Genesis 4:17-18, Do We Descend From Cain?

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch … And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

//These are the descendants of Cain. Cain, you may recall, was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. Cain killed Abel, his brother, so God gave Adam and Eve a third son named Seth to replace Abel.

Here are the descendants of Seth, from the next chapter: Noah son of Lamech son of Methuselah son of Enoch son of Jared son of Mahalaleel son of Cainan son of Enos son of Seth.

These two genealogies are surprisingly similar. Enoch and Lamech show up in both. Probably, Mehujael is Mahalaleel and probably Methusael is Methuselah. Enoch, the son of Cain, sounds surprisingly like Enos, the son of Seth.

Did the descendants of Seth and Cain copy each other’s names? Probably not. Scholars believe Seth’s genealogy was written down long after Cain’s (by the P source and the J source respectively) and that the later genealogy was intended to replace the first … not stand alongside it. The message in the rewrite is clear: Noah (and hence all of us) descends not from the murderer Cain but from the acceptable Seth.

Instead, both genealogies made it into the Bible, side-by-side, where they would stick out like a sore thumb.

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2 Comments

  1. If you’ve ever been to Korea, you’ve probably met a lot of Lees, Kims, and Paks. That’s most of the country right there.

    The genealogies of Genesis date from a very early time. I believe the language was developing along with technology and everything else. So there could have been repeated use of the same names. I also think that the more of a concentrated and homogenic population you have, the more likely it is that names will be repeated.

    In addition, all the names you mentioned don’t line up in the right order.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Funny, the way much of our biblical exegesis depends on our pre-existing assumptions, such as how literally we read Genesis! :)

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