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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Genesis 4

 

 

Verse 1

IV.

THE FOUNDING OF THE FAMILY, AND COMMENCEMENT OF THE NON-PARADISIACAL LIFE.

(1) She . . . bare Cain, and said . . . —In this chapter we have the history of the founding of the family of Cain, a race godless and wanton, but who, nevertheless, far outstripped the descendants of Seth in the arts of civilisation. To tillage and a pastoral life they added metallurgy and music; and the knowledge not only of copper and its uses, but even of iron (Genesis 4:22), must have given them a command over the resources of nature so great as to have vastly diminished the curse of labour, and made their lives easy and luxurious.

I have gotten a man from the Lord.—Rather, who is Jehovah. It is inconceivable that eth should have here a different meaning from that which it has in Genesis 1:1. It there gives emphasis to the object of the verb: “God created eth the heaven and eth the earth,” that is, even the heaven and even the earth. So also here, “I have gotten a man eth Jehovah.” even Jehovah. The objection that this implies too advanced a knowledge of Messianic ideas is unfounded. It is we who read backward, and put our ideas into the words of the narrative. These words were intended to lead on to those ideas, but they were at present only as the germ, or as the filament in the acorn which contains the oak-tree. If there is one thing certain, it is that religious knowledge was given gradually, and that the significance of the name Jehovah was revealed by slow degrees. (See on Genesis 4:26.) Eve attached no notion of divinity to the name; still less did she foresee that by the superstition of the Jews the title Lord would be substituted for it. We distinctly know that Jehovah was not even the patriarchal name of the Deity (Exodus 6:3), and still less could it have been God’s title in Paradise. But Eve had received the promise that her seed should crush the head of her enemy, and to this promise her words referred, and the title in her mouth meant probably no more than “the coming One.” Apparently, too, it was out of Eve’s words that this most significant title of the covenant God arose. (See Excursus on names Elohim and Jehovah-Elohim, at end of this book.)

Further, Eve calls Cain “a man,” Heb., ish, a being. (See on Genesis 2:23.) As Cain was the first infant, no word as yet existed for child. But in calling him “a being, even the future one,” a lower sense, often attached to these words, is not to be altogether excluded. It has been said that Eve, in the birth of this child, saw the remedy for death. Death might slay the individual, but the existence of the race was secured. Her words therefore might be paraphrased: “I have gained a man, who is the pledge of future existence.” Mankind is thus that which shall exist. Now, it is one of the properties of Holy Scripture that words spoken in a lower and ordinary sense are often prophetic: so that even supposing that Eve meant no more than this, it would not exclude the higher interpretation. It is evident, however, from the fact of these words having been so treasured up, that they were regarded by Adam and his posterity as having no commonplace meaning; and this interpretation has a suspiciously modern look about it. Finally, in Christ alone man does exist and endure. He is the perfect man—man’s highest level; so that even thus there would be a presage of immortality for man in the saying, “I have gained a man, even he that shall become.” Grant that it was then but an indefinite yearning: it was one, nevertheless, which all future inspiration was to make distinct and clear; and now, under the guidance of the Spirit, it has become the especial title of the Second Person in the Holy Trinity.


Verse 2

(2) Abel.—Of this name Dr. Oppert imagined that it was the Assyrian Abil, a son. Really it is Hebel; and there is no reason why we should prefer an Assyrian to a Hebrew etymology. An Accadian derivation would have been important, but Assyrian is only a Semitic dialect, and Abil is the Hebrew ben. Hebel means a thing unstable, not abiding, like a breath or vapour. Now, we can scarcely suppose that Eve so called her child from a presentiment of evil or a mere passing depression of spirits; more probably it was a title given to him after his untimely death. Giving names to children would become usual only when population increased; and it was not till a religious rite was instituted for their dedication to God that they had names given to them in their infancy. Even then Esau was changed to Edom, and Jacob to Israel, while previously such names as Eber and Peleg, and earlier still Jabal and Jubal, must have been given to those who bore them from what they became. Such names too as Esau, Jacob, and most of those borne by Jacob’s children, seem to have been playful titles, given them in the women’s tents by quick-witted nurses, who caught up any chance words of the mother, until at length it became the Jewish rule for women to name their children. Probably, therefore, it was only after Abel’s death that his sorrowing relatives called him the Breath that had passed away.

Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.—As Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born (Genesis 5:3), there was a long period for the increase of Adam’s family (comp. Genesis 4:14-17), and also for the development of the characters of these his two eldest sons. In the one we seem to see a rough, strong nature, who took the hard work as he found it, and subdued the ground with muscular energy; in the other a nature more refined and thoughtful, and making progress upwards. Adam had already tamed animals in Paradise: to these Abel devotes himself, tends them carefully, and gains from them ample and easy means of sustenance, higher in kind even than the fruits of Paradise. Round these two the other sons and daughters of Adam group themselves, and Cain seems already to have had a wife when he murdered his brother (Genesis 4:17).


Verse 3-4

(3, 4) In process of time.—Heb., at the end of days: not at the end of a week, or a year, or of harvest-time, but of a long indefinite period, shown by the age of Adam at the birth of Seth to have been something less than 130 years.

An offering.—Heb., a thank-offering, a present. We must be careful not to introduce here any of the later Levitical ideas about sacrifice. All that we know about this offering is that it was an act of worship, and apparently something usual. Now, each brought of his own produce, and one was accepted and one rejected. Why? Much ingenuity has been wasted on this question, as though Cain erred on technical grounds; whereas we are expressly told in Hebrews 11:4 that Abel’s was the more excellent sacrifice, because offered “in faith.” It was the state of their hearts that made the difference; though, as the result of unbelief, Cain’s may have been a scanty present of common produce, and not of first-fruits, while Abel brought “firstlings, and of the fat thereof,” the choicest portion. Abel may also have shown a deeper faith in the promised Deliverer by offering an animal sacrifice: and certainly the acceptance of his sacrifice quickened among men the belief that the proper way of approaching God was by the death of a victim. But Cain’s unbloody sacrifice had also a great future before it. It became the minchah of the Levitical law, and under the Christian dispensation is the offering of prayer and praise, and especially the Eucharistic thanksgiving. We have already noticed that Abel’s sacrifice shows that flesh was probably eaten on solemn occasions. Had animals been killed only for their skins for clothing, repulsive ideas would have been connected with the carcases cast aside to decay; nor would Abel have attached any value to firstlings. But as soon as the rich abundance of Paradise was over, man would quickly learn to eke out the scanty produce of the soil by killing wild animals and the young of his own flocks.

The Lord had respect.—Heb., looked upon, showed that He had seen it. It has been supposed that some visible sign of God’s favour was given, and the current idea among the fathers was that fire fell from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice. (Comp. Leviticus 9:24.) But there is real irreverence in thus filling up the narrative; and it is enough to know that the brothers were aware that God was pleased with the one and displeased with the other. More important is it to notice, first, that God’s familiar presence was not withdrawn from man after the fall. He talked with Cain as kindly as with Adam of old. And secondly, in these, the earliest, records of mankind religion is built upon love, and the Deity appears as man’s personal friend. This negatives the scientific theory that religion grew out of dim fears and terror at natural phenomena, ending gradually in the evolution of the idea of a destructive and dangerous power outside of man, which man must propitiate as best he could.


Verse 5

(5) Cain was very wroth.—Heb., it burned to Cain exceedingly: that is, his heart was full of hot indignant feelings, because of the preference shown to his younger brother.


