Friday, March 4, 2022

An Anthropologist Looks at Genesis 4


Artist's depiction of the Tabernacle at Nekhen c. 3000 B.C.

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

In Genesis chapter 4 we read about the first persons whose historicity can be verified through scientific methods. Analysis of the intermarriage of the ruler-priests listed in Genesis 4 (Cain’s line) and Genesis 5 (Seth’s line) reveals an authentic pattern of royal endogamy beginning well before Egypt emerged as a political entity.

The lists in Genesis chapters 4 and 5 are typical of royal lists from the ancient world such as the Sumerian King Lists, the Turin Royal Canon, the Abydos King List, and the Saqqara King list. The lists attribute absurdly long reigns and lifespans to the rulers. There is no single pattern for the numbers assigned. Some theorize that the years are calculated according to the 11-year solar cycle. Others recognize that the 365 years assigned to Enoch, the son of Jared/Yered (Gen. 5:23), are a reference to the solar year.

In his book Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists (2019) Gary Greenberg argues that the birth and death dates found in Genesis 5 represent a disguised but accurate chronology of Egypt's dynastic history. However, Cain and Seth lived before the emergence of Egypt as a political entity (c.3150 B.C.).

The numbers assigned to the ruler-priests of Genesis 5 vary depending on the Bible translation. In the Masoretic texts the number seven has pride of place and presents a pattern associated with Cain and his descendants. In Genesis 4:24, Lamech the Elder says, “If Cain is avenged sevenfold (7), truly Lamech seventy-seven fold (77).” In Genesis 5:31, Lamech the Younger, the first-born son of Methuselah and Naamah, is said to have lived seven hundred and seventy-seven years (777).

Naamah was Methuselah’s cousin bride, and she supplies a clue to understanding the marriage and ascendancy pattern of the early Hebrew rulers. This diagram shows the pattern. The names on the left side are found in Genesis 4 (Cain’s line) and the names on the right are found in Genesis 5 (Seth’s line). These royal lines intermarried.

 Circles represent females.

Genesis 4:25 clarifies the relationship between Seth and Cain. They were brothers and their descendants intermarried. Their daughters married their patrilineal cousins and named their first-born sons after their fathers (the cousin bride’s naming prerogative). The practice of patrilineal cousin marriage is attested in Numbers 36:11 where we are told that Zelophehad’s daughters—Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Noah—married their patrilineal cousins.

Cain’s un-named daughter married her cousin Enosh/Enos and named their first-born son Kenan/Kain after her father. Irad’s un-named daughter married her cousin Mahalalel and named their first-born son Jared/Yered/Irad after her father. Lamech’s daughter Naamah married her cousin Methuselah and named their first-born son Lamech after her father. This is an authentic kinship pattern which reveals endogamy among the royal houses of Cain and Seth. It also proves their historicity.

Regional rulers, clan chiefs, ruler-priests, and high kings of the Nile Valley

Analysis of the kinship pattern of Genesis 4 and 5 sheds light on the historical persons listed in Genesis 10, 11, 25 and 36. All are early Hebrew rulers, priests, and clan chiefs. Some took the Horus name as Horus was the patron and protector of rulers. Abraham’s brother is an example. His name is Na Hor, a variant of Ni Hor, a name found among the early rulers of the Nile. Na Hor was also the name of Abraham’s paternal grandfather (Gen. 11:24-25). Na’Hor and Ni’Hor mean “of Horus” or “of the Most-High One”. Ni Hor is believed to have reigned between 3200-3175 B.C. The name appears in Branislav Andelkovic’s 1995 list of predynastic rulers.

Andelkovic placed the early rulers of the Nile Valley in the following sequence: two unidentified rulers, Pe Hor, Scorpion I, Double Falcon, Ni Hor, Hat Hor, Iry Hor, Horus Ka, Hor Crocodile, Hor Scorpion II, and Hor Narmer. Note the Horus names. These appear to be Horite ruler-priests of the period closer to the time of Cain (5000-4500 B.C.).

