The Talmud: Selections, by H. Polano, , at sacred-texts.com
AND Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore him two sons and three daughters.
The first-born she called "Cain," saying, "I have gotten a man from the Lord."
Her second son she called "Abel," saying, "With nothing we come into the world, and with nothing will we be taken from it"
When the lads grew up, their father gave to each of them a possession in the land. Cain became a tiller of the soil, and Abel a shepherd.
And after a time it came to pass that the lads each brought an offering to the Lord. Cain brought from the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought from the firstlings of his flock. But while Abel selected the finest and best-conditioned animals, Cain offered fruit of an inferior quality, the poorest which the earth offered. Therefore Cain's offering was unheeded, while the fire of acceptance fell from heaven, consuming the gracious gift which his brother had presented to his Maker. Thus a feeling of jealousy found birth in Cain's heart, and he resolved, when a good opportunity should offer, to slay his brother.
This time came upon an occasion when Cain was ploughing his fields. Abel, leading his flocks to pasture, crossed the ground which his brother was tilling.
In a wrathful spirit, Cain approached Abel, saying, "Wherefore comest thou with thy flocks to dwell in and to feed upon the land which belongs to me?"
And Abel answered:
"Wherefore eatest thou of the flesh of my sheep? Wherefore clothe thyself in garments fashioned from their wool? Pay me for the flesh which thou hast eaten, for the garments in which thou art clothed, for they are mine, even as this ground is thine; then will I go out of it, aye, and fly through the air, so that I may not touch it."
Then said Cain to his brother:
"Behold, thou art in my power. If I should see fit to slay thee now, to-day, who would avenge thy death?"
"God, who has placed us upon this earth," replied Abel. "He is the judge who rewardeth the pious man according to his deeds, and the wicked according to his wickedness. Thou canst not slay me and hide from Him the action. He will surely punish thee, aye, even for the evil words which thou hast spoken to me but now."
This answer increased Cain's wrathful feelings, and, raising the implement of his labour which he was holding in his hand, he struck his brother suddenly therewith, and killed him.
Thus was the blood of Abel spilled by Cain his brother, and the blood ran along the ground, even to the place where Abel's flocks were staying.
And it came to pass, after this rash action, that Cain grieved and wept bitterly. Then, arising, he dug a hole in the ground, and buried therein his brother's body from the light of day.
And after this, the Lord appeared to Cain, and said to him:
"Where is Abel, thy brother, who was With thee?"
And Cain replied unto the Lord:
"I know not! Am I my brother's keeper?"
Then said the Lord:
"What hast thou done! Thy brother's blood cries to me from the ground. Thou thinkest I know not of thy action, of the crime which thou hast committed, which thou wouldst now deny. Cursed be thou from the ground which oped to swallow up thy brother's blood. No longer shall it give its strength to thee and answer to thy efforts; no longer shall it give thee aught but thorns. A fugitive and wanderer shalt thou henceforth be upon the earth."
And Cain went forth a wanderer from the presence of his Maker, forth to the land on the east of Eden.
Now, after this time, when God began to give Cain rest, his wife conceived and bore a son. And Cain called his son "Enoch," because God had at last given him rest upon the earth. And he began to build a city, and this, too, he called "Enoch," for the same reason, because he was no longer a fugitive and a wanderer as before.
Now, when Adam was one hundred and thirty years old, he begat another son, whom he called "Seth."
And Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begat "Enosh."
Then the people increased and grew many upon the face of the earth. And they polluted their souls by sin and rebellion against the Lord. Their wickedness and their transgressions increased day by day. They forgot the Eternal who had formed them and given them the earth as a possession. They made images of copper and iron,
of wood and of stone, to which they prostrated themselves in worship.
During the entire lifetime of Enosh the people continued thus unrighteous.
Therefore God's wrath was kindled against them, and he caused the river Gichon to overflow, and destroy and consume them. But though one-third of the earth was thus destroyed, the remaining people did not repent; they continued in their evil ways, displeasing in the eyes of the Lord.
During this time there was neither sowing nor reaping. There was a grievous famine in the land, for when the people became corrupt, the land was also corrupted, and, instead of fruit for man's sustenance, it brought forth thorns and thistles.
And Enosh lived ninety years, and begat "Kenan."
