Genesis – Chapter 4

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 4


1 The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, «I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.»


Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.


In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil,


while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,


but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.


So the LORD said to Cain: «Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?


2 If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.»


Cain said to his brother Abel, «Let us go out in the field.» When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.


Then the LORD asked Cain, «Where is your brother Abel?» He answered, «I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?»


The LORD then said: «What have you done! Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!


Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.


If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.»


Cain said to the LORD: «My punishment is too great to bear.


Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.»


3 Not so!» the LORD said to him. «If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.» So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.


4 Cain then left the LORD’S presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.


5 Cain had relations with his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. Cain also became the founder of a city, which he named after his son Enoch.


To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael; Mehujael became the father of Methusael, and Methusael became the father of Lamech.


Lamech took two wives; the name of the first was Adah, and the name of the second Zillah.


Adah gave birth to Jabal, the ancestor of all who dwell in tents and keep cattle.


His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of all who play the lyre and the pipe.


Zillah, on her part, gave birth to Tubalcain, the ancestor of all who forge instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.


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 boy for bruising me.


If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.»


6 Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. «God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,» she said, «because Cain slew him.»


To Seth, in turn, a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to invoke the LORD by name.

1 [1] The Hebrew name qayin («Cain») and the term qaniti («I have produced») present another play on words.
2 [7] Demon lurking: in Hebrew, robes, literally «croucher,» is used here, like the similar Akkadian term rabisu, to designate a certain kind of evil spirit.
3 [15] A mark: probably a tattoo. The use of tattooing for tribal marks has always been common among the nomads of the Near Eastern deserts.
4 [16] The land of Nod: not a definite geographic region. The term merely means «the land of nomads.»
5 [17-22] In ⇒ Genesis 4:12-16 Cain was presented as the archetype of nomadic peoples. The sacred author in this section follows another ancient tradition that makes Cain the prototype of sedentary peoples with higher material culture.
6 [25-26] Has granted: Hebrew shat, a wordplay on the name shet («Seth»). Enosh: in Hebrew, a synonym of adam («man»). At the time . . . name: men began to call God by his personal name, Yahweh, rendered as «the LORD» in this version of the Bible. The ancient, so-called Yahwist source used here employs the name Yahweh long before the time of Moses. Another ancient source, the Elohist (from its use of the term Elohim, «God,» instead of Yahweh, «Lord,» for the pre-Mosaic period), makes Moses the first to use Yahweh as the proper name of Israel’s God, previously known by other names as well; cf ⇒ Exodus 3:13-15.