Genesis (Part 22)

Genesis 4:8-16

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

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Abel = הֶבֶל Hebel, heh’-bel; the same as H1892; Hebel, the son of Adam:—Abel. H1892 = הֶבֶלhebel, heh’bel; or (rarely in the abs.) הֲבֵל hăbêl; from H1891; emptiness or vanity; figuratively, something transitory and unsatisfactory; often used as an adverb:—× altogether, vain, vanity.

I always thought this name meaning was interesting.

Was Cain’s act a crime of passion or a premeditated murder?

Pulpit Commentary:

Verse 8. – And Cain talked with (literally, said tohis brother. Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον (LXX.); egrediamur foras (Vulgate). The Samaritan and Syriac versions interpolate to the same effect. The Jerusalem Targum explains – “Cainum cure Abele contendisse de vita aetcrna, de extremo judicio, et providentia divina,” inserting a long conversation commencing, “Veni, egrediamur ad superficiem agri;” but the obvious supplement is to be found in the subject matter of the previous verse (Hieronynms, Aben Ezra, Gesenius). It is not against this that it argues too much moral goodness in Cain to suppose that he would tell his younger brother of Jehovah’s admonition (Knobel); and it certainly relieves us from the necessity of adding to the moral turpitude of the unhappy fratricide by depicting him as deliberately planning his favored brother’s murder, carrying the fell purpose within his guilty bosom, watching his opportunity (Bottcher and Knobel, who substitute שָׁמַר he watched, for אָמַר, he said), and at last accomplishing his unhallowed purpose by means of treachery. Beyond all question the historian designs to describe not an act of culpable homicide, but a deed of red-handed murder; yet the impression which his language conveys is that of a crime rather suddenly conceived and hurriedly performed than deliberately planned and treacherously executed. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

By contrast though, David Guzik:

4. (Gen 4:8) Cain murders Abel.

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

a. Now Cain talked with Abel his brother: The sense is that Cain planned to catch Abel by surprise, lulling him with pleasant conversation. This shows Cain committed premeditated murder, and therefore clearly ignored God’s way of escape.

b. Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him: No human had ever died or been killed before, but Cain saw how animals were be killed for sacrifice. He extinguished Abel’s life in the same way.

i. The downward course of sin among the young human race progressed quickly. Now the hoped-for redeemer was found to be a murderer, and the second son was the victim of murder. Sin wasn’t stopped at the root or man’s moral condition quickly improved. Sin could not be contained.

Two experts. Two opposite opinions. Personally, I believe the text is ambiguous. In any event though, we proceed to Cain’s punishment.

From the Matthew Henry Commentary:

Verses 9–12

We have here a full account of the trial and condemnation of the first murderer. Civil courts of judicature not being yet erected for this purpose, as they were afterwards (Gen. 9:6), God himself sits Judge; for he is the God to whom vengeance belongs, and who will be sure to make inquisition for blood, especially the blood of saints. Observe,

I. The arraignment of Cain: The Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? Some think Cain was thus examined the next sabbath after the murder was committed, when the sons of God came, as usual, to present themselves before the Lord, in a religious assembly, and Abel was missing, whose place did not use to be empty; for the God of heaven takes notice who is present at and who is absent from public ordinances. Cain is asked, not only because there is just cause to suspect him, he having discovered a malice against Abel and having been last with him, but because God knew him to be guilty; yet he asks him, that he may draw from him a confession of his crime, for those who would be justified before God must accuse themselves, and the penitent will do so.

II. Cain’s plea: he pleads not guilty, and adds rebellion to his sin. For, 1. He endeavours to cover a deliberate murder with a deliberate lie: I know not. He knew well enough what had become of Abel, and yet had the impudence to deny it. Thus, in Cain, the devil was both a murderer and a liar from the beginning. See how sinners’ minds are blinded, and their hearts hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: those are strangely blind that think it possible to conceal their sins from a God that sees all, and those are strangely hard that think it desirable to conceal them from a God who pardons those only that confess. 2. He impudently charges his Judge with folly and injustice, in putting this question to him: Amos I my brother’s keeper? He should have humbled himself, and have said, Amos not I my brother’s murderer? But he flies in the face of God himself, as if he had asked him an impertinent question, to which he was no way obliged to give an answer: “Amos I my brother’s keeper? Surely he is old enough to take care of himself, nor did I ever take any charge of him.” Some think he reflects on God and his providence, as if he had said, “Art not thou his keeper? If he be missing, on thee be the blame, and not on me, who never undertook to keep him.” Note, A charitable concern for our brethren, as their keepers, is a great duty, which is strictly required of us, but is generally neglected by us. Those who are unconcerned in the affairs of their brethren, and take no care, when they have opportunity, to prevent their hurt in their bodies, goods, or good name, especially in their souls, do, in effect, speak Cain’s language. See Lev. 19:17; Phil. 2:4.

