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The Early Development of the Sinful Human Race
The book of Genesis has thus far progressed in a very natural and logical sequence of thought. After the story of Creation was unfolded as an orderly work, displaying to the fullest extent the mighty power of Him who is its Creator, chapter two informed us more in detail in regard to the conditions of our first parents, enabling us to appreciate fully the situations that were soon to be encountered. Then in chapter three came the necessary test of man, resulting in his tragic Fall; at the same time we were informed in detail what far reaching consequences grew out of this initial sin, consequences that burden the human race ever since and help us far more readily to understand what man’s lot actually is and why it is as it is. Now, in the fourth chapter, we are shown what transpires as the human race embarks upon its career under the curse of sin but also with the promise of hope as a guiding star. Just what was the development of our race in its first steps toward fuller maturity?
Unfortunately, students of history and of anthropology too largely ignore this one chapter, which happens to be the only authentic record of this early development. Having cast off the only reliable account of man’s first deeds and achievements, practically all writers of the present then proceed to draw very largely upon their imagination, which happens to be cast into the thought-patterns of evolutionistic conceptions. Then they misread the available archaeological hints―for actual archaeological evidence for earliest 1.187man is not available―and the result is a highly fantastic and entirely incorrect story of man’s development from the cave-man stage, as it is claimed, to the point where the first higher cultural achievements are found and the historical period actually begins. At the same time the very reliable Biblical chronology of chapter five is distorted and generous insertions of long periods of time are made, and so the value of our chapter (4) is completely lost sight of. For man not only did not start on the low anthropoid or simian state that is usually assumed, but as a human being he at once stood on the high intellectual and physical level that the preceding chapters described. But, unfortunately, the actual degradation that sin brought is not reckoned with. Whereas man was not an inferior being on a lower level, such writing of history degrades him without warrant. Whereas he was brought low by the Fall, this pseudo-science ignores his true degradation. In both respects the chapter before us, being strictly historical and entirely correct, serves to set the student of the history of mankind right; and at the same time it gives to all men a clear account as to how man progressed and how sin grew.
The following is the natural division of our chapter: (a) v. 1-16 give an individual instance of the early development of The now sinful human race, as significant an instance as skilful writing of history could have found; (b) v. 17-24 give an account of the development of the family of those who were estranged from God; (c) v. 25, 26 give an account of the development of the family of the godly. All this, of course, is done in the characteristic lapidary style of the Scriptures, where significant individual instances are made to display graphically what course was being pursued. Modern criticism, proud in its own conceit and refusing to accept instruction, fails to see all this and loses itself in a seemingly wise discussion about the various and inconsistent sources from which the author (J) drew 1.188his material, but at the same time such criticism cannot successfully hide the fact that in reality it too knows nothing about these sources. Nobody does. At the same time criticism seeks to undermine the credibility of the record by disparaging remarks. We, however, accept the chapter in its fullness of truth as an accurate and correct account as to how the development of the human race after the Fall progressed―a progress, by the way, of which we cannot feel particularly proud.
1. And the man knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bare Cain, and she said, I have gotten a man-child with Yahweh.
The relative completeness of the Biblical record appears from this that the first descendants of the first parents are reported in it. Adam, here still called by the generic title "the man," begets a son, Cain. With a significant delicacy and a very proper euphemism it is said he "knew" his wife. This common expression, used only in reference to connubial intercourse, signifies, as usual, a deeper knowing, an understanding of the divine purpose, in this instance the purpose which lay behind the forming of woman. As a protest against any notion of promiscuity on the part of the first man the account significantly adds to the proper name Eve, "his wife," as though to indicate that he knew and instinctively felt that the marital relation was intended to be monogamous: it would not have occurred to our first parent to "know" any other than "his wife." Apparently, the statement coming at this point, aims to indicate that Adam did not know Eve during the time of their stay in the garden. Whether this was largely due to circumstances, or to the brevity of the stay in the garden, or was providentially regulated, will, perhaps, never be fully determined, although it will be practically impossible to rule out the providential factor. With a certain measure of fullness of expression, characteristic of Hebrew style at 1.189times, it is reported that "she conceived and bare Cain." The giving of this name is at the same time accounted for by the remark that she made at the time he was born. She said, "I have gotten a man-child." The Hebrew verb for this is qanah; the Hebrew proper name is qa’yin. The similarity of the two is sufficiently apparent for practical purposes. It matters little if it be objected that as to form the noun can hardly come from the verb root qanah. Eve was not at the time of her remark aiming to establish an exact etymology as philologists might. She could well be satisfied with a kind of alliteration between the two; as long as the name only served to recall her significant utterance, and that it adequately did. Though now modern philology guesses about at various meanings of the word, from "smith" to "lament," it is sufficient to hold that to the first mother the name served to recall her hopeful utterance. Qanah, by almost universal consent, must here mean "acquire" or "get." To us it still seems that in spite of the philologists’ protests she wanted after she had said "gotten" to give a name like "Got," if we may be permitted to coin an English parallel. Such a name would continually recall how she "got."
However, the significant part of her remark is that she got this son "with Yahweh." The experience of birth with its travail having been successfully terminated, she ascribes what she acquired to Jehovah’s help. In this phrase lie both thankfulness and praise: thankfulness at deliverance from pain and danger, praise that Jehovah is manifesting His grace and faithfulness in giving a son. So the use of the name "Yahweh" should be observed. Apparently, then, since the name stresses His gracious faithfulness, Eve praises God that He who promised victory to the seed of the woman actually lets "seed of the woman" be born. Nothing indicates whether Eve did or did not anticipate that this very seed, Cain, should personally 1.190crush the serpent’s head. But, in any case, she had a token of Yahweh’s fidelity. That she expresses it as she does also affords proof that the mother of our race had not remained in her sin but had come to repentance and faith in God’s promises. Consequently, her utterance is also to be regarded as a word of faith.
This translation of the expression ’eth Yahweh is sanctioned by almost all versions: the Targum has "from"; the Greek has διὰ τοῦ θεοῦ; the Vulgate has per deum. The preposition ’eth has the meaning "with" or "with the help of" also in Gen. 49:25 a; Judg. 8:7 b; Esther 9:29. Luther translated: "I have the man, the Lord," making ‘eth the regular sign of the accusative. However, grammatically we must object to this original rendering on the score that ’eth, being the sign of the definite object, sets the definite object Yahweh by the side of the very indefinite object ’ish, "a man." In the second place, nothing had as yet indicated to Eve the divine character of the seed of the woman. To claim that she could quite naturally have anticipated that fact, would practically make revelation unnecessary: man could adequately surmise the most vital of truths. Thirdly, Luther himself wavered on this point. In his commentary stands den Mann des Herrn, "the man of the Lord."
That the word ’ish in that case must then mean "a human being" (Mensch) is not unusual. It has the same meaning in Num. 23:19. We believe we have caught the spirit of the word in rendering "manchild." Eve in spirit sees the child already grown to full manhood.
It is necessary to observe that this remark of Eve’s demonstrates clearly how our first parents put all their hope and trust in God’s Word. They had but few words from the Lord. Outstanding was the word of gospel concerning the ultimate victory of the woman’s seed. This furnished the ground for a true hope, for a 1.191distinct, though as yet not fully developed, faith in the Christ.
