Genesis 4


וְהָאָדָם יָדַע אֶת־חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד אֶת־קַיִן וַתֹּאמֶר קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת־יְהוָה   4:1

Gene. 4:1         And the man knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.”

The name !yIq, Cain, means possession, and is related to the verb ytiynIq, I have gotten. Throughout the bible, Hebrew names have meanings.  And their meaning usually has to do with either the person’s history or circumstances, or their future.  In this case, it appears to mean simply that Eve knew that her son was hers.  But we shall soon learn that perhaps it means much more.                                         [Return to Numb. 24:22]

וַתֹּסֶף לָלֶדֶת אֶת־אָחִיו אֶת־הָבֶל וַיְהִי הֶבֶל רֹעֵה צֹאן וְקַיִן הָיָה עֹבֵד אֲדָמָה   4:2

Gene. 4:2         And again, bearing his brother, Abel.  And Abel was a keeper of sheep and Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Now this is an interesting verse.  Adam and Eve, and presumably their sons, were vegetarians.  Why did they need sheep?  This makes little sense unless we assume that this fact is significant to the narrative of the next few verses, in which we learn that God appears to prefer Abel’s meat offering over Cain’s grain offering.  Another possibility is that, having left Eden, they no longer lived according to God’s commands, and had become meat eaters already.  The name Abel means breath.  Is a breath short?  Abel’s life was.      [Return to Gene. 5:3]

וַיְהִי מִקֵּץ יָמִים וַיָּבֵא קַיִן מִפְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה מִנְחָה לַיהוָה   4:3

Gene. 4:3         And it was in the process of time that Cain brought to the Lord an offering from the fruit of the ground.

This is the first we hear of offerings to God.  By the wording of the verse, it appears that the idea was not strange to the scribe.  Again a premature reference to later conditions that may not have existed at the time of the events being described?  However, it may have been necessary for the scribe, writing much later in time, in order to continue the narrative.

וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם־הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ וּמֵחֶלְבֵהֶן וַיִּשַׁע יְהוָה אֶל־הֶבֶל וְאֶל־מִנְחָתוֹ   4:4

Gene. 4:4      And Abel, he also brought some of the firstlings of his sheep and their fat.  And the Lord gave respect to Abel and his offering,

וְאֶל־קַיִן וְאֶל־מִנְחָתוֹ לֹא שָׁעָה וַיִּחַר לְקַיִן מְאֹד וַיִּפְּלוּ פָּנָיו   4:5

Gene. 4:5         but to Cain and his offering He gave no regard.  And Cain became very angry, and his countenance was downcast.

Now here we are at the beginning of civilization, and sacrifices and offerings were already being presented to the Lord.  In fact, Abel knew to bring the firstlings of his sheep (v. 4:4), a practice that, to our knowledge, would not be instituted until well over fifteen hundred years later.  We have seen, as we see in these verses, how the common thread of predating practices runs throughout these chapters.

It’s well worth mentioning another aspect and consequence of these verses, 4:3 to 4:5.  The idea that God preferred Abel’s meat sacrifice to Cain’s grain sacrifice has grabbed the attention of many bible scholars, especially those of Christian persuasion.  They see in these verses an allusion to Jesus.  However, I would point out to them that in Levi. 2:3, the Lord calls the meal offering the holiest of the burnt offerings.  I wonder, do they recognize the significant implication of that verse?                                                                      [Return to Levi. 2:3]

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־קָיִן לָמָּה חָרָה לָךְ וְלָמָּה נָפְלוּ פָנֶיךָ   4:6

Gene. 4:6         And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry?  And why is your countenance downcast?”

Notice that God speaks to Cain although he is not in Eden.

הֲלוֹא אִם־־תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת וְאִם לֹא תֵיטִיב לַפֶּתַח חַטָּאת רֹבֵץ וְאֵלֶיךָ תְּשׁוּקָתוֹ וְאַתָּה תִּמְשָׁל־בּוֹ   4:7

Gene. 4:7         “If you do right, would it not be uplifting?  And if you do not do right, sin will be couching at the door, and his longing is toward you, but you can rule over him.”

Here again we find strange Hebrew in the last five words: AB-lvm.Ti hTa;w AtqWvT. ^yl,aew.  Their literal translation is and to you its desire and you shall rule over it. This is odd enough, but there’s something more disturbing here.  The noun sin is feminine in gender, but the pronoun suffixes supposedly referring to it are both masculine.  So what these words may be saying is what I have translated them to mean.  Now who or what is being referred to here?  It certainly seems to be Satan again.  The last words of encouragement are nice to know.

