In one short chapter and one long genealogy, we hear a post-Edenic story—’Adam set to tilling and Eve* due to labor in childbirth. These mark the pain of separation.
’Adam, to this point, has gone along and gotten along. There has been no exertion with his naming, his anesthetized sourcing of Eve*, or his taking a second-bite with no remembrance or correction of the conversation between Eve* and Serpent. There was the making of fig leaf loincloths, but that might well be attributed to Eve*’s skill at making, still visible in her later naming of Cain. Lazy ol’ ’adam is bound for the pain of blisters and muscles as he wrestles with the soil (both literal ground and his own being formed from soil). ’Adam is caught between a first dust and a second. There is pain for a loss of ease and for this current reality to continue past the present, into the future.
Eve*, to this point, has walked the Garden in the cool of the evening, been a non-lonely artifact (’ish’s ’ishah), and enjoyed the seeming besting of a sneaky serpent. There may have been a pricked finger in trying to figure out a fashionable and practical wardrobe to deal with nakedness in an environmentally comfortable context, not needing clothes. Bored and clever, Eve* now finds pleasure at being able to carry these along into the pain of transition and separation of birthing—and to do it multiple times. The pain of no children and the pain of birth finds Eve* in the midst of pain.
A firstborn is born to continue the pain of tilling; a second born is born to wander amidst a flock of animals; a third born is born to replace the dead second-born with no assigned task, but the easy piety of ’adam. Additional sons and daughters were born to be swept away.
Eve* named the firstborn, the second has no naming story, the third was named by ’adam (based on 5:3). The line named by Eve* will come to an end (unless you speculate that Noah’s unnamed wife was a descendant of Cain). The line named by ’adam will continue as our story—Mr. Milquetoast will become Mr. Patriarch. At this point, try a thought experiment: What would it have meant to be part of the line of naive Abel? Would that be different than Seth’s line, primarily pious?
Whether of Abel or Seth, what would it mean to be, like Noah, a consoler of pains of separation? Is there comfort available for the grief of a loss of innocence and a living in chaotic times with no guarantee of a safe vault to live within? Even further, not only no guarantee but doomed to death?