III. The conviction of Cain, Gen. 4:10. God gave no direct answer to his question, but rejected his plea as false and frivolous: “What hast thou done? Thou makest a light matter of it; but hast thou considered what an evil thing it is, how deep the stain, how heavy the burden, of this guilt is? Thou thinkest to conceal it, but it is to no purpose, the evidence against thee is clear and incontestable: The voice of thy brother’s blood cries.” He speaks as if the blood itself were both witness and prosecutor, because God’s own knowledge testified against him and God’s own justice demanded satisfaction. Observe here, 1. Murder is a crying sin, none more so. Blood calls for blood, the blood of the murdered for the blood of the murderer; it cries in the dying words of Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:22), The Lord look upon it and require it; or in those of the souls under the altar (Rev. 6:10), How long, Lord, holy, and true? The patient sufferers cried for pardon (Father, forgive them), but their blood cries for vengeance. Though they hold their peace, their blood has a loud and constant cry, to which the ear of the righteous God is always open. 2. The blood is said to cry from the ground, the earth, which is said to open her mouth to receive his brother’s blood from his handGen. 4:11. The earth did, as it were, blush to see her own face stained with such blood, and therefore opened her mouth to hide that which she could not hinder. When the heaven revealed Cain’s iniquity, the earth also rose up against him (Job 20:27), and groaned on being thus made subject to vanityRom. 8:20, 22. Cain, it is likely, buried the blood and the body, to conceal his crime; but “murder will out.” He did not bury them so deep but the cry of them reached heaven. 3. In the original the word is plural, thy brother’s bloods, not only his blood, but the blood of all those that might have descended from him; or the blood of all the seed of the woman, who should, in like manner, seal the truth with their blood. Christ puts all on one score (Matt. 23:35); or because account was kept of every drop of blood shed. How well is it for us that the blood of Christ speaks better things than that of Abel! Heb. 12:24. Abel’s blood cried for vengeance, Christ’s blood cries for pardon.

IV. The sentence passed upon Cain: And now art thou cursed from the earthGen. 4:11. Observe here,

1. He is cursed, separated to all evil, laid under the wrath of God, as it is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, Rom. 1:18. Who knows the extent and weight of a divine curse, how far it reaches, how deep it pierces? God’s pronouncing a man cursed makes him so; for those whom he curses are cursed indeed. The curse for Adam’s disobedience terminated on the ground: Cursed is the ground for thy sake; but that for Cain’s rebellion fell immediately upon himself: Thou art cursed; for God had mercy in store for Adam, but none for Cain. We have all deserved this curse, and it is only in Christ that believers are saved from it and inherit the blessing, Gal. 3:10, 13.

2. He is cursed from the earth. Thence the cry came up to God, thence the curse came up to Cain. God could have taken vengeance by an immediate stroke from heaven, by the sword of an angel, or by a thunderbolt; but he chose to make the earth the avenger of blood, to continue him upon the earth, and not immediately to cut him off, and yet to make even this his curse. The earth is always near us, we cannot fly from it; so that, if this is made the executioner of divine wrath, our punishment is unavoidable: it is sin, that is, the punishment of sin, lying at the door. Cain found his punishment where he chose his portion and set his heart. Two things we expect from the earth, and by this curse both are denied to Cain and taken from him: sustenance and settlement. (1.) Sustenance out of the earth is here withheld from him. It is a curse upon him in his enjoyments, and particularly in his calling: When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee its strength. Note, Every creature is to us what God makes it, a comfort or a cross, a blessing or a curse. If the earth yield not her strength to us, we must therein acknowledge God’s righteousness; for we have not yielded our strength to him. The ground was cursed before to Adam, but it was now doubly cursed to Cain. That part of it which fell to his share, and of which he had the occupation, was made unfruitful and uncomfortable to him by the blood of Abel. Note, The wickedness of the wicked brings a curse upon all they do and all they have (Deut. 28:15-68), and this curse embitters all they have and disappoints them in all they do. (2.) Settlement on the earth is here denied him: A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. By this he was condemned, [1.] To perpetual disgrace and reproach among men. It should be ever looked upon as a scandalous thing to harbour him, converse with him, or show him any countenance. And justly was a man that had divested himself of all humanity abhorred and abandoned by all mankind, and made infamous. [2.] To perpetual disquietude and horror in his own mind. His own guilty conscience should haunt him wherever he went, and make him Magormissabib, a terror round about. What rest can those find, what settlement, that carry their own disturbance with them in their bosoms wherever they go? Those must needs be fugitives that are thus tossed. There is not a more restless fugitive upon earth than he that is continually pursued by his own guilt, nor a viler vagabond than he that is at the beck of his own lusts.

This was the sentence passed upon Cain; and even in this there was mercy mixed, inasmuch as he was not immediately cut off, but had space given him to repent; for God is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish.

I appreciate Henry’s framing of these verses as being akin to an arraignment, prosecution, and sentencing hearing.

There is some haunting imagery from these verses:

  • “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground”
  • “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. “

God tells us again of a connection between man’s sin and the ground. Adam’s name even seems derived from the word for dirt (adamah.) When Adam first sinned in the Garden, it was the ground that was cursed and not Adam. Here with Cain’s sin, the ground is again cursed – but the curse is made specific for Cain. He can no longer work as a farmer.

The imagery of the two verses above, making a connection between man and the ground, then evokes an image of drinking blood – with the earth opening its mouth. That is a much more “living” earth than I believe we are accustomed to consider as modern readers.

We also see a connection between Abel’s life and his blood. Yahweh says that “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me” – connecting the personhood of Abel to his blood. God might have said his bones, his body, or some other aspect of Abel cried to him. However, God connects his life with his blood.

From Guzik again:

a. The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground: The idea of blood crying out to God from the ground is later repeated in the Bible. Numbers 35:29-34 describes how the blood of unpunished murderers defiles the land.

And from the Pulpit Commentary:

Verse 10. – Satisfied that the guilty fratricide is resolved to make no acknowledgment of his deed, the omniscient Judge proceeds to charge him with his sin. And he – i.e. Jehovah – said, What hast thou done? Thus intimating his perfect cognizance of the fact which his prisoner was attempting to deny. What a revelation it must have been to the inwardly trembling culprit of the impossibility of eluding the besetting God! (Psalm 139:5). The voice of thy brother’s blood (literally, bloods, i.e. of this and all subsequent martyrs – Chald. Par.) crieth unto me. A common Scriptural expression concerning murder and other crimes (Genesis 18:20, 21Genesis 19:13Exodus 3:9Hebrews 12:24James 5:4). The blood crying is a symbol of the soul crying for its right to live (Lange). In this instance the cry was a demand for the punishment of the murderer; and that cry has reverberated through all lands and down through all ages, proclaiming vengeance against the shedder of innocent blood (cf. Genesis 9:5). “Hence the prayer that the earth may net drink in the blood shed upon it, in order that it may not thereby become invisible and inaudible” (Knobel). Cf. Job 16:18Isaiah 26:21Ezekiel 24:7; also Eschylus, ‘Chaephorae,’ 310, 398 (quoted by T. Lewis in Lange). From the ground. Into which it had disappeared, but not, as the murderer hoped, to become for. gotten.

Cain is marked. What is the mark? I will give a short summary here. But there is a long and terrible history associated with the debate over the mark.

Judaism’s interpretation of the Mark (according to Wikipedia)

Abba Arika (“Rav”) said that God gave Cain a dog, making him an example to murderers. Abba Jose ben Hanan said that God made a horn grow out of Cain. R. Hanin said that God made Cain an example to penitents (Gen. Rab. 22:12).