Manetho was a priest in the temple at Heliopolis (biblical On) in the third century B.C. He had access to original sources such as temple archives of rulers and high priests. Manetho divided the history of the Nilotic rulers into the thirty dynasties that are used today. However, he organized his dynasties through the capitals from which the kings ruled. He did not consider the earlier organization of riverine twin cities such as Nekhen and Nekheb, each with its ruler and high priest on opposites sides of the Nile. The tomb of Horemkhawef in Nekhen and the tomb of Sobeknakht in Nekheb were painted by the same artist. Hormose, the chief priest of Nekhen, requested material goods from the temple at Nekheb for use at the temple at Nekhen. Twin cities pose a difficulty for those who want simple linear chronologies such as that attempted by Manetho. Manetho appears to have no information about the Nilotic and Proto-Saharan rulers between 4500 and 3800 B.C. when Cain would have lived.

Some of the early Nilotic settlements and cemeteries include Abydos, Badari, Nekhen, Naqada, Mahasma, Taramsa, and Thinis. Abydos, Nekhen, Naqada, and Thinis are located on the western side of the Nile. Badari, Taramsa, and Mahasma are located on the eastern side of the Nile. Archaeologists discovered a ritual burial of a child at Mahasma Hill that dates to the Middle Paleolithic (c.55,000 years ago). The grave was discovered in 1994 near the site of the temple of Hathor at Dendera. Later graves in the Mahasma cemetery date from the predynastic period to the brick-lined tombs of the early First Dynasty.

The Middle Neolithic world that Cain would have known included settlements along the Nile where residents fished, hunted waterfowl, and cultivated millet and vines. Sealed jars of wine were found in royal tombs at Abydos. Wine making equipment was found in the tomb of Scorpion I (c. 3150 B.C.).

After leaving his home, Cain established a settlement and named it after his proper heir Enoch (Gen. 4:17). It was typical of royal sons to settle a distance away from each other. This is evident in the case of Peleg and his brother Joktan (Gen. 10:25). Apparently, Eber divided his territory (eretz) between these two sons.

Since his brother Seth/Seti is associated with the Nile Valley, and the brothers settled a distance from one another, it is likely that Cain’s settlement was closer to the land of Canaan. That is where we find his descendants the Kenites (Gen. 15:18–21; Ex. 3:1; Num. 24:20; Judg. 1:16; Judg. 4:11). Apparently, this is what is meant by “east of Eden” (Gen. 4:15).

Moses married Zipporah, the daughter of the Kenite ruler-priest Jethro. She was his cousin bride. When Saul came to attack the city of Amalek, he warned the Kenites, “Since you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt, go and move away from the Amalekites. Otherwise, I will sweep you away with them.” So, the Kenites moved away from the outskirts of the city of Amalek. (1 Sam. 15:5-6)

Cain as Ruler

As noted in Genesis 4:1, when Eve gave birth to Cain she declared “kaniti” (qanyty/qanitti). This relates to the Akkadian itti, as in itti šarrim, which means "with/of the king." In his Anchor Bible commentary on Genesis, E.A. Speiser notes “Akkadian personal names often employ the corresponding element itti, e.g., Itti-Bel-balatu “With Bel there is life.” (Speiser, p. 30) The Abydos and Turin king lists include a ruler named Iti, which means “the Sovereign.”

As the first-born son of the historical Adam, Cain would have the rights of primogeniture over his brothers Abel and Seth. Though the rabbinic tradition casts him as evil (Jude 1:11; 1 John 3:12; Heb. 11:4), God shows him mercy when he pleads for his life (Gen. 4:10-15). His action draws the same punishment as that of his father Adam. Both were “under a curse and driven from the ground” and both would find that the land would no longer yield its crops for them. In fact, the time in which Adam and Cain lived (5000-4500 B.C.) marked a return of desert conditions throughout the Sahara and coincides with the movement of people from central Africa to the Nile Valley.

Related reading: The Shrine City of Nekhen; The Cousin Bride's Naming PrerogativeCain as Ruler; Horite Mounds; Twin Cities of the Ancient World; An Anthropologists Looks at Genesis 1; An Anthropologist Looks at Genesis 2; An Anthropologist Looks at Genesis 3; An Anthropologist Looks at Genesis 5

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