Pre-flood Genesis: Cain, His City, and His Descendants
God Created Evolution
In a continuing effort to unravel the mystery that is pre-flood Genesis, I want to focus specifically on the fourth chapter, the one about Cain. It seems reasonable to assume that the author choosing to include so much about Cain's life beyond his slaying of Abel means it's significant and relevant information.
Genesis doesn't give us much about the world before the flood, just over five chapters, but even as little as there is it seems to cover a lot of ground. The tricky part about this portion of Genesis is that Adam has traditionally been counted as the first human God created, and even though Genesis 5 lists generations of descendants living many years each and having many children, the population bottlenecks at the flood where only eight people are said to have survived via Noah's ark.
So then why would the author of Genesis feel it necessary, out of the 1,656 years that passed between Adam's creation and the flood, to spend half a chapter on Cain and his descendants? Unless the wives of Noah or his sons were of Cain's bloodline, presumably they all would have died. Yet, with the exception of Noah, pre-flood Genesis provides more specific information about Cain and his bloodline than anyone on Seth's side of the family.
Cain's Story Following Abel's Death
Most everyone is familiar with the story in Genesis where Cain killed Abel and was driven from the land. The whole other half of chapter 4 that details Cain's life beyond his banishment isn't nearly as well known because its meaning and purpose for inclusion is unclear.
A primary reason for this is, according to the traditional view, Cain was only the third human on earth. Yet the remainder of Genesis 4 talks about mysterious unnamed figures who could potentially harm him outside of his homeland, a city he built, and specifically named descendants who, along with their skilled 'children', died in a global flood not long after, presumably. All of this followed by a quote from Lamech, possibly a poem often referred to as 'The Song of The Sword', where he confesses to murder in retaliation for being wounded by ... someone. Finally, the chapter closes with one last bit of intrigue by saying that 'men began to call upon the name of the Lord' when Enoch, third generation from Adam, was born.
Who Did Cain Fear Would Kill Him?
Genesis 4:13 - Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear.
Genesis 4:14 - Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
In the context of Adam being the first human, the only people in existence after Abel's death specifically named are Adam, Eve, and Cain. Beyond that it's possible there could have been unnamed siblings and children. However, Cain was banished from the land. He was voicing concern for 'whoever' he encounters while restlessly wandering the earth outside of God's 'presence'. He was clearly speaking about others he anticipated encountering 'in the land of Nod'.
Genesis 4:15 - But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
It's possible Cain's concern could simply be fear of the unknown, except that in God's reply He validates Cain's concern as legitimate by marking him to protect him. Obviously, vengeful encounters with any potential unnamed brothers/sisters/nephews/nieces while wondering the land of Nod would be because they already knew who Cain was and what he had done. A mark to remind them seems unnecessary. Not to mention Adam, Eve, and Cain had all already proven capable of disobeying God and doing what they wanted instead. It's clear that where Cain was headed there were others that posed a very real threat to his well being. Others who would apparently not kill him because he was marked.
Wait a Second, Did it Say Cain Built a City?
Genesis 4:16 - So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Genesis 4:17 - And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.
So let's assess the situation up to this point. Following Abel's death, God explained that spilling Abel's blood had cursed Cain so that when he worked the ground it would no longer yield crops for him. God said he'd be a 'restless wanderer on the earth' (v12). Assuming Cain's curse wasn't regional, he more or less had been cursed to devolve back to migrating, 'restlessly wandering' to survive.
Yet, in verse 16 it says Cain 'lived' in the land of 'Nod', east of Eden. The word translated as 'Nod' in itself is the root of the verb that basically means 'to wander', so that doesn't necessarily mean he settled. However, the following verse says he built a city at some point after his wife bore Enoch.
Obviously, if Cain and his descendants were the only population in the 'land of Nod' this wouldn't have been much of a city, especially considering the city was built around the time his son was born. More of a homestead for just two, maybe three, generations worth of family. Other possible translations for the Hebrew word translated here as 'city' are 'town', 'township', or 'burg', none of which really apply to a place where a rather small family dwells. Beyond this, there is nothing else about this city mentioned. The author then shifts the focus to the descendants of Enoch, the son Cain named his city after.
Seven Generations from Adam: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain, and Naamah
Genesis 4:19 - Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.
Genesis 4:20 - Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock.
Genesis 4:21 - His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.
Genesis 4:22 - Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Verse 18 lists the three generations of sons from Enoch to Lamech, quickly advancing to verses 19 through 22 where the author deemed it necessary to name four specific sixth generation descendants: Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain, and Tubal-Cain's sister, Naamah. The two sons of Lamech's wife Adah, Jubal and Jabal, are said to be the 'fathers' of those who possessed specific skills. Tubal-Cain's skill is noted as well.
