The Land of Nod
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
After Cain killed Abel and was declared a “fugitive and vagabond” by God (Genesis 4:12), the Bible says that he “went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod” (4:16). It was in this land that “Cain knew his wife” (4:17), and it was here that his son, Enoch, was born.
When a person reads about Nod in Genesis 4, he often pictures a land where a large group of people already were dwelling by the time Cain arrived. Because the Bible gives this land a name (“Nod”), many assume it was called such before Cain went there. Furthermore, many believe that it was in this land that Cain found his wife. Based upon these assumptions, some even claim that God must have specially created other humans besides Adam and Eve, otherwise there would not have been a land of Nod, nor would Cain have been able to find a wife there. Are these assumptions and conclusions correct? What can be said about these matters?
It is very likely that when Moses wrote the name “Nod” (Genesis 4:16), he was using a figure of speech called “prolepsis” (the assignment of something, such as an event or name, to a time that precedes it). People often use prolepsis for the sake of convenience, so that the reader or audience can better understand what is being communicated. For example, I might say, “My wife and I dated two years before we got married,” when actually she was not my wife when we were dating, but a very dear friend. We may see a special on television about when President George W. Bush was a boy, but the fact is, George W. Bush was not President of the United States when he was a child. From time to time, even the Bible uses this kind of language. In John 11, the Bible speaks of a woman named Mary who “anointed the Lord with ointment” (11:1-2), yet this anointing actually did not occur for about three months. John merely spoke about it as having already happened because when he wrote his gospel account this event was generally known. Another example of prolepsis is found in Genesis 13:3 where we read that Abraham “went on his journey from the South as far as Bethel.” This area actually did not wear the name Bethel until years later when Jacob gave it that name (Genesis 28:19). However, when Moses wrote of this name hundreds of years later, he was free to use it even when writing about a time before the name actually was given.
When Moses used the name Nod in Genesis 4, the reader must understand the land probably was not given that name until sometime after Cain moved there. This is consistent with the meaning of the name Nod (“wandering”), which in all probability was given because God told Cain he was to be a wanderer upon the Earth (Genesis 4:12). Thus, the land of Nod almost certainly was not an area filled with people whom Cain would eventually befriend. It would become that in time; nevertheless, it probably was not such a place upon his arrival.
But, someone might ask, did Cain not find his wife in the land of Nod? Actually, the Bible never tells us that Cain’s wife came from Nod. The text simply says that Cain “dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch” (Genesis 4:16-17).
To conclude that God specially created others besides Adam and Eve because “there was a large group of people living in Nod when Cain arrived” and “from this group Cain got his wife” is faulty reasoning and sheer speculation. Scripture does not teach the above premises, nor does it ever hint that God specially created others than Adam and Eve. In fact, the Bible teaches the very opposite when it explicitly states that Adam was the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45) and that Eve would be the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20, emp. added). It seems clear that there could have been no other people on the Earth contemporaneous with them (except, of course, their own children). Even though some allege that God specially created other people in addition to Adam and Eve during the creation week, such cannot be defended logically in light of what Scripture teaches.