Barry Newman's Blog

July 27, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 1:20 am

The beginnings of various living styles

Cain was building a city and named it after his son Enoch.  Walton points out that “in Mesopotamian tradition the first city was Eridu” and that consequently some have attempted to construct verse 17 in such a way that Enoch names the city after his son Irad (whose name can easily be associated with Eridu)” (p. 276).  While recognising this as a possibility Walton is persuaded that the text is more easily understood as normally translated.  Though the word translated “city” does not have to imply that what Cain built was all that large, it is no doubt significant that a city was built.  Being the first mention of a city is probably meant to convey the idea that it was the first city built.  There may be additional significance as well.  From the point of view of the account, did he decide to build it because of the birth of his son?  His parents did not set about building a city upon his birth.  Was it that he thought that the animosity towards him by others might vent itself on his son and his son therefore needed protection?  Whatever our answer to that question, the building of the city is probably meant to indicate that while Cain continued to survive it was not as a farmer, since he had been told that that would no longer been possible, but as a city, town or village dweller. Even if the “city” was not an actual site for dwellings but perhaps an area set aside for, e.g., storage facilities, public buildings, a meeting place and the conducting of religious ceremonies etc., it might have been an enclosed site with dwellings close by.  If it is implied that it was a walled enclosure then that would perhaps indicate the need for the protection of whatever structures lay within as well as the protection that Cain needed. What is of considerable interest is that the restless wanderer seems to have found a resting place though far to the East, and certainly not in the open countryside.

With Jabal and his brother Jubal and their half brother Jubal-Cain we are introduced to the domestication of animals, the playing of musical instruments and metal working.  The names, Jubal and Jabal, very similar in the Hebrew, appear to have much the same etymological connection, being related to the word for “stream”.  Perhaps their names should be understood to signify the notion of “offspring”.  Each is spoken of as “the father of” and by that we are meant to understand that these practices originated with them.  We are probably meant to see Tubal-Cain (meaning offspring of Cain?) in the same light – he was the one who first worked with metals using a forge.  Their names being associated with the idea of “coming from”, could be understood to resonate nicely, in an “upside down way”, with their being regarded as, “fathers of”.

The “living in tents” may be a reference to a nomadic way of life but the “raising of livestock” indicates a settled way of life, even if it was life on the move.  Presumably moving from one place to another was brought about as a result of the need, from time to time, to seeking out fresh grazing lands and/or better sources of water for the herds.  The introduction of musical instruments is indicative of a way of life where one could take time out from working the land, engaging in business, caring for flocks etc. to enjoy oneself by appreciating music either in the producing of it, or simply listening to it or having it accompany various activities.  The Hebrew word for bronze simply indicates copper related material whether an alloy of copper or mainly copper itself.  Comments on these verses and how the information given relates to evidence external to the Old Testament for the origins of these activities will be given later.

A little intriguing is the attention given to the origins of these various activities when as the account unfolds, the line of Cain comes to an end with the flood.  It is as though the writer/editor is ignoring the flood and what it entailed for Cain’s line.  He is simply outlining the beginnings of these facets of human life skills because they are important aspects of what humans do, whether one takes into account the flood or not.

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