Writers' Workshop for ARCH 531 / McGill University / School of Architecture / Fall 2012

Week Four: “Except the Lord build the house,…”

Cain and Abel, folio from Ashburnham Pentateuch, ca. 580-620












From its outset, the Bible vacillates in its thoughts regarding the city.  The city as heavenly creation sits alongside the city as product of the Devil himself.  A certain suspicion of architecture in the Bible derives largely from the idea that our true home is not here on earth, in this less-than-Edenic world, but beyond.  Cain, the agrarian son of Adam and Eve, the brother of sheepherding Abel, is mentioned in Scripture as having built the first city.  These associations of the city with Cain the fratricide and not with Abel are worth noting.  For one thing, the city gets identified with being cursed by the earth.  As the earth will no longer yield its strength to Cain, he must turn to taking up the life of a vagabond.  As God informs Cain in Genesis, “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you.  A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth” (Gn 4:12).  That the building of a city would be linked to being driven from the nurturing soil would seem, at first glance, unusual.  After all, is the city not that which grants a sense of rootedness and of stability?  Referring to Genesis and to any other biblical passages, elaborate on your interpretation of this account.

17 responses

  1. Trebuh

    The descriptions of the city in the Bible take on an apparent duality between good and bad. Cain, son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel and was then banished by God to live the life of a vagabond. Cain goes on to build the city of Enoch, named after his son, which is described as evil. Later in the Scripture, a flood is described that submerses the city and washes it from the earth with the only survivor being Noah. Afterward, it appears the city shifts to symbolize something that was good, whereby the flood waters purified the earth where the city once stood. God appears to then give Noah, someone he considers of being good, the responsibility of rebuilding the city: “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” {G 9:1}

    Furthermore, some passages in Genesis elaborate on ideas about the rebuilding of the city after the flood. One example is the description of the techniques used to build cities: “And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly.” {G 11:3} The book of Genesis also describes the belief that the city may be linked with something beyond life: “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top [may reach] unto heaven […]” {G 11:4} These two ideas suggest that the development of cities was a crucial theme in the Bible. In the book Understanding Genesis, Nahum M. Sarna states: “Long before 3000 B.C.E men had learned to fashion building material by molding mud or clay and drying it in the sun.” Therefore, it is valid to deduce that the cities were made from the earth, since the brick used to construct the buildings were made of mud extracted from the ground. The idea that cities were constructed with materials from the earth evokes stability and solidity. The buildings that shaped the city can be viewed as a continuity of the earth and, therefore, an extension of all good things made by God.

    Additionally, in the Psalms we can read: “The stone which the builders rejected is become the chief corner-stone.” {Psalms 118:2} As previously discussed, cornerstone ceremonies date from a very long time ago and often bestow sacredness to a structure. This practice in building the new sacred city supports the idea that the city now represents good.

    There is an obvious shift that occurs when the city that Cain built is flooded; the city is no longer viewed as cursed and takes on an expression of rootedness and stability. The flood that washed out the city served to purify the ground, so that it could be use to construct a new city that embodies a sacred place.

    September 30, 2012 at 11:46 am

    • Trebuh has nicely expanded the account for us and suggests that the second founding of Enoch implied a different status for the city. The idea of wresting order out of chaos is apparent and would seem to be of the same mindset as many ancient descriptions of the creation of cities.

      October 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm

  2. labyrinth

    The image of cities conveyed in the Bible is an interesting one, and is clearly laid out in the very nature of their creation.

    A passage from Genesis states that, “…the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man who He had formed” (Gn 2:8). Thus, it is clear from as early as the story of creation that God’s intention is for man to live in nature. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, the Lord God “…sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken” (Gn 3:23). Again, it is God’s intention for mankind to live off of the land, using the earth as their only source of livelihood.

    It is with the story of Cain where the city is introduced. After Cain murders his brother Abel, God’s punishment is such that the earth will not bear any sustenance for Cain, and he is therefore forced to wander as a vagabond. It is out of rebellion against this punishment that the city is born: Cain constructs the city of Enoch as a place of refuge from his curse (Gn 4:17). This idea of the city as rebellion is further reinforced with the story of Babel and its tower. The people of the earth had come together, saying, “…let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gn 11:4). In reaction to this, God forced them to speak in different languages so they no longer understood each other, and scattered them across the earth.

