Cain: Expansion of Civilization
Genesis Lesson #037
December 23, 2003
All Scripture is God-breathed and there are important lessons even in the genealogies.
Genesis 4:15, "And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." Therefore vengeance will be taken upon the person who murders Cain. No one has the right to take a life, other than God. This is God's warning that if someone does murder Cain God Himself will avenge that murder sevenfold. The key word that is used here for vengeance, to avenge, is the Hebrew word naqan, and when it is used where God is the subject then the idea is the execution of divine justice from the Supreme Court of heaven. This is the same words as used in "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord, I will repay." When we look in the Psalms this word is used numerous times where there is a cry from the Psalmist to God to bring vengeance on someone's enemies. But it is not vengeance in the sense of revenge, which is a sin pattern that comes from the sin nature where man wants to take justice into his own hands. This is a cry to God who is the source of justice. Remember that God's righteousness is the absolute standard of His integrity and justice is the application of that standard towards His creatures. So this is a poor translation. It should be translated, "Therefore whoever kills Cain justice will be applied to him sevenfold." In other words, there would be a sevenfold payment for that crime above and beyond Cain's punishment. So in order to indicate that there was a special divine protection on Cain the Lord put a mark on him. There is a lot of discussion as to what this mark is. We don't know, so speculation is not to be encouraged. All we can say is that there was some sort of physical indication on Cain that set him apart and indicated God's protection upon him. The point of this is that God is teaching that He alone has the right to determine life or death.
In verse 17 there is a parallel with verse 1 of this chapter. In 4:1 we read, "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain." And that is parallel to verse 17, "And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch." Most Bibles put a paragraph division at verse 16 but the division should occur at verse 17. Verse 16 is the conclusion of the previous episode which states that Cain went out from the presence of Yahweh and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. There is something about that that is a bit of a reminder of a similar phrase back in chapter two verse eight, "And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden." But notice there is the Hebrew preposition be there prior to the noun Eden, indicating that it is on the east side but it is in Eden. Now that man has been expelled from Eden they are outside the garden, and so this land of Nod which is a place of wandering is outside of the bounds of Eden on the east side of Eden.
As we get into this next section which extends from 17-26 the primary element here is to describe the descendents of Cain. So we have our first genealogy. There is a list here so we want to make a number of observations before we get into the text itself. First of all, we should note that there are a number of contrasts here between the line of Cain and the line of Adam through Seth given in chapter five. This doesn't means, as some have inferred, that everyone in the line of Cain was an unbeliever, or that everyone in the line of Adam was a believer. When we get into Genesis chapter six and we deal with the sons of God who came in and took wives from the daughters of men we will look at various interpretations of that passage, and one view is that the sons of God were the descendents of Seth and the daughters of men were the descendents of Cain. There are a number of reasons why that is wrong but the population of the earth by then was somewhere between five and seven billion. Most people don't realize how rapidly the population grew over this 1600-year period between Cain and Noah. So if you have a 1600-year period of people living coterminously through eight generations, then you are going to have a lot of people on the earth. Just think if everyone born since the year 1100 was still alive. We would have an enormous population. That was the situation in this antediluvian civilization. So it is absurd to think that the human race was divided into two groups: those who were the descendants of Cain—all unbelievers, and those who were the descendants of Seth—all believers, and then when we come down to the end though, everybody is an unbeliever except Noah and his family. There were only eight believers at the end of that period. So this is a ridiculous interpretation just on the face of it and it doesn't treat the details of the text with the respect that they demand.
But the author, Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is drawing certain thematic contrasts and certain emphases between the two lines. The first of these is that in the line of Cain there is an emphasis on the development of human civilization. We will see that he has descendants who are the progenitors of dwelling in tents and animal husbandry. We'll also see that he has in his line those who are the progenitors of music and the development of musical instruments as well as metallurgy and the development of weaponry. All of this comes from the line of Cain. There is an emphasis here on the development of culture and civilization. In contrast, in the line of Seth is on their spiritual focus. At the end of this chapter we have the comment after the birth of Seth's son Enosh: "Then men began to call on the name of the Lord." So there is an emphasis here. It is not that there is something wrong with the development of culture and civilization and technology but that it is developed for its own sake by the descendants of Cain. We know that the descendants on Set's side had a tremendous amount of technology and culture and civilization on their own part. For example, when Noah and his sons get together they are going to build the ark and that demands a tremendous amount of technical skill. It demanded a certain amount of ability with animals in order to bring all those animals together in order to build all of the technology that was necessary to handle the enormous tonnage of excrement produced on a daily basis on the ark. They had to develop all kinds of technology on the ark in order to feed thousands of animals on a daily basis. So they were technologically advanced, but they weren't into technology for technology's sake. They put it under the priority of their relationship with God, and there is a tremendous distinction.
