Land of Nod

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Cain fleeing before Jehovah's Curse, by Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon, c. 1880

The Land of Nod (Hebrew: אֶרֶץ־נוֹד‎ – ʾereṣ-Nōḏ) is a place mentioned in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, located "on the east of Eden" (qiḏmaṯ-ʿḖḏen), where Cain was exiled by God after Cain had murdered his brother Abel. According to Genesis 4:16:

And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.[1]
וַיֵּ֥צֵא קַ֖יִן מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־נֹ֖וד קִדְמַת־עֵֽדֶן׃

Genesis 4:17 relates that after arriving in the Land of Nod, Cain's wife bore him a son, Enoch, in whose name he built the first city.


"Nod" (נוד‎) is the Hebrew root of the verb "to wander" (לנדוד‎). Therefore, to dwell in the land of Nod can mean to live a wandering life.[2] Gesenius defines (נוּד‎) as follows:

TO BE MOVED, TO BE AGITATED (Arab. ناد Med. Waw id.), used of a reed shaken by the wind, 1Ki.14:15; hence to wander, to be a fugitive, Jer. 4:1; Gen. 4:12, 14; Ps.56:9; to flee, Ps. 11:1; Jer. 49:30. Figuratively, Isa. 17:11, נֵד קָצִיר‎ "the harvest has fled" ["but see נֵד‎ ," which some take in this place as the subst.].[3]

Much as Cain's name is connected to the verb meaning "to get" in Genesis 4:1, the name "Nod" closely resembles the word "nad" (נָד‎), usually translated as "vagabond", in Genesis 4:12. (In the Septuagint's rendering of the same verse God curses Cain to τρέμων, "trembling".)[4]

A Greek version of Nod written as Ναίν appearing in the Onomastica Vaticana possibly derives from the plural נחים‎, which relates to resting and sleeping. This derivation, coincidentally or not, connects with the English pun on "nod".[5]


Josephus wrote in Antiquities of the Jews (c. AD 93) that Cain continued his wickedness in Nod: resorting to violence and robbery; establishing weights and measures; transforming human culture from innocence into craftiness and deceit; establishing property lines; and building a fortified city.[6][7]

Nod is said to be outside of the presence or face of God. Origen defined Nod as the land of trembling and wrote that it symbolized the condition of all who forsake God.[8] Early commentators treated it as the opposite of Eden (worse still than the land of exile for the rest of humanity). In the English tradition Nod was sometimes described as a desert inhabited only by ferocious beasts or monsters. Others interpreted Nod as dark or even underground—away from the face of God.[9]

Augustine described unconverted Jews as dwellers in the land of Nod, which he defined as commotion and "carnal disquietude".[10]

Places named "Land of Nod"[edit]

Gate to Land of Nod Road in Headley Down, Hampshire, UK

Land of Nod is the name of a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is located at the far end of a two-mile-long (3.2 km) road, which joins the A614 road at Holme-on-Spalding-Moor (53°49′07″N 0°43′17″W / 53.8185°N 0.7215°W / 53.8185; -0.7215 (Land of Nod, Holme-on-Spalding-Moor)).[11]

The name "Land of Nod" was accorded locally to the northerly 3,000 acres (1,214.1 hectares) of the Great Plot lying north of Woburn, Massachusetts, at its foundation in 1640–42, "the name being probably suggested by a comparison of its forlorn condition — so far remote from church ordinances — with the Nod to which Cain wandered when he went 'from the presence of the Lord'." Its Native American name was Nena Saawaattawattocks.[12]

Land of Nod Road is the name of a residential road in Windham, Maine, US (43°45′02″N 70°22′43″W / 43.7506°N 70.3787°W / 43.7506; -70.3787 (Land of Nod, Windham, Maine)), and a private road in Headley Down, Hampshire, UK (51°07′16″N 0°47′59″W / 51.1211°N 0.7998°W / 51.1211; -0.7998 (Land of Nod, Headley Down)).[13]

In popular culture[edit]

The Land of Nod can refer to the mythical land of sleep, a pun on Land of Nod (Gen. 4:16). To "go off to the land of Nod" plays with the phrase to "nod off", meaning to go to sleep.[14][5]

The first recorded use of the phrase to mean "sleep" comes from Jonathan Swift in his Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation (1737)[15] and Gulliver's Travels.

A later instance of this usage appears in the poem "The Land of Nod" by Robert Louis Stevenson from the A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) collection.[16]

In the Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Shusterman, the Land of Nod is mythologized as containing a mythical fail-safe against the Scythedom and becomes critically important to the plot of the third book.[17]

In Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin, the Land of Nod is suggested as a place where vampires originated.