An interesting argument for the unity of Genesis and its composition by one author may briefly be inserted here. Popular etymologies, like that of the name "Cain," are found repeatedly in Genesis, and, strange to say, in all the chief so-called sources, J, P, and E. This constitutes one of the many strong arguments for the composition by one author, although criticism refuses to use this valid argument. Here are the facts (according to Strack): J has Gen. 2:23; 4:25; 5:29; 9:27; 10:25; 11:9; 50:11 etc.; P offers Gen. 17:5; E gives Ge 41:51, 52; cf. also chapters Gen. 29, 30; 35:18; Exod. 2:10, 22 etc.
On watta’har see G. K. 75 r.
The fact that Eve, the mother, is the one that supplies the name is no indication that the Bible teaches that the matriarchate existed from days of old. Naturally, on occasion the mother will desire and fix a certain name upon a child. Occasionally the father’s wish will prevail. Note that among the instances to be cited on v. 25 both sides of the matter stand out clearly.
Meek’s rendering is poor exegesis: "I have won back my husband; the Lord is with me." It requires several highly improbable things: a serious quarrel between the first parents and several grave deficiencies in the text. To alter texts when the desired meaning is not readily forthcoming is poor scholarship.
2. After that she bore his brother Abel, and Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the soil,
The scriptural record definitely knows who the second one of the sons of Adam was. The fact that it is not again reported that Adam "knew his wife and she conceived," but merely, "she bore," does not in any way indicate, as has been frequently maintained, that 1.192Abel was of the same birth and Cain’s-twin brother. The following cases of the omission of the mention of conception without the suggestion of twin births may be listed: 4:20, 22, 25; 6:4; 22:20, 24; 25:2; 30:10, 12, 21; 35:16; 36:4; 38:5 etc. (K. C.).
The name Abel is significant. Hébhel means "breath," "vapour," "vanity." Somehow the vanity of human existence had impressed itself on our first parents. The exact occasion for this realization cannot be determined. It may have been due to the fact that man was barred from access to the tree of life. Those that argue that Eve thought Cain to be the Messiah see in Abel’s name proof of her disillusionment. Even more likely is the supposition that the sum total of human existence marred by sin had impressed man with the emptiness of it all.
The expression, "after that she bore," in Hebrew offers the idiomatic statement: "she added to bear," the main verb being used almost as an adverb (G. K. 114 m). On lalédheth cf. K. S. 399 b.
The condensed account at once advances to the point where the two sons have each their own occupation. Abel was a shepherd of sheep, i. e. of tso’n, i. e. of smaller cattle like sheep and goats. Cain is a "server of the ground," the more realistic Hebrew expression for "tiller of the soil." Nowhere does the account intimate that any one of these two occupations was inferior to the other. In fact, the great likelihood is that both were already followed by our first parent. He had warrant for the first both in his original destiny to tend the garden (2:15) as well as in the burden laid upon him in 3:17, 18, 23. He had warrant for the second in God’s clothing him with skins (3:21). The word spoken in 1:29 no doubt excluded the use of cattle for food; whether for milk will have to remain an open question. Each son assumed one phase of his father’s double activity, and so each had a life’s task 1.193well-pleasing to God. There is no need for man, as the Bible knows him, to wander through mazes of development because of his crude state before he can arrive at agriculture. In flat contradiction to evolution the first man was an agriculturalist and a shepherd―at least, these two occupations were followed by his children.
3-5. And it came to pass after a time that Cain brought some of the Fruits of the field as an offering to Yahweh; and Abel on his part also brought some of the firstborn of his flock, namely, some of the fat pieces. And Yahweh regarded Abel and his sacrifice; but Cain and his sacrifice He did not regard. Then Cain became exceedingly angry and his glance Fell.
With rapid strides the narration progresses and takes us to the point where on one occasion the two brothers bring a sacrifice. Nothing indicates that this episode marks the inauguration of sacrifice by mankind. It may not even have been the first time that these brothers offered sacrifices. The casual way of reporting the fact that they brought sacrifices would rather lead us to believe that something was being done which was not of a character to challenge attention because of its newness. There is no ground for the claim: "The whole manner of the narration suggests rather that the incident is conceived as the initiation of sacrifice." More nearly true is the supposition that sacrifices were originated by their father, Adam. And since no commandment is recorded authorizing or requesting sacrifice from man as a thing divinely sought, we are, no doubt, nearer the truth when we let sacrifices originate spontaneously on man’s part as a natural expression of a devout spirit and of gratitude toward the omnipotent Giver of all good things. Sacrifice meets a deep need of the human heart. If sacrifice had originated in a commandment of God, 1.194it might well be thought of as a thing of sufficient importance to be permanently recorded in divine Scriptures. The later Mosaic regulations merely take the sacrificial customs prevalent at the time and regulate and sanction them.
Consequently, we dare not construe the terminology of our account after the analogy of Mosaic sacrificial terminology of the period of the wilderness wanderings. The word for offering, minchah, is used in its broadest sense, covering any type of gift man may bring. Nor do the later connotations of sacrifice apply at this time. Neither of the two sacrifices is made specifically for sin. Nothing in the account points in this direction. Consequently, the merit of the one over against the other does not lie in the fact that it was a bloody offering. The nature of the sacrifice as to its material is determined entirely by the occupation of him who brings it.
In fact, throughout the narrative one should carefully guard against imputing to these sacrifices things that we cannot prove to have been part of them. We are not even sure that an altar was built for the purpose. The first altar is mentioned after the Flood. We cannot prove that fire was employed to consume the sacrifice. That the animal sacrifice was killed is made apparent by the use of the term "fat pieces."
But to follow the account step for step―these sacrifices are brought "after a time" literally translated: "after the end of days." The expression is intentionally vague. It seems to suggest nothing as to the lapse of time since the birth of the brothers. Since sacrifices would most naturally be brought after the termination of the agricultural year, we may incline to think of the fall of the year. But the time element is entirely unimportant and therefore left indefinite.
We can only surmise why Cain is mentioned first as bringing a sacrifice. It may be because he was the 1.195first-born. It is more likely that it is so reported because he actually brought his offering first. There is even the possibility that this particular incident occurred after the brothers had many times before brought their sacrifices after the example of what they had seen their father do. Though the first to bring his offering, Cain does not thereby prove himself the more devout in his religious observances.
What he brings is described as "some of the fruits of the field." Min before peri is the "min partitive." These constitute an "offering to Yahweh." Minchah may be merely a "gift" or "tribute." But when brought to Yahweh, it constitutes an actual offering. "Fruits of the field" are the natural offering of the agriculturalist and are as acceptable as any kind, if brought in the right spirit. The law of Moses specifies many different kinds of vegetable or meal offerings as the natural offering of a grateful people. One of the most unwarranted claims made is that of Gunkel: "This myth indicates that God loves the shepherd and the offering of flesh, but as far as the farmer and the fruits of the field are concerned, He will have none of them." Apparently, this offering is described as brought "to Yahweh" because hitherto when sacrifices had been brought, it was because God was being thought of as the faithful and gracious Lord. To the Yahweh to whom sacrifice had regularly been brought Cain assayed to bring his sacrifice.
It should not be overlooked that v. 3 begins with an idiomatic expression frequently used when details are to be introduced, the expression, namely, "and it came to pass" (wayhî). Instead of: "after a time he brought" the Hebrew prefers to say: "And it came to pass after a year and he brought," co-ordinating rather than subordinating clauses (K. S. 341 s; 369 i).
