing, becomes, as it were, a relation and neighbor to man, but that luxurious splendor is banished to a distance as an enemy; therefore the garment made of skins, if one should come to a correct judgment, deserves to be looked upon as a more noble possession than a purple robe embroidered with various colors.
Therefore this is the literal meaning of the text; but if we look to the real meaning, then the garment of skins is a figurative expression for the natural skin, that is to say, our body; for God, when first of all he made the intellect, called it Adam; after that he created the outward sense, to which he gave the name of Life. In the third place, he of necessity also made a body, calling that by a figurative expression, a garment of skins; for it was fitting that the intellect and the outward sense should be clothed in a body as in a garment of skins; that the creature itself might first of all appear worthy of divine virtue; since by what power can the formation of the human body be put together more excellently, and in a more becoming manner, than by God? on which account he did put it together, and at the same time he clothed it; when some prepare articles of human clothing and others put them on; but this natural clothing, contemporary with the man himself, namely, the body, belonged to the same Being both to make and to clothe the man in after it was made.
Who those beings are to whom God says, "Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil?" [Genesis 3:22].
54. The expression, "one of us," indicates a plurality of beings; unless indeed we are to suppose, that God is conversing with his own virtues, which he employed as instruments, as it were, to create the universe and all that is in it; but that expression "as," resembles an enigma, and a similitude, and a comparison, but is not declaratory of any dissimilarity; for that which is intelligible and sensibly good, and likewise that which is of a contrary character, is known to God in a different manner from that in which it is known to man; since, in the same way in which the natures of those who inquire and those who comprehend, and the things themselves too which are inquired into, and perceived, and comprehended, are distinguished, virtue itself is also capable of comprehending them. But all these things are similitudes, and forms, and images, among men; but among the gods they are prototypes, models, indications, and more manifest examples of things which are somewhat obscure; but the unborn and uncreated Father joins himself to no one, except with the intention of extending the honor of his virtues.
What is the meaning of the words, "Lest perchance he put forth his hand and take of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever;" for there is no uncertainty and no envy in God? [Genesis 3:23].
55. It is quite true that God never feels either uncertainty or envy; nevertheless he often employs ambiguous things and expressions, assenting to them as a man might do; for, as I have said before, the supreme providence is of a twofold nature, sometimes being God, and not acting in any respect as a man; but, on some occasions, as a man instructs his son, so likewise should the Lord God give warning to you.
Therefore the first of these circumstances belongs to his sovereign power, and the second to his disciplinary, and to the first introduction to instruction, so as to insinuate into man's heart a voluntary inclination, since that expression, "lest perchance," is not to be taken as a proof of any hesitation on the part of God, but in relation to man, who, by his nature, is prone to hesitation, and is a denunciation of the inclinations which exist in him.
For when any appearance of anything whatever occurs to any man, immediately there arises within him an impulse towards that which appears, being caused by that very thing which appears. And from this arises the second hesitating kind of uncertainty, distracting the mind in various directions, as to whether the thing is fit to be accepted, or acquired, or not. And very likely present circumstances have a respect to that second feeling; for, in truth, the Divinity is incapable of any cunning, or malevolence, or wickedness: it is absolutely impossible that God should either envy the immortality or any other good fortune belonging to any being. And we can bring the most undeniable proof of this; for it was not in consequence of any one's entreaties that he created the world; but, being a merciful benefactor, rendering an essence previously untamed and unregulated, and liable to suffering, gentle and pleasant, he did so by a vast harmony of blessings, and a regulated arrangement of them, like a chorus; and he being himself the only sure being, planted the tree of life by his own luminous character.
Moreover, he was not influenced by the mediation or exhortation of any other being in communicating incorruptibility to man. But while man existed as the purest intellect, displaying no appearance either of work or of any evil discourse, he was certain to have a fitting guide, to lead him in the paths of piety, which is undoubted and genuine immortality. But from the time when he began to be converted to depravity, wishing for the things which belong to mortal life, he wandered from immortality; for it is not fitting that craft and wickedness should be rendered immortal, and moreover it would be useless to the subject; since the longer the life is which is granted to the wicked and depraved man, the more miserable is he than others, so that his immortality becomes a grave misfortune to him.
Why now he calls the Paradise "pleasure," when he is sending man forth out of it to till the ground from which he was taken. [Genesis 3:23].
56. The distinction of agriculture is conspicuous, when man in the state of paradise, practicing the cultivation of wisdom as if he were employed in the cultivation of trees, and enjoying the food of imperishable and most useful fruits, was himself endowed with immortality likewise. After that, being expelled from the place of wisdom, he experienced the opposite effects of ignorance, by which the body is polluted, and at the same time the intellect is blinded, and, being exposed to a want of proper food, he wastes away, and yields to a miserable death.
On which account, now, in contempt of the foolish man, God calls the Paradise "pleasure," in order to put it in opposition to a life of pain, and misery, and savageness. In truth, the life which is passed in wisdom is a pleasure, full of liberal joy, and is the constant enjoyment of a rational soul; but that life which is destitute of wisdom is found to be both savage and miserable, although it is excessively deceived by the appetites, which pain both precedes and follows.
Why God places a cherubim in front of the Paradise, and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life? [Genesis 3:24].
57. The name cherubim designates the two original virtues which belong to the Deity, namely, his creative and his royal virtues. The one of which has the title of God, the other, or the royal virtue, that of Lord. Now the form of the creative power is a peaceable, and gentle, and beneficent virtue; but the royal power is a legislative, and chastising, and correcting virtue. Moreover, by the flaming sword he here symbolically intimates the heaven: for the air is of a flaming color, and turns itself round, revolving about the universe.
