Chapter 4 of Genesis establishes a bad precedent.
Adam and Eve have sex at least twice and this results in Eve baring two sons, Cain and Abel. “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” When it came time to offer a sacrifice, Abel provided a sheep, and Cain provided “fruit of the ground”. God appreciated the sheep and was not impressed with Cain’s vegetables. Cain becomes jealous, despondent, and kills his one and only brother.
God marks Cain and prevents anyone from killing Cain by vowing that “whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”. The cursed Cain leaves the presence of God, and goes off to the land of Nod. There he finds at least one woman and begins a branch of humanity.
6 generations later, Lamach a direct descendent of Cain, comes home to his two wives, and announces that he has killed a man and wounded a young man. Of special note Lamach’s wife bares the only named daughter so far, Naamah.
The chapter ends with Adam and Eve having sex a third time, and Eve baring a son Seth. Seth in turn has a son Enos.
- God’s displeasure with vegetables is a little disturbing and demonstrates an emerging tendency towards the petty.
- Where are the daughters of man?
- What was the source of the woman of Nod, or did Cain sleep with his mother? If we look at the bible as a re-expression of mythic tales, then that second option is analogous to the god Uranus who was both son and husband of Gai.
- “Cain may be a mythological representation of a Near Eastern people called the Kenites, who practiced metalworking and musicianship and who may have worn tattoos.” (1)
- “Conflicts between brothers abound in world mythology, reflecting the widespread view that conflict between good and evil is an inescapable part of human life. In Persian mythology, the rival brothers are the gods Ahriman and Ahura Mazda. Islamic tradition calls them Kabil (Cain) and Habil (Abel).” (1)
- “Medieval Christians believed that Cain had a yellowish beard, so artists and playwrights used yellow beards to identify murderers and traitors. Because Christians sometimes viewed Cain as a forerunner of the Jews who killed Jesus, yellow became associated with anti-Semitism. Abel, an innocent and godly victim, was often compared with Jesus.” (1)
Art History Comments
Oh where oh where to begin? Let’s not try to begin or end. Figure 2 is a bronze panel from the doors of the Florence Baptistry in Florence Italy called the “Gates of Paradise” (1425-52), by Lorenzo Ghilberti. This panel is approximately 31 ¼ inches (79 cm) square. Figure 2
Approximately 450 years later Auguste Rodin in 1875 would travel to Florence and find inspiration in these doors. That seed in combination with a reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy would beginning in 1880 germinate into the monumental bronze sculpture “The Gates of Hell”. Near the top of the Gates, there is a 70cm figure called “The Thinker”. A large scale (186 cm high) bronze casting of “The Thinker” was first completed in 1902. And a piece of contemporary iconography and the model for many a photographic portrait was born.
From the time the “Gates of Hell” was first commissioned until the first complete pour it would be nearly 40 years. Rodin never saw the final sculpture in bronze.
Footnotes and Bibliography
- “30-Second Mythology”, Robert A. Segal, (Ivy Press, 2012)
- Musee Rodin
- The Thinker
- Lorenzo Ghiberti