We can draw certain conclusions from this observation. First of all, we need to conclude that not all of these developments of technology or civilization are inherently wrong. It is when success, culture and technology becomes and end in themselves, or to promote man against God that it becomes evil. In contrast, divine viewpoint puts the emphasis not on human accomplishments but on the spiritual life. So the emphasis for Cain and his line is, Look at what we've accomplished, look at what we are able to develop. That is not even mentioned with the descendants of Seth, the emphasis is on their relationship with God. The second implication we can draw is that the accoutrements of civilization become a tool in the hands of fallen man to try to make life work apart from God. In other words, what we se in Cain and his descendants is that they are separated from God, they are trying to ameliorate the problems of the curse, living in a fallen world through technological development, instead of relationship with God. Man is always developing his own problem-solving devices in order to make life easier apart from God. This is not juxtaposing that. It is only when technology, civilization and culture becomes an end in itself, to make life work apart from God, that it becomes a problem. So these early technological achievements which we see here are presented in such a way as attempts to solve the problems of living in a fallen, cursed world apart from God. A third implication we can see is an application toward Israel. Remember Moses is writing this to explain to Israel why they are God's chosen people and to reach them certain principles as they go into the land. They are going into a land where the people are not dissimilar to the descendants of Cain. The point of application would be that as the Israelites go into the land of Canaan they were not to supplant their own relationship with God with the cultural and technological refinements that they found in Canaan.
Another things that is emphasized in this narrative is how the unrighteous descendants of Cain modified the divine institutions. We see that in our own day. This is the orientation of the pagan mind, the fallen mind. It is to change the divine institutions in order to fit their own comfort zone. Remember at this time there were only three divine institutions in operation: human responsibility, marriage, and family. Cain is punished by God and he is going to be a wanderer, a nomad, wandering the face of the earth. But instead of doing that he shakes his fist at God and builds a city so that he can have a place to dwell. His descendant Lamech commits murder and treats it lightly. He uses it in a way to show off in front of his wives as if there is no accountability, no responsibility for his own actions. In the second divine institution, marriage, again Lamech is involved as he restructures marriage and introduces polygamy. So for the first time in history polygamy comes into play and it becomes a social problem for the next millennium at least. Then the third thing that is developed from this is the breakdown of the family. So in just these few brief verses that describe the genealogy of Cain we see the breakdown in divine institutions as pagan fallen man seeks to change the divine institutions. Cain's descendants are marked by a desire to change the divine institutions, a disdain and disrespect for human life, and for technological and cultural achievements.
Another thing we need to note as we approach the genealogy is to understand the structure of these genealogies. At a basic level genealogies were written in the ancient world in order to celebrate advancement and the development of culture. Look at how far we have come; look at our progress; look at our development. But Cain's genealogy has a certain ominous tone. It begins with a murderer and ends with a murderer. There is an ominous tone of calamity and judgment.
When we look at genealogies there are four technical terms that we need to understand. The first term is linear genealogy. One person gives birth to the next person, they give birth to the next person, and so on. The first seven under the Cainites is given in a linear way. Then the second term used is a segmented genealogy. In a segmented genealogy is when you have a father and then two or more of the children, where it branches out. This will come into play even more when we get into Genesis 10 & 11 where we have the table of nations. The next two terms are related There is an open genealogy and a closed genealogy. An open genealogy is when you have X gives birth to B. Then you might have B gives birth to H—obviously something is left out, three or four generations have been skipped. It is an open genealogy and there are several examples of open genealogies in the Scripture. For example, in Matthew chapter one where you have the genealogy of Christ presented from Abraham down to Joseph, and Matthew groups those individuals into three groups of fourteen. Fourteen represents two groups of seven. He is organizing them in order to make a point, and his theological point is the first of the seventh generation is Jesus Christ. The numeral seven indicates completion, but there are gaps in those genealogies. But there is one thing you don't see in another open genealogy. Look at Genesis 4:17, "And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch." Now skip down to verse 18, "And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah."
Now look at Genesis 5:3, "And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: and the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: and all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: and Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died."
