Did Yahweh Father Cain?

Cain Kills Abel by Paul Gustave Doré, Commons.wikimedia.org

Christians are often taught to interpret the Bible literally. I wrote about the problems that can come out of overemphasizing literal interpretation, but I should point out that most people who advocate literalism do so to prevent self-serving or idiosyncratic interpretations. If we interpret the text at face-value, so the idea goes, we’ll more often than not be interpreting Scripture correctly. This approach—though well-intentioned—isn’t always the best strategy, for several reasons. One is that the most straightforward reading can produce bizarre outcomes.

Genesis 4:1 is a case in point: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’” We might look at this verse and see nothing amiss, but the English translation is concealing a controversial problem. In Hebrew, Eve says, “qanithi ish eth-YHWH.” The English words “the help of” were supplied by the translator of the ESV; they are not represented in the Hebrew text.
In addition, the Hebrew verb qanah (the basic form of the word qanithi, translated “I have gotten” in the ESV) elsewhere can speak of creating. For example, it is the verb in the psalmist’s famous statement about God’s role in his birth: “For you formed (qanah) my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13).

Insisting on the most straightforward reading of Genesis 4:1 easily produces an interpretation that has Eve saying, “I have created (or procreated) a man with Yahweh.” While this translation might sound very odd to our ears, certain cults and religious sects held the view that Yahweh had a sexual relationship with Eve. In one respect, such a translation is a gross misreading of the text, as the verse begins with a clear statement that Eve’s sexual partner—and therefore the father of Cain—was Adam (“Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain”). But that doesn’t resolve what the second half of the verse means to say.

The verb qanah is not among the Hebrew words used most frequently to describe conception and childbirth (such as harah and yalad). In fact, this meaning for qanah is rare. Most Hebrew scholars believe that the writer chose to use qanah in Genesis 4:1 to produce wordplay, as it sounds a lot like the Hebrew name for Cain: qayin. Consequently, the second part of the verse was not intended to describe Eve procreating with Yahweh, especially since the first part has just made clear that Adam was Cain’s father.

Statements elsewhere in the Bible—particularly several made by women who had difficulty bearing children—confirm the problem with taking Genesis 4:1 too literally. Sarah, who clearly was unable to have children because of her age (Gen 18:11–12), knew that Yahweh had enabled her to have Isaac (Gen 18:13–15; 21:6–7). Hannah credited Yahweh with the birth of Samuel after she had been barren for many years (1 Sam 1:19–20).

Like these other women, Eve’s statement that she had “created a man with the Lord”—after becoming pregnant by Adam—is an idiomatic expression: She is crediting God for blessing her with the mystery of childbirth. Translations of Genesis 4:1 like the ESV express this idea correctly. Eve believed that God had played a role in bringing Cain into the world.

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why is the bible hard to understandThis article is adapted from Dr. Heiser’s book The Bible Unfiltered.

Dr. Michael S. Heiser is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host.

His newest book, The World Turned Upside Down: Finding the Gospel in Stranger Things, is now on pre-order.

He’s taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

Comments

  1. This being Genesis, which serves as a text book for scriptural anthropology, every facet of human origin, the origin of sin, marriage, death, etc. are all discussed and are used by Jesus and the apostle Paul to establish key teachings. This particular verse is not often even discuss except in ways considered controversial making it interesting (as they say in the movie industry, “Only conflict is interesting”). So I’m very glad it was brought up and the idiom explained.

    I’d like to point out another issue in this passage:

    * Adam was never born of a woman. He was entirely passive at birth, formed from clay and animated by the breath of life.

    * Eve too was formed (from Adam’s baculum? I think so), not born

    * Eve seems to be thunderstruck at the miracle of birth and attributes it to her own body + the LORD: “I have made a baby from? synergistically with? (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/synergism) the LORD”

    BUT…

    * Today’s post points out that some take this “synergism” to be sexual activity with the LORD which, Heiser debunks

    AND

    * There seems to be both a Jewish tradition and a scriptural thread that identifies Cain as the offspring of the Satan:

    “…The seven generations of Cain, as the brood of Satan, are accordingly represented as types of rebels(Gen. R. xxiii.). While the pious men all descended from Seth, there sprang from Cain all the wicked ones who rebelled against God and whose perverseness and corruption brought on the flood: they committed all abominations and incestuous crimes in public without shame. The daughters of Cain were those “fair daughters of men” who by their lasciviousness caused the fall of the “sons of God” (Gen. vi. 1-4; Pirḳe R. El. xxii.; compare Sibyllines, i. 75)…”

    So how do we deal with the scriptures calling Cain and others the “spawn of Satan”? I think 1 John 3:8-12 suggests that while Cain’s physical origin was the synergy between Adam’s baculum-less body and the “bone of his bone”, Eve’s body and the divine inspiration of the breath of life, spiritually speaking Cain, was the spawn of the Satan:

    [1Jo 3:8-12 CSB] (8) **The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning.** The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works. **(9) Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because his seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. (10) This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious.** Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister. (11) For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, (12) **unlike Cain, who was of the evil one** and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

    Men become the offspring of Satan by “embracing and repeating Satan’s lies”:

    [Jhn 8:44 CSB] (44) “You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

    • Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs (Genesis 2:21). The primary meaning of the Hebrew “tse’la” is “rib,” and the other relevant meaning is “side.” Nothing to suggest the baculum, which is the bony part of the penis. That’s a very strange translation.

