The Usage and Meaning of
"Muth temuth" and "B'Yom"

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While no one has a mandate to tell us what we ought to believe, no one has the right to pick and choose what he will accept from the Scriptures.

We do, however, have the right and the duty to search the Scriptures, and seek diligently until we have a full knowledge and understanding of them as possible, and Jesus Christ promised, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

It is in the Garden of Eden that we first learn the story of man's redemption and we must therefore have a good knowledge and understanding of the events which took place in Eden in order to walk the path that leads to our salvation, for if we are wrong here we can never come to a right understanding and full appreciation of the Atonement but will inevitably fall into the morass of contention, contradiction and confusion into which so much of Christendom has fallen.

We therefore exhort all who will serve our Lord Jesus Christ to heed the Apostle Paul and "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."


Contrary to widespread belief the Bible does not teach that Adam and Eve became corruptible because of their sin; they were, in fact, created corruptible, as were all other creatures which God made "very good."

This article has been written to show that the natural death which eventually came upon Adam was not the death he incurred by his transgression in the garden of Eden, but that the death due to him as a result of his sin was a premature cutting off of his life in the very day he transgressed; and to show this penalty was suffered in type by the animal slain to provide a covering for him.

We will prove our argument in the time honoured way by comparing Scripture with Scripture.

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Part One – "Muth Temuth"

Genesis 2:17 – "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

"Muth temuth," translated "thou shalt surely die," was the warning given to Adam should he transgress God's law and the phrase is underlined in the following fourteen instances. The same words appear in the Hebrew Scriptures - the only variation being grammatical as the verb is used in the 2nd or 3rd person.

Genesis 20:3 to 7 – "God came to Abimelech... and said... Behold thou art but a dead man... Abimelech... said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? ...Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."

Genesis 26:11 – "And Abimelech charged all the people, saying, He that touchest this man or his wife shall surely be put to death."

Leviticus 27:29 – "None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed: but shall surely be put to death."

1 Samuel 14:39-44 – "For as the Lord liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die... And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die Jonathan. And the people said... Shall Jonathan die...? So...the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not."

1 Samuel 22:16-18 – "And the King said, Thou shalt surely die, Ahimelech, thou, and all thy father's house... And Doeg the Edomite turned and fell upon the priests and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod."

2 Samuel 12:14 – "Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die."

1 Kings 2:36-46 – "Build thee an house in Jerusalem... for... on the day that thou goest out... thou shalt surely die... And it was told Solomon that Shemei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath and come again, and the king sent for and called for Shemei, and said unto him, Did I not make thee to swear by the Lord, and protested unto thee, saying, Know for a certainty, on the day thou goest out, and walkest abroad any whither, that thou shalt surely die?... So the King commanded Benaiah... which went out and fell upon him that he died."

2 Kings 1:16,17 – "For as much as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub... therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die. So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken."

Jeremiah 26:8-19 – "...the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die... Then spake the priests... This man is worthy to die... Then spake Jeremiah...if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves..."

Ezekiel 3:17-21 & 33:8-15 – "Son of man... give them warning from me... When I say unto the wicked, thou shall surely die and thou givest him not warning... the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand... When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness... and I lay a stumblingblock before him he shall die... If thou warn the righteous man...and he doth not sin, he shall surely live... When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die... Again, when I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right... he shall surely live, he shall not die."

The context of each passage shows that "muth temuth" was the threat of a judicially inflicted death, and never means the gradual ageing process such as Adam actually experienced, 2 Samuel 12:14 may at first sight appear to be the exception but the principle of certain premature death is seen to be upheld.

From the above then, it is evident that ordinary Biblical usage of the words "muth temuth" means putting to a judicial, premature death, usually in a violent manner, and not a dying of a natural death. So we believe Genesis 2:17 should be understood in the same manner.

C.C.Walker saw this meaning when he added the footnote in "Elpis Israel," page 69, after the death of Dr Thomas.

"The Hebrew idiom is correctly represented by the text of the A.V. Compare verse 16 (margin), 'Eating thou shalt eat;' and Deuteronomy 13:15, literally, 'Smiting thou shalt smite.'"

The Hebrew idiom is used to emphasize the matter – the text and the margin reference being in agreement and meaning – "certainly eat," "certainly smite," "certainly die."

Just in case there is still any doubt in the mind of the reader, let us consider the penalty threatened by God from another angle, for it follows that if the threat in "dying thou shalt die" were to mean that if Adam sinned then he would be made mortal, then such a threat can not be made again, for having once been made mortal to repeat the threat would be meaningless. However the same threat is repeated as we have seen in the above examples. Also the threat is not always made by God but by man too, who could not possibly make his fellow man mortal, but can and often has put him to a premature, violent death.

The above then, proves beyond question that Adam, in strict justice, should have been put to death for his sin. Part two shows that that death should have been in the very day he sinned.

