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Commentary on Moses 5
TitleCommentary on Moses 5
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsSmoot, Stephen O.
PublisherBook of Mormon Central
CitySpringville, UT

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5:1 OT1 begins by identifying this passage as “Chapter 2,” followed by “A Revelation concerning Adam after he had been driven out of the garden of Eden.” This heading is retained in OT2. Originally, this chapter in OT1 and OT2 were narrated in the third person, but insertions of first-person pronouns (“I, the Lord God,” etc.) in OT2 changed the point of view to first person. Adam and Eve labor. As his suitable helper, Eve assists Adam in his labor, a detail missing from the Genesis account.

5:2–3 In a significant expansion of the biblical text, Adam and Eve bear multiple unnamed sons and daughters who themselves bear the couple’s grandchildren before the birth of Cain, who in the biblical account is the first named son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1).

5:4 It would appear that this verse marks the end of the first-person revelation of the Creation that God narrates to Moses. Here the narrator drops the first-person pronouns (except in direct quotations of characters’ speech) and refers to the Lord in the third person. The other potential place that marks a narrative shift is at 5:59, which closes this literary unit. As it stands, it is difficult to delineate exactly where in the text the Lord stops instructing Moses in a first-person narrative (compare 2:1), but 5:4 seems like the most logical location.

5:4–12 In another narrative detail missing from the Genesis text, Adam and Eve call upon the name of the Lord, and Adam offers sacrifice. This casts Adam in the role of a prototypical priest with Eve as his counterpart. Rabbinic and other sources from antiquity depict Adam in a similar light as being the first to offer sacrifice long before the institution of the Mosaic ordinances. (Other ancient sources suggest the coat of skins the Lord made for Adam and Eve were priestly vestments.) In contrast, Cain and Abel are the first ones mentioned as having offered sacrifices to the Lord in the biblical text (Genesis 4:3–4). The angel of the Lord. As at Abraham 1:15–16, it is possible that the text here is speaking of the Lord Himself. See the commentary at Abraham 1:16. I know not. In a powerful display of obedience, Adam dutifully follows the command of the angel of the Lord despite not knowing the full purpose behind his actions. The thematic and theological link between sacrifice and obedience is unmistakable. I am the only begotten. Originally, in OT1 and OT2 the voice declares “I am Jesus Christ,” with “the only begotten of the father” being inserted into OT2. Adam was filled. A scribal insertion in OT2 reads that Adam blessed God and was filled “with the Holy Ghost.” This insertion was subsequently deleted. Blessed be . . . have joy. In OT1 and OT2 Adam originally exclaims, “Blessed be the name of God for my transgression for in this life I shall have joy.” Compare Doctrine and Covenants 107:53–57.

5:13 As with his half-truth to Eve about the consequences of partaking the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Satan deceives the children of Adam and Eve with another half-truth. In this instance, it concerns his status as a son of God (see Moses 1:19; 4:1). Satan is indeed a son of God along with the other spirits begotten in the premortal world, but he is not the Son of God who was chosen to save humanity. In an effort to frustrate the plan of redemption, Satan commands the children of Adam and Eve to “believe it not”—meaning the divinely revealed truths taught to them by their parents (5:12). The description of fallen men and women as carnal, sensual, and devilish will feature again later in the narrative (6:49).

5:16 Here and in the biblical text (Genesis 4:1), Eve declares that she has “gotten” (“acquired, created, purchased”; qānāh) a new son named Cain (qayîn), forming another play on words in the narrative. Later at Moses 5:31 this pun will be inverted into a Satanic negative when Cain declares that he “may murder and get gain.” Cain becomes a prototype for those who enter into Satan-inspired conspiracies (that is, secret combinations) to obtain worldly possessions. Who is the Lord? Cain’s declaration prefigures the declaration of Pharaoh to Moses (Exodus 5:2). The rhetorical thrust of the question is to cast aside the power of the Lord and reject His authority.

5:17 Abel’s name in Hebrew (hebel) derives from the word for “breath, vapor,” perhaps foreshadowing that he will be “snuffed out,” as it were, by his brother as the first martyr and murder victim.

