Prologue to Genesis
The Unauthorized Version
The man saw the woman, Eve, and understood her. And she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain [which sounds like ‘erect’ in Hebrew]. “I have erected a man, with the help of Yahweh,” she said. Later, she gave birth to his brother, Abel. Abel was a shepherd, and Cain farmed the earth.
In time, Cain brought crops of fruit and grain to Yahweh, and Abel brought the fat of his firstborn lambs. Yahweh accepted Abel’s offering, but rejected Cain’s. When this happened, Cain’s face dropped with anger so Yahweh said to him, “Why so angry? You will be accepted too, if you resist. But if you don’t, domination is skulking at your door; it lusts after you, but you must master it!”
Cain called his brother out to the field, and killed him there.
Yahweh said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?”
“How would I know?” said Cain. “Am I my brother’s shepherd?”
Yahweh sighed, angrily. “Listen! Your brother’s dam [blood] is screaming to me from the adamah [earth]! You are cursed by the earth, which has soaked Abel’s blood from your hand! When you farm the adamah, it won’t yield to you. Instead, you must become a nomad.”
“This punishment is more than I can take!” said Cain. “You have forced me apart from the ground so that I will be hidden from your face! I shall be forever on the run, my life is already over.”
“Not so!” said Yahweh quietly – was it defiant whisper or defeated sigh? And taking up needle and ink he tattooed Cain’s face, saying, “Whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times in return!”
Then Cain left Yahweh and settled in the Land of Wandering, East of Eden.
Cain saw his wife, and understood her, and she gave birth to Enoch. Cain then built a city, which he called Enoch, after his son.
Enoch’s son was Irad;
Irad’s son was Mehujael;
Mehujael’s son was Methushael;
Methushael’s son was Lamech.
Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah.
Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the ancestor of the nomadic shepherds. His brother was Jubal, ancestor to the musicians.
Zillah gave birth to Tubal-Cain, who made tools with bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
“Adah and Zillah, listen! I’ll tweet this;
this story’s tremendous, the best-rated tale!
This kid I’ll call Rocky has wounded me bigly;
so I’ll wipe out his people to prove I’m a male.
Cain might take vengeance his seven times,
but Lamech’s big hands punch back seventy!”
Once again, Adam saw the woman, and understood her, and she gave birth to Seth [which sounds like ‘to place’ in Hebrew]. This time she said, “Elohim has placed another seed with me instead of Abel.” Seth had a son called Enosh.
It was around that time that people first began to pollute the name Yahweh.
The Hebrew word plays of this chapter seem significant, but are almost impossible to translate. So I have used editorial brackets to explain them.
Hebrew narrative is very sparse, so includes very little description of how things are said. I included a few additional descriptions in this chapter to explore the character of Yahweh, adding emotion to this communication. It’s a move I am unsure about, because part of the ‘otherness’ of the story is the space it leaves for meaning and imagination, in contrast to overdetermined English literature. However, in the end I decided to use additions, but sparingly. The problem with not doing so is that the reader can find themselves unable to emotionally access a story in which the emptiness of the narrative can sometimes be an emptiness of meaning.
Translating Lamech’s song is a movement beyond trying to rephrase the Hebrew in English. By using well-known idioms of President Trump’s language I am – I would argue – better able to re-present the spirit of Lamech’s words. It’s a translation that reaches for an impact that shows faith in the original, rather than a particular form of words.