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We were enchanted by Nethanel. His extreme helplessness and diminutive size brought out great protective instincts in both Adam and myself. We soon learned to trust ourselves when we handled him. At first we had been afraid that we might hurt him with our big hands, but we soon learned that he was sturdy and wanted to be touched and held.
Nethanel grew rapidly, his body first filling and then stretching to catch up with his huge head. The sounds he made slowly progressed from wails of unhappiness to chattering babble which almost communicated thoughts. Soon he was speaking to us and making his thoughts and wishes known. He slowly learned to make his body obey him. While on his stomach he learned to hold up his head. From there he was sitting up and crawling and walking. My life became more complicated at this stage for he also had great curiosity. I must watch him constantly to keep him from harm. We took him to the river and he learned to swim. Soon he imitated Adam's every move and followed him faithfully. I realized that I was losing him to Adam, but this was all right for I was experiencing the first signs that I was to have another child.
My second child came a little easier than Nethanel had and without the fear of the unknown. It was a woman-child and we named her Hephzibah. I was delighted to have a daughter. Now Adam had a son and I had a daughter. Life was becoming more satisfying as we had others with which to share it.
The heavens continued their rounds and I bore another child. With the birth of Beninu I began to feel somewhat restricted. Hephzibah was still quite small and dependent on me and now the new baby also demanded my attention. I must stay closer to the cave in order to take care of them. It became too difficult to follow Adam on his daily rounds caring for the flocks and checking on our crops. I missed being able to go as I pleased. I resented having to stay so close to home. At least Adam was with me a part of each day. The little time that was not taken caring for the children was soon swallowed up in the many tasks which must be done close to home. Each day I must keep the fire going, bring up water from the river for cooking and drinking, prepare the herbs and meat which I cooked, prepare the animal skins for clothing and bedding. As I finished one task I must start another and on and on it went endlessly.
Adam also worked hard. Sometimes he would come home with Nethanel and sit by the fire with great weariness. Nethanel never seemed tired, he played happily with Hephzibah and Beninu. Tonight Adam and I watched as Nethanel crawled with great stealth around the log to triumphantly spring out and surprise Beninu. Nethanel laughed at his own cleverness and Beninu and Hephzibah laughed with their baby laughter. Soon Hephzibah was crawling with Nethanel as they both tried to surprise Beninu. They sprang out together and all three laughed. Over and over they did the same thing, coming from one direction, then from another direction. Beninu was laughing so much that he soon had the hiccups.
They finally tired of this game and sat peacefully playing in the sand, making hills and valleys and arranging little pebbles. At one point Nethanel patiently dug pebbles out of Hephzibah's mouth. "No, no, Hephzibah, those are not good for you. Spit them out."
They were happy and carefree.
"Adam, do you think it strange that our children seem so much like we were in the garden?"
Adam watched them with a slight smile on his face for some moments. "It has been so long since we were in the garden, it seems like a different life. But you are right, they do seem to have the same quality. They are fascinated by the smallest things. I have seen Nethanel spend half the morning watching a line of insects. And he is constantly asking me questions. He has much in common with you, Eve."
"Yes, and look where that got us." I stirred the soup and watched our children. Each day they played innocently without clothes and laughed and giggled and tumbled like the young dogs. A great deal of the time they were covered with dirt and must be washed often in the river. Besides Adam and the Lord they meant everything to me. Even though there were times when I resented it, I would become rooted to this spot, giving up my freedom to roam, to give everything I had to them.
After our meal and as the sun set we gathered together to call on the Lord. Nethanel always watched and listened to his father with wide eyes. He was so young, what must he think of the great emotion which this time of the day brought to us? But he adored his father also, and as he imitated Adam in every way, I was sure that one day he would understand this. Hephzibah stayed close to me as I held Beninu in my arms.
Adam's prayer was powerful and passionate as he thanked God for the events of the day and the great care he gave to us. Adam promised God that we would do whatever pleased him, as we loved and honored him.
After Adam's prayer the quiet voice came to us. We only occasionally heard it and so it was very sweet to us when we did.
"Adam and Eve, and my children, Nethanel, Hephzibah, and Beninu," Nethanel's eyes opened wider as he heard his name. "Continue to call on me always and you will be blessed. Your lives are pleasing to me as you have done your best to obey the commandments which I have given you."
"Adam, I have another commandment to give you. This will be your responsibility to perform for your entire family. I would have you build an altar of stones. Pile the stones above the ground so that you may stand and offer a sacrifice to me. Your offering must be the best of the firstlings of your flocks. The weak or the infirm are not an acceptable offering, but it must be a perfect lamb. You must kill the lamb and burn it upon the altar. If you do this commandment you will please me and you will be blessed."
The voice of the Lord spoke no more. We sat quietly as the darkness came. The fire crackled comfortably.
"Father, whose voice was that?" asked Nethanel.
"That was the voice of God speaking from the garden. We sometimes hear his voice."
"Do you mean the garden where you and Mother used to live a long time ago?"