(4) In order to make the contrast of Abel’s offering more apparent, the construction of the sentence 1.196begins, not after the rule of the verb first, but with the subject "Abel," emphasized by a gam hû’―"even he" or "on his part." Since the contrast is so marked, there can be no doubt that the significant words "of the first-born" and "some of the fat pieces" in addition to "of his flock" aim to show a distinguishing feature of this sacrifice. Since one merely gave of what he had acquired, but the other gave "firstlings" and "fat pieces" of what he had acquired, it is evident that the one gave because it was time and custom to give―pure formalism; whereas the other gave the best―pure, devout worship. Chélebh means "fat." The plural of the noun cannot mean "fatlings" nor only "fat" (A.V.) but must be the "fat pieces." The "and" before this word is used, as often (cf. Exod. 24:12), in the sense of "namely" (waw explicative). Those that see the merit of Abel’s sacrifice in the fact that it was bloody certainly do so without the least warrant from the text. Nothing anywhere indicates that that particular aspect of sacrifices had as yet been developed or considered at such an early age.
(5) With characteristic spiritual discernment the Scripture goes to the heart of things. Formalistic worship is of no value in God’s eyes; it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Our narrative gives expression to this thought by stating that "Yahweh regarded Abel and his offering; but Cain and his sacrifice He did not regard." The meaning of the verb sha’ah is "to gaze," but when it is used with ’el in a connection such as this, it means "regard with favour." But the significant thing, noticed by Luther and most commentators since, is that this regarding with favour directs itself first to the person, then to the offering; so in the case of both the brothers. This fact very significantly shows that the determining factor in worship is the attitude of the individual. Him, or his heart, God weighs. If he is not found wanting, the gift is acceptable. If he fails to please the Almighty, his 1.197gift is reprobate. This fact is so important that it alone is stated. The writer regards it as quite unimportant to record how the divine favour or disfavour was expressed.
Since this fact will never be determined, we may at least mention what has been suggested. An old Greek translation rendered the word sha’ah ἑνεπύρισεν, "He kindled." Evidently the translator had in mind that God on various occasions did kindle an acceptable sacrifice (Judg. 6:21; 13:19, 20). However, the double object "Abel and his sacrifice" makes this view untenable. Others think of some visible token such as the rising of the smoke of the one sacrifice as proof of its acceptance and the falling of the smoke of the other as proof of its rejection. This, however, is a pure guess. To suppose that God’s favour was displayed in the ensuing prosperity of Abel and His displeasure in Cain’s failure to prosper as time went on, seems the most reasonable of all but lies open to the criticism that such gradual unfolding of favour or disfavour would have come to light sooner or later anyhow, whereas our account centres attention on a particular sacrifice and what apparently were the immediate results. But, then, there is still a possibility which dare not be rejected. If the garden still remained on earth and was, as many suppose, the place of God’s manifestation to men―for cherubim are the mediators of His presence to the world―then He will have conversed with these sons of Adam somewhat after the pattern of His conversing with Adam and Eve in the garden. In that event they who brought their sacrifices would have brought them to Him whose presence was manifest in the garden, and they could have discerned from His attitude whether their offering was accepted or not. But all this raises the difficult question: "Was God’s presence actually manifested in some visible way from the garden up to the time of the Flood?" Our answer must be, "No man knows," Enough that both 1.198brothers recognized how God felt about their offerings. The rest actually does not matter.
Cain’s reaction to God’s disapproval is twofold: he "becomes exceedingly angry and his glance falls." God’s displeasure had revealed to Cain a reprehensible state of heart. That such was his attitude should have duly alarmed Cain. God’s not looking with favour was also a gracious divine warning (N. B. "Yahweh"). Cain adds a second sin to the first by his anger, and a very serious sin at that, by his excessive anger. The Hebrew uses the expression wayyíchar leqáyin—"and it burned for Cain," the verb omitting the natural subject ’aph, "anger," and using an impersonal expression. With true psychological insight the author narrates how this strong anger displayed itself outwardly. This was done by the falling of the glance, literally of "the face" (panîm). Here, without a doubt, "the glance" is meant K. W.—Blick. For anger that does not break out into violence seeks to hide itself by not looking freely into the eye of the one at whom it is directed. Since the glance thus feels checked, it naturally falls. So there was the inward passion and the visible outward indication of its presence. Even if commentators insist on translating panîm "face," they scarcely have anything different from our explanation above, for the falling of the countenance still centres in the expression of the eye.
6, 7. And Yahweh said unto Cain: Why art thou angry and why has thy glance fallen? Is it not so, if thou doest right, there is acceptance; and if thou dost not do right, then at the door there is sin, a crouching beast, striving to get at thee, but thou shouldest rule over it?
The wayyó’mer, "and He said," requires attention. It expressly forbids making this whole experience one that plays entirely in the heart of Cain as an inner struggle with the clash of conscience and the evil desire. 1.199The author does not play fast and loose with the expression "Yahweh said." Equally incorrect is the attempt to get around the problem as to how God may have spoken by assigning the words to Adam, the father, who, as an enlightened personality, admonishes his son with words that may be called God’s words because they were suggested by His Spirit. But there is really nothing in the text to indicate Adam’s participation in the admonition. The fact, then, remains that in some objective way God actually transmits this warning to the man Cain who stands on the verge of a very grievous sin. God’s mercy to fallen mankind is amply displayed in this warning; therefore again "Yahweh."
The first part of the warning is a question calculated to arouse Cain to a realization of some grievous disorder in his conduct. If he analyzes "why" he did begin to be angry and drop his glance, he will realize that what caused him to act thus―God’s acceptance of one offering and the rejecting of the other―should rather have made him feel that the one who was justified in becoming angry was the Almighty Himself. Cain should have displayed sorrow over his sin rather than anger over the God who graciously warned him. This initial searching question is followed by another double question (v. 7) both parts of which are controlled by the initial interrogative particle halo’, a particle suggesting an affirmative answer (K. S. 353 e; 353k; 318 1). The second question more definitely constitutes a warning, since Yahweh discerns that the initial suggestion is not being heeded. Note that all this is ascribed to "Yahweh" who displays His grace in what He does.
Now the double question as such, though it has manifest difficulties, is not as perplexing as the critics stamp it, who either make it "the most difficult verse in the chapter, yea, in all Genesis" (Procksch), or else assail Scripture by asserting: "Every attempt to 1.200responsibility. For if a man does not make his doings right, for that he is personally responsible.
Now the warning becomes still more pointed, applying directly to Cain’s case, showing what the situation is if a man does "not do right," or (Hifil) "cause his doing to be good." In that event "sin" (chatta’th, here mentioned for the first time in Scripture, a word bearing the basic meaning of "missing the mark") has become a very definite possibility, even a menacing threat. It is to be likened to a wild beast (therefore robhets, masculine, not feminine agreeing with "sin") crouching at the door. And as promptly as such a beast immediately at hand would seize a man going out at the door, so promptly will sin leap upon one and hurt him. This figure is appropriate also from this point of view: the hurt is inevitable, the ultimate escape possible but problematic. Completing the picture, there is the expression "striving to get at thee," which A.V. rendered: "unto thee shall be its desire." Literally the preposition and the noun must be rendered: "toward thee its striving." We believe we catch the meaning well in this connection by rendering: "striving to get at thee." The added thought is that this "crouching beast" is not a mild, passive thing, a tame leopard or some harmless pet. Rather, it thirsts after your blood. So the threatening character of the danger is made fully apparent to Cain, and the warning is complete.
