Thursday, March 5, 2009

GENESIS: Chapters 4 & 5

Chapter 4
Summary:Adam and his wife Eve conceive their first child together, a child they name Cain (meaning "I have created") - Eve throws in a side note that "with God's help" she has created a man. She later has a second son and names him Abel.

Abel becomes a shepherd while Cain becomes a farmer. At harvest time both sons make offerings to God: Cain offers a gift of his best crops and Abel offers up some fatty cuts of lamb. God shows his favoritism (and that he's not much for vegetarianism) by accepting Abel's lamb chops and rejecting Cain's crops. Cain feels dejected and pissed off by God's favoritism.

God asks Cain why he's so angry and tells him that he could be happy if he just "does what he should". He warns Cain that if he doesn't obey God, sin is waiting for him.

So, one day Cain lures his brother out to the fields and kills him.
4:8 "And 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 slew him."
God immediately asks Cain* where is Abel, to which Cain replies to the effect of "How should I know? I'm not my brother's keeper."

God says that Abel's blood called to him from the ground, and hereby banishes Cain from the fields and curses the ground so that Cain will no longer be able to produce any crops. He tells Cain that he will now be a nomadic fugitive*. Cain complains that he's scared of the ramifications from the punishment, that he'll be hunted down and killed. God replies that if anybody kills Cain their punishment will be seven times worse(?) and puts a mark on Cain* leaving Cain to settle outside of God's presence* in the land of Nod (somewhere east of Eden).

The story now jumps ahead to Cain having a wife and fathering his first child Enoch - to whom Cain founded a city after. The chapter jumps ahead farther now and lists a slew of Cain's descendants:
  • Enoch (Cain's son) has a son named Irad (Cain's grandson)
  • Irad has a son named Mehujael (Cain's great-grandson)
  • Mehujael has a son named Methusael (Cain's great-great-grandson)
  • Methusael has a son named Lamech (Cain's great-great-great-grandson)
Lamech becomes the focus of the next paragraph, and we learn that:
  • He had two wives - Adah and Zillah.
  • Adah gave birth to Jabal (who becomes the first cattleman, and the first to apparently live in a tent) and Jubal (the first musician, who invented the harp and the flute*)
  • Zillah gave birth to Tubal-cain (who becomes the first bronze and iron worker*)
One day Lamech kills some kid who attacked him and claims to his wives that if anyone attacking Cain will be punished seven times, then anyone seeking revenge against him (for killing the kid) should be punished 77 times(?).

The chapter closes off with mentioning that Eve had a third son named Seth (meaning "granted", as apparently she felt God granted her another son in place of Abel). When Seth grew up he had a son whom he named Enosh. It was during his lifetime that men first began calling themselves "God's people".
Notes:1.) If God is omnipresent and omniscient, why is he asking where Abel is?
2.) From whom? At this point the only humans in existence are Adam, Eve, and Cain.
3.) Not specified what Cain's mark actually is.
4.) This is contradictory towards the notion that God is omnipresent.
5.) Being a musician myself, it is pretty well accepted that the first musical instruments were most likely drums and percussion based. Harps and flutes are complex instruments that have evolved from much simpler concepts. This is akin to claiming that the first mode of transportation was the bicycle (as opposed to horse riding).
6.) Perhaps Tubal-cain was inspired by that flaming sword guarding the Garden of Eden?
7.) How does Lamech come up with this figure of 77, and why does he think he's entitled to it? If he is indeed entitled to have anyone who seeks revenge against him doled out for a punishment that is 77 times worse than it should normally be is it because he's a direct descendant of Cain, or does this apply to all murderers? If the latter, what does this say about capital punishment?
Thoughts:It is perhaps around this chapter that I would assume that most people stop attempting to read the bible from cover to cover. The narrative makes wide jumps in time, lists a lot of names that are virtually irrelevant to the story, and introduces characters only to leave a lot of loose ends.

The most bothersome aspect of this chapter is how male-centric it is. Eve is mentioned almost solely as a "baby-making machine" and none of her daughters are named - as we have to assume that she had at least two, to provide both Cain and Seth with wives. The only other two women we hear about are Adah and Zillah, whom much like their great-great-great-great grandmother are relegated pretty much to the status of "baby-making machines" as well (although they do get to hear their husband Lamech's tale of killing a kid who attacked him). Furthermore the polygamy of Lamech is not addressed either, which seems odd in contrast to chapter 2 which puts emphasis on (I'm assuming, monogamous) marriage making a man feel "complete again" with a woman by his side.

Furthermore we have to assume that these first generations of people (possibly within approximately 100 years, but which we'll get more into in the next chapter) were able to develop inventions such as bronze and iron working as well as complex musical instruments such as the flute and harp.

Also of note we also get our first glimpse of animal sacrifices (that God will later demand much more of) from the story of Cain and Abel.
Chapter 5
This chapter is more of a genealogical listing of Adam's descendants, and their radically astronomically old ages. We learn that:
  • Adam:
    • was 130(!) years old when his son Seth was born.
    • Died at age 930*.
  • Seth:
    • was 105* years old when his son Enosh was born.
    • Died at the age of 912*.
  • Enosh:
    • was 90* years old when his son Kenan was born.
    • Died at the age of 905*.
  • Kenan:
    • was 70* years old when his son Mahalalel was born.
    • Died at the age of 910*.
  • Mahalalel:
    • was 65* years old when his son Jared was born.
    • Died at the age of 895*.
  • Jared:
    • was 162* years old when his son Enoch* was born.
    • Died at the age of 962*.
  • Enoch*:
    • was 65* years old when his son Methuselah was born.
    • Kept in constant contact with God.
    • Disappeared at the age of 365* because God took him.
  • Methuselah:
    • was 187* years old when his son Lamech* was born.
    • Died at the age of 969*
      5:27 "And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died."
  • Lamech*:
    • was 182* years old when his son Noah was born
    • Lamech named Noah (meaning "relief") because he believed that Noah would bring the people relief from the hard work of farming of the ground which God cursed.
    • Died at the age of 777*.
  • Noah:
    • Was 500* years old and had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Notes:1.) These are not typos. These are the actual ages listed in the bible.
2.) Not to be confused with Cain's son Enoch from chapter 4.
3.) Not to be confused with Cain's great-great-great-grandson Lamech, the son of Methusael from chapter 4.
Thoughts:I really don't know where to begin with this chapter. I think any rationally sane person who has made it this far into the bible should begin to start having doubts towards the bible's historical accuracy at this point. The idea that human beings had at one time lived to ripe ages of up to 969 years old is silly and unfounded, and outside of the bible (and other mythological texts) has never been documented.

It becomes even harder to swallow when we notice that these men both seem to procreate and finally die all on either rounded ages (ending in a zero) or ending in the numbers 2, 5, and 7 (excepting Methuselah who dies at 969, but is still obviously a patterned number). Personally, I don't think these numbers are coincidental and most, if not all, probably have significant meanings in numerology (such as Methuselah's death at 969, Enoch's disappearance at age 365 - coincidentally the number of days in a year, and Lamech's curious age at death of 777).

In the days of the bible's authorship numerology and astrology dominated people's beliefs, prophecies, and superstitions, and I think it's very clear to see that these numbers are not natural ages of death, but carefully selected numbers of mystical importance to the people of the time - which would ease the transition of adapting people's beliefs from pagan religions rooted in numerology and astrology into Judaism (and later Christianity and Islam).

Again, there is absolutely no credible evidence archaeological or otherwise documented (outside of religious and mythological texts) that correlate to any human being ever having lived much longer than 100 years of age. While some may argue that lack of evidence doesn't prove that people didn't at one time perhaps live several centuries long lives, the burden of proof lays upon the ones making an outlandish claim such as this, and it is foolish to accept this possibility as plausible without additional evidence.

Particularly amusing to me however, is that Enoch just "vanishes into thin air" after 365 years.


  1. Maybe the last digits were actually months? But then that wouldn't make sense at 6.5 years to have a son born! :)

    Hmm, I always wondered about that too. But I have never taken the Bible literally, but more as a guidebook, like the Ten Commandments, you know? It would defintitely be strange were you to take it as written.

    As far as it not being much about women in the beginning, do you think that had anything to do with the fact women were less apt to be able to read and write at that time? Therefore, it was written by men and from their point of view...?

    Just a couple observations. :)

  2. There have actually been theories such as suggesting that the "years" as stated were measured to effect of the ninth power - for example that Methuselah's age of 969 closer to 107, but again this makes Mahalalel's age of fatherhood at 65, when divided by 9, highly unlikely at the age of 7.

    While I do agree that it's extremely difficult to take the bible as literal fact, many indeed do just that, even trying to censor or rewrite known science to better fit in with the idea of a historical account of the bible. It's these people that scare me the most...

    As for women, I think it's silly to think that women somehow weren't and/or aren't as genetically capable to match or exceed the intelligence or cognitive ability of men. Women being illiterate in the past usually had more to do with being oppressed than it had to do with men's cognitive skills being somehow superior.

    Earlier pagan religions were actually more appreciative and inclusive with the roles of women, with many female goddesses, priestesses, and/or central characters in their narratives. The bible's general downplaying of women's equal roles and importance stems more from being a reflection of the sexism of the times during the bronze age, once the wonders of childbirth were understood to be the result of a male impregnating them.