[b-hebrew] Names in Genesis 4

JBarach at aol.com JBarach at aol.com
Thu Dec 13 19:32:04 EST 2007

B-Haverim --
Genesis 4 gives the list of Cain's descendents: Enoch, Irad, Mehujael,  
Methushael, and Lamech, and then mentions Lamech's wives (Adah, Zillah) and  their 
children (Jabal, Jubal, Tubal Cain, and their sister Naamah).
While some scholars simply say that these names aren't in Hebrew and  
therefore can't be translated, I'm not satisfied with that approach.  After  all, the 
names of Adam and Eve (Chavvah) and their sons, Cain, Abel, and  Seth, are 
all either Hebrew or closely enough related to Hebrew that they  can be 
understood -- closely enough related, in fact, that a pun on the name  works (e.g., 
"Cain" and "acquired/created"; "Seth" and "appointed").
Some of the names of Cain's descendents are fairly easy to  understand.  
"Enoch" means "dedicated," and is a term that's used for the  dedication of 
architecture.  The names of Lamech's wives and children also  can be understood.
What I'm wondering about are the other names in the list: Irad  (ערד), 
Mehujael (מחיאל), Methushael (מתושאל), and Lamech  (למך).  Cassuto suggests 
that Irad is related either to "city" or to  "wild ass," both of which are ער
.  Hirsch takes Irad to be "wild  ass.  He suggests that Mehujael is from מחוי
 אל, "in which godliness  is extinguished" or מחו אל, "who extinguished 
godliness."  Methushael he  takes to mean "seeking masses of people," from  מתו 
אל.  The etymology  of Lamech, however, he says is "completely obscure."
I'm attracted to some elements of Cassuto and Hirsch's approach.   James 
Jordan follows Cassuto in seeing Irad as being related to ער, "city" and  "wild 
ass."  (There does appear to be some sort of a connection between  these two 
meanings: Jair's sons in Judges ride on ער and rule ער).  He  suggests that 
the Hebrew listener to the text might hear something like "The Man  who Dwells 
in a City like a Wild Ass" or "Man of the Untamed (by God)  City."
Jordan takes Mehujael to be from מחו י אל.  Unlike Hirsch, he  thinks that 
the yod in the word is a reference to YHWH.  so the word would  mean 
something like "He Who Blots Out Ya(hweh) El(ohim)."  That seems  plausible to me.
Unlike Hirsch, Jordan takes Methushael to be from three roots:  מתו ש  אל. 
 He understands מתו to refer to death and takes אל to be a reference to  
God, as in Mehujael.  The ש, he suggests, may be an abbreviated reference  to 
peace, as it appears to be in the name Methuselah (מתושלה, where שלה seems 
to  mean "peace and quiet": "His death is peaceful").  The name Methushael,  
therefore, would mean something like "He Who Kills the Peace of God."
As for Lamech, Jordan agrees with Hirsch that the etymology doesn't get us  
anywhere.  He writes: "I suggest that just as Rebekah is a play on  barak 
(blessing) by reversing the first two letters, so Lamekh is a  play on melekh 
He suggests, finally, that "Reading 4:18 as a Hebrew might have heard it,  
then, we hear: 'And to the Dedicated One was born the  Rebellious-City-Dweller.  
And the Rebellious-City-Dweller begat the One Who  Strikes Out Against 
Yahweh-Elohim.  And the One Who Strikes Out Against  Yahweh-Elohim begat the One Who 
Kills the Peace of Elohim.  And the One Who  Kills the Peace of Elohim begat 
the King.'"
It seems to me that Jordan's approach is plausible, but I'd be very  
interested in your thoughts on the etymology of these names.
John Barach   (541) 531-2906
Pastor, Reformation Covenant Church (CREC)
706 Beekman Avenue
Medford, OR   97501
_http://barach.us_ (http://barach.us) 
_http://rccso.com_ (http://rccso.com) 

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