"Yes, that is the garden where we lived and walked with the Lord," Adam said with a smile as he scooped Nethanel into his lap.
"Tell me the story of the garden! I like that story."
"Very well, but your mother must help me. I might forget something.'' We passed the evening recounting the story to Nethanel. Adam and I enjoyed it every bit as much as our son did. By the end of the story all three of our children were asleep.
Adam was stirring with the dawn. I arose with him. The children were still sleeping soundly. Together we prepared our morning meal. It was pleasant to have this time alone while the children still slept in the cave,
"Where will you build the altar?"
"I am trying to think of the best place," Adam replied as he stopped chewing.
"Would you build it close to here? I cannot go far from here with Beninu and Hephzibah. I realize that God has told you that it is your responsibility, but I would like to be there for the sacrifice."
"Is it so important to you?"
"Yes, it is important to me. Sometimes I feel alone. You go off to do your work every day and I must stay close to here because of the children. I have tried not to complain and feel sorry for myself but sometimes I can't help it. And the Lord seems to speak to you more than he does to me. If I am always to be shut out from everything and also the worship it will be very hard for me to bear."
Adam looked closely at my face. I think he could understand a little of what I was saying. "I am sorry that you feel the way you do, Eve. I know that you love the children and sometimes I envy you that you are the one who is so close to them when they are so tiny. I also know that it has been hard for you. I know you would like to bring the younger children and be able to come with Nethanel and myself. I miss having you with me also. The children have changed our lives a great deal. We will just have to do the best that we can. I will find a high place close by to build the altar. It will not be so far that you cannot tote all our children there with you. I have no doubt that we will have many more children and they must also witness the sacrifice if we are to teach them of the Lord."
Nethanel came out of the cave rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Father, you weren't going to leave me here were you? I'm not a baby anymore."
"Would I leave this man when I need him to help me?" Adam teased him. "I need you to help me pick out good stones for the altar that we will build today."
Nethanel jumped up and down and squealed with excitement.
"But first you must eat so that you will have strength. The stones will no doubt be heavy, perhaps they will be heavier than you are," I told him. I gave him some food to eat. "And eat it slowly, I wouldn't want you to be sick on such an important day."
Nethanel was in a hurry to go. He struggled to chew his food properly. Adam merely relaxed and watched his older son with amusement.
"I'm ready!" Nethanel sprang from his seat like a gazelle.
"Then let us go."
I watched them leave displaying their easy companionship. I turned to check on my babies.
As the day progressed I began to hear the sound of voices and the clatter of stones coming from a short distance. Adam and Nethanel had decided on a place up and behind our cave to build an altar. I scooped up Beninu and took Hephzibah by the hand and took the short path which lead upward toward their voices. We arrived on a shelf which was broad and overlooked the river. Adam and I had come here many times when we had first arrived. This was the way we came when we had wanted to go over onto the plain behind us. From this place we were about half way to the top of the ridge, We had found another path which had led us to the top and over to the other side. On the plain behind us was where we had so often tried to hunt and had learned what poor hunters we were. We were thankful to have our flocks and herds.
I had never had a chance to really look at this place. I walked over to the edge, carefully holding Hephzibah's hand. I was reassured that if one of the children fell it would not be serious, for there was a short slope covered with bushes, and at the bottom of that another bush-filled shelf.
It was very pleasant up here. There were trees which softly sang as the breeze stirred them. From this slightly higher place I could see far into the distance. I could see God's garden, it seemed closer. I let go of Hephzibah's hand and set Beninu down to crawl.
"This is a good place for the altar, Adam. It is beautiful up here."
I found a large rock on which to sit and watched Adam and Nethanel. Adam was covered with sweat and dirt. The stones were large. Nethanel felt that he was helping his father, his hands were placed on the stones as Adam rolled them, but it was Adam's muscles which strained. When it was time to lift the stones Adam made sure that Nethanel moved away in case one of them got away and rolled. Nethanel could easily be crushed.
"Come here, Nethanel," I called.
He came over to me and leaned on my lap. I brushed his hair from his forehead, it was damp from the heat and his exertions. Evidently he was doing more than I had observed.
"Your father is very fortunate to have you for such a good helper."
"It is going to be a very good altar, Mother. I think the Lord will be pleased."
"I am sure he will be. Why don't you rest here for a bit?"
"All right. But only for a little while. Father needs me."
Adam and Nethanel worked for a while longer while I watched and the younger children played. As the sun approached its highest point we walked down the path. Adam and Nethanel went to wash in the river and then we all retired to rest under the trees near the cave. While Hephzibah and Beninu were still asleep Adam and Nethanel left to tend the flocks. We could not afford to neglect them or we would be hungry and there would be no acceptable sacrifice.
In a matter of days the altar was completed.
"Eve, I need your help now. We must find the perfect lamb for the sacrifice."
"I would be very glad to help you. I know you don't really need me to help you do that, but I am thankful that you have asked me."
"Well, Nethanel has helped to build the altar. The whole family should be a part of this."
