Cain’s Father

Alice C. Linsley on her blog Just Genesis always offers interesting posts. In this one taken from here she speaks about the father of Cain:

Genesis appears to present contradictory views about Cain’s father.  In one view, Cain is Adam’s son, born of Eve.  Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew/lay (yadah) with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.”

It should be noted that the Hebrew and the Greek versions do not explicitly name Adam in this verse.  Instead they read, “The man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.”

Contrast this with Genesis 4:25 which says “Adam knew his wife again, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth.”

Why is Adam not named as Cain’s father in Genesis 4:1 while Adam is explicitly named as Seth’s father in Genesis 4:25?

It is likely that the biblical writers were aware of another tradition which suggests that Cain lived long after the first created Man and Woman. This tradition is supported by the kinship data in Genesis, the etiology of Cain’s name, and the technology attributed to him. We will consider each of these separately.

The Kinship Data

Analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 King Lists reveals that Cain married a woman who named their first-born son Enoch.  No etymological etiology is given for the name Enoch since such explanations are offered for the names Cain (Gen. 4: 2) and Seth (Gen. 4:25).  This seems strange since the name Enoch appears in both the Genesis 4 and 5 king lists, so the name pertains to both Cain’s clan and Seth’s clan.  Enoch appears to be a Semitic form of the African name Nok. The Nok civilization extended from northern Nigeria into Niger, Chad and the Sudan.  Here we find the ancient settlements of Nok and Kano. Kano is likely the African version of the name Kayan/Qayin.

What is the significance of Cain’s wife naming their first-born son Enoch or Nok?  If she named her son after her father, as did Naaman, a later descendant of Cain, we may conclude that she was Cain’s cousin or niece wife.  It was the cousin of niece wives who named their first-born sons after their fathers. This would mean that Cain’s father-in-law was called Enoch.  Enoch the Elder would have been Cain’s father’s brother.  This could not be Adam, since the Bible insists that Adam represents the first human created. As such, Adam would have lived millions of years ago.

So according to the information in Genesis, Cain was either the son of Adam and Eve and lived millions of years ago, or he was the son of Enoch’s brother and lived around 3400 BC.

How are we to resolve this apparent contradiction?  One approach is to investigate the meaning of the name Cain and its related cognates.

Etiology of the name Cain

As E.A. Speiser noted that the name Cain –  Qany(ty) or Qan itti – shows close affinity to the Akkadian itti (as in itti šarrim which means “with the king” or possibly “against the king.”) Akkadian was the language of the empire during Nimrod’s time (BC 2290-2215).  There is evidence that biblical Nimrod is the historical Sargon the Great.  Genesis 10 tells us that Nimrod was a Kushite, so it is not surprising to find that Akkadian shares many words with Nilotic languages. Among the Oromo of Ethiopia and Somalia, itti is attached to names. Examples include Kaartuumitti, Finfinneetti and Dimashqitti. That itti is associated with Nilotic rulers is evident in the name Nefertitti.Cain as warrior and metal worker

Shalom E. Holtz (Yeshiva University, New York) has demonstrated, itti can mean “against” as is evidenced from its appearance in numerous cases of adversarial relationships in the Old Testament.  Since the meaning of Cain is “spear” and he is associated with metal work, we might take Cain to be a metalworking warrior. Genesis 4:22 indicates that his clan forged various implements of copper and iron, although the iron mentioned here was beja (bja), the ancient Egyptian word for meteroric iron (metal from heaven). Beja corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. Meteoritic iron was used in the fabrication of iron beads in Nubia 6000 years ago. These beads were likely perceived as seeds from heaven which brought divine power to the wearer.

This certainly places Cain in history before the bronze age and long after the first humans tread the verdant hills of Eden. This resolves the problem of dating Adam and Eve and Cain.  The first are ahistorical representations of the first humans created by God, made fully human and in the divine image.  These would have lived at least 3.4 million years ago.  Cain and Seth, on the other hand, can be placed in history between 4000 and 3000 B.C. This corresponds to the Copper Age (3500 -2300 B.C.) During the Copper Age the warriors were of high social rank. Copper mining and the fabrication of copper tools and weapons gave rise to new a social hierarchy. At the top, were the warriors who protected their communities.


So who was Cain’s father?  Clearly not Adam.  Given the period in which Cain lived, his social rank as a ruler, and his place in the ancestry of Abraham, we must assume that he was a Kushite.  His father was likely the brother of Enoch the Elder, Cain’s father-in-law.  This would explain why Cain’s wife named their first-born son after her father, as was the pattern for cousin wives among Abraham’s Kushite ancestors.


6 thoughts on “Cain’s Father

  1. So you are willing to ignore the biblical evidence of the Genesis King Lists in Genesis 4 and 5 in order to read Genesis 1-3 as history?

    The narratives of Gen. 1-3 are not as old as the King Lists of Gen. 4 and 5. Nor can the historicity of Gen. 1-3 be demonstrated, while the rulers of Gen. 4- 5 can be placed in history and the biblical information about these rulers can be verified.

  2. Eve said: “I have gotten a man with the help of ther Lord.” The Hebrew word for man here is not adam. Further, these people lived long before Hebrew and Judaism. They spoke Nilotic languages.

    One wife was not the pattern for Cain and his ruler caste. The rulers had two wives, which is how their community grew so quickly. Abraham’s marriage pattern is identical, with two wives. Sarah was his half-sister wife and Keturah was his cousin or niece wife.

  3. Hogwash! Are you actually trying to claim that Cain and Abel weren’t brothers, both the sons of Adam, as taught in Hebrew and Christian tradition! I think your English translations must be wacky! Ditto on the 3.4M years of human life!

  4. If Adam was the first man created by God – and the Bible permits no other explanation – then he cannot have been Cain’s father. Cain married a cousin and analysis of the King Lists of Genesis 4 and 5 shows that there was an established pattern of marriage and ascendency among the lines of Cain and Seth. In other words, royal lines, established territories, metal technologies and law codes existed in Cain and Seth’s time. These did not exist in Adam and Eve’s original small community 3.5 million years ago. I encourage you to follow the links and read the related reading:

  5. I agree with Chris. There was only one man at the time. By the time Seth is born, who knows how many other male children Adam and Eve might have had that are unnamed for us. Naming Adam as father of Seth shows us that it isn’t one of the other males running around at the time.

  6. Yes, but context and the fact that Adam’s name means “the man” pretty much give it away that the father of Cain was Adam.

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