Therefore, all these things assumed to themselves the guardianship of the Paradise, because they are the presidents over wisdom, like a mirror; since, to illustrate my meaning by an example, the wisdom of the world is a sort of mirror of the divine virtues, in the similitude of which it was perfected, and by which the universe and all the things in it are regulated and arranged. But the way to wisdom is called philosophy (a word which means the love or the pursuit of philosophy). And since the creative virtue is endued with philosophy, being both philosophical and royal, so also the world itself is philosophical.
Some persons however have fancied that it is the sun which is indicated by the flaming sword; because, by its constant revolutions and turnings every way, it marks out the seasons of the year, as being the guardian of human life and of every thing which serves to the life of all men.
Whether it was properly said with respect to Cain: "I have gotten a man from the Lord?" [Genesis 4:1].
58. Here there is a distinction made, as to -- from some one, and out of some one, and by some thing. Out of some one, as out of materials; from some one, as from a cause; and by some thing, as by an instrument. But the Father and Creator of all the world is not an instrument, but a cause. Therefore he wanders from right wisdom who says, "That what has been made has been made, not from God, but by God."
Why the sacred historian first describes the employment of the younger brother, Abel, saying: "He was a keeper of sheep; but Cain was a cultivator of the earth?" [Genesis 4:2].
59. Since, although the virtuous son was in point of time younger than the wicked son, yet in point of virtue he was older. On which account, on the present occasion, when their actions are to be compared together, he is placed first. Therefore one of them exercises a business, and takes care of living creatures, although they are devoid of reason, gladly taking upon himself the employment of a shepherd, which is a princely office, and as it were a sort of rehearsal of royal power; but the other devotes his attention to earthly and inanimate objects.
Why Cain after some days offers up the first-fruits of his fruits, but when it is said that "Abel offered up first-fruits of the first-born of his flock and of the fat," "after some days" is not added? [Genesis 4:3].
60. Moses here intimates the difference between a lover of himself, and one who is thoroughly devoted to God; for the one took to himself the first-fruits of his fruits, and very impiously looked upon God as worthy only of the secondary and inferior offerings; for the expression, "after some days," implies that he did not do so immediately; and when it is said that he offered of the fruits, that intimates that he did not offer of the best fruits which he had, and herein displays his iniquity.
But the other, without any delay, offered up the first-born and eldest of all his flocks, in order that in this the Father might not be treated unworthily.
Why, when he had begun with Cain, he still mentions him here in the second place, when he says: "And God had respect unto Abel and unto his offerings; but unto Cain and unto his sacrifices he paid no attention?" [Genesis 4:5].
61. In the first place, because the good man, who is by nature first, is not at first perceived by the outward senses of any man except in his own turn, and by people of virtuous conduct. Secondly, because the good and the wicked man are two distinct characters; he accepts the good man, seeing that he is a lover of what is good, and an eager student of virtue; but he rejects and regards with aversion the wicked man, presuming that he will be prone to that side by the order of nature. Therefore he says here with exceeding fitness, that God had regard, not to the offerings, but to those who offered them, rather than to the gifts themselves; for men have regard to and regulate their approbation by the abundance and richness of offerings, but God looks at the sincerity of the soul, having no regard to ambition or illusion of any kind.
What is the meaning of the distinction here made between a gift and a sacrifice? [Genesis 4:4].
62. The man who slays a sacrifice, after having made a division, pours the blood around the altar and takes the flesh home; but he who offers it as a gift, offers as it should seem the whole to him who accepts it. Therefore, the man who is a lover of self is a distributor, like Cain; but he who is a lover of God is the giver of a free gift, as was Abel.
How it was that Cain became aware that his offering had not pleased God? [Genesis 4:5].
63. Perhaps he resolved his doubts, an additional cause being added, for sorrow seized upon him and his countenance fell. Therefore, he took the sorrow which he felt as an indication that he had been sacrificing what was not pleasing or approved of, when joy and happiness would have been suited to one who was sacrificing with purity of heart and spirit.
Why is it that the expression used is not, because you do not offer rightly; but, because (or unless) you do not divide rightly? [Genesis 4:7].
64. In the first place, we must understand that right division and improper division are nothing else but order and the want of it. And it is by order that the universal world and its parts were made; since the Creator of the world, when he began to arrange and regulate the previously untamed and unarranged power which was liable to suffering, employed section and division. For he placed the heavy elements which were prone to descend downwards by their own nature, namely, the earth and the water, in the center of the universe; but he placed the air and the fire at a greater altitude, as they were raised on high by reason of their lightness.
But separating and dividing the pure nature, namely heaven, he carried it round and diffused it over the universe, so that it should be completely invisible to all men; containing within itself the whole universe in all its parts.
Again, the statement that animals and plants are produced out of seeds, some moist and some dry, what else does it mean but the inevitable dissection and separation of distinction? Therefore it follows inevitably, that this order and arrangement of the universe must be imitated in all things, especially in feeling and acknowledging gratitude; by which we are invited to requite in some degree and manner the kindnesses of those who have showered greater benefits liberally on us. Moreover, to pay one's thanks to God is an action which is intrinsically right in itself: and it is not to be disapproved of that he should receive the offerings due to him at the earliest moment, and fresh gifts from the first-fruits of every thing, not being dishonored by any negligence on our part. Since it is not fitting that man should reserve for himself the first and most excellent things which are created, and should offer what is only second best to the all-wise God and Creator; for that division would be faulty and blameworthy, showing a most preposterous and unnatural arrangement.
What is the meaning of the expression: "You have done wrongly; now rest?" [Genesis 4:8].
65. He is here giving very useful advice; since, to do no wrong at all is the greatest of all good things: but he who sins, and who thus blushes and is overwhelmed with shame, is near akin to him, being, if I may use such a phrase, as the younger brother to the elder; for those persons who pride themselves on their errors as if they had not done wrong, are afflicted with a disease which is difficult to cure, or rather which is altogether incurable.
Why he seems to be giving what is good into the hand of a wicked man, when he says, "And unto thee shall be his desire?" [Genesis 4:8].
