Nuggets of Gold: Genesis 4:1-2

BibleEditor’s Note: This entry is part of an occasional series Nuggets of Gold: Deeper Theological Truths.

Though honest questions may arise among believers regarding the nature of the births of Cain and Abel, and though others may concoct all sorts of myths regarding the births of these two men, including the idea that Cain was the offspring of Satan, the Hebrew text of Genesis 4:1-2 eliminates both questions and conjecture.  The text, originating from the hand of the first man himself,[1]  is very explicit, stating first:  “And Adam [literally, “the adam[2]] knew Eve [Hka-wah, “Life”[3]] his woman.”  This statement is clear that Adam, the only male adam then existing, was the progenitor of Cain through an intimate knowledge relationship with Eve which resulted in Cain’s birth.  The text cannot be interpreted normally to say anything else.

The Hebrew text uses a very distinct construction which leaves no question regarding Adam’s fatherhood of Eve’s firstborn.  Adam recorded the first statement using the verb, “knew” [yah-da]  in what Hebrew grammar calls the “perfect aspect.”  This is simply the basic form of a verb describing an action that was completed in the past or which is viewed as complete, thus making “perfect aspect” verbs the normal form for recording history and past events.  They are called “perfect” because of the way they view the action.

The next six primary verbs,[4] that is, verbs which are not in some way subordinate to a primary verb, are all in the “imperfect aspect” with a waw-conjunction attached to each of them in a way which makes them all “imperfect consecutives.”  This “consecutive” structure indicates that each of these primary verbs is bound to the preceding primary verb in some sort of “sequence” relationship.  In modern English, each subsequent verb may be introduced by the conjunction “then” to better indicate this relationship than does the conjunction “and.”  The literal translation given above illustrates this.  The entire chain of verbs begins with “knew,” the verb which sets the “completed-action” aspect of the whole chain, and thus, all of these verbs are translated in the English “past tense.”  A simplified translation makes clear the sequence of events:

1          And Adam knew Eve.

Then she conceived.

Then she birthed.

Then she said.

2          Then she added to birth.

Then Hevel and Qayin existed.

3          Then it existed . . .

Some have thought to see in the text indications that Cain and Abel were twins.  The Hebrew text does not support this understanding.  Though these two births are obviously the first in the existence of humankind, and thus, the word “twin” (~mia]wOT) may not yet have existed, the text does not use this Hebrew word in relation to their birth.  In fact, the sequence of events described in verses 1 and 2 covers a substantial number of years, covering the entire period from the first physical relationship between Adam and Eve all the way to Cain and Abel being sufficiently grown to produce and offer their own sacrifices.  The time span for the events must have been at least twelve to fifteen years, and likely, even more.  Accordingly, the evidence against a twin birth includes the Hebrew terminology and the verse break,[5] but it also includes the additional obvious fact that the Creator had determined that human birth would normally involve only a single child, and that multiple child births would be the exception.  Indeed, if God designed human births to be, normally, one child at a time, it is highly unlikely that He would cause Eve to conceive twins in the birth that would be the first of all births to follow, a pattern followed even in the single child birth of the LORD Jesus Christ Himself.

Still further, the Hebrew text of verse 2 uses the hiphil stem of the verb “to add” combined with the infinitive construct of the verb “to birth.”  The combination may be translated:  “Then she caused adding to birth . . .” or “Then she added to birth . . .”  The translation is somewhat awkward for English-thinking individuals, but it captures the apparent Hebrew significance that some interval existed between the two single child births and with the understood condition that Adam had “known” Eve again.

[1] See Genesis 5:1 and evidence provided in other documents by the author.

[2] The Hebrew word is adam (pronounced ah-dahm) and refers to “humankind,” both male and female.  Thus, Adam was the male adam and Eve was the female adam.

[3] When Adam gave her this name, he used the Hebrew root hkah-wah, which refers to “living, possessing life.”

[4] The last of these six verbs is the first of verse 3.  The verbs are “conceived, bare, said, bare again, was (Abel), and came to pass.”  Two subordinate verbs also occur:  “have gotten, was (Cain).”

[5] The soph pasuq after the last word of verse 1 and the silluq accent on the last word of the verse indicate that the Masoretes considered a break of unknown, though possibly brief, duration between verses 1 and 2.  This does not demand that Abel was born as a result of Adam “knowing” Eve a second time, but with no words or grammatical constructions to indicate a twin birth, this must have been the case, because God would not have left the revelation ambiguous in this regard.


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