SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 3 Genesis 4

SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 3 Genesis 4

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis 4. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3

Genesis 4
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Cain and Abel
4 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Starter Notes:

…had relations with…
The Hebrew word is usually translated “know”, and often means “know through seeing (or other sensory data)”. It’s a euphemism.

Cain (Hebrew Qayin or Kayin)
There’s obvious wordplay here. Qayin is very similar to the Hebrew qanah (obtained, acquried, gotten). The New English Translation (NET) Bible notes a similarity between qayin and qaniti (I have created), and translates it as “I have created a man just as the Lord did!”

Abel is from the word meaning breath or vapor, and can mean something fleeting and transitory (which is also apt).

One traditional interpretation is that they were twins.

Regarding “sin is crouching at the door”: from the NET: “The Hebrew term translated “crouching” (רֹבֵץ, rovets) is an active participle. Sin is portrayed with animal imagery here as a beast crouching and ready to pounce (a figure of speech known as zoomorphism). An Akkadian cognate refers to a type of demon; in this case perhaps one could translate, “Sin is the demon at the door” (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [Anchor Bible Series], 29, 32-33).”

The land of Nod: there is no known geographic region of this name, and it may indicate he actually lived a nomad’s existence, going from place to place.

We have our first genealogy! Compare it to Seth’s in Genesis 5 and you’ll see once again the perils of having two sources and keeping both, as there are a number of names that are the same.

Lamech’s speech may indicate he killed a man in self-defense. Another interpretation is that the young man tried to kill him and now he wants vengeance against that man’s entire tribe (77-fold).

Seth means “appointed” or “substitute”.

Wikipedia has an interesting section re: the motivation behind the killing:

Is there any explanation for this:

? Cain offered what he had-what else was he to do?

Some possibilities:

  1. The offering was of crops from the ground, which God had cursed in the previous chapter, and was, accordingly, unsatisfactory. The problem with this is that there are numerous grain offerings acceptable to the Lord throughout the remainder of the Torah.

  2. Cain’s attitude towards God and the sacrifice was inappropriate. A number of scholars have promoted this one, but I don’t see it coming directly from the text.

  3. God was testing Cain to see if he was able to deal with disappointment, and could control his emotions. This implies that this was the first offering Cain and Abel were making on their own, and had just reached manhood. This can be derived from God’s advice to Cain after he rejects the offering.

Who settled the land of Nod, and where did Cain’s wife come from?

Nod means “wandering”. Since in verse 36 Cain says he’ll be a homeless wanderer, this leads to the idea that there was no “land of Nod” exactly, that he remained a wanderer all his days. OTOH, there are other places full of people mentioned shortly thereafter, and these are either other children of Adam and Eve, or it’s a case of multiple versions of the story being told simultaneously, with Adam and Eve being the primogeniture of one tribe rather than all of mankind.

Cain’s wife was his sister in nearly every interpretation of this I’ve read. He may have had numerous other siblings, but after Seth the writers didn’t see a need to mention the brothers, and, in a patriarchal society as the Hebrews had, women weren’t mentioned unless they had a crucial role.

Except that the Bible says he settled in the land of Nod, and it gave a location-east of Eden.

The word “settled” in Hebrew is יָשַׁב, yashab.

Brown-Driver-Briggs’s Old Testament Hebrew-English Lexicon, has this:
A primitive root; properly to sit down (specifically as judge, in ambush, in quiet); by implication to dwell, to remain; causatively to settle, to marry:— (make to) abide (-ing), continue, (cause to, make to) dwell (-ing), ease self, endure, establish, X fail, habitation, haunt, (make to) inhabit (-ant), make to keep [house], lurking, X marry (-ing), (bring again to) place, remain, return, seat, set (-tle), (down-) sit (-down, still, -ting down, -ting [place] -uate), take, tarry.

The NASB translates this word as: abide(5), abides(2), abode(1), convened(1), dwell(61), dweller(1), dwelling(20), dwells(12), dwelt(9), enthroned(9), had(1), inhabit(6), inhabitant(27), inhabitants(202), inhabitants of dwell(1), inhabited(25), inhabiting(1), inhabits(1), left(1), live(118), lived(137), lives(7), living(44), lurking(1), makes(1), married(6), marrying(1), occupants(1), occupied(1), passed(1), peaceful(1), placed(1), remain(21), remained(27), remaining(1), reposed(1), resettle(1), residents(1), retire(1), rule(1), sat(42), sat down(21), seat(2), seated(3), set(3), settle(6), settled(23), sit(68), sit down(7), sits(20), sits enthroned(1), sitting(48), sitting down(3), sitting still(1), situated(1), spent(1), stand(1), stay(29), stayed(25), staying(6), stays(2), take a seat(1), taken his seat(1), wait(2).