66. He does not deliver good into his hand; but the expression is heard with different feelings; since he is speaking, not of a pious man, but after the action is accomplished, saying of him: The desire and respect of the impiety of this man's wickedness will be towards you. Do not therefore talk about necessity, but about your own habits, in order that thus he may represent the voluntary action.
And again, the sentence, "And you shall be his ruler over him," has a reference to the operation. In the first place, you begin to act with wickedness; and now behold, another iniquity follows that great and injurious iniquity. Therefore, he both thinks and affirms that this is the principal part of all voluntary injury.
Why he slew his brother in the field? [Genesis 4:9].
67. That as all infecundity and sterility arises from a neglect of sowing and planting land a second time, he may be kept continually in mind of his wicked murder, and self-blamed for it; since the ground was not to be the same for the future, after it was compelled, contrary to its nature, to drink of human blood, to bring forth food to that man who imbued it with the polluted stain of blood.
Why he who knows all things asks the fratricide: "Where is thy brother Abel?" [Genesis 4:10].
68. He puts this question to him because he wishes the man to confess voluntarily and spontaneously, of his own accord, so that he may not imagine that every thing is done out of necessity; for he who had slain another through necessity, would have confessed unwillingly, as having done the deed unwillingly; since that which does not depend upon ourselves does not deserve accusation; but the man who has done wrong intentionally denies it; for those who do wrong are liable to repentance. Therefore, he has interwoven this principle in all parts of his legislation, because the Deity himself is never the cause of evil.
Why he who had slain his brother makes answer as if he were replying to a man; and says, "I do not know: am I my brother's keeper?" [Genesis 4:9].
69. It is the opinion of an atheist to think that the eye of God does not penetrate through every thing, and behold all things at the same time; piercing not only through what is visible, but also through every thing which lurks in the deepest and bottomless unfathomable abysses.
Suppose a person said to him, "How can you be ignorant where your brother is, and how is it that you do not know that, when as yet he is one out of the only four human beings which exist in the world? He being one with both his parents, and you his only brother." To this question the reply made is: "I am not my brother's keeper." O what a beautiful apology! And whose keeper and protector ought you to have been, rather than your brother's? But if you have excited your diligence to give effect to violence, and injury, and fraud, and homicide, which are the foulest and most abominable of actions, why did you consider the safety of your brother a secondary object?"
What is the meaning of the expression, "The voice of thy brother's blood cries to me out of the earth?" [Genesis 4:10].
70. This is especially an example by which to take warning; for the Deity listens to those who are worthy, although they be dead, knowing that they are alive as to an incorporeal life. But he averts his countenance from the prayers of the wicked, although they are living a flourishing life, inasmuch as he looks upon them as dead to any real life, carrying about their bodies like a sepulcher; and having buried their miserable souls in it.
Why he is said to be cursed upon the earth? [Genesis 4:11].
71. The earth is the last portion of the world, therefore if that utters curses, we must consider that the other elements do likewise pour forth adequate maledictions; for instance, the fountains, and rivers, and sea, and the air, and the land, and the fire, and the light, and the sun, and moon, and stars, and in short the whole heaven. For if inanimate and earthly nature, throwing off the yoke, wars against injury, why may not still rather those natures do so which are of a purer character? But as for him, against whom the parts of the world carry on war, what hope of safety he can have for the future, I know not.
What is the meaning of the curse, "You shall be groaning and trembling upon the earth?" [Genesis 4:12 LXX].
72. This also is a general principle; for in all evils there are some things which are perceived immediately, and some which are felt at a later period; for those which are future cause fear, and those which are felt at once bring sorrow.
What is the meaning of Cain saying, "My punishment is too great for you to dismiss me? [Genesis 4:13].
73. In truth there is not misery greater than to be deserted and despised by God; for the anarchy of fools is cruel and very intolerable; but to be despised by the great King, and to fall down as an abject person cast down from the government of the Supreme Power is an indescribable affliction.
What is the meaning of Cain, when he says, "Everyone who shall find me will kill me:" when there was scarcely another human being in the world except his parents? [Genesis 4:14].
74. In the first place he might have received injury from the parts of the world which indeed were made for the advantage of the good and that they might partake of them, but which nevertheless, derived from the wicked no slight degree of revenge. In the second place it may be that he said this, because he was apprehensive of injury from beasts, and reptiles; for nature has brought forth these animals with the express object of their being instruments of vengeance on the wicked.
In the third place, some people may imagine that he is speaking with reference to his parents, on whom he had inflicted an unprecedented sorrow, and the first evil which had happened to them, before they knew what death was.
Why whoever should slay Cain should be liable to bear a sevenfold punishment? [Genesis 4:15].
75. As our soul consists of eight portions, being accustomed to be divided in its rational and irrational individuality into seven subordinate parts, namely into the five outward senses, and the instrument of vice, and the faculty of generation; those seven parts exist among the causes of wickedness and evil, on which account they likewise fall under judgment; but the death of the principal and dominant portion of man, namely of the mind, is principally the wickedness which exists in it. Whoever therefore slays the mind, mingling in it folly, and insensibility, instead of sense, will cause dissolution also of the seven irrational parts; since, just as the principal and leading part had a portion from virtue, in the same manner likewise are its subject divisions composed.
Why a sign is put on him who had slain his brother, that no one should kill him who found him; when it would have been natural to do the contrary, namely, to give him over to the hands of an executioner to be put to death? [Genesis 4:16].
76. This is said because, in the first place, the change of the nature of living is one kind of death; but continual sorrow and unmixed fear are destitute of joy and devoid of all good hope, and so they bring on many terrible and various evils which are so many sensible deaths.