5:26–31 The biblical record is notoriously laconic when it comes to the motive behind Cain’s murder of Abel, saying only that he was “very wroth” with his brother on account of the Lord’s accepting Abel’s offering over his own (Genesis 4:5). This has consequently generated considerable speculation amongst ancient and modern interpreters about the matter. The text here offers important insight by clarifying that Satan was behind Cain’s illegitimate sacrifice and that the latter consciously entered a covenant with the former for the purpose of acquiring his brother’s wealth. The text therefore depicts Cain’s murder of Abel as cold and premeditated, not an act of violent passion as one might otherwise suppose from reading only the biblical account. They shall surely die. In a cruel inversion of God’s pronouncement at Moses 3:17, Satan announces that those members of Cain’s family who break their covenant with him will forfeit their life (a fate that will befall Cain’s grandson Irad at 5:50). Done in secret. The text depicts the pact that Cain enters into with Satan as the prototypical secret combination (compare Helaman 6:26–27). Once again, the narrative contrasts the godly, positive depiction of Adam as the prototypical priest offering sacrifice in the name of the Only Begotten with the depiction of Cain as a false priest offering Abel as a sacrifice in the name of Satan. Master Mahan. The etymology of Mahan is unknown, but is perhaps related to the Hebrew māḥâ (“to wipe out, annihilate”), which would be thematically consistent with Cain’s declaration at Moses 5:31. In OT1 the name is given as Mahon.

5:33 Cain’s declaration (“I am free!”) upon murdering his brother could not be more tragically ironic since he now finds himself firmly in bondage to Satan. This statement also indicates that Satan has a counterfeit for the type of freedom the Lord granted earlier in the narrative to Adam and Eve (see 3:16–17).

5:38 In another narrative inversion, Cain attempts to shift the blame for his transgression onto Satan, not unlike the attempt his mother made previously at 4:19. But whereas Eve committed her transgression out of some measure of ignorance, Cain acts deliberately in his murder of Abel, thus rendering his attempt to shift blame onto Satan utterly absurd.

5:39 In OT1 and OT2 originally Cain laments that he has been driven from “the face of the Earth,” with “Lord” being inserted into OT2 to substitute “earth.” He also fears in both OT1 and OT2 that he will be slain for his “oath” as opposed to his “iniquities,” as also emended in the latter.

5:40 The Lord sets a mark (ʾôt; “sign, token”) upon Cain not as a punishment but as a preservative measure (compare Genesis 4:15). The nature of this mark is not specified in the text. (Nor, for that matter, does the text say that Cain will live forever.) The curse set upon Cain is that he is to roam the earth as a wandering fugitive and will reap no harvest if or when he attempts to farm for his food. Nowhere does the text say anything about either the curse or the mark having anything to do with black skin or priesthood restriction, as some have erroneously interpreted. Modern leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have officially disavowed any such racist readings of the text. See also the commentary at Moses 7:6–8 and Abraham 1:24.

5:42–56 The first of three genealogies in the text begins here (compare Moses 6:10–25; 8:1–11) and describes the wicked descendants of Cain, who quickly become embroiled in intergenerational familial intrigue and bloodshed. Once again, the text here departs dramatically from the Genesis account (Genesis 4:16–24) by depicting Satan as the antagonist driving this conflict in order to ensure the perpetuation of his secret combination established with Cain. Enoch. This Enoch, son of Cain (Moses 5:42), is not to be confused with the righteous Enoch, son of Jared (6:21), who will feature prominently in the next two chapters. Master Mahan. Also rendered Mahon in OT1.

5:52–57 This portion of the narrative describing the wickedness and abominations of Cain’s descendants acts as a narrative foil to the forthcoming narrative about Enoch and his righteous city Zion. The corrupting influence Cain’s descendants have on the children of Adam and Eve serves to increase the tension of the drama involving Enoch (and later Noah) and to raise the narrative stakes with Enoch’s ministry and preaching.

5:58–59 Here the narrative shifts away from Cain and returns to Adam and Eve, setting up what is to follow in the next chapter concerning the righteous descendants of the couple and the ministry of Enoch. Unto . . . ordinance. Inserted into OT2.

Scripture Reference

Moses 5:1