Conscience

For reasons already stated, the second dispensation must begin after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. If each new dispensation contains new revelation from God, then a change of man’s responsibilities should be expected.

This dispensation is usually called Conscience. The term conscience comes from the idea that man was to govern himself by means of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Cain is the example of one who knew his murder of Abel was sinful. Yet, he spurned his conscience in anger and envy. There is much merit to the title conscience, but that does not seem to take into account all of the references to the burden of physical labor in every aspect of life.

Some of the revelation for the dispensation of Conscience is given in Genesis 3 as part of the judgment meted out upon Adam and Eve. The woman will experience great pain while giving birth, and the man will work harder because the ground is cursed. Death is also introduced into the human race.

In Genesis 4, however, no new revelation is recorded in the text like it was in the first dispensation. Instead, the reader finds Cain and Abel, two adult men laboring—Cain as a farmer, and Abel as a shepherd. Apparently, God also revealed to Adam that blood sacrifices were now required of man. Cain knew this and chose to disobey it. Moreover, Noah makes a sacrifice of clean animals (Gen. 8:20). The inference is thus drawn that God also made a distinction between clean and unclean animals during this dispensation.

The evidence of something new is obvious, even if it is not explicitly stated. What is man’s primary responsility, then? In Genesis 3, it is the extra labor that men and women must endure. This theme is demonstrated in various passages. For example, when Noah is born, his father says, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (Gen. 5:29). In addition, in Cain’s descendants, the reader finds Enoch building a city, while Zilah was a forger of bronze and iron instruments (Gen. 4:17, 22). In conclusion, man’s responsibility seems to be hard, physical labor.

The dispensation ends after the flood when God gives new revelation to Noah in Genesis 9. In Genesis 8, Noah makes the required sacrifices of clean animals. In chapter 9, God blesses Noah, makes a covenant not to flood the earth again, and then gives to Noah information about the changes in the world.

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