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Part Two – "B'Yom"

Genesis 2:17 – "Thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day (B'yom) that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

The argument which is raised here has to do with the length of the day referred to whether it is a day of 24 hours or a day of a thousand years, as we read in 2 Peter 3:8 – "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

In the first three chapters of Genesis the word day is used to denote a day of:-

(1) 12 hours, as in Genesis 1:16 the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night;

(2) perhaps 24 hours, as in Genesis 3:5 and 8, "God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof your eyes will be opened," and "in the cool of the day."

(3) an extended period, as in Genesis 2:4 where it refers to the six "days" of creation, "in the day that the Lord God made the heavens and the earth."

None of the Genesis references necessarily cover a period of a thousand years, and there is no reason for us to suppose Adam was meant to understand that when God said to him "in the day thou eatest thereof" that He meant a period of a thousand years.

In the following references the comparative phrase "B'yom" – "In the day" is underlined,

Genesis 3:5 – "In the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened."

We ask concerning the words of the serpent in Genesis 3:5, were the eyes of Adam and Eve opened in the day they ate, or a thousand years later? Verse 7 gives the answer:- "And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked" - while still in the garden of Eden. It is also quite evident that the serpent understood they were talking about the same "day" when he said to Eve, "for God knoweth that in the day ye eat thereof then your eyes will be opened." Their eyes were opened straight away and they knew they were naked; it didn't take them a thousand years to find out! This fact alone should be sufficient proof for a day of 24 hours.

Again, in Genesis 5:8. "In the cool of the day;" can we by any stretch of imagination make this to cover a lifetime of a thousand years? Of course not.

Yet again, 1 Kings 2:36,37 – "Build thee an house in Jerusalem... for on the day thou goest out...thou shalt surely die."

A more exact parallel could not be desired. It is evident that Solomon and Shemei understood "Muth temuth" to mean inflicted death, and "B'yom" to refer to a literal day. It is presumption to distort the words of Elohim to make Genesis 2:17 mean anything different.

The following extract from The Companion Bible also shows the warning to Adam and Eve could not have referred to a "day of a thousand years":-

"In The Day" - Genesis 2:17

"The Hebrew term 'Beyom' means literally "in the day" and in most occurrences the primary sense gives an excellent rendering, such as is lost, or at least weakened, by the adoption of any secondary meaning. Reference to the occurrences will satisfy in this respect bearing in mind the call for adherence to the primary sense of the words wherever that sense will harmonize with the context.

The incident (1 Kings 2:37-46) which seems to indicate otherwise, only shows that King Solomon could not, with all his power, execute the penalty "in the day." With the Lord God, promise or threatening is fulfilled to the letter. That Adam did not die "in the day" was due to the riches of the Divine grace which, in view of Calvary, respited him, till, shut out from the tree of life, he died a "natural death." For the penalty was a judicial death "in the day" that he disobeyed.

Thus the Lord is "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe" (1 Timothy 4:10), for the entire race being "in Adam" owes this present life to the great reconciliation of Calvary so that each one is responsible to that gift. Eternal life is for believers alone, those "in Christ;" for rejectors there remains but "the second death," the lake of fire.

The emphatic testimony of Scripture is that:-

(1) without shedding of blood there is no remission,

(2) reconciliation has been effected on the Cross, and

(3) eternal salvation is something beyond reconciliation, although founded on the same rock. See Romans 5 etc."

"The Companion Bible" - Appendix 18.

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Part Three

Extract from
"My Life for the Sheep"
by E.Brady & F.J.Pearce.

The actual wording of Genesis 2:17 – "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

Of themselves, these words do not point to a gradual process. They might possibly carry the meaning alleged and if, as Fred Barling asserts, there is no other information given us except that in Genesis 3:14-19 we might agree to differ. But we will do what our critic has not done - look a little further afield and compare Scripture with Scripture.

There are some ten other passages where the same Hebrew expression occurs and in every one a judicial or summary death is indicated. If the meaning he wants to attach to the words is legitimate, we might expect to find say half of them capable of bearing it, but if the reader will look at the examples he quotes on page 146 (of "Redemption In Christ Jesus"), he will find there is not one where natural death by age or decay is intended.

He (Mr Barling) says there that we affirm that "surely die" always signifies "a suddenly inflicted death," but this is untrue; we affirm that "thou shalt surely die" indicates the threat of a judicial death, by whatever means it is carried into effect, and cannot mean natural death. But the addition of the words, "In the day thou eatest thereof," is definitive and rules out completely the possibility that a gradual process of corruption can have been intended.

For the sake of brevity, we will examine only his strongest proof, the one passage which he says is in no sense a threat of violent death. Numbers 26:65, "The Lord said. They shall surely die in the wilderness."

Fred Barling's comment is;

"We are left in no doubt as to how the sentence was put into effect. This was a threat of certain death, but in no sense of violent death."

Was it not? Yet twenty and four thousand died violently following the Moabite idolatry (Numbers 25:9), fourteen thousand and seven hundred in the plague after Koran's rebellion (Numbers 16:49), not to speak of the two hundred and fifty whom the earth swallowed up (Numbers 16: 35). Were these natural deaths?

