Brian W. Davidson

sharing things I enjoy

Genesis 4 is essentially a reenactment of Genesis 3. There are plenty of significant differences between the two chapters, but here are the literary similarities, as I see it.
As is well noted, the only occurrences of the the word translated “desire” (תשׁוקה) are in these two chapters (3:16/4:7). Eve’s desire will be for her husband, but he will rule over (משׁל) her. Sin’s desire is for Cain, and he must rule over (משׁל) it. The structure of these clauses is almost identical:

3:16 – אל אישׁך תשׁוקתך והוא ימשׁל בך

4:7 – אליך תשׁוקתו ואתה תמשׁל בו

It appears to me that the same literary phenomenon is going on in 3:22 and 4:8. In 3:22 the narrator breaks off Yahweh’s speaking mid-thought. So also, in 4:8 the narrator stops mid-thought:

3:22 – פן ישׁלח ידוֹ ולקח גם מעץ החיים ואכל וחי לעלם וישׁלחהו

“Lest he stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever . . . [new thought]”

4:8 – ויאמר קין אל הבל אחיו ויהי

“And Cain spoke to Abel . . . [new thought]”

Concerning 4:8, the NET notes comment, “Perhaps the author uses the technique of aposiopesis, ‘a sudden silence’ to create tension. In the midst of the story the narrator suddenly rushes ahead to what happened in the field.”

3:9/4:9 – After Adam sinned, the Lord asks “where are you” (איכה)? In chapter 4, after Cain killed his brother, the Lord asks, “Where is Abel (אי הבל)?

3:13/4:10 – After Adam shifted the blame to Eve, the Lord said to her, “What is this you’ve done?” (מה זאת עשׂית) When Cain shirks his responsibility to love his brother, the Lord responds, “What did you do?” (מה אשׂית)

3:14, 17/4:11 – Both the snake and the land (האדמה) are cursed (ארור and ארורה, respectively). So also, Cain is “cursed from the land” (ארור אתה מן האדמה).

3:24/4:14 – Just as Adam and Eve were driven (גרשׁ) from the garden, so also Cain is driven (גרשׁ) from the land.

3:24/4:16 – Adam and Eve must now live “east of the garden of Eden” (מקדם לגן עדן). So also, Cain must now dwell in the land of Nod, “east of Eden” (קדמת עדן).

For one attempt to explain the theological significance of reading these chapters together, see this previous post.