Notes for Gen 4:1LEB

The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) introduces a new episode in the ongoing narrative.


Heb "the man knew," a frequent euphemism for sexual relations.


Or "she conceived."Here is another sound play (paronomasia) on a name. The sound of the verb קָנִיתִי (qaniti, "I have created") reflects the sound of the name Cain in Hebrew (קַיִן, qayin) and gives meaning to it. The saying uses the Qal perfect of קָנָה (qanah). There are two homonymic verbs with this spelling, one meaning "obtain, acquire" and the other meaning "create" (see Gen 14:19, 22; Deut 32:6; Ps 139:13; Prov 8:22LEB). The latter fits this context very well. Eve has created a man.


Heb "with the Yahweh." The particle אֶת־ (’et) is not the accusative/object sign, but the preposition "with" as the ancient versions attest. Some take the preposition in the sense of "with the help of" (see BDB 85 s.v. אֵת; cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV), while others prefer "along with" in the sense of "like, equally with, in common with" (see Lev 26:39; Isa 45:9; Jer 23:28LEB). Either works well in this context; the latter is reflected in the present translation. Some understand אֶת־ as the accusative/object sign and translate, "I have acquired a man – the Yahweh." They suggest that the woman thought (mistakenly) that she had given birth to the incarnate Yahweh, the Messiah who would bruise the Serpent’s head. This fanciful suggestion is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen 3:15LEB (see the note there on the word "heel").


Since Exod 6:3 seems to indicate that the name Yahweh (יְהוָה, yéhvah, translated Yahweh) was first revealed to Moses (see also Exod 3:14LEB), it is odd to see it used in quotations in Genesis by people who lived long before Moses. This problem has been resolved in various ways: (1) Source critics propose that Exod 6:3 is part of the "P" (or priestly) tradition, which is at odds with the "J" (or Yahwistic) tradition. (2) Many propose that "name" in Exod 6:3 does not refer to the divine name per se, but to the character suggested by the name. Elohim appeared to the patriarchs primarily in the role of El Shaddai, the giver of fertility, not as Yahweh, the one who fulfills his promises. In this case the patriarchs knew the name Yahweh, but had not experienced the full significance of the name. In this regard it is possible that Exod 6:3LEB should not be translated as a statement of denial, but as an affirmation followed by a rhetorical question implying that the patriarchs did indeed know Elohim by the name of Yahweh, just as they knew him as El Shaddai. D. A. Garrett, following the lead of F. Andersen, sees Exod 6:2–3LEB as displaying a paneled A/B parallelism and translates them as follows: (A) "I am Yahweh." (B) "And I made myself known to Abraham…as El Shaddai." (A’) "And my name is Yahweh"; (B’) "Did I not make myself known to them?" (D. A. Garrett, Rethinking Genesis, 21). However, even if one translates the text this way, the Yahweh’s words do not necessarily mean that he made the name Yahweh known to the fathers. Elohim is simply affirming that he now wants to be called Yahweh (see Exod 3:14–16LEB) and that he revealed himself in prior times as El Shaddai. If we stress the parallelism with B, the implied answer to the concluding question might be: "Yes, you did make yourself known to them – as El Shaddai!" The main point of the verse would be that El Shaddai, the Elohim of the fathers, and the Elohim who has just revealed himself to Moses as Yahweh are one and the same. (3) G. J. Wenham suggests that pre-Mosaic references to Yahweh are the product of the author/editor of Genesis, who wanted to be sure that Yahweh was identified with the Elohim of the fathers. In this regard, note how Yahweh is joined with another divine name or title in (Gen 9:26–27; 14:22; 15:2, 15:8; 24:3, 24:7, 12, 27, 42, 48; 27:20; 32:9LEB). The angel uses the name Yahweh when instructing Hagar concerning her child’s name, but the actual name (Ishma-el, "El hears") suggests that El, not Yahweh, originally appeared in the angel’s statement (Gen 16:11LEB). In her response to the angel Hagar calls Elohim El, not Yahweh (Gen 16:13LEB). In Gen 22:14LEB Abraham names the place of sacrifice "Yahweh Will Provide" (Gen 16LEB), but in v. 8 he declares, "Elohim will provide." Elohim uses the name Yahweh when speaking to Jacob at Bethel (Gen 28:13LEB) and Jacob also uses the name when he awakens from the dream (Gen 28:16LEB). Nevertheless he names the place Beth-el ("house of El"). In Gen 31:49LEB Laban prays, "May Yahweh keep watch," but in Gen 31:50LEB he declares, "Elohim is a witness between you and me." Yahweh’s use of the name in 15:7 and 18:14 may reflect theological idiom, while the use in 18:19 is within a soliloquy. (Other uses of Yahweh in quotations occur in (Gen 16:2, 5; 24:31, 35, 40, 42, 44, 48, 50, 51, 56; 26:22, 28–29; 27:7, 27; 29:32–35; 30:24, 30; 49:18LEB. In these cases there is no contextual indication that a different name was originally used.) For a fuller discussion of this proposal, see G. J. Wenham, "The Religion of the Patriarchs," Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives, 189–93.