In the second place, the sacred historian designs at the very beginning of his work to enunciate the law about the incorruptibility of the soul, and to confute as deceitful those who look upon the life which is contained in this body as the only happy life; for behold one of the two brothers is guilty of those enormous crimes which have already been mentioned, namely, impiety and fratricide; and he is still alive, and begetting offspring, and building cities. But the other who was praised in respect of his piety is treacherously put to death; while the voice of the Lord not only clearly cries out that that existence which is perceptible by the outward senses is not good, and that such a death is not evil, but also that that life which is in the flesh is not life, but that there is another given to man free from old age, and more immortal, which the incorporeal souls have received; for that expression of the poet about Scylla,
"That is not mortal but an endless woe," [The line occurs, Homer, Odyss. xii. 118.]
is asserted in the same familiarity about a person who lives ill and passes a long life for many years in the practice of wickedness.
In the third place, since Cain had perpetrated this fratricide of enormous guilt above all other crimes, he presents himself to him, quite forgetful of the injury that he has done, imposing on all judges a most peaceful law for the first crime; not that they are not to destroy malefactors, but that resting for a while with great patience and long suffering, they shall study compassion rather than severity.
But God himself, with the most perfect wisdom, has laid down the rule of familiarity and intelligence with reference to the first sinner: not slaying the homicide, but destroying him in another manner; since he scarcely permitted him to be enumerated among the generations of his father, but shows him proscribed not only by his parents but by the whole race of mankind, allotting him a state separate from that of others, and secluded from the class of rational animals, as one who had been expelled, and banished, and turned into the nature of beasts.
Why Lamech, after the fifth generation, blames himself for the fratricide of his elder Cain; saying, as the scripture reports, to his wives, Adah and Zillah; "I have slain a man to my injury and a young man to my hurt; since if vengeance is taken upon Cain sevenfold, it shall certainly be taken on Lamech seventy and sevenfold?" [Genesis 4:23].
77. In numerals one is before ten, both in order and in virtue, for it is the first beginning and element and measure of all things. But the number ten is subsequent, and is measured by the other, being inferior to it, both in order and virtue; therefore, also, the number seven is antecedent in its origin to and more ancient than the number seventy, but the number seventy is younger than the number seven, and contains the calculation of generations.
These premises being laid down, he who first committed sin, as if he had been really always ignorant of evil, like the first odd number, namely, the unit, is chastised more simply; but the second offender, because he had the first for an example, so that there cannot possibly be any excuse made for him, is guilty of a voluntary crime, and because he did not receive honorable wisdom from that more simple punishment, the consequence will be that he will both suffer all that first punishment, and will, moreover, receive this second one, which is contained in the number ten.
For as in the horse-races they pay the groom who has trained the horse twice as great a reward as they give to the driver, so some wicked men, inclined to acts of injustice, gain the miserable triumph of victory and then are punished with a double punishment, both by the first one which is contained in the unit, and also by the second which is contained in the number ten; besides, Cain being the author of a homicide, when he was ignorant of the greatness of the pollution which he was incurring, because no death had hitherto taken place in the world, suffered a more simple punishment, namely, only a sevenfold penalty in the order of the unit; but as his imitator could not take refuge in the same plea of ignorance, he ought to be subjected to a twofold punishment, not only to one equal and similar to that which had been inflicted on the first offender, but also another, which should be the seventh among the decades. In truth, according to the law, the trial which is before the tribunal is a sevenfold one; first of all, the eyes are put on their trial, because they beheld what was not lawful; secondly, the ears are impeached, because they heard what they ought not to have heard; thirdly, the smell is brought into question, as having been reduced by smoke and vapor; fourthly, the taste is accused, as being subservient to the pleasures of the belly; fifthly, a charge is brought against the taste, by means of which, besides the operations of the senses above-mentioned, in respect of those things which prevail over the spirit, other things, also, are superadded separately, such as the takings of cities, the captivities of men, the destructions of those citadels of cities in which wisdom dwells; sixthly, an accusation is urged against the tongue and other instruments of speech, for being silent as to what should be spoken of, and speaking of what should be buried in silence; and, in the seventh place, the lower part of the belly is impeached for inflaming and exciting the passions by immoderate lust.
This is the meaning of that expression, according to which a sevenfold vengeance was taken upon Cain, but a seventy and sevenfold vengeance upon Lamech for the causes above mentioned, because he was the second offender, not having been taught by the punishment of the first delinquent, and therefore he is altogether worthy to receive his punishment, which is the more simple one, like the unit in numerals, and, also, a manifold punishment too equal to the number ten.
Why Adam, when he begat Seth, introduces him saying, "God has raised up for me another seed in the place of Abel whom Cain slew?" [Genesis 4:25].
78. In real truth Seth is another seed and the beginning of a second nativity of Abel, in accordance with a certain natural principle; for Abel is like to one who comes down below from above, on which account it was that he perished injuriously; but Seth resembles one who is proceeding upwards from below, on which account he also increases. And in proof of this argument Abel is explained as having been brought back and offered upwards to God. But it is not proper that everything should be raised and borne upwards, but only that which is good, for God is in no respect whatever the cause of evil.
Therefore, whatever is indistinct and uncertain, and mingled, and in confusion and disorder, has also, very properly, blame and praise mingled together: praise, because it honors the cause, and blame, since as the occurrence happened fortuitously, so it is without any plans having been formed or any gratitude expressed. Moreover, nature also separated the two sons from him; it rendered the good one worthy of immortality, resolving him into a voice interceding with God; but the wicked one it gave over to corruption.
But the name Seth is interpreted "watered," according to the variation of plants which grow by being watered, and put forth shoots and bear fruit. But these things are the symbols of the soul, so that it is not lawful to assert that the Divinity is the cause of all things equally, of the bad as well as of the good, but only of the good, and that alone ought to be planted alive.
Why Enos, the son of Seth, hoped to call upon the name of the Lord God? [Genesis 4:26].
79. The name Enos is interpreted "man;" and it is received as meaning, not the whole of the combined man, but as the rational part of the soul, namely, the intellect, to which it is peculiarly becoming to hope, for irrational animals are devoid of hope; but hope is a sort of presage of joy, and before joy there is an expectation of good things.
Why, after the mention of hope, Moses says, "This is the book of the generations of men?" [Genesis 5:1].
80. It is by this that he made what has been said before worthy of belief. What is man? Man is a being which, beyond all other races of animals, has received a copious and wonderful portion of hope; and this is as it were inscribed on his very nature, and celebrated there; for the human intellect hopes by its own nature.
Why, in the genealogy of Adam, Moses no longer mentions Cain, but only Seth, who, he says, was according to his appearance and form; on which account he proceeds to retain the generations which descend from him in his genealogy? [Genesis 5:3].
81. It can neither be lawful to enumerate a wicked and sinful murderer either in the list of reason or in that of number; for he must be cast out like dung, as some one said, looking upon him as one of such a character; and on this account the sacred historian neither points him out as the successor of his father who had been formed out of the dust, nor as the head of succeeding generations; but he distributes both these characteristics to him who was without pollution, and names Seth, who is a drinker of water, as having been watered by his father, and as begetting hope in his own increase and progress; on which account it is not inconsiderately and foolishly that he says that he was born according to the form and appearance of his father, to the reproof of his elder brother, who, on account of the foulness of the murder which he had committed, has nothing in him resembling his father, either in body or soul.
And on this account Moses has separated him from the family, and has given his share to his brother, being the noble privilege of the birthright of the first-born.
What is the meaning of the verse, Enoch pleased God after he begat Methuselah, two hundred years? [Genesis 5:22].
82. God appointed by the law the fountains of all good things to be under the principles of generation itself. And what I mean is something of this sort. A little while before he appointed mercy and pardon to exist, now again he decrees that penitence shall exist, not in any degree mocking or reproaching these men, who are believed to have offended, and at the same time giving the soul an opportunity to mount up from wickedness to virtue, like the conversion of those who are proceeding towards a snare. For behold, the man being made a husband and a father together with his birth, makes a beginning of honesty.
And he is said to please God, for although he does not persevere in piety from the moment that he is born, nevertheless, all that remaining period is counted to him as having been spent in a praiseworthy mode of life, because he pleased God for so many years. And these things are said, not because it perhaps was, but it might perhaps have seemed different; but he approves of the order of things, for indulgence having been exemplified, in this case of Cain, after no long interval of time, he introduces this statement, that Enoch practiced repentance, warning us by it that repentance alone can procure indulgence.
Why Enoch, who cultivated repentance, is said to have lived before his repentance a hundred and sixty-five years, but two hundred after his repentance? [Genesis 5:22].
83. This number of a hundred and sixty-five is combined of the singular addition of ten numbers from the unit to ten; as one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, the total of which is fifty-five. And again, from that by the addition of ten numbers, which, removing the unit proceed upwards by twos, as two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, which make a hundred and ten; the combination of which, with the numbers first mentioned, produces a hundred and sixty-five; and in this addition the even numbers amount to twice as much as the odd numbers; for the woman is more violent than the man, in the preposterous manner in which the wicked man rules over the virtuous man, the outward sense over the mind, the body over the outward sense, and matter over its cause.
But the number two hundred, in which repentance was practiced, is combined of two numbers of one hundred, the first hundred of which intimates a purification from injustice, but the other indicates the plenitude of perfect virtue. In truth, before anything else is done, the first thing is to cut off from a sick body every diseased part, and after that means of cure are to be applied to it, for this is the first step, and the other the second. Moreover, the number two hundred consists of fours, for it is produced as from seed, from four triangular numbers, and from four tetragons, and from four pentagons, and from four hexagons, and from four heptagons; and, as one may say, it fixes its step on the number seven. Now the four triangles are these, one, three, six, ten, which make twenty; the four tetragons are one, four, nine, sixteen, which make thirty; from the four pentagons, one, five, twelve, twenty-two, is made the number forty. Moreover, the four hexagons, one, six, fifteen, twenty-eight, make fifty; and the four heptagons, one, seven, eighteen, thirty-four, make sixty; and all these numbers put together make two hundred.
Why the man who lives a life of repentance is said to have lived three hundred and sixty-five years? [Genesis 5:23].
84. In the first place, the year contains three hundred and sixty-five days; therefore, by the symbol of the solar orbit, the sacred historian here indicates the life of the repentant man. In the second place, as the sun is the cause of day and night, performing his revolutions by day above the hemisphere of the earth, and his course by night under the earth, so also the life of the man of repentance consists of alternations of light and darkness; of darkness, that is, of times of agitation and circumstances of injury; and of light, when the light of virtue and its radiant brilliancy arises.
In the third place, he has assigned to him a complete number, as the sun is ordained to be the chief of the stars of heaven, under an appointed number, in the time which came before the period of his repentance, to lead to the oblivion of the sins previously committed; since, as God is good, he bestows the greatest favors most abundantly, and, at the same time, he effaces the former offenses of those who devote themselves to him, and which might deserve chastisement, by a recollection of their virtues.
Why, when Enoch died, the sacred historian adds the assertion, "He pleased God?" [Genesis 5:24].
85. In the first place, he says this because, by such a statement, he implies that the soul is immortal, inasmuch as after it is stripped of the body, it still pleases a second time.
In the second place, he honors the repentant man with praise, because he has persevered in the same alteration of manners, and has never receded till he has arrived at complete perfection of life; for behold, some men appear to be readily sated after they have only tasted of excellence; and after a hope of recovery has been given to them, they relapse again into the same disease.
What is the meaning of the expression, "He was not found because God translated him?" [Genesis 5:24].
86. In the first place, the end of virtuous and holy men is not death but a translation and migration, and an approach to some other place of abode.