  1. ^ Genesis 4:16, King James Version
  2. ^ Asimov, Isaac (1981). Asimov's guide to the Bible : the Old and New Testaments (Reprint [der Ausg.] in 2 vol. 1968–1969. ed.). New York: Wings Books. ISBN 0-517-34582-X.
  3. ^ Gesenius's Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles; London: Samuel Bagster & Sons, 1846; p. DXXXVIII.
  4. ^ Byron 2011, p. 101. "Some authors carried the groaning and shaking interpretation over to Gen 4:16 when they commented on Cain's dwelling place. In the Hebrew version we read that Cain lived in the land of Nod. The name Nod is related to the participle נָ֖ד‎ in 4:12 which the LXX translated as τρέμων (trembling). This led some interpreters to understand the Land of Nod as the 'land of shaking.'

    Now Cain dwelt in the land of trembling, in keeping with what God had appointed for him after he killed Abel his brother. (Pseudo-Philo, L.A.B. 2:1)
    The land of Nod is so called because it was the land in which Cain wandered about in fear and trembling. (Ephrem, Commentary on Genesis 3:11)
    Cain left God's presence and went to live in the land of Nod, opposite Eden, Nod means disturbance. (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 2.51.4–5)

  5. ^ a b Howard Jacobson, "The Land of Nod", Journal of Theological Studies, New Series, 41(1), April 1990. "Since the early part of the eighteenth century (according to the OED) the phrase 'Land of Nod' has been used to mean 'sleep'. Scholars seem in agreement that this is a play on the Biblical place-name grounded in the use of the verb 'nod' in the sense 'sleep' (first in the early seventeenth century, according to the OED). But we have now seen that 'Land of Nod' as 'Land of the sleepers' goes back centuries and more, and to Graeco-Hebrew etymologies. What are we to think? is this nothing more than utterly remarkable coincidence? Or has our Onomastic etymology influenced the English usage? I leave the question to students of the history of the English language."
  6. ^ Titus Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book I (on Wikisource), Chapter II; quoted in Delaney (1996), p. 56.
  7. ^ Byron (2011), pp. 125–126. "Consequently, Cain's activity as a builder serves two purposes in Josephus. First, it demonstrates that Cain has not learned the lessons of his previous crime and his greed has developed to the point that he now marks off property that he has obtained so that it might not be stolen back from him. Second, the founding of a fortified city not only adds to the protection of his property it also concentrates his power by causing his family to live in one place. In the end, Josephus's Cain is still a greedy grasper who, rather than repenting from his original crimes, has actually managed to perfect them. Thus, the building of a city becomes a lasting monument to Cain's ongoing evil activity."
  8. ^ Origen, Jeremiah Homily; quoted in Delaney (1996), pp. 116–117. "Let us interject something of a mystery, which is said concerning the sinner Cain, who 'having gone out from the face of God, lived in the land of Nod opposite Eden.' 'Nod' in the Greek language means trembling. Whoever indeed forsakes God, who abandons understanding, whose thinking is continually 'in the land of Nod' dwells there today also, that is, that person remains in wicked unsettlement of heart and in commotion of mind."
  9. ^ Oliver F. Emerson, "Legends of Cain, Especially in Old and Middle English", Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 21(4), 1906; po. 865, 871.
  10. ^ Augustine, Contra Faustum XII:13; quoted in Delaney (1996), p. 169.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bruce (1991). Yesterday's Yorkshire. David & Charles. p. 118. ISBN 9780715394717. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  12. ^ Frothingham, Richard (1845). The History of Charlestown, Massachusetts. Boston: C.C. Little and J. Brown. pp. 111–112. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  13. ^ "What's on around Petersfield and East Hampshire today, May 7, 2017". Petersfield Post. 7 May 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Land of Nod | Define Land of Nod at". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  15. ^ "The Land of Nod". 2001-03-04. Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  16. ^ Stevenson, Robert Louis (1885). A Child's Garden of Verses. Longmans, Green. p. 21. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  17. ^ Shusterman, Neal. Scythe. Simon & Schuster, 2017.


  • Byron, John. Cain and Abel in text and tradition : Jewish and Christian interpretations of the first sibling rivalry. Leiden: Brill, 2011. ISBN 978-90-04-19252-2
  • Delaney, David Kevin. The Sevenfold Vengeance of Cain: Genesis 4 in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation. PhD dissertation accepted at University of Virginia, May 1996.

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