The Human City

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch. Genesis 4:17

Dear members and friends,

I still remember a long and intense debate I had with my church friends regarding the wife of Cain. At that time, I was attending a Korean Presbyterian church, so I believed that the story of Cain and Abel was literally true. After the long debate, the group was divided in two: 1. A female was created by God and given to Cain; 2. Eve was actually Cain’s wife as well (because there was no other human according to the story!). The implications of the second option was too much to bear for teenagers, so we concluded that the almighty God should have created a woman for Cain, and ended the debate. I am glad that we did not debate about what comes next, “and he (Cain) built a city.” How on earth could he build a city with a wife and a son? A city, in ancient days, meant a dwelling place protected by a wall. There is no way a man, his wife and son could have built something like that, especially in prehistoric times. Here is further strong evidence that the stories in the Bible are not meant to be understood literally.

Later in the Bible, a city stands as a symbol of protection and peace. Jerusalem is the most famous biblical city and its name means “double peace.” Jerusalem was called the city of David, because David conquered the city. Also, Jerusalem was known as the city of God, because the Ark of the Covenant dwelt there. It is noticeable that the symbolism of a city in Genesis 4 is not the same as that of a city in Samuel, Kings, and Prophets. In Genesis 4, the symbolism of a city is negative because a city was built by Cain after Adam and Eve lost their dwelling in the Garden of Eden. Consequently, after losing their direct and intimate relationship with God, the best humans could relate to God was by learning and understanding the truth, which is symbolized by a “city.” At the same time, according to Swedenborg, a city symbolizes protection from harmful thoughts and heresies. Humans became in need of such protection after losing the divine protection due to their arrogance and selfishness.

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee