The Family Tree

August 31, 2010

So Cain and his wife have a son named Enoch. The first and last thing to be described about Enoch is his own son. Nothing about Enoch’s childhood or teenage years; he is just born and then is suddenly a grown man having kids of his own. I guess there wasn’t much to do back in the day that was worth reporting anyway.

The Bible continues by simply listing off the lineage of Cain and his nameless wife. Enoch has a son Irad, Irad has a son Mehu’jael, Mehu’jael has a son Methu’shael, and finally Methu’shael has a son whom he calls Lamech. This was a long way of saying “Lamech is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Adam and Eve”. And if that wasn’t enough, I now learn about all of Adam and Eve’s other kids…because apparently they had more.

Chapter four closes on the birth of Seth; Adam and Eve’s next child. Not much is revealed about Seth other than the idea he is replacing Abel. We learn Seth eventually has a kid with another undisclosed woman and he calls the child Enosh. Real original Seth.

These chapters continue the trend of mysterious women. Not only does Seth hook up with an unknown woman, but the only women given the consideration of a name are involved someway with Lamech (Cain’s side). Lamech takes two wives (a fact that will definitely be addressed) whose names are Adah and Zillah. Both women give birth to children and Zillah bears the only named daughter: Na’amah. Nothing, yet, is mentioned of what happens to Na’amah.

When chapter five opens I am struck with yet another overlap of stories that borders on redundancy:

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God…When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Gen 5:1-3)

At the beginning of Genesis I ran into this problem of repetition. Although some information is new, the manner in which the established information is presented makes things sound like the reader has never heard of God and Adam before. I have hypothesized that the cause of this duality might be due to multiple authors over a span of time and the stories have been simply mashed together. This theory is sounding more and more like a possibility. Maybe our ancestors were just really thick and needed a lot of reminders as they read.

Anyway, let’s get back to what was just said. One hundred and thirty years old! Adam knocks up an equally old Eve at 130 years old! This was a good time for humans (minus the whole damnation and all). On top of this extraordinary age that Adam and Eve apparently reach, the Bible goes on to say that they had “other sons and daughters” until Adam kicked the bucket at the ripe old age of 930. Even without a tree of life Adam lives to be 930 years old. If immortality were given to me I’d probably die of boredom after 930 years, so I guess it doesn’t really matter that Adam and Eve never got a crack at the tree of life. Assuming Eve lived as long as her husband I think it is safe to say they got to see enough of life after exile.

Adam and Eve are not the only ones to achieve impressive life-spans. All of the men in the coming paragraphs live for extraordinary lengths of time, the youngest of them dying at the age of 777. Enoch himself smashes Adam’s record by dying at 969 years old. Why or how these fellas got to be so old I have no idea. I’m guessing all that sex and no alcohol.

What follows after the death of Adam is a long list of the generations following the first man and woman. There is no prose or plot in the page and half after Adam and Eve pass, just a list of the fathers and sons over the next several hundred years. It is an abrupt switch from the story-like mode that has established the text so far and it gives a factual tone to the writing. The text sounds like a history book at this point and I might consider it as such if I wasn’t distracted by the outlandish ages of Earth’s early inhabitants. I wonder if this shift in tone is an attempt from the text to look for credibility in the eyes of the reader. Whatever the cause, it makes for a dull couple of pages. For the sake of space and time I have a flowchart of what we learn of Adam and Eve’s lineage:

Adam > Seth > Enosh > Kenan > Mahal’alel > Jared > Enoch > Methu’selah > Lamech > Noah

The above can be read as Seth is the father of Enosh, Enosh the father of Kenan and so on.

I had to be careful in writing these passages for reasons that may already be apparent. We have already been introduced to an Enoch as the son of Cain, and Enoch’s own great-great grandson was named Lamech. In seeing the lineage of Adam down Seth’s line, there is not only an Enosh, but another Enoch entirely who has a grandson named Lamech. I guess names were scarce at the beginning of mankind. In their defense the Bible does say that each of the men mentioned above had many more sons and daughters (with unique names I would hope), but each had only one son worth textual recognition.