    Throughout the remainder of the Bible, cities are frequently used as the scene of sin, violence, and immoral acts – the consequences of which are an eternity in hell. Thus, the cities are continuously painted as the setting of rebellion against God.

    October 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm

  3. petersburg

    As labyrinth is stating, it is possible to think that Cain acted in a way to defy God’s will. As a vagabond, he had no place to go, but to show how he had the desire to establish himself; as a result, a city is built and named after his son, which is still a creation of God, which can lead to the idea of Cain’s attempt to cancel the curse given by Lord God. This built creation by men’s hands is not God’s intervention and it is the sign of evolution, of civilization. Before the curse, God warned Cain of sin “[…] its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gn 4:7) Since he wasn’t able to control his anger, he tries to get over and master his domain; in parallel, this characteristic vigour was transmitted to his descendants: “Jubal […] the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe […] Tubal-cain […] the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.” (Gn 4:21-22) In fact, they demonstrate here the first sign of art in the Bible; it is self-assertation, not a task given by the God. [1] “He has seen that […] there will be no culture unless desire is channeled and controlled.” as well studied relationship by Freud, Brueggemann believes in how they “mastered desire” and introduced city, art and culture. [2]

    In a similar manner, the idea of disobedience of men through building a city comes back later in the Scripture. Fear of men spreading abroad, in this case: “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower, […] lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” (Gn 11:4) This is clearly the men’s proud defiance to God’s will stated in Genesis several times: “[…] male and female [God] created them […] and God said to them, «Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it».” (Gn 1:27-28)
    In another note, they were being only rebellious, but God obviously wants them to go along with his will. Disobedient people are thus punished: Babel residents were “let […] go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Gn 11:7) They were then forced to scatter as stated in God’s will to “fill the earth”. The overpowering force of God is well depicted although human attempt to resist and build a barrier from nature, from God, in a way to survive in their own way like Cain did.

    [1], [2]. Water Bruggemann, Genesis (Westminster John Knox Press, 1982), 65.

    October 2, 2012 at 3:55 am

  4. Perhaps as an added layer of speculation, let me propose another reading into the Genesis verse regarding Cain and Abel, and the subsequent founding of the city of Enoch. What I found particularly interesting in the verse is the fact that Cain’s anger at Abel stems from an earlier incident where both brothers brought the Lord offerings: ‘Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock – even the fattest of them. And the Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast.’ [Genesis 4:3, 4:4, 4:5] The reason this particular passage struck me is that Cain’s offering tilled from the ground was somehow inferior in the eyes of the Lord (for what reason, I am uncertain). And while this may be a stretch, perhaps this inferiority of the product cultivated from the earth is the reason that cities, which are essentially created from materials taken from the earth as Trebuh has previously mentioned, are seen to be so wicked. But where Trebuh claims that: ‘the buildings that shaped the city can be viewed as a continuity of the earth and, therefore, an extension of all good things made by God.’ I would like to respectfully disagree and speculated that the city was actually an extension of that which the Lord found so lacking in the gift presented to him by Cain. Any thoughts?

    October 2, 2012 at 10:58 am

  5. Labyrinth brings up the idea of the city as an act of rebellion. Contrary views see the city as an extension of that punishment. Petersburg suggests that the city was established in lieu of Cain mastering his anger. Instead of emotions, land becomes the subject of control. For Sfumato, a link exists between fruit, as an inferior product of the earth, and city cultivation. The account in Genesis furthermore speaks of the earth opening its mouth to receive the blood of Abel from the hands of Cain. Accordingly, this son of Eve, in his later putting forward bloody fruit, can for such a gesture metaphorically be allied with Lucifer.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

  6. I don’t understand however how the city could be considered as giving a sense of rootedness and stability, as I see it in opposition to the country. Farmers are usually not abundant in cities, and event today, if one’s prevented from owning a land he can cultivate, his best bet for “earning a living” is moving to the city. I think it is clear God hates cities, and will hint at why this was set forth from the very beginning.

