Weird Bible stories

I have a strong interest in the Bible as a historical documnet and welcome comments about various strange passages in the Old Testament. Respectfull comments from Born Agains AND Velikovskians are welcome.

Who did Cain marry? Gen 4:17

Who are the “Nephilim”? Gen 6:4

Who are the “Sons of God” as opposed to the “Daughters of Man”? Gen 6:4

Why does Genesis “start over” at Gen 2:4 and run the creation story a second time?

Who married Seth? 4:24

Many of these questions point to a simple idea that when Moses (the supposed himan author of Genesis) is recounting the story of God’s people, there seem to be other (human?) critters running around on the earth.

This is picked up later when David comes to Jerusalem and a high priesthood is already esablished.

Of course Scientolgy explains it all. The Nephilim and Sons of God are ETs…


The scholarly perspective is that there were various traditions and different texts that were knitted together at some point. What fragments came from what original text, and when they were knitted together, is a large topic (and there is considerable disagreement, even within the scholarly community). One theory: the original stories were oral traditions, written down around either 1250 to 1000 BC (either time of Moses or time of David), and then combined into one narrative after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom (so before 700 BC).

Thus, the two creation narratives are two different oral traditions, one placed after the other, to create a single national (Israelite) text.

The identity of the Nephilim, Sons of God, etc were well known in the oral tradition, but lost in the transition over centuries from oral to written versions.

OK, now draw a thick line.

The traditional approach (as opposed to the scholarly approach) holds that the text of Genesis was written down by Moses, dictated by God at Mt Sinai (around 1250 BC). The identity of the Nephilim or the Sons of God etc was possibly known by oral tradition to the Israelites at that time, but we have lost that knowledge. There has been considerable speculation over the centuries, but there is no definitive answer.

The second creation story starts over because it tells the story from a different perspective. The first version is about the universe – stars and earth and fish and birds and such. The second version is about human kind, and puts them at the center of creation. The two different versions are designed to teach different moral lessons, and both are correct.

On your other questions, like who married Cain or Seth, the text is silent. Whether the Author is human or divine, this is information that was not considered important enough to pass on.

Why stop there? The text doesn’t say how tall Cain was or what colour his hair was. Doesn’t even describe his skin colour. The text doesn’t indicate the weather on the day that Cain killed Abel, or describe the terrain. Doesn’t describe the clothes they were wearing. Doesn’t indicate how many blows were needed for the deed. The text is scanty. It is focused on the horror of murder (“spilling blood”) which it exemplifies though fratricide.

Why such a big deal about elements that the text DOESN’T address?

In the Odyssey, Homer doesn’t tell us what song the sirens sang. Yet no one picks at Homer on account of this “glaring omission.” But every Tom, Dick, and Roy fret about who Cain married… like the absence of that information somehow invalidates the text.

[/sermon] Don’t worry about what the text doesn’t say, worry about what it DOES say. It says stuff about being your brother’s keeper, and its says to deal charitably and with lovingkindness with each other. It’s a moral guide, it’s not a treatise in geology or heredity or biology or paleontology. And that’s true, regardless of authorship. [/sermon]

I’m guessing this isn’t a SD column being discussed? I’ll leave it where it is for now anyway.

Moderator - yes you are right, sorry about that newby here.

Thanks for the above comments. There is a reason for my concern. First I don’t think the message will fall on account of some textual innacuracies. However in this case - the situation implies either incest or another hypothesis which I adhere to: inspite of the tradition of much of the Pentateuch that focuses on God’s children as descended from Adam, there are these creeping references to a larger Semitic or Canaanite people, outside the (here abbreviated) family tree of Adam - Methuselah - Noah - Abraham - Isaac, etc down to David and then Jesus some say.

My studies of sources outside of the OT and the OT itself point to a cluster of peoples that are sometimes in, sometimes out of the official lineage and populate far flung areas of the Middle East. An obvious more modern example are Samaratans, and also when David finally enters Jerusalem there is already a high priest of Jahweh there names Zadok, seemingly not of the linerage of David or any other Hebrew, yet he should explicitly be a Levite.

Perhaps the other story here is a Jewish “we are everywhere” scenario that would group Jews amoung a wider community of Canaanites, peoples who traveled and traded as far as Carthage taking their culture and language with them, and holding positions of power in places such as Type (such as King Hiram, not officially a Hebrew). No doubt boundaries between “races” were less fluid than we or the scribes usually concede. Interestingly, a Jewish friend of mine has always held that view and she sees any traces of shadowy “other” people that are none the less there in the texts as evidence of these unofficially Hebrew peoples.

Administrator posted 12-28-1999 07:39 AM

Wow, you certainly packed the straw men in tight!

