First born son of Adam and Eve, tiller of the ground, Cain — meaning “possession” or “a spear” — slaughters his brother Abel in an act of wanton jealousy. G-d duly banishes cain to the Land of Nod, a metaphor perhaps for “Land of Exile”.
Cain is marked by God with the equivalent of a “Danger: Do Not Approach” sign, perchance on the forehead or right hand?
The sign marks him ‘unclean’, ensuring also that his life not taken in retribution by those wanting to avenge Abel’s death. For Cain serves as living reminder to the consequence of sin — the sin of taking the blood of another.
The name Cain refers also to a town of the Kenites, a Midianite tribe (Jos 15:57) on the east edge of the mountain above Engedi; probably the “nest in a rock” mentioned by Balaam (Num 24:21 ). That town of Cain is identified with modern-day Yekin† (Yakin / Yaqeen / Jachin), just south-east of Hebron.
From the rock of Ziph David came down to “the wilderness of Maon.” Both names are still found in southern Judah. Conder (Israel Exploration) identifies Hachilah with a high hill bounded by deep valleys N. and S. on which stands the ruin Yekin or Harbin, facing Jeshimon on the right. The “trench” where Saul pitched tent is the flat low plot between steep cliffs, the head of a large wady with water. David crossed the valley, and from either of the hill tops called to the hosts. There is only one hill E. of Ziph overlooking the desert, the rest are rolling downs at a lower level; on this one is Yekin, which is “Hachil,” the liquids ‘l’ and ‘n’ being interchanged as often.
- † Yaqeen: Arabic and Persian for “certainty”, “lack of doubt”. Yakin (Jachin): “He will establish,” an Israelite name. Jachin was the name of one of Solomon’s Pillars. Yakin [I guess referring to a yak] is a “large Asiatic antelope (Budorcas taxicolor) native of the higher parts of the Himalayas and other lofty mountains. Its head and neck resemble those of the ox, and its tail is like that of the goat. Called also budorcas” (1913 Webster).
- A Dictionary of the Malayan Language, William Marsden – Google Books
- Cain and Abel – My Jewish Learning
- Cain – Bible Study Tools
- Hachilah – Bible-History
- Word Study: Yakin – Next Bible
- Cain flying before Jehovah’s Curse, Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon (c. 1880) Musée d’Orsay, Paris [Wikipedia commons]