First-born of Adam and Eve, named "Cain" ("Ḳayin") because "gotten" (root, "ḳanah") "with the help of
Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel, presented to the views of the Rabbis two different types. One was that of a sinner who yielded to his passions who was greedy, "offering to God only worthless portions; the remnants of his meal or flaxseed"; whom either God's favorable acceptance of Abel's sacrifice or Abel's handsomer wife and twin sister filled with jealousy; who, because he claimed the pasture-land or the wife of Abel as his birthright, quarreled with his brother. He was nevertheless sincere in his repentance when he said, "Too great is my sin [A. V., "punishment"] to bear" (Gen. iv. 13). and so the mark the Lord set upon him was a token of forgiveness. Like a man who had slain another without premeditation, he was sent into exile to atone for his sin (Sanh. 37b); and his crime was finally atoned for when he met death through the falling upon him of his house (Book of Jubilees, iv. 31), or at the hands of his great-grandson Lamech, who took him for a wild beast in the distance and shot him (Tan., Bereshit, ed. Vienna, p. 6b, and Yalḳ. i. 38).
Cain was also viewed as a type of utter perverseness, an offspring of Satan (Pirḳe R. El. xxi.), "a son of wrath" (Apoc. Mosis, 3), a lawless rebel who said, "There is neither a divine judgment nor a judge" (Midr. Leḳaḥ Ṭob and Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8), whose words of repentance were insincere (Sanh. 101b; Tan.), whose fleeing from God was a denial of His omnipresence (Gen. R. xxii.), and whose punishment was of an extraordinary character: for every hundred years of the seven hundred years he was to live was to inflict another punishment upon him; and all his generations must be exterminated (Test. Patr., Benjamin, 7, according to Gen. iv. 24; Enoch, xxii, 7). For him and his race shall ever be "the desire of the spirit of sin" (Gen. R. xx., after Gen. iv. 7). He is the first of those who have no share in the world to come (Ab. R. N. xli., ed. Schechter, p. 133).Generations of Cain.
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). The Ethiopian Book of Adam and Eve and the Syriac Cave of Treasures—both Christianized Melchisedician works based upon a genuine Jewish original—relate the story of the fall of the descendants of Seth as "the sons of God" who had lived in purity as saints on the mountain near Eden, following the precept and example of Seth and Enoch, their leaders, but were attracted by the gay and sensuous mode of life in which the children of Cain indulged; the latter spending their days at the foot of the mountain, in wild orgies, accompanied by the music of instruments invented by Jubal, and by women, in gorgeous attire, seducing the men to commit the most abominable practises. In the days of Jared ("descent") the Sethites ("the sons of God") went down the hill to join the Cainites, heedless of the warnings of Jared; and none of those who walked in the path of sin could come back. This was repeated in the days of Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah: all the admonitions of these saintly leaders did not prevent the fall of the sons of Seth, for whom the daughters of Cain lusted (see The Book of Adam and Eve, transl. by S. C. Malan, 1882, pp. 115-147; Dillmann, "Das Christliche Adambuch," 1853, pp. 82-101; Bezold, "Die Schatzhöhle," i. 10-23). Josephus ("Ant." i. 2, § 2; i. 3, § 1) also speaks of the excessive wickedness of the posterity of Cain, which grew in vehemence with every generation; while the posterity of Seth remained virtuous during seven generations, after which the fall of the angels ensued and they were enticed by their gigantic offspring. To Philo, likewise, Cain is the type of avarice, of "folly and impiety" ("De Cherubim," xx.), and of self-love ("De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini"; "Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat," 10). "He built a city" (Gen. iv. 17) means that "he built a doctrinal system of law-lessness, insolence, and immoderate indulgence in pleasure" ("De Posteritate," 15); and the Epicurean philosophers are of the school of Cain, "claiming to have Cain as teacher and guide, who recommended the worship of the sensual powers in preference to the powers above, and who practised his doctrine by destroying Abel, the expounder of the opposite doctrine" (ib. 11).