    The full verse of the title is very revealing: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”[1] When humans build houses to protect themselves from nature, their act acting in a manner very dissimilar to that of God, which is not likely to bring them His sympathies. The God of Genesis has unmistakable intentions for humans, which are ruling over the world and “knowing” each other in order to procreate[2]. Sfumato pointed out that God is very upset with Cain’s offerings from the ground, and has generally something with humans trying to reconcile Earth and Heaven, considering His reaction to the Babel Tower[3]. Building in itself is a marker of humans’ initial disobedience, as building requires the knowledge of good and evil, which came from eating the fruit from the tree in the midst of the garden.

    Therefore, in a vein similar to Labyrinth, I think that cities are definitely in dissonance with God’s will, as they both are against the scattering of humans on the Earth and an attempt of humans to shape the world in a different fashion than His.

    [1] The King James Bible, Psalms, Chapter 127.
    [2] “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” — Ibid., Genesis, Chapter 1.
    [3] ibid., Geneis, Chapter 11.

    October 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm

  7. Amalin

    Setting aside the murder of Abel, it is interesting to question why exactly God’s preference was for the shepherd’s gift of milk and the firstborn of his flock over the farmer’s grain offering. “One of them labours and takes care of living beings… gladly undertaking the pastoral work which is preparatory to rulership and kingship. But the other occupies himself with earthly and inanimate things.” [1] “Now the brothers enjoyed different pursuits. Abel, the younger one, was concerned with justice, and, believing that God was present at every action that he himself undertook, he made a practice of virtue: he was a shepherd. Cain, however, was altogether wicked, and on the lookout only for his own profit: he was the first person to think of plowing the earth.”[2] From the references to this event in Scripture, some analysts conclude that Cain, unlike Abel, simply did not select the finest fruit of his crop as an offering to God. On the other hand, it is interesting to interpret it to be a reminder of the conflict between the hunter-gatherer and farmer in the account of early agriculture. In many ways, God seems to prefer the pasturing of sheep to the tilling of the earth – symbolizing respectively the rural cultures and city dwellers. As it happens, cities such as Sodom and Gomorrah are portrayed as being places of crime and sin.

    Further, as Cain repents his actions, God lessens his sentence and eventually his lineage build cities that are righteous. Cain’s repentance is described in the mystical commentary on the 5 Books of Moses (Torah) called the Zohar: Cain said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13), expressing his remorse. As a punishment, God first tells Cain: “you shall be a fugitive (na) and a vagabond (nad) on the earth” (Genesis 4:12), but “Kayin (i.e. Cain) left the presence of Hashem (i.e. God) and dwelt in the land of Nod” (Beresheet 4:16), manifesting only half the original punishment as he was forced to be a vagabond, but not a fugitive [3]. Thus, for his wicked crime, Cain is punished to wander the earth accompanied by his wife and son Enoch, a name he then bestowed upon the first city. “It signifies dedication or initiation, and, in the present case, seems to indicate a new beginning of social existence, or a consciousness of initiative or inventive power, which necessity and self-reliance called forth particularly in himself and his family.” [4] It is believed he fortified the city, driven by fear of being killed for slaying his brother, but Cain was tainted by his crime and as he built the first city, it was also tainted.

    1 Philo, Questions and Answers in Genesis 1:59
    2 Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 1:53-54
    3 The Zohar, The First Ever Unabridged English Translation with Commentary, edited and compiled by Michael Berg, vol. 2 of 23, Beresheet B, 62:344
    4 Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, 1834

    October 2, 2012 at 1:53 pm

  8. UVN

    There is an inherent contradiction in Cain living the cursed life of a vagabond and his role of being the first builder of a city; the former entails migration, while the latter conversely embodies establishment. This follows the idea of the defiance of Cain towards God’s authority through the construction of a city mentioned by Labyrinth, but more specifically the interpretation of this act as committing a sin: “God asked Cain why he was distressed, because he had free will, and if he acted righteously, he would be happy, but if he didn’t, sin crouched at the door.” [Genesis 4:7] In giving birth to the city of Enoch, Cain, bestowed with free will and knowing right from wrong, made the decision to commit a sin in going against the will of God; he not only cease to migrate, as required by his punishment, but also encouraged the people to settle, while God intended them to be nomadic. From the earth which he had soiled with his brother’s blood – “God asked Cain what he had done, as his brother’s blood cried out to God from the ground” [Genesis 4:10] – he erected the city, thus perpetuating evil.

