Monday, May 31, 2010

Cain as Ruler

Alice C. Linsley


If Adam is the first man in biblical parlance, Cain is the first ruler. The Bible reluctantly grants him this status as is evident from a study of what Cain symbolizes in Scripture. In this essay we will explore the symbolism of Cain as ruler.

Cain is one of three sons mentioned in Genesis. The sons are Cain, the first born, Abel the second born, and Seth the third born. Cain killed his brother Abel, not an uncommon occurrence when a dispute arises between brothers, especially brothers listed as rulers. Genesis 4 and 5, when taken together, represent the oldest known list of ruler-priests. These are the first ruler-priests among many who came to control the Afro-Asiatic Dominion, the heart of which was Eden.

The Bible tells us many details about Cain, all of them pointing to his rank as a ruler. When he was born his mother declared kan-itti.  E.A. Speiser noted that Qany(ty) or Qan itti shows close affinity to the Akkadian itti, as in itti šarrim, which means "with the king".  Akkadian was the language of the empire during Nimrod's time (BC 2290-2215). Genesis 10 tells us that Nimrod was a Kushite, so it is not surprising to find that Akkadian shares many words with Nilotic languages. Among the Oromo of Ethiopia and Somalia, itti is attached to names. Examples include Kaartuumitti, Finfinneetti and Dimashqitti. That itti is associated with Nilotic rulers is evident in the name Nefertitti.

Cain was a tiller of the soil (Gen. 4:2). He controlled a territory as did Noah, one of his descendents, who was said to have planted a vineyard.

Cain married his cousin, the royal daughter of Enoch (Nok) as evidenced by analysis of the Genesis 4-5 kinship pattern.

He was a city builder (Gen. 4:17) as was his descendent Nimrod. These cities represent sacred centers of larger territories.

Cain is associated with metal smiths and one of his descendents – Tubal-Cain – is said to be the “father” of smiths. Smiths held a high social status in the ancient world. Early in the upper Nile, Badari smiths smelted copper. These are the same people who used ritual flint knives for circumcision, such at that used by Zipporah.

Cain’s name is derived from the word meaning “possession” or “lot”. As the first born son, he inherited the role of ruler. We might ask if he inherited it from Adam or by marrying into the House of Enoch (Nok).

He was a religious man, offering sacrifice to God, though his sacrifice wasn’t always acceptable (Gen. 4:5).

His bride named their first-born son after her father, which was the pattern among the ruler-priests of Abraham’s people.

Cain’s first-born son married his patrilineal parallel cousin, a daughter of Seth, and she named their first born son Irad. Irad’s daughter married her patrilineal cousin, Mahalalel and named their first-born son Jared after her father. Irad and Jared are linguistically equivalent, and the name means descent.

One of Cain’s daughters married her cousin Enosh and named their first-born son Kenan or Kain, after her father. Factoring the daughters into the genealogical picture of Genesis 4-5 clarifies the kinship pattern of Abraham's ancestors. The consistency of the pattern supports the biblical claim that this genealogical material presents biological father-son descent rather than a telescopic view. It also makes it clear that the repetition of names in Genesis 4 and Genesis 5 is not a case of literary doublets.

By the time that Jude wrote his epistle (c. 68 AD) Cain was solidly established as the archetype of an earthly ruler. Jude warns those who might abandon Christ because of their suffering and false teachers that God punishes those who rebel against Him. He uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These were the three most sacred offices among Abraham’s people and they were often filled by people corrupted by the world. Cain killed his brother whose offering was acceptable to God. This speaks of the Jewish rulers who killed Jesus Christ. Balaam prophesied for profit as did the sorcerer Bar-Jesus who was condemned by the Apostle Paul. Korah, Moses’ half-brother (the first-born of Amram by Ishar) opposed Moses’ authority in the wilderness and died. Korah was a priest, as evidence by his name which means shaved one. It is a name associated with Egyptian priests.

So Cain as ruler is an important archetype in the Bible. He represents a rightfully appointed ruler who is corrupted by desire for worldly power, fame and wealth. He murdered his brother who was preferred by God, just as Saul tried to kill David who was chosen by God to take Saul's place. We have no evidence that Cain repented of this murder (as did David of killing Uriah), but God did not execute him as he deserved. Instead God showed him mercy by allowing him to become established as a ruler, by protecting him from those who might kill him, and by allowing him to be one of the ancestors of Christ our God.


NOTE

The name Kandake (Candace in English) is a Kushite name. It is found originally in Meroe/Nubian culture. The Greeks thought that Kandake was a proper name but it is a royal title and the female version of Kain/Kano appearing first in Genesis 4. This is likely the origin of the title Khan and King.


Related reading: Objections to a Fundamentalist Reading of Genesis, Who Was Kain's Father?



 

2 comments:

Jonathan said...

What is the mark of Cain?

Alice C. Linsley said...

The "mark" was likely body scarring or a henna tatoo. Such marks indicate that the individual belongs to the caste of metal workers who are called "Kenites" in the Bible.