A doctrine of the Cainites appears, then, to have been in existence as early as Philo's time; but nothing is known of the same. In the second century of the common era a Gnostic sect by the name of "Cainites" is frequently mentioned as forming a branch of the antinomistic heresies which, adopting some of the views of Paulinian Christianity, advocated and practised indulgence in carnal pleasure. While some of the Jewish Gnostics divided men into three classes—represented (1) by Cain, the physical or earthly man; (2) by Abel, the psychical man (the middle class); and (3) by Seth, the spiritual or saintly man (see Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses," i. 7, 5; compare Philo, "De Gigantibus," 13)—the antinomistic pagan Gnostics declared Cain and other rebels or sinners to be their prototypes of evil and licentiousness. Cain, Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and even Judas Iscariot, were made by these Gnostics expounders of the "wisdom" of the serpent in rebellion against God (Gen. iii. 5), the primeval serpent, "Naḥash ha-Ḳadmoni" (Gen R. xxii. 12). How many of these pernicious doctrines were already formed in pre-Christian times and how many were developed during the first and second Christian centuries is difficult to ascertain (see Jude 11, "the way of Cain"; Irenæus, l.c. i. 31, 1; 26, 31; 27, 3; Hippolytus, "Adversus Omnes Hæreses," v. 11, 15, 21; Clemens of Alexandria, "The Cainists," Stromata vii. 17; Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iii. 29; Epiphanius, "Hæres." xxv., xxvi., xxxviii. 2). Blau with good reason refers to such Cainite doctrines the Haggadah of blasphemy, referred to in Sanh. 99b, as taught by Manasseh ben Hezekiah, the typical perverter of the Law in the direction of licentiousness.
- A. Hönig, Die Ophiten, Berlin, 1889;
- M. Friedländer, Der Vorchristliche Jüdische Gnosticismus, 1898, pp. 19 et seq.;
- idem, Der Antichrist, 1901, pp. 101 et seq.;
- Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums, 1884, pp. 324 et seq.;
- Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern, pp. 59-70.
The narratives in Gen. iv. are assigned to two different strata of the Jahvistic document; e.g., Ball, "S. B. O. T.," the story of the murder of Abel (1-16a, 25, 26 2 to J), the later stratum; and the story of Cain, the city-builder, and of his descendants (16b-24 1 to J), the earlier stratum. The independence of the two sections is shown, among other things, by the fact that the man who, in verse 12, is to be "a fugitive and a wanderer," in verse 17 builds a city. Verses 16b-24, to which probably 1a should be added, are from the same document as the story of the creation in Eden; and 1b-16, 25, 26, from that containing J1's account of the flood. The apparent cross-reference, "wanderer," "nad" (12), with "wandering," "Nod" (16b), is due to a redactor; and verse 24 refers to a version of the story of Cain which is different from that given in 1b-16 (compare below).
The later section, 1b-16, is commonly explained thus (compare Holzinger's "Genesis"): Cain is the eponym of the Kenites (see 2), and the verses are a form of an independent tradition which explained the nomadic life of the Kenites as due to a curse laid upon them for some ancient murder. To the settled Israelites the nomadic life, seemed mean and wretched. Verses 25, 26 connect this story with the complete J.
The earlier section, 17-24, is J1's genealogy of the descent of the human race from Adam, and his account of the development of civilization. The Song of Lamech (23, 24) is an ancient fragment inserted by J1, referring to a form of the story of Cain which placed his conduct in a favorable light.
Text of Gen. iv. 1: A. V., "[a man] from the Lord," so Targ. O., implies a reading '; the actual text might possibly be rendered as R. V., "with the help of the Lord"; so Septuagint, Vulgate, or even"from
The etymology of iv. 1 is a linguistic impossibility. The name was originally that of the Kenite tribe (see 2). The word ("ḳayin") is read in the Masoretic text of II Sam. xxi. 16, and translated "lance"; the corresponding words in Arabic and Syriac mean "smith." The tribe may have derived its name from the fame of its smiths. The "Cainan" of Gen. v. 14 ("Ḳenan") is another form of this name (compare "
The "sign" of Cain is sometimes understood as a sign given to Cain to reassure him, but probably some mark on his person is intended, which should indicate that he was under divine protection. It perhaps refers to a tribal mark of the Kenites connected with their worship of
The Apocrypha (Wisdom x. 3, 4) refers to Cain as the cause of the Flood. In the New Testament Cain is mentioned as an evil example (Heb. xi. 4; I John iii. 12; Jude 11).
2. Tribe; mentioned in Num. xxiv. 22, and Judges iv. 11, for the tribe of the Kenites (see Kenites).
3. City ("Ha-Ḳayin"); mentioned in Josh. xv. 57, in southern Judah, often identified with Yagin, southeast of Hebron.
- Delitzsch, Neuer Commentar über die Genesis, 1887;
- Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuch;
- Budde, Die Biblische Urgesch. 1883;
- Stade, Das Kainzeichen, in Z. A. T. W. 1894, pp. 250 et seq.; 1895, pp. 157 et seq.;
- reprinted in Akademische Reden und Abhandlungen, 1899, pp. 229-273;
- Holzinger, Genesis, in Kurzer Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, 1898;
- Gunkel, Handkommentar zur Gen. 1901.