Sounds like: rah-batz, reh-betz
One of the most famous Biblical stories is the story of Cain and Abel. Even those who know very little about the Bible have at least heard their names. This was the first murder story… the first who-done-it. There wasn’t much of a mystery. The Bible tells us exactly who killed Abel, but it also supplies us with YHWH’s interaction with Cain before he did the terrible deed. YHWH tried to change Cain’s heart:
Then YHWH said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why is your face gloomy? If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking [robets] at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
This passage reads quite differently in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible):
And the Lord God said to Cain, “Why have you become very sorrowful and why is your face fallen? Have you not sinned if you have brought it rightly but not rightly divided it? Be still, to you shall be his submission, and you shalt rule over him.”
This early translation (from Hebrew into Greek) did not indicate that sin was a crouching beast, ready to pounce. These early translators interpreted that Cain’s sin was that his gift (offering) wasn’t correctly offered. But all was not lost. YHWH called on Cain to “be still” and stay calm. If he reacted this way, then the order of things would be good; evil would submit to Cain and Cain would rule over the desire to do evil. For the Hellenistic scholars who translated the Hebrew text into Greek, there was no emphatic lurching, crouching or laying down in this verse.
The Greek translators seem to take some liberty here OR they were translating from a different original text. The oldest text that we have available to us is the Dead Sea Scrolls. This verse can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls (scroll 4Q2) and it maintained the flavour of the translation that we have in our Old Testament Bibles:
Yahweh said… [missing]… your face fallen? If you do well, won’t it be lifted up? If… [missing]… sin crouches… [missing]… Its desire is for you… [missing]… are to rule over it.”
Either way, we know that Cain did not heed the advice. He was not “still”, nor did he master the “crouching sin”. He went out and murdered his brother.
The interpretation in this verse, of Cain crouching or lurching, may be the English translators associating Cain with a lurking beast. But on the whole, this wasn’t necessarily what the text was trying to say.
The Hebrew word robets usually indicated someone or something that reclined, laid down, or rested. Often this word described resting animals:
He [Jacob] looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying [rov’tsim] there beside it, because they watered the flocks from that well.
For the fortified city is isolated, a homestead deserted and abandoned like the desert; there the calf will graze, and there it will lie down [yi-r’bats] and feed on its branches.
The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. When the sun rises they withdraw, and they lie down [yi-r’bats’un] in their dens.
Sheep, calves and lions… they all laid down to rest. In these verses the animals were in a place of comfort and they felt safe enough to get off their feet and lay down. Even Balaam’s donkey felt comfortable enough to lay down under her oppressor when she saw the Angel of YHWH:
When the donkey saw the angel of YHWH, she lay down [w-ti-rabats] under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his staff.
The prophet Ezekiel emphatically described the Pharaoh of Egypt as a monster that laid in the great canals of its land:
In the tenth year, in the tenth month, on the twelfth of the month, the word of YHWH came to me [Ezekiel], saying, “Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him and against all Egypt. Speak and say, ‘This is what the Lord YHWH says:
“Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great monster that lies [ha-rovets] in the midst of his canals, that has said, ‘My Nile is mine, and I myself have made it.’ I will put hooks in your jaws and make the fish of your canals cling to your scales.”
YHWH was in control of the crouching monsters. Those who were comfortable in their lands, without YHWH, would find themselves no longer comfortable in any lands. Babylon (the anti-kingdom) would be a place where shepherds would never allow their charges to rest. It was a place where predatory desert creatures roamed and howled:
And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation; nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, nor will shepherds allow their flocks to lie down [lo ya-r’bitsu] there.
But desert creatures will lie down [w-rav’tsu] there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there. Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers and jackals in their luxurious palaces. Her fateful time also will soon come, and her days will not be prolonged.
Babylon, by its own hand, would lose the comfort it once relied on to the chaotic wilderness it had created.
On the flip side, Isaiah used the image of unlikely animals laying down together in his image of YHWH’s triumphant Kingdom to come:
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down [yi-r’bats] with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened steer will be together; and a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down [yi-r’b’tsu] together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den. They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Then on that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal flag for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious.
The Prophecy of Jacob’s Sons
In Genesis 49 we read the prophetic words that Jacob uttered about his twelve sons. Quite a few of his sons were associated with animals (Judah, a lion; Issachar, a donkey; Dan, a serpent; Naphtali, a doe; Benjamin, a ravenous wolf). The word robets was associated with three of Jacob’s sons when he prophesied about their future.
“Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He crouches [bows down], he lies down [rabats] as a lion, and as a lion, who dares to stir him up?
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”
Judah would be king, like a lion, laying down comfortably in his space.
Jacob’s son Issachar was described as a resting donkey:
“Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down [robets] between the sheepfolds.
When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to carry burdens, and became a slave at forced labour.”
Issachar was comfortable where he was, but his complacency made him slave.
Joseph was not associated with an animal, but he was described as a type of suffering servant:
[Regarding Joseph:] “The archers provoked him, and shot at him and were hostile toward him; but his bow remained firm, and his arms were agile, from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), from the God of your father who helps you, and by the Almighty who blesses you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies [robetset] beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb.”
From the heights to the depths that lay down beneath us, Joseph was blessed. He had been attacked and brutalized, but God would reward him and give him a resting place beyond compare.
A Pure Heart Doesn’t Guarantee Comfort & Good Rest
God would one day provide a resting place for us all, but that did not mean our lives would be always comfortable here on earth. Job was a testament to that fact.
