TUBAL-CAIN (tū'bal-kān). Son of Lamech and Zillah, described as one who “forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Gen.4.22).

TUBAL-CAIN tōō’ bəl kān’. One of the sons of Lamech by Zillah, mentioned only in Genesis 4:22. The Heb. Bible writes the name, תּ֣וּבַל קַ֔יִן; LXX, Θοβελ, omits second segment of the name. However, the Eastern Masoretes rightly read the name as one word, תּוּבַלְקַיִן, and understood it as meaning, “Tubal the smith,” “Tubal the metal worker.” It is possible that the second or qualifying concept was added to the name to distinguish this son of Lamech from the eponymous usage of Tubal as later (Gen 10:2), Tubal the son of Japheth.

A number of emendations have been supplied to explain the addition to the name, but these are unnecessary. The next phrase in the Heb. text has been debated over the centuries. It states: “לֹטֵ֕שׁ כָּל־חֹרֵ֥שׁ נְחֹ֖שֶׁת וּבַרְזֶ֑ל,” KJV “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron,” RSV “he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron,” the JPS follows the rabbinic tradition and trs., “the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron.” However, a more precise rendering would be, “the instructor (lit. sharpener) of every worker in copper and iron.” Some maintain that iron is an anachronism here, but the evidence for such a contention is scanty.

The text in Genesis 4:22 is set in the section of the book labeled, “These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth,” 2:4-4:26 in which the organization of the world order and the life of man is declared at the end of this section where Tubal-cain is mentioned the offspring of Adam and the invention of the arts and crafts are enumerated. Aside from the Biblical narrative all ancient peoples attributed the founding of the arts to historical personages who were usually deified as Ugaritic ktrwhss, “Fit and experienced,” likewise the Gr. and Norse lit. Only the Genesis account comprehends this invention in regard to the covenant line and the promise of redemption.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the sons of Lamech (Ge 4:22). He is a brother of Jabal and Jubal, who appear to have been the founders of several industries and articles The text (loTesh kol choresh nechosheth u-bharzel) has been the cause of endless dispute. Holzinger and Gunkel hold that laTash was a marginal gloss to charash, and that, as in Ge 4:20 and 21, there stood before kal originally hu hayah ’abhi. This would make Tubal-cain the founder of the metal industry, and place him in a class similar to that of his brothers. The Septuagint, however, has no equivalent of qayin. This omission leads Dillmann, Wellhausen, and others to the position that "Tubal" originally stood alone, and qayin, being a later addition, was translated "smith." Many commentators identify Tubal with the Assyrian Tubal, a people living Southwest of the Black Sea; in later times they were called "Tibareni" (Eze 27:13). Tubal may be the eponymous ancestor of these people, whose principal industry seems to have been the manufacture of vessels of bronze and iron.

Horace J. Wolf