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“Ask a Priest: Where Did Those People in Genesis 4 Come From?”
Q: I recently ran into a question and wanted to get the Catholic teaching and answer, please. The Bible says Adam and Eve were the first two humans and bore Cain and Abel, after which Cain slew Abel. It then says Cain went to live among the people in the land of Nod. Where did the people in the land of Nod come from? Thank you. –F.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The Church doesn’t always offer a nice, neat answer to interpreting every passage of Scripture. But a few observations could be proffered here.
Your reference focuses on Genesis 4:15-16. “The LORD said to him, If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged seven times. So the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight. Cain then left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” From there, Cain goes on to start a family, the implication being that there were people in this “land of Nod.”
To understand these passages, it is good to recall that the writers and redactors (editors or compilers) of Genesis were not trying to produce the kind of historical account that we in the 21st century might expect. Rather, the writers and redactors were trying to teach important lessons with a particular audience in mind. In this case, the audience was probably the Jews who suffered exile in the fifth or sixth century B.C. and who were mostly living outside of Palestine (see Introduction to Genesis, New American Bible).
That Genesis is not strictly historical in the modern sense is evident by the anachronisms that appear. For instance, the animal sacrifice offered by Abel (Genesis 4:4) reflects a practice from a later era. Or take Genesis 2:24, which says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” It mentions this right after Adam sees Eve for the first time. But why mention “father and mother,” since presumably, Adam had no human parents to leave?
This is a case where a writer is taking an old story and interjecting a value onto the text. This was not seen as something dishonest; rather, it was one way the ancients showed reverence for the religious stories that had been handed down from one generation to another. This is how writers could link present values with the past, and thus help keep the religious stories alive and relevant.
It is in this context that we could read the story of Cain and Abel and its aftermath. Cain goes off to Nod, which is itself a symbolic name, derived from the verb nud, “to wander.” The purpose of the genealogy that follows “is to explain the origin of culture and crafts among human beings” (see footnote of New American Bible on Genesis 4:17-24).
(For more reading on the Church’s understanding of the origins of the human race, see the International Theological Commission’s 2004 document Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God.)
So to sum up: Genesis aimed to convey deep truths and religious traditions. It wasn’t meant to be read as a history textbook, though it was, and is, the inspired word of God. I hope this helps.
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THAT RESPONSE TO THAT AGE OLD QUESTION WAS QUITE ELUSIVE…OPENING DOORS FOR MORE QUESTIONS RATHER THAN OFFERING ANY DEFINITIVE RESPONSE TO THE SPECIFIC INQUIRY…THE SCRIPTURE SAYS THAT IN THE BEGINNING…GOD CREATED ADAM…HENCE EVE…THEIR OFFSPRING WERE CAIN AND ABEL…THAT IS TWO PARENTS AND TWO CHILDREN…CONNECTED TO THE GARDEN OF EDEN…THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE CREATION OF THE LAND OF NOD OR ITS INHABITANTS. THE DILEMNA BETWEEN ‘LITERAL’ AND ‘FIGURATIVE’ IS AGE OLD…YEILDING MORE CONFUSION THAN SUBSTANCE…IJS
Rodney, here is a good link to address the question about the land of Nod, Cain and his wife, etc. Fr Edwards answer was a non answer. Not trying to be disrespectful. See if this is helpful.
I don’t know but I know the Land of Nod was a real place and is found in present day Nigeria. It says that it was named after Enoch. This was the Nok civilization located in the village of Ham who had the first judicial system and were skilled metal workers just as they were in the Bible.
Very well said
Many of the answers to this question are elusive. The Bible deals with exacts, not telling a story of that magnitude in the past tense. Cain was banished by God to the Land of Nod, and there he took a wife. Since God tells us not to commit inbreeding, there had to be other people there. Either no one knows, or wants to let go of the key to this mystery. Also, where did all of the different races come from? At the Tower of Babel, the Bible only mentions God dividing us by different languages. I’ve always felt as if the answers to these secrets were locked away, and the group that has them thinks they should decide on the release time.
According to the bible God created almost everything and Adam we are made to believe was the first hand made by God. That to me tries to tell me that the people of the Nod were created well before Adam and later Eve. I take it Adam was a symbol of the chosen people with a specific purpose and the rest were creatures for other or first purposes.
This was on my heart to share,I think I have a simpler solution to this qeustion? The text says these where the “first” humans created not the only? God is almighty what’s to say he did not create others? Just like he made women from his rib he very well could have used adams DNA to make other humans. There could have been other humanoid beings he created that where not as perfect as Adam too?
We don’t know this becuase the timelime jumps drastically from being kicked out of garden to adult children of Adam and eve.
Who’s to say God did not create a womwn for Cain? It’s speculation but God is Almighty and cabible of each scenario.
The fact still remains Adam and eve where the first not the last!
Cains bore a child Enoch and Seth 170 years later who was born later from Adam had his child Enosh who the went on to be our decent.
While Enoch was taken into heaven having his son leech + Ada+Tzila which where killed in the flood.