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you see? . . . The American Standard translation orders men
to triumph over sin, and you 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.”
Lee says these words during his discussion
of the Cain and Abel story with Samuel and Adam in Chapter 24.
He has just revealed to the other men the outcome of the research
he did on the meaning of timshel, the word that
God utters to Cain when exiling him to the lands east of Eden. According
to one translation of the Bible, God orders Cain
to triumph over sin, while according to another, God promises Cain
that he will defeat sin. Lee’s research, however, has revealed that timshel means
“thou mayest,” implying that God tells Cain that he has a choice whether
or not to overcome sin. Lee sees this idea of free choice over evil
a token of optimism that is central to the human condition. He attempts
to convince Adam and Cal of the validity of timshel and
ultimately succeeds, as Adam gives Cal his blessing and Cal realizes
he himself has the power to overcome his family’s legacy of evil.
Ace your assignments with our guide to East of Eden!