Genesis 4 – Anthropologists point of view

Taking a step back from a literary analysis of the Bible, I will be putting on my Anthropologist hat for some more perspective. My main focus of studies was/is the indigenous Peoples of the western hemisphere, native peoples of North and South America. My blood and my relatives. For now, I will peer across the great ocean and look into the Bible of the Middle East.

In Genesis 4 we are told that Cain is a tiller of the ground, and Abel is a herder of flocks. We can make the conclusions that Cain, or who or whatever he represents, is an agriculturalist, and Abel can represent pastoralism. Not an important fact? Obviously Jehovah preferred the pastoralists offering, though we really don’t know why. There is a bit of a hint that maybe Cain’s offering wasn’t up to snuff, didn’t follow the rules, henceforth was a sin. Is this an indication of a historical cultures transition from an agricultural society to a pastoralist society, which includes the following of a new god and a resetting of the generations of man? Of course, the Bible doesn’t say this, but it does explain the allegorical side of this story.

For even more explanation of this people’s culture, we are introduced to new generations of man born of Cain in Gensis 4, via his great-great-great grandson, Lamech. Lamech took two wives (polygamy normalized in the Bible?) and this is what we have explained to us after these generations:

  • Cain – tiller of the ground – Agriculture
  • Abel – herder of flocks – Pastoral
  • Jabal – The father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle – Pastoral
  • Jubal – The father of those who handle the harp and pipe – Musicians
  • Tubal-cain – The forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron – Metallurgy

It should be noted as these latter 3 men are introduced, so is their sister Naamah brought up. But the daughters of Adam and Eve were not? (For those under the impression Adam and Eve had daughters despite not being mentioned in Genesis.)

In many cultures, trades and skills are passed down from generation to generation and tend to stay in families, so this is not a surprise being read in Genesis.

So now we have the progenitors, the fathers of  some of the different facets of these people’s culture, a lineage to explain these facets going back to the origins of their generations.


This is not unheard of and actually quite common. Patrons of a modern culture tied to the past. When a culture changes drastically it often gets recorded in writing, in oral tradition, in art. Is this what we are dealing with in Genesis? The genesis of a new phase in the existence of this peoples? A resetting of an era?



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