Rashi comments on Genesis 4:15 by saying that the mark was one of the Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton: “He engraved a letter of His [God’s] Name onto his [Cain’s] forehead.

Some early Christian views on the mark of Cain included:

According to author Ruth Mellinkoff, commentators’ interpretations of the nature of the “mark” depended on their views regarding the status of Cain, as either being given additional time to repent or as being further shamed.

In Syriac Christianity, early exegesis on the “curse” and the “mark”, associated the curse of Cain with black skin, although not in a racial sense.

In an Eastern Christian (Armenian) Adam-book (5th or 6th century), it is written: “And the Lord was wroth with Cain. . . He beat Cain’s face with hail, which blackened like coal, and thus he remained with a black face”.  Again, this indicated that his face, not his body, had been changed, and that this change had no bearing on any racial or ethnic group.

However, there were subsequent teachings used to endorse a racial view of the mark and as a justification for slavery.

At some point after the start of the slave trade in the United States, many Protestant denominations began teaching the belief that the mark of Cain was a dark skin tone, although early descriptions of Romani as “descendants of Cain” written by Franciscan friar Symon Semeonis suggest that this belief had existed for some time. Protestant preachers wrote exegetical analyses of the curse, with the assumption that it was dark skin.

Baptist segregation

The split between the Northern and Southern Baptist organizations arose over doctrinal issues pertaining to slavery and the education of slaves. At the time of the split, the Southern Baptist group used the curse of Cain as a justification for slavery. Some 19th- and 20th-century Baptist ministers in the Southern United States taught the belief that there were two separate heavens; one for blacks, and one for whites. Southern Baptists have either taught or practiced various forms of racial segregation well into the mid-to-late-20th century, though members of all races were accepted at worship services. In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention officially denounced racism and apologized for its past defense of slavery.

The curse of Cain was used to support a ban on ordaining blacks to most Protestant clergies until the 1960s in both the United States and Europe. The majority of Christian churches in the world, including the Catholic ChurchEastern Orthodox churches, Anglican churches, and Oriental Orthodox churches, did not recognize these interpretations and did not participate in the religious movement to support them. Certain Catholic dioceses in the Southern United States adopted a policy of not ordaining blacks to oversee, administer the sacraments to, or accept confessions from white parishioners. This policy was not based on a “curse of Cain” teaching, but was justified by the widely held perception that slaves should not rule over their masters. However, this was not approved of by the Pope or by any papal teaching.

The view was also shared by the early Mormon church:

Mormonism began during the height of Protestant acceptance of the curse of Cain doctrine in North America, as well as the even more popular curse of Ham doctrine. Like many North Americans, Mormons of the 19th century commonly assumed that black Africans had Cain’s “mark” of black skin, and Ham’s curse to be servants of servants. Joseph Smith indicated his belief in the curse of Ham theory in a parenthetical reference as early as 1831. In the Pearl of Great Price, considered scripture in the LDS movement, Enoch talks about shunning the descendants of Cain and that they had black skin: “And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.” (Moses 7:22)

As related by Abraham O. Smoot after his death, Apostle David W. Patten said he encountered a black man in Paris, Tennessee, who said that he was Cain. The account states that Cain had earnestly sought death but was denied it, and that his mission was to destroy the souls of men. The recollection of Patten’s story is quoted in Apostle Spencer W. Kimball‘s The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Although not explicitly stated in Latter-day Saint scripture current official publications of the church teach that Ham’s wife was a descendant of Cain. The Guide to the Scriptures, published as an explanatory companion to the scriptures, states “Ham’s wife, Egyptus, was a descendant of Cain”. The Old Testament student manual, which is published by the Church and is the manual currently used to teach the Old Testament in LDS Institutes, states:

The view of the “mark” of Cain, as a skin color marking, fell out of favor among Christians worldwide after the American Civil Rights movement as anything more than a very minor point of view. We will touch on the Curse of Ham in future verses and revisit the ways in which racial animus and politics use theories from Genesis as self-justification.

What/where was “the land of Nod?”

From the text:

Nod = נוֹד Nôwd, node; the same as H5112; vagrancy; Nod, the land of Cain:—Nod.

