Teaching series from Genesis

Two Humanities: Two Legacies

Genesis 4:16-5:32

Teaching t07301

Introduction

Reiterate theme of the two humanities in 3:15. Last week, we saw how this prediction began to be fulfilled by the first two sons, Cain and Abel. In the next chapter and a half, we see this division branching out into the two lines recorded here—the line of Cain and the line of Seth—and the two legacies they left.

HUMOR: This is as far as I got as a new Christian when I decided to read the Bible. It’s too bad because there’s some rich material here, as we will see.

Cain’s Line

Read 4:16. This is where we left off last week. Cain’s line begins with him departing from the presence of the Lord—choosing to wall himself off from God (even though he blamed God for doing this to him in 4:14), and building a life for himself apart from God. This sets the tone for the rest of his line.

Read 4:17a. “Who was Cain’s wife?” This is the question that is supposed to send Bible-believing Christians into an embarrassed panic. The answer is really quite simple.

He didn’t marry an orangutan. His wife was one of his sisters. 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters.

“Isn’t this incest, which the Bible forbids?” Yes and no. “Yes” in the technical sense that Cain married his sister. “No” in the sense that given that God’s design was for the human race to all descend from the first couple, there is no other possibility. Also, all humans were equidistant from each other at this point, so there was no strangeness about this arrangement. Perhaps this is why God did not explicitly forbid it until much later.

Read 4:17b-22. How should we assess Cain’s line?

On one level, there is much here that is morally neutral or even good.

Animal husbandry, music, and metallurgy—these are technological and cultural contributions that essentially good. The reflect the biblical teaching that fallen humanity retains the image of God and has a certain greatness. Any notion that spiritual Christians should not be involved in science or the arts is a horrible caricature of the biblical position. Some of the world’s greatest scientists (Kepler; Galileo; Newton) and artists (Rembrandt; Bach) have been committed Christians.

But when we look more closely, we see some things that are troublesome, even sinister.

God commanded Cain to be a nomad for the rest of his life (4:12b), but Cain rejected this command by building a city, and naming it for his son. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to forge an identity and create a legacy based on human achievement rather than on God. This will become clearer when we compare this to Seth’s line.

All mention of God is conspicuously absent. People are busy doing things, creating things, building things, having children, etc.—creating a way of life and pursuing a set of values that is “God-tight.” They may have given lip-service to God, but it’s clear that what really made their lives go was temporal rather than spiritual values.

This suspicion is confirmed when we get to the hero of this line, Lamech.

Notice that he took two wives (4:19), and was evidently the first to pervert God’s design for marriage (2:24).

The names of his wives and daughter suggest that he was a sensualist. “Adah” means “ornament” or “beauty.” “Zillah” means “the shady,” possibly referring to her thick head of hair. “Naamah” means “loveliness.” In other words, Lamech viewed women primarily as objects, in terms of their physical attractiveness.

Then there is the song that Lamech sings to his wives (4:23,24). Remember the song that Adam sang to Eve (2:23) which honored her as his companion and partner in life (see also 1 Pet. 3:7 “ . . . grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life . . .”)? How different this song is! Lamech wants his wife to know what will happen to them if they don’t do whatever he says. If he has killed a man for wounding him and slain a child for touching him, what can they expect if they cross him in any way? Lamech is the prototypical tyrant—a “little Hitler” who used his power to abuse and exploit and marginalize people as so many have done since (in the home, on the job, in governmental offices). He is the antithesis of Jesus’ definition of greatness (read Mark 10:40-45).

What an accurate picture of the history of fallen humanity! This is what we see when we study human history—this contradictory combination of greatness and wickedness (COCKBURN: “THE BURDEN OF THE ANGEL-BEAST”). Humans are capable of great things, but there is a tragic flaw which spoils our greatness. Cain’s descendants could handle their environment, but they couldn’t handle themselves. They use their power and intelligence to accomplish some great things—but they also use it to exploit others. Only the biblical view of humans agrees with history and explains why we are this way (created in God’s image, but deeply fallen. But there is a hopeful note when we turn to Seth’s line . . . 

Seth’s Line

Moses has arranged his material as a deliberate contrast between the legacy of these two lines—especially between the first, second and sixth names mentioned.

Read 4:25. Eve laments the death of her godly son Abel, and rejoices that God has given her another godly son, Seth (which means “appointed”). Cain’s legacy was his revolt from God’s purpose for his life to pursue his own purpose. Seth’s legacy was that he embraced God’s appointment for his own life.

Read 4:26. Notice the contrast between this verse and 4:17. The legacy of Cain’s son is that he had a city named after him. The legacy of Seth’s son is that he influenced people to call upon the name of the Lord.

ELABORATION? APPLICATION?

