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Translation - Genesis 4

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Genesis 4:1-16

A Translation and Commentary

Frank A. Shirvinski, Ph.D (ABD)

Now the man knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, saying, “I have gained[a] a man with (the help of ) the Lord.” 2 She again gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel was a shepherd of the flock, and Cain a tiller of the land. 3 In the course of time, Cain brought to the Lord an offering from the fruit of the land, 4 and Abel also brought his (offering) from the firstborn of his flock, and from their fat portions.[b] And the Lord paid attention to Abel and his offering, 5 but to Cain and his offering he paid no attention. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your face fallen? 7 Is it not the case that if you do well, (you will be) lifted up?[c] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its urge is for you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Cain said to Abel, his brother, “Let us go out to the field.”b When they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?” He said, “I do not know? Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And (the Lord)[d] said, “What have you done? Listen, your brother's blood is crying out to me from the land!" 11 Now, you are more cursed than the land[e], which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the land, it will no longer give to you its strength; you will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”  13Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Since today you have driven me from the face of the land, and I shall be hidden from your presence, I have become a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who finds me will kill me.” 15 The Lord said to him, “This being so, whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.” And the Lord placed a sign on Cain, so that whoever found him would not strike him. 16 Then Cain left the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod,d east of Eden.


[a] The verb translated 'gained' may be related to the proper name 'Cain.'

[b] Note the chiasmus (ABB'A') used in Genesis 4:2-5. (i.e. "Abel was (A)…, Cain was (B)…, Cain brought (B')…, Abel brought (A')….) Such constructions help with the structure and movement of the story.  Other example occur throughout this particular story and Genesis.

[c] 'lifted up' may also be translated 'forgiveness.'

b Hebrew text lacks, "Come, let us go out to the field." This phrase is included in the Targum Ongelos, Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint. 

[d] Hebrew 'He'

[e] See Genesis 3:17.

d 'Nod' or 'land of wndering' which reflects a wordplay with the Hebrew word, 'Nad,' which is translated 'wander' in v. 12.

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