    • Matthew Kent says:

      “So how do we deal with the scriptures calling Cain and others the “spawn of Satan”?” Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer and Sybilline Oracles are not scriptures. At best you can claim these later writers theologize similarly to the Johannine writings.

  2. I think you are taking the literal reading of this text clearly out of context. I agree, Eve named her son Cain, but the context clearly states that this child was a result of relations between Adam and Eve. The clear, literal reading of Scripture primarily does not mean that we overlook things such as hyperbole, methaphors, figures of speech and so forth. It simply means where Scripture is not using any fo the key features of these other forms of writing, it should be read in a literal sense.

  3. [Facepalm]

    A solution looking for a problem. In my decades among those who advocate literal interpretation, I have never once heard or read anyone making this assertion. It is an exercise in the most ludicrous of straw man arguments meant solely to create controversy and generate clicks.

  4. Jeff Marshall says:

    I agree with Bill Ross. God has always had a people sense Adam and fathered by God just as Eve but unlike anyone else for they where made directly by God Himself. They where the first son and daughter of God.
    Adam then fathered children in the garden with Eve with little pain in childbirth. They where commanded in the garden to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Thus this is how Cain attained a wife after he was expelled from God’ presence. After Adam and Eve where expelled from the garden of God, God said to that her curse would be that He would greatly multiply her pain in childbirth. There are those how pro-port that Eve had sexual relations with satan [serpent seed religion] and thus it was Cain that was the product of this relationship.This ridiculous in that what is said above is correct by Dr Heiser’s explanation that Adam fathered Cain. As for Bob Ross’s statement of the genealogy of Adam and Eve who where the children of God and thus Son and Daughter [original], their lineage continued through Seth, Enoch [who walked with God] and Noah a rightious man and only seven others that where with him in the Ark. Cain went away from God and continued his life outside of fellowship with God and fathered his own offspring noting that he did not father children through fallen Angles as some pro-port is possible to do with Angles and they pro-port was what happened in Gen. 6:2 :
    Gen. 6:1 And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2 That the sons of God saw the DAUGHTERS OF MEN THAT THEY WERE FAIR; and they took them wives of all which they chose.
    3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
    4 There were GIANTS IN THE EARTH IN THOSE DAYS; AND ALSO AFTER THAT, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
    6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
    8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfecta in his generations, and Noah walked with God. 10 And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
    11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
    The Holy Bible: King James Version.

    Four things here that disrupt the teaching by Dr Heiser and others who believe that fallen Angles took these daughters of men and had children by them.
    1.If fallen Angles wanted to [if they could] have married and then fathered children by the daughters of men. WHY would they care if the where fair or beautiful ?
    2. The Giants [Dinosaurs, because we have obviously had them here because of the fossil record] where already in then earth BEFORE the sons of God took the daughters of men and fathered children by them. SO if they are already there why would somebody teach that the offspring of these sons of God and daughters of men where the Giants?
    3.Where is God’ judgement on the fallen Angles for taking and having children by the daughters of men and thereby corrupting the earth?
    4.Where are the Giants or Nethilim offspring of fallen Angles and daughters of men in the fossil record?
    And there many more examples of misinterpretation of the text and misapplication of the text that I could that could stated here but for a time lack of time I must digress.

  5. Genesis is so important for reasons you stated. It often contains crucial ideas simply stated and expanded in other areas of Scripture. Most parents are in awe of what happens when a fully independent human being is born/created. I think Eve expressed something fundamental, that while a man a woman create a biological body, God puts the spirit into it to make a unique and accountable-to-God being. I forget the verse in one of the prophets that says God puts a spirit in a human being. You don’t have a human being from two humans, only from two humans and God.
    Your comments were too abbreviated about “literal” interpretation. One must take into account the literary structure of the whole book, its natural divisions, its literary devices and its context within all of Gods revelation. As you pointed out people who don’t do that latch on to foolishness.

  6. Carol Vivier says:

    Fructenbaum’s commentary in Messianic Christology captured my attention as he called for a literal interpretation with a different twist: “Eve has clearly understood from God words in Genesis 3:15 that the serpent will be defeated by a God-Man. She obviously thinks that Cain is Jehovah. Her basic theology is correct: Messiah would be both man and God. Her mistake is in her application of that theology. She has assumed that Cain, her first child, was the promised God-Man. That she quickly realized her mistake is evident at the birth of Cain’s brother whom she names Abel, meaning ‘vanity.’ “(p. 15).

  7. Did ‘who/yaya’ what..?…

    What god?

    Did you prove your god?

    Which one…?