  1. There are very few people, if any, that consider the Odyssey to be the Word of God. It is therefore quite reasonable to expect a lower standard for the Odyssey.
  2. At issue is not some random detail, but an ommission of a explanation of a very confusing state of affairs. A better analogy would be if in one scene in the Illiad, everything is noramal, and in the next scene the crew is untying the captain from a mast. It would be quite natural to ask “What happened here?” That would be a glaring omission, just as Adam’s daughter-in-laws are a glaring omission. It’s ridiculous to suggest that the exact song is a glaring omission, especially since the story is not being “inspired” by an omniscient being.

An explanation in Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible that I found plausible is that most of the names in the OT, especially in Genesis, refer not to individuals but tribes. So the tribes of Cain and Seth were able to found new tribes without the help of other tribes.

It’s only a “glaring” omission because you’ve been taught (or think) that it is.

Consider that there are VERY few women mentioned in Genesis at all. Eve, OK, she was first. Next woman to be mentioned by name is Sarah – Noah’s wife and the wives of his children are not named. Nor are any women mentioned in the ten generations from Adam to Noah, nor in the ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

In that society, women stayed in the tent and tended the home, while men handled the politics and religion. Sorry, but that’s the way it was. The Bible is remarkable among ancient mid-Eastern literature in giving women such as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Tamar, etc. a prominent role. But the readers of the Bible in the year 1000 BC would not have worried about the absence of name or origin for the wives of Cain and Seth.

There are several explanations that people have come up with, if you belong to the traditionalist interpretation. These include from:

  • the boys (Cain, Abel, Seth) were born with twin sisters whom they married;
  • the names are tribes rather than individuals
  • Adam and Eve had other children (non twins), girls who were just not mentioned (see my comments above)
  • God did create other human couples after Adam and Eve, just not mentioned.

Note that, before Seth is born, when you would think there’s just Cain and Abel, Cain kills Abel and is punished by exile. He worries that people will see him and kill him, so God puts a mark on his head for protection (the “mark of Cain” is a protection, not a condemnation, in the original usage). OK, so… WHO ARE ALL THESE OTHER PEOPLE that Cain is afraid of??

The implication is that by that point, the creation process had led to a variety of folk wandering around. Where they came from is not specified by the text.

My comparison with Homer was, admittedly, whimsical. My point is still that the Biblical text is sparse. Descriptions and explanations are NOT often found. You think the origin of the third generation is important, but the text obviously doesn’t.

Again, there may have been an Oral Tradition that accompanied the text – the people of the time knew things about the stories that the text author did not feel necessary to explain.

More intelligent coments.
I like the one about the tribes - there is some conflation about tribes and individual names. And, yes, Cain’s worries - worry me too.

About Homer - early on it was a cornerstone of Greek religious thought - if one read between the lines.

I appreciate that CKDext had chosen not to Hector me in his second post but has now actually engaged in a scholoarly debate - the conclusions of which I hope willnot rock his faith or mine. His earlier post obviously hit a nerve as I was warned not to ask too many questions. He is obviously not Jewish, as the spirit of open inquiry would be welcomed immediately.

How about this one: the Israelites leave Egypt (remember that nast pharoah), ans spend 40 years! on the trek to Palestine. Even if you were blind, it would not take so long. Then, years later, we have Solomon meeting the Queen of Sheba (nobody knows where that was), and neither folk rate a mention in the Egyptian’s history.

That’s not suprising. Egypt, and other cultures of the day, routinely edited their histories to exclude anything they didn’t like. You will never find any Egyptian texts that admit to them losing a battle. This means that the Exile would never have made the cut. It would be the equivalent of America erasing slavery, our treatment of the indians, the Vietnam War, etc from the history books. But it was considered a perfectly normal thing for a country to do at the time. As for the Queen of Sheeba, why would they care?

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Now, now, as Exodus 13:1 - 14:35 makes quite plain, the Israelites’ spending forty years in the wilderness wasn’t because they couldn’t find the Promised Land (“take a left at Beersheba”), it was a punishment for having dissed the word of the Holy One, blessed be he, by refusing to try and conquer it.

“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”

OK, here’s one: How did God manage to create night and day BEFORE he created the sun?

From CKDextHavn:

What does the text really say? There are a total of seven verses that deal with the story of Cain and Abel, from their birth through Cain killing Abel. What do those verses really explain?

Cain is the agriculturalist, growing plants and tilling the fields. He brings an offerring of grain and fruits to god. Abel is the caretaker of animals, and brings an offerring of blood. God is pleased with Abel’s offerring but not Cain’s. But nowhere does it explain why god does not like Cain’s offerring. He doesn’t tell cain “I like blood, not grain,” or “I want the first fruits and produce, not the leftovers,” or “You only brought me a pound of stuff and I want 2 lbs.” All it says is god does not like it. Cain gets upset, but god does not explain how to do better, just tells him to chill out.

