Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Vol. 1: Comments on
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Copyright © 1895. All Rights Reserved.
Genesis iv: 1-12, 19, 21
1. And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
2. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.
5. But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6. And the lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted: and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door: and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8. And Cain talked with Abet his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
9. And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said "Am I my brother's keeper?"
10. And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brothers blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11. And now art thou cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.
12. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
19. ¶ And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
23. And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
ONE would naturally suppose that Cain's offering of fruit indicated a more refined and spiritual idea of the fitness of things than Abel's of animal food. Why Cain's offering was rejected as unworthy does not appear.
There is something pathetic in Eve's joy and faith at the advent of her first-born: "Lo I have a man child from the Lord." She evidently thought that Cain was to be to her a great blessing. Some expositors say that Eve thought that Cain was the promised seed that was to bruise the serpent's head; but Adam Clarke, in estimating woman's reasoning powers, says, "it was too metaphysical an idea for that period." But as that is just what the Lord said to Eve, she must have had the capacity to understand it. But all speculations as to what Eve thought in that eventful hour are vain. Clarke asserts that Cain and Abel were twins. Eve must have been too much occupied with her vacillating joys and sorrows to have indulged in any connected train of thought. Her grief in the fratricidal tragedy that followed can be more easily understood. The dreary environments of the mother, and the hopeless prophesies of her future struggling life, banished to a dreary, desolate region, beyond the love and care of her Creator, is revenged on her children. If Adam and Eve merited the severe punishment inflicted on them, they should have had some advice from the Heavenly Mother and Father as to the sin of propagating such an unworthy stock. No good avails in increasing and multiplying evil propensities and deformities that produce only crime and misery from generation to generation. During the ante-natal period the mother should be held sacred, and surrounded with all the sweetest influences that Heaven and earth can give, loving companionship, beautiful scenery, music and flowers, and all the pleasures that art in its highest form can produce.
As the women at this period seem to be myths, no one takes the trouble to tell from whence they came. It is sufficient that their husbands know, and it is not necessary that the casual reader should. The question is often asked, whom did Cain marry? Some expositors say that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters living in different parts of the planet, and that they married each other.
There seems to have been no scarcity of women, for Lamech, Cain's great grandson, took unto himself two wives. Thus early in the history of the race polygamic relations were recognized. The phraseology announcing the marriage of Lamech is very significant.
In the case of Adam and Eve the ceremony was more imposing and dignified. It was declared an equal relation. But with the announcement of Lamech's, he simply took two wives, Adah and Zillah. Whether the women were willingly captured will ever remain an open question. The manner in which he is accustomed to issue his orders does not indicate a tender relation between the parties.
"Hear my voice: ye wives of Lamech, and hearken unto my speech! "
As the wives made no reply, it shows that they had already learned that discreet silence is the only security for domestic happiness.
Naamah the sister of Tubal Cain was supposed to be the wife of Noah. Her name in Hebrew signifies the beautiful or the gracious. Jewish doctors say her name is recorded here because she was an upright, chaste woman, but others affirm the contrary because "the whole world wandered after her." But the fact that Naamah's beauty attracted the multitude, does not prove that she either courted or accepted their attentions.
The manner in which the writer of these chapters presents the women so in conflict with Chapters i and v, which immediately precede and follow, inclines the unprejudiced mind to relegate the ii, iii and iv chapters to the realm of fancy as no part of the real history of creation's dawn.
The curse pronounced on Cain is similar to that inflicted on Adam, both were to till the ground, which was to bring forth weeds abundantly. Hale's statistics of weeds show their rapid and widespread power of propagation. "A progeny," he says, "more than sufficient in a few years to stock every planet of the solar system." In the face of such discouraging facts, Hale coolly remarks. "Such provisions has the just God made to fulfill the curse which he promised on man."
It seems far more rational to believe that the curses on both woman and man were but figments of the human brain, and that by the observance of natural laws, both labor and maternity may prove great blessings.