Notes for Gen 4:2LEB

Heb "And she again gave birth."


The name Abel is not defined here in the text, but the tone is ominous. Abel’s name, the Hebrew word הֶבֶל (hevel), means "breath, vapor, vanity," foreshadowing Abel’s untimely and premature death.


Heb "and Abel was a shepherd of the flock, and Cain was a worker of the ground." The designations of the two occupations are expressed with active participles, רֹעֵה (roeh, "shepherd") and עֹבֵד (’oved, "worker"). Abel is occupied with sheep, whereas Cain is living under the curse, cultivating the ground.


Notes for Gen 4:3LEB

Heb "And it happened at the end of days." The clause indicates the passing of a set period of time leading up to offering sacrifices.


The Hebrew term מִנְחָה (minkhah, "offering") is a general word for tribute, a gift, or an offering. It is the main word used in Lev 2 for the dedication offering. This type of offering could be comprised of vegetables. The content of the offering (vegetables, as opposed to animals) was not the critical issue, but rather the attitude of the offerer.


Notes for Gen 4:4LEB

Heb "But Abel brought, also he…." The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) stresses the contrast between Cain’s offering and Abel’s.


Two prepositional phrases are used to qualify the kind of sacrifice that Abel brought: "from the firstborn" and "from the fattest of them." These also could be interpreted as a hendiadys: "from the fattest of the firstborn of the flock." Another option is to understand the second prepositional phrase as referring to the fat portions of the sacrificial sheep. In this case one may translate, "some of the firstborn of his flock, even some of their fat portions" (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV).


Here are two types of worshipers – one (Cain) merely discharges a duty at the proper time, while the other (Abel) goes out of his way to please Elohim with the first and the best.


The Hebrew verb שָׁעָה (shaah) simply means "to gaze at, to have regard for, to look on with favor [or "with devotion"]." The text does not indicate how this was communicated, but it indicates that Cain and Abel knew immediately. Either there was some manifestation of divine pleasure given to Abel and withheld from Cain (fire consuming the sacrifice?), or there was an inner awareness of divine response.


Notes for Gen 4:5LEB

The Letter to the Hebrews explains the difference between the brothers as one of faith – Abel by faith offered a better sacrifice. Cain’s offering as well as his reaction to Elohim’s displeasure did not reflect faith. See further B. K. Waltke, "Cain and His Offering," WTJ 48 (1986): 363-72.


Heb "and it was hot to Cain." This Hebrew idiom means that Cain "burned" with anger.


Heb "And his face fell." The idiom means that the inner anger is reflected in Cain’s facial expression. The fallen or downcast face expresses anger, dejection, or depression. Conversely, in Num 6 the high priestly blessing speaks of the Yahweh lifting up his face and giving peace.


Notes for Gen 4:7LEB

The introduction of the conditional clause with an interrogative particle prods the answer from Cain, as if he should have known this. It is not a condemnation, but an encouragement to do what is right.


The Hebrew text is difficult, because only one word occurs, שְׂאֵת (et), which appears to be the infinitive construct from the verb "to lift up" (נָאָשׂ, naas). The sentence reads: "If you do well, uplifting." On the surface it seems to be the opposite of the fallen face. Everything will be changed if he does well. Elohim will show him favor, he will not be angry, and his face will reflect that. But more may be intended since the second half of the verse forms the contrast: "If you do not do well, sin is crouching…." Not doing well leads to sinful attack; doing well leads to victory and Elohim’s blessing.