Now follows the clear suggestion, what course to take: "thou shouldest rule over it." Such a statement at this point does not imply that a sinful man of himself is readily capable of mastering sin that threatens. But we have here a statement in full conformity with the tenor of revealed truth: in the strength, which the Word of God here offers to man as a means of grace, supplies for man, he is to rule over and master the threatening danger. We believe that in this sense the imperfect timshol expresses obligation: "thou shouldest rule." If some of these words happen to occur in 3:161.202in reference to the woman (there rendered: "unto your husband you shall be attracted (striving) and he shall rule over you"), we see nothing more than an accidental similarity in this. To hint at textual corruption because of this similarity is presumption.
When Jamieson and others suggest that chattath should be translated "sin-offering," that imports a rare and technical meaning, of whose use we have no evidence until at a much later date, and necessitates as Jamieson himself suggests "previous instruction in the mode of worship." On the improbability of the divine institution of sacrifices we suggest the consideration that had this outward act been divinely ordained, man, too much inclined to purely outward acts in religion, might quite readily have overemphasized the importance of the external. Consequently, the Scriptures do not represent sacrifices as originating at God’s command. When the practice, natural enough in itself, requires regulation and purification, God supplies such regulations in the days of Moses.
There is something ominous about Cain’s silence. He is not reported to have thanked for the warning, or to have repented of his jealousy, or to have mended his ways. A stubborn silence seems to have been all he had to offer.
It should be pointed out more directly that Cain’s sin in reference to his brother was primarily jealousy culminating in hatred, a sin that seems comparatively weak and insignificant but which carries possibilities of great development within itself.
Now the account proceeds in a drastic manner to show what possibilities for development lay in the sin which had by this time fastened itself strongly upon man. Possibilities for evil that no man would have suspected lay hidden in sin. Of a sudden it breaks forth and displays to the full its vicious nature and terrible curse. There is no book that so emphatically 1.203reveals what a cursed thing sin is as the Bible. Man should know what an octopus fastened its tentacles upon the race when sin took hold of it. With terrible realism the narrative continues.
8. And Cain said unto Abel his brother―and it came to pass when they were out in the field, Cain attacked Abel his brother and slew him.
There has been much needless speculation as to what Cain said to Abel. There are also unnecessary attempts to supply what some deem an accidental omission. A.R.V. acts on a wrong assumption when it translates wayyó’mer "told." There is a different verb for "telling." Wayyó’mer actually means "and he said." This verb is almost always followed by direct discourse. The few instances where it is used in the sense "and he spoke" (like 2 Chron. 32:6 ; Exod. 19:25) might allow us to translate "spoke" in this instance; but the result is practically the same if we assume that the obvious object of the verb is omitted, as in 2:19 a; 3:21 b; 4:9 b. This object, as quite naturally follows from the ensuing context, is, "Let us go out into the field," as the Greek and the Latin translations, as well as the Samaritan translation suggest. But this merely supplies what is obviously meant. The text (contra Kittel) needs no correction. Therefore all the other suggestions fall away, such as: He told Abel what God had said; or, He feigned friendliness; or, He discoursed on God’s providence, and the like. But if the object that we suggest be supplied, then, apparently, Cain, far from heeding the divine warning, has even gone to the point of planning to remove his brother from the scene of action. He induces him to go "out in the field," or "out in the country" (Meek), where both will be "safe from observation" (1 Kings 11:29).
When they are out there, Cain "attacks his brother." The Hebrew says: "he rose up against him." 1.204But in such connections that verb rise (qûm) does not mean the literal rising from a sitting posture but, in a more general sense, "to undertake something"; therefore "attack," in this case. We could call this "arise in a hostile sense" (B D B). To make the horrid and wicked nature of the deed doubly apparent, the appositive noun, "his brother," is appended to the object "Abel." His attack is so successful that it results in actual murder: "and he slew him." So the first murder was fratricide. Sin could hardly have displayed more drastically the potentialities that lie in it. In the second generation it has already grown to the proportions of murder. Clearly, the term "seed of the woman" (3:15) must suffer modification. Here already is a clear instance how "the seed of the woman had already (in part) become the seed of the serpent" (Keil).
Even more effective than the account of the nature and horribleness of sin is the account of God’s mercy shown to the sinner, as v. 9-15 records it. For though this mercy has to be tempered by justice, it, nevertheless, looms up large as being entirely undeserved by a murderer like Cain. This mercy first takes the sinner to account, trying to rouse him to repentance (v. 9). Note: Yahweh is the subject.
9. And Yahweh said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?
As always, God does not ask in order to secure information. The question is pedagogic, in order to remind Cain that God knows where Abel is. To ascribe those words to Adam as a spokesman for God is farfetched. Here is the second cross-examination found in the Scriptures. The contrast with the first is apparent. The first found Adam and Eve humble, though given to evasion and excuses. The second finds Cain impudent and hardened, at least at the beginning of the interview. Yet the first question had effectually 1.205presented to Cain the startling reminder of the slain man lying inert in his own blood out in the field. The heartless lie and bold rejoinder on Cain’s part is: "I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?" The question gains a slightly different force in the Hebrew, where the predicate stands first for emphasis: "Am keeper of my brother I?" like: "Am I supposed to watch him all the while?" He feels too guilty to draw attention to himself by way of contrast and to say: "Am I my brother’s keeper?" The interrogative ha anticipates a negative answer.
10. And He said: What hast thou done? The voice of the spilt blood of thy brother is crying out to Me from the ground.
First the divine word attempts to waken in the man a realization of the enormity of his misdeed. The "what" naturally implies: "What horrible thing?" On the form meh see G. K. 37 d. Then the word proceeds to a direct charge which completely startles the sinner out of his security.
God reveals that He knows of the blood that has been spilt, He refers to it as damîm, plural, vividly suggesting the many drops shed, a shade of meaning that we have tried to convey by the rendering "spilt blood." This is represented as crying, out persistently and continually; for the participle expresses what continues in the present or keeps repeating itself (K. S. 236 a; 238 a). Here the participle involves the idea of a certain insistence. That a voice should be attributed to blood is not strange inasmuch as the soul is regarded as lodged in the blood of man (Lev. 17:11), and the death of God’s saints is precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15). That God requires blood, that is, seeks out and avenges all instances of unjust shedding of blood, appears from (Job 16:18; Gen. 9:5; Eze 3:18; 24:7, 8; 33:6; Ps. 9:12). Men may esteem souls or blood lightly. Not so God.
1.206The tendency to render qôl, "voice," as "hark," supported also by G. K. 146 b, should be restricted. The far better and more vivid rendering here is "voice."
Now with v. 11 the word of Yahweh reveals Cain’s punishment. Behind this punishment and the revelation of its scope, no doubt, also lies divine mercy; for Cain’s hard lot is to drive him to repentance.
11, 12. And now cursed shalt thou be, driven away from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the soil, it shall not in the future yield its produce to thee; thou shalt be shifting and straying about in the earth.