    I think this goes hand in hand with what Labyrinth has drawn from the story of the Tower of Babel, where God punished the people for wanting to settle permanently and for trying to converge the Heavens and the earth, as well as with Sfumato’s reflection on the recurrent connotation of products of the earth as beholding some kind of deficiency – which, in my opinion, can be extrapolated as representation of sin, evil, and corruption.

    October 2, 2012 at 2:07 pm

  9. beaupré

    I think it is important to acknowledge that since God is omnipotent and omniscient, He bestowed humankind freewill. Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s command and estranged from Him. They felt ashamed and hid from God. (Genesis 3:8) And because of this sin, God denied them eternal life and the gifts of nature. The relationship between humanity and nature was forever changed. Man must work painfully in order to produce food and no longer enjoyed the bounty that God had previously created for him. (Genesis 3:19) Cain after killing his brother Abel was further condemned by God. Unrepentantly, Cain built Enoch, of which it had no stability. The City of Enoch represented man’s first unwise attempt at creating a society without the presence of God’s love. Later in Chapter 6, Scripture tells us how regretful God was to see how corrupted the world turned out that he decided to wipe out humanity: “I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created – people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Genesis 6:7) The City of Enoch was built upon disobedience and was not rooted in God’s will. God gives humankind the gift of freewill and man chose to fall into estrangement, yet God will exercise His almighty power over us when we disobey his commands. Because of our disobedience, humans are ever so ingenious to invent new ways to build better shelters in order to detach ourselves from nature. Perhaps, this was never God’s initial intention of how we should be living on this earth?

    October 2, 2012 at 10:06 pm

  10. Esiolé

    A city is anchored in time and space, and thus, we can say that it is an example of rootedness and stability. However, for me, the city is more an example of instability rather than one of rootedness. Even though a city, ever since the ancient times, has always brought a cultural and a global richness to an area, living in a city also means that you have less space, that there is more noise, more people, more competition. Even though the idea of the city has also been linked to cultural, ethical and technical progress over time, it is also strongly linked with the one of sin: crimes, prostitution, alcohol, drugs are more common in a city than in the country.

    The association of the killing of Abel leading to the foundation of the first city is in itself very interesting. Indeed, there are other stories in religions and mythologies of cities built on fratricide, one of the most famous being Rome. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not; Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.” [1] The killing of the brother, Remus and Abel, as a kind of cornerstone ritual of the foundation of a city is extremely symbolic and strong, for the blood spilled on the very earth upon which the city will be erected is also running in the remaining brother’s veins, Cain and Romulus. We can therefore ask ourselves the question: is the dead or the living brother the real founder of the city?

    The perception of the city, even a bit further in the Bible, with the episode of Sodom and Gomorrah enlightens in a very compelling way the perversion concealed in cities in general. “But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where art the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them.” [2] Since knowledge is associated with sexual intercourse and homosexuality in this particular case, the sins forfeited by the inhabitants of the city are so unbearable that God decides to destroy the city by fire.

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” [3]
    The idea of knowledge, is wisdom, since the early beginning of the Bible, is strongly associated with sexuality, evil and sin. By eating the apple, by being deceived by the Serpent, Adam and Eve gain access to knowledge. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” [4] Thus, they are banned of Eden, they are condemned to work harder and harder, knowing that they will never regain what they had. The same pattern can be observed with Cain: by the murder of his brother, he is banned and becomes a vagabond, condemned to go on and on, knowing he will never be able to go back to where he was born. The origins of the first city, thus, is in contradiction with the very idea of a city, strongly anchored in one point of time and space, but built by a vagabond, by one that is condemn to wander in the world.