But even if it could be shown that the majority died of old age the passage still proves our case and defeats Fred Barling, There is a perfect parallel between the certainty of the death intended here and the death intended in the Edenic Law. Here it is, "Thou shalt surely die in the wilderness," and there it was, "thou shalt surely die in the day thou eatest." For the former to be carried out literally they could be left to the operation of natural laws; in the latter case it could only have been carried out by the infliction of a violent death.

In each case, the words "thou shalt surely die," carry the implication of the certainty of death, and as surely as the one was executed by them perishing "in the wilderness," so surely, had not a way of deliverance been provided, must the death in Eden have been executed "in the day they disobeyed."

But that would have been a different story.

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Part Four

A view which has been expressed by some is that God would not say one thing and then do another; He would not change His mind but is ever true to His word and means what He says.

But this argument begs the question, Do we know the mind of God? So we ask, Is the view valid? Is it supported by Scripture? The answer is that this view is not supported by Scripture.

In Isaiah 38:1 we read of the prophet going 10 king Hezekiah with the message from God to put his house in order for he was about to die. Hezekiah prays earnestly for his life and was granted another fifteen years, so what God said would happen, did not. Because God had compassion on king Hezekiah and showed him mercy.

Again, consider Jonah 3:4 and 8 where the prophet is told to go and tell the people of Nineveh that their city will be destroyed in forty days, and when the 40 days were up what happened? Did God keep to His word and destroy the city. No, He did not, because they repented and changed their ways. And God had compassion on the people of Ninevah and showed them mercy.

Genesis 22:2 God told Abraham to "Take now thy son... whom thou lovest...and offer him there for a burnt offering," and then in verse 12, God said, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad..." Did God change His mind? No, this was a test of Abraham's faith and God had compassion and showed mercy on both Abraham and Isaac.

Even so in the Garden of Eden, God tested the faith of Adam and Eve, but when they failed in their obedience to the law, God had mercy on them and did not carry out the cutting off of their lives; but there was a death that day when God slew the animal to provide covering for Adam and Eve, and this sacrifice was typical of what was to follow, as were the sacrifices under the law of Moses, and no one would be so foolish as to say they were not substitutionary; those animals were put to death in the place of the sinner, and Jesus Christ was the great Anti-type.

On page 99 of "Echoes of Past Controversies," we read:-

"The life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11-14) and the shedding of blood was, therefore typical of death. But it was typical of more than death; it was typical of a violent manner of death: for in natural death the blood is not shed. Violent death includes death, but death does not necessarily include violence."

In conclusion we ask, Why did Jesus, the Great Anti-type, suffer a death by execution if it was not in accordance with God's plan of Redemption? We answer again in the words of "Echoes of Past Controversies," page 42:-

"His death by public execution was a public exhibition of what was due to man from God."

That is, both the law of Eden and the law of Moses required the death of the sinner, but this death, due to man, was voluntarily borne by Jesus Christ, and because God has compassion on us, in His great mercy He asks that we show our faith by going through that death in symbol only - in baptism into Jesus Christ, His Son.

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We must accept that Adam and Eve understood the events and circumstances at the time. Firstly that their Creator was good to them when He walked and talked with them in the Garden, and we must agree that they understood Him and that the law, the only law He placed them under, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," was for their good and to disobey would bring the dire consequence of death.

When they had transgressed that law they were smitten with guilt and were afraid and hid themselves. Their first reaction was fear, unknown to them before, when in company with the Elohim, but now there was fear of the consequences of the law they had broken, fear of death.

After they were 'discovered' and accused, they both made excuses, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Their relief and joy at not being put to death was subdued by the shock of witnessing the slaying of the animals when God provided skins for their clothing after He had rejected their attempts to cover their nakedness with garments of leaves. This slaying of the animals was their covering for sin and allowed them to stand before God and receive promises of further action by the Lord God to remove the sin altogether, prophecies and blessings that in due time the tempter would be destroyed and the power of sin, i.e. death would be defeated by one of Eve's offspring.

God also gave them to understand that their circumstances were now to be changed, they were to be removed from the Garden - a place specially provided and planted by God for their home and for their food, a benign environment now to be abandoned. They were to live outside Eden where there would be a more difficult existence, having to support themselves for food and raiment and shelter. They would live under new circumstances, a new set of rules, which contained promises of blessings as well as curses.

The events at this time and the words which were spoken to Adam and Eve, the responses they made such as; "Adam called his wife's name Eve for she was (to be) the mother of all living;" Eve's statement "I have gotten a man from the Lord" and also when she said "God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel" show their understanding and hope.

Here we see a degree of reconciliation - life and hope.

We see Adam and Eve saved in some measure from sin, blessed with children and long life, who could surely live and die in hope. The hope we all have, to see the end of sin and death promised through the love and mercy of God and brought about by the One "full of grace and truth" who for the joy set before him endured the Gross and despised the shame.

A.H.Broughton and others.

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