Genesis iv. 17.

June 28, 2010

[iv. 17 – v. 31. History from after Abel’s death up to Noe.]

(i) Selectiveness of this history; reasons for inclusion of events.

St. Augustine: “Now it seems to me that, lest Scripture be thought incredible, that history should be defended that says a city was founded by one man at this time, when there seem to have been on earth no more than four men, or rather three, after brother killed brother … But those whom this disturbs do not sufficiently consider that the writer of this sacred history did not need to name all the men who could have existed at that time, but only those whom the plan of the undertaken work demanded.  For the object of this writer, through whom the Holy Ghost worked, was to arrive, through the succession of fixed generations propagated from one man, to Abraham, and then from his seed to the people of God: and through them, distinct from other peoples, to prefigure and foretell all the things that were seen in the Spirit would come concerning the city whose reign will be eternal, and of its King and founder, Christ; but in such a way as not to keep silent concerning the other society of men, which we call the earthly city, to the degree necessary for the city of God to shine forth in comparison with its adversary.  Therefore when holy Scripture records the number of years these men lived, it concludes by saying of him of whom it was speaking, And he begot sons and daughters, and all his days, or all his years, that he lived, were so many, and he died: are we then to understand that, because Scripture does not name the sons and daughters, there could not have been born, in the many years for which men lived in the first age of this world, very many men, groups of whom could have founded many cities?  But it concerned God, by Whose inspiration these things were written, to set forth and distinguish at first these two societies in their respective generations: that is, to trace separately the generations of the sons of men (those living according to man) and of the sons of God (those men living according to God), up to the flood, when the separation and formation of both societies is described” (De Civitate Dei, XV. viii. 1.).

(ii) [17-24. The descendants of Cain.]

And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and brought forth Henoch: and he built a city, and called the name thereof by the name of his son Henoch.

17a. Cain’s wife.

St. Chrysostom: “But perhaps someone will say: How can it say that Cain had a wife, when Scripture does not mention another woman?  Do not wonder, beloved.  Holy Scripture nowhere makes a careful list of women; rather, taking care that it not bring forth anything unnecessary, mentions the individual men: it does not, however, record everything concerning them, but briefly tells us that they begot sons and daughters, and died.  Therefore it seems true that Eve bore a daughter after Cain and Abel, whom Cain married.  For because it was the beginning of the world, and the human race had to be increased, it was granted that men might marry their sisters.  See how things are established little by little.  Because they were mortal, they wished to make their memory immortal: partly from the children they generated, partly from the places which they named for their children” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xx (a). 1.).

17b. Cain founds a city.

Cornelius: “Not immediately, but after many years (think four or five hundred), says Josephus, when Cain had already begotten many sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, who could have filled the city of Henoch” (Commentaria, p 121).

St. Augustine: “And so it is written of Cain that he founded a city: but Abel, like a pilgrim, did not.  For the city of the saints is above,[1] although it acquires citizens here, where they sojourn, until the time for its reign comes, when all the saints will rise again in their bodies and be assembled, to be given the promised kingdom, where they shall reign with their prince, the King of all ages, without any end of time.

“Furthermore, the earthly city, which shall not be eternal (for it will not be a city when it is condemned in final punishment), has its good here, in whose society it rejoices, with as much joy as is possible to have over such things.  And because there exists no such good that creates no difficulties for its lovers, therefore this city is frequently divided against itself: in quarreling, warring, fighting, and seeking, if not destructive victories, certainly victories that will be destroyed” (De Civitate Dei, XV. i. 2; iv.).

St. Bede: “Just as the sufferings of the saints commenced at the beginning of the world with the death of Abel, while in Cain’s envious persecution are insinuated the treacheries of the reprobate, and both will remain in the world until the end of time; in the same way, in the city Cain built it is hinted typically that the whole hope of the depraved is to be established in the rulership and happiness of this world, inasmuch as they have neither faith in nor desire for any future good.  The Lord speaks of this city through the prophet Osee: I am God, and not man: the holy one in the midst of thee, and I will not enter into the city.[2] For we do not read that either Abel or Seth, who was born in his place, built a city or houses; doubtless because they signified those men, or rather were the first of them, who rejoice to sing to their Creator: For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were.[3] The Lord’s promise that we have already set forth is very fitting to them: I am God and not man, the holy one in the midst of thee: for those who render themselves foreign to the fellowship of the worldly city, show themselves more worthy for their Creator to dwell in them.  It is also fitting that Cain named his city from the name of his son Henoch, to show that his successors who would inhabit it would have no share in the heavenly country, and would pour out their hearts in the pleasure of this world.  And Henoch is well translated as Dedication,[4] because as the reprobate desire to rejoice on account of the things they work here on earth, as though they dedicate or consecrate a city, which they build for themselves, in the first generation.  On the other hand, in that lineage of the human race that descends from Seth to Noe, the seventh born from Adam is also named Henoch; it is read that he walked with God, and did not appear, because God took him: without doubt because the rest and happiness and the whole hope of the elect is only in the future sabbath.  After they walk with God in this life, humbly following His commands, they are taken away by Him to a life of everlasting rest, and appear no more among mortals, because they are living immortally with Him.  For they are His city and His temple: now they progress daily by good works towards perfection; then, when their labors are finished, they will reign with Him, will rejoice in their dedication to Him, which will be celebrated forever through the presence of the Holy Ghost, each one rejoicing as in the name Henoch” (In Principium Genesis, II. col. 72-73).

Bl. Anne Emmerich: “Cain took all his children and grandchildren to the region that had been shown to him, and his descendants separated from each other.  I did not see any more horrible thing of Cain himself; his punishment seemed to be that he had to work very hard and nothing would flourish for him personally.  I also saw him abused and scorned and generally badly treated by his children and grandchildren; but they followed him in everything as their lord, although as one under a curse.  I saw that Cain was not damned but severely punished” (Die Sünde und ihre Folgen: 5. Kain).


[1] Cf. Hebr. xiii. 14: For we have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come.

[2] Osee xi. 9.

[3] Ps. xxxviii. 13.

[4] LNH.

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