The Sons Of Cain Invent Technology
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Jubal sang of the golden years
When wars and wounds shall cease —
But Tubal fashioned the hand-flung spears
And showed his neighbours peace.
New — new as Nine-point-Two,
Older than Lamech's slain —
Roaring and loud is the feud avowed
Twix' Jubal and Tubal Cain!

(from) Jubal and Tubal Cain Rudyard Kipling

Basic Information

There's a weird little footnote to the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). The verses following that account tell of the descendants of Cain. Most of these just get a mention and that's it, until we get to Cain's great-great-great grandson, Lamech. (Note: This is a different Lamech from the Lamech who was the father of Noah. Just in case you were confused). Lamech, it says, had two wives who bore him four children; three sons and a daughter. The sons were:

  • Jabal: "the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock."
  • Jubal: "the father of those who play the harp and flute."
  • Tubal-Cain: "who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron."
  • and in case you're really curious, the daughter's name was Naamah.

As far as I can tell, this is the only place where the Bible speaks about the origins of technology and what we would call civilization. Here we have three men who invented nomadic herding, musical instruments, and metalworking. And these innovators came from the evil line of Cain. We don't hear about any of the line of Seth building anything interesting until Noah. Does this mean something? Dunno1.

Their father was a real winner too. He killed a man for injuring him and then boasted about it, making reference to the Mark of Cain:

"Adah and Zillah, listen to me:
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times."

(Genesis 4:23-24 NIV)



Game and Story Use

  • The origins of technology can be an important part of a historical campaign or a fantasy game set in a pre-Bronze Age era
  • Biblical geneologies can be good sources of unusual names. Come on, how many girls do you know named Zillah?
    • Granted, my wife and I considered naming our first daughter "Gamera", but then we're weird.
  • A religious sect that distrusts technology might do so because it's lore associates such innovations with wicked men like Cain and Lamech.
    • Granted, eschewing the inventions of Cain's children would basically mean living up a tree and foraging for food in the bushes beneath, but wierder things have been done in the past…
  • For those that like allegory in their legends, this could reflect the linkage between civilisation and warfare: Cain, the first murderer, builds a city, after which his descendants maintain the family tradition of killing people and developing technology (although Jabal-Cain actually takes after Abel in his herding). As far as we can tell, Seth, the third Son of Adam, moved in with his brother's descendants.
  • Also, note that Cain was an agriculturalist - in general, civilisation depended on agriculture so it's not surprising that his descendants would become the civilised, high-tech ones whilst the roving pastoralists didn't invent much.
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