In the second place, in this instance something marvellous did take place; for he was supposed to be carried off in such a way as to be invisible, for then he was not found: and a proof of this is, that he was sought for as being invisible, not only as having been carried away from their sight, since translation into another place is nothing else than a placing of a person in another situation; but it is here suggested, that he was translated from a visible place, perceptible by the outward senses, into an incorporeal idea, appreciable only to the intellect. This mercy also was bestowed on the great prophet, for his sepulcher also was known to no one.
And besides these two there was another, Elijah, who ascended from the things of earth into heaven, according to the divine appearance which was then presented to him, and who thus followed higher things, or, to speak with more exact propriety, was raised up to heaven.
How it was that immediately upon the nativity of Noah his father says, "He will make us rest from labors and sorrows, and from the earth, which the Lord God has cursed?" [Genesis 5:29].
87. The fathers of the saints did not prophesy except for grave reasons and on important occasions; for although those who were rendered worthy of prophetical panegyric did not prophecy at all times or on all subjects, they did so at all events on one occasion and on one subject, with which they were acquainted. Nor is this of no importance, but it is an emblem and an example, since Noah is a kind of surname of righteousness, of which, when the intellect is made a partaker, it causes us to rest from all wicked works, and releases us from sorrows and from fears, and renders us secure and joyful.
It also causes us to rest from that earthly nature which has been previously laid under a curse, which this body, when affected by pain, is connected with, especially in those persons who give cause for it, and who wear out their lives with pleasure. Nevertheless, if we examine attentively the events and circumstances, and compare them with the letter of the scriptures, the prophecy which has been already produced is deceived, because, in the time of this man, there did not arise any putting down of evils, but a more vehement obstinacy in sin and great afflictions, and the unprecedented event of the deluge. But you must note carefully, that Noah is the tenth in generation from the earth-born Adam.
What is meant by the three sons of Noah being named Shem, Ham, and Japhet? [Genesis 5:32].
88. These names are the symbols of three human things, what is good, what is bad, and what is indifferent; Shem is the symbol of what is good, Ham of what is bad, and Japhet of what is indifferent.
Why from the time that the deluge drew near, the human race is said to have increased so as to become a multitude? [Genesis 6:1].
89. Divine mercies do always precede judgment; since the first work of God is to do good, and to destroy follows afterwards; but he himself (when terrible evils are about to happen) loves to provide and is accustomed to provide that previously an abundance of many and great blessings shall be produced. On this principle also Egypt, when there was about to be a barrenness and famine for seven years as the prophet himself says, [Genesis 41:28] was for an equal number of years continuously made exceedingly fertile by the beneficent and saving power of the Creator of the universe.
And in the same way in which he showers benefits upon men, he also teaches them to depart and to abstain from sin; that these blessings may not be turned into the contrary. And on this account now, by the freedom of their institutions, the cities of the world have increased in generous virtue, so that if any corruption supervenes subsequently they may disapprove of their own acts of wickedness as extraordinary and irremediable; not at all looking upon the divinity as the cause of them, for that has no connection with wickedness or misery, for the task of the Deity is only to bestow blessings.
What is the meaning of the expression, "My spirit shall not always strive with man, because he is but flesh?" [Genesis 6:3].
90. An oracle is here promulgated as if it were a law; for the divine spirit is not a motion of the air, but intellect and wisdom; just as it also flows over the man who with great skill constructed the tabernacle of the Lord, namely upon Bezaleel, when the scripture says, "And he filled him with the divine spirit of wisdom and understanding." [Exodus 36:1.] Therefore that spirit comes upon men, but does not abide or persevere in them; and the Lord himself adds the reason, when he says, "Because they are flesh." For the disposition of the flesh is inconsistent with wisdom, inasmuch as it makes a bond of alliance with desire; on which account it is evident that nothing important can be in the way of incorporeal and light souls, or can be any hindrance to their discerning and comprehending the condition of nature, because a pure disposition is acquired together with constancy.
Why it is said that the days of man shall be a hundred and twenty years? [Genesis 6:4].
91. God appears here to fix the limit of human life by this number, indicating by it the manifold prerogative of honor; for in the first place this number proceeds from the units, according to combination, from the number fifteen; but the principle of the number fifteen is that of a more transparent appearance, since it is on the fifteenth day that the moon is rendered full of light, borrowing its light of the sun at the approach of evening, and restoring it to him again in the morning; so that during the night of the full moon the darkness is scarcely visible, but it is all light.
In the second place, the number a hundred and twenty is a triangular number, and is the fifteenth number consisting of triangles.
Thirdly, it is so because it consists of a combination of odd and even numbers, being contained by the power of the faculty of the concurring numbers, sixty-four and fifty-six; for the equal number of sixty-four is compounded of the uniting of these eight odd numbers, one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven, thirteen, fifteen; the reduction of which, by their parts into squares, makes a sum total of sixty-four, and that is a cube, and at the same time a square number.
But again from the seven double units there arises the unequal number of fifty-six, being compounded of seven double pairs, which generate other productions of them, two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen; the sum total of which is fifty-six.
In the fourth place, it is compounded of four numbers, of one triangle, namely fifteen; and of another square, namely twenty-five; and of a third quinquangular figure, thirty-five; and of a fourth a sexangular figure forty-five, by the same analogy: for the fifth is always received according to each appearance; for from the unity of the triangles the fifth number becomes fifteen; again the fifth of the quadrangular number from the unit makes twenty-five; and the fifth of the quinquangular number from the unit makes thirty-five; and the fifth of the sexangular number from the unit makes forty-five.
But every one of these numbers is a divine and sacred number, consisting of fifteens as has been already shown; and the number twenty-five belongs to the tribe of Levi. [Numbers 8:24.] And the number thirty-five comes from the double diagram of arithmetic, geometry, and harmony; but sixteen, and eighteen, and nineteen, and twenty-one, the combination of which numbers amounts to seventy-four, is that according to which seven months' children are born. And forty-five consists of a triple diagram; but to this number, sixteen, nineteen, twenty-two, and twenty-eight, belong: the combination of which makes eighty-five, according to which nine months' children are produced.
