The Way of Cain, (7) More Contrasts

Enosh versus Enoch

Enosh (or Enos), the son of Seth, was born in the third generation. As has been discussed, his name means “mortal.” The word enosh or enos is rooted in the Hebrew word nsh, which is associated with man or mankind, while its derivatives, “mortal, frail, weak,” are an apt description of the human condition. As has already been discussed, Seth chose this name for his son in order to acknowledge mankind’s lamentable condition, and to seek from God salvation from death. This was also the focus of the first ecclesia’s worship, when “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26).

In contrast, Cain named his firstborn son after the city he was building: “Cain was then building a city and he named it after his son Enoch” (Gen 4:17). Cities are often thought of as permanent or eternal. For example, Rome is nicknamed the Eternal City. Thus, while Enosh’s name is a reflection of human frailty, Enoch’s name, in association with the establishment of the first city/settlement, speaks to a human desire for permanency, which, throughout history, has often been pursued through the construction of such edifices as cities, tombs, and monuments. The desire for immortality is best demonstrated in the example of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king (ca. 605-562 BC) who lived during the time of Daniel:

“As the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’ ” (Dan 4:28-30).

In his moment of pride, God stripped Nebuchadnezzar of his senses and he wandered mad in the fields, like cattle. To a madman, the great monuments were of little consequence. Thus in an instant, Nebuchadnezzar lost all that he had built. This example demonstrates the impermanency of humankind’s works and their inability to achieve immortality through bricks and mortar.

As for Enoch’s name itself, it is derived from the Hebrew word hanak, which means “begin” or “dedicate,” suggesting that either he was born when Cain began building his city or upon its completion, when the city was dedicated — but dedicated to whom is the obvious question. Did Cain dedicate the city to his son, Enoch? Or to himself? Or to, perhaps, the fiery cherubim, which was to him God?

Kenan versus Irad

Kenan, the son of Enosh, was born in the fourth generation. He shares a name that is similar to Cain, since both are derived from the Hebrew word qyn or qana, meaning “to acquire” or “get.” Unlike Cain’s name, however, kenan has a double emphasis on the Hebrew letter “n” or nun, a difference that may aid in identifying the meaning of his name. Typically, however, Kenan’s name is translated as “possession,” (derived from Cain’s name, “acquire” or “get”) or as a derivative of the verb qin (similar to qyn), which means, “lamentation” or “sorrow.” “Possession” perhaps refers to Kenan’s relationship with God, i.e. he was God’s possession because he gave himself up (devoted himself) to the Lord. Or perhaps “lamentation” is a better translation, which may reflect his father’s name, “mortality.” In this way, Enosh and Kenan’s names represent a sort of cause and effect: mortality (Enosh) caused lamentation or sorrow (Kenan) — the effect.

Another possibility may be the slight, but significant difference between Kenan and Cain. As noted, the extra “n” in Kenan’s name may be there in order to emphasize the verb. Thus Cain’s name, “acquire” or “get,” becomes “increase” (acquire or get more) when the “n” is emphasized in Kenan’s name. It strongly suggests that Kenan’s name, therefore, means to increase or increased.

But what might “increase” refer to? If Kenan was a descendant of Cain — a man and his descendants who reflect the status of human progress on the earth — then we might be tempted to see in his name a reflection of the earth’s population in the fourth generation, in that the number of inhabitants increased. However, the names of Seth’s descendants relate to heavenly matters, and so Kenan’s name must reflect the status of faith on the earth. As such, his name “increase” may refer to a growth in the number of people who “called upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). This increase in the number of the faithful in the fourth generation was likely the result of Seth, Enosh, and others, who proclaimed, called out, or cried out to God for salvation from death in the second and third generations.

Regardless of which translation is used, Kenan’s name, within the framework of this study, must be a commentary on the status of the faithful in the fourth generation: as “possession,” he belonged to God; as “the lamenter,” Kenan’s name reflects the sorrow humans may have expressed in recognition of their own mortality; and as “increase,” his name suggests that the message of salvation from death was received by many, and the ecclesia grew for a time.

Although there is more scholarly evidence for the translation of Kenan’s name as “possession,” or “lamenter,” rather than for “increase,” contextually, an increase in the number of worshippers of God at this period in time would better reflect the work of God when it’s in its initial stages of being proclaimed and established. For example, the ecclesia in the first century AD experienced — after a short time from the moment of being introduced — a similar period of growth or increase.

Peter and the other apostle’s proclamation of the good news (Acts 4:11-12) so resonated with people that it caused “the word of God to spread and the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly” (Acts 6:7). Thus it seems that after the apostles had spent some time preaching the good news, the “seed” fell on good soil and “yielded a crop a hundred times more than was sown” (Luke 8:8). Likewise, it is possible that, according to the alternative meaning of Kenan’s name — “increase” — the work of Seth, Enosh, and others in the second and third generations, resulted in a similar period of spiritual growth in the fourth generation.

Irad, the son of Enoch, the son of Cain, was also born in the fourth generation. His name is a construction of two words, ir or ur, which means “city,” and ad or ud, which means “repeat” or “return.” Thus Irad’s name is translated as “city repeated,” which suggests that either he or his father built a second city. Its construction establishes a pattern of city-building among this particular branch of Cain’s descendants.

Cities, with their walls and fortifications, provide protection against animal and human predators, while resources can be more easily shared, and knowledge can be quickly disseminated amongst those living in closer proximity. Thus for practical reasons, cities aided civilization’s progress — which may be one of the meanings behind Irad’s name.

