Cain and Abel #2
In this second post about Cain and Abel, we will finish verse 1 (you can find the first part here: https://hebrew-bible.net/2021/10/18/cain-and-abel-part-1-whats-in-a-name/.
Eve is giving birth to Cain and Abel.
|א וְהָאָדָם, יָדַע אֶת-חַוָּה אִשְׁתּוֹ; וַתַּהַר, וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן, וַתֹּאמֶר, קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-יְהוָה.|
|And she got pregnant||וַתַּהַר|
|And she gave birth to Cain||וַתֵּלֶד אֶת-קַיִן|
|And she said||וַתֹּאמֶר|
|This word comes from the root קנה. It has multiple meaning. The most common one is to buy. For example, Gen 25:10|
הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר–קָנָה אַבְרָהָם מֵאֵת בְּנֵי-חֵת–שָׁמָּה קֻבַּר אַבְרָהָם, וְשָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ.
The field that Abraham bought from Beni Chet
A different meaning of the word is to create, as we can see in Gen 14:19
יט וַיְבָרְכֵהוּ, וַיֹּאמַר: בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיוֹן, קֹנֵה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
Blessed Abraham from Supreme God who created heavens and earth.
BTW, the י at the end of the word means I, as the person who conducted the action. So, depending on the interpretation, it can mean either I bought, or I created.
|This word is a preposition that denotes the object of an action. It does not have an equivalent in English, so normally it is not translated, as in Gen 1:1|
רֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.
In the beginning God created the sky and the earth
However, this interpretation of the word is hard to understand in this context. We will expand on it in the following discussion.
|The translation will depend on your own interpretation of the words. I will not write the translation here. Instead let’s move directly to the discussion.|
What could Eve mean when she says
קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-יְהוָה?
The heart of the problem is the simple word ְאֵת. In Hebrew it is an object marker. That is, if we replaced the last word, יְהוָה (God), with any other word, Eve’s statement would become straight forward. For instance, if we changed the word from יְהוָה (God) to דוד (David), the sentence would become:
קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-דוד
|which simply means:|| |
I created a man, David
In other words, the man she created was named David. If, on the other hand, we changed the last word from יְהוָה (God) to המלך (the king), the sentence would become:
קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-המלך
I created a man, the king
In other words, the man she created was the king. But what does it mean when she says יְהוָה (God) after אֵת in the original text?
קָנִיתִי אִישׁ אֶת-יְהוָה
Did she mean she create God? After all, Cain was the first born man. As man was created in the image of God, she might have thought it was a God she created.
Did she name her son after God, and Cain was one of the many of God’s name she knew?
Was she defiant, challenging God, maybe for the pain she had suffered while giving birth as a result of His punishment?
This simple usage of the word אֶת, although natural to the Hebrew language, did not agree with the beliefs and worldview of many Biblical scholars. They preferred and argued that far less common use of the word אֶת, meaning ‘with’ should be used, turning Eve’s words into a call of gratitude:
I created a man with God, and (as a token of gratitude) I call him Cain (to commemorate this creation).
While this may fit the common narrative and the worldview of the scholars, there is no evidence that this opinion is necessarily the correct one. After all, all we have is the text itself.
This interpretation, however, raises a different question:
When she says she made Cain with God, does she hint that Cain was a son of God? This might explain the merciful way in which God treats him after the death of Abel, as we will discuss in a future post.
Using the text to fit your worldview is a common malady, which those who believe that everything in the Bible is intentional and nothing is by chance, should avoid at all cost.
So, if you asked me what was the right interpretation, I would say that the answer is not important. The important thing is the question. Because it is the contemplation on the unknown that gradually leads to understanding. But this is a different type of understanding. It is understanding beyond words, beyond logic. It is a place in which no interpretation and all interpretations are true at the same time. This is where spiritual growth begins.
If you want to take part in an active discussion, please join our free Zoom meetings on: https://www.meetup.com/pro/the-bible-in-hebrew And please feel free to ask questions and share your insight. Here, we are all learning from each other.