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The same author also makes this commentary:
“Can we even be clear that either Cain or Abel knew exactly what would be pleasing to God as a sacrifice ahead of time? Even with all this circumstantial evidence, we don’t absolutely know that God required a blood sacrifice of Cain. We can’t say for certain that the quality of Cain’s offering was inferior. And we can’t prove Cain’s heart was in the wrong during the sacrifice itself. Although the scriptural account does seem to point to each of these reasons, we can’t be emphatic about any of them. So, what’s the ultimate answer to God preferring Abel’s offering? We must come to grips with one thing: God, as Creator, is sovereign over His creation. While there are proximate reasons for God’s decrees, what ultimately makes “right” right and “wrong” wrong? God’s sovereign choice.”
I referred already to the first reason reiterated by the text. The second reason seen as an explanation for the rejection of Cain’s offering is the poor quality of the offering. The products of a cursed ground couldn’t have been other than of low value. Probably the implicit message of the texts was that the land being under curse, its products couldn’t have been other than rejected by God. This possible connection was later contradicted by other biblical texts in which the first products of the land were offered to God in a ritualistic manner even if they were extracted from cursed ground.
This quotation explains this approach:
“Abel’s animal offering was from the firstborn (meaning the best because it is first) of his flocks, but all we read about Cain’s offering is that he brought “some of the fruits of the soil.” Some interpreters understood this to mean that Cain’s offering was second rate—not of the firstfruits. In fact, that Cain offered “some of the fruits” seems to violate Leviticus 2:14, where offering the first fruits of the grain is commanded.”
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This is an important example of how the interpretation of the texts of the book of Genesis can be radically influenced by different translations. Only some translations used the expression “some of the fruits” and I wonder if this selection of words isn’t deliberately directed toward the justification of an absurd story. Here are several translations of the text from Genesis chapter 4, verse 3:
“New International Version
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
New Living Translation
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD.
English Standard Version
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
New American Standard Bible
So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground.
King James Bible
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
Holman Christian Standard Bible
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the LORD.
International Standard Version
Later, after a while, Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit that he had harvested,
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At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the LORD.
New Heart English Bible
As time passed, it happened that Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground.”
Everyone can see in the text of the book of Genesis, in chapter 4, verse 3, that there is an important problem. God would have provoked Cain to have a bad attitude by rejecting his offer without a clear reason.
This problem cannot be solved only through translation. All wheat from an area of land is the same quality. Cain wouldn’t have known that he had to present to God the first fruit of the ground because there were no rules for his offering. Cain’s intention would have been good but materialised in an imperfect way. Wasn’t the intention more important than the form? The book of Genesis leaves us the impression that God attached a great importance to the form of the offering and that emphasis could have been the influence of the redactor of the text for whom the form of an offering was essential.
Cain didn’t have any guidance in making his offering, therefore regardless of how he realised it his willingness to offer a selection of the results of his work to God was a gesture to be appreciated and an authentic recognition of His authority.
The last principle considered able to explain why God refused Cain’s offering is the difference in the heart of the one to offer.
“Additionally, there is the very important issue of Cain’s reaction. It could have been that God hadn’t given specific instructions for sacrifices, and thus that Cain legitimately didn’t realize his offering was inferior in type or quality.3 But if so, when God convicted him, Cain was defiant. The Bible says “And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
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And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it’” (Genesis 4; 5b-7). God provided a “way out,” but Cain, in his pride and stubbornness, allowed sin to rule over him—ultimately driving him to commit the first murder.”
“If you do well, will you not be accepted?” This is the key element for the understanding of God’s attitude toward Cain. His sacrifice was considered to be a wrongdoing. Both God and Cain overreacted in their attitude to one another. We can infer that Cain wanted to do a good thing, an offering to God, but this good intention was turned against him. Presenting an offering to God cannot be but a good intention even if the form in which it was done wasn’t perfect. Maybe the intention was good but the realisation of it from God’s perspective was not that good for unknown reasons and Cain became angry.