Verse 7

(7) If thou doest well.—This most difficult verse is capable of a satisfactory interpretation, provided that we refuse to admit into this ancient narrative the ideas of a subsequent age. Literally, the words mean, If thou doest well, is there not lifting up? It had just been said that his countenance fell; and this lifting up is often elsewhere applied to the countenance. (Comp. Job 10:15; Job 11:15.) “Instead, then, of thy present gloomy despondent mood, in which thou goest about with downcast look, thou shalt lift up thy head, and have peace and good temper beaming in thine eyes as the result of a quiet conscience.” The second half of the verse is capable of two meanings. First: “if thou doest not well, sin lieth (croucheth as a beast of prey) at the door, and its desire is to thee, to make thee its victim; but thou shalt rule over it, and overcome the temptation.” The objection to this is: that while sin is feminine, the verb and pronouns are masculine. There are, indeed, numerous instances of a verb masculine with a noun feminine, but the pronouns are fatal, though most Jewish interpreters adopt this feeble explanation. The other interpretation is: “If thou doest not well, sin croucheth at the door, that is, lies dangerously near thee, and puts thee in peril. Beware, therefore, and stand on thy guard; and then his desire shall be unto thee, and thou shalt rule over him. At present thou art vexed and envious because thy younger brother is rich and prosperous, while thy tillage yields thee but scanty returns. Do well, and the Divine blessing will rest on thee, and thou wilt recover thy rights of primogeniture, and thy brother will look up to thee in loving obedience.” (Comp. the loving subjection of the wife in Genesis 3:16.)

We have in this verse proof of a struggle in Cain’s conscience. Abel was evidently outstripping him in wealth; his flocks were multiplying, and possibly his younger brothers were attaching themselves to him in greater numbers than to Cain. Moreover, there was a more marked moral growth in him, and his virtue and piety were more attractive than Cain’s harsher disposition. This had led to envy and malice on the part of Cain, increased, doubtless, by the favour of God shown to Abel’s sacrifice; but he seems to have resisted these evil feelings. Jehovah would not have remonstrated thus kindly with him had he been altogether reprobate. Possibly, too, for a time he prevailed over his evil tempers. It is a gratuitous assumption that the murder followed immediately upon the sacrifice. The words of the Almighty rather show that repentance was still possible, and that Cain might still recover the Divine favour, and thereby regain that pre-eminence which was his by right of primogeniture, but which he felt that he was rapidly losing by Abel’s prosperity and more loving ways.


Verse 8

(8) And Cain talked with Abel his brother.—Heb., And Cain said unto Abel his brother. To this the Samaritan Pentateuch, the LXX., the Syriac, and the Vulg. add, “Let us go out into the field;” but neither the Targum of Onkelos nor any Hebrew MS. or authority, except the Jerusalem Targum, give this addition any support. The authority of the versions is, however, very great: first, because Hebrew MSS. are all comparatively modern; and secondly, because all at present known represent only the Recension of the Masorites. Sooner or later some manuscript may be found which will enable scholars to form a critical judgment upon those places where the versions represent a different text. If we could, with the Authorised Version, translate “Cain talked with Abel,” this would imply that Cain triumphed for a time over his angry feelings, and resumed friendly intercourse with his brother. But such a rendering is impossible, as also is one that has been suggested, “Cain told it unto Abel his brother” that is, told all that had passed between him and Jehovah. Either, therefore, we must accept the addition of the versions, or regard the passage as at present beyond our powers.

It came to pass, when they were in the field.—The open, uncultivated land, where Abel’s flocks would find pasture. We cannot suppose that this murder was premeditated. Cain did not even know what a human death was. But, as Philippson remarks, there was a perpetual struggle between the husbandmen who cultivated fixed plots of ground and the wandering shepherds whose flocks were too prone to stray upon the tilled fields. Possibly Abel’s flocks had trespassed on Cain’s land, and when he went to remonstrate, his envy was stirred at the sight of his brother’s affluence. A quarrel ensued, and Cain, in that fierce anger, to fits of which he was liable (Genesis 4:5), tried to enforce his mastery by blows, and before he well knew what he was doing, he had shed his brother’s blood, and stood in terror before the first human corpse.


