Raising Cain and We Begin the Begats: An Excerpt from Okay, So Look

GENESIS 4:1 – 4:24

RAISING CAIN

Adam and Eve, having been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, decide to make the best of it and settle down to raise a family. Their firstborn son is Cain, who plants fields and raises crops. Their second son is Abel, who makes the rather odd decision to become a shepherd. This might not seem all that abnormal, until you recall that God has so far told people that they can only eat plants. He doesn’t allow them to eat meat until Genesis 9, which is over a millennium later. So apparently Abel is raising flocks of animals just to hang out with.

It’s possible, of course, that Abel’s ignoring God, and is raising the animals to eat. If that were the case, though, you might expect God to be somewhat annoyed. Instead, we’re told that Cain and Abel both bring offerings to God from their respective work, and that God is pleased by Abel’s offering, but not by Cain’s. Evidently God has no problem with the animals being sacrificed; he just doesn’t want them eaten. Cain, not having made this non-intuitive mental leap, is pretty irritated by the whole situation. God, displaying something less than the grace and insight you’d expect of an all-powerful deity, tells him to quit whining and do better next time.

Cain, smarting at the double rebuke, takes out his anger on his brother and kills him. When God asks Cain where his brother is, Cain responds with a great line: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God, who knows perfectly well what happened to Abel, doesn’t care for Cain’s smart-alecky tone, and curses him. Because he spilled his brother’s blood on the ground, the ground will no longer produce crops for him, and he is condemned to wander the world. Additionally, God marks him so that no one will kill him. He’s forced to live out the rest of his life with the weight of what he’s done, away from his parents and from God.

Now, you might think that Cain was going to have a pretty lonely time of it, what with his parents being the first people and all. However, he heads off to the land of Nod—which means ‘wandering’ in Hebrew, so technically he’s still a wanderer, or at least a Wanderinger—and finds at least one person there, a woman, whom he marries. My best guess is that this woman is either the female half of the couple that God made in Genesis 1, or descended from them. The Bible runs through six generations of Cain’s begats, figures that’s about all you need to know about Cain’s legacy, and lets the whole thing drop to get back to Adam.

Here’s an interesting point, though. God blessed the couple that he made in the first chapter, commanding them to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve, however, got no such blessing. If these folks from Nod really are descended from the Genesis 1 people, they’re the ones who are meant to take over everything. This leaves Adam and Eve out in the cold, but then, that’s pretty much how things have been going for them all along.

GENESIS 4:25 – 5:32

WE BEGIN THE BEGATS

This section is the Bible’s way of saying “Let’s skip ahead a bit.” Genesis 4 concludes with the birth of Adam and Eve’s son Seth, and his son Enosh. It also mentions that in the time of Adam and Eve’s grandson, people began to call on the name of God. This makes sense; Adam and Eve certainly weren’t going to call on God, because he’d pretty unequivocally told them to leave him alone. Cain and Abel tried to have a relationship with God, and that didn’t go so well, either. After that, Adam and Eve probably kept Seth and their other kids at a bit of a distance. By the next generation, though, the problem no longer seemed so immediate, and having an all-powerful guy on your side was probably starting to seem like a pretty good idea again.

Generations in those days weren’t 20 years or so, either. Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old, and Adam lived for another 800 years after that, having more kids all along the way. Eve’s not mentioned any more, but presumably she was fairly intimately involved in the process as well, if for no other reason than to fulfill God’s curse against her. In fact, no women are mentioned at all in this genealogy, except in the repeated phrase “so-and-so has other sons and daughters.” The whole chapter’s pretty repetitive; it goes through seven generations, changing nothing except the names and the total years lived, before something different happens.

Then it gets to Enoch. Enoch’s not the same as everyone else. Everyone else was born, had a kid, lived, had other sons and daughters, and died. Enoch, however, was born, had a kid, walked with God, had other sons and daughters, and then was no more, “because God took him away.” The Bible doesn’t explain what this means, or why Enoch only lived 365 years while everyone else was living eight or nine hundred. Did God take him because he liked him? Because he didn’t like him? It’s important to know these things before you start walking with God. Unfortunately, the Bible just moves on to Enoch’s son Methuselah as if nothing happened, leaving you to wonder.

You’ve heard of Methuselah, as in “old as Methuselah.” He lived to be 969 years old, the longest-lived person in the Bible. Of course, his grandfather lived to be 962, so it’s not really that impressive. Seven years is a pretty good span of time in our lives, but do the math; comparatively, it’s the difference between a person who lived to be 96 years old, and someone who lived to be 96 years and 8 months old. Still, “as old as Jared” doesn’t have the same ring to it, so I suppose it’s for the best.

There are two more generations after Methuselah, at which point Noah is born. By the time he’s hit his five hundredth birthday, he’s got the three sons who are going to figure into the next story: Japheth, Shem, and Ham. Adding up all of the years given in this chapter, we’re now just over a millennium and a half from the first day; 1,556 years, to be precise. And five days, to be really precise. Not a bad time jump for a single chapter.

This is an excerpt of Okay, So Look, a novella-length retellling of the Book of Genesis by Micah Edwards.

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