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Q&A: Does Tubal-Cain Predate the Bronze and Iron Ages?

From Craig —Vicenza, Italy

I just noticed in Genesis 4:22 it states that Tubal-Cain forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain is the great-great-great-great grandson of Cain. The genealogy mentioned before his name does not read like other genealogies where “son of…” may mean grandson of or great grandson of, etc. It reads as if he is literally only six generations removed from Cain. If this is the case, given that Adam and Eve were created tens of thousands of years ago, it would seem he lived before the Bronze Age (3800 BC) and Iron Age (1550 BC). Even given the long life spans he would appear to be on the scene too early. Might the words used for bronze and iron mean something else, or do I have my timing interpretation wrong?


Craig, in biblical Hebrew one is not compelled to conclude that only six generations transpired between Cain and Tubal-Cain. There may have been many more than just six generations. You will find several articles that address this subject on our website (see here and here, for examples).

In archeology the birth of the Bronze and Iron Ages is defined as those dates when bronze and iron manufacture had become extensive enough to leave behind substantial quantities of artifacts. It is likely that cultivation of crops occurred on small farms owned by individuals long before the Neolithic revolution (circa 12,000 years ago and part of the late Stone Age) and such activity left behind discoverable signatures of large-scale specialized cultivation. Similarly, some isolated examples of small blacksmith shops likely much predated the textbook date for the beginning of the Bronze Age when evidence for large-scale specialized manufacture of bronze products arose.

A second point to consider is that followers of God did not become the salt of the earth until after the Day of Pentecost. Before that event, societal reprobation was common. Such depravity as what occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah resulted in frequent genocides. For example, often a nomadic tribe would conquer a city-state and its accompanying farming communities. In their conquest the tribe would kill all the inhabitants and destroy the city and culture. Consequently, the advanced technology developed by the city-state would be lost, requiring reinvention. Thus, there may have been many cycles of Stone-to-Copper-to-Bronze-to Iron Ages and a return to the Stone Age.

A third point to consider is the benefit of long life spans. The longer one lives in a healthy state, the more knowledge can be accumulated, applied, and passed on to successive generations. Humans are incredibly curious, inventive, and creative. If all that curiosity, inventiveness, and creativity were permitted to persist in an individual for 900 years, it is difficult to place a limit on what that person could achieve, all the more so if he or she was exceptionally brilliant. To cite a modern-day example, James Clerk Maxwell, physicist and elder of the Church of Scotland, died at age 48 in 1879. In his short life, Maxwell established the modern theories of electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. Before his death he was on the verge of launching quantum mechanics and relativity. Imagine what he would have achieved had he retained his brilliance and capabilities for another 900 years.