The Beginning of Culture

The Forge of Vulcan by Diego Velazquez, (1630). While some commentators have connected

the name of the Roman metalworking god Vulcan with the biblical Tubal-cain, the link is tenuous.

The Genesis Account (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), 435.

Genesis 4:17-26, The Line of Cain:

(17) Cain was intimate with his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. Then Cain became the builder of a city, and he named the city Enoch after his son. (18) Irad was born to Enoch, Irad fathered Mehujael, Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. (19) Lamech took two wives for himself, one named Adah and the other named Zillah. (20) Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of the nomadic herdsmen. (21) His brother was named Jubal; he was the father of all who play the lyre and the flute. (22) Zillah bore Tubal-cain, who made all kinds of bronze and iron tools. Tubal-cain’s sister was Naamah.

(23) Lamech said to his wives:

Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
wives of Lamech, pay attention to my words.
For I killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
(24) If Cain is to be avenged seven times over,
then for Lamech it will be seventy-seven times!

(25) Adam was intimate with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, for she said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” (26) A son was born to Seth also, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh.

The following are a couple commentaries about these verses. The first commentary is sort-of an introduction to these verses that detail the culture emerging in our most ancient civilizations, after the video is a more detailed commentary on Tubal-Cain:

  • Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 4:15–22.

4:17-26 ~ The Line of Cain

4:17. city building. Because the founding of a city is tied so intimately to the founding of a nation or people in the ancient world, stories about the founder and the circumstances surrounding its founding are a part of the basic heritage of the inhabitants. These stories generally include a description of the natural resources which attracted the builder (water supply, grazing and crop land, natural defenses), the special attributes of the builder (unusual strength and/or wisdom) and the guidance of the patron god. Cities were constructed along or near rivers or springs. They served as focal points for trade, culture and religious activity for a much larger region and thus eventually became political centers or city states. The organization required to build them and then to keep their mud-brick and stone walls in repair helped generate the development of assemblies of elders and monarchies to rule them.

4:19. polygamy. The practice of a man marrying more than one wife is known as polygamy. This custom was based on several factors: (1) an imbalance in the number of males and females, (2) the need to produce large numbers of children to work herds and/or fields, (3) the desire to increase the prestige and wealth of a household through multiple marriage contracts and (4) the high rate of death of females in childbirth. Polygamy was most common among pastoral nomadic groups and in rural farming communities, where it was important that every female be attached to a household and be productive. Monarchs also practiced polygamy, primarily as a means of making alliances with powerful families or other nations. In such situations the wives might also end up as hostages if the political relationship soured.

4:20. animal domestication. Raising livestock is the first stage in animal domestication, which involves human control of breeding, food supply and territory. Sheep and goats were the first livestock to be domesticated, with the evidence extending back to the ninth millennium b.c. Larger cattle came a bit later, and evidence for pig domestication begins in the seventh millennium.

4:21. musical instruments. Musical instruments were among the first inventions of early humans. In Egypt the earliest end-blown flutes date to the fourth millennium b.c. A number of harps and lyres as well as a pair of silver flutes were found in the royal cemetery at Ur dating to the early part of the third millennium. Flutes made of bone or pottery date back at least to the fourth millennium. Musical instruments provided entertainment as well as background rhythm for dances and ritual performances, such as processions or cultic dramas. Other than simple percussion instruments (drums and rattles), the most common instruments used in the ancient Near East were harps and lyres. Examples have been found in excavated tombs and painted on the walls of temples and palaces. They are described in literature as a means of soothing the spirit, invoking the gods to speak and providing the cadence for a marching army. Musicians had their own guilds and were highly respected.

4:22. ancient metal technology. As part of the account of the emergence of crafts and technology in the genealogy of Cain, it is appropriate that the origin of metalworking would be mentioned. Assyrian texts mention Tabal and Musku as the early metalworking regions in the Taurus Mountains (of eastern Turkey). Copper tools, weapons and implements began to be smelted and forged in the fourth millennium b.c. Subsequently, alloys of copper, principally bronze, were introduced in the early third millennium as sources of tin were discovered outside the Near East and trade routes expanded to bring them to Egypt and Mesopotamia. Iron, a metal which requires much higher temperatures and skin bellows (portrayed in the Egyptian Beni Hasan tomb paintings) to refine and work, was the last to be introduced, toward the end of the second millennium b.c. Hittite smiths seem to have been the first to exploit it, and then the technology spread east and south. Meteorite iron was cold-forged for centuries prior to its smelting. That would not represent as large an industry as the forging of terrestrial deposits, but it would explain some of the early references to iron prior to the Iron Age.

The following presentation by Dr. Chittick details some advanced technology of ancient man. If man evolved up from an animal as evolutionism teaches, then ancient civilizations should be “primitive.” However, science/archaeology indicates that ancient cultures were technologically advanced, perhaps even rivaling or surpassing our own technical achievements. Here is a quick bio on him:

Dr. Donald E. Chittick received a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, and a Bachelor of Science from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. His resume includes the following: Chairman of the Division of Natural Sciences at George Fox University in Oregon, adjunct professor of chemistry at the Institute for Creation Research in California, and Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Puget Sound in Washington, as well as being an active lecturer for thirty years. Chittick is also an active inventor and has received several patents for alternative fuels and “programmed instruction,” i.e. homeschooling. He has a member of the American Chemical Society, and the Creation Research Society.