Much as Cain’s name is connected to the verb meaning “to get” in Genesis 4:1, the name “Nod” closely resembles the word “nad” (נָד‎), usually translated as “vagabond”, in Genesis 4:12. (In the Septuagint‘s rendering of the same verse God curses Cain to τρέμων, “trembling”.)

A Greek version of Nod written as Ναίν appearing in the Onomastica Vaticana possibly derives from the plural נחים‎, which relates to resting and sleeping. This derivation, coincidentally or not, connects with the English pun on “nod”

Josephus wrote in Antiquities of the Jews (c. AD 93) that Cain continued his wickedness in Nod: resorting to violence and robbery; establishing weights and measures; transforming human culture from innocence into craftiness and deceit; establishing property lines; and building a fortified city.

Nod is said to be outside of the presence or face of God. Origen defined Nod as the land of trembling and wrote that it symbolized the condition of all who forsake God. Early commentators treated it as the opposite of Eden (worse still than the land of exile for the rest of humanity). In the English tradition Nod was sometimes described as a desert inhabited only by ferocious beasts or monsters. Others interpreted Nod as dark or even underground—away from the face of God.

Augustine described unconverted Jews as dwellers in the land of Nod, which he defined as commotion and “carnal disquietude”

Were people there? Where did these people come from?

The answer as to the first question appears to be yes. Cain was worried about being slain by someone. And he finds a wife from this land. Who are these people then, and where do they come from?

One theory is that this land was peopled with Cain’s siblings and their descendants. As we see in Genesis 5:4:

The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.

Since we do not know the story of these others, and because the text is not timeline specific, it is at least possible that within the confines of the text, Cain knows about the people who he worries will slay him because they are his siblings. Those people understanding the import of a mark from Yahweh makes sense, too, if they were born directly adjacent to Yahweh’s Garden of Eden as Cain was.

There is an alternative view, concerning people outside of the Garden of Eden, that surrounding lands were peopled with the children of Adam and Lilith.

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls contain one indisputable reference to Lilith in Songs of the Sage (4Q510–511) fragment 1:

And I, the Instructor, proclaim His glorious splendour so as to frighten and to te[rrify] all the spirits of the destroying angels, spirits of the bastards, demons, Lilith, howlers, and [desert dwellers] … and those which fall upon men without warning to lead them astray from a spirit of understanding and to make their heart and their … desolate during the present dominion of wickedness and predetermined time of humiliations for the sons of lig[ht], by the guilt of the ages of [those] smitten by iniquity – not for eternal destruction, [bu]t for an era of humiliation for transgression.

There is also a theory that the Garden of Eden was planted by God but always surrounded by fallen people. This is called the pre-Adamite hypothesis. Dr. Michael Heiser provides a good break-down of that view here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyK-GFSfDZA



There were a couple of references to lands outside the Garden of Eden before The Fall.

From Genesis 2:

10 A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided  and became four rivers. 11 The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12 And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush.

The evidence for this seems thin but these verses appear to describe two lands which some argue sound as though they are settlements.

  • The Land of Havilah:

In addition to the region described in chapter 2 of Genesis, two individuals named Havilah are listed in the Table of Nations. The Table lists the descendants of Noah, who are considered eponymous ancestors of nations. Besides the name mentioned in Genesis 10:7-29, another is mentioned in the Books of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1:9-23). One person is the son of Cush, the son of Ham. The other person is a son of Joktan and descendant of Shem.

The name Havilah appears in Genesis 25:18, where it defines the territory inhabited by the Ishmaelites as being “from Havilah to Shur, opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria“; and in the Books of Samuel (1 Samuel 15:7-8), which states that king Saul smote the Amalekites who were living there, except for King Agag, whom he took prisoner.

One passage mentions Israelites being sent to Assyria and Halah. According to the monk Antoine Augustin Calmet, Halah most likely indicates Havilah.

Extra-biblical mentions

In extra-biblical literature, the land of Havilah is mentioned in Pseudo-Philo as the source of the precious jewels that the Amorites used in fashioning their idols in the days after Joshua, when Kenaz was judge over the Israelites.

