Genesis 4:1-24 Cain and His Family
According to what is written in the Bible, Cain was the first human to be born. Parents can cherish their firstborn children a lot. Being in charge of a little infant is a thrilling new journey in life. We also know that Adam was charged of taking care of the land. The first son to carry on his father’s legacy and take over the family business is Cain. He is identified with his occupation as a ground tiller. We don’t know if he was forced to carry this weight or if he chose this line of work because he found it enjoyable. Cain and his family have an interesting relationship. Dysfunctional to say the least.
Upon harvesting the goods of his labors, Cain brings an offering to God. God clearly instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree, but we find no evidence God prescribed any particular type of offering. Sincerely, I feel horrible for Cain. From the rewards of his labor, he was making an offering. God had enjoyed meeting with Adam and Eve in the garden, but after they disobeyed him, the idea of working the ground became less palatable to God. He believed the earth was a curse. God’s attitude toward that ultimately wasn’t Cain’s fault, but he appeared to take the brunt of it. Gardens came to represent death. Even before he went through his own agony and death, Jesus went to a garden to pray.
We also read about Adam and Eve’s second child. Abel started taking care of the sheep. He delivered an offering of fat from his flock’s newborns. His offering was chosen by God over that of his brother. This is our first example of how parenting may lead to conflict between children when we give them preferential treatment. Shepherds are frequently mentioned in the Bible, demonstrating how highly regarded this occupation is in the eyes of God.
We’ll observe the effects of God’s favoring of Abel and how that affected Cain. Let’s consider a few possible consequences in a child’s life when there is blatant partiality in the home. First of all, regardless of their desire to acknowledge it, many parents do have a favorite child. My sons play a game in which they try to get me to declare them to be my favorite child. I would steadfastly refuse to respond or acknowledge any such favoritism for a very long time. I finally got to the point where I decided to tell all of my children that they are my favorite. I want them to understand how much I cherish each of them despite their differences.
The child or children who are not favored will likely have low self-esteem, which is one of the most typical consequences of favoritism in a family. They could start to think their abilities and skills are inferior. They could behave in ways to try to showcase their talents or grab attention. It’s interesting to note that the child who is preferred will feel the same way.
Favoritism can also lead to a child developing a skewed perspective on life and the world. The response to this adverse effect will be to be cruel and unfair to other individuals. They will harbor animosity toward their parents.
They act out violently in the worst circumstances, as we’ll soon witness with Cain. They might start conflicts with other kids, disobey rules, or act inappropriately to get attention. Favoritism poisons the atmosphere at home.
Parenting 101: Know Your Child
We must get to know and comprehend our kids in order to be good parents. Understanding what causes emotional reactions is important, and teaching our kids how to control their emotions is also important.
I recently caught a portion of a TedTalk in which the speaker discussed the value of teaching our kids how to control their emotions. The speaker argued that it was the most crucial thing a parent could do. Here are some strategies to keep in mind when helping your children learn this skill:
- Connect with your child in ways that develop trust and leave them with a sense of security.
- Teach your child to recognize and name their emotions.
- Model emotional regulation in your own life.
- Remain calm when your child is losing control.
- Spend more time praising positive times of emotional control than punishing times when they struggle to control emotions.
- Don’t expect a young child to control their emotions, especially if you struggle to control your frustration during the event.
Parenting 101: Unconditional Love
When our children are placed in our arms, we are overcome with an overwhelming urge to care for, adore, and love them without condition. While still educating children to build skills that will benefit their interpersonal relationships with others, we find ways to completely accept them as human beings. But in this instance, we see God placing limitations on acceptance and love.
Parenting 101: Don’t Reject Your Child for Wrongdoing
One of our most basic desires as humans is a sense of belonging. To survive, we depend on others. For safety and security, our early ancestors established communities. People who feel abandoned or alone typically pass away earlier than those who are cherished and cared for. Would you like to venture a guess as to what yet another consequence rejection might have? Violence aimed at other people. This brings us directly to the following occurrence in our reading for today.
Cain Kills his Brother
This passage gives the impression that there were some deliberate plans to kill his sibling. He desired to take him out in a field alone. If this was history’s first murder, where did these ideas come from? In a Spanish cave, the earliest discovery of a murder victim was found. The 430,000-year-old skull contained blunt force trauma, intentionally inflicted, and had been broken into 52 pieces. I’m certainly not a forensic scientist, but I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds episodes to know this was overkill stemming from some deep-seated anger issues.
We find God not knowing where someone is, much like when God cried out to Adam and Eve in the garden. This makes me doubt the veracity of our theology regarding God’s omniscience. Why wouldn’t God understand how Cain would respond if he is truly omniscient? Why didn’t he warn Abel about the harm that would come to him? I believe we would intervene and take action if we thought one of our kids was planning to hurt another of our kids.