The Hebrew term translated "crouching" (רֹבֵץ, rovets) is an active participle. Sin is portrayed with animal imagery here as a beast crouching and ready to pounce (a figure of speech known as zoomorphism). An Akkadian cognate refers to a type of demon; in this case perhaps one could translate, "Sin is the demon at the door" (see E. A. Speiser, Genesis [AB], 29, 32–33).


Heb "and toward you [is] its desire, but you must rule over it." As in Gen 3:16LEB, the Hebrew noun "desire" refers to an urge to control or dominate. Here the desire is that which sin has for Cain, a desire to control for the sake of evil, but Cain must have mastery over it. The imperfect is understood as having an obligatory sense. Another option is to understand it as expressing potential ("you can have [or "are capable of having"] mastery over it."). It will be a struggle, but sin can be defeated by righteousness. In addition to this connection to Gen 3, other linguistic and thematic links between chaps. 3 and 4 are discussed by A. J. Hauser, "Linguistic and Thematic Links Between Genesis 4:1–6LEB and Genesis 2–3, " JETS 23 (1980): 297-306.


Notes for Gen 4:8LEB

The MT has simply "and Cain said to Abel his brother," omitting Cain’s words to Abel. It is possible that the elliptical text is original. Perhaps the author uses the technique of aposiopesis, "a sudden silence" to create tension. In the midst of the story the narrator suddenly rushes ahead to what happened in the field. It is more likely that the ancient versions (Samaritan Pentateuch, LXX, Vulgate, and Syriac), which include Cain’s words, "Let’s go out to the field," preserve the original reading here. After writing

אָחִיו (’akhiyv, "his brother"), a scribe’s eye may have jumped to the end of the form בַּשָּׂדֶה (basadeh, "to the field") and accidentally omitted the quotation. This would be an error of virtual homoioteleuton. In older phases of the Hebrew script the sequence יו (yod-vav) on אָחִיו is graphically similar to the final ה (he) on בַּשָּׂדֶה.


Heb "arose against" (in a hostile sense).


The word "brother" appears six times in vv. 8–11, stressing the shocking nature of Cain’s fratricide (see 1 John 3:12LEB).


Notes for Gen 4:9LEB

Where is Abel your brother? Again the Yahweh confronts a guilty sinner with a rhetorical question (see Gen 3:9–13LEB), asking for an explanation of what has happened.


Heb "The one guarding my brother [am] I?"


Am I my brother’s guardian? Cain lies and then responds with a defiant rhetorical question of his own in which he repudiates any responsibility for his brother. But his question is ironic, for he is responsible for his brother’s fate, especially if he wanted to kill him. See P. A. Riemann, "Am I My Brother’s Keeper?" Int 24 (1970): 482-91.


Notes for Gen 4:10LEB

What have you done? Again the Yahweh’s question is rhetorical (see Gen 3:13LEB), condemning Cain for his sin.


The word "voice" is a personification; the evidence of Abel’s shed blood condemns Cain, just as a human eyewitness would testify in court. For helpful insights, see G. von Rad, Biblical Interpretations in Preaching; and L. Morris, "The Biblical Use of the Term ‘Blood,’" JTS 6 (1955/56): 77-82.


Notes for Gen 4:11LEB

Heb "cursed are you from the ground." As in Gen 3:14LEB, the word "cursed," a passive participle from אָרָר (’arar), either means "punished" or "banished," depending on how one interprets the following preposition. If the preposition is taken as indicating source, then the idea is "cursed (i.e., punished) are you from [i.e., "through the agency of"] the ground" (see v. 12a). If the preposition is taken as separative, then the idea is "cursed and banished from the ground." In this case the ground rejects Cain’s efforts in such a way that he is banished from the ground and forced to become a fugitive out in the earth (see vv. 12b, 14).


Notes for Gen 4:12LEB

Heb "work."


Heb "it will not again (תֹסֵף, tosef) give (תֵּת, tet)," meaning the ground will no longer yield. In translation the infinitive becomes the main verb, and the imperfect verb form becomes adverbial.


