… then men began to call on the name of YHVH. Gen 4:26.
An equally admissible translation is noted in the margin of the King James: “Or, to call themselves by the name of the LORD;” that is, that it was they who were the self-existent and eternal. The interpretation that the pious descendants of Seth formed themselves into a distinct society which they called after the name of the LORD has no agreement in any of the preserved remains of antiquity. We find no allusion to this society, by this or any other name, in any of the subsequent writings of Moses or elsewhere. There is, however, another understanding of the text which some of the best scholars contend is not only allowable, but required by the original words. The word rendered “began” is Strong’s H2490, “to begin to profane,” marking the generation in which proud and wicked men started applying to themselves, and to each other, the names, titles, and attributes of Deity. Thus,
… then men profanely began to call themselves by the name of YHVH.
edited from George Smith, The Patriarchal Age (1847), pp. 164-165.
Applying the Hebrew roots teaching tool
to begin is Strong’s H2490 חלל chalal, a primitive root meaning, “profane, defile, pollute, desecrate.” The 3-letter root is chet + lamed + lamed.
chet ח = the wall, thus outside, divide, half
lamed ל = the shepherd’s staff, thus teach, yoke, to, bind
lamed ל = the shepherd’s staff, thus teach, yoke, to, bind
From the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon:
A hole is drilled with a tool called a bow drill. The string of the bow is wrapped around the drill. By moving the bow back and forth, and firmly pressing down, the drill spins around drilling the hole.
In the patriarchal era, a string or sinew was wrapped around (chet, as a wall surrounds a house) the drill (lamed, as the drill is a long stick with a sharpened end), in order to bore a hole into wood or stone. Holes were bored to give a place of egress for chisels or other tools to do their work for whatever purpose man has determined for it (lamed, in the sense of man’s authority exercised over the stone).
This is the everyday, common, or profane use of the bow drill and the stone, in service of man’s daily work and responsibilities.
And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have profaned (Strong’s H2490 chalal) it. Exo 20:25
YHVH seems to be saying that when man exercises authority over the stones which comprise His altar, then he has made it common, or profaned something which ought to be set apart or holy to YHVH.
The Hebrew of the sentence under question (remember that Hebrew is read right to left):
. אז הוחל לקרא בשם יהוה
. YHVH יהוה by ב the name שם to ל call קרא (men began) הוחל Then אז
You can see the chet + lamed in “men began.”
Applying the common theme teaching tool
“Men began,” where chalal “to profane” is translated as ‘began:’
And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of YHVH. Gen 4:26
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, Gen 6:1
And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard, Gen 9:20
And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. Gen 10:8
And YHVH said, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language, and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” Gen 11:6
We saw that the root of chalal is the bow drill, a tool which is used to make an ingress into a material so that it might be split, that is weakened. To profane something sacred is to weaken its sanctity in the eyes of the people commanded to hold it sacred.
In each of these Scriptural instances where men began to profane in Gen 1-11, the following history reveals how society was weakened.
Gen 4:26, Men profanely began to call themselves by the name of YHVH, or take upon themselves titles and attributes of Deity. As a result the wickedness testified of in chapters 5 and 6 increased and became great. Result: the individual integrity of man was weakened.
Gen 6:1, Men profanely began to multiply their daughters, not as children to be cherished and raised to feminine maturity as helpmates and mothers of their own house, but as objects to be bartered for the use of the wealthy elite in possibly the first instance of human trafficking in the history of the world. See Gen 5:32-6:4, the sons of God. Result: the father and family bond was weakened.
Gen 9:20, Noah profanely began to plant a vineyard, resulting in the first instance of drunkenness related in Scripture. This incident called forth the mocking of Noah’s son Ham – and it was wrong for Ham to do so – but honestly Noah first did something worthy of mockery. Now, I believe it was not the planting of the vineyard that was profane, but the over-indulgence of wine which impaired Noah’s ability, that was profane. To be fair, if Noah was the inventor of fermented grapes, or wine, he might not have known the effect the wine would have on his body and his sensibilities, until after he awoke from his wine. Result: substance abuse weakened family integrity and fed into sibling rivalry.
Gen 10:8, Nimrod profanely began to be a mighty one in the earth, lifting himself to position and power over men, when previously the government in human society had been a benevolent patriarchy, with each tribes’ patriarch settling disputes and rendering decisions based in love for his children and grandchildren, rather than in Nimrod’s model of control and lust for power. Result: governmental integrity was weakened.
Gen 11:6, The people at Babel profanely began to build the tower rather than obey God and disperse to their assigned borders, which weakened the peace between national neighbors and introduced warfare into the human experience. Result: peaceful co-existence between the global family of nations was weakened.
Study inspired by Brad Scott, Sons of God, Giants, and the New World Order (2016).