Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Monument of Cain, first born of Adam?

Cain, is hardly a sympathetic figure in scripture. He sulks after the rejection of his offering, but Cain, as Abel and his parents do, converses directly with God regarding all. In this way he is somewhat to be envied since we all sin, but the word of God is scarce in these days. When I say "why?" I must search the scriptures. Cain could take his whines to God. In fact, he could sulk and God would walk over to him and ask him "what's wrong?"

"The Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it'." (ESV)

Ever the angry child, working out not generations of sinful build up, but purely his own, Cain moves from divine revelation, to further sin.

"Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him."

After trying to cover up his deed to an all knowing God, Cain is sentenced to wander and to be a fugitive. Cain sees his own death in his murderous guilt, lamenting that whoever finds him, will destroy him. God however shows love for Cain and preserves him.

"Then the Lord said to him, 'Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.' And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden."

To think that Cain at least, did not know of the LORD, is folly. To think his children did not either, is also error. Cain conversed with God, he bore God's preserving mark, but his immediate punishment is to dwell away from the LORD, instead of in his close presence. Cain's line goes by an inferior path of inheritance, like Ishmael, like Canaan, like Esau. All these men go these paths for different reasons, but they walk out of the story line of the Bible, and into relative obscurity.

One of the bookends of Cain's story is God's promise to him that he will be avenged if he is himself killed, a promise echoed at the other end of Cain's line, for Cain's patrilinear line dies, in the flood. How then, is Cain remembered? He is driven from his home, his genealogy is known from male descendant to male descendant. Most likely, and almost certainly it is not written down, but witnessed to from one generation to the next. It is said that Noah could have known (and probably did know) a man that knew Adam. Noah's knowledge of Adam is second hand, probably witnessed to by more than one man, likewise Cain's line would be similarly confirmed, from Cain forward. In fact we have more detail about Cain than we have about the "Godly Line of Seth" and any of it's members. What is the most likely meaning in terms of genealogy? Cain separates from Seth and Adam. The confirming witnesses of his line look back not to Adam, but to Cain. One of the two bookends of his story.

Fast forward to Lamech, who recites the protection of Cain to his witnesses, his wives.

"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. If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold.' "

Ofttimes this is interpreted to mean that Lamech is a bad man, but we do know why he killed. He killed in self defense. Lamech seems to then claim the protections of God, the inheritance of Cain, passed down to him. He has killed two men (possibly just one, these references could be to the same man) and asserts that his protection ought to be greater as a result. His frame of reference genealogically speaking, is Cain. Cain, the inferior father of all his line, unlike Seth's whose father present and with him, is Adam. It's not much to claim but Lamech claims it and does what all men do in these times, he recites it orally to his family. His witnesses are his wives. Perhaps even, these are his dying words, the recitation of his inheritance. How then is Cain preserved, if he is to die in the flood?

In conversations with a close friend we have mulled over this point for a while. No woman is mentioned by name from Adam and Eve to Noah except for Lamech's wives and daughter. He is the father of Naamah, husband to Adah and Zillah. Suddenly detail blossoms and we have not one woman mentioned, but three. The words of Seth are not recorded in his line, only those of Adam his father and Eve, his mother. None of the words of the men between Lamech the Father of Noah (not Lamech, the father of Naamah, Cain, Jubal and Tubal-cain) are recorded, but like the other Lamech, Noah's father's words are recorded. He says of his son Noah;

"Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands."

Lamech, the father of Noah looks forward, Lamech, the father of Naamah, back. This is fitting, for the patrilinear line of Cain is about to die. But instead of the differences, let us look upon the similarities. Words at the beginning of an age are recorded, and words at their end. Noah knows the words of Lamech his father, because he hears them. How though, does he know the words of Naamah's father, the other Lamech, descendent of Cain? How does he know the genealogy? It would be lost to the line of Seth. Intermarriages between Seth's line, and Cain's line would retain their own patrilinear records passed from one generation to the next, emphasizing the family name, Seth. Why do we even know Naamah's name, much less the detail of her generation?

It is because she did not die in the flood. Naamah was on the ark. Naamah brought with her the story of her line, and someone who loved her, preserved it. That man would be her husband. That man is almost certainly Noah. Cain's name is not transcendent, but in a lesser way, Cain goes on, to this day, in all of us, for Naamah like Eve, is our mother.

Once again, this is an educated guess, but I would not bet against it. After coming to this conclusion without outside help, and marveling for a long time that such detail is given to the last in Cain's line, it suddenly dawned on me what the most likely explanation was. Knowing that if only I saw this, it would likely be a falsehood, I then began to research the names of Noah's family and their wives. Lo and behold, it is an ancient Hebrew Tradition, in Midrash, that Naamah is the wife of Noah. I am not alone.

Movies increasingly tell the popular stories of our time. From one of them, a 1992 movie script and remake of a popular American Novel by James Fenimore Cooper, there is this line uttered by Hawkeye about those who are gone, almost without a trace, and who live only as a memory;

"My father's people say that at the birth of the sun and of his brother the moon, their mother died. So the sun gave to the earth her body, from which was to spring all life. And he drew forth from her breast the stars, and the stars he threw into the night sky to remind him of her soul. So there's the Cameron's monument. My folks' too, I guess."

Bad theology, I know. Awful in fact, but if I felt any way at all in stumbling across one of my first grandmothers, that I never knew was there, it was that feeling. Scattered somewhere I will never know, is my mother from before the flood. When I look up at the stars it will seem that Naamah is memorialized there. Naamah (who else would it be?) speaks only of the greatness of her family, the accomplishments of her brothers, and not her own.

"Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah."

Who else would remember and who else would know? Everyone in this story is important, Lamech a patriarch, mothers of the great inventors of their age, all of them having names. The only distinction of Naamah? She has a name. She is Cain's monument.

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