So it could mean “continued in a life of wandering (nod)” in the region east of Eden. I’m looking forward to cmkeller and Dexter Haven’s weighing in on this.

Further evidence against the “wanderer” interpretation:

Had a family and built a city.


Cain did not offer the choicest of his product to G-d, as Abel did.

But this could be a confusion of stories between Cain’s descendants and Seth’s. In chapter 5 Seth begets Enosh, who begets Kenan (a name equivalent to Cain), who begets Mahalalel, who begets Jared, who begets Enoch, who begets Methuselah, who begets Lamech. Compare that with Cain’s descendents: he begets Enoch, who begets Irad (name’s equivalent to Jared), who begets Mehujael (very similar to Mahalalel), who begets Methushael (equivalent to Methuselah), who begets Lamech (same as Lamech). There’s a mixing of the order of births, but the names are the same and it’s likely that a tradition copied either from Cain’s descendants to Seth’s, or vice versa.

I’m not getting that from the verses quoted. Please enlighten me.

Abel offered from “the firstlings of his flock” and “their fat portions.” Cain merely offered “of the fruit of the ground”, without particular distinction.

The way I read it is that Cain left to wander, and when his wife gave birth, they stopped wandering and settled down in Enoch. Do the apocryphal books of Enoch give any more details about his namesake city?

No, because THAT Enoch is descended from Seth. As we’ll get to in a chapter or two, Enoch “walked with God and was no more”. That is, he didn’t die, he was taken directly up into heaven, and the apocryphal books talk of his visions, including the fall of the Watchers and Nephilim. Uh, Spoiler alert?

JPS translates Abel as bringing the “choicest of the firstlings of his flock” while Cain only brings “from the fruit of the soil.” I’m not home, I don’t have a Hebrew edition to work from, sorry. As Prof P has noted, ancient Hebrew is quite terse, and there are several millenia of commentators wondering why the one was acceptable but not the other.

There are only three professions that are mentioned in the Pentateuch (first five books): shepherd, farmer, and hunter. Only the shepherd is praised, the farmer and hunter are seen in a negative light. Perhaps they encroach on God’s territory?

The Hebrew verb is that Cain “killed” Abel, not “murdered.” The verbs are distinct in Hebrew, and one interpretation is that the killing was inadvertent. He might be stupid or arrogant or violent, but isn’t a premeditated murderer.

It’s interesting that the “mark of Cain” has come to mean the sign of a murderer. In the text, however, it’s a protection, not a stigma.

The last line of this chapter says that people began to invoke the Lord by name (Y-H-W-H). If you accept different authors, then this is the J-source. The E-source says that this didn’t happen until Exodus 3:14, and the P-source puts it at Exodus 6:3. Each source is self-consistent, but the plain reading of the edited/combined text allows for some confusion. (Those who believe that the text has a single Author have explanations for these seeming inconsistencies.) I’m assuming we’ll talk more about the Name of God when we get to Exodus, where it seems more of an issue.

CK Dexter Haven:

Not even remotely true. Some other professions mentioned in this very chapter:

Cain was a city-builder
Jubal was a musician
Tubal-Cain was a metalsmith

Plenty more in the rest of the Pentateuch.

Boy, that takes me back. Many years ago I ran into an unusual fundamentalist who took a very strong interest in the apocryphal books. He told me the same story.

IIRC, the ideal was for the brothers to marry each others’ twins. Cain was adamant about marrying his own twin instead. The fellow I ran into did not mention Aclima being more beautiful, but that would certainly fit.

But one thing that bothers me is that the relationship was considered “incestuous” by analysts. (See the wikipedia link above.) To moderns it seems neither here nor there whether it was a twin sister. Apparently it was considered very negative, perhaps against divine will. But then why would the almighty not simply forbid Cain to marry his own twin? Why go along with Adam’s recommended face-off sacrifice?