Adam Clarke Commentary
The birth, trade, and religion of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4:1-7. Cain murders his brother Abel, Genesis 4:8. God calls him into judgment for it, Genesis 4:9, Genesis 4:10. He is cursed, Genesis 4:11, Genesis 4:12. He despairs, Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:14. A promise given him of preservation, and a mark set on him to prevent his being killed, Genesis 4:15. He departs from God‘s presence, Genesis 4:16. Has a son whom he calls Enoch; and builds a city, which he calls after his name, Genesis 4:17. Cain has several children, among whom are Lamech, the first bigamist, Genesis 4:18, Genesis 4:19. Jabal, who taught the use of tents and feeding cattle, Genesis 4:20. Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, Genesis 4:21. Tubal-cain, the inventor of smith-work, Genesis 4:22. Strange speech of Lamech to his wives, Genesis 4:23, Genesis 4:24. Seth born to Adam and Eve in the place of Abel, Genesis 4:25. Enoch born, and the worship of God restored, Genesis 4:26.
I have gotten a man from the Lord - Cain, קין, signifies acquisition; hence Eve says קנתי (kanithi), I have gotten or acquired a man, את יהוה (eth Yehovah), the Lord. It is extremely difficult to ascertain the sense in which Eve used these words, which have been as variously translated as understood. Most expositors think that Eve imagined Cain to be the promised seed that should bruise the head of the serpent. This exposition really seems too refined for that period. It is very likely that she meant no more than to acknowledge that it was through God‘s peculiar blessing that she was enabled to conceive and bring forth a son, and that she had now a well-grounded hope that the race of man should be continued on the earth. Unless she had been under Divine inspiration she could not have called her son (even supposing him to be the promised seed) Jehovah; and that she was not under such an influence her mistake sufficiently proves, for Cain, so far from being the Messiah, was of the wicked one; 1 John 3:12. We may therefore suppose that את היוה (eth Yehovah), The Lord, is an elliptical form of expression for מאת יהוה (meeth Yehovah), From The Lord, or through the Divine blessing.
And she again bare his brother Abel - Literally, She added to bear (ותסף ללדת (vattoseph laledeth)) his brother. From the very face of this account it appears evident that Cain and Abel were twins. In most cases where a subject of this kind is introduced in the Holy Scriptures, and the successive births of children of the same parents are noted, the acts of conceiving and bringing forth are mentioned in reference to each child; here it is not said that she conceived and brought forth Abel, but simply she added to bring forth Abel his brother; that is, as I understand it, Cain was the first-born, Abel, his twin brother, came next.
Abel was a keeper of sheep - Adam was originally a gardener, Abel a shepherd, and Cain an agriculturist or farmer. These were the three primitive employments, and, I may add, the most rational, and consequently the best calculated to prevent strife and an immoderate love of the world.
In process of time - מקץ ימים (mikkets yamim), at the end of days. Some think the anniversary of the creation to be here intended; it is more probable that it means the Sabbath, on which Adam and his family undoubtedly offered oblations to God, as the Divine worship was certainly instituted, and no doubt the Sabbath properly observed in that family. This worship was, in its original institution, very simple. It appears to have consisted of two parts:
1.Thanksgiving to God as the author and dispenser of all the bounties of nature, and oblations indicative of that gratitude.
2.Piacular sacrifices to his justice and holiness, implying a conviction of their own sinfulness, confession of transgression, and faith in the promised Deliverer. If we collate the passage here with the apostle‘s allusion to it, Hebrews 11:4, we shall see cause to form this conclusion.
Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering - מנחה (minchah), unto the Lord. The word (minchah) is explained, Leviticus 2:1, etc., to be an offering of fine flour, with oil and frankincense. It was in general a eucharistic or gratitude offering, and is simply what is implied in the fruits of the ground brought by Cain to the Lord, by which he testified his belief in him as the Lord of the universe, and the dispenser of secular blessings.
Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock - Dr. Kennicott contends that the words he also brought, הביא גם הוא (hebi gam hu), should be translated, Abel brought it also, i.e. a (minchah) or gratitude offering; and beside this he brought of the first-born (מבכרות (mibbechoroth)) of his flock, and it was by this alone that he acknowledged himself a sinner, and professed faith in the promised Messiah. To this circumstance the apostle seems evidently to allude, Hebrews 11:4: By Faith Abel offered πλειονα θυσιαν , a More or Greater sacrifice; not a more excellent, (for this is no meaning of the word πλειων ), which leads us to infer, according to Dr. Kennicott, that Abel, besides his (minchah) or gratitude offering, brought also θυσια , a victim, to be slain for his sins; and this he chose out of the first-born of his flock, which, in the order of God, was a representation of the Lamb of God that was to take away the sin of the world; and what confirms this exposition more is the observation of the apostle: God testifying τοις δωροις , of his Gifts, which certainly shows he brought more than one. According to this interpretation, Cain, the father of Deism, not acknowledging the necessity of a vicarious sacrifice, nor feeling his need of an atonement, according to the dictates of his natural religion, brought a (minchah) or eucharistic offering to the God of the universe. Abel, not less grateful for the produce of his fields and the increase of his flocks, brought a similar offering, and by adding a sacrifice to it paid a proper regard to the will of God as far as it had then been revealed, acknowledged himself a sinner, and thus, deprecating the Divine displeasure, showed forth the death of Christ till he came. Thus his offerings were accepted, while those of Cain were rejected; for this, as the apostle says, was done by Faith, and therefore he obtained witness that he was righteous, or a justified person, God testifying with his gifts, the thank-offering and the sin-offering, by accepting them, that faith in the promised seed was the only way in which he could accept the services and offerings of mankind. Dr. Magee, in his Discourses on the Atonement, criticises the opinion of Dr. Kennicott, and contends that there is no ground for the distinction made by the latter on the words he also brought; and shows that though the (minchah) in general signifies an unbloody offering, yet it is also used to express both kinds, and that the (minchah) in question is to be understood of the sacrifice then offered by Abel. I do not see that we gain much by this counter-criticism. See Genesis 4:7.
Unto Cain - As being unconscious of his sinfulness, and consequently unhumbled, and to his offering, as not being accompanied, as Abel‘s was, with faith and a sacrifice for sin, he had not respect - He could not, consistently with his holiness and justice, approve of the one or receive the other. Of the manner in which God testified his approbation we are not informed; it was probably, as in the case of Elijah, by sending down fire from heaven, and consuming the sacrifice.
Cain was very wroth - That displeasure which should have been turned against his own unhumbled heart was turned against his innocent brother, who, though not more highly privileged than he, made a much better use of the advantages which he shared in common with his ungodly and unnatural brother.
Why art thou wroth? - This was designed as a gracious warning, and a preventive of the meditated crime.
If thou doest well - That which is right in the sight of God, shalt thou not be accepted? Does God reject any man who serves him in simplicity and godly sincerity? But if thou doest not well, can wrath and indignation against thy righteous brother save thee from the displeasure under which thou art fallen? On the contrary, have recourse to thy Maker for mercy; לפתח חטאת רבץ (lappethach chattath robets), a sin-offering lieth at thy door; an animal proper to be offered as an atonement for sin is now couching at the door of thy fold.
Unto thee shall be his desire, etc. - That is, Thou shalt ever have the right of primogeniture, and in all things shall thy brother be subject unto thee. These words are not spoken of sin, as many have understood them, but of Abel‘s submission to Cain as his superior, and the words are spoken to remove Cain‘s envy.
Cain talked with Abel his brother - ויאמר קין (vaiyomer Kayin), and Cain said, etc.; not talked, for this construction the word cannot bear without great violence to analogy and grammatical accuracy. But why should it be thus translated? Because our translators could not find that any thing was spoken on the occasion; and therefore they ventured to intimate that there was a conversation, indefinitely. In the most correct editions of the Hebrew Bible there is a small space left here in the text, and a circular mark which refers to a note in the margin, intimating that there is a hiatus or deficiency in the verse. Now this deficiency is supplied in the principal ancient versions, and in the Samaritan text. In this the supplied words are, Let Us Walk Out Into The Field. The Syriac has, Let us go to the desert. The Vulgate Egrediamur foras, Let us walk out. The Septuagint, Διελθωμεν εις το πεδον , Let us go out into the field. The two Chaldee Targums have the same reading; so has the Coptic version. This addition is completely lost from every MS. of the Pentateuch now known; and yet it is sufficiently evident from the Samaritan text, the Samaritan version, the Syriac, Septuagint, and Vulgate, that it was in the most authentic copies of the Hebrew before and some time since the Christian era. The words may therefore be safely considered as a part of the sacred text, and with them the whole passage reads clear and consistently: “And Cain said unto Abel his brother, Let us go out into the field: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up,” etc. The Jerusalem Targum, and the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel, pretend to give us the subject of their conversation: as the piece is curious, I shall insert the substance of it, for the sake of those who may not have access to the originals. “And Cain said unto Hebel his brother, Let us go out into the field; and it came to pass that, when they were in the field, Cain answered and said to Hebel his brother, I thought that the world was created in mercy, but it is not governed according to the merit of good works nor is there any judgment, nor a Judge, nor shall there be any future state in which good rewards shall be given to the righteous, or punishment executed on the wicked; and now there is respect of persons in judgment. On what account is it that thy sacrifice has been accepted, and mine not received with complacency? And Hebel answered and said, The world was created in mercy, and it is governed according to the fruit of good works; there is a Judge, a future world, and a coming judgment, where good rewards shall be given to the righteous, and the impious punished; and there is no respect of persons in judgment; but because my works were better and more precious than thine, my oblation was received with complacency. And because of these things they contended on the face of the field, and Cain rose up against Hebel his brother, and struck a stone into his forehead, and killed him.”