Hitherto the ground had been cursed (3:17) and the serpent (3:14), certainly not humankind. Now for the first time the divine curse is laid upon a mortal. This fact alone stresses, as perhaps nothing else could, God’s earnestness over against sin. However, this curse is carefully defined as to what it includes, for it is not a curse that bars Cain from the possibility of salvation. This curse is not the sentence of damnation. It merely involves two things: (a) being driven away from the cultivated and arable portion of the land and winning his sustenance under the greatest of difficulties; and (b) being compelled to shift and stray about in the earth.
There is something very proper about the first part of this curse. The precious human blood was spilled upon the ’adhamah, the tillable soil. That soil opened its mouth and greedily drank in the blood. This was a profaning of blood and a staining of the soil. Mankind must at once be taught that such precious things as blood, or life, are not to be wasted so lightly. This lesson can be taught in the fate of the first murderer. To make that fate stand out Cain is cursed min-ha’adhamah, "away from the ground." The 1.207construction is pregnant. The preposition min practically presents a condensed negative result clause, and the phrase means "so that there is no ground for you" (K. C.) or, as we have rendered somewhat more concisely: "driven away from the ground." Cain is not to be permitted to settle down where cultivated areas (Kulturland) offer themselves. Of course, he will have to do some work by way of raising fruits of the earth; he will till the soil. But from this time on (this is practically the force of lo’-thoseph; see G. K.. 109 d. h) the ground will not give of its strength (kóach cf. Job 31:38, here, of course, means "produce") to Cain as readily as it does to others. Only with the hardest of struggles will Cain be able to gain a bare pittance.
The second part of the curse may also quite properly be regarded as involved in the first, or as producing the first. For if a man be continually "shifting and straying about in the earth," it will not be possible for him to settle down to any fixed occupation like agriculture. So God lays on Cain the second part of the curse in order to gain the result, namely, the first part. Na’ wanadh was rendered by the King James’ translators as "a fugitive and a vagabond." This was a good rendering; not quite as apropos, however, as Luther’s unstaet und fluechtig. "Vagabond," from the Latin vagare, "to stray about," has, however, come to mean "tramp" or "hobo." Therefore A.R.V. substituted "wanderer" quite appropriately. We have rendered "shifting and straying about" in an effort to recapture the telling an alliteration of the original. Na’, from the root nûa’, is allied to the Arabic root meaning to sway like a branch. Nadh (root: nûdh) basically means "to nod," "to stray about." Behind all this lay an added purpose: to impress the sanctity of human life and the enormity of the sin of murder upon mankind. Cain was not only known by report to these early generations of men, but he, the fugitive, had no 1.208doubt been seen by most of them, unhappy wretch that he was, straying about from place to place without peace or rest. Quite inaccurately and with a shallow interpretation Procksch sums up the case with the remark: "Thus Cain ceases to be a farmer and becomes a bedouin."
13, 14. And Cain said unto Yahweh: My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast this day driven me forth of the ground and I must stay hidden from Thee, and I must be shifting and straying about, in the earth, and it will happen that whoever finds me will slay me.
The bold impudence of Cain’s first answer to Yahweh now yields to a hopeless despair. Note that throughout the account God is designated as Yahweh, to remind the reader of the gracious faithfulness which characterizes His dealings with sinners. Cain’s answer, however, gives no indication of a repentant spirit. There is no grief over sin in the word, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Cain is very sorry to have gotten into such a mess. He does deplore the set of miserable consequences that he has brought down upon his head. All he speaks about is the punishment that has fallen to his lot. Therefore, the word ‘awon must be rendered "punishment." It might mean "guilt," or just "sin." But here the context demands the common enough meaning "punishment for sin." Therefore, it is not the enormity of his guilt that strikes heavily into his conscience, as Luther’s translation suggests: "My sin is too great to be forgiven." Cain merely cringes at the thought of what he must bear. This is a rather common experience in the psychology of sinners: bold impudence becomes a whining fear and complaint. This thought is elaborated in v. 14. Gadhol as comparative, see G. K. I33 c, K. S. 308 b. Min introduces a negative result clause: K. S. 406h.
1.210capture the imperfect, or present idea in ’esather by rendering it "stay hidden." Besides, the imperfect here rather expresses necessity ("must") than futurity (K. S. 181: soll und muss). The article in hayyôm, being the article of what is customary, comes to mean "today" or "this day" (K. S. 299 a).
Two more items of bitter complaint are voiced by Cain. First: "I must be shifting and straying about." He has heard his doom and knows it is inescapable. Gone is the boldness with which he first faced God. His complaint reaches its climax in the last item, expressing his gravest fear: "It will happen that whoever finds me will slay me." The psychology of the reaction is characteristic. Murderers fear that they in turn will be slain by others. The coward Cain did not hesitate to slay Abel, but he is dreadfully afraid lest another slay him. In fact, he is so apprehensive that he anticipates that everyone whom he meets will be inclined to wreak vengeance upon him. The Bible records all this in order to make it very apparent that "the way of the transgressor is hard."
Critics try to prove the unhistorical, if not mythical, character of the whole narrative by the oft repeated charge that Cain speaks as if he were living in a world quite full of people. Such an assumption is quite unnecessary. There is no flaw or inaccuracy in the record. The sequel proves that other children of Adam were already living at this time or shortly thereafter. These, as well as others who may yet arrive at years of maturity, the conscience-stricken, guilty murderer fears. Such an assumption squares with all facts and is perfectly natural. Such simple and satisfactory explanations, however, do not satisfy the critics. Procksch claims that the only satisfactory explanation of the statement is to be found in the assumption that Cain was not an individual but a clan (Stamm), and so the origin of a clan feud is here being described. A 1.211natural explanation is thereby rejected for an unproved and unprovable hypothesis.
15. And Yahweh said to him:. Wherefore, if anyone slays Cain, vengeance shall be exacted sevenfold. And Yahweh gave Cain a sign that whoever found him would not murder him.
Because Cain pleaded so earnestly "therefore" (lakhen) Yahweh (who is merciful) appointed that "vengeance was to be exacted" (yuqqam―Hofal of naqam) from such a one "sevenfold." This "sevenfold" apparently means "seven times as heavy a punishment as Cain had merited" (Delitzsch). The statement as such gives assurance to Cain. This divine word will become known. Men will not soon dare to fly in the face of it. The Jewish fables, reported by Luther, telling how Cain was later slain by Lamech, though accidentally, are not worth recording. For the presumption is very strong that Cain was not slain. In fact, the merciful Lord ("Yahweh" again) made assurance doubly sure by even giving Cain a sign.
Now when the question is raised, "wherein did this ‘sign’ consist?" it is usually regarded as a "mark" (A.V.) set upon him (so also Luther). But this assumption overlooks the fact that the text does not say that God set a mark in or on Cain (Hebrew, be) but for Cain (Hebrew le), marking a dative of interest or advantage. Consequently, we are rather to think of some sign that God allowed to appear for Cain’s reassurance, "a sign of guaranty" (K. W.) or a "pledge or token" (B D B). As parallels might be cited the signs vouchsafed to certain men to whom God promised unusual things: Gideon (Judg. 6:36-40); Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-12). God let this sign appear, therefore, for Cain, and he felt reassured. There is, therefore, no ground for supposing that Cain went about as a marked man all the rest of his life. Anyhow, ’ôth does not mean "mark."
