Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Genesis 4 – Two Ways

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, plunging the entire world and the human race into sin. It is hard to imagine the guilt and sorrow that Adam felt as he watched sin dominate his descendants for the 930 years of his life. How he must have anticipated the fulfillment of the promise of God! And how disappointed he must have been by what he surely perceived as the slow fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming Redeemer. The narrator blanks most of this, following two strands of Adam’s line of descendants. The line of his son Cain ended up being a line filled with hatred and violence. The line of his son Seth began to call upon the Lord and walk in righteousness before Him. The line of Cain would end up being wiped out at the judgment, but the line of Seth would be saved.

top view photography of forest
Photo Credit: Tom Parsons

4:1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the Lord.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Eve must have thought that Cain was the promised seed. When he was born, she recognized the Lord’s hand in giving her this child. Eve believed the promise of God, and expected the fulfillment of the promise of a redeemer from sin. While Eve was caring for Cain, she must have come to realize that this new baby boy had been affected by their sin. She must have been heartbroken by the rebellious and selfish tendencies that are evident even in small children. So when she gave birth to another son, she named him Abel, which means ‘vapor’ and came to mean ‘vanity.’  

And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

The text says that the Lord did not regard Cain, and since He did not regard Cain, He did not regard his offering either. Likewise, God had regard for Abel, and since He had regard for Abel, He had regard for Abel’s offering. Even in the Law of Moses, which would come thousands of years later, there was a provision for the offering of first fruits of the ground. However, the text does not specify that Cain brought the first fruits. The text implies that Cain just brought some fruit from the ground. But Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. He gave the first and the best to the Lord. This is indicative of his heart and his reverence for God in contrast to Cain’s casual approach to God.

We do not know what statutes God gave to Adam and Eve about sacrifice. God clothed Adam and Eve with an animal skin, sacrificing the first animal as a demonstration of the coming sacrificial lamb who would clothe them in His righteousness. If this was a demonstration of the sacrifice they were to make, then Cain failed by not bringing a bloody sacrifice to symbolize the propitiation of sins by the coming Redeemer’s shedding of blood.

Either way, Cain was extremely angry about the whole situation. God told him that he should not be angry but obey from the heart. If he did well in this way, then he would not be angry and dejected. God warned Cain that sin was waiting for him like a predatory animal, but Cain must master it. Cain met Abel in a field and told him all of this. Then he murdered Abel.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Whereas Adam and Eve had affirmed that they had indeed sinned but shifted the blame from themselves, Cain pretends ignorance of his sin before God.

10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

Since it was from the ground that his sustenance came, Cain was forced to become an outcast upon the earth. When Cain expressed the greatness of his punishment and his fear that his family would seek him out to kill him, God had mercy on Cain and pronounced a curse against those who would slay him as a deterrent against his murder.

16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Cain moved to the East of Eden to the land of Nod (meaning “wandering”), and fathered Enoch. Many struggle with the fact that Cain’s wife must have been his sister, but this should not be a stumbling block since all people descend from Adam and Eve. There were not yet any harmful mutations in their genetic makeups, having descended from the pure DNA of Adam and Eve. Only as time progressed did incestuous relationships become dangerous and unlawful.

Cain built a city in the land of his wandering, and named it after his son. Over the years, the city was filled with inhabitants as the genealogy traces a line through seven generations from Adam through Cain. There were no doubt many more sons and daughters born to Cain and to the subsequent generations.

The common grace of God was evident even upon the ungodly line of Cain. His descendants were intelligent, cultivating livestock, inventing musical instruments, learning to forge bronze and iron. God often blesses the ungodly with many abilities and talents which they should recognize as coming from Him. However, the sinful nature of even the extraordinarily gifted lead them to do foolish things:

23 Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

The genealogy ends with a descendant of Cain named Lamech who demonstrates the advancement in depravity by the time of the Flood. Lamech murdered a young man for something superficial. And he pronounced himself to be free of guilt and deserving of ten times the protection that Cain had. This is but a small glimpse of the violence that filled the world before the Great Flood. Cain’s line ends after these seven generations, because it was wiped out by the judgment of God.

25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Now the narrative shifts back to Adam and Eve, who are given another son named Seth. Adam and Eve recognize this as God’s gift to them in place of Abel who was murdered by Cain. Seth grew up and fathered Enosh. At this time, the line of Seth began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Cain’s line was be wiped out by the Flood, because neither he nor his descendants trusted in God or His promises. They were not characterized by faith, but by rebellion. They did not walk in the path of righteousness, but in the path of wickedness. However, the line of Seth was spared from the judgment of the waters, for they feared God and walked in His ways. God raised up a deliverer for them: Noah, who would obey the voice of God in building an ark. And he would preach the coming judgment and the need of salvation. But only he and his family of eight would be saved.

How this needs to instruct us today! The judgment is coming, and we are to be calling all people everywhere to repent and trust in the redeemer and deliverer, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The world is quickly looking like the world depicted in Genesis 4. And there are still only two options: to rebel against God and walk in the way of wickedness, or to believe God and walk in the way of righteousness. Let all people everywhere call upon the LORD through His Son Jesus Christ and be saved.

Read Chapter 5

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