“The city is man’s greatest work. It is his great attempt to attain autonomy, to exercise will and intelligence. This is where all his efforts are concentrated, where all his powers are born. No other of man’s works, technical or philosophical, is equivalent to the city, which is the creation not of an instrument but of the whole world in which man’s instruments are conceived and put to work.”
Genesis begins in a garden and with the fall quickly moves to a city.
Cain after killing his brother Abel dwelt in the land of Nod. Nod literally means “wandering.” As we recall Cain’s punishment placed upon him by God was to be a restless wanderer upon the earth. So, the curse God placed upon Cain was to be a wanderer and he dwells in a land (Nod) that means wandering.
In returning to Genesis we find Cain trying to avoid God’s curse upon him and so Cain builds a city and names it after his first born son Enoch. In doing so Cain is attempting to satisfy his desire for security by creating a place belonging to him and that quite independent of God. He will not be a wanderer despite God’s assigned curse. He will create his own anti-place place that overthrows God’s curse. An anti-place place where there is no need to be dependent upon the land. Cain’s city of Enoch is a material sign of his continued rebelliousness towards his creator. Cain will be responsible for himself and for his life. He does not need God’s protection (Gen. 4:15). Cain will use the city of Enoch for his protection. The city of Enoch is the direct consequence of Cain’s refusal to accept God’s protection choosing instead to provide his own protection. Cain, according to Genesis, will not only defy God’s punishment to wander by building a city (Genesis 4:17), but he will also produce a culture of evil, rebellious people.
We see it whenever man seeks to consolidate and centralize in order to create a social order where God need not apply. Ever since Cain’s city of Enoch and then from there Babel, the city is autonomous man’s greatest work. In the city, man will arise to the most-high. In the city, man can hide from God in the midst of denizens who likewise are there to hide from God. In the city, autonomous man can defy God as he crafts his own reality. The city is where all man’s efforts, inventions, technology, and theory, are leveraged in order to overthrow God.