🔼The name Cain: Summary
- Spear[-Bearer], Political Leader
- From the noun קין (qyn), spear, from the verb קין (qyn), to fit together or forge.
🔼The name Cain in the Bible
Cain is the first son of Adam and Eve, the first human conceived the way we were all conceived (Genesis 4:1), and also the first murderer (Genesis 4:8). His victim is his brother Abel, who is the first human to die. For his deed Cain is exiled and he flees to the land of Nod.
Abel has no posterity. Cain's posterity never makes it past the flood of Noah. All humans alive today are descendants of Adam and Eve's son number three, named Seth. But bear in mind that the religions of the Sethites always made lavish use of music, and especially in the olden days had tents for sanctuaries. The patriarchies of both tent dwelling and music making are held by descendants of Cain (Genesis 4:20-21).
There are also a town (Joshua 15:57) and a people (Numbers 24:22) named קין but translations commonly transliterate these as Kain or Kenite instead of Cain.
🔼Etymology of the name Cain
The name Cain is identical to the Hebrew word קין (qyn) meaning spear:
The verb קנן (qanan) isn't used in the Bible but it appears to tell of the weaving of many strands into a dynamic and interlocked network. These strands may be reeds and twigs that a bird weaves into a nest, or it may be acts of trade and routes of commerce that together combine into a bustling economy. Noun קן (qen) means nest, and verb קנן (qinnen) means to make a nest.
Verb קנה (qana) means to obtain, i.e. to acquire or in some instances to create. It's the regular verb for a commercial purchase. Noun קנין (qinyan) describes an item acquired (or created). Noun מקנה (migneh) means cattle (as unit of commerce). Noun מקנה (miqna) means purchase or purchase-price. Noun קנה (qaneh) denotes some herb on a stalk, or any rod, reed, branch- or stalk-like item (in this sense, a plant "acquires" its branches).
The verb קין (qyn), which isn't used in the Bible, occurs in cognate language with the meaning of to fit together, fabricate or forge (often of metal things). In the Bible occurs only the noun קין (qayin), meaning spear. Note that our modern word "franchise" comes from a word that meant spear, and originally denoted a free man, i.e. one who had the authority to bear arms, own property and thus conduct trade. The earliest republican government of Rome was called curia, literally spear-bearers, and the link between bearing a spear or other such ceremonial weapon and a senatorial government (a government by tribal elders) appears to have been pretty much globally understood throughout history.
Noun קינה (qina) denotes a kind of sad poem; a dirge or lamentation, which both had to be fabricated and could, presumably, pierce a person's soul like a spear (which is an obvious Biblical figure of speech; see Luke 2:35). The denominative verb קונן (qonen) means to do a dirge, which could be either to chant or compose one.
The verb תקן (taqan) means to make or become straight.
BDB Theological Dictionary states that although it seems that the name Cain comes from the verb used by Eve in Genesis 4:1, the name Cain is etymologically most probably akin the Kenite tribe mentioned in Judges 4:11. Story-wise the two are separated by the flood of Noah and have nothing to do with each other.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament and NOBSE Study Bible Name List translate the name Cain with Spear but NOBSE adds Smith, possibly because of the similarity with the verb קין (qyn) or because of the name Tubal-cain, who was a smith.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names relates it to קנה (qana I) and renders Acquisition.
There are such clear similarities between the stories of Cain and Abel and that of Romulus and Remus that it seems obvious that these two accounts share a common ancestor, or at least express the same fundamental human truth. What this truth might be is to be discussed by the poets among us, but it may very well have to do with very early forms of government. These very early "circles of elders" became known as spear-carriers — hence the word "curia", from the Sabine word for spear, and "to franchise", from franca, an old Germanic word for spear. The Franks (hence France) were not only well-armed but quite literally "frank and free", and so, we may conclude, were the Saxons, whose name came from seax, denoting a knife or sword.
For other names that have to do with spears, and are thus most probably politically charged, see our articles on the names Quirinius and Pilate. Also note that Jesus' crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29) may very well have been a symbol of the "circle of spears" that expressed primitive chiefdom (meaning that of a local king, as opposed to, say, a divine emperor). Also note that Jesus was recognized dead by means of a spear (John 19:34).
The bottom line, however, is that no government can bring about salvation for the whole of mankind, and any kind of formal government is a full-stop dead end. The word Christ ultimately describes any free person, that is any person who is the boss of none and who has no earthly superior; someone who is both wholly sovereign and wholly responsible for their own life. That's the sort of person upon whose shoulders the government will ultimately come to rest (Isaiah 9:6), and that will be a government that will never come to an end or ever be challenged.