As will be shown, the establishment of cities by Cain’s descendants was part of the process, whether deliberate or not, to forge new homes, new tribes, to corrupt God, or replace the idea of God altogether, and to vainly seek immortality by constructing monuments, edifices, and tombs. Their activity was in stark contrast to the kind of permanency Seth, Enosh, Kenan, and others sought by taking refuge in the Lord, who alone they recognized as having the power to grant salvation from death.

Mahalalel versus Mehujael

Two men with similar sounding names were born in the fifth generation: Mahalalel and Mehujael. Like Kenan and Cain, the difference in their names testifies to the dissimilar relationships they shared with God and thus supports the contrasting framework — spiritual versus earthly.

Mahalalel was the son of Kenan. The spelling of his name is made up of two elements: halal, which in Hebrew means “praise” (i.e., hallelujah), and el, the name of God. As such his name can be translated as “praise God” or “praised of God.”

Likewise, Mehujael’s name is composed of two parts: the former comes from the root word machah, which means “to wipe out,” “strike,” or “smite,” while the latter part, el, refers to God’s name. As such, his name may be interpreted as “smitten of God.” Machah is used 36 times in the Bible, usually in association with God blotting out the memory of the wicked from His “book of the living.”1 From this we can surmise that Mehujael was particularly wicked — so much so that he was singled out in Genesis to be remembered as a man “struck down” or “blotted out” by God.

Moreover, that Mahalalel and Mehujael have such similar but opposing names — praised of God/smitten of God — suggests that these two individuals, who lived in the same generation, may have shared an experience that was similar to what transpired between Cain and Abel. For, just as God praised Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s, it is possible that He may have, similarly, praised Mahalalel and rejected (smote) Mehujael’s.

Given Genesis’ omission of the details surrounding these two individuals, the only thing we can say for sure about them is that their names well reflect the contrasting framework for the study of Genesis 4 and 5: Mahalalel, a faithful man, a man “praised by God,” and a descendant of Seth, is clearly to be identified with the sons of God, while Mehujael, a wicked man, a man “smitten by God,” and a descendant of Cain, is clearly to be identified with the sons of men.

Jared versus Methushael

The first ecclesia may have flourished during the fourth generation, as indicated by Kenan’s name, which may mean “to increase.” This trend likely continued into the fifth generation, a time when Mahalalel was “praised of God” — his name a clear indication that he was faithful, and which may also suggest that “faith” was still very much alive at the time of his birth, and during a portion of his life.

However, by the sixth generation, the ecclesia fell into decline. This may be the meaning of Jared’s name, which is derived from the Hebrew word, yarad, and means to “descend, decline, pour out,” or “go down.” Thus his name may be an indication that sixth generation was a period of spiritual decline. This decline corresponds to events in Genesis 6 — verses which present a narrative of conditions on the earth leading up to the Flood from the sixth generation on:

“When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend withhumans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years’ ” (Gen 6:1-3).

Contained within these verses is the cause of the ecclesia’s decline: intermarrying between the righteous and the unrighteous. The sixth generation marks the beginning of this decline, a trend that continued throughout the seventh generation, and reached its zenith in the eighth generation. Thus Genesis 6:1-3 chronicles a period of decline, which took place over three generations, beginning in the sixth generation.

The reference to intermarriage in Genesis 6:2 suggests that prior to the sixth generation, the sons of God did not marry the daughters of men. While this separation may have been the result of geography, it is far more probable that the sons of God, like the children of Israel during the time of Moses, remained separate so that their faith would not be influenced (corrupted) by the women they married; women who inevitably introduced pagan beliefs and philosophies to their husbands, and who subsequently brought these beliefs into the ecclesia. Moses warned the Israelites about the catastrophic effect intermarrying with the surrounding nations would have on their faith:

“Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you” (Deut 7:1-5).

Likewise, this was true of those living in the first century AD, for Paul said to the Corinthians: “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2Cor 6:14). Thus, if this was true of those living in the days of Moses, and also in the first century AD, then it was also true for antediluvians living in the first centuries BC.

Jared’s contemporary was Methushael, the son of Mehujael. His name is composed of mat, which in Hebrew means “mortal,” and shael, which is similar to sheol, meaning “grave.” Like Jared, Methushael’s name also corresponds to events in Genesis 6, in particular verse 3, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

The decline in those who called upon the name of the Lord, and the increase in wickedness angered God such that He shortened human life spans to 120 years. For a people accustomed to living upwards of 800-900 hundred years, God’s pronouncement2 was akin to a death sentence. Given God’s decision to drastically reduce the life span of humans, Mehujael’s choice to name his son, “grave,” was an appropriate one.

The shortening of human life was a gradual process. In his book, The Science of God (1997), Gerald L. Schroeder makes a similar observation:

Following Noah, a trend is clear. Lifespan becomes shorter through the generations. The Biblical concept is that change takes place over time and through generations.3

Although the pronunciation of human’s shortened lifespan by God occurred in the sixth generation, like the progress of Adam’s curse, the process of reducing human lifespan was gradual; it did not come to fruition until well after the Flood.4

Matthew Harrison (Ottawa, ON) 


1. Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28.

2. Although God may have communicated His decision to shorten life spans through a prophet, this “pronouncement” need not be taken literally.

3. P. 15.

4. Noah — 950; Shem — 500; Arphaxad — 403; Eber — 430; Peleg — 209; Reu — 207; Serug — 200; Nahor — 119, the grandfather of Abraham — the trend is one of a gradual shortening over a period of eight generations.