East of America

The King James version says this- it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.”……….”Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.”…….”After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too – ‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’……”The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel – ‘Thou mayest’ – that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?”

For better or worse I’ve had a lot of time to sit and think and read. I picked up John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” not really knowing what it was about, but having heard that it was a good book decided to tackle it. Steinbeck’s style isn’t something you can just pick up but once you get used to it it’s like a fine wine, getting better with each page. Cover to cover it’s a very interesting web of stories that weave so flawlessly you wonder which story you should be paying attention to until you realize they’re all great stories. It’s got me to thinking about life, death, and the choices we make in between. In America many of us are sheltered from the realities of life and death. We insulate ourselves with television, the internet, busy schedules, and countless other distractions. By constantly doing something, going somewhere, working towards one of many goals we feed our desire to be useful. We come to forget that life is a losing battle where no one gets out alive. Even amidst tragedies both foreign and domestic we believe that we’ll live forever. That is not the case here. Things are a lot slower here. Most people aren’t so caught up with getting things done so much as they want to know how your family is doing. Most women, young and old, walk around with babies strapped on their babies because what else would they be doing? Constantly you’re bombarded with babies walking around, crying, and peeing all over you, so much to make one wonder where they’re all coming from. But then you hear about a friend’s child not doing well or someone’s father passing away just to remind you that our time here isn’t very long at all and that we should do well to make the most of it. I really like this passage from “East of Eden” because it gets down to the very essence of man’s purpose in life. We’re not told that our actions are meaningless nor are we told what to do. Instead we’re each of us given a choice, to sin or not to sin. And so we must live, not as puppets or misbehaved children, but as free men choosing the path which suits us, be it heaven or hell.


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