Thursday, February 7, 2008

THE CONUNDRUM OF CAIN'S WIFE--WHO ARE CAIN'S IN-LAWS?

As you may know, Dianne and I travel quite a lot, and we stay in many hotels.  One thing common to hotels, at least in the U.S. is that all hotel rooms have a Holy Bible in the drawer.  Occasionally, I even get an opportunity to read passages from it.

One story that always intrigues me is that of Adam, Eve and the kids.  Shortly after Adam and Eve were created, they "knew" each other and conceived Cain, and later Abel.  After Cain killed Abel, they knew each other again and conceived Seth as a replacement for Abel.  Adam was 130 years old at the time.  People lived longer in those days, before hospitals.  The pertinent passages are in Genesis 4:1 through 5:5.

One must consider, of course, whether all this stuff is the gospel truth--well I guess it's that.  But is it true from a historical standpoint?  Archaeologists have some interesting answers to many Biblical stories that were once thought to be legends but are now considered historical fact. 

Back to our story:  shortly after Abel's death, Cain went away to live in the Land of Nod where he "knew" his wife and they had a son, Enoch.  So the question is, who is Cain's wife and where did she come from?   And who, if anyone, lived in the Land of Nod, and if they did, where did they come from?  The Bible doesn't give us enough information, at least in the King James Version.

But it does say that Cain built a city there and named it after his son.  Did he build the city by himself or did someone help him? Did he hire contractors?  Who made the bricks?  Who issued the permits, if any?  And, by definition, if there's a city, there must be people to populate that city.  Were they all related?

Another problem here is that unless God created other people besides Adam and Eve, it appears that Cain married his sister, which, of course is prohibited in Leviticus 18-20.

Over the millenia, there has been much discussion of these questions which were often used by skeptics to discredit Judeo-Christsian teachings by showing that the Bible as a historical record cannot be defended.  For example in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, as shown in the movie, Inherit the Wind, starring Spencer Tracy, the attorney Clarence Darrow asked the fundamentalist prosecutor William Jennings Bryan--who was defending the faith against evolution--the question of Cain's wife.  Bryan, supposedly a Biblical scholar, had no answer.  The same question was raised in Carl Sagan's book Contact, later made into a movie with Jodie Foster, to illustrate that the Bible should not be read literally. 

Actually, the answers are compatible, if one thinks about it, and as a practical matter, the Theory of Evolution and that of Intelligent Design are not mutually exclusive.  While I don't presume to know any more about God's intent than do the scholars, certainly evolution is a way to describe God's organization of the development of the various species.  First God starts with invertebrates, moves on to vertebrates, and builds from there, eventually moving on to more complex animals like humans. 

In Genesis 2:2, just before the creation of Eve, we learn that Adam, after looking over the animal kingdom and maybe the Neanderthals also, could not find a mate of his kind.  This indicates to scholars that no other people existed.  Therefore, our modern faiths are based on the fact that Adam and Eve were the first, and everyone in the world is descended from them.  Actually the study of mitrachondral DNA  has shown that we're all descended from one woman--in Africa.

Fortunately, the scholars have given us food for thought about those questions.  In Genesis 5:4, it is written that Adam and Eve did have other sons and daughters, over the next 800 years after Seth, but their names are not recorded, at least not in the Bible.  The Bible is ambiguous, and some of them (Cain's wife?) could have been born in the 130 years before Seth was born.  It does say, "And he fathered sons and daughters."  But it doesn't say when.   One scholar, the famed historian Josephus determined that they had 33 sons and 23 daughters.  Obviously A & E "knew" each other very well.  But then they lived to be over 900 years old.  The descendants of those 56 kids can add up to a lot of people over several generations. 

If no other people were created, then Mrs. Cain would have to have been Cain's sister, or perhaps his niece.  That was OK at the time because the prohibition against marrying close relatives was not instituted until Moses' time, perhaps a couple thousand years later.  Because there were so few people in the world at the time, there would not have been mutated genes which could cause birth defects.  (According to the Bible, God's creation was perfect, but degenerated later.) A millenium or two later, after the human race had time to develop and proliferate, that prohibition made good sense.  Incidentally, Abraham married Sarah, who was his half-sister, the daughter of his father, but not his mother.  (Genesis 20:12)

In any event, after Cain killed Abel, he realized that he was a marked man who feared that others would try to kill him.  God marked him to protect him from the others.  Who were those others?  If there were no other people, whom would Cain be afraid of?  Well, it would have been his other brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc. because presumably they would exact revenge for the killing of Abel, their close relative.

The first book of the Bible has some other interesting stuff, such as "Giants" or "Nephilim"  described in Genesis 6:4, who drop in from heaven and mate with humans, thus producing children who became "men of renown".   Hmmmm.  Maybe the Weekly World News isn't so far out after all. 

KENNETH SUSKIN

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lilith might have had something to do with the population growth outside of Eden...."We can trace Lilith's development through both art and text; through mythological as well as talmudic, pseudepigraphic and apocryphal sources. They include: the 3rd millenium story of Gilgamesh and the Huluppu Tree; a 2400 BCE text referring to a Sumerian storm demon; the famous terracotta relief of Lilith known as the Burley plaque from circa 2300 BCE; in Babylonian legends dating from roughly 1800 BC; in Aramaic incantation texts found in bowls around 600 CE in Nippur, Babylonia (Iraq), Arslan Tash (Syria) and Persia (Iran); in Rabbinic literature, midrashim and folklore from the 5th to the 12th Centuries CE, in 15th and 16th Century European sculpture and woodcuts, in Kabbalistic sources beginning in the 12th and appearing through the 17th Century CE, in literature carrying her through to the present day. The only actual Biblical reference to Lilith or ‘the liliths’ is in the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah 34:14); whether or not it truly represents this mysterious figure is a matter of conjecture."

February 10, 2008 at 4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have taken a permanent vacation from your mind amigo.
Of all the possibilies what do you choose - the logical.

Incest okay?
up until Moses - only then did God find it offensive?
I think he found it just as offensive as when Lot did it and cursed his descendants.

The same ones who insist you must take the Bible word for word are even hawking this wild leap.
You must not question or add or detract they say - then concoct this hideous theory.

I used to doubt talk about these being the End Days - not only have I rethought that but I see where the Beast will get his False Church from. If you buy into this vile concoction then he will have no trouble subverting you with something that actually sounds plausible.

No wonder sensible people are leaving the churches if this is on the menu.

You are wolves in sheep's clothing.

March 18, 2009 at 3:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can reject evolution from the basis of insufficient time to arrive at a the human being. However, we cannot selectively use a concept when it suits our persuasion, reject it when not. On the basis of observed mutation (or lack thereof) in recorded history, there is insufficient time for mutation to arrive at the different races. By this same principle, The 'other races', e.g. Chinese, could not be descendents of Adam and Eve. There is great truth in the Bible. As a believer, we trust in a God who doesn't give us the capability to learn and advance our understanding of his world, only to deceive us. Given our present, God delivered understanding, it is more consistent to believe that God created the other races, just as he did the Neanderthals, the dinosaurs, the Nephilim, etc., and the writing of Genesis is the truth as handed down in this particular race of people that God created. The author of Genesis speaks in universal terms, as per his knowledge/experience of the known world. The Bible presents the option of Cain having children/marrying one of the Nephilim. And it is equally possible for him to have married one of his sisters or neices.

May 10, 2009 at 6:13 PM  

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