Fifthly, this diagram has fifteen parts, and a twofold composition, peculiarly belonging to itself; forsooth when divided by two it gives sixty, the measure of the age of all mankind; when divided by three it gives forty, the idea of prophecy; when divided by four it gives thirty, a nation; when divided by five, it makes twenty-four, the measure of day and night; when divided by six, it gives twenty, a beginning; when divided by eight, we have fifteen, the moon in the fullness of brilliancy; when divided by ten, it makes twelve, the zodiac embellished with living animals; when divided by twelve, it makes ten, holy; when divided by fifteen, it gives eight, the first ark; when divided by twenty, it leaves six, the number of creation; when divided by twenty-four, it makes five, the emblem of the outward sense; when divided by thirty it makes four, the beginning of solid measure; when divided by forty, it gives three, the symbol of fullness, the beginning, the middle, and the end; when divided by sixty, it makes two, which is woman; and when divided by the whole number of a hundred and twenty, the product is one, or man.
And every one of all these numbers is more natural, as is proved in each of them, but the composition of them is twofold, for the product is two hundred and forty, which is a sign that it is worthy of a twofold life; for as the number of years is doubled, so also we may imagine that the life is doubled too; one being in connection with the body, the other being detached from the body, according to which every holy and perfect man may receive the gift of prophecy.
Sixthly, because the fifth and sixth figures arise, the three numbers being multiplied together, three times four times five, since three times four times five make sixty; so in like manner the next following numbers four times five times six make a hundred and twenty, for four times five times six make a hundred and twenty.
Seventhly, when the number twenty has been taken in, which is the beginning of the reduction of mankind, I mean twenty, and being added to itself two or three times, so as to make twenty, forty, and sixty, these added together make a hundred and twenty. But perhaps the number a hundred and twenty is not the general term of human life, but only of the life of those men who existed at that time, and who were to perish by the deluge after an interval of so many years, which their kind Benefactor prolonged, giving them space for repentance; when, after the aforesaid term, they lived a longer time in the subsequent ages.
On what principle it was that giants were born of angels and women? [Genesis 6:4].
92. The poets call those men who were born out of the earth giants, that is to say, sons of the earth. [The Greek name Gigas is said to be derived from ge and gennao, "to bring forth."] But Moses here uses this appellation improperly, and he uses it too very often merely to denote the vast personal size of the principal men, equal to that of Hajk [Hajk is an addition of the Armenian translator; it is the name of a fabulous patriarch of the Armenian nation] or Hercules.
But he relates that these giants were sprung from a combined procreation of two natures, namely, from angels and mortal women; for the substance of angels is spiritual; but it occurs every now and then that on emergencies occurring they have imitated the appearance of men, and transformed themselves so as to assume the human shape; as they did on this occasion, when forming connections with women for the production of giants. But if the children turn out imitators of the wickedness of their mothers, departing from the virtue of their fathers, let them depart, according to the determination of the will of a depraved race, and because of their proud contempt for the supreme Deity, and so be condemned as guilty of voluntary and deliberate wickedness.
But sometimes Moses styles the angels the sons of God, inasmuch as they were not produced by any mortal, but are incorporeal, as being spirits destitute of any body; or rather that exhorter and teacher of virtue, namely Moses, calls those men who are very excellent and endowed with great virtue the sons of God; and the wicked and depraved men he calls bodies, or flesh.
What is the meaning of the expression: "God considered anxiously, because he had made man upon the earth; and he resolved the matter in his mind?" [Genesis 6:6].
93. Some persons imagine that it is intimated by these words that the Deity repented; but they are very wrong to entertain such an idea, since the Deity is unchangeable. Nor are the facts of his caring and thinking about the matter, and of his agitating it in his mind, any proofs that he is repenting, but only indications of a kind and determinate counsel, according to which the displays care, revolving in his mind the cause why he had made man upon the earth.
But since this earth is a place of misery, even that heavenly being, man, who is a mixture compounded of soul and body, from the very hour of his birth to that of his death, is nothing else but the slave of the body. That the Deity therefore should meditate and deliberate on these matters is nothing surprising; since most men take to themselves wickedness rather than virtue, being influenced by the twofold impulse mentioned above; namely, that of a body by its nature corruptible, and placed in the terrible situation of earth, which is the lowest of all places.
Why God, after having threatened to destroy mankind, says that he will also destroy all the beasts likewise; using the expression, "from man to beast, [Genesis 6:7] and from creeping things to flying creatures;" for how could irrational animals have committed sin?
94. This is the literal statement of the holy scripture, and it informs us that animals were not necessarily and in their primary cause created for their own sake, but for the sake of mankind and to act as the servants of men; and when the men were destroyed, it followed necessarily and naturally that they also should be destroyed with them, as soon as the men, for whose sake they had been made, had ceased to exist.
But as to the hidden meaning conveyed by the statement, since man is a symbol for the intellect which exists in us, and animals for the outward sense, when the chief creature has first been depraved and corrupted by wickedness, all the outward sense also perishes with him, because he had no relics whatever of virtue, which is the cause of salvation.
Why God says, I am indignant that I made them? [Genesis 6:7].
95. In the first place, Moses is here again relating what took place, as if he were speaking of some illustrious action of man, but, properly speaking, God does not feel anger, but is exempt from, and superior to, all such perturbations of spirit. Therefore Moses wishes here to point out, by an extravagant form of expression, that the iniquities of man had grown to such a height, that they stirred up and provoked to anger even that very Being who by his nature was incapable of anger.
In the second place he warns us, by a figure, that foolish actions are liable to punishment, but that those which proceed from wise and deliberate counsel are praiseworthy.
Why it is afterwards said, that Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord? [Genesis 6:8].