There is an extra-biblical tradition found in the Kitab al-Magall (Clementine literature) and the Cave of Treasures. According to this tale, in the early days after the Tower of Babel, the children of Havilah, son of Joktan built a city and kingdom, which was near to those of his brothers, Sheba and Ophir.Possible location[edit]

Several locations for Havilah are shown

W. W. Müller, in the 1992 Anchor Bible Dictionary, holds that the “Havilah” of Genesis 2 must refer to a region in southwest Arabia.[2] He locates the reference to a “Havilah” in Genesis 25:18 as referring to a northern Arabian location.[2] Some have said Havilah were of Cushite background who colonized Arabia, even linking them with the Macrobians.[3][4]

Saadia Gaon‘s tenth-century Arabic translation of the Hebrew Bible substitutes Havilah with Zeila in present day Somalia.[5] Benjamin Tudela, the twelfth-century Jewish traveler, claimed Zeila was the land of Havilah confined by Al-Habash on the west.[6] Zeila (Havilah) had been sacked by the Portuguese governor of Old GoaLopo Soares de Albergaria, while its Harla chief Mahfuz invaded Abyssinia in 1517.[7][8]

In 1844, Charles Forster argued that a trace of the ancient name Havilah could still be found in the use of Aval for what is now known as Bahrain Island.[9]

Augustus Henry Keane believed that the land of Havilah was centered on Great Zimbabwe and was roughly contemporaneous with what was then Southern Rhodesia.[10] Havilah Camp was the name of the base camp of a group of British archaeologists who studied the Great Zimbabwe ruins from 1902 to 1904. In the end, they rejected any biblical connection with the settlement.

  • The Land of Cush

Hebrew scholar David M. Goldenberg has suggested that the Hebrew name is derived from Kash, the Egyptian name of Lower Nubia and later of the Nubian kingdom at Napata, known as the Kingdom of Kush.

The form Kush appears in Egyptian records as early as the reign of Mentuhotep II (21st century BC), in an inscription detailing his campaigns against the Nubian region. At the time of the compilation of the Hebrew Bible, and throughout classical antiquity, the Nubian kingdom was centered at Meroë in the modern-day nation of Sudan.

Hebrew Bible

A page from Elia Levita‘s 16th-century Yiddish–Hebrew–Latin–German dictionary contains a list of nations, including the word “כושי” Cushite or Cushi, translated to Latin as “Aethiops” and into German as “Mor”.

According to Genesis, Cush’s other sons were SebaHavilahSabtahRaamah, and Sabtechah.

The Book of Numbers 12:1 describes Moses as having married “a Cushite woman”.

The rhetorical question “Can the Cushite change his skin?” in Jeremiah 13:23 implies brown skin color; also, the Septuagint uniformly translates Cush as Αἰθιοπία “Aithiopia.”

Another person named Cush in the Hebrew Bible is a Benjamite who is mentioned only in Psalm 7, and is believed to be a follower of Saul.

Traditional identifications

Josephus gives an account of the nation of Cush, son of Ham and grandson of Noah: “For of the four sons of Ham, time has not at all hurt the name of Cush; for the Ethiopians, over whom he reigned, are even at this day, both by themselves and by all men in Asia, called Cushites” (Antiquities of the Jews 1.6).

The Book of Numbers 12:1 calls a wife of Moses “a Cushite woman”, whereas Moses’s wife Zipporah is usually described as hailing from MidianEzekiel the Tragedian‘s Exagoge 60-65 (fragments reproduced in Eusebius) has Zipporah describe herself as a stranger in Midian, and proceeds to describe the inhabitants of her ancestral lands in North Africa:

“Stranger, this land is called Libya. It is inhabited by tribes of various peoples, Ethiopians, dark men. One man is the ruler of the land: he is both king and general. He rules the state, judges the people, and is priest. This man is my father and theirs.”

During the 5th century AD, Syrian writers described the Himyarites of South Arabia as Cushaeans and Ethiopians.

The Persian historian al-Tabari (c. 915) recounts a tradition that the wife of Cush was named Qarnabil, daughter of Batawil, son of Tiras, and that she bore him the “Abyssinians, Sindis and Indians”.

The Cushitic-speaking peoples today comprise the AgawOromoSomaliAfar, and several other tribes, and were considered offspring of Cush in Masudi’s Meadows of Gold from 947 AD. The Beja people, who also speak a Cushitic language, have specific genealogical traditions of descent from Cush.

