Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:16, NASB)
Many Bibles read that Cain lived in a place called “Nod”. However, what many readers lose in translation is that nod means “wandering”, and that nod is used just earlier in the phrase often translated as “a fugitive and a vagabond will you be in the Earth” (cf. Gen 4:12). That phrase should probably be translated as “you will be wavering and wandering [nod] in the Earth”, which would put vs. 16 in proper context: as Cain enters a “land of wandering”, thus living out his judgment.
Previously I suggested there was a prophetic undertone to righteous Abel’s murder, which was followed by Cain’s “desolation” from the “Presence of God” (in other words, a prototypical “holy land”). I believe this is a prophetic forecast for future “desolations” which occurred in the days of Moses, Judges, Prophets, the Babylonian captives, and ultimately, when Rome destroyed Israel in accordance with the prophecies of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Thus the pattern of desolation is imprinted here early in the Scriptures – as a prophecy of warning to future generations.
So Cain’s “desolation” begins in verse 16 – which is a glorious oxymoron. How does Cain “settle” (Heb. yeshev) in a “land of wandering”? Which is it – did he settle down or wander aimlessly? Adding to this conundrum is what happens next:
Cain knew his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Enoch. He built a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:17)
The Hebrew word for “city” is iyr, which can designate any fortified place. Given that Cain was preoccupied with “anyone who finds me will smite me” (vs. 14), he likely built some sort of fortress. At the same time, he named his son “Chanokh” (anglicized as “Enoch”) which is the same Hebrew word used when “dedicating” or “establishing” a memorial – i.e. how King Solomon “dedicated” the Holy Temple (ref. 1 Kings 8:23). Therefore, when Enoch was born, it appears Cain was intending to re-establish himself!
So Cain built a fortress, he had a new family, and thus he “settled down” …but only according to man’s standard. Prophetically speaking, Cain was still nod-wandering …according to the Word of God. So the answer to the riddle is hiding in plain sight: Cain went out from the Presence… and was in the land of wandering. If you are separated from the Presence of God, you’re “wandering”. It doesn’t matter if you have the tallest castle with the thickest walls, or married to the prettiest wife with ten sons to carry on your legacy! It doesn’t matter how you re-establish yourself; without the Presence, it’s vanity.
Let’s consider that Cain and his descendants (cf. Genesis 4:18-24) had quite the accomplishments – specifically, three of Cain’s fourth-great-grandsons revolutionized agriculture, the performing arts, and metallurgy (vv. 20-22). In fact, these three sons – along with their father Lemech – would yield tremendous power and influence over the rest of the world, for it is written of them that they were “fathers of” all those who followed their trade. In fact, Methusaleh, who was the same generation as Lemech the descendant of Cain –might have named his own son “Lemech” (who turned out to be the father of Noah, see. Gen. 5:25-30) in honor of him.
Cain’s descendants were sons of a desolation, and I write about their accomplishments and influence because of a strange trend I’m witnessing in Christian churches and especially in the Messianic faith. You see, there is another group of people who are sons of a desolation, and who are likewise highly influential and successful all over the world.
I speak of today’s Jewish community.
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood as anti-Semitic. It’s not anti-Semitic to identify how disproportionately successful Jewish people are in today’s society when compared to the success of other cultures and communities. I find zero fault in anyone capitalizing on opportunities.
The fault I find is actually with Christians and Messianics. As Christians/Messianics, we believe that the last desolation of Jerusalem occurred for a reason, one which was specifically prophesied by Messiah Yeshua. Like Cain, these men went into all nations – wandering you might say, and immediately built shtetls and communities, and “settled down” so to speak. As the centuries passed, Jews were unfairly persecuted, but eventually, they began to be innovators in the sciences, arts, and various industries.
However, while no one claims the descendants of Cain were successful because of Providence, why are Christians and Messianics claiming that today’s Jewish community is successful because of God’s favor? This type of success is only measureable in this life, and doesn’t have any bearing on the age to come.
Just ask Cain’s descendants. Their success and influence couldn’t save them from the Great Flood; in fact, we could argue that it helped contribute to the Great Flood! And the success of anyone today – Jewish or Gentile – will not him in the upcoming Yom haDin (Day of Judgment).
Therefore, we must stop calling “favor” what the world calls “success”. They are not necessarily compatible.
Now, in future posts I’ll discuss how Cain’s descendants could’ve been saved from the flood, just as Jews are returning to Israel in preparation for end-time fulfillments. For now though, let not sons and daughters of God be swayed by anyone’s success in this life. For as the ancient world was swayed by the influences of Cain’s descendants and drowned, what would become of us if we falsely confused God’s favor with human success? ♦