Cain and Abel
1Now Adam#4:1a Or the man; also in 4:25. had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced#4:1b Or I have acquired. Cain sounds like a Hebrew term that can mean “produce” or “acquire.” a man!” 2Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
6“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
8One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.”#4:8 As in Samaritan Pentateuch, Greek and Syriac versions, and Latin Vulgate; Masoretic Text lacks “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
9Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?”
10But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
13Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment#4:13 Or My sin. is too great for me to bear! 14You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
15The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod,#4:16 Nod means “wandering.” east of Eden.
The Descendants of Cain
17Cain had sexual relations with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Then Cain founded a city, which he named Enoch, after his son. 18Enoch had a son named Irad. Irad became the father of#4:18 Or the ancestor of, and so throughout the verse. Mehujael. Mehujael became the father of Methushael. Methushael became the father of Lamech.
19Lamech married two women. The first was named Adah, and the second was Zillah. 20Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the first of those who raise livestock and live in tents. 21His brother’s name was Jubal, the first of all who play the harp and flute. 22Lamech’s other wife, Zillah, gave birth to a son named Tubal-cain. He became an expert in forging tools of bronze and iron. Tubal-cain had a sister named Naamah. 23One day Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
listen to me, you wives of Lamech.
I have killed a man who attacked me,
a young man who wounded me.
24If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times,
then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!”
The Birth of Seth
25Adam had sexual relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to another son. She named him Seth,#4:25 Seth probably means “granted”; the name may also mean “appointed.” for she said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26When Seth grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name.
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Cain and Abel. 1The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, saying, “I have produced a male child with the help of the Lord.”#The Hebrew name qayin (“Cain”) and the term qaniti (“I have produced”) present a wordplay that refers to metalworking; such wordplays are frequent in Genesis. 2Next she gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel became a herder of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the ground.#Some suggest the story reflects traditional strife between the farmer (Cain) and the nomad (Abel), with preference for the latter reflecting the alleged nomadic ideal of the Bible. But there is no disparagement of farming here, for Adam was created to till the soil. The story is about two brothers (the word “brother” occurs seven times) and God’s unexplained preference for one, which provokes the first murder. The motif of the preferred younger brother will occur time and again in the Bible, e.g., Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David (1 Sm 16:1–13). 3In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the ground, 4while Abel, for his part, brought the fatty portion#Fatty portion: it was standard practice to offer the fat portions of animals. Others render, less satisfactorily, “the choicest of the firstlings.” The point is not that Abel gave a more valuable gift than Cain, but that God, for reasons not given in the text, accepts the offering of Abel and rejects that of Cain. of the firstlings of his flock.#Ex 34:19; Heb 11:4. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry and dejected. 6Then the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? 7If you act rightly, you will be accepted;#You will be accepted: the text is extraordinarily condensed and unclear. “You will be accepted” is a paraphrase of one Hebrew word, “lifting.” God gives a friendly warning to Cain that his right conduct will bring “lifting,” which could refer to acceptance (lifting) of his future offerings or of himself (as in the Hebrew idiom “lifting of the face”) or lifting up of his head in honor (cf. note on 40:13), whereas wicked conduct will make him vulnerable to sin, which is personified as a force ready to attack. In any case, Cain has the ability to do the right thing. Lies in wait: sin is personified as a power that “lies in wait” (Heb. robes) at a place. In Mesopotamian religion, a related word (rabisu) refers to a malevolent god who attacks human beings in particular places like roofs or canals. but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.#Sir 7:1; Jude 11.
8Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.”#Let us go out in the field: to avoid detection. The verse presumes a sizeable population which Genesis does not otherwise explain. When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.#Wis 10:3; Mt 23:35; Lk 11:51; 1 Jn 3:12; Jude 11. 9Then the Lord asked Cain, Where is your brother Abel? He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10God then said: What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11Now you are banned from the ground#Banned from the ground: lit., “cursed.” The verse refers back to 3:17 where the ground was cursed so that it yields its produce only with great effort. Cain has polluted the soil with his brother’s blood and it will no longer yield any of its produce to him. that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.#Dt 27:24. 12If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth. 13Cain said to the Lord: “My punishment is too great to bear. 14Look, you have now banished me from the ground. I must avoid you and be a constant wanderer on the earth. Anyone may kill me at sight.” 15Not so! the Lord said to him. If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged seven times. So the Lord put a mark#A mark: probably a tattoo to mark Cain as protected by God. The use of tattooing for tribal marks has always been common among the Bedouin of the Near Eastern deserts. on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight. 16Cain then left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod,#The land of Nod: a symbolic name (derived from the verb nûd, to wander) rather than a definite geographic region. east of Eden.
Descendants of Cain and Seth. 17#Cain is the first in a seven-member linear genealogy ending in three individuals who initiate action (Jabal, Jubal, and Tubalcain). Other Genesis genealogies also end in three individuals initiating action (5:32 and 11:26). The purpose of this genealogy is to explain the origin of culture and crafts among human beings. The names in this genealogy are the same (some with different spellings) as those in the ten-member genealogy (ending with Noah), which has a slightly different function. See note on 5:1–32. Cain had intercourse with his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. Cain also became the founder of a city, which he named after his son Enoch. 18To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael; Mehujael became the father of Methusael, and Methusael became the father of Lamech. 19Lamech took two wives; the name of the first was Adah, and the name of the second Zillah. 20Adah gave birth to Jabal, who became the ancestor of those who dwell in tents and keep livestock. 21His brother’s name was Jubal, who became the ancestor of all who play the lyre and the reed pipe. 22Zillah, on her part, gave birth to Tubalcain, the ancestor of all who forge instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. 23#Lamech’s boast shows that the violence of Cain continues with his son and has actually increased. The question is posed to the reader: how will God’s creation be renewed? Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
wives of Lamech, listen to my utterance:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for bruising me.
24If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
25#The third and climactic birth story in the chapter, showing that this birth, unlike the other two, will have good results. The name Seth (from the Hebrew verb shat, “to place, replace”) shows that God has replaced Abel with a worthy successor. From this favored line Enosh (“human being/humankind”), a synonym of Adam, authentic religion began with the worship of Yhwh; this divine name is rendered as “the Lord” in this translation. The Yahwist source employs the name Yhwh long before the time of Moses. Another ancient source, the Elohist (from its use of the term Elohim, “God,” instead of Yhwh, “Lord,” for the pre-Mosaic period), makes Moses the first to use Yhwh as the proper name of Israel’s God, previously known by other names as well; cf. Ex 3:13–15. Adam again had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. “God has granted me another offspring in place of Abel,” she said, “because Cain killed him.” 26To Seth, in turn, a son was born, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to invoke the Lord by name.#1 Chr 1:1; Lk 3:38.
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