Cain’s reaction was very disproportionate with the situation and he killed Abel for no reasons. God would have triggered Cain’s reaction but Cain was responsible for the crime, being driven by his temperament and being unable to master the sin. The point is that God’s attitude determined Cain’s response which was exaggerated. In other words, Cain was in a state of provocation by a rejection from God and subjectively he felt wronged and overreacted following that event. There is no excuse for Cain’s crime even if he felt that he was unfairly treated, after all Abel wouldn’t have been at fault in that situation.
According to the book of Genesis, not all Adam and Eve’s offspring were disobedient to God and Abel was righteous, hence obedient, but humankind inherited Cain’s crime because an important part of humankind was his offspring. Nevertheless, using the same principle we cannot infer that all Cain’s offspring would have been unrighteous.
This is a fairy tale of course, but we can conclude from it that God would have followed deliberately a plan in which He provoked a certain reaction from Cain. In a way, this is the continuation of the same motif as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God tempted the human beings in order to test their reaction and to see if they were obedient or not. God’s rejection of Cain’s offering could have been such a test.
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Unlike a human being, God knows in advance the effects of what He does and He would have known how Cain would have reacted if his offer was rejected, and this renders the entire story meaningless.
The story of Cain and Abel is also the first episode in a saga which contains a theme which is repeated in other texts of the O.T., the subject matter of sibling rivalry and younger sons. On this list beside Cain and Abel are Isaac and Ishmael, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, and we can also list David, the youngest son of a numerous family who was chosen from his brothers’ ranks in spite of being younger than them. This is literature in which the rivalry between the youngest and the oldest brother or brothers is a constant theme, this isn’t history.
God who knows all things had determined Cain’s anger because accepting or rejecting Cain’s offering was entirely His prerogative. There wouldn’t have been any law which Cain would have infringed. Cain probably couldn’t understand what he did wrong because according to the book of Genesis God didn’t give him any explanations. Cain would have killed Abel propelled by envy following God’s attitude in regards to him.
In a way, the book of Genesis implies that at the moment of the offerings to God, Abel and Cain lived independently, far away from Adam and Eve even if they didn’t have their families, but this is absurd. They would have made their offerings separately and not as a family. Why would Abel live alone with his herd and Cain alone in his field? Why did they leave their parents and live in isolation with two different occupations? There wasn’t any reason for that to happen. Cain wasn’t yet married and the book of Genesis doesn’t give us any motives to believe that Abel was.
Usually human beings live in communities, in families, and in the past they lived in tribes or extended families. We know from the book of Genesis that Cain married only after the tragic event of killing his brother and we don’t have any reason to assume that Abel, being the younger brother, was married. They usually would have lived with their parents, helping them with the hard work, not separately, and they would have brought an offering to God in the name of the entire family.
Adam was assigned for the task of tilling the ground as a punishment for his disobedience.
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As Adam did a grave thing in front of God, his punishment had to be transferred over to his offspring, consequently Adam’s sin would have been passed on to the entirety of humankind. Adam had to eat his food in sweat all the days of his life. Adam didn’t toil alone but together with his son Cain who was a tiller of the ground, also even if they could eat fruits from the trees in order to avoid toiling the ground. Adam and Eve could have eaten only fruits as they did before the Fall, but they would have been condemned to eat only cereals and other cultivated plants. Cain and Abel also could have eaten fruits and other green plants without being in need of growing crops or raising sheep.
As a matter of fact, the land had suffered twice, not just once, the negative consequences of human behaviour. The ground was cursed after Adam’s sin but also after Cain’s crime. Here is the biblical text:
“12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.’ (Genesis 4; 12 NRSV)
If the land had been cursed already because of Adam’s sin how could the land give his strength to Cain if such strength was already affected by the first curse? This is another inconsistency in the texts.