So Cain kills Abel. Not the best reaction. Then god goes looking and finds Cain.

The story is not a very good moral lesson. The only moral lessons are

(1) “Don’t kill your brother,” which is a pretty simple message that really needs this story to be learned.
(2) “God likes animal flesh, not plants.” God is a carnivore.

I suppose it might have some value as a story for children, but there is no detail and no explanation to make it a very good story for anyone but the youngest children, who pretty much get “Don’t do this because I said so.”

<< I appreciate that CKDext had chosen not to Hector me in his second post but has now actually engaged in a scholoarly debate - the conclusions of which I hope willnot rock his faith or mine. His earlier post obviously hit a nerve as I was warned not to ask too many questions. He is obviously not Jewish, as the spirit of open inquiry would be welcomed immediately. >>

This gave me the best chuckle I’ve had today. I’m Jewish by birth and by b’rit.

The spirit of open inquiry is fine, Rob. It’s the spirit of open inquiry at a kindergarden level that gets tiring. Sorry if I let my impatience show. Your initial questions have been asked about a zillion times on this board, and show neither original thought nor an ability to read other posts on the same topic.

My reaction was not meant to shut off inquiry, but to suggest that you do some basic reading before you start asking trivial questions. There are three or four questions that traditionally have been posed that are supposed to shatter the faith of believers – who did Cain marry? How did Joshua make the sun stop going around the earth? How did Noah get two kangeroos in the Ark when there weren’t any kangeroos in the Mideast? …etc.

Seeing those questions raises a red flag, that these are usually asked by people who are not in the least interested in scholarly discussion, but think they have uncovered something wonderfully new. Those questions were new around 300 BC, perhaps, but are pretty old by now.

And, by the bye, my first post here DID answer your questions, from both the scholarly and the traditional point of view. I didn’t hector you, so much as toss in a few snide comments to let you know that you’ve asked why we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway.

I once read a fundamentalist (of a sort)
explanation of how Adam and Eve could
be the first people, and yet their sons
could go out and find wives in the world.

While not mainstream, at least some
fundamentalists interpret Adam and Eve as
being the first people of God.
The first with souls, perhaps, or the first
who were created in His image, or something.

Anyhoo, they went out and found plain old
people to marry. This would also, perhaps,
explain the weird ages of Bible people had
early on.

Adam and Methusaleh lived 8 or 9 hundred
years, but as the bloodline thinned, Noah
only lived to 600-something, and by Joseph,
they were down to 130.

Since DEX has seen this OP 100 times why not just move it (as soon as it is posted) into the “About this…” and have the moderator copy and paste a standard reply… Hi there, we are delighted to welcome you as a newbie to our board let me tell you something about our FAQ and so forth and so on.

Same would apply to the 13 year old great spellers of the universe united.

If these little guys are going to keep wandering into the board (and you know they are) why not give guidance…

I’ll just turn up the volumn here and ask another “silly question”.

Why did Lot offer his daughters to the men of Sodom? Naomi Wolf had a problem with this one as well - but she’s just a silly (Jewish) feminist.

If you have the answer but are too annoyed with it’s simplicity to answer politely - then please, keep it to yourself.

“How about this one: the Israelites leave Egypt (remember that nasty pharoah), and spend 40 years! on the trek to Palestine. Even if you were blind, it would not take so long. Then, years later, we have Solomon meeting the Queen of Sheba (nobody knows where that was), and neither folk rate a mention in the Egyptian’s history.”

Actually there is a lot of speculation about who and where “Sheba” was, Arabia, Ethiopia, etc. While Sheba per se may not be mentioned in the Egyptian texts, Solomon and many other Kings of Israel are. There are extensive references to the “habiru” in Egyptian texts. The question now is WHICH influx of Semites can be tied to Exodus, not whether there was one at all. This emphasizes the importance of the Bible as a historical document. I actually came to the Bible after years of studies of Egyptology and Roman history, and unlike some of the most skeptical, cannot reject ALL of the Bible out of hand (neither do I believe all of it). When I first dug in and learned how to translate names, I was delighted to see many familiar characters, like Cyrus, Rameses, Shishank, etc.

Statements (or sermons - not my word choice - above to the contrary that “It’s a moral guide”), the OT to me is a fascinating historical account of a people and their own historical traditions, many of which mesh tightly with other accounts.


Could you possibly move this to General Questions as it is not in reference to any specific column of Cecil’s? I believe RobRoy may find more people who are interested in joining the discussion over there.