- 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.
THE LINE OF CAIN (4:17B-24)
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 FIRST RECORDED CITY (4:17B)
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.
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.