These stories are purely a human creation trying to evoke through mythology forgotten historical events and natural facts. Cain and Abel were depicted symbolically as the representatives of the first great division of work between the farmers of the land and the sheep keepers but such division would have appeared in reality only when human beings started to multiply on Earth and their number was greater than a single digit. This specialisation of work on Earth happened twice in the book of Genesis, the first time with Abel and the second time with Adah’s son. As Abel was killed only after a long period of time, raising livestock became an occupation again. The offspring of Cain also generated other great divisions of work in society.
“20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah bore Tubal-cain, who made all kinds of bronze and iron tools.” (Genesis 4; 20-22 NRSV)
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Abel couldn’t have been a keeper of sheep if Adah who lived long after him, was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. Having livestock and sheep keeping is the same thing but livestock includes more kinds of domestic animals. Adah’s son, if he had been a real personage, would have been the predecessor of this type of activity because in his time the human population would have been more numerous, making necessary a division in human occupations. The only problem is that having livestock didn’t make any sense if the human beings were destined to eat only green plants until the Flood. Most likely, the names given by the book of Genesis are attributed in an arbitrary way and in reality, no-one knows the name of the first human beings who lived in tents and started to raise livestock.
What was God’s punishment for Cain’s crime, according to the book of Genesis? Killing Cain for his crime would have stopped the increase in number of the human races for a while. Tooth for tooth and life for life was the principle applied through Mosaic Law for such a case.
In spite of his crime Cain’s offspring would have played an important role in human history before the Flood. Cain was punished to become a wanderer but instead he established an important family with many heirs.
“10 And the LORD said, ‘What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth’.” (Genesis 4; 10-12 NRSV)
What was Cain’s reaction to his punishment? It was an incredible one. Cain has been worried that another human being will kill him in retaliation for his crime. Who could kill Cain in response for his murder? There was no-one on Earth at the time except his parents, Adam and Eve, and if we want to extrapolate probably one or more of his sisters, but not another man. All men who were born long after the creation were recorded by the book of Genesis.
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It was a very strange concern. Cain didn’t speak for the future, he didn’t know what the future of human race could bring; he was concerned for his actual situation. In a short-term perspective, the only people who could kill Cain, beside his parents, would have been one of his offspring because there wasn’t another branch of people on Earth, born from another brother. Nevertheless, there wouldn’t have been an imminent threat at all because Cain wasn’t married yet and didn’t have any children. There would be many generations until Seth would be born and he would have been seen as replacing Abel.
“13 Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’ 15 Then the LORD said to him, ‘Not so!* Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ And the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod,* east of Eden.” (Genesis 4; 13-16 NRSV)
Cain wasn’t afraid of someone in particular, but of anyone who would have met him, as if the entire world was populated. If Cain had one or more sisters those relatives would have remained at home with their parents contrary to Cain, who would have wandered in faraway places. No reason for Cain to become anxious in relation with his life. The biblical text starts from the wrong premise that at the moment when Cain killed Abel the Earth was heavily populated, and many human beings were killers. At the same time such premise is vigorously contradicted by other biblical texts from which it results that there wasn’t any other population on Earth apart from Adam, Eve, and probably one or more daughters unrecorded by the book of Genesis.
Of whom exactly was Cain afraid after he killed Abel? Cain wasn’t afraid of his parents but of some people who he could meet on his trips “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.” Cain believed that other people inhabited the earth also in spite of how the story of creation describes the manner in which things happened. The book of Genesis implies that Cain wouldn’t have known that beside his earthly father he was the only male who lived on Earth at the time. This is the pinnacle of absurdity and it is not the word of God which cannot be absurd.
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There are of course some explanations given by the classical theists but none of which carry any weight. The idea is that Adam and Eve would have had other children, about which the book of Genesis doesn’t say anything. In the context of the book of Genesis there isn’t any evidence that other male children from Cain to Seth would have been born to Adam and Eve and it would be very unlikely for the writers of the texts to omit such an important aspect if those personages were supposed to be in the plot of their narrative. If Abel was replaced by Seth that means that there weren’t other males on Earth beside Adam in the period of time between Abel’s death and Seth’s birth. Cain was afraid for his life exactly in that period of time.