Verse 9

(9) And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?—It is the beauty of these early narratives that the dealings of the Deity with mankind are all clothed in an anthropomorphic form, for the reasons of which see Note on Genesis 2:7. It seems, then, that Cain at first went away, scarcely conscious of the greatness of his crime. He had asserted his rights, had suppressed the usurpation of his privileges by the younger son, and if he had used force it was his brother’s fault for resisting him. So Jacob afterwards won the birthright by subtilty, and would have paid the same fearful penalty but for timely flight, and rich presents afterwards. But Cain could not quiet his conscience; remorse tracked his footsteps; and when in the household Abel came not, and the question was asked, Where is Abel? the voice of God repeated it in his own heart, Where is Abel, thy brother!—brother still, and offspring of the same womb, even if too prosperous. But the strong-willed man resists. What has he to do with Abel? Is he “his brother’s keeper?”


Verse 10

(10) Thy brother’s blood crieth unto me.—The sight he has seen of death cleaves to him, and grows into a terror; and from above the voice of Jehovah tells him that the blood he has shed calls aloud for vengeance. Thus with the first shedding of human blood that ominous thought sprang up, divinely bestowed, that the earth will grant no peace to the wretch who has stained her fair face with the life stream of man. But “the blood of Jesus speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). The voice of one cried for justice and retribution: the other for reconciliation and peace.


Verse 11-12

(11, 12) And now (because of thy crime) art thou cursed from the earth.—Heb., from the adâmâh, or cultivated ground. Cain was the first human being on whom a curse was inflicted, and it was to rise up from the ground, the portion of the earth won and subdued by man, to punish him. He had polluted man’s habitation, and now, when he tilled the soil, it would resist him as an enemy, by refusing “to yield unto him her strength.” He had been an unsuccessful man before, and outstripped in the race of life by the younger son; for the future his struggle with the conditions of life will be still harder. The reason for this follows: “a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” Restless and uneasy, and haunted by the remembrance of his crime, he shall become a wanderer, not merely in the adâmâh, his native soil, but in the earth. Poverty must necessarily be the lot of one thus roaming, not in search of a better lot, but under the compulsion of an evil conscience. Finally, however, we find that Cain’s feelings grew more calm, and being comforted by the presence of a wife and children, “he builded a city,” and had at last a home.


Verse 13-14

(13, 14) My punishment (or my iniquity) is greater than I can bear.—Literally, than can be borne, or “forgiven.” It is in accordance with the manner of the Hebrew language to have only one word for an act and its result. Thus work and wages are expressed by the same word in Isaiah 62:11. The full meaning, therefore, is, “My sin is past forgiveness, and its result is an intolerable punishment.” This latter idea seems foremost in Cain’s mind, and is dwelt upon in Genesis 4:14. He there complains that he is driven, not “from the face of the earth,” which was impossible, but from the adâmâh, his dear native soil, banished from which, he must go into the silence and solitude of an earth unknown and untracked. And next, “from thy face shall I be hid.” Naturally, Cain had no idea of an omnipresent God, and away from the adâmâh he supposed that it would be impossible to enjoy the Divine favour and protection. Without this there would be no safety for him anywhere, so that he must rove about perpetually, and “every one that findeth me shall slay me.” In the adâmâh Jehovah would protect him; away from it, men, unseen by Jehovah, might do as they liked. But who were these men? Some commentators answer, Adam’s other sons, especially those who had attached themselves to Abel. Others say that Adam’s creation was not identical with that of Genesis 1:27, but was that of the highest type of the human race, and had been preceded by the production of inferior races, of whose existence there are widespread proofs. But others, with more probability, think that Cain’s was a vain apprehension. How could he know that Adam and his family were the sole inhabitants of the earth? Naturally he expected to find farther on what he had left behind; a man and woman with stalwart sons: and that these, regarding him as an interloper come to rob them, and seeing in his ways proof of guilt, would at once attack and slay him.