One of Job’s friends, Zophar, tried to justify Job’s painful predicament. He chastised Job because, in Zophar’s mind, the amount of suffering Job was experiencing must have meant he deserved it. Job must have disappointed God in some way, and so Zophar basically implored Job to repent of his guilt:
[Zophar to Job:] “If you would direct your heart rightly and spread out your hands to Him, if wrongdoing is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let malice dwell in your tents; then, indeed, you could lift up your face without moral blemish, and you would be firmly established and not fear.
For you would forget your trouble; like waters that have passed by, you would remember it. Your life would be brighter than noonday; darkness would be like the morning.
Then you would trust, because there is hope; and you would look around and rest securely. And you would lie down [w-rabats’ta] and none would disturb you, and many would flatter you.”
Of course this was a very simplistic misunderstanding of Job’s heart. Job was guiltless but Zophar simply couldn’t believe it. How could Job suffer so terribly if his heart was pure? Zophar assured Job, that if he was just turned to God and remained morally sound he could lie down undisturbed and be flattered for his efforts. But that’s not really how life works.
The truth is, many good people suffer. But those who are righteous, who trust in YHWH, are able to rise above their suffering and look to God as the anchor for their souls:
Do not lie in ambush, you wicked person, against the home of the righteous; do not destroy his resting place [laying down place: riv’tsow]; for a righteous person falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of disaster.
Job was a good example, to us, that even when we are wholly devoted to God, we can still feel unsettled and suffer restlessness. Life isn’t always about laying down in comfort. In fact, it’s really only under YHWH’s eternal protection that we can lay down and truly rest in peace.
YHWH Provides our ‘Laying Down’ Place
When YHWH gave Cain the warning about sin, it wasn’t about sin being like a sly, lurking, beast, rather sin was tempting Cain to lay down and get comfortable. Cain was being lured into a false sense of comfort and control.
YHWH was essentially saying to Cain, do not let sin be your resting place. Do not become complacent in your sin; don’t lie down and get comfortable in it. This was the message to Cain, and this is the message to us. Instead of laying down in our own sin, we ought to let God be our resting place.
But God’s people often forgot where their true resting place was:
Jeremiah 50:6-7 (see also Isaiah 65:9-12)
“My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place [riv’tsam].
All who found them have devoured them; and their adversaries have said, ‘We are not guilty, since they have sinned against YHWH who is the habitation of righteousness, YHWH, the hope of their fathers.’”
We must not forget where our resting place truly is… it is with YHWH, the Creator and Maker of the Universe!
King David did not forget his true resting place. He believed that YHWH would protect and restore His people so they could lie down in comfort, with the knowledge that they were fully protected by His love:
A Psalm of David.
YHWH is my shepherd, I will not be in need. He lets me lie down [ya-r’bitseni] in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of YHWH forever.
Our true resting place is with God. We are meant to return to the Garden of Eden, face YHWH, and recline in His Presence. This is the beauty of YHWH’s great plan of redemption. He would send a Saviour who would pay the price of our entrance fee back into YHWH’s garden Kingdom.
In the message that Isaiah spelled out, YHWH cared deeply for His aching people:
[YHWH:] “Afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will lay down [ma-r’bits] your stones in antimony, and I will set your foundations with sapphires.
Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones. All your sons will be taught by YHWH; and the well-being of your sons will be great.”
Here YHWH promised to create a great and safe home for His storm-tossed beloved ones! We would rest in His glory, like jewels in a crown!
Jeremiah also placed his hope in this promise:
“This is what YHWH of armies says: ‘There will again be in this place which is waste, without man or animal, and in all its cities, a pasture for shepherds who rest [ma-r’bitsim] their flocks. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the Negev, in the land of Benjamin, in the areas surrounding Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks will again pass under the hands of the one who counts them,’ says YHWH.
‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares YHWH, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah.’”
Although life was tough and restless, one day YHWH would save and redeem His people:
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; the retribution of God will come, but He will save you.”
Then the eyes of those who are blind will be opened, and the ears of those who are deaf will be unstopped. Then those who limp will leap like a deer, and the tongue of those who cannot speak will shout for joy.
For waters will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, its resting place [riv’tsah], grass becomes reeds and rushes.
A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.
No lion will be there, nor will any vicious animal go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, and the redeemed of YHWH will return and come to Zion with joyful shouting, and everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Walking Through the Door and Reclining at YHWH’s Table
YHWH promised to send an Anointed (Messiah) Redeemer to bridge the gap between YHWH and His people. And so Yeshua (Jesus) was sent to fulfill YHWH’s promise:
And she [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid [Greek: aneklinen] Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Yeshua was laid in a manger at the beginning of his human journey; later He would lay down His life.
Jesus knew His fate; He also knew that His forthcoming sacrificial death was the epitome of love, and He called on His followers to do the same:
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”
For Cain, sin was laying down at the door, trying to be a comfortable place for Cain to settle into. Yeshua encouraged His listeners to not lay down at the door, but go through it and then rest at YHWH’s table:
And He [Jesus] was passing through one city and village after another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?”
And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin standing outside and knocking on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ and He then will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’
Then you will begin saying, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!’
And yet He will say, ‘I do not know where you are from; leave me, all you evildoers.’
In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline [Greek: anaklithesontai] at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
Do not become complacent and rest in your sin. Work on the relationship you have with your Creator. If you earnestly seek YHWH you will, one day, enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Once you’re through the door, you can rest assured, knowing you’re eternally safe in the beautiful Kingdom of God.
Next week: Creator-Maker