Gen 4:1-6:8

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Home > The Old Testament > Genesis > Genesis 1-11b > Chapters 4-6a / 4:1-6:8
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Scope of page. The stories of Cain and Lamech are related in Genesis 4 and are repeated in the Pearl of Great Price in Moses 5:16-6:3 (the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 4). Discussion of the Genesis account should appear on this wiki page. Discussion of additional understanding derived from the Joseph Smith Translation is better suited for the wiki page addressing Moses 5.

Relationship to Genesis 1-11b. The relationship of Chapter 4 to the rest of the Adam-Noah cycle is discussed at Genesis 1-11b.

Outline. An outline of the complete book of Genesis, including Chapter 4, is found at Genesis: Outline and page map.

Story. Chapter 4-6a relates the genealogy of the birthright line for ten generations from Adam to Noah, followed by a description of the generally wicked condition of mankind. Chapter 5-6a consists of two major sections:

  • Gen 4:1-26: Two stories of murder. Cain murders his brother Abel. Non-birthright genealogy from Cain [Generation 2] to the three sons of his descendant Lamech [Generation 7]. Lamech murders his great grandfather Irad.
  • Gen 5:1-32: Birthright genealogy from Adam to Noah. A list of the birthright genealogy from Adam [Generation 1] ten generations to the three sons of Noah [Generation 10].
  • Gen 6:1-8: General wickedness after ten generations. A brief description of the wicked condition of mankind after ten generations.

Story. Chapter 4 is about a non-birthright line of descendants from Adam & Eve. This chapter relates the story of Cain & Abel, a genealogy from Cain to Lamech, and the story of Lamech. This chapter consists of four major sections:

  • Gen 4:1-2: Cain and Abel are born. Brothers Cain & Abel are born.
  • Gen 4:3-16: Cain kills Abel. Murder in Generation 2. Cain's sacrifice of produce is rejected, he kills his brother Abel, and he is then cursed.
  • Gen 4:17-24: Genealogy, Lamech kills Irad. Murder in Generation 7. Lamech's genealogy back to Cain. Lamech kills his great grandfather Irad.
  • Gen 4:25-26: Seth and Enos are born. Seth is born as a replacement son in place of Abel, and Seth’s son Enos is born.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapter 4 include:


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Genesis 4: Cain and Lamech murder[edit]

  • Outline.
1. Cain and Abel born (4:1-2)
2. Cain kills Abel (4:3-16)
a. Lord accepts Abel’s offering of sheep, but not Cain’s of produce (4:3-5)
c. Lord warns Cain not to sin (4:6-7)
d. Cain kills Abel (4:8)
c. where is Abel? Cain denies knowledge of his brother (4:9)
b. Cain cursed as a fugitive, ground cursed against him (4:10-12)
a. Cain driven from God and man, mark to prevent vengeance (4:13-16)
2. Lamech's genealogy, kills Irad (4:17-24)
• genealogical list of Lamech’s ancestors (4:17-18)
• genealogical list of Lamech’s descendants (4:19-22)
• Lamech kills and will be avenged even as Cain (4:23-24)
1. Seth as replacement for Abel, and Abel’s son (4:25-26)
  • Genesis 4 contains two related stories from the non-birthright line: Cain who kills his brother Abel in 4:1-16, and Lamech who kills his great grandfather Irad in 4:17-24. The first two verses introduce Adam & Eve's two sons Cain and Abel, and the last two verses return to the generation of Cain and Abel with Seth, who is a replacement for Abel (4:1-2, 25-26).

Genesis 4:1-2: Cain and Abel are born[edit]

  • There is a word play in verse 1 that is lost in translation. The verb, qanah, translated as "gotten," sounds much like Cain's name.
  • Abel's name in Hebrew is hebel. This is the same word used in Ecclesiastes 1:2 that literally means "breath" but came to refer to something that is meaningless or fleeting, so it's possible that Abel's name is an allusion to the fleeting nature of his earthly life.

Gen 4:3-16: Cain kills Abel[edit]

  • The use of the word "accepted" in verse 7 for the Hebrew saeth is a bit weak. The word can mean "lifted up" (perhaps referring to the lifting up of his countenance) and has connotations of dignity (as the same word is translated in Genesis 49:3).
  • The verb, rabats, translated as "lieth" in verse 7 is a more active verb than this translation might indicate. It specifically refers to an animal crouching on all four legs. Several modern translations translate the phrase here as "sin crouches at the door" or something similar.
  • In most modern translations of the second sentence of verse 7, the Hebrew words translated in the KJV as "his" and "him" are translated as "its" and "his." (Either translation is grammatically correct.) Thus, they refer to the sin of the previous sentence: Unto you shall be sin's desire, and you shall rule over it.
  • Moses 5:23 renders verse 7 as follows: "If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted. And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee; and except thou shalt hearken unto my commandments, I will deliver thee up, and it shall be unto thee according to his desire. And thou shalt rule over him."
  • Verse 7 shows a powerful contrast. Cain was understandably sad that his offering was not pleasing to God. But here, the Lord makes clear to Cain that he still has a choice, the same choice we all face when we make a mistake. He could choose to do right (although what that would be isn't specified here), in which case he would be happy and feel good about himself. Or, he could choose to do otherwise — in which case sin would be waiting for him. In the natural course of things, sin leads to more sin, but we have the choice to turn to a better way.
  • "Nod" in verse 16 is the Hebrew word for "wandering."

