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Lamech in Cain's descendants has 3 sons, each whom is described with a particular skill (ESV 4:20-22):

Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.

His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.

Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron...

What is interesting is the first two are called "the father of those who..." The third has a skill but is not "the father of those..."

Does this mean if you play the instruments or dwell in tents you are genetically/ancestrally derived from one of these two guys? In what sense were Jabal and Jubal the "fathers" of those with particular skills? And what is the significance of distinction with the third son?

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    No. It means that these two inventions were first introduced to the world known to the ancient Semites by the members of these particular tribes. – Lucian Aug 8 '17 at 7:30
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The Hebrew term we often translated 'father' has also other derivative meanings, like 'initiator', 'founder', and so on (compare also 1 Chr 8:29).

So, Jabal was "the initiator of those who reside in tents, with livestocks following them [...]", whereas Jubal was "the initiator of those who [...] manipulate musical-instruments [...]".

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  • 1 Chronicles 8:29: "Jeiel the father of Gibeon lived in Gibeon, and the name of his wife was Maacah." How does this apply? – Revelation Lad Mar 27 '18 at 20:09
  • The reference I've cited - 1 Chr 8:29 - for the majority of scholars has the simple meaning (more probable) of 'Jeiel the father of Gibeon...'. I've found only a linguist, Luis Alonso Schoekel who takes this expression as to mean "founder of (the city of) Gibeon...". However, even if we don't consider correct this conclusion at all, the meaning of 'initiator', 'founder', or similar terms, of the Hebrew term AB, is accepted by every lexicographers I've consulted. Moreover, the Akkadian language (the most ancient Semitic language we know today) can be an help for us on this regard. – Saro Fedele Mar 28 '18 at 18:11
  • In fact, the homologous Akkadian term ABU, in addition to the meaning 'father, forefather, ancestor' et similia, added these other meanings: 'principal (of a business), master, expert, foreman", like in the phrase (I've omitted the diacritical points) "anaku eluka abu ummani kalama", that is, 'I am superior to you, a master of every craft' (CAD I:1:67-73). So, in every case, the concept I've expressed continues to be correct. – Saro Fedele Mar 28 '18 at 18:17
  • Do you think calling them the "father of those..." instead of something like the "first of those..." has significance? Especially in light of how the passage ends: "...Then men began to call on the name of the LORD." IOW why not "Then men began to live in tents..." – Revelation Lad Mar 29 '18 at 17:57
  • In effect, we may hypothesize two conclusions: (1) the expression ('the father of') possess an idiomatical connotation. For analogous examples, "any that pisseth against the wall" (1 Sam 25:34, K), instead of the direct reading "any human male"; or, "After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day" (Job 3:1, KJV) , instead of the direct reading "After this Job cursed his day" [to be continued...] – Saro Fedele Mar 31 '18 at 9:54
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In addition to @Saro's answer, we can add that according to many interpretations here (and perhaps even the majority of Jewish commentaries here), "father" implies "first", as in the first person to do this. A clear interpretation is found in Kimhi's commentary here, that just as a father is "earlier" than his son, that is what these two were in their respective fields.

Ibn Ezra supports this by noting the the word אביב, which is a derivative of אב, father, and also means "the first". See Strong on this word here.

Kimhi also answers your second question, saying that there must have been others before Tubal-Cain who had already been forging instruments, but they had not been as skilled as he was, so he is noted, but not as the first.

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  • It is not in the question but the passage ends with "...Then men began to call on the name of the LORD." So there are three elements which express a similar concept. What significance/difference does that add? – Revelation Lad Mar 29 '18 at 18:02
  • @RevelationLad I think you might be confusing that with biblehub.com/genesis/4-26.htm, which is a number of verses later. That verse ends with Tubal Cain's sister being Naama. – רבות מחשבות Mar 29 '18 at 18:07
  • What I am looking at is the 3 different ways the same or similar message is conveyed. 1) the father of... 2) the ability to (simply stated) 3) then men begin... – Revelation Lad Mar 29 '18 at 18:47
  • @RevelationLad Ah, got it now. Good question. I'm not sure that 3) is technically associated with the person(s) mentioned in the verse, as opposed to the first 2, which certainly are. Perhaps we can suggest they are increasing in the group of founders/initiators of the event. 1) is specific to an individual (Jabal and Jubal), 2) is associated with Tubal Cain, although there were others with him, but he was the "main guy", and in 3) it was all of mankind, and it simply took place at a certain time. – רבות מחשבות Mar 29 '18 at 19:01
  • @RevelationLad If you like it, consider asking it as a separate question, and I can post that as an answer. (As an aside, I like the interpretation of 4:26 that men began to add God's name to their children's names, which fits the context excellently...) – רבות מחשבות Mar 29 '18 at 19:04

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