The Land of Nod

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These days, drifting off to the land of Nod sounds like a pleasant slumber.  It looks like it was Jonathan Swift who first used the phrase in connection with sleep.  And Rudyard Kipling followed suit.  Now we associate the land of Nod and ‘nodding off’ exclusively with sleep.  I read today that taking heroin is also colloquially referred to as going to the land of Nod.  And perhaps here’s where the “nodding off” connotations combine with its original darker meaning.

Because the land of Nod is not a pleasant place in the bible.

Cain had just killed his younger brother Abel.  The LORD curses him from the earth and he is to be “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth.”  (Genesis 4:14) More modern translations render that “a restless wanderer.”  And it’s this word for “wanderer” (or “vagabond”!) that is the word Nod.  Therefore in verse 16 it says:

Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Nod is not about peaceful rest at all.  Nod is about rootless wandering.

And that’s the way sin’s consequences are unpacked throughout the bible.  Sin leads to exile, it leads to scattering, to dislocation, to violent uprooting.  Sinners (and that’s you and me) are not at home.  We are restless wanderers on the earth.

As Augustine famously prayed in his Confessions:

O Lord, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.

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