Heb "its strength."


Two similar sounding synonyms are used here: נָע וָנָד (na vanad, "a wanderer and a fugitive"). This juxtaposition of synonyms emphasizes the single idea. In translation one can serve as the main description, the other as a modifier. Other translation options include "a wandering fugitive" and a "ceaseless wanderer" (cf. NIV).


Notes for Gen 4:13LEB

The primary meaning of the Hebrew word עָוֹן (’avon) is "sin, iniquity." But by metonymy it can refer to the "guilt" of sin, or to "punishment" for sin. The third meaning applies here. Just before this the Yahweh announces the punishment for Cain’s actions, and right after this statement Cain complains of the severity of the punishment. Cain is not portrayed as repenting of his sin.


Heb "great is my punishment from bearing." The preposition

מִן (min, "from") is used here in a comparative sense.


Notes for Gen 4:14LEB

Heb "from upon the surface of the ground."I must hide from your presence. The motif of hiding from the Yahweh as a result of sin also appears in Gen 3:8–10LEB.


Notes for Gen 4:15LEB

The Hebrew term לָכֵן (lakhen, "therefore") in this context carries the sense of "Okay," or "in that case then I will do this."


The symbolic number seven is used here to emphasize that the offender will receive severe punishment. For other rhetorical and hyperbolic uses of the expression "seven times over," see (Ps 12:6; 79:12; Prov 6:31; Isa 30:26LEB).


Heb "sign"; "reminder." The term "sign" is not used in the translation because it might imply to an English reader that Elohim hung a sign on Cain. The text does not identify what the "sign" was. It must have been some outward, visual reminder of Cain’s special protected status.


Elohim becomes Cain’s protector. Here is common grace – Cain and his community will live on under Elohim’s care, but without salvation.


Notes for Gen 4:16LEB

The name Nod means "wandering" in Hebrew (see vv. 12, 14).


Notes for Gen 4:17LEB

Heb "knew," a frequent euphemism for sexual relations. Or "she conceived."


Heb "according to the name of."


Notes for Gen 4:18LEB

Heb "and Irad fathered."


Notes for Gen 4:20LEB

Heb "father." In this passage the word "father" means "founder," referring to the first to establish such lifestyles and occupations.


The word "keep" is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation. Other words that might be supplied instead are "tend," "raise" (NIV), or "have" (NRSV).


Notes for Gen 4:22LEB

The traditional rendering here, "who forged" (or "a forger of") is now more commonly associated with counterfeit or fraud (e.g., "forged copies" or "forged checks") than with the forging of metal. The phrase "heated metal and shaped [it]" has been used in the translation instead.


Notes for Gen 4:23LEB

The Hebrew term יֶלֶד (yeled) probably refers to a youthful warrior here, not a child.


Notes for Gen 4:24LEB

Seventy-seven times. Lamech seems to reason this way: If Cain, a murderer, is to be avenged seven times (see v. 15), then how much more one who has been unjustly wronged! Lamech misses the point of Elohim’s merciful treatment of Cain. Elohim was not establishing a principle of justice when he warned he would avenge Cain’s murder. In fact he was trying to limit the shedding of blood, something Lamech wants to multiply instead. The use of "seventy-seven," a multiple of seven, is hyperbolic, emphasizing the extreme severity of the vengeance envisioned by Lamech.


Notes for Gen 4:25LEB

Heb "knew," a frequent euphemism for sexual relations. Or "she conceived."


The name Seth probably means something like "placed"; "appointed"; "set"; "granted," assuming it is actually related to the verb that is used in the sentiment. At any rate, the name שֵׁת (shet) and the verb שָׁת (shat, "to place, to appoint, to set, to grant") form a wordplay (paronomasia).


Heb "offspring."


Notes for Gen 4:26LEB

The word "people" is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation. The construction uses a passive verb without an expressed subject. "To call was begun" can be interpreted to mean that people began to call.


Heb "call in the name." The expression refers to worshiping the Yahweh through prayer and sacrifice (see Gen 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25LEB). See G. J. Wenham, Genesis (WBC), 1:116.