The book goes to great lengths to mention at least one son of each male character. There is no mention of the other brothers and sisters, just one son. I would understand if the mentioned son did something cool that was then written down, but nothing is mentioned for anyone. I am probably getting ahead of myself though. I’ll admit that I know where Genesis will take us in the next few chapters, so I wonder if the only purpose of this segment of the Bible is tell the reader where the character of Noah comes from…

Nowadays, at least in the United States, the family name is passed down through the male side of a family. It has become commonplace for the wife to take the husband’s last name in marriage. Whether or not this is a correct/ethical/moral/whatever practice is reserved for a different blog entirely. What the Bible appears to be doing in the text forming the basis for this post is creating the idea that the males form the family lineage. Although the characters in the Bible do not have any last names, or any unique, filial identifiers as far as we know, by focusing solely on the men, the text creates a family history dependent on them.

In recent years I have heard a great deal of critiques and insults thrown at Islam. The rising tension, whether apparent or not, between the West and Islam is a partial reason for my desire to read holy texts and find the answers myself. One of the critiques that western, often religious, folk have berated Muslims with is Islam’s tolerance of multiple marriages. Whether this is true or not, or to what extent Muslims practice it (I’m guessing few), I feel this is a good time to point out Lamech from a little while ago. At what can still be considered the beginning of the Bible there is a character formally engaged with two women. It is great to see something applicable to the modern argument already coming out of the text.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with marrying multiple women…

6 Responses to “The Family Tree”

  1. Gram Says:

    Wow James, has Emily seen that last sentence….? By the way have you found out who Cain married? since Adam and Eve were the only people on earth!!!!!!!!!!

    • sacrilible Says:

      Cain’s mysterious wife still eludes me. I wonder if she will ever be identified. Judging by the lack of mention of female characters so far I am beginning to doubt that will happen.

  2. Ma Says:

    Well written and really made me think. Perhaps sex and no alcohol could make you live to 969?? I agree with you thou life would get kind of old as with everything in life it all comes full circle.

  3. Alisha Says:

    Thanks for posting again. Guess that means I’m due for another one too. :)

    Enjoyed this one, as always – really looking forward to your post regarding Noah and his (mis)adventures, especially after some of the discussions we had last winter.

    Keep it up!

  4. Kenneth Says:

    I think it is an excellent project that you have started to read the Bible with the goal of trying to find the true meaning!

    Simple logic can tell us where Cain found his wife.
    1. God gave Adam and Eve the the assignments to cultivate the earth and to be fruitful and fill the earth (have lots of sex and offspring). (Genesis 1:28) Also, he told them to not eat from a particular tree, which he reserved for himself.
    2. Genesis 3:20 states that Adam named his wife Eve, because she was to be the mother of all humans. From this, we know that there was no other race of humankind from which to take a mate.
    3. They were told that they would die when/why? Only if they disobeyed God and ate of that specific tree. (Genesis 2:17) Not living forever, was a punishment! (Genisis 3:22)
    4. If they had not disobeyed, they would have continued on living without death, as obedient, perfect humans. (Why must it be true that, just because we might get bored on occasion, that a perfect human (with complete control over his thoughts and desires, and with unhindered, two-way communication with God) just MUST become bored after 1000 years of life? My personal experience is that the more someone enjoys personally learning things, the less likely they are to feel bored. God created us with the desire to explore, to not feel bored. It would be a cruel thing to create us that way, but not give us the capability to satisfy that desire. The God I know is a God of Love and not of Cruelty.)
    5. Implicit in the giving of commands from one with authority to give commands (God in this case), is the expectation of obedience. We know from later verses in the Bible, that God expected Adam and his children to obey and worship HIM as the only true God.