It is clear that the birth of a male child had been considered to be a very important event and for this reason we are not allowed to infer that some other male children would have been alive at the time, but not noticed by the story of Cain and Abel. Seth replaced Abel, hence if other males had been born between Cain and Seth, they would have taken Abel’s place before Seth and that would have been an important part of the narrative.
“25 Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed* for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him’.” (Genesis 4; 25 NRSV)
The intention of the text is obvious; Seth has replaced Abel who could have been replaced only by another male child and not by a female. Seth couldn’t have been a danger for Cain because the latter was only a child. In spite of the clarity of the intention of the biblical text, some commentators try desperately to find a solution to this conundrum. Here is an example of such an attempt:
“So, whom was Cain afraid of? Cain was afraid of his own brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces, who were already born and would be capable of seeking revenge. The fact that Cain had a wife (Genesis 4:17) is a further evidence that Adam and Eve had other children after Cain and Abel, but before Seth.”
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In the process of trying to make the book of Genesis acceptable some commentators invent other chapters to the book which unfortunately contradict the original text. After Cain, Eve bore Abel and no other males are mentioned until Seth, therefore no nephews able to kill Cain were present on Earth. The Bible didn’t say that Abel was married, hence he wasn’t, because when Cain married the biblical texts mentioned that. Cain was the older son, hence if he wasn’t yet married when he killed Abel it is likely that Abel wouldn’t have been married. In the book of Genesis males married late in their lives and had children. Cain didn’t have other brothers, nephews or nieces who could have sought revenge. If there were other sisters unmentioned by the book of Genesis besides his sister who married him, their mood wouldn’t have been a murderous one as far as one of those sisters became Cain’s wife. If a sister would have wanted to kill Cain, why would another sister have married him? It doesn’t make sense.
We are entitled to suppose that Cain wouldn’t have been married before the killing of Abel because all his children would have been born after the assassination of his brother.
Why would Cain have known his wife only after the assassination, according to Genesis 4; 17? If he was married before that event he would have known his wife before the killing. When he knew his wife, she gave birth to Enoch and no other children of Cain are mentioned by the Bible before that. In the circumstance in which Cain went away from God the book of Genesis doesn’t mention if there was someone with him, but the clear impression is that he was a lonely wanderer.
According to the enumeration of the population existing on Earth at the time, contained by the book of Genesis, only Adam and Eve or Cain’s wife could have killed him, but that was not at all likely. Cain being a murderer, he could have easily killed anyone who would have jeopardised his life. That is the way in which a killer would have proceeded and being afraid for his life is a less probable attitude.
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Cain being someone who attached so little importance to Abel’s life, the concern for his own life is something unexpected. It is clear that Cain wasn’t in any danger but the book of Genesis naively didn’t take into consideration the concrete conditions in which the story develops.
Seth would have been an important element in the legacy of Adam and Eve. The next reference after the acknowledgement of his birth is about Seth’s offspring, hence a child, particularly a male, would have been too important to omit.
“26 To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of the LORD.” (Genesis 4; 26 NRSV)
The assertion that at that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord is nonsensical if we take into consideration that Cain and Abel would have made offerings to God long before that.
Cain got the protection for his crime even if it is obvious that he wasn’t in any danger from anyone. It is very unlikely that Adam would have killed Cain, his only son in life, in order to punish him for his crime, and by this he would have endangered the existence of the human races on Earth. God put a mark on Cain but at that moment none could see the mark if Cain was to become a wanderer on Earth, except his sister who became his wife. Wanderer means someone who moves about without a definite destination or purpose but Cain settled in the land of Nod.
Opposite to a wanderer is a settler, one who settles in a new region, especially a region that has few occupants or is occupied by people of a different ethnic or religious group.
According to the book of Genesis no-one lived in the region Nod except Cain and his wife. One wouldn’t expect that Cain would have found a wife in an unpopulated region; probably he would have taken an unmentioned sister with him from his paternal household.
