bible blog 1254

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


two women celebrate visas for E.U.

two Cuban women celebrate visas for E.U.

Genesis 4:17-26

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

Beginnings of Civilization

17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methushael, and Methushael the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took two wives; the name of one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the ancestor of those who live in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the ancestor of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah bore Tubal-cain, who made all kinds of bronze and iron tools. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives:

‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’

25 Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed[a] for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.’ 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. He was the first man to invoke the name of the Lord.

19th cent. tinker, travelling metalworker

19th cent. tinker, travelling metalworker

Basically this passage tells me that while the arts of civil society, including the blood-feud, prospered in the “unrighteous” branch of the human family, the righteous branch produced faith in God, who is introduced here by his name, which became too holy to be spoken, “Jahweh”. I’m not surprised that killing continues in Cain’s family, but I am surprised that it also invents the arts of civilization, which are of benefit to humanity. The Genesis author knows that even a killer cursed by God is not all bad and can through his children contribute to the good of humanity. 

It may be useful to look back from the end of this chapter to trace the main developments.
God has created a world with living creatures including human beings made in his likeness.
Out of arrogance, but also out of their special capacity, human being decide to know everything and be like Gods.
God throws them out of the all-providing garden into a world where they will have to labour for food and will bring forth offspring in pain.
Can God repair the damage to his creation?
At first it would seem not. One of the first children, Cain, kills his brother Abel and is sent away to be a nomad, albeit protected by God. The author implies that Cain should be his brother’s keeper.
Cain’s tribe invent the arts of herding, music and metalwork-with which travellers are still associated.
The tribe of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve produces the first man to invoke God.
Summing up, we have the beginning of the world, of life, and of humanity; the beginning of sin and of the world we know; the beginning of crime and punishment; the beginning of civilization and its arts; and the beginning of religion.
At  end of this development, “God” is still struggling to maintain the goodness of his creation in the face of the violence of human beings whose attitude is summed up in the vicious song of Lamech, who makes God’s warning against harming Cain into a justification for murder. But there’s just a hint that through God’s opposition to bloodshed and human faith in God, some goodness may be maintained. There is also proof that human inventiveness can be used for good as well as evil.

Genesis v Darwin

Genesis v Darwin

This is a sophisticated story about how some human beings, through their use of knowledge, are bidding to dominate the world, reducing its creator to an irrelevance, whereas others maintain a modest justice and look for God’s guidance. It’s a story we know only too well. How anyone can think it’s outdated mythology, or for that matter, a religious alternative to Charles Darwin, is beyond me. Its wisdom  contradicts any naive view of human progress and is relevant to our estimation of global capitalism.

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