96. In the first place, the time calls for a comparison; since all the rest of mankind has been rejected for their ingratitude, he places the just man in the place of them all, asserting that he had found favor with God, not because he alone was deserving of favor, when the whole universal body of the human race had had benefits and mercies heaped on them, but because he alone had seemed to be mindful of the kindnesses which he had received.
In the second place, when the whole generation had been given over to destruction, with the exception of one single family, it followed inevitably that that remaining household should be asserted to have shown itself worthy of the divine grace, that it might be, as it were, a seed and a spark of a new race of mankind. And what could be a greater grace and mercy than that the man, of whom this is said, should be at the same time the end and beginning of the family of mankind?
Why does Moses enumerate the generations of Noah with reference not to his ancestors but to his virtues? [Genesis 6:9].
97. He does this in the first place, because all the men of that age were wicked: secondly, he is here imposing a law upon the will, because, to an anxious follower of virtue, virtue itself stands in the place of a real generation, if indeed men are the means of the generation of men, but the virtues of minds. And on this account it is that he says, he was a just man, perfect, and one who pleased God; but justice, and perfection, and grace before God, are the greatest of virtues.
What was the meaning of Moses when he says, "And all the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with iniquity?" [Genesis 6:11].
98. Moses himself has given us the reason why he speaks thus, in the sentence in which he asserts that iniquity had arisen by reason of the corruption of the earth; for deliverance from iniquity is righteousness, both in all the parts of the world, in heaven, that is, and earth, and among men.
What is the meaning of his saying, "All flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth?" [Genesis 6:12].
99. In the first place, the sacred historian calls the man who is devoted to the love of himself, flesh; therefore, when he had already said he was flesh, he introduces not the same flesh, but the flesh of the same being, namely, of man, or perhaps he is speaking even of man abstractedly considered; for every one who passes a life destitute of all civilization, and bewildered by intemperance, is flesh.
In the second place, he supposes here the cause of spiritual corruption to be, as in truth it is, the flesh, because that is the seat of desire; and from it, as from a living spring, arise all the peculiar appetites, and passions, and other affections.
In the third place, he very naturally says, that all flesh had corrupted his way; for "his" is a partial case, declined from the nominative case of the pronoun "he, she, or it;" for as for the being to whom we refer honor, we scarcely dare to speak of him by his own name, but we call him He. And it is from this that the principle of the Pythagorean philosophers was derived, who said, "He said it," speaking of their master in a glorious manner, since they feared to speak of him by name. And the same custom has obtained in cities and in private houses; for the servants, when speaking of the arrival of their master, say, "Here he comes;" and so when the prince of any individual city arrives, they use the same form of speech, "He comes," when they speak of him.
But what is the purpose of this prolix enumeration of all these instances on my part? The truth is, that I wished to show that it is the Father of the universe who is spoken of here; since, indeed, all his good qualities, and all his marvellous names, are widely celebrated by the praise bestowed upon the virtues; and, therefore, out of reverence he has used that name more cautiously, because he was about to bring on the world the destruction of the flood; but the case of the pronoun "He" is used by way of honor in these phrases. "All flesh had corrupted His ways," inasmuch as it is truly convicted of having corrupted the way of the Father, in accordance with the lusts, and desires, and pleasures of the body; for these are the enemies and opposers of the laws of continence, and parsimony, and chastity, and fortitude, and justice; by which the road which leads to God is found out and widened, so that it should everywhere be a beaten and plain road.
What is the meaning of the statement, "All the time of man has come against me, because the earth is filled with iniquity?" [Genesis 6:13].
100. Those who resist the order of fate proceed upon these and many other arguments, especially in that of sudden death, which oftentimes produces great slaughter in a short period of time; as, for instance, in the overthrow of houses, in conflagrations, in shipwrecks, in civil tumults, in battles of cavalry, in wars by land and in wars by sea, and in pestilences. To all those who advance arguments of this kind we repeat the same assertions which are here made by the prophet, on the principle which is derived from himself. If indeed that expression, "All the time of man has come against me," has a meaning of this kind, the term which has been determined as the period of living for all mankind, behold it is now brought to one point and terminated at once by the deluge; and since this is the case, they will not live any longer according to the principle of fate which has been fixed; so that the time of each separate individual is now reduced to one, and has received its destined termination at the same time, by I know not what harmony and periodical revolution of the stars, by which bodies the whole race of mankind is continually preserved or destroyed. Let those, therefore, all receive these things in any manner in which they choose who study these things, and those too who argue against them.
Nevertheless we must first of all make this statement, that nothing can be found so contrary to, so opposite to, so wholly repugnant to, the wonderful virtue of the Deity as iniquity; therefore, after he said, "All the time of all mankind has come up against me," he adds also the reason of its contrariety to him, that the earth is filled with iniquity.
In the second place, Time, under the name of Chronos or Saturn, is looked upon as a god by the wickedest of men, who are desirous to lose sight of the one essential Being, on which account he says, "The time of all mankind has come up against me," because in fact the heathen make human time into a god, and oppose him to the real true God. But, however, it is now insinuated, in other passages also of scripture, which run thus, "Time has departed to a distance from them, but the Lord is in us:" [Numbers 14:9] just as if he were to say, time is looked upon by wicked men as the cause of the world, but by wise men and virtuous men time is not looked upon in this light, but God only, from whom all times and seasons do proceed.
Again, God is the cause, not of all things, but only of good things and good men, and of those men and things which are in accordance with virtue; for as he is free from all wickedness, so likewise he cannot be the cause of it.
In the third place, by that expression which he uses in this manner, he indicates the excess of impiety, saying, "that the time of all mankind has arrived," that is to say, that all men, in every part of the world, have agreed together, with one mind, to work wickedness; but the other assertion which is here made, that the whole earth is filled with iniquity, amounts to this, that there is no part of it whatever free from wickedness, and which is also to receive and to bear righteousness. And the expression, "against me," establishes the proof of what has been said, inasmuch as it is only the judgment of divine election which is altogether firm and lasting.