Barry Newman's Blog

July 19, 2011

Science and Genesis 4: 1 – 26 (part I)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 1:24 am

Science and Genesis 4: 1 – 26

Introduction: The relationship between Genesis 4: 1 – 26 and Genesis 2: 4 – 3: 24

The word, Toledoth, translated by something like, “this is the account of” or “these are the generations of”, first occurs in Genesis 2: 4. The second toledoth occurs in Genesis 5: 1 and we might expect that from 2: 4 to 4: 26 there would be some type of unity.

Certainly, the events of Genesis 4 seem to flow on naturally from the end of Genesis 3.  Just as the man is referred to almost exclusively, if not totally so, as “the man” throughout chapters 2 and 3, so too he is referred to as “the man” and not “Adam” (though the NIV so translates) in 4: 1.  In that same verse, his wife, whom he had named Eve in 3: 20, is again referred to by that name.  Additionally, in 3: 20, the use of the Hebrew word for “Eve” is a play on the Hebrew word for “living” and in 4: 1 the man and Eve produce a son – new life.

However after 4: 1, though the account has a natural flow, the subject matter, unlike that of chapter 2 and 3, has a certain focus on genealogies. Two sons are born to the man and his wife – Cain and Abel. Cain eventually marries and a further six generations are recorded. Finally reference is made to a third son, named Seth, born of the man, now referred to as Adam, and Adam’s wife  Chapter 4 is a chapter of births, but not only so. The chapter has other focal points as well.

Some detail is given to the killing of Abel by Cain and the circumstances that led to that.  And there is a reference to at least one other killing by one from Cain’s line, Lamech by name.  There are also brief reference to a city being built and the beginnings of nomadic living, musical performance and a metal industry.  Overall, chapter 4 seems to be of a substantially different character to chapters 2 and 3. These chapters dealt with the first man, the fashioning of the woman, the temptation they faced in the special garden, their offence and the judgement of Yahweh Elohim upon both and the serpent involved.

Perhaps this substantial difference in character lies behind the way that God is referred to differently in chapter 4 compared to chapters 2 and 3.  Beginning at 2: 4 and through to 3: 24, except in the dialogue between the woman and the serpent, God is spoken of as, “Yahweh Elohim”.  In Chapter 4 he is referred to as, simply “Yahweh” (ten times), the final reference at 4: 26 being to “the name of Yahweh”. (Somewhat understandably, the NIV has an additional “The Lord”, its way of translating “Yahweh”, at 4: 10.).  There is the one reference to simply God “Elohim” in 4: 25.  This is the same word used to refer to God in the dialogue between the woman and the serpent (four times).  Perhaps one can make too much of these differences and one cannot deny the writer the right to display some variation in expression. Alternatively, or additionally, one could argue that there are different original sources involved.  That may well be so, yet the ten usages of “Yahweh” in chapter 4 do stand in stark contrast with the twenty times throughout chapter 2: 4 to 3: 24, where the reference is to “Yahweh Elohim”. Whether or not this difference has its origins in different source material, chapter 4 in contrast to chapters 2 and 3 while still dealing with matters of the utmost importance and while still having the personal name of God to the fore, seems to be of a less sombre character.  The narrative of chapter 4 has as its focus the affairs, even some deplorable affairs, of human beings and their “earthiness”.


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