Alice C. Linsley
Genesis appears to present contradictory views about Cain's father. In one view, Cain is Adam's son, born of Eve. Genesis 4:1 says, "Adam knew/lay (yadah) with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain." It should be noted that the Hebrew and the Greek versions do not explicitly name Adam in this verse. Instead they read, "The man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain."
Contrast this with Genesis 4:25 which says "Adam knew his wife again, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth."
Why is Adam not named as Cain's father in Genesis 4:1 while Adam is explicitly named as Seth's father in Genesis 4:25?
It is possible that the Biblical writers were troubled by the correspondences between the Cain and Abel story and the Egyptian myth of Horus and Set. Set would be the type of Cain and Abel the type of Horus who was said to be slain by his brother Set. This correspondence suggests that Cain is linked in ancient memory with Set or Ta-Seti, the Land of Nubia. Since Abraham's father is also linked to Nubia, this is not as far fetched as it may seem.
The Kinship Data
Analysis of the Genesis 4 and 5 King Lists reveals that Cain married a woman who named their first-born son Enoch. Enoch is not a name, but rather a title that means "ruler-to be" and Enosh (Seth's firstborn son by his cousin wife) is the linguistic equivalent of Enoch. Both represent a royal title.
Enoch appears to be a Semitic form of the African name Nok. The Nok civilization extended from northern Nigeria into Niger, Chad and the Sudan. Here we find the ancient settlements of Nok and Kano. Kano is likely the African version of the name Kayan/Qayin.
This is also the region where we must look for the meaning of the name Enoch. It is likely derived from anochi which means "one who replaces." Enoch is then a royal title.
What is the significance of Cain's wife naming their first-born son Enoch or Nok? If she named her son after her father, as did Naaman, a later descendant of Cain, we may conclude that she was Cain's cousin or niece wife. It was the cousin of niece wives who named their first-born sons after their fathers. This would mean that Cain's father-in-law was called Enoch. Enoch the Elder would have been Cain's father's brother. This could not be Adam, since the Bible insists that Adam represents the first human created. As such, Adam would have lived millions of years ago. The oldest human fossils are about 3.4 million years.
So according to the information in Genesis, Cain was either the son of Adam and Eve and lived millions of years ago, or he was the son of Enoch's brother and lived around the time of the Proto-Saharan ruler Meni/Menes who united the Nile Valley.
How are we to resolve this apparent contradiction? One approach is to investigate the meaning of the name Cain and its related cognates.
Etiology of the name Cain
As E.A. Speiser noted that the name Cain - Qany(ty) or Qan itti - shows close affinity to the Akkadian itti (as in itti šarrim which means "with the king" or possibly "against the king.") Akkadian was the language of the empire during Nimrod's time (BC 2290-2215). There is evidence that biblical Nimrod is the historical Sargon the Great. 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.
|The Oromo, a Kushitic people|
Cain as warrior and metal worker
Shalom E. Holtz (Yeshiva University, New York) has demonstrated, itti can mean "against" as is evidenced from its appearance in numerous cases of adversarial relationships in the Old Testament. Since the meaning of Cain is "spear" and he is associated with metal work, we might take Cain to be a metalworking warrior. Genesis 4:22 indicates that his clan forged various implements of copper and iron, although the iron mentioned here was beja (bja), the ancient Egyptian word for meteroric iron (metal from heaven). Beja corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. Meteoritic iron was used in the fabrication of iron beads in Nubia 6000 years ago. These beads were likely perceived as seeds from heaven which brought divine power to the wearer.
This certainly places Cain in history before the bronze age and long after the first humans tread the verdant hills of Eden. This resolves the problem of dating Adam and Eve and Cain. The first are ahistorical representations of the first humans created by God, made fully human and in the divine image. These would have lived at least 3.4 million years ago. Cain and Seth, on the other hand, can be placed in history between 4000 and 3000 B.C. This corresponds to the Copper Age (3500 -2300 B.C.) During the Copper Age the warriors were of high social rank. Copper mining and the fabrication of copper tools and weapons gave rise to new a social hierarchy. At the top, were the warriors who protected their communities.
So who was Cain's father? Clearly not Adam. If Adam was the first man created by God - and the Bible permits no other explanation - then he cannot have been Cain's father. Cain married a cousin and analysis of the King Lists of Genesis 4 and 5 shows that there was an established pattern of marriage and ascendency among the lines of Cain and Seth. In other words, royal lines, established territories, metal technologies and law codes existed in Cain and Seth's time. These did not exist in Adam and Eve's original small community 3.4 million years ago.
Given the period in which Cain lived, his social rank as a ruler, and his place in the ancestry of Abraham, we must assume that he was a Kushite. His father was likely the brother of Enoch the Elder, Cain's father-in-law. This would explain why Cain's wife named their first-born son after her father, as was the pattern for cousin wives among Abraham's Kushite ancestors.
Related reading: Who Did Cain Marry?; Objections to the Fundamentalist Reading of Genesis; Afro-Asiatic Metal Workers; Who Were the Kushites?; Cain as Ruler; Was the Land of Nod Enoch's Territory?; Sub-Saharan DNA of Jews