    Consider the situation if they had remained obedient with the prospect of never-ending life in paradise:
    Is it reasonable to think that Adam and Eve would be expected to cultivate the entire earth alone without the help of their children? Of course not! We know there is not enough time in the day, or even a century for this to be physically possible. As realized in the original blog entry above, Adam “became father to [children] in his likeness.” Naturally, he would raise them up to help him in his God-given assignment.

    With Adam’s children born in his likeness, the commands that God placed upon Adam were inherited by his children: they, too, would be expected to obey God, to not eat of that specific tree, to have sex and offspring themselves (but where did their mates come from?), to cultivate the earth right alongside with their parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, great-great-great grandchildren, and so on.

    To reiterate, a loving father, God would not place a command upon these offspring if they were not actually able to fulfil the command. Also, He would not place a command upon them, only to condemn then when they obeyed that command to procreate.

    In case you haven’t already figured out the answer, let me jump ahead in time to a “missing mate” situation that no one seems bothered about: Noah and his family, after the flood. At Genesis 9:1, God repeated the command to Noah and his family to fill the earth (to have lots of sex and offspring). Of course, that is different, right? We are told that Noah had his wife, and that each of his three sons also had their own wife. No mystery women there! But, what about Noah’s grandchildren? Where would they get mates from, so that they could obey the command to fill the earth? Look at Genesis 9:19. It clearly answers this question by stating that it was “from these” three sons of Noah that the whole earth was filled with humans.

    If we take the Bible as Truth from God, then this inescapable fact presents itself from that last verse: Noah’s grandchildren MUST have taken mates from among the close offspring of Noah’s three sons. Did you catch that? There is no need to talk about some “mystery woman” for Noah’s offspring. You have known all along that all mankind came from Noah and the 7 other humans on the ark. I know you didn’t really believe that a stork brought babies to them. :) Apparently at this point in mankind’s history, it was still considered socially acceptable. Obviously, it was considered socially acceptable in the beginning, since it was God’s express will that Adam’s close offspring take mates from among what was available: Adam’s other close offspring. Genesis 5:4 shows that Adam had multiple sons and daughters. Since these early genealogies rarely gave names of daughters, it should come as no surprise that Adam’s daughters were not named, or that Cain’s wife was not named.

    Answer: Cain apparently took one of his sisters as his wife.

    Of course, later in history, the Mosaic Law laid out some prohibitions on close relations. Even then, though, Deuteronomy 25:5, 6 states that a man whose brother has died shall take his widowed sister-in-law as his own wife if that brother has died childless. This shows that such a relationship was not deemed _intrinsically_ or _inherently_ bad or immoral. But, it is not really my purpose here to go into details about today’s social taboos vs. yesterday’s.

    Scriptural references can be found here, along with other Bible translations:

    • sacrilible Says:

      Thank you Kenneth for the comment!

      I see now that I could have guessed Cain took one of his sisters to be his wife. Looking back on my readings I see that I did eventually learned Adam and Eve had more children. I just learned about them after I learned about Cain’s marital status. This unorthodox (by modern literature standards) way of story telling is something I am not accustomed to, but will definitely give more attention as I keep reading.

      In all honesty I most likely could still find several things to enjoy about life after a century of living. I find it interesting though that most people I’ve talked to wouldn’t chose immortality, if given the chance, and would almost see it as worse than dying. This is clearly in opposition to Adam and Eve’s mindset as you’ve mentioned. Death to them is a punishment regardless of how long it takes. Is death a punishment because Adam and Eve could no longer complete God’s task of filling the Earth? I think it is.

      I appreciate the additional perspective and added information. I enjoyed the reference to Mosaic Law and the foreshadowing of moral standards as an acknowledgement of where all this reading is leading to. However, if I can tease you for a moment, I should put “SPOILER ALERT” at the top of your comment. :)

      Thanks again.

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