Very early the next morning we gaily went to the flocks. It was almost like an outing for me. Adam carried Hephzibah as I carried Beninu. Nethanel skipped in circles around us.
It was not far to go. Here were our flocks. Adam and I had constructed an enclosure for them. We had done this together before the children had begun to take up most of my time. We had dragged sticks and brush from far and wide and woven them together in a tangle. In this way it was difficult for predators to pick off our flocks at night. Adam and Nethanel had to keep it in constant repair, and as a result it was getting stronger and stronger.
Adam dragged aside a section which was the gate. Slowly a ram walked out and the others began to follow. We all walked together to a grassy area where the flocks could feed. Throughout the cycles of the moon the flocks must be led to various pastures, they could not feed forever in the same place.
We watched the lambs. They were lively and endearing as they frolicked close to their mothers.
"There is a healthy and attractive lamb, Adam," I pointed to it.
"Yes, and it is the first lamb of that ewe. Let me check it closely to see that it is acceptable."
Adam caught the lamb and ran his hands over it checking its limbs to see if it was strong and without blemish.
Nethanel ran over to watch. "Why are you picking out a lamb, Father?"
Adam knew Nethanel's affection for the lambs. "Nethanel, we are choosing a lamb to sacrifice to the Lord. It will die. You must not make a pet of this lamb or you will be upset when it is time for the sacrifice."
"It will die? Why does the Lord ask us to kill a lamb?"
"I do not know why, except that the Lord has commanded it. And you do know that sometimes we kill lambs to eat, don't you? We raise these sheep for food so that we will not have to be hungry and will have strength. You have never been truly hungry, Nethanel. Your mother and I have been hungry enough to become weak and perhaps even die."
"I hope I never have to be hungry like that, Father."
"I hope not either, Nethanel. This will be a good lamb for the sacrifice. We will take it back with us when we are done here."
I watched Nethanel as we worked with the flocks. He was such a little boy for such seriousness. I was proud that he seemed so mature.
In the morning we arose together to prepare for the day. On this day would be our very first sacrifice to the Lord, and we should all witness it. The children were fed and washed and we were ready. Adam carried a container with live coals from our fire. He had been commanded to burn the sacrifice. Nethanel led the lamb, it was a serious responsibility for him to lead the lamb that would be killed. I could see that he was sorry for it.
We all proceeded up the path to the altar. When we arrived I turned to face the garden. Oh, if Adam and I could only be there with our children. Our children would be able to see the face of God and know him. I was lost in thoughts of long ago, yearning for a time when I could see the Lord again.
I turned back to face the altar. Adam told Nethanel to go and stand with me. I held Beninu and Hephzibah came close to me for reassurance, sticking her thumb into her mouth. This must seem strange to her. She was too young to understand what was happening. I looked at my two other children in turn. Nethanel was watching everything intently. He wanted to be a man and not a child. Beninu's solemn eyes were observing the swaying trees and the birds which were flying overhead.
How could our children understand why Adam and I always wished to please the Lord?
Now it seemed that the whole world became very solemn for this occasion.
Adam took the stone knife that was his everyday tool and cut the throat of the lamb. The lamb had only struggled briefly. Nethanel winced as he watched but did not take away his eyes. The blood spurted out onto the ground in a stream. Adam carefully laid the dead lamb on the dried sticks and twigs which were laid on top of the altar. He then offered a prayer with his sacrifice.
"Lord, here is the sacrifice which you have commanded. We give it to you willingly, for we only wish to please you. We love you and we miss you."
"We wish to teach our children of you and of the great love which you have given us. Your love has been with us always, even when we have disobeyed and displeased you. If you had not taught us we would not have survived."
"When we ate the fruit of the tree which was forbidden to us our eyes were opened to many things. We know that before we ate of it we were like our little children. We were innocent and your love and presence sustained us. Now that our eyes are open we can know joy and sorrow, and right and wrong. Help us to do as you would have us do. Help us that we will not rebel further against you, but would come closer to you in righteousness. Even though our children cannot see you and have not known you, have mercy on them. Do not punish them for the sins that their father and mother have committed. Reveal yourself to them also, that they might know you."
"Accept this sacrifice that we give you in love."
I was very moved by Adam's prayer. Tears streamed down my face as I watched Adam put the live coals onto the dry wood. His face was very noble and solemn. Surely God was pleased with him. Surely God was very pleased with Nethanel for watching the death of the little lamb so bravely. I could only hope that God was also pleased with me.
The coal finally sparked the wood into flame. It was very dry and there was much of it, it soon began to burn hotly, the flames licking the dead lamb and rising into the sky. Adam came to stand back with us, for the heat was great.
We stood watching quietly. A feeling of great peace crept over me. I sat on a rock and put my free arm around Hephzibah, pulling her close to me. I looked at my family, my noble husband and my beloved children, and knew that indeed God loved me very much.
Follow along in the scriptures (links to Center Place Library)
Inspired Version of the Bible
Genesis Chapter 4: verse 5
forward to chapter 8
Copyright 1991 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: September 5, 2001