Jubal ... Father of those who live in tents and raise livestock
Jabal ... Father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes
Tubal-Cain ... Forged tools out of bronze and iron
These four descendants are the same number of generations from Adam as Methuselah in Genesis 5. A quick bit of math will reveal that Methuselah died the same year as the flood, possibly in it. So it would seem that taking the time to specifically mention these four descendants, along with the various skills they introduced into the world, would be pointless if they and everyone they 'fathered' died in the flood too.
Born/Died (Gen 5)
130 to 1042(After Adam)
235 to 1140
325 to 1235
395 to 1290
460 to 1422
622 to 987
687 to 1656(Flood Year)
Some have speculated that Naamah was specifically mentioned here because she was perhaps Noah's wife. Others see a more metaphorical meaning to all four descendants, assigning goodness and light to Jubal and Jabal, while casting Tubal-Cain as the 'sword maker' and Naamah as a temptress to represent evil and darkness. This hardly seems fair. Especially for Naamah since all the text says is that she was Tubal-Cain's sister.
Lamech and The 'Song of the Sword'
Genesis 4:23 - Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
Genesis 4:24 - If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Depending on the translation, this can sound like Lamech killed one man for wounding him like in the NIV translation above, or it can sound like two people, a man and a young man who both injured him, like in the KJV ("I have slain a man for my wounding, and a young man for my hurt"). Either way, because Lamech felt he'd be 'avenged' one can only assume his wound was fatal.
One third of Genesis 4 focuses on Cain's descendants, ending with this mention of Lamech being wounded by ... someone. Much has been made of these few lines of text. This portion is often referred to as the 'song of the sword'. The idea being that Tubal-Cain, being a metal worker, invented swords which then somehow played a role in the story Lamech is describing.
The general consensus is that this event is most likely mentioned because it is directly related to the flood that followed by way of God's promise for vengeance if Cain were to be killed.
Genesis 4:25 - Adam made love to 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.”
Genesis 5:3 - When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
Based on these two verses, Cain's slaying of Abel and subsequent banishment happened sometime within the first 130 years of Adam's existence. Cain left for the land of Nod, east of Eden, away from his parents and any other potential family that may or may not have existed. Considering he was voicing this concern just a handful of decades into Adam's lifetime and before the birth of Seth, it's highly unlikely that he was speaking of anyone in his family. Cain feared being harmed by 'others' outside of his native land and God confirmed that fear as valid by marking him to protect him.
So, a man who presumably lived a similar length lifetime to that of his father, Adam, and brother, Seth, with knowledge of farming and agriculture, cursed so that he could not grow food himself and bearing a mark that protected him from harm, went out into a populated region and somehow overcame his 'restlessly wondering' fate by settling and building a city where at least seven generations of descendents existed for over 1500 years.
The region and timeframe where Cain's story took place
Genesis shows there to be twenty generations from Adam to Abraham (Gen 5/11), who, according to Genesis 12, interacted with an Egyptian Pharaoh. Through modern science we have learned relatively recently that humanity's existence on the earth predates this time frame by tens of thousands of years. Even with the extended lifespans, there's no way Adam could have been the first human in existence. These events could not have happened any earlier than 6000 BC.
The entire inhabitable world was populated by Homo sapiens by 10,000 BC. They also happened to be the only remaining species of the Homo genus in existence and had established themselves as the dominant species in the animal kingdom by this point.
Over the course of thousands of years Neanderthals systematically hunted the once dominant mega-fauna species (Saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, dire wolves) throughout ancient Europe. Within 30,000 years of Homo sapiens (Neanderthals distant African cousins) first migrating north out of Africa, they literally pushed Neanderthals out of existence.
Over the next 20,000 years Homo sapiens were fruitful and multiplied, and filled and subdued the earth. Along the way mega-fauna disappear completely from the fossil record, in large part due to Homo sapiens, officially establishing themselves as the dominant species in the animal kingdom and the sole surviving species of early humans.
This was the state of the human presence on earth in the age that Genesis 2 forward is speaking of. Clearly, a very real threat to anyone who may be out wondering the wilderness.
Mesopotamia, the birthplace of the City
The notable characteristics of the Ubaid period are the simultaneous emergence of an irrigation-dependent farming system, economic differentiation, regional centralization, and ritual elaboration. - Near Eastern Archaeologist Gil Stein
The first cities to ever exist were located in Mesopotamia, the same region where Genesis 2 established its setting. This period in southern Mesopotamia is known as the Ubaid period. Though date ranges differ in when this period officially began, most place its beginning around the latter half of the 6th millennium BC and lasting through to roughly 4000 BC. While there were already established settlements made up of relatively large human populations that existed prior to this, mainly in the Europe and northern Mesopotamia, the Ubaid culture marks the establishment of the first human cities. They are categorized this way because it's in these city-states where we see the first signs of social inequality with a ruling class and a working class, separated by wealth and status, with the ruling class coordinating and dictating the actions of the lower class.