With all the modern appliances of steam and electricity, and the new inventions in machinery, the cultivation of the soil is fast coming to be a recreation and amusement. The farmer now sits at ease on his plough, while his steed turns up the furrows at his will. With machinery the sons of Adam now sow and reap their harvests, keep the wheels of their great manufactories in motion, and with daily increasing speed carry on the commerce of the world. The time is at hand when the heavy burdens of the laborer will all be shifted on the shoulders of these tireless machines. And when the woman, too, learns and obeys the laws of life, these supposed curses will be but idle dreams of the past. The curse falls lightly even now on women who live in natural conditions, and with anesthetics is essentially mitigated in all cases.
When these remedial agents were first discovered, some women refused to avail themselves of their blessings, and some orthodox physicians refused to administer them, lest they should interfere with the wise provisions of Providence in making maternity a curse.
E. C. S.
ELIZABETH CADY STANTON
CLARA BEWICK COLBY
MYTHS OF CREATION
Nothing would be more interesting in connection with the "Woman's Bible" than a comparative study of the accounts of the creation held by people of different races and faiths. Our Norse ancestors, whose myths were of a very exalted nature, recorded in their Bible, the Edda, that one day the sons of Bor (a frost giant), Odin, Hoener, and Loder, found two trees on the sea beach, and from them created the first human pair, man and woman. Odin gave them life and spirit, Hoener endowed them with reason and motion, and Loder gave them the senses and physical characteristics. The man they called Ask, and the woman Embla. Prof. Anderson finds in the brothers the threefold Trinity of the Bible. It is easy to fancy that there is some philological connection between the names of the first pair in the Bible and in the Edda. Perhaps the formation of the first pair out of trees had a deep connection with the tree of life, Ygdrasil, which extended, according to Norse mythology throughout the universe, furnishing bodies for mankind from its branches. It had three great roots, one extending to the nebulous world, and this was constantly gnawed by the serpent Nidhug. There was nothing in the Norse mythology that taught the degradation of woman, and the lay of Sigdrifa, in the Edda, is one of the noblest conceptions of the character of woman in all literature.
North American Indian mythology has the human race born of the earth, but the writer cannot learn that women held an inferior place. Among the Quiches the mothers and fathers of old slept in the waters, covered with green, under a limpid twilight, from which the earth and they were called out by a mighty wind. The Algonkins believed the human family were the children of Michabo, the spirit of the dawn, and their supreme deity. In their language the words earth, mother and father were from the same root. Many tribes claim descent from a raven, symbolizing the clouds; others from a dog, which is the symbol of the water goddess.
Dr. and Madame Le Plongeon relate that in their discoveries among the buried remains of the Mayas in Yucatan, everything marks a very high state of civilization. In one of the exhumed temples they found pictures on the walls, which seem to be a combination of the stories of the Garden of Eden and Cain and Abel. The Serpent was always the royal emblem, because the shape of Yucatan is that of a serpent ready to spring. It was the custom among the Mayas for the oldest son of the king to be a priest, and the second son to marry the oldest daughter. The pictures represent that the oldest son in this particular case was dissatisfied with this arrangement, and wanted to marry the sister himself. To tempt her he sends a basket of apples by a messenger. He stands watching the way in which the present is received, and the serpent in the picture (indicating the royal family), makes it curiously suggestive of the temptation of Eve. The sister, however, rejects the present, and this so enrages the elder brother that he kills the younger, who accordingly is deified by the Mayas. The image of Chacmohl was discovered by the Le Plongeons, and is now in the possession of the Mexican Government. Perhaps these brothers were twins, as the commentator says Cain and Abel were, and that gave rise to the jealousy.
Nothing can surpass in grandeur the account in the first chapter of Genesis of the creation of the race, and it satisfies the highest aspirations and the deepest longings of the human soul. No matter of what material formed, or through how many ages the formative period ran, or is to run, the image of God is the birthright of man, male and female. Whatever the second chapter may mean, it cannot set aside the first. It probably has a deep spiritual significance which mankind will appreciate when cavilling about the letter ceases. To the writer's mind its meaning is best expressed in the words of Goethe: The eternal womanly leads us on."
C. B. C.
CLARA BEWICK COLBY
May the Wisdom Force
be with You.
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