1.212this time that each successive advance of mercy resulted in a more rigid shutting of Cain’s heart. Mercy apparently had done its work before this last provision was made by God. The ultimate impenitence of Cain seems to be suggested by the nature of his descendants, who are described in the following words.
The participle horegh is rendered as a conditional sentence in this particular verse; see G. K. 116 w.
16. And Cain went forth from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of wandering east of Eden.
The expressions: "driven forth from the ground" (v. 11), and "driven forth from the ground and I must be hidden from Thee" (v. 14), and that of this verse, he "went forth from the presence of the Lord," all refer to the same thing. Where God had hitherto by preference revealed Himself, there Cain can no longer stay; he is shut off from God. It is somewhat precarious to assume that the revelation of God took place in a special sense from the site of the old garden of Eden, where here by various statements the text associates it with the region where "the ground" was. The land which A.V. calls "the land of Nod," ’érets nodh, signifies "the land of wandering or straying," and it will, therefore, hardly signify any special land or country. Because of the nature of the curse upon him Cain was simply condemned to ceaseless wanderings, To these he now went forth, the text says. However, one general region alone saw him; that was the region "east of Eden," the region where mankind as a whole dwelt at first (3:24). No "land of Nod," furthermore, has ever been identified.
Not without reason the fathers saw in these first sons of Adam prototypes of the two divisions into which the human race is divided ever since: the church and the world. The antagonism between the two began at this point and is characteristic of all human history 1.214ever since. This is a point of view clearly maintained by the New Testament. There the opposition of Cain to Abel is traced to the fact that "his works were evil and his brother’s were righteous" (1 John 3:12); and at the same time it is stated that "Cain was of the evil one." It was more than a momentary flash of anger that revealed itself in Cain’s deed. A basic change of heart had taken place in him, a shift of allegiance to "the evil one." Since such opposition is fundamental, it is the beginning of the tragic division of the race that is in reality the explanation of a good bit of the history of the world.
Confirming our interpretation of the relative merits of the two sacrifices, comes the other New Testament passage (Heb. 11:4), which with characteristic depth traces the ultimate source of every good work to "faith": "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice." The same author (12:24) makes excellent use of the thought of Abel’s blood crying for vengeance when he contrasts the efficacy of Christ’s blood that, pleading for mercy for them that are sprinkled by it, will surely "speak better than that of Abel."
(b) 17-24: The Development of the family of the Cainites
17. And Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bare Enoch, and he (Cain) was engaged in building a city and he called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch.
Though this portion may rightly be said to sketch the development of’ the family of the Cainites, it would not be incorrect to regard it as an account of the beginnings of civilization or culture. For, strange to say, civilization did make far greater strides among those alienated from God than among those who were devoted to Him. Yet this is not very strange, if closely 1.215considered, for they, being addicted and devoted to the things of the world and not satisfied with the world’s treasures—for who can be?—they, we say, do all in their power to make an empty existence attractive by the cultivation of the natural resources of the world. Besides, the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
First, however, the development and growth of this family as such is sketched through several generations, with such brief historical events inserted as are of moment in this history.
Cain is first disposed of. For that matter, a characteristic feature of the author of Genesis may well be noted at this point. He regularly disposes of the less relevant but necessary by taking it first and sketching it briefly. Then the heavier emphasis can be laid on what is of particular moment in the development of the kingdom of God. So here after the Cainites come the Sethites from 4:25 practically to 9:28. Then the families of Ham and Japheth are briefly disposed of, as well as that of Shem (ch. 10-11:26); to make room for that of Terah, or Abraham 11:27-25:11. Ishmael is treated briefly (25:12-18) to prepare for Isaac 25:19-35:29. Again Esau’s development is sketched 36:1-37:1; then follows the story of Jacob at length from 37:2 to the end of the book.
Cain’s wife must have been his sister who followed him into exile; for Adam had sons and daughters according to 5:4. Nor can marriage to a sister at this early stage of the development of the human race be considered wrong or unnatural. If according to divine purpose the human race is to develop from one pair, then the marriage of brothers and sisters as well as of other close relatives will for a time be a necessity. Later on the nations may see fit to classify such unions as incestuous and seek to keep the human race from running its shoots back to the parent stem; and so they further its natural spread. But in the earlier history 1.216of mankind the union of those closely related was not abhorred. Abraham’s wife was his half-sister (20:12); cf. also 24:4 and 28:2.
On the expression "knew his wife" see 4:1. The name Enoch, Hebrew chanôkh, signifies, "dedication" and so by metonomy may come to mean "commencement" or more concretely "beginner"; K. W. Anfaenger. It appears that Cain promises himself a new beginning in life through this son; Enoch is to initiate a new start. At the time, however, when the son was born, the father was building a city, and with the pride characteristic of the children of the world sought to perpetuate his son’s name by applying it to the city.
Cain’s building of a city does not conflict with and remove his curse (v. 12) which involved inability to settle permanently anywhere. It may have been on Cain’s part a kind of titanic attempt to fly in the face of Heaven’s decree. But the very nature of the statement implies that he did not complete what he undertook; for we read "he was building," wayhi boneh, progressive, which we have rendered "he was engaged in building," to make the inceptive nature of the undertaking more prominent. The city may have been finished, but not by Cain. Others may have lived there, not he. Nothing points to an amelioration of the original divine sentence. On the participle boneh as expressing this idea of progression see K. S. 239 b. Consequently, the text correctly treats the participle as a verb with a direct object, as is indicated by the seghol; the treatment of it as a noun making him an actual builder would have necessitated the construct state of the participle and consequently a tsere.
The critical objections to the idea of the building of a city at so early a date in history, fall away as soon as we remember that, of necessity, nothing more could be meant than a walled enclosure with a few houses. The primitive city need have been no more. 1.217Besides, this well accords with the accursed timorousness that marked Cain. In spite of promise and sign he never felt safe. He felt a city might afford a feeling of safety; but he was never able to complete his city. The Hebrew word for city agrees with our explanation. For ‘îr is most likely derived from the root ’ûr, "to rouse" or "to raise an alarm." Consequently, the city was the place of refuge when an alarm was raised: K. W. succinctly: Alarmplatz.
It is very interesting to note how early cities in reality appear on the scene. During the lifetime of the second generation of mortals the first one is built. Evolutionistic thinking, of course, grievously distorts the picture and tells fanciful tales about many many earlier stages through which human development had to run.
We append a double list of names of Cainites and Sethites in order to make the similarity of the names as apparent as possible. It will be observed that Enoch and Lamech appear in both. All the rest bear strange resemblances each to some one of the other group.
It is quite reasonable to assume that the identity or similarity of names is traceable to the contact, more or less close, that the two branches of the human family had with one another. No one will be able definitely to say which group did the borrowing. Both may have done it in a measure. Nor does the fact 1.218that one group runs through seven generations before it branches out into three prominent characters, and the other through ten before it does the same prove these to be artificially constructed genealogies. The God of history may well have guided things according to a definite pattern of numbers even as He does in the field of botany or chemistry. Unfortunately, we cannot be very sure about the meaning of many of these names, a difficulty which is increased by the fact that these are Hebrew equivalents of the original language of the race.
