Friday, December 06, 2013

"If Cain Was A Fugitive, How Could He Be a City Founder?"

Question:  God tells Cain, “A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth,” (Genesis 4:12) yet Cain “went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.” (Genesis 4:16-17). So which is it: was he always on the run, or did he settle down and build a city?

Answer: Why could it not be both?

What is meant by “city”? The Hebrew word (‘iyr) has two meanings. The first meaning is “excitement; anguish (terror).” The second meaning is “a place of waking; guarded.” Basically, a city in the ancient world is a place, an encampment, guarded by a watch.

We must be careful not to superimpose our present understanding back into the text or history. There is no ancient world implication (or concept for that matter at this point in time) of large populations, of trade, tradition, culture or of permanent buildings. Even if there were permanent structures (such as those from the much-later Greco-Roman times), most “cities” were no larger than a single unit of present-day apartment buildings. Larger ancient cities were not all that "large." The ancient city of Capernaum was no more than 14 acres, for example.

Are there not people today (such as the Bedouin--from “bedu” signifying one who lives in the desert) who live in tents, always keeping watch, always on the move? The one who upholds the responsibilities of manhood is the pinnacle of hierarchy in the family (consisting of at least adults with their children). When resources permit, groups of families stay together--mostly of the same herd-type--and the hierarchy requires a higher level of management. There is no indication that Cain’s position grew to such a high rank as “sheik” (for point of comparison).

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