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: ארץ נוד‬, eretz-Nod) is a place mentioned in the Book of Genesis of the Hebrew Bible, located "on the east of Eden" (qidmat-‘Eden), 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)

"Nod" (נוד) is the Hebrew root of the verb "to wander" (לנדוד). Therefore, to dwell in the land of Nod is usually taken to mean that one takes up a wandering life. 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" (נָ֖ד‬), 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]

Gateway to "Land of Nod" in Headley Down, Hampshire, UK

Land of Nod is the name of a small hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It is located at the far end of a two-mile-long 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 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, USA (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]

Popular culture references[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 Polite 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]

One of American writer John Steinbeck's most famous novels is East of Eden. The betrayal of a brother is one of its central themes.

In The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes book, The Land of Nod is a pun on the mythical land of sleep, or The Dreaming, Cain's destination after murdering his brother.

In Bad Monkeys, a psychological thriller by Matt Ruff, the main character frequently refers to apparent contradictions in her back story as "Nod problems."

In the Sabina Kane series by Jaye Wells, Cain lived in The Land of Nod with Lillith. There is a secret society called the Caste of Nod.

Nod is the name of a 2012 novel by Adrian Barnes in which humanity stops being able to sleep. The title refers both to the Land of Sleep and the place described in the Bible.[17]

References in games and music

In games[edit]

In the World of Darkness role-playing setting by White Wolf Game Studio, the land of Nod is the home in exile of Caine, the first vampire. God's curse upon Caine is interpreted as transforming him and his line into vampires.

The biblical quote is mentioned in the Command & Conquer video game, and is thought to be the origin of the name for the Brotherhood of Nod, as the group's charismatic leader is also known only as Kane. Kane's command center, known as the Temple of Nod, also houses a coffin bearing the name Abel upon its surface, and the preserved body of his most trusted officer, Seth (in reference to the biblical Seth), whom Kane shot in the head after Seth's attempted coup d'état. Their relationship is never explained; however, upon introducing himself to the player, Seth states that he is "Seth. Just Seth. From God, to Kane, to Seth."

In music[edit]

Bruce Springsteen's 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town includes the song "Adam Raised a Cain" which references Cain, Abel, and East of Eden. The lyrics connect the imagery to an associated social issue where others may pay for a relative's crime. "In the Bible Cain slew Abel, And East of Eden he was cast, You're born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else's past..."

On Tom Waits 1985 album Rain Dogs, the song Singapore has the lyrics; "I've fallen for a tawny moor, took off to the Land of Nod".

Twelfth Night, a symphonic progressive rockband with Geoff Mann, made an album in 1981 called Smiling at Grief, including the song called "East of Eden". A second version was recorded in 1982 on the album Fact and Fiction.

Billy Thorpe closed his album Children of the Sun ... Revisited with the song "East of Eden's Gate."

The Sunliners, a 1960s garage band, released a song called "Land of Nod".

Contemporary Christian Music and country music artist Susan Ashton, in her debut album Wakened by the Wind, released a song called "The Land of Nod." It warned against being too comfortable slumbering in exile.

Canadian indie band Stars mentions the Land of Nod in the title track to their album The Comeback EP: "Just got back from the land of Nod..."

Classic rock band Journey mentions the east of Eden in their song "Frontiers" from their 1983 Frontiers: "And all the heroes have gone east of Eden, we all need new frontiers."

Trey Anastasio has a track named Land of Nod on the album Traveler.

Dead Can Dance named the sixth song of their 1984 self entitled debut Dead Can Dance "East of Eden".

Tom Waits mentions the land of Nod in his song "Singapore" from the 1985 album Rain Dogs: "We sail tonight for Singapore, we're all as mad as hatters here I've fallen for a tawny Moor, took off to the land of Nod..."

Bob Dylan's song "Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum" from the 2001 album Love and Theft refers to those "Livin' in the Land of Nod, Trustin' their fate to the hands of God".

The gothic rock band To/Die/For sings about the Land of Nod in the song "Vale of Tears", in the verse "Sleep well my darling, and leave this vale of tears behind. Land of Nod is a better place".

English rocker Pete Doherty uses "East of Eden" as the title for a song he wrote for his band Babyshambles. The opening lyric to the song states "I've been wandering East of Eden"

Musician/cartoonist Sean Hartter refers to "Nod" as a place with his "The Man From Nod" [18] electronic/live music project. Here "Nod" is meant to be a wilderness of jumbled ideas and disjointed notions, the opposite of Eden...much more like the state of a dreaming mind.

The heavy stoner metal band High on Fire included a song called "Return To Nod" on their album Death Is This Communion.

The darkwave band The Crüxshadows refer to Nod in their song called "East" from the 2003 album Ethernaut with the repetitive phrase "East of Eden".

The German rock group Unloved uses the phrase "heading nod" in the corresponding song from the 2006 album Killersongs as a metaphor for dealing with unpardonable guilt. Nod becomes not a certain land but a state of self-forgiveness ("It only remains for me to leave, a ridiculous 'sorry' on my lips. it only remains for me to live, telling, I didn't mean it").

Serbian rock group Riblja Čorba (Fish Stew) mentions east of Eden in the song "Ostani đubre do kraja" (Remain Scum to the End): "You're not crazy to be ashamed for having exiled me east of Eden, just remain scum to the end".

Dave Matthews made popular a song written by Daniel Lanois called "The Maker". In it is a reference to the Land of Nod otherwise called East of Eden: "Brother John, have you seen the homeless daughters standing here with broken wings. I have seen the flaming swords there over east of Eden".

East of Eden was a British rock band from the 1960s/1970s.

Classic rock group The Eagles titled their latest album Long Road Out of Eden.

Natalie Merchant sings "The Land of Nod", based on the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, on her album Leave Your Sleep.[19]

Gil Scott-Heron makes mention of an unknown subject's "World of Nod", playing on both meanings of 'nod' with the line "... eyes half closed revealed his world of Nod, a world of ... no God" in 'The Crutch' on his 2010 album I'm New Here.

American hardcore punk act Trash Talk released a single titled "East of Eden" in 2009.

Scottish rock band Big Country included a song "East of Eden" on their album titled Steeltown.

Rapper Vinnie Paz refers to the land of nod in the song "Books Of Blood: The coming of the Tan": "You have entered the Land Of Nod now, face the deafening thunders And the spiritual wonders".[20]

Australian Black Metal band Lustration included the song "3061 BC Land of Nod Somewhere East of Eden" on their 2012 album Psymbolik.

On their album The Whole World is Watching, Morning Glory includes a reference to the Land of Nod in their song Gimme Heroin, as a metaphor for the "nodding" state achieved through heroin use.

In 2015 the bands Ramallah and Sinners & Saints released a split 12" entitled "Back from the Land of Nod". [21]

The Jim's Big Ego song “In my Cult mentions the Land of Nod.


  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. ^ Brown, Eric (8 March 2013). "Science fiction roundup – reviews". the Guardian. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Songs by the MAN FROM NOD, Citizen of". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  19. ^ "Leave Your Sleep | Read | The Land of Nod". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  20. ^ "Books Of Blood: The Coming Of Tan Feat. El Lyrics - Jedi Mind Tricks". Retrieved 2012-05-07.
  21. ^ "Morning Glory Lyrics - Gimme Heroin". Retrieved 2018-04-26.


  • 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.

External links[edit]