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The Son of Cain (Genesis chap. 4, vers. 17)

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

Here begins the so-called genealogy of Cain, which consists of a short list of names that seem to have an etiological function. The etiology explains the origin of the first city and the first jobs. It is impossible to try to identify the name of the city that is identical to that of the son generated by Cain: Enoch. In the verse we don’t even find the stereotypical formula: and he called his son … moreover there isn’t the name of the Cain’s wife. Enoch is like a meteor in the dark sky above humanity due to rampant violence (see verse 24).

The construction of a city by Cain clearly contradicts the curse that God had inflicted on him. He would have been forced to wander from one place to another (see verse 12). The city – in ebr. ‘ir – on the other hand, represents stability, a sedentary attitude opposed to nomadic life. One gets the impression that Cain wants to escape the curse thrown at him by God and find refuge and security in an all-human enterprise. Between the lines, we note that Cain doesn’t obey the condition that God, while cursing him, inflicts it.

The trend begun in the third chapter continues: the progressive and inexorable estrangement of man from God, in the illusion of finding in a well organized society the security that only in God can be found.

However, within this inexorable tendency, the name of Enoch stands out, a luminous point immersed in an increasingly dense darkness. The name Enoch derives from the Hebrew verb chanak, which means dedicated, consecrated. It is the verb from which also derives the term chanukah, namely the dedication or re-consecration of the Temple after the desecration of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, narrated in the books of the Maccabbees.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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