Kenan was a wise man who understood all things, and when he grew to be forty years of age, he ruled over the whole human race. Being an intelligent man, he instructed the people, and imparted to them his wisdom and understanding. He foresaw that the people would be punished for their continued wickedness, and he prophesied concerning the future and the flood which God would bring upon the earth, and he wrote down his prophecies on stone tablets, and deposited them in the Treasury.
When Kenan was seventy years old he begat children, three sons and two daughters. These two daughters became the wives of Lemech, the son of Methushael, the fifth of the generations of Cain. Ada, his first wife, bore him a son, whom she called "Jabal," and another son, whom she called "Jubal;" but Zillah, her sister, was barren for many years.
But it came to pass, even in her old age, that Zillah became the mother of a son, whom she called "Tubal-Cain," saying, "After I have grown old, Almighty God has granted me a son." Then Zillah conceived again, and bore a daughter, whom she called "Naäma," which signifies joy and pleasure in old age.
Now as Lemech grew old, his eyes grew very dim, and finally all sight was taken from them, and Tubal-Cain, his son, led him by the hand when he walked abroad.
And it came to pass, when Tubal-Cain was still quite young, that he led his father into the fields to hunt, and he said to his father:
"Lo, yonder is a beast of prey, shoot thy arrow in that direction."
Lemech did as his son had spoken, and the arrow struck Cain, who was walking afar off, and killed him. Thus was Cain's blood shed even as he had shed the blood of Abel his brother.
Now when Lemech and his son drew near and saw that instead of a beast of prey they had killed their progenitor Cain, Lemech trembled exceedingly and clapped his hands heavily together in surprise, grief, and fright. Being blind, he saw not his son, and struck the lad's head between his hands, killing him instantly. When his wives discovered what their husband had done they upbraided and despised him. And he spoke to them, saying:
"Ada and Zillah, listen to my voice! Oh, wives of Lemech, give ear unto my speech! I have slain a man to my hurt, a child to my wounding, but not in cruelty or with design. Ye know that I am old and hoary, that my eyes are sightless; accidentally I did this thing to my own wounding and my own hurt."
Then his wives became reconciled to their husband,
according to the advice of Adam, their father, but they bore no more children.
"Mehalalel begat Jared, and Jared begat Enoch, and Enoch begat Methusaleh."
And Enoch served the Lord and walked with him, despising the wicked ones about him, and cleaving with knowledge and understanding to the ways of the Most High.
Enoch did not mix with the people, but lived alone as a hermit for many years.
And it came to pass as he was praying in his apartment an angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, saying, "Enoch, Enoch," and he answered, "Here am I."
Then said the angel:
"Arise, go forth from thy solitude and walk among the people of the land. Teach to them the way they should go, and instruct them in the actions they should perform." And Enoch did as the Lord commanded him.
He walked among the people and taught them the ways of the Creator, assembling them together and addressing them in earnestness and truth. And he charged his followers to proclaim in all places where men dwelt
"Who is he that desires to know the ways of the Lord and to do righteously? Let him seek Enoch." And Enoch reigned over the human race and the people obeyed him, and while Enoch was among them they served God. And princes and rulers came to listen to his words of wisdom and to make obeisance before him. And he made peace through all the land.
And Enoch reigned over the human race for three hundred and fifty-three years. In justice and righteousness he ruled, and peace blessed the land during all this period.
Methusaleh was the son of Enoch, and Lemech was the son of Methusaleh. Adam died, nine hundred and thirty years old, when Lemech was sixty-five years of age. He was buried with great honours by Seth, Enoch, and Methusaleh, His body was placed in a cave, which according to some authorities was the cave of Machpelah. From this time, the time of Adam's burial, it has been the custom to perform funeral obsequies over the dead.
Adam died because he had eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and through his sin must all his descendants likewise die, even as the Lord has spoken.
The year in which Adam died was the two hundred and fifty-third year of the reign of Enoch.
And it came to pass about this time that Enoch again felt a longing for solitude take possession of him, and he again withdrew from frequent communion with his people. He did not separate himself from them altogether; for three days he remained alone, and on the fourth he appeared to exhort and instruct them. But when a few years had passed he increased the periods of his withdrawal from the world, and separating himself from the people for six days, he preached to them upon the seventh. And after this he appeared before the people but one time in a year, and though they were desirous of seeing him and hearkening to his voice, save at this one time, they were unable to behold him.
