BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 108
Copyright (c) 1998 Biblical Horizons
He had come, he said, to seek his brother’s advice. I can see that I messed up. But you did okay. I just want a chat. Maybe you can tell me where I went wrong.
Sure, if I can, said the younger man.
Look, I don’t want to hold you up, I know you have to check on your flock. Why don’t I walk along with you? We can talk as we go.
They fell into a steady pace, the grass under foot wet with dew, the flowers vibrant and the spiders’ webs sparkling like a myriad of jewels. He chatted amiably enough to his younger brother, but the man’s attitude annoyed him. After all, I am his elder, he thought. This young upstart should be listening to me, not laying all this guilt on me and dishing out advice as though I were the stupid one.
Their journey came to a temporary halt when the younger man’s heel was wounded by a particularly spiky thorn, but they soon continued, and the more his brother droned on, the more annoyed the older man got. He felt so frustratingly helpless. Everybody was against him. Everybody was ready to give him the same patronising advice. If you will just admit your guilt and do what is right, you’ll be accepted. But if you don’t, watch out, because the serpent’s waiting to get you.
Blood has to be shed they said. Well, I’ll shed blood all right.
The younger man cried out, but there was no one to hear.
Only the sheep.
His blood pumped out of him thick and red, till body and blood were like two separate things: and quietly, sorrowfully, painfully the red earth received it into herself until earth and blood were one again.
The blood appeased him, until he came once again to the gate, carrying his offering in the hand that had slain his brother. He looked at the burnt patch on the ground, near where he had stood the last time, and kept his distance. This time the serpent wasn’t at the foot of the tree by the entrance. Then he noticed it overhead, in the branches looking down on him. Its eyes held him, so he nearly jumped out of his skin when the Voice from the mountain cloud said: Where is your brother?
Why does He always ask questions as though He already knows the answer? – I don’t know, am I supposed to be his shepherd? I’m not the shepherd, he is. Can’t he look after himself? But the Voice said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground. His blood and the ground are one. You may till her but she will never yield to you again. Wherever you set foot, she will throw you off. When you plow open her mouth, the mouth that opened to receive your brother’s blood, she will curse you.
He still only thought of himself. This is too great a punishment! The earth’s face and Your face are set against me. You have driven me away and anyone who finds me will feel free to kill me.
Therefore, whoever kills you will suffer sevenfold vengeance, said the Voice.
This time he didn’t jump away quickly enough. The lightning sword caught his face, scarring him horribly for life.
He had to go far away: east, to a land called Rootless. Never again did he come to the foot of the sacred mountain. But the serpent’s seed was in his loins and in that exile his wife bore him a son called Burgh.1 While his son was still young he built a walled city for protection, ramming its foundations into reluctant ground. He called the city Burgh too, after his son. His descendants were like him, taking short cuts to establish their culture, and establishing it by force. They came like thorns and thistles and matured till in the seventh generation from the beginning there arose one tyrant worse than all before him.
But after the shepherd’s death, the woman, Life-Giver, had borne another son. She called him Put because, she said, he had been put as another seed in the place of his brother who had been slain.2 And the seed of the woman continued, for to Put himself a son was born, and in his days men began to call on the Name of the Covenant Maker. They stayed near the mountain to worship, and in the woman’s seventh generation another one was born to bear the name Burgh – but the country and the city that he sought were heavenly, for he was a righteous man, who walked with God.
Here is his story. When he had lived a year of years he came to make his usual offering at the foot of the mountain. As he did so, a miraculous thing happened — before he could carry the flame to his bloody offering, the cloud that normally enveloped the top of the mountain came lower and lower. Inside it there seemed to be a fire folding in on itself. Then — how astonished he was to see four living creatures, each with four faces and four wings. He had heard tell of them, but many had thought they were the foolish imaginings of the ancient father. Suddenly a tongue of fire like a sword shot out from the midst of the creatures and burned up his offering in a moment. Then, just as rapidly, the creatures seemed to put up their fiery sword.
He had fallen to the ground in terror, but a voice bade him arise, and as he did the man face of the foremost creature smiled at him, and with his hand the creature beckoned him through a long-forgotten and longer-concealed entrance that lay just beyond the altar.
So Burgh climbed up the path that never man had trod for 987 long years, forty and seven years after the ancient father who first came down it had died, and 47 x 3 x 7 years in total.
Patiently he climbed till he found himself in the garden that many had thought was only a myth. But if the garden was no myth, then neither would be the two trees in its centre.
He had heard much and seen much in his 365 years, but never had his ears heard, or his eyes seen, or his mind conceived the everlasting bliss that dazzled and enfolded him when with trembling lips he bit the fruit that never man bit before.
1The word Enoch became Uruk which ultimately relates to Borough/Burgh as in Edinburgh or Pittsburgh.
2Enos means put or appointed.