Genesis (Part 23)

Genesis 4:17-22

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

These verse give us a line of Cain’s descendants.

  • The Enoch we meet in verse 17 is not the famous Enoch who was called up without dying. They do have the same name, however, and the name means “initiated” or “dedicated.”
  • Irad, the grandson of Cain, has a name meaning of “fleet” or “fugitive.”
  • Mehujael, the great grandson of Cain, has a name meaning of “smitted by God.”
  • Methusael, the great great grandson of Cain, has a name meaning of “man who is of God.”
  • Lamech, the next in the line, has a name meaning of “powerful.” Note: This is not the same Lamech as the patriarch who was the father of Noah.

When we finally reach Lamech, we learn something about him. He “took” two wives. Took – as in English – has a relatively wide variety of potential meanings at least insofar as those meanings relate to intention. As a result, we do not know in what manner he “took” them.

לָקַח lâqach, law-kakh’; a primitive root; to take (in the widest variety of applications):—accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch, get, infold, × many, mingle, place, receive(-ing), reserve, seize, send for, take (away, -ing, up), use, win.

The name of his one wife, Adah, means “ornament.” The name of his other wife, Zillah, means “shade.” I also want to point out that the text here, which is translated as “wives” could just as easily be interpreted as “women.” The word is the same.

Adah bore a son named Jabal – a name which means “stream of water.” Jabal is the father of those who live in tents and have livestock.

Jabal’s brother was named Jubal – which means “stream.” Jubal is the father of all of those who play the lyre and the pipe.

Zillah bore Tubal-cain, which means “offspring of Cain.” Tubal-cain forged instruments of bronze and iron.

Tubal-cain’s sister was Naamah, which means “loveliness.”


What is the purpose of this line of descent in Genesis?

First, Cain leaves the rural and begins the urban:

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

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.

Below we get some more information about the line of names and their meanings. Irad possibly means “citizen.” Mehujael is another form of Michael. Ellicott concludes that the Cainite line is “initiation into city life.” Ellicott contrasts similar but different names in the two lines.

And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.(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 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

I should point out, and you will find if you look, that it is the dominant theory among religious scholars that Cain married another unnamed daughter of Adam and Eve and that he built a city for a people who were not initially numerous enough to populate a city. Those scholars will also often point out that there was no prohibition on marrying a sibling until Leviticus 18:9. Abraham was married to a half-sister and on a few occasions presented her to others as his sister rather than as his wife when it was advantageous to do so.

The argument against this, though, is that it requires an assumption that the other sons and daughters of Adam and Eve – mentioned in Genesis 5 – pre-dated the birth of Seth. Alternatively, it means that there was a long period of total isolation for Cain before he was eventually joined by other sons and daughters of Adam and Eve born after Seth. Either could be possible. We simply do not know.

The other possibility is that Cain met a woman who was not a daughter of Adam and Eve.

Here is a brief history (and rejection) of the pre-Adamite theory. I’ll show some selected passages from the link here below:

The use of pre-Adamism as a harmonising strategy involves a major theological problem. The seriousness of this problem is exceeded only by the failure of pre-Adamite adherents to address it. The problem is that there is not a shred of Biblical evidence for the existence and death of pre-Adamites

This is a very fair criticism. The evidence for a pre-Adamite people is scant to say the least. Looking all the way back at Part 1 and Part 2 of our study of Genesis, we see theories about the Creation. We have a theory about the textual translation of verses 1 and 2. Instead of the earth “was without form and void” an alternative translation states “the earth became without form and void.” If this translation is the correct intention of the author, then the implication is that there may have been an earlier form – perhaps even including people. Tied to this idea is the “gap theory” which purports to mean that there is a large gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. Therein, we might find the fossil history of the earth, including early human fossils. This interpretation would then harmonize the Biblical timeline which begins with Adam and the fossil record which seems to pre-date Adam.

Is there any other text which might support the idea of pre-Adamite people? Again, there is not much. In Genesis 2, we are told of lands outside the Garden of Eden. The Land of Havilah and the Land of Cush. Is there an explicit implication that these lands contain other people? No. Is it stated explicitly that people do not live in these lands? Also, no.

Returning to our link above with the description of pre-Adamites and the theological issues accompanying the idea of pre-Adamites:

Paul continues the same concepts in I Corinthians 15:21–22 as he writes (NIV):

“ … For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

The profoundness of the concept does not detract from the clarity of the language. Physical death first entered the world through the sin of one man, the Biblical Adam, and his sin was imputed to the entire human family because all humans are descended from Adam. Oxford theologian W. H. Griffith Thomas comments on the Romans passage:

“ … sin and death are regarded as connected; death obtains its moral quality from sin. Paul clearly believes that physical dissolution was due to sin, and that there is some causal connection between Adam and the human race in regard to physical death … . The clause “for that all sinned” (v. 12) establishes a causal connection between the sin of Adam and the death of all”.9

The passage in Corinthians is used to dismiss pre-Adamism for the reasons given. I will play the role of contrarian though and argue the other side (entertaining the idea of pre-Adamism without embracing the idea.) Could it be that Paul means that death entered the heretofore perfect and Immortal line of Adam through Adam? If we imagine that Paul’s statement is that narrow, then it does not then have to encompass pre-Adamites outside the line of Adam. We do not know one way or another whether Paul ever even entertains the idea of pre-Adamism or if he intends to address pre-Adamites in the Corinthians passage. Paul’s statement could mean that at one time there was pre-Fall man. Then there was not and death followed after said man’s sin. The Fall and the need for redemption is the most important element.

The theologian quoted, W.H. Griffith, presupposes through his quote that all humans are descended from Adam. That presupposition is the topic at issue.

In conclusion, the text of the Bible does not specifically mention a people outside of the Garden. The text does not overtly say “there are no humans outside of the Garden.” I have no overt objections then to being open-minded about the idea of pre-Adamites inasmuch as I do not think it matters much with respect to a greater scope of theology. If Adam was a human, created and set apart from other humans, some of whom pre-date him, then he serves perhaps as an early model of the nation of Israel. Redemption of humanity still comes through his line of descent either way, whether he was technically first or not.

The text does subsequently mention in Genesis 5 that Adam and Eve have more sons and daughters. The text implies – though does not state outright – that Adam’s other sons and daughters came after the birth of Seth. However, the text does not state this explicitly. The problem with this interpretation, though, (the one where Cain marries one of his sisters) is that this interpretation creates a disconnect between the fossil record and the Biblical timeline. If death itself came through Adam – at most 10-12 thousand years before Jesus – then how do we explain the death of dinosaurs millions of years prior? Did God create the world with age (fossils, etc.) built in?

There are not necessarily good clear answers here. It does not appear to be the intent of the author to provide good clear answers on those specific topics. As a result, I am open-minded.