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Even if the name Nod in Hebrew suggests the action of wandering, Cain went to that place not to wander but to build a city, according to the book of Genesis. Wanderers don’t build cities but they go from one place to another. Moreover, only two people, husband and wife, never build a city, but they would construct a house if they weren’t wanderers.
God condemned Cain to become a wanderer but he became a settler. Cain settled in the land of Nod and he didn’t wander any more, as a matter of fact, he never wandered because this was the only place where he went. Building a city is something that a wanderer won’t do by definition so the book of Genesis contains another contradiction in its description of Cain’s story. Cain became the father of a numerous family and his great-grandson Lamech also became a criminal.
Who was Cain’s wife? She had to be his sister, a daughter born from Adam and Eve, but about whom the book of Genesis doesn’t say anything.
“17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methushael, and Methushael the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took two wives; the name of one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.” (Genesis 4; 17-19 NRSV)
We can find that Lamech also killed a man who couldn’t have been other than one of his close relatives. Instead of being punished the result of the killing is again a protection even stronger than that of Cain’s, at least according to his words.
“23 Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold’.” (Genesis 4; 23-24 NRSV)
The only possibility to identify Cain’s wife is a sister unmentioned by the Bible, but that necessarily means the continuation of the human species through incest. This issue is also debated amongst the commentators of the Bible. The following is such a comment:
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“The Bible does not specifically say who Cain’s wife was. The only possible answer is that Cain’s wife was his sister or niece or great-niece, etc. The Bible does not say how old Cain was when he killed Abel (Genesis 4:8). Since they were both farmers, they were likely both full-grown adults, possibly with families of their own. Adam and Eve surely had given birth to more children than just Cain and Abel at the time Abel was killed. They definitely had many more children later (Genesis 5:4). The fact that Cain was scared for his own life after he killed Abel (Genesis 4:14) indicates that there were likely many other children and perhaps even grandchildren of Adam and Eve already living at that time. Cain’s wife (Genesis 4:17) was a daughter or granddaughter of Adam and Eve.”
Because the stories of the book of Genesis are so scarce in details we have to work only with suppositions. There isn’t another possibility. Cain’s wife had to be his sister. Some commentators try to distract the attention from a sister to an even less probable niece. Why was the niece less likely to be Cain’s wife? If the book of Genesis tells us about Cain’s children it would have said something about Abel’s children also, if such children would have existed. If Cain had to marry an alleged daughter of Abel, it would have been very difficult for him to explain why he killed her father, and to his children why he killed their grandfather. Nevertheless, before Cain could have married a niece Abel had to marry a sister also and the problem remains the same. Another quotation clarifies the situation of Cain’s marital statute:
“A closer look at the Hebrew word for “wife” in Genesis reveals something readers may miss in translation. It was more obvious to those speaking Hebrew that Cain’s wife was likely his sister. (There is a slim possibility that she was his niece, but either way, a brother and sister would have married in the beginning.) The Hebrew word for “wife” used in Genesis 4:17 (the first mention of Cain’s wife) is ishshah, and it means “woman/wife/female.”
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Another gross exaggeration of the book of Genesis is the description of how Cain, who was a wanderer built a city after his child Enoch was born. A town or even a small group of houses couldn’t have been built by a wanderer, his wife and his little child. The story of Cain and Abel is implausible from a historical point of view. Building a house and constructing a city are two very different things. The whole story of Cain and Abel contains unbelievable details hence it is not credible.