וַיֹּאמֶר קַיִן אֶל הֶבֶל אָחִיו וַיְהִי בִּהְיוֹתָם בַּשָּׂדֶה וַיָּקָם קַיִן אֶל־הֶבֶל אָחִיו וַיַּהַרְגֵהוּ   4:8

Gene. 4:8         And Cain spoke to his brother, Abel, and it was on their being in the field that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.

What could Cain have said?  Did they have a conversation or did Cain do all the talking?  It seems that much is missing from this verse.  One would think, more appropriately, that Abel would have spoken to Cain, and this would have angered Cain even more, and he would then move to slay him.  But it doesn’t say that.  The phrase and it was usually indicates a passage of some time between the previous event and the next.  So Cain probably didn’t slay Abel at the time he spoke to him.  His anger and discontent might have festered for a while.

This is also a prophetic verse, in my opinion.  The older will “slay” the younger.  At first they will speak, remaining family.  Then a period of time will pass.  Then the older will put an end to the younger.  For now, I leave it to you, the reader, to interpret this for yourself.

This verse may be prophetic from another point of view as well.  The first child of the first parents is a killer.  Then the tendency for killing is in our genetic makeup.  We appear to be inclined from the outset to be both sinners and killers.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־קַיִן אֵי הֶבֶל אָחִיךָ וַיֹּאמֶר לֹא יָדַעְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי   4:9

Gene. 4:9         And the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?”  And he said to Him, “I do not know.  Am I the keeper of my brother?”

וַיֹּאמֶר מֶה עָשִׂיתָ קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן־הָאֲדָמָה   4:10

Gene. 4:10      And He said, “What have you done?  A sound!  The blood of your brother is crying out to Me from the ground.”                                                                          [Return to Job 16:18]

The English derived from this verse can be construed as a minor mistranslation of some of its Hebrew.  The term for blood is in the plural, as is the term for crying out. Blood appears in the plural later in the bible when it refers to killing, as blood that has been spilled, so it is not a very unusual or inappropriate variation.  The translation, perhaps correct, seems preferable to and less awkward than the bloods of your brother are crying out.  Yet consider this:  When blood is spilled it takes on the behavior of water, such as having no set bound, and flowing shapelessly.  Now remember that the Hebrew for water always appears in the plural.  Thus by employing the plural for spilled blood, it is made comparable grammatically to water.

וְעַתָּה אָרוּר אָתָּה מִן־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר פָּצְתָה אֶת־פִּיהָ לָקַחַת אֶת־דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ מִיָּדֶךָ   4:11

Gene. 4:11     “So now cursed are you from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother because of your hand.”

The term for blood is again in the plural.

כִּי תַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה לֹא־תֹסֵף תֵּת־כֹּחָהּ לָךְ נָע וָנָד תִּהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ   4:12

Gene. 4:12       “When you till the ground, it shall not yield its strength to you.  A fugitive and a wanderer shall you be throughout the earth.”

I am inclined to see this verse as reflective of the “curse” of the Jews.  When I alluded in reference to v. 4:8 being a prophetic verse, I was thinking that Cain is analogous to the Jews.  If I am right about this, then here we have a general curse that has been particularized here for Cain.  Cain was a farmer.  Therefore he would be cursed in his life work.  Have not the Jews always been cursed in their endeavors?  Have they not always been wanderers and fugitives?  So if you’re inclined to agree with me, instead of “When you till the ground, it shall not yield its strength to you,” read “Whatever you try to do, it will be difficult for you.” 

I have to thank my good friend, a God-inspired individual, Chuck Morgan, for the next insight I am about to describe here: 

The question to be answered is, what was Cain’s sin?  Two sins!   One is that Cain killed his brother and was guilty of spilling innocent blood.  But see this:  Chuck understands that Cain was guilty of a greater sin.  To answer the question that starts this paragraph, we must ask and answer another:  Toward whom was Cain’s anger directed?  Toward Abel?  Hardly!  No, Cain’s anger must have been directed toward God.   In the act of killing Abel, Cain was saying in effect, “God, You didn’t accept my sacrifice.  I can’t accept that.  I will show You.  I will kill my brother, whom You favor over me.” 

So now what was Cain’s primary sin?  Pride!  Rebellion!  Denial of God’s sovereignty!

וַיֹּאמֶר קַיִן אֶל יְהוָה גָּדוֹל עֲוֹנִי מִנְּשֹׂא   4:13

Gene. 4:13       And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than can be borne.”

Isn’t this what Jews have been saying for millennia?  Moreover, let me add as sort of an aside, in accordance with my belief that the Lord does not punish, He disciplines in order to teach, I have to make this additional remark here:  The punishment is as Cain sees his fate, not as the Lord “sees” it.  I believe that to the Lord, it is a lesson for eternity to all generations.  Do not kill your brother!