    We could go even further back by stating that had Eve not eaten the apple and given it to Adam, Cain might never have killed Abel and the first city would then not have been built out of bloodshed – if ever built at all. The Original Sin, thus, remains at the core of organized civilization traditionally born with the building of cities. It is that first flaw in human nature that therefore leads to all the other flaws.

    [1] The Holy Bible, King James Version, Genesis 4: 9-10.
    [2] The Holy Bible, King James Version, Genesis 19: 4-5.
    [3] The Holy Bible, King James Version, Matthew 5: 3.
    [4] The Holy Bible, King James Version, Genesis 3: 6-7.

    October 3, 2012 at 12:29 am

  11. Esiolé

    Small spelling mistake : The idea of knowledge, OF (not is) wisdom

    October 3, 2012 at 12:32 am

  12. reckon

    Genesis’ account of the city is not a positive one. This first book of the Bible refers to the cities of Enoch, Babylon, and Sodom, which can be seen to embody acts of betrayal, rebellion, and sin respectively. Cain, in building the city of Enoch, is attempting to “satisfy his desire for security by creating a place belonging to him, a city.” As Jacques Ellul writes in The Meaning of the City,

    “Cain has built a city. For God’s Eden he substitutes his own, […] just as he substitutes his own security for God’s. Such is the act by which Cain takes his destiny on his own shoulders, refusing the hand of God in his life.”

    Cain does not trust God to follow through on his promise to protect him, so he builds a city in order to create his own protection. The name Enoch, given by Cain to both his son and his city, means to dedicate or begin; it symbolizes Cain’s attempt to “build” where God “created.” Cain wishes to substitute all that he found in God with his self-built world. Cain will only encounter further punishment from God for his lack of “faith.”

    Later on in the Bible, the city maintains the notions of something providing the protection and refuge that Cain sought. The “Lord said to Moses: […]’When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly.’” (Numbers, 35:9)

    What is inherently “protective” about the city? In what sense is a sedentary lifestyle safer for an accused criminal than a nomadic one?

    October 3, 2012 at 1:10 am

  13. VDSY

    The choice of God over the gifts of Abel and Cain is very interesting and seems to have sunk a lot of ink. It is mentioned in Chapter 2 of Genesis that “Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground. “(Genesis 2:5). This notion of the man being primarily designed to cultivate the land is repeated further when, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. “(Genesis 2:15). The relationship of man with nature is presented here not as a hunter but as someone feed from the soil and the fruits of the trees, living in harmony with other animals.

    The first judgment of God on man, when man tasted the fruit of knowledge, also covers the farmer as one of the punishment is the increased difficulty that man will experience to feed himself from the ground: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. “(Genesis 3:17) Addressing also the situation of Cain, referring to his job of cultivating the soil, he is faced with a punishment on the performance of ground: “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:12). The man rose from gardener to a farmer, to work to feed himself and then to the man facing the risks of famine and where issue of surviving leads to vagabondage and wandering. God clearly states that “every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.” (Genesis 1: 29)

    The creation of the city of Enoch, demonstrated the end of the wandering of Cain. On one hand an affront to God by disrespecting its punishment, but also by establishing a place for the propagation of evil, since man becomes less dependent of the nature only, and more of its relations between man. More importantly, the city of Enoch is a place where knowledge is increasing, where the arts develop. (Genesis 4:20-22) Perhaps it is in the development of knowledge through the grouping of men that the city acquires the status of cursed.

