Monday, July 31, 2006

genesis 4

i guess i decided to just move on instead. so on we go to cain and abel...let the bloodshed begin.

first, i am struck by the understated introduction to the concept of sex, or at least, procreation. i mean, "adam knew his wife"...that's it? an act that has led to the rise and fall of millions of families, not to mention empires, and the only real introduction we get is the word, "knew." i really have to wonder how they figured it out for the first time, and how they got any farming done after they figured it out. but i digress...

i also found the naming interesting. again, the names hold rich symbolic meaning. "cain," is basically an exclamation from eve loosely translated, "woohoo! i got one!" but abel, the second born, is best translated, "vanity," or as i read it, "extra one." (someone please correct me if i've taken too much liberty here.) if they really were twins, "extra one" sort of makes sense, but then why does the extra one end up being the righteous one, and the prized firstborn, cast out of the land that the family had ended up in after they had already been cast out of paradise.

another interesting name here is "nod," the land to which cain wanders and begins his family. nod translates "shaking" or "trembling." what a great word picture of this wilderness, increasingly further east of eden. this land, by the end of the chapter, becomes a hotbed of wickedness and more and more of God's precepts are neglected and/or violated. while the earlier act of cain murdering abel is the most memorable event of the chapter, it seems clear to me that it is really only one piece of the larger theme here of increasing wickedness, specifically, that sin begets more sin, leading up to men like lamech who mock god and laugh at their violence.

so eve's naivete coupled with her ambition and adam's willingness to collaborate, lead to their son's apathy and laziness, which ultimately leads to the first recorded conflict between good and evil in humanity: brother killing brother. mankind then continues to bow to its own will, introducing polygamy, and increased violence with a boastful spirit.

but then, in a typical biblical redemption act, at the height of violence of and godlessness, God steps in and gives eve a new day. a child named seth, whose birth indicates, rather cryptically, a renewal of humanity through people beginning to again call on the Lord. this is the beginning of a cycle that will echo into the next several thousand years.


sara and matt said...

I like your reflections on Genesis. You have good thoughts.
I just wanted to add one act to the list of sins committed by these first few people the earth saw according to Genesis myths. That's the founding of the first city, the start of civilization, and the ability of humanity to isolate itself from the natural world. Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the environmentalist in me can't help but wonder at these things.

cory said...

that's interesting. it reminds me of that book, ishmael. the thing i would need to reconcile with that idea is that at the very end of time, it seems that the kingdom of God will be established as a city, the new jerusalem. i wonder what that means.