הֵן גֵּרַשְׁתָּ אֹתִי הַיּוֹם מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה וּמִפָּנֶיךָ אֶסָּתֵר וְהָיִיתִי נָע וָנָד בָּאָרֶץ וְהָיָה כָל־מֹצְאִי   4:14


Gene. 4:14    “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the land, and from Your face I shall be hid, and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer throughout the earth, and it will be, anyone finding me shall slay me.”

Once again, this reflects the Jewish condition.  We will never be totally destroyed, because of the mark that the Lord has set for us. 

Here I want to add the final observation about the analogy I see between Cain and Jews.  I alluded to it in relation to v. 4:1.  Recall that Cain’s name means possession.  Well, doesn’t God repeatedly call the children of Israel His possession throughout the bible?

וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ יְהוָה לָכֵן כָּל־הֹרֵג קַיִן שִׁבְעָתַיִם יֻקָּם וַיָּשֶׂם יְהוָה לְקַיִן אוֹת לְבִלְתִּי הַכּוֹת־אֹתוֹ כָּל־מֹצְאוֹ   4:15

4:15    And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever might be the slayer of Cain, sevenfold shall vengeance be taken on him.”  And the Lord set a sign for Cain so that anyone finding him not smite him.

וַיֵּצֵא קַיִן מִלִּפְנֵי יְהוָה וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֶרֶץ־נוֹד קִדְמַת־עֵדֶן   4:16

Gene. 4:16       And Cain departed from before the Lord and dwelled in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.

The name Nod means wandering.  The phrase dAn-#r,a,B. bv,Yew can therefore be alternately interpreted as and dwelled on the earth wandering or and dwells on the earth wandering.  Does that sound like the Jews?  Furthermore, there is something about the east in Genesis that implies dispersion or exile.  Adam and Eve were expelled to the east, Cain is in the east, and in chapter 25, Abraham sends his latter sons away to the east (Gene. 25:6). 

וַיֵּדַע קַיִן אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד אֶת־חֲנוֹךְ וַיְהִי בֹּנֶה עִיר וַיִּקְרָא שֵׁם הָעִיר כְּשֵׁם בְּנוֹ חֲנוֹךְ   4:17

Gene. 4:17       And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.  And he was building a city and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

וַיִּוָּלֵד לַחֲנוֹךְ אֶת־עִירָד וְעִירָד יָלַד אֶת־מְחוּיָאֵל וּמְחִיָּיאֵל יָלַד אֶת־מְתוּשָׁאֵל וּמְתוּשָׁאֵל יָלַד   4:18


Gene. 4:18       And Irad was born to Enoch, and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methusael, and Methusael begot Lamech.

וַיִּקַּח־לוֹ לֶמֶךְ שְׁתֵּי נָשִׁים שֵׁם הָאַחַת עָדָה וְשֵׁם הַשֵּׁנִית צִלָּה   4:19

Gene. 4:19       And Lamech took two wives for himself.  The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.

The bible seems often to leave things unsaid.  Was Lamech the first bigamist?  It would seem so.  There appears to be a reason for this abrupt ending of the genealogy of Cain, as we will see in the next few verses.

וַתֵּלֶד עָדָה אֶת־יָבָל הוּא הָיָה אֲבִי יֹשֵׁב אֹהֶל וּמִקְנֶה   4:20

Gene. 4:20       And Adah bore Jabal.  He was the father of a tent dweller with cattle.

Apparently Jabal, meaning stream of water, was the forefather of tent dwellers who kept cattle.  These could be the nomads who have lived for many centuries in the Middle East.

וְשֵׁם אָחִיו יוּבָל הוּא הָיָה אֲבִי כָּל־תֹּפֵשׂ כִּנּוֹר וְעוּגָב   4:21

Gene. 4:21       And the name of his brother was Jubal.  He was the father of every player of harp and flute.

Apparently Jubal, meaning stream, was the first musician, and was the progenitor of later musicians.

 וְצִלָּה גַם־הִוא יָלְדָה אֶת־תּוּבַל קַיִן לֹטֵשׁ כָּל־חֹרֵשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת וּבַרְזֶל וַאֲחוֹת תּוּבַל־־קַיִן    4:22


Gene. 4:22       And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-cain, a forger of every cutting tool of brass and iron.   And the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

The period into which Tubal-cain was born seems to be the beginning of the Iron Age.  By the way, people, especially women, are not named in the bible for no reason.  We shall encounter Naamah again.