And Enoch became so holy that the people feared him and dared not approach when he appeared before them, for the glory of heaven rested on his face. Yet when he spoke they assembled and listened to his words, and learning from his knowledge, they bowed before him, and cried aloud, "Long live the King!"
And it came to pass when the inhabitants of the world
had learned from Enoch the ways of the Lord, an angel called to him from heaven, saying:
"Ascend, Enoch, ascend to heaven, and reign over the children of God in heaven as thou hast reigned over the children of men on earth."
Then Enoch assembled the people and said to them, "I have been summoned to heaven, but I know not the day I shall ascend. Therefore let me teach you ere I go, reiterating the lessons which you have heard from my lips."
And Enoch made peace and harmony among the people, and pointed out to them the path to everlasting life. And his followers proclaimed aloud wherever men dwelt, "Who is he that wishes to live and to know the ways of the Lord? Let him seek Enoch and learn, ere he is taken from us and earth."
So Enoch taught the people and united them in peace and harmony.
Then Enoch mounted his horse and rode away, and a multitude of people followed him a day's journey.
And it came to pass on the second day that Enoch spoke to those who followed him, saying:
"Return to your tents! Wherefore follow me? Return, lest death overtake ye."
A number of the followers returned at these words, but others continued to journey with him; and every day he spoke to them, saying:
"Return, lest death overtake ye."
And on the sixth day there were still some who followed after him, and they said, "Where thou goest will we go; as the Lord liveth naught but death shall separate us;" so when Enoch saw that they were thus determined he spoke to them no more.
Those who went back on the sixth day knew how many they had left following, but of those whom they left on the sixth day not one returned.
And on the seventh day Enoch ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, with chariot and horses of fire.
And it came to pass after Enoch had gone up to heaven that the people started out to search for those men who had followed after him. And on the spot where they had left them they found deep snow and ice. They cut through the ice and they found there the dead bodies of the men for whom they were searching, but Enoch they did not find. Therefore is this the meaning of the words of Scripture, "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not" (he was not where search was made), "for God had taken him" (Gen. 5: 24).
And Enoch ascended to heaven when Lemech the son of Methusaleh was one hundred and thirteen years old.
And it came to pass after Enoch had ascended to heaven that the people appointed Methusaleh, his son, king over them. And Methusaleh lived in the way of righteousness which his father had taught him, and he continued to instruct the people in morality and goodness even as Enoch had done before him. But in the latter part of his reign the people grew regardless of his teachings. They disregarded the personal rights of one another, and rebelled against the commands of God.
And the wrath of the Lord was again kindled against them, and the earth brought forth thorns and thistles instead of its fruit for sustenance, yet they repented not, nor turned from their evil deeds. Therefore did God resolve to destroy them entirely from the face of the earth.
Now when Lemech, the son of Methusaleh, was one
hundred and eighty-six years old, Seth, the son of Adam, died and was buried.
And about this time Lemech took to himself Ashmua, the daughter of Elishua, the son of Enoch, for a wife, and he begat a son and called him Noah.
Noah grew up in righteousness and followed zealously in the ways of truth which Methusaleh taught him; but the others of the people practised wickedness towards God and deceit towards one another.
Then said God:
"The whole earth is corrupt. I will destroy this man whom I have created, the fowls of the heaven and the beasts of the earth, for the wickedness of man proves him undeserving of life, and I repent that I have made him."
But the Lord stayed his wrath until every man who walked in His ways was dead, before He brought to pass the evil which He had spoken, so that his faithful servants might not see the punishment of their fellow-man.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; and God selected Noah and his family from all the people of the earth, to keep them alive through the destruction which He designed.
And it came to pass in the eighty-fourth year of Noah's life that Enosh, the son of Seth, died at the age of nine hundred and five years. And when Noah was one hundred and seventy, Kenan died nine hundred and ten years old. And Mehalel died at the age of eight hundred and ninety-five years, when Noah was two hundred and thirty years of age; and when Noah was three hundred and sixty, Jared died at the age of nine hundred and sixty-two years. And also those people who fulfilled the words of the Lord died in those days before He showed them the evil which He had decreed.
And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year of the life of Noah, that the only righteous ones left in that generation were Methusaleh, and Noah with his family.