The voice of thy brother‘s blood - It is probable that Cain, having killed his brother, dug a hole and buried him in the earth, hoping thereby to prevent the murder from being known; and that this is what is designed in the words, Thy brother‘s blood crieth unto me From The Ground - which hath opened her mouth to receive it from thy hand. Some think that by the voice of thy brother‘s blood the cries of Abel‘s widow and children are to be understood, as it is very probable that he was father of a family; indeed his occupation and sacrifices seem to render this probable, and probability is all we can expect on such a subject. God represents these as calling aloud for the punishment of the murderer; and it is evident that Cain expected to fall by the hands of some person who, from his consanguinity, had the right of the avenger of blood; for now that the murder is found out, he expects to suffer death for it. See Genesis 4:14.
A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be - Thou shalt be expelled from the presence of God, and from thy family connections, and shalt have no fixed secure residence in any place. The Septuagint render this στενων και τρεμων εση , thou shalt be groaning and trembling upon the earth - the horror of thy crime shall ever haunt thee, and thou shalt never have any well-grounded hope that God will remit the punishment thou deservest. No state out of endless perdition can be considered more awful than this.
My punishment is greater than I can bear - The margin reads, Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven. The original words, גדול עוני מנשוא (gadol avoni minneso), may be translated, Is my crime too great to be forgiven? words which we may presume he uttered on the verge of black despair. It is most probable that עון (avon) signifies rather the crime than the punishment; in this sense it is used Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:43; 1 Samuel 28:10; 2 Kings 7:9; and נשא (nasa) signifies to remit or forgive. The marginal reading is, therefore, to be preferred to that in the text.
Behold, thou hast driven me out - In Genesis 4:11, Genesis 4:12, God states two parts of Cain‘s punishment:
1.The ground was cursed, so that it was not to yield any adequate recompense for his most careful tillage.
To these Cain himself adds others.
1.His being hidden from the face of God; which appears to signify his being expelled from that particular place where God had manifested his presence in or contiguous to Paradise, whither our first parents resorted as to an oracle, and where they offered their daily adorations. So in Genesis 4:16, it is said, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and was not permitted any more to associate with the family in acts of religious worship.
2.The continual apprehension of being slain, as all the inhabitants of the earth were at that time of the same family, the parents themselves still alive, and each having a right to kill this murderer of his relative. Add to all this,
The Lord set a mark upon Cain - What this mark was, has given rise to a number of frivolously curious conjectures. Dr. Shuckford collects the most remarkable. Some say he was paralytic; this seems to have arisen from the version of the Septuagint, Στενων και τρεμων εση , Groaning and trembling shalt thou be. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel says the sign was from the great and precious name, probably one of the letters of the word (Yehovah). The author of an Arabic Catena in the Bodleian Library says, “A sword could not pierce him; fire could not burn him; water could not drown him; the air could not blast him; nor could thunder or lightning strike him.” The author of Bereshith Rabba, a comment on Genesis, says the mark was a circle of the sun rising upon him. Abravanel says the sign was Abel‘s dog, which constantly accompanied him. Some of the doctors in the Talmud say that it was the letter ת (tau) marked on his forehead, which signified his contrition, as it is the first letter in the word תשובה (teshubah), repentance. Rabbi Joseph, wiser than all the rest, says it was a long horn growing out of his forehead!