Different than simply farming, agricultural work in this region and time period made use of intricate canal systems for controlled irrigation. A revolutionary leap forward in human pre-history that changed the way we live on this planet from that point on happened in a relatively short amount of time in the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and allowed for the first time the establishment of an economy.
Some of those first ancient human cities of Mesopotamia are estimated to have had populations in excess of ten thousand by 4000 BC. Where before the terrain only had a smattering of tribes in small settled locations or passing through on their migration paths to survive, once cities with the ability to mass produce food arose in the region, the human population became much more dense. They began to 'increase in number [in the land]' (Gen6:1).
The Sumerians: Humanity's first prolific inventors and writers of fiction?
The Sumerians are the earliest known human civilization. They are accredited as the inventors of civilization, of large-scale agriculture, of the first calendar, irrigation, government (the first monarchy), astronomy/astrology, mathematics, stringed instruments, and writing, just to name a few. Ancient Sumerian civilization marks a vital turning point in humanity's existence, yet everything currently known about them has only been learned over the past century or so.
The first Sumerian cities existed 3000 years before their system of writing became advanced enough to allow for the recording of their own oral historical tales. When they finally did, these stories told throughout the generations did not glorify their ancestors and all of the advancements they managed to bring about, but rather gave credit to their gods. Their immortal, human in form, male and female, walking on the earth, eating, breathing, moody gods.
According to Sumerian mythology they were given decrees by their gods, each known as a 'me', that made civilization possible. The Sumerians, a self-applied name which translates to 'the black-headed people', believed they were created by these gods to serve them. Their mythological stories say these gods physically lived in the temple found at the center of each city. Archaeological evidence and administrative-type cunieform tablets support that the temple was provided for abundantly. The Sumerians say their gods taught them the ways of agriculture and government and civilized life, and they in turn provided the fruits of their labor to the temple god.
Though the Sumerian tablets containing their mythological stories predate the oldest surviving copies of the books of Moses, they share many similar themes. They both speak of a 'first' man/woman created who chose not to have eternal life, of a catastrophic flood survived by a handful of people and a bunch of animals because one of them was warned ahead of time and built a boat, and of a once universal language confused into many. They also both illustrate extremely long lifespans before the 'great deluge', or flood, with a gradual decrease from generation to generation for those that lived after.
The Sumerians in the bible
Genesis 11: 27-28 - Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldeans.
Joshua 24:2 - And Joshua said unto all the people, "Thus saith the LORD God of Israel: `Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the river in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.
According to Sumerian Mythology Eridu was one of the first five cities that existed before the great flood and was the first city where the 'kingship' resided. The first line of the Sumerian Kings List says, "After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu". In the Sumerian tales Enki was the patron god of Eridu, a city he established and called home.
The remains of Eridu are located near the mouth of the Euphrates river just north of the Persian gulf. In the age it was first established, the shoreline stood much closer to the site than it does today due to silt deposits collected over the past 7000 years.
According to archaeological evidence, the establishment of Eridu appears to be the result of a combination of three different cultures living three different lifestyles. The earliest settlement built mud-brick buildings and employed agricultural practices reminiscent of how the Sumarra culture to the north had been doing things for a century or so prior. A second culture seemed to be more hunters and fishers than farmers. They lived in reed huts and are thought to be the ones responsible for mounds of discarded shells found along the coastline. This culture is suspected by many to be the original Sumerians. Then there's a third culture also represented in the earlier eras of Eridu who herded sheep and goats and lived in tents, much like those that Genesis 4:20 says Jubal 'fathered'.
Though Ur is not counted among the pre-flood cities by the Sumerians and shows to be the bearer of the kingship long after the flood according to the Kings List, archaeological evidence shows a human presence in the region that would become Ur as far back as the Ubaid period as well. The site of Ur is literally within eyesight of Eridu, as many of the first Sumerian cities were.
These layers of earth that show an Ubaid period human occupation of Ur sit just beneath a layer of sterile deposit that indicates a flood somewhere around 4000 BC. In fact, all Ubaid period culture in this region comes to an abrupt end around the same time. For several centuries after there is no evidence of any human presence in this region. This is a period of ancient Mesopotamian pre-history sometimes referred to as the "Dark Millennium".