In chapter 5 of the book of Genesis we have a very strange genealogy in which the most striking detail is the age at which the patriarchs became the fathers of their sons. Let’s take a few examples:
“6 When Seth had lived for one hundred and five years, he became the father of Enosh… 9 When Enosh had lived for ninety years, he became the father of Kenan… 12 When Kenan had lived for seventy years, he became the father of Mahalalel…15 When Mahalalel had lived for sixty-five years, he became the father of Jared… 18 When Jared had lived for one hundred and sixty-two years he became the father of Enoch… 21 When Enoch had lived for sixty-five years, he became the father of Methuselah… 25 When Methuselah had lived for one hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech… 28 When Lamech had lived for one hundred and eighty-two years, he became the father of a son; … 32 After Noah was five hundred years old, Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” (Genesis 5; 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 28, 32 NRSV)
The old age at which the men would have had children, according to the book of Genesis strengthens the idea that Cain and Abel didn’t have children when the former killed the latter because they were still very young comparing with these standards. This in turn underlines the absurdity of Cain being afraid that someone would have avenged Abel’s death.
All patriarchs became fathers between the ages of 65 and 500 years old. This is extremely odd and contrary to human nature. For example, after Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. He waited for 500 years before begetting his three sons. Why did they all wait so much before marrying?
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It was not in accordance with human nature for a man to wait that much before marriage because adulthood comes after approximately 18 years of life, not after 65 years or more. That information cannot be right. Were they humans or not? What man would have waited for 500 years before getting married, regardless of how long he would have lived? Noah, of course, but this is an implausible story.
This period of waiting before marriage is in contradiction with God’s plan for the creation of humankind. The task given by God to fill the entire earth with population and the length of time before the marriage are two contradictory propositions which weaken the truthfulness of the texts. One may respond to this observation that possibly the patriarch begot only girls until those ages and only the first sons were recorded by the book of Genesis. To this I would reply that when the patriarchs begot daughters, Genesis specifies that in unequivocal terms. For example:
“10 Enosh lived after the birth of Kenan for eight hundred and fifteen years, and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5; 10 NRSV)
Another aspect of confusion and incoherence is the story of Lamech. About him we have two different references. The first account presents:
“18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methushael, and Methushael the father of Lamech. (Genesis 4; 18 NRSV)
And we have also another reference in connection with Lamech in the following biblical text:
“28 When Lamech had lived for one hundred and eighty-two years, he became the father of a son; 29 he named him Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands.’ 30 Lamech lived after the birth of Noah for five hundred and ninety-five years, and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died.” (Genesis 5; 28-31 NRSV)
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When we compare the two texts the father of Lamech is in one text Methushael and in the other, the name of Lamech’s father is Methuselah.
“25 When Methuselah had lived for one hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech.” (Genesis 5; 25 NRSV)
Which name is right? Is it Methushael or is it Methuselah? We don’t know the exact answer. We have to conclude that in the book of Genesis we have two Lamechs and not just one. Several of the one Lamech’s sons would have been the initiators of the most important professional occupations in human history. The other Lamech’s son was Noah, well known for the Flood in which he had an important role to play.
What was Lamech’s idea when he hopped to the relief brought by Noah? The following quotation summarises the problem:
“So, Lamech named his son Noah. Genesis 5:29 provides the basic idea regarding Lamech’s thought process. He specifically mentions that the ground had been cursed as part of God’s judgment (cf. Genesis 3:17–19). The birth of Noah when Lamech was 182 years old would have provided “comfort” or “rest” from some of the work of subsistence farming. A son would one day be able to join in the labors of farming, giving Lamech some relief from his many years of manual labor. But Noah would provide more than physical rest. It appears that Noah’s name is also an inspired prediction regarding his life. The word Noah is taken from the Hebrew word for “rest,” nuakh (see 2 Samuel 14:17). Lamech lived in an evil time, before the Flood (Genesis 6:1). Noah’s father predicted that, in contrast to the world’s evil, Noah would represent righteousness and bring rest and peace in the midst of God’s judgment.”
Noah’s mission on Earth was neither a relief for his relatives or an occasion for peaceful rest because all died except his closest family.
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Probably it was not this relief that Lamech expected at the moment of Noah’s birth, but a real help for his survival. Noah didn’t bring any relief because after the Flood the world was as bad as before it.
