“But today you have rejected your God”1 Samuel 10:19 (NRSV)
The Bible does not say how many days, or weeks, or months, or even years went by. Perhaps Cain did spend some time thinking through the trauma of murdering his brother. Perhaps he tried to continue farming, to wrench back something of what God said He would take. In the end, Cain left the presence of God in a way that spoke of something final. Cain would not return.
An ever-resourceful man, Cain turned from farming to construction. He married, he sired sons and daughters, he created for himself a new community, a new family and clan, with those who presumably either did not know his full story, or, more likely, knew of and approved his ways. He settled in the land of Nod, far from the villages of his youth. Still hungry for a personal sense of significance, Cain determined to build something that would be a lasting monument to himself, a city named after the first fruit of his own flesh, his son Enoch. In the ancient area of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the oldest inhabited cities known to humankind were called enoch, which is the earliest word for city in any human language.
Where did those other people in Nod come from? It is a difficult question to answer. Even without the Bible’s guidance, we cannot say with certainty who our direct ancestors are, in that dim recess of time. The Smithsonian Institute of Natural History has hundreds of skulls, and bones, from nearly every branch, and even root, of humanity’s family tree. But, who were the Mother and the Father of us all? According to the scriptures, Adam and Eve. The Bible ties all humanity to one father and one mother, ishah, and ish, from whom even ishah came … that first man, and that first woman, through whom we all are said to inherit a sin nature.
If we are to stay within the account as given to us, from that distant dawn of time, then the narrator of this chronicle leads us to surmise that, beginning with perfect bodies and a life span that reached nearly a thousand years, Adam and Eve began filling the earth with their offspring, and the children of their offspring. Just a hundred years ago it was not uncommon for families to reach 12 and 15 children. So we, hearing this story as ancient Israelites, were to imagine generations of children being born, to Adam and Eve, and to their generations more generations. Then, Cain would have married either a sister or a niece, because in the early centuries of human history, intra-marrying among families was permissible.
Staying within the confines of the account given us, remembering the perfection of the bodies God created for the first human, and for the Mother of All Living, understanding that God did not institute bans on close family members marrying each other until Moses’ day, millennia later, we, hearing as ancient Israelites, would not have worried there would be congenital defects running the human race to ground.
In fact, quite the opposite, it seems. The technical brilliance of humankind is highlighted in Cain’s descendants. Here were all the ingredients of modern life—travel, music and the arts, the use of metals, organized social life, and the domestication of animals. It is all admirable and progressive, the comforts, luxuries, and advances listed here, but that is not why this passage is in the Bible.
To the godless, the line of Cain was the source of much that is praiseworthy. But look more carefully, pay closer attention to the achievements of Cain’s descendants.
Cain’s grandson, Irad, founded a city named after himself, a name which means “city of witness,” that is to say, witness to the glory of humanity.
Cain’s great grandson was called Mehujael, meaning “smitten of God.” The tenor of his name spoke of bravado, the bravado of Cain. God can smite me but He can’t stop me from being a success.
As each new generation forged ahead with brilliance, and accomplishments, all away from the “presence of God” which Cain had left far behind him, the sense of God waned until finally, a generation was born into a time where even the thought of God was gone.
Cain’s great great grandson, Methushael, represented this generation, for his name meant “God is dead.”
[A. Sobkowski [Public domain]]