Here is Jonathan Sarfati’s commentary on Tubal-Cain:

  • Jonathan D. Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A Theological, Historical, And Scientific Commentary On Genesis 1-11 (Powder Springs, GA: Creation Book Publishers, 2015), 429-430, 436-438.


4:17b-24—When he [Cain] built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.

And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah

Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for striking me.

If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,

then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

This section of Genesis is quite brief. But this is a pattern in Genesis: God is working out His Messianic program throughout history, but Genesis first narrates the history of the ‘side branches’ before disposing of them in the narrative. This section disposes of the history of the Cainites before moving on to the Messianic line of Seth. Then in Chapter 10, Genesis explains the history of the Gentile nations before moving on to Terah then his son Abraham, with whom God made a covenant. After this, Genesis 25 provides a brief history of Ishmael’s line before moving on to the covenant line in Isaac. Genesis 36 does the same for Esau’s line before a detailed explanation of the descendants of Jacob, the ancestor of the Messianic nation of Israel.

We also see how this line is involved in worldly pursuits, trying to alleviate the effects of the Curse. In itself, this is not a bad thing, and consistent with the Dominion Mandate (1:28, see Ch. 10). As Kidner says:

A biased account would have ascribed nothing good to Cain. The truth is more complex: God was to make much use of Cainite techniques for his people, from the semi-nomadic discipline itself (20; cf. Heb. 11:9) to the civilized arts and crafts (e.g. Exod. 35:35).

But in this case, the improvements were made apart from God, and merely show that “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Jesus, Luke 16:8).


The English translation implies that Cain built a city, which would entail that he could defy his punishment of perpetual wandering. However, the Hebrew provides a different impression.

First, the word for ‘city’ is ‘îr (עִ֔יר). In the Bible, this certainly doesn’t mean something like modem London or New York, but can refer to something as small as a protected encampment. Keil and Delitzsch explain that this word “does not necessarily presuppose a large town, but simply an enclosed space with fortified dwellings, in contradistinction to the isolated tents of shepherds.”

Second, the Hebrew verb, wayǝhi bōneh (some Hebrew that did not scan over), which is participial, “he was engaged in building.” So it seems that Cain started the city, but had to wander again, so left it for Enoch to finish. This could be why the city was named after Enoch.


Tubal-cain (4:22a)

The above two brothers had an equally inventive half-brother, via Lamech’s other wife, Zillah. This was Tubal-cain, Hebrew Tubal Qayin (תּוּבַל). He was “the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.” Thus Keil and Delitzsch suggest a reason for the dual name, “Cain, from קָ֫יִן to forge, is probably to be regarded as the surname which Tubal received on account of his inventions.” However, Henry Morris suggests an alternative:

The meaning of his name is uncertain but does seem etymologically to be the progenitor of the Roman god Vulcan.

Indeed, this view has had eminent support. For instance, John Gill elaborated on this idea much more in his monumental commentary series:

And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, … Thought by many to be the same with Vulcan, his name and business agreeing; for the names are near in sound, Tubalcain may easily pass into Vulcan; and who, with the Heathens, was the god of the smiths, and the maker of Jupiter’s thunderbolts, as this was an artificer in iron and brass, as follows: his name is compounded of two words, the latter of which was no doubt put into his name in memory of Cain his great ancestor; [Josephus] says of him, that he exceeded all in strength, and had great skill in military affairs.

An instructor of every artificer in brass and iron; he taught men the way of melting metals, and of making armour and weapons of war, and other instruments, for various uses, out of them; and he seems to be the same with the Chrysor of Sanchoniatho; for he says (w) of them (Agreus and Halieus) were begotten two brothers, the inventors of iron, and of working of it: one of these, called Chrysor, is said to be Hephaestus or Vulcan; and Chrysor, as Bochartus (x) seems rightly to conjecture, is `Choresh-Ur, a worker in fire’; that, by means of fire, melted metals, and cast them into different forms, and for different uses; and one of these words is used in the text of Tubalcain; and so, according to Diodorus Siculus (y), Vulcan signifies fire, and was not only the inventor of fire, but he says he was the inventor of all works in iron, brass, gold, and silver, and of all other things wrought by fire, and of all other uses of fire, both by artificers and all other men, and therefore he was called by all ‘fire’. Clemens of Alexandria ascribes the invention of brass and iron to the Idaeans or priests of Cybele in Cyprus; and so Sophocles in Strabo.

Vulcan was indeed the Roman god of fire and metalwork, often depicted with a blacksmith’s hammering. However, I have my doubts. Latin and Hebrew are from different language families—Indo-European and Semitic. Vulcan was functionally the same as the Greek god of metalworking, ‘Hephaestus’ (Hēphaistos –  Ἥφαιστος), and linguistically similar to the Cretan nature and fire god Velchanos. Also, all this is prior to the Flood, so he could not have been the inventor of post-flood metal-working unless that technology was carried on the Ark and preserved through the first several generations. It is more likely that many things were re-invented by the descendants of Noah, even if through memory of the antediluvian world.

The word ‘all’, kol, in this case means ‘all kinds of’, so it means that Tubal-cain invented a wide variety of metal tools. So all these brothers produced useful technology that would make life easier and alleviate effects of the Curse. This is good in itself, and illustrates God’s grace even in the line of the murderer Cain.

But after a parenthetical statement about a sister, we see that the tools were not always used for good. Metal tools, like music, can have both God-honouring and God-defying applications.