Then the word of the Lord came to Methusaleh and Noah, saying:
"Go forth, proclaim to all mankind, 'Thus saith the Lord: Turn from your evil inclinations, abandon your unrighteous ways, then may God forgive and spare you on the face of the earth. For thus saith the Eternal, one hundred and twenty years will I give ye to repent; if ye forsake your evil ways, then will I forsake my intentions of destruction.'"
And Noah and Methusaleh went forth and spoke these words of the Lord to the people. Every day, from morning until night, they addressed the people, but the people heeded not their words.
Noah was a righteous man in his generation, and the Lord chose Noah's seed to be spread over the whole earth. Then said God to Noah:
"Take thyself a wife, and beget children, for I have seen thee to be a righteous man before me; only thyself, thy wife, and thy sons, shall live on earth of all this generation."
And Noah did as God commanded him, and took to wife Naamah, the daughter of Enoch; and Noah was four hundred and ninety-eight years old when he married Naamah. And Naamah conceived and bore a son, whom she called "Japhet," saying, "God has enlarged us through the land." And she bore a second son, and called him "Ham." And she bore a third son, and called him "Shem," saying, "God has given me a great name on earth." And Noah was five hundred and two years old when she bore to him his third son, Shem.
And the lads grew up and walked in the way of God, as they were taught by Noah and by Methusaleh. And in these days died Lemech, the father of Noah. He was not as righteous either as his father or his son. He was seven hundred and seventy-seven years old when he died.
And again the Lord spoke to Methusaleh and Noah, saying:
"Once more call mankind to repentance; call once again, ere my punishment falls upon the people."
But the people listened not, and the words of warning were unheeded.
Then the Lord said unto Noah:
"The end of all flesh cometh before me, because of its evil ways; behold, I will destroy the people with the earth. But thou, take for thyself gopher wood, and build for thee an ark. In this manner build it: Three hundred cubits in length, fifty cubits in breadth, and thirty cubits in height; make a door in its side, and to a cubit finish it above."
In the five hundred and ninety-fifth year of his age Noah commenced building this ark, and he completed it in his six hundredth year, and during the time of its building his three sons married the three daughters of Methusaleh.
And it came to pass, also, during this time, that Methusaleh, the son of Enoch, died at the age of nine hundred and sixty-nine years.
After his death the Lord spoke to Noah, saying:
"Go thou with all thy household into the ark, and, behold, I will gather to thee all the beasts and fowls, and they will surround the ark.
"Then place thyself in the doorway of the ark, and the beasts and fowls will place themselves opposite to thee. Those that lie down before thee let thy sons lead into the ark, and those that remain standing thou shalt abandon."
As the Lord had spoken so happened it. The animals assembled in a great multitude opposite the ark. Those which lay down were led into the ark, and the others were abandoned.
And at the end of seven days the thunder and lightnings of the heavens frighted all the earth. The glory of the sun was darkened, the heavy rain fell, and the fury of the storm exceeded all that man had heard of or imagined.
And the people came to the ark and clung to it, and cried to Noah for help, but he answered them:
"For a hundred and twenty years I entreated ye to follow my words; alas, ‘tis now too late."
For forty days and forty nights the rain fell, and with such violence that even those in the ark were in trouble and agony of mind, for they feared their vessel would not be able to withstand its might.
Each animal in the ark, according to its nature, uttered its cry of fear, of rage, of helplessness, and the noise was loud and terrible.
Then Noah addressed the Eternal in prayer:
"O Lord, I beseech Thee, save us now! Without strength to face this great calamity, we come to Thee. The rivers of water terrify us, and death plays in waves about us. Lift up Thy countenance upon us, O Lord! Be gracious to us. Redeem us, our God; deliver us, and save us!"
And God heard the voice of Noah, and remembered him.
"And God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters were assuaged, . . . . and the ark rested in the seventh month . . . . upon the mountain of Ararat."
And Noah opened the window of the ark, and again called to God, saying
"O Lord, God of heaven and of earth, release our souls from confinement, bring us out from the prison in which we live; verily our hearts are weary with sighing."
And God answered Noah, saying:
"At the close of the year thou and thy family may go forth out of the ark."
And it came to pass in the second month, on the seven-and-twentieth day of the month, the earth was perfectly dry. Yet Noah and his family still tarried in the ark, and they did not leave it until God called to them and said, "Go out of the ark."
All the people and living things then departed from the vessel in which their lives had been preserved.