If one critic remarks about this section that "it involves a series of anachronisms and is not historical," and goes so far as to claim that this is so self-evident that it "requires no proof," we regard such bold assertions unwarranted; for the truth has often been explained, but some people fail to see it. If, then, another critic praises Buttmann for having been the first to recognize that the two genealogical tables, 4:17-24 and chapter 5, are but two variant forms of one tradition concerning the genealogy of the human race, we can do no more than marvel at the unproven claims that men will make when they seek to discredit the Scriptures.
18. And to Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begat Mehujael; and Mehijael begat Methushael; and Methushael begat Lamech.
No one will ever satisfactorily explain, as far as we are able to discern, how the two variant forms of the one name crept into this verse: Mehujael and Mehijael. That the subject ’Iradh is counted as a kind of retained object with the passive is discussed K. S. 108; G. K. 121 b. Irad may mean "townsman" (Keil). Mehujael may mean "God is the giver of life" (K. W.). Mehijael seems to mean "God is the fountain of life" (K. W.). Methushael perhaps means "man of God," the sh being a kind of relative. The meaning 1.219of "Lamech" is extremely doubtful. It seems strange to find at least three of these names compounded with the divine name ’el—God. However, that may indicate that occasionally a Cainite was devout or at least had better aspirations, or it may be traceable to the borrowing of names by the Cainites from the Sethites. Many a man has a name of the noblest meaning without even being aware of it. At least the great antiquity of the name ’el is indicated by these compounds (K. T. A. T. p. 143).
19. And Lamech took unto himself two wives; the name of the one was Adah, the name of the other Zillah.
In this simple statement is recounted the origin of bigamy. Note well that the practice originated among those who had become estranged from God. Up till this age the original purpose of God in creating one man and one wife and uniting them in marriage had apparently been understood as sanctioning only monogamous marriage. In the seventh generation from Adam comes a man in the line of the Cainites who dares to fly in the face of this divine institution. The names of these two wives, if they be at all indicative of their character, as names in these early days often were, suggest that physical attractiveness may have been a governing motive in Lamech’s choice. For Adah means either "ornament" or "morning"; whereas Zillah may signify "shade" or "shelter." Nevertheless, the ungoverned lust of the flesh will, as usual, have played a large part in inducing the man to take a second wife. It should also be noted that the expression "take a wife" (laqach ‘ishshah) is the one that signifies "to marry." The dative of the personal pronoun lô is used as a reflexive (K. S. 28).
20-22. Adah bore Jabal. He was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have cattle. And the name of his brother was Jubal. He was the ancestor 1.220of all who play, the lyre and the pipe. Zillah on her part bore Tubal Cain, a hammerer (smith) who devised all manner of things of bronze and iron. Tubal Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Here we have the record of the most important cultural achievements of early days. Strange to say, they are traceable to the gifted sons of the bigamist. Of these sons Adah bore two and Zillah one.
Jabal perhaps means "wanderer," a name indicative of the later nomadic habits of the man. It appears that many of the names of these early days may not originally have been given to their bearers, but may have originated in the course of time as descriptive of the outstanding characteristic of the person. The notable thing about Jabal is that he hit upon and developed the idea of having a movable domicile, a tent, to use while travelling about with his flocks in search of pasturage. This new departure, of course, describes nomadism. The noun ’abh, "father," is used to describe him as the "originator" of the idea or as the "ancestor" of all such―one of the many and varied uses of the word ’abh. A still more elastic use is found when miqueh, "cattle" (more than tso’n, including even camels and asses [Exod. 9:3]) is attached, thus: "father of cattle." This may also be explained by the figure zeugma, where one verb takes two objects, the second of which ought more properly to be joined to a second verb. The participle yoshebh is used collectively and is used with the accusative, as in our English phrase, "inhabiting a tent"; cf. G. K. 117 bb.
"Jubal" may mean "sound" (Hall—K. W.) because the man originated sweet sounds. He had inventive genius along another less practical line. He was the originator (’abh) of all who "catch" (tophes) the strings of the "lyre and pipe." Kinnôr is more of a zither than a harp; therefore we render the word lyre, because only as lyres developed did harps result. 1.221The ’ûghabh was by far not as elaborate as an "organ" (A.V.) but merely a combination of a few reed pipes. However primitive they may have been, these two instruments laid the foundation of musical development; for both stringed instruments and wind instruments owe their origin to this invention.
(22) Zillah’s son was an inventive genius too. "She too" (gam hî’) or, as we translated above, "on her part," shared in producing famous men. Her son’s name, "Tubal Cain," is sometimes explained as meaning "Tubal the smith," or again Eisenspan von Schmiederei (K. W.), "the splinter of iron resulting from pounding the iron." The words that follow are variously translated: either as above, or as "the hammerer of every cutting device of bronze and iron." This latter construction puts four successive words in the construct relation to one another—rather unusual. Therefore we take kol in the sense of "all kinds of things" and construe it as the object of choresh and make "bronze and iron" accusative of material. In both cases the meaning is much the same, with this major difference: the one lets the man devise only cutting instruments, the other, all kinds of instruments and utensils. Observe, though, that bronze precedes iron.
Na’amah’s name means "pleasant." This is significant. This family knew by various devices to make life pleasant for itself. Though these inventions bring a kind of taint with them, being originated by the godless, yet two things must be remembered. Music, for example, carries many elements in itself that can distract the soul unduly; so can other worldly productions unduly absorb the soul. On the other hand, all such achievements may be taken in hand and sanctified by injecting in them a spirit from on high. Such is again especially the case with music, which has thus been taken in hand and has experienced its noblest development in sanctified use.
1.22223, 24. And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice, Ye wives of Lamech, give ear unto my speech. I slay a man for wounding me And a youth for giving me a stripe. For, if Cain is to be avenged sevenfold Then Lamech seventy-seven fold.
This portion caused commentators in days of old untold difficulties. Jamieson reports that Origen devoted two whole books of his Genesis commentary to these verses, and finally rendered the verdict that they were inexplicable. Other commentators were misled by the Jewish fable of the accidental slaying by Lamech of old Cain and a youth who guided him through the forest, and so for a long while they went off on a false scent.
Yet, on the whole, the present-day approach, which classifies this as "Lamech’s Sword Song," is correct. Incidentally, here is the first piece of poetry of which we have a record, not so noble an origin, it is true, but under such circumstances did it take its rise. We claim that approach, then, to be correct which pictures Lamech as handling one of the weapons just manufactured by his son Tubal Cain and as sensing the possibilities that lie in possessing such a weapon. For the waw conversive which binds the opening wayy’omer to the preceding section, bears just this connotation; as a result of his son’s invention of weapons, Lamech, seeing what possibilities lay in such weapons, "said." This poem does not hang suspended on thin air. That it is a poem is apparent from the very manifest parallelism of the members; the characteristic feature, at least, of Hebrew poetry. From one point of view, of course, this poem is a glorification of the sword. But penetrating deeper into its character, we find it to be a glorification of the spirit of personal revenge. So the poem has an unholy savour and reflects 1.223admirably the spirit of those who have grown estranged from God and His Word. So all human culture and the achievement of civilization degenerate apart from God.
It need not surprise us that this word was spoken to Lamech’s wives. They are an audience that needs must listen, and boasting is most safely done at home before their ears. Whether Lamech really was the dangerous fellow that his words make him out to be we have no means of knowing. The elevated tone of the poem is made apparent by the sonorous and dignified double address. "Adah and Zillah" and "ye wives of Lamech." Again, the poetic character of the piece is reflected in the use of a poetic shortened form for the imperative, shema’an (G. K. 46 f), as well as by a term used largely in poetic diction, ’imrah, "utterance, speech."