Verse 15

(15) The Lord said unto him, Therefore.—Most of the versions have Not so, which requires only a slight and probable change of the Hebrew text.

Sevenfold.—Cain’s punishment was severe, because his crime was the result of bad and violent passions, but his life was not taken because the act was not premeditated. Murder was more than he had meant. But as any one killing him would mean murder, therefore the vengeance would be sevenfold: that is, complete, seven being the number of perfection. Others, however, consider that Cain’s life was under a religious safeguard, seven being the sacred number of creation. In this we have the germ of the merciful law which set cities of refuge apart for the involuntary manslayer.

The Lord set a mark upon Cain.—This rendering suggests an utterly false idea. Cain was not branded nor marked in any way. What the Hebrew says is, “And Jehovah set,” that is, appointed, “unto Cain a sign, that no one finding him should slay him.” In a similar manner God appointed the rainbow as a sign unto Noah that mankind should never again be destroyed by a flood. Probably the sign here was also some natural phenomenon, the regular recurrence of which would assure Cain of his security, and so pacify his excited feelings.


Verse 16

(16) Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.—See Note on Genesis 3:8. Adam and his family probably worshipped with their faces towards the Paradise, and Cain, on migrating from the whole land of Eden, regarded himself as beyond the range of the vision of God. (See Note on Genesis 4:14.)

The land of Nod.—i.e., of wandering. Knobel supposes it was China, but this is too remote. Read without vowels, the word becomes India. All that is certain is that Cain emigrated into Eastern Asia, and as none of Noah’s descendants, in the table of nations in Genesis 10, are described as having travelled eastward, many with Philippson and Knobel regard the Mongol race as the offspring of Cain.


Verse 17

CAIN AND HIS DESCENDANTS.

(17) Cain knew his wife.—As Jehovah had told Eve that He would “greatly multiply her conception” (Genesis 3:16), we cannot doubt but that a numerous offspring had grown up in the 130 years that intervened between the birth of Cain and that of Seth, the substitute for Abel. As a rule, only the eldest son is mentioned in the genealogies, and Abel’s birth is chronicled chiefly because of his tragical end, leading to the enactment of the merciful law which followed and to the sundering of the human race. One of Adam’s daughters apparently clave unto her brother, in spite of the solemn decree of banishment passed upon him, probably, by his father, and followed him in his wanderings as his wife, and bare him a son, whom they called “Enoch.” Now this name, in Hebrew Chanoch, is of the utmost importance in estimating Cain’s character. It means train in Proverbs 22:6 (“Train up a child”), but is used in Deuteronomy 20:5 of the dedication of a house; and thus Cain also calls his city “Enoch,” dedicated. But in old times the ideas of training and dedication were closely allied, because teaching generally took the form of initiation into sacred rites, and one so initiated was regarded as a consecrated person. Though, then, the wife may have had most to do with giving the name, yet we see in it a purpose that the child should be a trained and consecrated man; and Cain must have now put off those fierce and violent habits which had led him into so terrible a crime. We may add that this prepares our minds for the rapid advance of the Cainites in the arts of civilisation, and for the very remarkable step next taken by Cain.

He builded a city.—Heb., was building, that is, began to build a city. There was not as yet population enough for a city, but Cain, as his offspring increased, determined that they should dwell together, under training, in some dedicated common abode. He probably selected some fit spot for the acropolis, or citadel, to be the centre of his village; and as training is probably the earlier, and dedication the later meaning, Cain appears as a wise ruler, like Nimrod subsequently, rather than as a religious man. His purpose was much the same as that of the builders of the Tower of Babel, who wanted to keep mankind together that they might form a powerful community. It is worth notice that in the line of Seth, the name of the seventh and noblest of that race, is also Enoch, whose training was a close walk with God.


