The murder of Abel by Cain’s hand is one of the Bible’s most iconic episodes.
However, much less is known about what happened to Cain after he was exiled to the land of Nod.
“Look, you have now banished me from the ground. I must avoid you and be a constant wanderer on the earth. Cain then left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” – Genesis 4:14, 16
The land of Nod is actually said to be a symbolic name, derived from the Hebrew verb meaning “to wander.”
The Book of Genesis tells us that after being banished, Cain had a son, Enoch, and founded a city named after him.
What did Cain do afterwards?
1st century historian Josephus explained Cain only further committed to his sinfulness and continued his wickedness in the land of Nod.
“He did not accept of his punishment in order to amendment, but to increase his wickedness; for he only aimed to procure everything that was for his own bodily pleasure, though it obliged him to be injurious to his neighbors. He augmented his household substance with much wealth by rapine and violence; he excited his acquaintance to procure pleasures and spoils of robbery, and became a great leader of men into wicked courses. He also introduced a change in that way of simplicity wherein men lived before, and was the author of measures and weights. And whereas they lived innocently and generously while they knew nothing of such arts, he changed the world into cunning craftiness. He first of all set boundaries about lands; he built a city, and fortified it with walls, and he compelled his family to come together to it.”
Early Catholic scholar Origen further explained the land of Nod symbolizes the condition of all who forsake God. He called it the land of trembling, opposite Eden.
“Let us interject something of a mystery, which is said concerning the sinner Cain, who ‘having gone out from the face of God, lived in the land of Nod opposite Eden.’ ‘Nod’ in the Greek language means trembling. Whoever indeed forsakes God, who abandons understanding, whose thinking is continually ‘in the land of Nod’ dwells there today also, that is, that person remains in wicked unsettlement of heart and in commotion of mind.”
Saint Augustine later called the land of Nod a place of commotion and “carnal disquietude” inhabited by those who didn’t convert to Catholicism.
English mediaeval tradition would come to understand the land of Nod as a dark desert, sometimes pictured even underground, away from the face of God and inhabited by ferocious beasts and other monsters.
However, where the actual land of Nod is today remains a mystery!
The closest thing we have to an answer is a position held by a minority of Biblical scholars that identify the ancient Mesopotamian settlement of Eridu as corresponding to the city Enoch built and named after his son, Irad.
Whatever the case may be, let us all pray to not end up in the land of Nod!