After Cain murders his brother, God expels him and forces him to turn to a nomadic way of life. The word ‘gypsy’ originated in the 16th century, and was rooted in the belief that the original people to wander the earth were from Egypt. Most people would not want this label to be applied to them because it was thought to be disparaging. It is typically connected to a nomadic lifestyle that includes illicit activity. The Romanies are the name of the ethnic group. They were expelled from mainstream society and still have a nomadic existence today.
The Romani culture has its own customs and rules of self-governance. Each family group travels in a caravan. Each band may contain anywhere between 10 and 100 families who travel together. They cohabitate in a group and divide their assets and income equally. The majority of marriages are contractual. They take responsibility for their own wrongdoing and impose punishment as they see fit. In severe circumstances, expulsion from the group is the penalty. Does that ring a bell?
Cain was a farmer and gardener, as was previously described. Both his skill and enthusiasm were probably present. And God was about to make his job incredibly challenging. He might have believed there was nothing left for him in life even if he was worried that someone else would kill him for what he had done. For many people, the stress of money loss or loss of livelihood is mentally distressing. About 16% of suicides each year are caused by this form of pressure.
He had been cast out of the garden, perhaps with his parents, and now he was about to lose utterly all connection with God. God initially turned down his contribution, and now God is turning down his identity. The pain he must have had from a father figure is indescribable. I have personal experience with parents who have “disowned” their kids, and I can assure you that it has unthinkable consequences.
All of these penalties result from Cain’s decision to kill his brother. It’s hard for me to think that I would ever make such a decision. For such a notion to occur, some significant trauma would have to have occurred in my life. Cain’s fear of being killed by others baffled me as well. Is that a reaction many people would have? There is no doubt that the death penalty is used occasionally in our country.
Brain scans have been done on many murderers to determine if there are physical traits that trigger this urge. It turns out that 30% of men have a “warrior gene.” However, a man does not automatically become a killer just because he carries this gene. This gene creates an enzyme that makes it challenging to control impulses. A person grows more prone to violence the more enzymes this gene generates. What’s most intriguing is that a person’s childhood experiences will decide whether this gene is activated to generate the enzyme. In other words, it matters how we raise our kids!
There must have been a lot of bad parenting (heavenly or earthly) to cause this gene to be triggered so frequently if Cain was worried that other males would also have this propensity for violence. I also think that the way of living at the time would have required men to have a warrior gene for defense against the elements and animals.
In spite of the punishment God pronounced over Cain, he also provided a form of protection for Cain. Some form of mark was put on Cain to make sure no one else ever killed him. I guess that leaves me wondering several things:
- Where did all these other people come from that would kill Cain?
- If they don’t already know not to kill Cain, how would a mark help?
- How would people from other regions know what the mark meant?
There have been some very interesting interpretations or thoughts about what this mark meant or was. I’ll include a summary for you below:
- Judaism – several different thoughts have surfaced from Rabbis over the years. One believed Cain was given a dog, another believed a horn grew out of his head, and some believed God engraved a letter (different letters for various reasons have been proposed) on his forehead.
- Christianity –
- Protestant – dark skin
- Baptist segregations – black skin, which led them to support slavery and racism until 1995 when it was officially denounced.
- LDS – mixed belief in the Curse of Cain (black skin) and the Curse of Ham (slavery), this belief has recently caused a lot of division within the church. Joseph Smith originally ordained black men into the priesthood, but Brigham Young believed those with the Mark of Cain were fighting against God and shouldn’t be priests. The church has now disavowed these beliefs.
Cain’s New Home
The final portion of the passage today claims that Cain settled in Nod. However, part of the punishment was that he was going to be a wanderer. How can a wanderer settle somewhere? The word Nod in Hebrew is a root word of a verb meaning “to wander.” To make the statement that he settled in the land of Nod can actually mean he lived a life of wandering.
While Cain was wandering in the land of Nod, he met a woman who became his wife. Or, did he bring her along with him? If we want to stay true to the Bible narrative, we need to assume his wife also had to be his sister. Unless he waited long enough to marry a niece or something.
Of course, the excuse is that there were no other options at the time. Thankfully Adam and Eve didn’t have to marry a sibling, but the rest had to fend for themselves. According to Abrahamic tradition, Cain’s sister-wife was Awan. She is also referred to as Qelima in the Cave of Treasures, an Abrahamic text. These texts also say that Azura was the sister who married Abel, and then married Seth after Abel was killed.
Another possibility is that there were other “first people” in other regions of the world. During Cain’s wanderings, he may have met his wife from another people group. Many scientists recognize 15-20 different “species” of early humans. So, it is possible he didn’t marry his own sister.
Let’s go back to the notion that Cain wed his sister. It is undeniably a practice that is disfavored in the present era. So, when did this alter during the time of the Bible? In Leviticus 18:6–18 of the Law of Moses, the prohibition against being married to or having sex with a close cousin is first mentioned. It is very explicit about who you are not permitted to have sex with or expose yourself to. There are about 10 generations between Cain and Moses. A generation in OT Bible times was about 40 years, so it would seem that marrying a close relative was permitted for the first 400 years.