The perfect tenses that follow have been the source of much difficulty. Some, taking them as simple historical perfects, read them as a record of a deed done. But in that event it strikes us as most peculiar that Lamech should have slain both a man and a young man. Murderers very rarely proceed to wholesale slaughter, all the more not when, as in Lamech’s case, they have reason to recall what befell a notorious ancestor of theirs when he committed murder. Then, since apparently the preceding verses had just recorded an invention, the next and more natural step in the narrative would be to canvass the possibilities latent in the invention. So it would be far more plausible to picture Lamech as handling a newly forged sword or swinging it boldly about his head and uttering this sonorous bit of poetry as he does so. In this event, the perfects would have to be regarded as expressing complete assurance, or definite certainty, or promise. Some compare 1:29 and 4:14 a. They are, of course, then analogous to prophetic perfects and refer definitely to the future. What Lamech threatens is: if 1.224any man wounds me, or if any young man bruises me, I shall kill the offender. "Man" and "young man" constitutes a more picturesque way of saying: "anyone." "Wound" (pits’i, a cut wound, introduced by le of norm) and "bruise" (chabburathi, a stripe caused by a blow) include all forms of hurt, the more grievous and the less grievous. Consequently, the threat covers every case where a painful wrong is inflicted, no matter who does it. Lamech tries to give his threat a veneer of just retribution by making the distinction: for a real wound, I shall take a man’s life; for a bruise, the life of a youth. Yéledh here hardly means "child," as its first meaning might lead us to suppose. The suffix on "wound" and "stripe" is called by Strack the suffix expressing the eventual. Not: the "wound," etc., that I have received, but: the wound I may receive. We have sought to indicate this by: "for wounding me," etc.
Now comes the climax of this ungodly song of hate. The "for" introducing it introduces as reason not what immediately follows but "the second part of the sentence." Lamech remembers the sentence and the divine promise to his ancestor. On this he builds up. If God will see to it that the one who harms Cain will have a sevenfold measure of punishment, Lamech, not needing or even despising God’s avenging justice, will provide for himself by the strength of his own arm, re-enforced by his son’s weapon, a far more heavy punishment than God would have allowed―seventy-seven fold. The arrogance and presumption are unbelievable. The spirit of self-sufficiency here expressing itself overleaps all bounds. This, then, coupled with its hate and revengefulness, makes it one of the most ungodly pieces ever written. Such are the achievements of human culture divorced from God, "My fist shall do more for me than God’s vengeance for Cain," Strack paraphrases. An allusion, by way of contrast to this wicked utterance, apparently lies 1.225in (Matt. 18:21), where such a high measure of forgiveness, "seventy and seven," is laid upon Christ’s followers. They are not only to be free of the spirit of retaliation but are to possess instead a rare spirit of forgiveness.
c. An account of the Development of the Family of the Godly (v. 25, 26)
Without lengthy introduction, without the use of explanatory phrases, the writer sets another group that was developing in those days into sharp contrast with the development of the group just described. This makes for very effective writing. Such contrasts by their very sharpness give evidence of comsummate literary skill. The critics, somehow, cannot understand such skill and see merely what they claim to be evidence of a different document. So they speak with great erudition on a subject about which no man knows anything. Incidentally, they hardly notice that the two branches of mankind are as widely different from one another as they possibly can be. Simplicity of life and devotedness to their God characterize this second group, the Sethites.
25. And Adam again knew his wife and she begat a son and called his name Sheth, for God hath set for me other seed in place of Abel; for Cain slew him.
When the expression is a bit more detailed, there is not always a special significance attached to it. Here we are hardly justified in supposing that the author is trying to say that sexual communion was interrupted for a time because of Abel’s death but was now again resumed. The fact is a son was born. How thoroughly different the spirit of this family is from that which we have just studied appears from the fact that in the birth of their children already these parents see the gracious hand of God. This son is "set" (shah) 1.226by God in place of Abel. The mother wishes this fact to be continually in evidence and so gives her son a name indicative of this fact: sheth, A.V.: "Seth." The play on words is thus made apparent in English. Since "set in place of" means "to substitute" we may adequately interpret the name Seth to mean "substitute," Ersatzmann (K. W.). Procksch, without good reason, questions the propriety of this very obvious interpretation. The explanatory remark "for Cain slew him" is not inserted by Moses as his own explanation, the fact being too evident to require explanation. But as a word of Eve it definitely connects the two acts and states that God meant Seth to be a substitute for the slain Abel; or, because Cain slew the one, God gave the other―an explanation which amounts to the same thing as the first.
In this verse we have the first undoubtedly clear use of ’adham as a proper noun. Apparently, from this point onward, Adam is under consideration as an individual more than as the first "man," as his name signifies (K. S. 295 b). Besides, it may be well to append a list of the instances where the father or the mother give the names to their children and so to show the futility of the contention that the matriarchate prevailed of old according to the Scriptures. The mother gives the name in19:37 f.; 29:32 f., 35; 30:6, 8, 11, 13, 18, 20 f., 24; 35:18; 38.4 f. The father gives the name in 4:26; 5:29; 16:15; 21:3; 38:3; 41:51f. The impersonal subject "one" is found in 25:25 f.; 38:29 f. in the matter of giving names.
26. Also unto Sheth there was a son born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time a beginning was made of calling upon the name of the Lord.
For the present there is no need of tracing this family through many generations. The spirit that animates becomes evident at once. When Sheth, or Seth, who has the godly spirit of Adam begets a son, 1.227date or not. The thing that the name stood for was known. Men do not first in the age of Abraham or Moses begin to comprehend God’s faithfulness, unchangeableness, and mercy. Since this calling out by the use of the name definitely implies public worship, we have here the first record of regular public worship. Private worship is presupposed as preceding. The great importance of public worship, both as a matter of personal necessity as well as a matter of public confession, is beautifully set forth by this brief record. This act bears eloquent testimony to the courage, of this group, who wanted to be known as such whose hope was placed only in Yahweh. It is not enough to say that "Yahweh’s religion began with Enoch." It began with Adam and developed into regular public worship in three generations.
The first fifteen verses of this chapter may be used as a unit. In that event they may be treated under the head of "the First Murder," or "the Rapid Development of Sin," or even "the Horrible Possibilities Latent in Sin." Verses 9-15 lend themselves to the treatment of the subject of "Impenitence" or "the Despair of the Impenitent."
The second half of the chapter offers a topic that is always helpful and perhaps more timely now than ever. In v. 16-24 one may find "the Beginnings of Civilization." Here, of course, a certain caution is in order. Though it was the Cainite group that devised these beginnings, and though this was a typical instance of worldly-mindedness, yet over against these undeniable facts it should be clearly stated that attempts made by godly men to "subdue" the world and the created things in it are in conformity with God’s original purpose (1:28). If worldly minded men make inventions and discoveries because they know no higher goal, godly men should make endeavours along the same line in order to fulfil their God-given destiny and to please their Father in heaven. If the entire section v. 16-26 is treated, in some way the contrast between the spirit of the world and the spirit of God’s children should be the dominant thought.
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