What happened after the Flood with all the skills which belonged to Lamech’s sons? Were they all transmitted to Noah’s sons? If they didn’t survive all that occupational knowledge had to be reinvented again by Noah’s offspring. Why all were these skills mentioned if they wouldn’t have survived the Flood? The impression is that the writer of the text didn’t take into consideration the Flood as a very important event which would have disrupted the entirety of human history. He or she mentioned the alleged names of the first founders of human occupations without considering the catastrophic moment of the Deluge and the disappearance of almost all human beings.
How many professions were described by the book of Genesis and how many people survived to the Flood? Noah was a boat constructor and probably a land farmer, and his three sons had to be proficient in all other human professions existent before the Flood. It looks very problematic that Noah’s sons would have known all the occupations and arts which humankind practiced before the Flood. This seems to be an improbable situation which presupposes that humankind started knowledge almost from scratch after the Flood.
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Cain was Adam and Eve’s first-born child. Abel was the second child recorded by the texts. At the beginning of the book of Genesis only the births of men are mentioned and except Eve women aren’t referred to at all, not even generically. For the first time, after Eve, women were mentioned when the sons of God married with the daughters of man. After the Flood, the situation changes and the women from Noah’s family are at least mentioned. Eve is the only notable woman in the stories of creation before the Flood.
Because she isn’t regarded with contempt by the text of the book of Genesis, quite the opposite, the modern reader will hardly understand why the same attitude toward other women, Adam and Eve’s daughters, granddaughters, and so on, wasn’t also adopted. Probably that can be explained by the fact that the lines of heredity were constituted through males and the religious legacy was transmitted through them. Consequently, through them, genealogies were established.
“Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced* a man with the help of the LORD.’ 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.’ (Genesis 4; 1-7 NRSV)
I doubt very much the veracity of this story for many reasons. In the first place, why would Abel have been the keeper of sheep? In one generation of only one man and one woman and of their two sons, a new independent occupation was established – sheep keeper. This affirmation is hazardous and lacks any relation to reality. In the real world, at the beginning of history, human beings had been gatherers and hunters and raising animals was only a late occupation. If Adam was a tiller of the ground his sons were expected to work with him and to inherit his occupation which was seen by the book of Genesis also as a punishment for Adam. If Adam’s sin had been transmitted to all his offspring the punishment would have been conveyed also to the entirety of humankind. Notwithstanding, Abel didn’t suffer the same punishment as Adam even if he inherited the effects of Adam’s sin. Abel became a sheep keeper and didn’t need to till the ground. After Abel, many other men didn’t suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin, therefore the curse of the ground wasn’t really efficient.
All human beings have to suffer the punishment for sin, even until today, but that “punishment” wasn’t really retribution for Adam and Eve’s sins because it was established before the Fall of the first two human beings, according to the book of Genesis.
“15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.” (Genesis 2; 15 NRSV)
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Work, of course, is not at all a punishment in real terms, it is the way in which mankind defines itself. Nevertheless, the book of Genesis brings confusion about this so-called punishment:
“17 And to the man* he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it”, cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.’ (Genesis 3; 17- 19 NRSV)
It is true that Adam’s punishment is a bit strange. It wasn’t Adam directly punished, but the ground. The ground being cursed indirectly, Adam had to suffer the consequences. How could the ground be cursed if it only matters, a much lesser entity than the tree cursed by Jesus? How does this curse function in our days? There are areas of the earth with fertile ground and other areas are infertile, but in general, the earth is generous with human beings, not hostile, and would have been that way even when the humankind had appeared on Earth.
Did the curse lose its power over time and we cannot see its effects in our days? Could human beings with their technologies change God’s curse on Earth? The curse of the ground is a part of the fable about Adam and Eve with no connection to a real situation. The climate changes in time on Earth, therefore different geographical areas would have been more or less fertile and more or less suitable for crop cultivation over millennia. The quality of the land on Earth is a natural issue, not a supernatural one. If we conclude that the agricultural value of the land is a supernatural matter that would mean humankind through their technologies can change what would have been decided by God.
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