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