Genesis 4:17-24: Genealogy, Lamech kills Irad[edit]

  • The name of Enoch means "dedicated."

Genesis 4:25-26: Seth and Enos are born[edit]

Genesis 4: Identifying the principal blocks of text[edit]

Genesis 5-6a: Birthright genealogy and wickedness[edit]

Genesis 5:1-32: Birthright genealogy from Adam to Noah[edit]

  • Genesis 1-6a recounts the first 1,500 years of human history between the fall and the flood. This "ante-diluvian period" corresponds roughly to 4,000 BC to 2,500 BC. However, uncertainties regarding the length of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt and the length of the period of the judges have prevented any broad consensus regarding the exact dates of events prior to King Saul. For a detailed discussion of those uncertainties, see the first several footnotes at Historical Overview of the Old Testament. The dates below therefore count time forward from the fall of Adam and Eve according to the information provided in Genesis. See the discussion of Genesis 11b for a treatment similar to this page of the generations from Noah to Abraham and the discussion of Moses for changes to the dates on this page that are made in the Joseph Smith Translation.
  • Gen 5:1-5: Adam (Generation 1). Fall in Year 0. Blessed descendants at Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 927 in Year 927. (D&C 107:53). Died at age 930 in Year 930. (Gen 5:5).
  • Gen 5:3-8: Seth (2). Born in 130. (Gen 5:3). Ordained by Adam at age 69 in 199. (D&C 107:42). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 797 in 927. Zion taken up when age 857 in 987. Died at age 912 in 1042. (Gen 5:8).
  • Gen 5:6-11: Enos (3). Born in 235 when father age 105. (Gen 5:6). Ordained by Adam at age 134 in 369. (D&C 107:44). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 692 in 927. Zion taken up when age 752 in 987. Died at age 905 in 1140. (Gen 5:11).
  • Gen 5:9-14: Cainan (4). Born in 325 when father age 90. (Gen 5:9). Ordained by Adam at age 87 in 412. (D&C 107:45). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 602 in 927. Zion taken up when age 662 in 987. Died at age 910 in 1235. (Gen 5:14).
  • Gen 5:12-17: Mahaleel (5). Born in 395 when father age 70. (Gen 5:12). Ordained by Adam at age 496 in 891. (D&C 107:46). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 532 in 927. Zion taken up when age 592 in 987. Died at age 895 in 1290. (Gen 5:17).
  • Gen 5:15-20: Jared (6). Born in 460 when father age 65. (Gen 5:15). Ordained by Adam at age 200 in 660. (D&C 107:47). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 467 in 927. Zion taken up when age 527 in 987. Died at age 962 in 1422. (Gen 5:20).
  • Gen 5:18-24: Enoch (7). Born in 622 when father age 162. (Gen 5:18). Ordained by Adam at age 25 in 647. (D&C 107:48). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 305 in 927. Taken up with Zion at age 365 in 987. (Gen 5:22-23).
  • Enoch is given as the seventh generation from Adam, the previous major patriarch. Seven is an important biblical number, suggesting Enoch was foreordained to be a righteous patriarch.
  • Gen 5:21-27: Methuselah (8). Born in 687 when father age 65. (Gen 5:21). Ordained by Adam at age 100 in 787. (D&C 107:50). Adam-ondi-Ahman at age 240 in 927. Zion taken up when age 300 in 987. Died at age 969 in 1656, the same year as the flood. (Gen 5:27).
  • Gen 5:25-31: Lamech (9). Born in 874 when father age 187. (Gen 5:25). Ordained by Seth at age 32 in 906. (D&C 107:51). Zion taken up when age 113 in 987. Died at age 777 in 1651. (Gen 5:31).

Genesis 6:1-8: Wicked conditions after ten generations[edit]

Genesis 5-6a: Identifying the principal blocks of text[edit]

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

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Verse 4:7: Cain and Abel[edit]

  • See "Timshel ('Thou Mayest')" for a commentary on John Steinbeck's midrash on the Cain and Abel story, East of Eden. The Steinbeck story pivots on a transliteration of the Hebrew word timshol, a second person imperfect referring to an act that has not yet occurred. The word occurs in verse 7 "and thou shalt rule over [sin]," which might also be translated "thou mayest rule..." indicating the possibility that Cain (and mankind as a whole) might yet overcome sin.


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