One of the main reasons people believe this form of reproduction was halted is due to the way recessive genes can cause birth defects. It takes several generations of incest for the defects to begin happening. Harmful genetic material can remain dormant in a recessive gene until it combines with another harmful recessive gene from another parent which then leads to birth defects. Spina Bifida and Cystic Fibrosis are some of the most common side effects that are higher when close relatives marry and have children. Because this practice has been, mostly in place in most countries, scientists now say the biological effects are less likely to happen if cousins were to marry.
We next discover that Cain’s first son was Enoch. However, this is not the same Enoch who “walked with God” in Genesis 5. He was a descendant of Seth, Cain’s brother. Cain established a town and gave it the name Enoch. Given that Cain was described as a traveler, this absolutely baffles me. If he spent his time roaming, how did he have time to establish a city? However, I digress. Let’s investigate whether such a metropolis is indeed real.
The city known as Uruk is a strong contender for being established by Cain. It is likely the first and oldest city in Mesopotamia. A Sumerian king recognized the existence of this city in 4544 BC when Enoch would have been about 264 years old. One district within Uruk was E-anna. If you add a ‘k’ sound to the end of that district name, it would sound very much like Enoch. It is also possible that the Sumerian king mentions the death of Cain. He refers to Mesh-ki-ang-gasher (the middle section -ki-ang- would sound like Cain), as having disappeared and possibly drowned in the sea.
One family member in Cain’s sixth generation was Tubal-Cain (Genesis 4:22). He was known for his skills in forging tools made of bronze and iron. Those skills would have been highly used in the growth and development of the city of Uruk when at its peak it was one of the largest cities in the world at the time. It eventually grew to a population of 40,000 and doubled that size in the surrounding area.
Next, we move on to the first recorded case of polygamy, taking more than one mate. Polygamy is the generic term for one gender marrying more than one of another gender. The specific reference here is polygyny (one male with more than one female). When a female mates with more than one male it is called polyandry. The mating system of polygyny is found mainly in mammals but can be found in a few species of birds and insects.
Among humans, the practice of polygyny is most widespread in Africa. Some who have studied this phenomenon believe it is the result of so many males being taken away during the slave trade. Mitochondrial DNA, the human genome important in studying anthropology, reveals that females reproduce in greater proportions than males throughout many generations.
So, what do different religions believe about this practice in modern times? It is very rare for religions to hold to this practice anymore. Most cases of polygamy show up in cultures where the mortality rates are high. Islam is the only world religion to permit multiple wives, but it is not a practice that is encouraged. Most cases are found among African Muslims.
In the Buddhist tradition, there are no set parameters for marital relationships. It is left up to cultural norms, which most have followed monogamous traditions. In areas of Tibet, polyandry was practiced until 2015 when it was outlawed.
Until the 20th century, Hinduism followed polygyny practices. The higher the caste (social status) the man was in, the more wives he was allowed to marry.
In the United States, the early Mormon church followed this practice with about 20-25% of the members practicing polygyny by the end of the 19th century. That’s an interestingly skewed statistic. If that 20-25% each had 2-3 wives, that would mean the majority of the membership was in some form practicing this form of a marital relationship. This practice was condemned in 1890, and in 1904, any members with multiple wives were excommunicated from the church.
Within Judaism, we find many early leaders taking on multiple wives. However, most scholars don’t believe this was widely practiced because of the amount of money needed to provide for such a large family. Take some time to look up these well-known Bible characters who had multiple wives, and describe their relationship with God:
Lest she gets lost in the midst of this tom-foolery, let’s notice another first in this passage. Naamah is the first sister to be mentioned. She was born to Lamech and Zillah and is the sister to Tubal-Cain. It’s interesting to note that each sibling is referenced along with their occupation.
However, no mention is made of Naamah’s occupation. Her name is rooted in a word meaning singer, so it’s possible she was the original vocal artist. Lamech’s children are the 7th generation, which may represent the fullness of humanity. They have now moved from fulfilling cultural roles to taking on vocations.
We close out the passage with another murder committed. Lamech tells his wives that he has murdered a man for harming him. This is our first related plea of “self-defense.” He is certainly aware of Cain’s situation and that he had been marked by God for protection from his crime. Lamech seems to think his protection should be ten times greater, maybe because it was self-defense. However, he makes this statement with no “apparent endorsement” from God.
This brings me to a very important point, just because we read it in the Bible, doesn’t mean it’s God-approved. Much of what we read is people’s perspectives on the world and their interpretation of God. This is a huge reason for this study. In many ways, we forget to take a step back and figure out if this is straight from the mouth of God, or someone else’s belief about what God would say.
This is Lamech’s wishful thinking that God will act in a certain way on his behalf. There is no promise from God.
So, overall, what do you think of Cain’s Family Tree?