 Anticipating the discussion of the next two verses, Tubal-cain may mean shall be brought of Cain, or you shall be brought of Cain.  A third possibility, although, questionable, is that his name is derived from Abel’s name; in Hebrew his name is !yIq;-lb;WT.  This would somehow connect him to Cain.  See the following discussion below.

וַיֹּאמֶר לֶמֶךְ לְנָשָׁיו עָדָה וְצִלָּה שְׁמַעַן קוֹלִי נְשֵׁי לֶמֶךְ הַאְזֵנָּה אִמְרָתִי כִּי אִישׁ הָרַגְתִּי לְפִצְעִי וְיֶלֶד   4:23


Gene. 4:23       And Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah,

                              “Listen to my voice, wives of Lamech,

                           hear my speech.

                              For I have slain a man for my wound,

                           and a lad for my bruise.”

As far as we can tell, Lamech was the next after Cain to kill someone.   That would make five generations of peace between slayings.  This long a period of peace is probably never going to be seen again.  However, Lamech’s song in this verse and the next is provocatively mysterious.  What exactly is he referring to?  And what were the circumstances of the killing? 

Tradition speculates that it was Cain whom Lamech killed, and his own son, Tubal-cain.  A clue to this speculation might be that Lamech’s confession comes immediately after Tubal-cain forged metal cutting tools.  Tradition also counts seven generations between Cain and his slayer.  For reasons obscure to me, this is supposed to account for the mention of sevenfold vengeance in v. 4:15 and in the next verse.  However, Lamech is the sixth generation after CainTubal-cain (along with his siblings, Jabal, Jubal, and Naamah) is the seventh.  The traditional claim is that it was Tubal-cain who caused Lamech to slay Cain.  When Lamech realized who he’d slain, he then slew his son.

כִּי שִׁבְעָתַיִם יֻקַּם־קָיִן וְלֶמֶךְ שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה   4:24

Gene. 4:24       “If Cain should be avenged sevenfold,

                               then Lamech seventy and seven.”

Lamech’s math here is a bit much, although the exaggeration may be meant to indicate how frightened Lamech was.  If killing Cain calls for sevenfold vengeance, then killing Cain and another should require fourteen times the vengeance, not seventy-seven times.  Or was it the scribe’s logic that killing two multiplies the vengeance rather than adds on to it?  At that, Lamech’s reference to vengeance is even greater than seven times seven.  It’s seven times eleven (=seventy-seven). 

All this only adds more mystery to the insertion of this incident in the narrative.  I believe it is still not adequately understood.

וַיֵּדַע אָדָם עוֹד אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ וַתֵּלֶד בֵּן וַתִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת כִּי שָׁת־לִי אֱלֹהִים זֶרַע אַחֵר תַּחַת   4:25

הֶבֶל כִּי הֲרָגוֹ קָיִן

Gene. 4:25       And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, “For God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, for Cain slew him.”

After the mysterious incident of vss. 4:23 and 4:24, the narrative has now returned to a continuation of the story of Adam and Eve’s offspring and could have followed v. 4:2.  The meaning of Seth is taken to be compensation.  

The genealogy of Cain seems to end here.  Henceforth, Adam and Eve’s descendants pass from Seth.

                                                            [Return to Gene. 5:3]                 [Return to Numb. 24:17]

וּלְשֵׁת גַּם־הוּא יֻלַּד־בֵּן וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ אֱנוֹשׁ אָז הוּחַל לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה   4:26

Gene. 4:26    And to Seth, also to him, was born a son, and he called his name Enos; then he began to call on the name of the Lord.

The antecedent of pronouns in biblical Hebrew is at times uncertain.  Enos means man, but that doesn’t help to inform us who began to call on the Lord, Seth or EnosSeth was mentioned in v. 4:25 and he wasn’t referred to there as one who called on the Lord.  So the traditional conclusion is that it was Enos.  Then was Enos the first to pray?  I see a somewhat different picture.  Looking at the expression then he began …, I can see the possibility that it was Seth who began to call on the Lord after begetting Enos.

More important is another aspect of this verse.  What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord?  Well, it’s necessary to delve into ancient Hebrew culture for the answer.  As we should understand by now, a name in the bible often reflects something of the named person’s character, the condition of birth, or the person’s future.  The word name in the phrase “the name of the Lord,” means something more.  In ancient Hebrew it can also mean the Being Himself.  In other words, the “name of the Lord” can be viewed in modern western culture as being redundant.  The last part of the verse could have been written  “... then he began to call on the Lord.”  In the Hebrew the next-to-last word would be replaced by the word al, meaning on.  However, as we shall see, in other places later in the bible where the name (of the Lord) is mentioned, it can also refer to the Lord’s “attributes” or “character” or “Essence” as well.


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