Noah and his children served the Lord all the days of their lives, and God blessed them. And the human race increased rapidly after the flood, and the names of the generations are written in the Bible.
Cush, the son of Ham and grandson of Noah, married in his old age a young wife, and begat a son whom he called "Nimrod," because in those days the people were beginning to rebel again against the Lord's command, and Nimrod signifies rebellion.
Now Nimrod grew up, and his father loved him exceedingly, because he was the child of his old age. And there was a certain coat of skins which God had made for Adam. When Adam died this coat became the possession of Enoch; from him it descended to Methusaleh, his son; Methusaleh gave it to Noah, who took it with him into the ark. And when the people left the ark Ham stole this coat, and hid it from his brothers, giving it secretly thereafter to Cush, his son. Cush kept it hidden for many years, until out of his great love he gave it to Nimrod, the child of his old age. When Nimrod was twenty years of age he put on this coat, and it
gave him strength and might; might as a hunter in the fields, and might as a warrior in the subjection of his enemies and opponents. And his wars and undertakings prospered until he became king over all the earth.
Behold, to this day his power is a proverb among men, and he who instructs the youthful arm in the wielding of weapons, and the youthful mind in the secrets of the chase, wishes his pupils "even as Nimrod, who was a mighty hunter in the land, and prosperous in his wars."
When Nimrod was forty years old his brethren, the sons of Ham, quarrelled with the sons of Japhet. And Nimrod assembled the tribe of Cush, and went forth to battle with the sons of Japhet. And he addressed his army, saying:
"Be not dismayed, and banish fear from your hearts. Our enemies shall surely be your booty, and ye shall do with them as ye please."
Nimrod was victorious, and the opposing armies became his subjects. And when he and his soldiers returned home rejoicing the people gathered around and made him king, and placed a crown upon his head. And he appointed counsellors, judges, chiefs, generals, and captains. He established a national government, and he made Therach, the son of Nahor, his chief officer.
When Nimrod had thus established his power he decided to build a city, a walled town, which should be the capital of his country. And he selected a certain plain and built a large city thereon, and called it Shinar. And Nimrod dwelt in Shinar in safety, and gradually became ruler over all the world; and at that time all the people of the earth were of one language and of one speech.
Nimrod in his prosperity did not regard the Lord. He made gods of wood and stone, and the people copied after his doings. His son Mordon served idols also, from which
we have, even to this day, the proverb, "From the wicked, wickedness comes forth."
And it came to pass about this time that the officers of Nimrod and the descendants of Phut, Mitzrayim, Cush, and Canaan took counsel together, and they said to one another:
"Let us build a city and also in its midst a tall tower for a stronghold, a tower the top of which shall reach even to the heavens. Then shall we truly make for ourselves a great and mighty name, before which all our enemies shall tremble. None will then be able to harm us, and no wars may disperse our ranks."
And they spoke these words to the king, and he approved of their design.
Therefore these families gathered together and selected a suitable spot for their city and its tower on a plain towards the east, in the land of Shinar.
And while they were building rebellion budded in their hearts, rebellion against God, and they imagined that they could scale the heavens and war with him.
They divided into three parties; the first party said:
"We will ascend to heaven and place there our gods, and worship them."
The second party said:
"We will pour into the heavens of the Lord and match our strength with His."
And the third party said:
"Yea, we will smite Him with arrow and with spear."
And God watched their evil enterprise, and knew their thoughts, yet they builded on. If one of the stones which they had raised to its height fell, they were sad at heart, and even wept; yet when any of their brethren fell from the
building and were killed, none took account of the life thus lost.
Thus they continued for a space of years, till God said, "We will confuse their language." Then the people forgot their language, and they spoke to one another in a strange tongue.
And they quarrelled and fought on account of the many misunderstandings occasioned by this confusion of language, and many were destroyed in these quarrels, till at last they were compelled to cease building.
According to their deserts did God punish the three rebellious parties. Those who had said, "We will place our gods in the heavens," were changed in appearance, and became like apes; those who had said, "We will smite Him with arrows," killed one another through misunderstandings; and those who had said, "Let us try our strength with His," were scattered over the face of the earth.
The tower was exceedingly tall. The third part of it sunk down into the ground, a second third was burned down, but the remaining third was standing until the time of the destruction of Babylon.
Thus were the people dispersed over the globe, and divided into nations.