1) Gen 4:1: Moses began Gen 4 by writing, “And the man had known (yada) his wife,”[1] a Hebrew idiom for a  sexual relationship.[2]

The verb indicates that the couple experienced a deep personal involvement culminating in a hallowed act,[3] an intimate communion they received through their physical senses.[4]

More than fulfilling a hormonal desire, this refers to a non-exploitative, profound understanding of the other.[5]

Hebrew authors never employed this verb when describing the mating of animals, which comprises an instinctual behavior.[6]

When human sexuality did not involve reciprocal enjoyment but reproduction or lust, Scripture instead employs the phrases “go into” (bo) (Gen 16:2; Ruth 4:5, 13)[7] or “lie with” (shakav) (Gen 39:7–12; 2 Sam 11:4). [8]

This verb exonerates Bathsheba as an unwilling participant in David’s sin.[9]

We cannot determine whether the “knowing” between Adam and Eve occurred prior to or after the fall from this text.[10]

The remainder of verse one says, “and she conceived and gave birth to Cain (Qayin), and she said, ‘I have acquired (qaniti) a man, the Lord.”[11]

The Old Testament often contains wordplay between a person’s name and birth circumstances (e.g. Gen 25:24–26; Gen 29:31–35; Gen 38:27–30).

Although the verb associated with Cain’s name occasionally carries the nuance “I created,” far more often the word means “I gained, acquired, or purchased.”[12] In this context, either sense of the word fits.[13]

While Gen 1–3 focused upon God creating, [14] other Ancient Near Eastern cultures attest names such as “I acquired him from the gods.”

Scholars debate whether Eve regarded herself as creating with God, or whether she saw Cain as one whom the Lord provided for her.[15]

Attempting to acquire for one’s own the blessings which God can give does occur repeatedly in Genesis (Cf. Gen 3:1–7; Gen 16:1–2; Gen 17:15–21). This lends credence to the notion that Eve’s words reflect her belief that she replicated what the Lord had done by creating a man.[16]

On the other hand, God frequently promised “to be with” the patriarchs to help them (Gen 21:20; Gen 26:3, 24; Gen 28:15; Gen 31:3; and Gen 39:2). Thus, Eve may have exclaimed, “I have acquired a man with the [help of the] Lord.” Unfortunately, her proclamation remains too ambiguous for us to confidently choose one option over the other.[17]

Note that Eve—not Adam—performed the authoritative act of naming her son (Cf. Gen 3:20).[18]

By calling him a “man” (ish), rather than a baby, she ironically alluded to Adam’s statement that “she will be called woman because from man she was taken” (Gen 2:23).

Now a man had come from a woman. As a result, both genders must depend upon each other and ultimately upon God (1 Cor 11:11–12).[19]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 4:1. How does the term “to know” reflect more than a physical action? What are the two possibilities regarding Eve’s view of Cain’s birth? How are men and women dependent upon each other? In what ways do you express your reliance on God?





Go to It is Good Not to Touch


[Related posts include A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); A Renewed Covenant (Gen 3:20); It is Good Not to Touch (1 Cor 7:1‒5); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]


[1]John C. Collins, “The Wayiqqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” Tyndale Bulletin 46, no. 1 (1995): 117–40, 135. Wherever Scripture appears in quotation marks, this represents my translation from the Hebrew (BHS) or Greek (NA28) text. Since both languages utilize word order for emphasis, with the most important points coming first, I maintain the original word order wherever feasible.

[2]William L. Holladay, “יָדַע” (yada), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (CHALOT) (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 128–9.

[3]Bruce K. Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 96.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 100–1.

[5]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 220.

[6] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 96.

[7]Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, “בּוֹא” (bo), Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (BDB) (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 98, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/98/mode/2up.

[8] Holladay, “שָׁכַב” (shakav), CHALOT, 368.

[9] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 220.

[10] Walton, Genesis, 260.

[11] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 221.

[12] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “קָנָה” (qanah), BDB, 888–9, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/888/mode/2up.

[13] Walton, Genesis, 261.

[14] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 101.

[15] Walton, Genesis, 261.

[16]John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 111.

[17] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 102.

[18]Victor H. Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (IVPBBCOT) (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Gen 3:20.

[19] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 96.