You remember that the sixth name in Cain’s line was Lamech. After Enosh, Moses mentions three descendants with no comment other than that they lived, had children, and died (“ . . . and he died” is the rhythmic refrain that reminds us of the fulfillment of 2:17 and 3:19).

BRIEF APOLOGETIC ON LONG LIFE SPANS? (death is a mystery; environmental differences or gradual effect of the fall; other records of primitive longevity)

But when we come to the sixth name in Seth’s line, we read something very different (read 5:21-24). Lamech’s legacy was that he intimidated people and took their lives. Enoch’s legacy was that he walked with God and that God took him so that he never died. Heb. 11:5 says “ . . . by faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”

Application

Which line of humanity do you belong to?

Many say they belong to neither—that they are in a third, neutral group. But God says there are only two humanities.

“From this time on in the flow of history there are two humanities. The one humanity says there is no God, or it makes its own gods in its own imagination, or it tries to come to God in its own way. The other humanity comes to the true God in God’s way. There is no neutral ground.”1

This is why Jesus was so unpopular—he polarized people on this issue (see Jn. 3:36; Matt. 12:30).

This is not something that is determined for you by your family or your culture.. It is something that you choose. Moses is tracing these two family lines, but the Bible never teaches that your family determines your spiritual legacy. Yes, our families and cultures exert an influence on us—but they don’t make our decisions. This is why someone people can grow up in a Christian home and become atheists or pantheists. This is why many in this room are the first Christians in their families for many generations. This is why God says Jn. 1:12,13 (read).

Which legacy do you want?

Is it possible for you to belong to God’s family/humanity, and yet be pursuing the legacy of the other humanity? Yes it is possible. Otherwise, why would John warn Christians not to love the world-system (1 Jn. 2:15,16)? Those of us who know Christ must therefore consider which value-system we are actually pursuin, and which legacy we want to leave. Consider the following comparison:

“I didn’t let anyone tell me what to do - I went my own way.” OR “I sought God’s will for my life and I served him.”

“I experienced the best the world has to offer.” OR “I walked with God and knew the joy of intimacy with him.”

“I was known for my beauty, business success, political power, artistic talent, etc.” OR “God used my life and words to draw many people to himself.”

“I learned how to gain power and use it to advance my own agenda.” OR “I learned how to trust God to empower me to advance his agenda.”

“I learned how to ignore death and focus totally on this life.” OR “I overcame fear of death and I lived for eternal values.”

After reflecting on this, get before the Lord and ask him to help you pursue his legacy.

Additional Apologetical Issues

Gen. 5,10,11 genealogies vs. complete chronology

The problem with seeing them as exhaustive and therefore a full chronology:

Then there would only be 1946 years from Adam to Abraham (1656 in Gen. 5 and 290 in Gen. 11), or roughly 4000 BC.

This is far too short of time, since extra-biblical archeology attests the history of Egypt at least to 3500 BC, which must also be after the flood.

Evidence that these are not exhaustive and therefore not full chronology:

The grouping into 10 pre-flood and 10 post-flood suggests that they are not meant to be seen as exhaustive (like Matt. 1’s 14-14-14, where we know there are at least 6 or 7 links missing according to 1 Chron. 3:11,12). If more names were listed than omitted, there would be perhaps 5000-6000 years between Adam and Abraham.

Lk. 3:35,36 indicates that Cainan, son of Arphaxad, is missing from Gen. 10:24. This would confirm the theory that these genealogies are partial, including possibly only key ancestors.

The fact that Moses doesn’t total the numbers suggests that he doesn’t intend this list to be seen as exhaustive.

The Hebrew yalad (“became the father of” or “begat”) is used to mean “became the ancestor of.” For example, in 1 Chron. 7:13, Bilhah’s grandsons are spoken of as his sons. In this scenario, we learn how old X was when he had either Y or the child who eventually gave rise to Y.

The primary purpose of these genealogies is to establish the promised line, not to provide a complete chronology.

The exhaustive view would mean that Adam, Enoch and Methusaleh would be contemporaries. It would also mean that Noah would still be living when Abraham was 50. This seems highly unlikely.

The genealogy of Japheth (Gen. 10) clearly includes countries, peoples, places, and tribes. 10:31,32 also points this out, and seems to include the line of Shem in this description.

We find similar genealogical methods in ancient Sudan and Arabia.

Gen. 5 literal life-spans

The same author speaks of later characters with shorter life-spans, so why not understand this as literal? Even Abraham and Sarah have almost double normal life-spans, and Jacob thought 130 years “few and evil.”

Other races have similar traditions of primitive longevity (although even longer than this). Perhaps they are the corruption of something real which Gen. 5 accurately records (as with the flood).

The life-spans decrease rapidly after the Flood. This suggests that there may have been environmental factors affecting life-spans that changed radically after the Flood.

Footnote

1 Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 115.

Copyright 1998 Gary DeLashmutt