    October 3, 2012 at 1:36 am

  14. bori

    God’s attitude towards the nature of human edification seems paradoxical, based on the many examples in the Bible. In a way, one could think that God is inclined towards ephemeral edifications. For example, the nature of the tabernacle as being tents that could be moved as Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years (Exodus 25); the destruction of the tower and city of Babel (Genesis 11); the preference of God for simple altars instead of elaborated ones (Exodus 20:25); among others. Seems like God prefers His nature to be left almost untouched. Or in other words, man should not intervene that much with the nature of God.
    Then, how could other episodes in where this idea seems to be contradicted be explained? For example, God allowed Salomon to build the temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 5-8), a more permanent structure, even tough He does not need any house to dwell in (Isaiah 60:1-2). Moreover, the story of Cain in Genesis 4 presents a paradox between God’s words and Cain acts. God condemned Cain to be an errand and fugitive, but Cain ended being the “father” of a sedentary culture. He built the city of Enoch in the land of Nod (which means “errand”). The city of Enoch was the cradle of cultural advance (shepherds, musicians and smiths) and not a “cursed” city.
    May be cities could be interpreted as worldly models of social organization, instead of divine models. Cities are not God’s creations, as nature is, but human creations; not necessarily blessed or in accordance with God’s will. But, God allows them to be anyways. Though, God seems to be pleased only by ‘celestial cities’ as the New Jerusalem, presented in the books of Ezekiel and Revelations. Worldly cities are not as important; only at the end of our worldly lives we will be able to dwell in a divine city, one that really pleases God.

    October 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

  15. The Tower of Babel has been brought up by a few authors: Labyrinth, Petersburg, Madeck, UVN, and Bori. This story does act as an interesting counterpart to our theme as it provides us with a memorable account of architecture as an act of vainglorious self-assertion. A further implication remains that architecture cannot provide humankind with a community – only God could supply this. The building as a center of a genuine society fails because of God’s intervention – which in turn occurs because of man’s pride. In most illustrations of this event, the tower dominates and disregards the city at its base. Perhaps the job of humankind was not to pierce the clouds with towers, but to do something more modest.

    Amalin has made the connection between sheepherding and rural life as compared to plowing and city life. It is true that the city is often described in less than desirable terms and frequently allied with prostitution, drowning, rust, blood, violence, etc. These are quite different metaphors from, say, Zion – the city as holy mountain. UVN touches upon the relation between the “fruits of the soil” and evil. This appears to harken back to the Garden of Eden. Beaupré points to the idea of dwellings and cities as detaching us from nature. This could be an extension of the idea that in Paradise there was no need for architecture.

    Since architecture is cursed by the earth in our account, one might, as many have, dream of regaining it in paradise. Abel, in remaining closer to that paradise than his wandering brother, would then become our model. Yet in doing so we would pull back from a life world into a divine setting which has no room for architecture. If there were no city in paradise, how could it possibly be reattained?

    October 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm

  16. Me3mar

    Cain’s need to build a city is greatly related to his need for security after the fact of killing his brother. However, it is important to note that even though a city might be able to give him the stability and protection needed from intruders, it does not mean that total security will be awarded since according to the Bible, cities are usually full of danger and sin from the inside. However, God has always given the citizens the choice to repent and to, therefore, live in the “city of God”.

    Interestingly, Daniel J. Elazar notes that, throughout the Old Testament four main city archetypes are mentioned, all of them relating the evilness and the danger manifested within the city. These four represent different levels of righteousness and relation to God, from the utterly evil to the spiritual and pure. Sodom, the corrupt city in which sexual perversion is rampant, is destroyed because it does not even have ten righteous men within it (Genesis 18:32). Babylon has something from everything where the good, the bad, and the evil are all evident; it is doomed to destruction if it cannot cleanse itself (Jeremiah 51:6-7). Nineveh, on the other hand, is the metropolis that does repent from all its sins since if not done so “forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:5) and is welcomed back into the righteous. Finally the last archetype is city of Jerusalem built on righteousness and spirituality. (1) Therefore, it can be noted that it is not the actual city with its physical premises that is under question here but the people that inhabit the city and therefore make the city.

    However, it can be noted that these different archetypes of cities appear as a motivating factor for repenting and merciful transformation of the city. The ultimate expression of this is the “city of God” or the New Jerusalem described in Revelation. Although understood as a spiritual, non-physical city, it can be seen, throughout the Bible, as an actual city with gates, streets and a temple. ‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God … Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.’ ‘(Revelation 21:4) (2)

    (1) Elazar, Daniel J. Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Jerusalem: The Ideal City of the Bible
    (2) Crook , Andrew , The City in the Bible:A Relational Perspective, Cambridge , 1997

    October 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm