Genesis Overview: Cain and Abel &c

a) Cain and Abel (4.1-16)

4.1-2: Cain means "a spear", Abel may mean either "breath" or "futility". The whole passage is sexually reticent - citing the event outside paradise - and most of the key words are uncommon and allusive.

4.3-5: The first division of cult with two altars. The only clue to God's choice is, perhaps, his preference for a blood sacrifice. We do not know how the Lord announced his adjudication.

4.6-7: Fatherly admonition and encouragement to Cain. Sin is, problematically, depicted as both external but also as man's own doing, but man is capable of mastering it. 4.7b is identical to 3.16b in a different context.

4.8-10: What Cain said to Abel is missing. The first murder is for God's sake, the first 'religious' murder. God asks a social question and, offered the opportunity to confess, Cain is impertinent. The body may be buried but the blood, which belongs to God, calls out.

4.11-12: The punishment of being separated from the earth is worse than in Chapter 3; Cain has no home. "... the story of Cain understands cultivated land as the realm of cult and blessing close to God." (p107). Cain's reaction is horror not remorse.

4.15-16: In the mark Cain is radically separated from but definitively protected by God; the riddle of his future existence. We must note but not accept the connection between Cain and the restless, marginal, non-covenanted tribe of the Kenites.

The connection between Chapters 3 and 4 is to show the consequences of 'the fall' and the terrible "avalanche" of sin.

VR does not remark on the necessity for the mark on Cain necessarily arising because there were potential predators who were not in Cain's family who would have needed no such warning, i.e. the notion that the rest of the earth was empty except for the protagonists in Genesis 2-4 is problematic; this certainly calls into question the literalist understanding of Adam and Eve as the first human beings from whom all others sprang.

b) The Genealogy of the Kenites (4.17-22)

4.17-22: VR does not remark that Cain either married his sister (unlikely, given his crime) or there were external candidates. The passage largely concerns etiology, of the city, of professions, but it operates as if there were no flood. The crime of Lamech is the third episode of sin after 'the fall' and Cain.

4.25-26: The J Sethite list is only a fragment, giving way to the P Sethite list in Chapter 5, so we only have its beginning and part of its end in 5.29. It acts as a way of tracing the history of sin down to Noah.

c) The Angel Marriages (6.1-4 in J)

6.1-4: Heavenly creatures, nearer to angels than humans, allow themselves to be seduced (VR does not remark on the stereotyping of women as seductresses; one would expect heavenly creatures to exercise more self-control than earthly women) resulting in 'supermen' whose power God was determined to limit. 6.4 is clearly in the wrong place.

KC V/14

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