THE NARRATIVE ERASURE OF ADAM IN CAIN’S BIRTH IN GEN. 4:1. SOME NOTES ON EVE, SEX, AND VULNERABILITY

Gerrie F Snyman

Abstract


The essay explores the different translations of Gen. 4:1 in terms of the use of the word יָדַ֖ע, the reference toאִ֖ישׁ, and the use of the phraseאֶת־יְהוָֽה, all three handled differently in the interpretation in the textual traditions that followed. By all accounts, it seems that conception and birth in Gen. 4 follow the standard formulas, except Eve’s proclamation at Cain’s birth. Eve proclaims she acquired a man with the help of or from the Lord. Only one translation interprets אִ֖ישׁ as “son”; the rest read it as “man”. Adam appears to be a mere sperm donor and is ignored in Eve’s proclamation. What should one make of Eve’s proclamation at Cain’s birth? Is her proclamation a joyous response to motherhood? Alternatively, does she now proclaim a certain distance from Adam, even an invulnerability, emasculating him? In order to find an answer to this question, this essay starts by discussing various translations of the Masoretic text in order to grasp what the general understanding of the text appears to be. It then looks at the word that is used to denote sex, the proclamation of Eve in terms of what is meant by “man”, and the role played by the deity in the object clause et Yahweh. The essay concludes that Eve’s proclamation of Cain’s birth is a joyful claim to motherhood, but an unintended consequence is the narrative erasure of Adam, turning him into a mere sperm donor.


Keywords


Cain; Eve; Adam; Knowledge; Sexuality; Vulnerability; Ethical moment; Targums; Genesis Rabbah; The Red Turtle

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7833/119-1-1529

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ISSN 2305-445X (online); ISSN 0254-1807 (print)

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