In Bereishit 4:26, we read : "And to Seth also to him a son was born, and he named him Enosh; then it became common to call by the name of the Lord." (וּלְשֵׁ֤ת גַּם־הוּא֙ יֻלַּד־בֵּ֔ן וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱנ֑וֹשׁ אָ֣ז הוּחַ֔ל לִקְרֹ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהֹוָֽה)

In Genesis 4:26 was HaShem (positively or negatively) known in the world due to אֱנ֑וֹשׁ Enosh?

Sforno comments on Bereishit 4:26, claiming HaShem was preached positively:

"'אז הוחל לקרא בשם ה, at that time the righteous people of the earth began to preach monotheism to the public. The meaning is similar to Genesis 21,33 ויקרא שם בשם ה' א-ל עולם, “Avraham proclaimed there the name of the Lord, the Lord of the universe.” The time had come to publicly confront and refute the arguments of the idolaters in that period."

Although preaching monotheism and worship of HaShem would seem righteous, some commentaries by Gur Aryeh & Daat Zkenim oddly state HaShem became commonly invoked in a negative way (after the birth of Enosh).

Gur Aryeh comments on Bereishit 4:26, stating:

"Then men began to call upon the name. This cannot mean that at that time they began calling upon Hashem, because earlier generations had done so as well. For this reason the Sages interpret this statement negatively."

Daat Zkenim comments on Bereishit 4:26, claiming HaShem was abused negatively:

"'אז הוחל לקרא בשם ה, “then men began to abuse the name of the Lord, (by applying it to idols).” According to our author the meaning is that men began to swear false oaths using the name of the Lord to appear believable."

What is the correct understanding Genesis 4:26?

  • If Enosh lived 905 years [Genesis 5:11], then Enosh' invocation of HaShem was well-regarded. (Correct?)
  • 4
    You cited two views. What do you want from us? To decide between S'forno and Daas Z'kenim? – msh210 Mar 21 at 14:54
  • 1
    It is a dispute. – N.T. Mar 21 at 17:26

This is discussed in the introduction to Sefer Brit Menucha. It is mentioned in the Torah in an indirect fashion, which is common, because it was actually negative.

The subject is also discussed directly by Rambam in [Mishneh Torah, Laws of Foreign Worship and the Customs of the Nations, Chapter 1, Halacha 1][1] which says:

In the days of Enosh, the sons of man erred exceedingly, the advice of the wise man of that generation was nullified, and even Enosh himself was among the victims of that folly.

For fuller details, see there. [1]: https://www.sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah%2C_Foreign_Worship_and_Customs_of_the_Nations.1.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

  • This is fascinating! I am curious what historical evidence there is relating Enosh with idolatrous star worship. Thank you for sharing. – חִידָה Mar 21 at 20:25

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