Verse 18

(18) Unto Enoch was born Irad.—Cain was building a city, ‘Ir, and it was this probably which suggested the name ‘Irad. It has little in common with Jared, as it begins with a harsh guttural, usually omitted in English because unpronounceable, but which appears as g in Gomorrah. Possibly ‘Irad means citizen; but these names have been so corrupted by transcribers that we cannot feel sure of them. Thus, here the LXX. calls ‘Irad Gaïdad, and the Syriac ‘Idor. In the list that follows, the names Mehujael (Samaritan Michel, Syriac Mahvoyel), Methusael, Enoch, and Lamech (Heb., Lemech), have a certain degree of similitude with those in the line of the Sethites, whence many commentators have assumed that the two lists are variations of the same original record. But it is usually a similarity of sound only with a diversity of meaning. Thus Mehujael, smitten of God, answers to Mahalaleel, glory to God; Methusael, God’s hero, to Methuselah, the armed warrior. Even when the names are the same, their history is often most diverse. Thus in the Cainite line Enoch is initiation into city life, in the Sethite into a life of holiness; and the Cainite polygamist Lemech, rejoicing in the weapons invented by his son, is the very opposite of the Sethite Lemech, who calls his son Noah, quiet, rest


Verses 19-22

(19-22) Lamech took unto him two wives.—Whether polygamy began with Lamech is uncertain, but it is in keeping with the insolent character of the man. The names of his wives bear testimony to the existence, even at this early date, of considerable refinement; for I can scarcely believe that we need go to the Assyrian dialect for the meaning of two words for which Hebrew suffices. They are explained in Assyrian as being edhatu, “darkness,” and tzillatu, “the shades of night.” In Hebrew Adah means ornament, especially that which is for the decoration of the person; while Zillah means shadow, which agrees very closely with the Assyrian explanation. Both have distinguished children. Jabal, Adah’s eldest son, took to a nomadic life, whence his name, which means wanderer, and was looked up to by the nomad tribes as their founder. The difference between their mode of life and that of Abel was that they perpetually changed their habitation, while he remained in the neighbourhood of Adam’s dwelling. The younger, “Jubal,” that is, the music-player, “was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” Of these instruments, the kinnôr, always translated “harp” in our version, was certainly a stringed instrument, a guitar or lyre. The other, in Hebrew ‘ugab, is mentioned only in Job 21:12; Job 30:31; Psalms 150:4. It was a small wind instrument, a reed or pipe.

The son of Zillah attained to higher distinction. He is the first “sharpener (or hammerer) of every instrument of copper and iron.” Copper is constantly found cropping up in a comparatively pure state upon the surface of the ground, and was the first metal made use of by man. It is comparatively soft, and is easily beaten to an edge; but it was long before men learned the art of mixing with it an alloy of tin, and so producing the far harder substance, bronze. The alloy to which we give the name of brass was absolutely unknown to the ancients. The discovery of iron marks a far greater advance in metallurgy, as the ore has to be smelted, and the implement produced is more precious. The Greeks in the time of Homer seem to have known it only as a rarity imported from the north; and Rawlinson (Anc. Monarchies, i. 167) mentions that in Mesopotamia, while silver was the metal current in traffic, iron was so rare as to be regarded as something very precious. The name of this hero is “Tubal-cain.” In Ezekiel 27:13, Tubal brings copper to the mart of Tyre, and in Persian the word means copper. Cain is a distinct name from that of Adam’s firstborn, and means, in most Semitic languages, smith; thus Tubal-cain probably signifies coppersmith.

The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.—The same as Naomi (Ruth 1:2), and meaning beauty, loveliness. As women are not mentioned in the genealogies, and as no history follows of this personage, her name must be given as an indication that a great advance had been made, not only in the arts, but also in the elegancies of life. Women could not have been mere drudges and household slaves, nor men coarse and boorish, when Naamah’s beauty was so highly appreciated. The Rabbins have turned her into a demon, and given free play to their imagination in the stories they have invented concerning her.