The land of Nod - As נוד (nod) signifies the same as נד sa, a vagabond, some think this verse should be rendered, And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, from the east of Eden, and dwelt a vagabond on the earth; thus the curse pronounced on him, Genesis 4:12, was accomplished.
She - bare Enoch - As חנוך (Chanoch) signifies instructed, dedicated, or initiated, and especially in sacred things, it may be considered some proof of Cain‘s repentance, that he appears to have dedicated this son to God, who, in his father‘s stead, might minister in the sacerdotal office, from which Cain, by his crime, was for ever excluded.
Lamech took - two wives - He was the first who dared to reverse the order of God by introducing polygamy; and from him it has been retained, practiced, and defended to the present day.
Jabal - was the father - The inventor or teacher, for so the word is understood, 1 Samuel 10:12. He was the first who invented tent-making, and the breeding and managing of cattle; or he was, in these respects, the most eminent in that time. Though Abel was a shepherd, it is not likely he was such on an extensive scale.
Jubal - the father - i.e. The inventor of musical instruments, such as the כנור (kinnor), which we translate harp, and the עוגב (ugab), which we render organ; it is very likely that both words are generic, the former including under it all stringed instruments, and the latter, all wind instruments.
Tubal-cain - The first smith on record, who taught how to make warlike instruments and domestic utensils out of brass and iron.
1.From the name, which, by the omission of the Tu and turning the b into v, a change frequently made among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, makes Vulcain or Vulcan.
2.From his occupation he was an artificer, a master smith in brass and iron.
Of Naamah nothing more is spoken in the Scriptures; but the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel makes her the inventress of funeral songs and lamentations. R. S. Jarchi says she was the wife of Noah, and quotes Bereshith Rabba in support of the opinion. Some of the Jewish doctors say her name is recorded in Scripture because she was an upright and chaste woman; but others affirm that the whole world wandered after her, and that of her evil spirits were born into the world. This latter opinion gives some countenance to that of M. De Lavaur.
And Lamech said unto his wives - The speech of Lamech to his wives is in hemistichs in the original, and consequently, as nothing of this kind occurs before this time, it is very probably the oldest piece of poetry in the world. The following is, as nearly as possible, a literal translation:
“And Lamech said unto his wives,
It is supposed that Lamech had slain a man in his own defense, and that his wives being alarmed lest the kindred of the deceased should seek his life in return, to quiet their fears he makes this speech, in which he endeavors to prove that there was no room for fear on this account; for if the slayer of the wilful murderer, Cain, should suffer a seven-fold punishment, surely he, who should kill Lamech for having slain a man in self-defense, might expect a seventy-seven-fold punishment.
“Have I slain a man, that I should be wounded?
But even this still supposes some previous reason or conversation.
God - hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel - Eve must have received on this occasion some Divine communication, else how could she have known that this son was appointed in the place of Abel, to continue that holy line by which the Messiah was to come? From this we see that the line of the Messiah was determined from the beginning, and that it was not first fixed in the days of Abraham; for the promise was then only renewed, and that branch of his family designated by which the sacred line was to be continued. And it is worthy of remark, that Seth‘s posterity alone continued after the flood, when all the other families of the earth were destroyed, Noah being the tenth descendant from Adam through Seth.
In order to keep this line distinct, we find particular care was taken that, where there were two or more sons in a family, the one through whom God particularly designed to bring his Son into the world was, by some especial providence, pointed out. Thus in the family of Adam, Seth was chosen; in the family of Noah, Shem; in the family of Abraham, Isaac; and in that of David, Solomon and Nathan. All these things God watched over by an especial providence from the beginning, that when Jesus Christ should come it might be clearly seen that he came by the promise, through grace, and not by nature.
Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord - The marginal reading is, Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord; which words are supposed to signify that in the time of Enos the true followers of God began to distinguish themselves, and to be distinguished by others, by the appellation of sons of God; those of the other branch of Adam‘s family, among whom the Divine worship was not observed, being distinguished by the name, children of men. It must not be dissembled that many eminent men have contended that הוחל (huchal), which we translate began, should be rendered began profanely, or then profanation began, and from this time they date the origin of idolatry. Most of the Jewish doctors were of this opinion, and Maimonides has discussed it at some length in his Treatise on Idolatry; as this piece is curious, and gives the most probable account of the origin and progress of idolatry, I shall insert it here.
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