This period of sparse human existence in southern Mesopotamia is often thought to be a result of a climatological event known as the 5.9 kiloyear event. This is an aridification event that happened sometime around 3900 BC that initiated the most recent transformation of the Sahara into a desert and triggered extensive migrations of human populations to river valleys throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East. This is thought by some to be the catalyst that spurred on the advancement of civilizations both in Sumer and in Egypt just a few centuries later that sprang up along these same river valleys.
Ur re-emerged as a place of importance throughout the Early Bronze Age of Mesopotamia during the third millennium BC. Being a Sumerian city, they did in fact 'serve other gods' as the verse from Joshua above states. Ur only became known as 'Ur of the Chaldeans' when the Chaldeans settled there sometime before 850 BC, which is one of the indicators that tell scholars that this portion of Genesis as we know it today was probably written around this time in the Kingdom of Judah. However, few doubt the city named as the birthplace of Abram's father was in fact the Sumerian city of Ur.
According to the genealogy given in Genesis, Abraham's father was born 1880 years after Adam. Assuming Adam's creation were just a century or two before Eridu, this places Abraham right in the time frame where Sumerian and Egyptian civilization first began to emerge.
Comparing Cain to the Sumerian god Enki
Genesis 6:1-3 - When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
If a 120 year lifespan is 'mortal', what does that make Adam and his descendants?
Just as is the case regarding the mention of 'others' that posed a threat to Cain in Genesis 4, the first four verses of Genesis 6 have always been a point of confusion because of the limited number of people in existence according to the traditional view. It speaks of 'sons of God', 'daughters of humans', as well as men called the Nephilim, all already in existence by Noah's time. All of who, presumably, came from Eve. Then again, some believe the 'sons of God' were rebellious angels and the Nephilim their off-spring, but that's for another article.
It also mentions that humans are mortal and only live 120 years. So, if the ages given in Genesis 5 for Adam and his descendants through Noah are correct in that they lived for centuries, does that not mean that they were something other than 'mortal'? Something more? And does that not also mean there were humans, other than Adam and his family, who were mortal in comparison?
This would mean that Adam, Eve, Cain and his descendants, and Seth and his descendants would be immortal, or god-like, in the eyes of mortal humans, with each of them living the equivalent of seven to ten mortal human lifespans.
Like Cain in Genesis, according to Sumerian Mythology Enki established the first city. Enki was the patron god of Eridu in Sumerian mythology, and was considered by them the deity of crafts, water, intelligence, creation, and mischief. Like the sixth generation of Cain specifically named in Genesis, six generations of gods after Enki, the seventh generation, known in this version of the story as the younger Igigi gods, began to rebel and refused to work anymore. Enki then suggested they create servants for the gods, which is when they say humankind was made.
Genesis shows there to have been 1656 years between the creation of Adam and the flood, followed by the confusing of languages and dispersion of Noah's descendants a century or two later, presumably during Peleg's lifetime (1759 to 1998 years after Adam). Between Genesis 4 and 5 it can be determined that Cain's banishment happened sometime within the first 130 years of Adam's life, or just over 1500 years before the flood.
Eridu, the city established by Enki according to the Sumerians, was established about 5300 BC. 1300 to 1400 years later there's evidence of a flood in Ur, followed by a drastic aridification event that literally dispersed the populations of humans in the Mesopotamian plain in all directions.
The latter half of Genesis 4 gives specific details about Cain and his descendants that have an ambiguous uncertain meaning in the context of traditional interpretation. Yet when placed in a setting of known history for the time and place specified it bares remarkable similarities to the mythological tales of the people who existed in that region, and subsequent chapters appear to line up rather well with the archaeological evidence if Cain's city and Eridu are one and the same.
'God Created Evolution' Hubs
- God Created Evolution: The Mysterious Unnamed Characters of Pre-Flood Genesis
Some of the most debated mysteries in all the bible are found in the first few chapters of Genesis. This hub discusses unnamed characters who are casually alluded to, but never explained. Or are they?
- Finding Reconciliation Between Science and God
'God Created Evolution' is a project consisting of multiple articles that show how the first 11 books of Genesis fit into the context of known history and accurately describe the emergence of the modern human mind and the dawn of civilization.
- Genesis Creation Story is Scientifically Accurate
Reading the Genesis creation account in the context of the modern scientific understanding of the earth's geological formation and the evolution of life proves to be incredibly accurate and insightful.
- Adam was not the first human, for the bible tells us so
Genesis makes it clear that Adam was not the first human in existence and that the flood was not global. Correcting these misconceptions takes pre-flood Genesis out of the realm of mythology and grounds it in known history.