Verse 23-24

(23, 24) Lamech said . . . —Following quickly upon music, we have poetry, but it is in praise of ferocity, and gives utterance to the pride of one who, by means of the weapons forged by his son, had taken violent revenge for an attack made upon him. Many commentators, however, regard the poem as hypothetical. “Were any one to wound me, I would with these weapons slay him.” It would thus be a song of exultation over the armour which Tubal-cain had invented. It more probably records a fact, and is intended to show that, side by side with progress in the material arts, moral degradation was going on. Cain’s own act is spoken of, not as a sin to be ashamed of, but as a deed of ancient heroism: not comparable, however, with the glory of Lamech, whose wrath shall be ten-fold. The poetry is vigorous, and marked by that parallelism which subsequently became the distinguishing quality of Hebrew verse. It should be translated:—

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice,

Ye wives of Lemech. give ear unto my rede.

For I have slain a man for wounding me:

Even a young man for bruising me.

Truly Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,

And Lemech seventy and sevenfold.”

It is remarkable that both of the words used for the attack upon Lamech refer to such wounds as might be given by a blow with the fist, while his word means to pierce, or run through with a sharp weapon. “Young man” is literally child, but see on Genesis 21:14.

With this boastful poem in praise of armed violence and bloodshed, joined with indications of luxury and a life of pleasure, the narrator closes the history of the race of Cain.


Verse 25

SUBSTITUTION OF SETH FOR ABEL.

(25) Another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.—Cain, the firstborn, and Abel, who had outstripped him in prosperity, were both lost to Adam. But instead of the third son succeeding to the place of the firstborn, it is given to one specially marked out, probably by prophecy, just as Solomon took the rights of primogeniture over the head of Adonijah.

Seth.—Heb., Sheth, that is, appointed, substituted: he was thus specially designated as the son who was to be the chief over Àdam’s family.


Verse 26

(26) He called his name Enos.—Heb., Enosh, that is, man. We thus find language growing. Up to this time there had been two names for man: Adam, which also in Assyrian—another Semitic dialect—has the same meaning, as Sir H. Rawlinson has shown: and Ish, a being. (See on Genesis 2:23.) We have now Enosh, which, according to Fürst and others, signifies mortal; but of this there is no proof. Most probably it is the generic word for man. and is used as such in the Aramaic dialects. Thus in Syriac and Chaldee our Lord is styled bar-enosh, the son of man: not the son of a mortal, but the son of man absolutely.

Then began men (Heb., then it was begun) to call upon the name of the Lord (Jehovah).—That is, the notion of Divinity began now to be attached to this name, and even in their worship men called upon God as Jehovah. Eve, as we have seen, attached no such idea to it; and when, in Genesis 4:3, we read that Cain and Abel brought an offering to Jehovah, these are the words of the narrator, who in the story of the fall had expressly styled the Deity Jehovah-Elohim, that is, Jehovah-God, or more exactly, “the coming God,” in order to show that Elohim and Jehovah are one. Two hundred and thirty-five years had elapsed between the birth of Cain and that of Enos, and men had learned a truer appreciation of the promise given to their primal mother, in Genesis 3:15, than she herself had when she supposed that her first child was to win back for her the Paradise. Probably they had no exact doctrinal views about His person and nature; it was the office of prophecy “by divers portions” to give these (Hebrews 1:1). But they had been taught that “He who should be” was Divine, and to be worshipped. It is the hopeless error of commentators to suppose that Eve, and Enos, and others, knew all that is now known, and all that the inspired narrator knew. They thus do violence to the plainest language of Holy Scripture, and involve its interpretation in utter confusion. Read without these preconceived notions, the sense is plain: that the name Jehovah had now become a title of the Deity, whereas previously no such sacredness had been attached to it. It was long afterwards, in the days of Moses, that it became the personal name of the covenant God of the Jews.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis 4:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/genesis-4.html. 1905.

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