Barry Newman's Blog

July 28, 2011

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

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 9:53 pm

Genesis 4: 25, 26 – Seth

“Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, ‘God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.’ Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord (Yahweh).”

Again Eve gives birth to a child, a son and she gives him the name Seth.  (Although it is not explicit she seems to have given Cain his name also.  She is the one, not the man who relates the name “Cain” to the idea of “bringing forth”.) The name “Seth” relates to the idea of being a substitute and so she refers to God giving her another child “in the place of” Abel.  As with Cain she refers to God as the one who enabled her to produce the child.  Though the birth of Seth, the one who replaces Abel, gives an indication of a future, otherwise denied, the stark reference to “since Cain killed him” (Abel) does not permit us to forget the heinous crime that has been committed.  Yet this reference to Cain’s deed is closely followed by the announcement that Seth himself gave birth to a son, Enosh. We are moved rapidly from Cain and his infamy and even his genealogical line to Seth and his progeny.  We are being prepared for a genealogical line that shall prove to be more significant that Cain’s, one that eventually leads to Noah.

As previously mentioned, Genesis 4: 25 is the first clear reference to the man of Genesis 2 and 3 having the name, “Adam.”  Genesis 4: 1 reads, “The man lay with his wife Eve” but Genesis 4: 25 reads, “Adam lay with his wife again.”  It would seem that given the mention of numerous people by name, from 4: 1 onwards, it is now appropriate to refer to the man, when he is next mentioned, by name and no longer as “the man”.  His name is repeated a number of times in the following chapter.

Before the second “toledoth” (“the generations of” or “the account of”) of Genesis begins at 5: 1, we are given this somewhat enigmatic statement, “At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.”  The last time that God was referred to by his personal name was when it was recorded that Cain left his presence.  Given the intervening references to the names of numerous people, almost all in the line of Cain, it could be that the writer/editor sees it fitting to mention that Yahweh has not and should not to any extent be forgotten or diminished in importance.  And so he draws attention to an “historical” note, that “At that time” people began to call on his name.

But why would they begin to call on his name at that time and what is actually meant by this comment? Is the writer/editor indicating that at this point in time there was a general recognition by people of their need of this God who could be known personally? Alternatively is he indicating that a time had arrived when people were beginning to blaspheme God by inappropriately using his name? This latter suggestion would seem odd given that the birth of Seth has just been mentioned and where Adam’s line through Seth is about to be given in some detail. Perhaps the writer/editor in making the statement that he does, is giving the reader/listener a reason for hope as the genealogical line of Adam through Seth is about to unfurl.  Cain’s line could be noted for some achievements but the recording of murderous Cain and boasting Lamech creates very bad vibes.  Although in chapter 6 the account of sinful humanity is further outlined, chapter 5, because of the detail give to Adam’s line through Seth, could be seen to be leading to better things.  Whatever we make of the reference to the name of God at this juncture, of all the names mentioned before and after, his is the most important name by far.



  1. To me it’s more likely that people did start to blaspheme God. Skipping Ch 5, which seems more like an account to provide more information on the descent, this last verse of Ch 4 goes well with the start of Ch 6. To me, to distinguish Adam’s line from Cain’s line is a bit artificial, so I do have doubt on the saying that verse 26 talking about Seth and his son and thus the latter part of that verse has no reason to mean “blaspheme”. Rather, if one goes back to verse 24, one can see that Cain quotes God’s wording for his wrongdoings! Couldn’t that be a hint that people did start to abuse the name of God? Plus as Genesis goes from Ch 4 to Ch 6, there’s a general decline in human integrity, and the corruption reaches a point that God wipe out the mankind from the face of the earth. Even along Adam’s line, there’s only one righteous man, namely Noah. In that case, the whole batch of mankind is corrupt, so “at that time, men began to ‘misuse’ or ‘blaspheme’ the name of God” sounds more sensible.

    Comment by Dennis Tsang — September 22, 2011 @ 5:19 am | Reply

    • Hi Dennis,

      Thanks for your comments. I’ll ponder on them


      Having done a little thinking, my comments are as follows:

      (My recent thinking is somewhat different to what I wrote in this post): At first glancve, the meaning of Genesis 4: 26 is not all that obvious. And I know that traditionally the text has often been understood to refer to blasphemy. However if the writer had wanted to refer to mankind blaspheming God he could have made that obvious by, for instance, making a reference to taking his name in vain.

      The text seems to say that at the birth of Seth’s son, that was the time when calling on the name of Yahweh began to occur. (literally: “It was begun to call on the name Yahweh.” – there is no reference to “men” or “mankind”.) I don’t think we should ignore the fact that chapter five does come before chapter six and that the verse occurs at the end of chapter four. If one looks at chapters 1 to 3 references to God are in terms of “God” or “Yahweh Elohim”. In chapter four God is referred to as “God” twice and “Yahweh” 10 times! There is no reference to God as “Yahweh Elohim” in chapters four, five or six etc. Instead, God is referred to as “God” or simply “Yahweh” in those chapters and following.

      I would have thought that the translation, “calling on his name” is suggestive of some people addressing him by using his name without indicating that this was done with good or ill intent. I know that you might argue that given what chapters four, five and six disclose about mankind it is more likely to be with ill intent.

      However there a number of references to a person calling on the name of Yahweh (exactly the same Hebrew) where the context is one of addressing God or at least allying oneself to him, with good intent – e.g. Abram – he called on the name of Yahweh in Gen 12: 8, Isacc did the same in Gen 26: 25 and both references accompany the statement that they built an alter, with no suggestion of blasphemy. Furthermore, the word “of” is not necessary in an English translation of the Hebrew. One could rightly translate such texts, including Gen 4: 26 as, “calling on the name, Yahweh.”

      I think the Hebrew is to be understood as saying that it was about this time, the time of the birth of Seth’s son, when God was being referred to, being addressed, by simply his personal name. (Note again, the text does not say who was doing it – it is probably a mistake to see it as mankind in general doing it; It is a simple statement with no clear reference to either the depraved mankind or to any who might be referred to as “righteous”; that is not the point of the text.)

      The text seems to function partly as an editorial comment to justify the use of simply, “Yahweh” in referring to God, so many times in chapter 4 and that it will be used so many times in that way again in the chapters that follow.

      Thanks for stimulating me to give more thought to the matter


      Comment by barrynewman — September 24, 2011 @ 3:42 am | Reply

  2. […] 1Science and Genesis 4: 1 – 26 (part X) « Barry Newman's Blog SUBMIT […]

    Pingback by Resources for Genesis 4:1 - 26 — February 14, 2012 @ 4:30 am | Reply

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