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Tubal-cain in his forge. Tapestry, Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge
|Other names||Tubal-Cain, Tubalcain, Tubal (simplified name)|
|Known for||Forefather of smiths|
|Title||"An instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron"|
|Parent(s)||Lamech and Zillah|
In Hebrew, his name is תּוּבַל קַיִן (Tūḇal Qayin). In the King James Version, this is rendered as Tubalcain. In the New International Version and the English Standard Version, it is Tubal-cain; the Latin Vulgate renders him as Thubalcain. Rashi interprets the name to mean "he who spices the craft of Cain."
It is not clear why he has a double-barreled first name. Gordon Wenham suggests that the name Cain means smith (which would anticipate the remarks about his metalworking skill), or that he is called Tubal Cain in order to distinguish him from the other Tubal, the son of Japheth.
In the Book of Jasher, the name of Tubal-Cain is explained by Zillah, his mother: "After I had withered away have I obtained him from the Almighty God" (2:24). The intended conclusion here is that "Cain" (given earlier in the idea of "obtaining") was merged with "Tubal", a word seemingly to denote "withering" by contextual speculation.
Genesis 4:22 says that Tubal-cain was the "forger of all instruments of bronze and iron" (ESV) or an "instructor of every artificer in brass and iron" (KJV). Although this may mean he was a metalsmith, a comparison with verses 20 and 21 suggests that he may have been the very first artificer in brass and iron. T. C. Mitchell suggests that he "discovered the possibilities of cold forging native copper and meteoric iron." Tubal-cain has even been described as the first chemist.
In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus says that "Tubal exceeded all men in strength, and was very expert and famous in martial performances, ... and first of all invented the art of working brass." Walter Elwell suggests that his invention of superior weapons may have been the motivation for Lamech's interest in avenging blood. Alternatively, E. E. Kellett suggests that Tubal-cain may have been a miner.