Explorer James Bruce, who visited the Ethiopian Highlands c. 1770, wrote of “a tradition among the Abyssinians, which they say they have had since time immemorial”, that in the days after the Deluge, Cush, the son of Ham, traveled with his family up the Nile until they reached the Atbara plain, then still uninhabited, from where they could see the Ethiopian table-land. There they ascended and built Axum, and sometime later returned to the lowland, building Meroë. He also states that European scholars of his own day had summarily rejected this account on grounds of their established theory, that Cush must have arrived in Africa via Arabia and the Bab-el-Mandeb, a strait located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea on the Horn of Africa. Further, the great obelisk of Axum was said to have been erected by Cush in order to mark his allotted territory, and his son Ityopp’is was said to have been buried there, according to the Book of Aksum, which Bruce asserts was revered throughout Abyssinia equally with the Kebra Nagast.

Scholars like Johann Michaelis and Rosenmuller have pointed out that the name Cush was applied to tracts of country on both sides of the Red Sea, in the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen) and Northeast Africa.


Based on subsequent genealogies, it is my opinion that the places named outside the Garden, in Genesis Chapter 2, are named after then-as-yet unborn descendants of Adam. Is a subsequent settlement name being used to describe an earlier settlement concurrent with the Garden of Eden. Or was the then-empty region described by its subsequent settlement name when Genesis was written? Either is possible but in my opinion the latter seems more likely based on the available evidence.


There is a regional place-name, also associated with a Garden of the Gods, similarly named to Cush:

The Temple of Kesh:

Given the similarities in the name, and its tie to the Sumerian Garden of the Gods text, is there a relationship between The Temple of Kesh and the Land of Cush?

The Kesh Temple Hymn or Liturgy to Nintud or Liturgy to Nintud on the creation of man and woman is a Sumeriantablet, written on clay tablets as early as 2600 BCE. Along with the Instructions of Shuruppak, it is the oldest surviving literature in the world.

Fragments of the text were discovered in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology catalogue of the Babylonian section (CBS) from their excavations at the temple library at Nippur in modern day Iraq. One fragment of the text found on CBS tablet number 11876 was first published by Hugo Radau in “Miscellaneous Sumerian Texts,” number 8 in 1909. Radau’s fragment was translated by Stephen Herbert Langdon in 1915. Langdon published a translation from a 4 by 4 by 4 by 4 inches (10 by 10 by 10 by 10 cm) perforated, four sided, Sumerian prism from Nippur and held in the Ashmolean in Oxford in 1913 (number 1911-405) in “Babylonian Liturgies.” The prism contains around 145 lines in eight sections, similar to the Hymn to Enlil. Langdon called it “A Liturgy to Nintud, Goddess of Creation” and noted that each section ended with the same refrain, which he interpreted as referring “to the creation of man and woman, the Biblical Adam and Eve.”

The hymn is composed of 134 lines, formally divided into eight songs or “houses” or “temples”, each of which ends with three rhetorical questions discussing the birth of Nintud’s warrior son, Acgi:

Will anyone else bring forth something as great as Kesh? Will any other mother ever give birth to someone as great as its hero Acgi? Who has ever seen anyone as great as its lady Nintud?


As mentioned in earlier posts, the Hebrew historical accounts and the Sumerian / Babylonian historical accounts are all purported to be remembrances of a much earlier time. The writing for the Sumerian account predates Biblical writing in most cases (at least that is the current case archaeologically speaking.) However, that does not mean ipso fact that the Hebrews *copied* their story from the Sumerians. It might mean that, obviously, but there are other explanations. The account of the Israelites is that Moses was given this “Creation” information by God who was presumably present for these events. As a result, you as a reader of Genesis have a choice. You can believe that Moses – educated in Egypt – was influenced by Egyptians (who were themselves influenced by others in the region) wrote the story and that is how this history came into existence. If you believe that, then you can also believe that the Hebrew stories are borrowed and altered versions of pre-existing stories. Alternatively, you can believe that Moses was given a correct historical record by God. That is a matter of faith.


That is all I have time for today. Thanks for reading.

One thought on “Genesis (Part 22)

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