Notice the difference between these two genealogies? Numbers. The first genealogy doesn't have any numbers, it just says one person gave birth to another person. And so you can have in an open genealogy the insertion of several generations or gaps between the individuals. But in a closed genealogy you make the statement that A lived X years, and then he gave birth to B. Then he lives Y years. Then B lives X years and gives birth to C. Even if there are gaps, and we don't think there are any, and there was a generation missed here and B lives X years and gives birth to D or E, he would still be 80 years of age when D is born, even if there were two other people in between. Once you put the numbers in there you can't break the genealogy. Some will say there are gaps in other genealogies, but they are not closed genealogies, they don't have the numbers there. There is a famous problem that occurs because there is one name that is left out of the Genesis eleven text and allegedly inserted in the Luke chapter three genealogy of Jesus. It is only one name. You don't get 5000 years from one name. Furthermore, there are textual problems with that name in both the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and in the Greek text of Luke. The conclusion after studying the details on that is that there is no individual left out in that genealogy. There are no gaps.
As noted, Cain's descendants attempt to make life work apart from God. This is the problem with human viewpoint, it always seeks to solve life's problems apart from God. What we see here is that unbelievers can produce many good and helpful things for society and these achievements are not evil in themselves, but they have no spiritual value, they don't contribute any to the glorification of God in the angelic conflict, and they don't fit in with man's mission as an image bearer of God and someone who was set over creation as a representative of God.
So we start in verse 17 and we see the beginning of this development when Cain had relations with his wife. And this is the same terminology as in verse 1. Literally, it is "Cain knew his wife," it is the qal perfect of yada which is a Hebrew idiom for sexual intimacy. "And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch." "Enoch in the Hebrew is Chanok, which is the same etymological root or cognate for hanukkah, and it means dedication. It has some significance in relationship to the action that occurs here. He was building a city: "and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch." The "he" here is left somewhat ambiguous in the Hebrew text, it probably refers to Cain. The word for "city" is the Hebrew word ir, and it also has the idea of a fortification. Early towns were usually fortifications, and so there is an ominous tone here that Cain is building this fortification because he knows he is in rebellion against God, he is supposed to be a nomad and a wanderer, but he is going to solve his problems on his own so he builds his own protection against God. This is what fallen man does, he tries to construct a view of life that ignores God. He wants to be comfortable, secure, free from judgment, think that he can get away with his actions and not have to face any consequences.
The question that always come up at this point is, Who did Cain marry? Cain married his sister. There were no other human beings. You start off with Adam and Eve, and according to Genesis 5:4 they had many sons and daughters. We don't know how many they had but they had at least six, and we'll use this as an extremely conservative number. That allows them to pair up into three couples, and they will then produce into the next generation. When Adam and Eve were created they had within their genetic makeup all genetic combinations. Remember they were only one step removed from perfect environment so there hasn't been a dilution of the gene pool yet. You don't get a commandment which prohibits marriage between close relatives until the Mosaic law. The reason is there is not a problem with it genetically. It is not until you get to a point where the gene pool has been diluted enough that the point is reached where there are going to be birth defects and other problems as a result marriage between people who are too closely related. So they married their sisters. To assume that people who lived 900 years only had six children is extremely conservative, but we will use that figure as we look at the development of these generations. So Cain's wife was his sister and they went off and developed their own line apart from Adam and Eve and others.
In verse 18 we begin to look at these descendants. "And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech." Irad is from "city" [ir], and so some people seem to think that he was a town dweller. Others relate it etymologically to the semitic word for a wild donkey or for cane huts, and interesting connection because according to certain Canaanite mythologies the early gods that dwelt on the earth built cane huts. We are not sure what any of these names mean but they give a certain flavor of the time. If we look at the last two letters of Mehujael we see the name of God. Then his son is Methusael. So we can perhaps speculate because these two individuals had el in their name that they were perhaps believers. It cannot be assumed that everybody in each side was a believer or an unbeliever. Mehujael means either ecstatic of God, or perhaps God gives life. So his name recognizes some relationship to God. Methusael means a man of God. Methusael's son is Lamech which means a conqueror.
Lamech, v. 19, has two wives. He is the one who begins polygamy. His first wife's name is Ada, which means an ornament, indicating that she was quite attractive. The second wife is Zilla, which means a shadow or a shade. When we think of shadow or shade we think of something perhaps evil, but there is another value to these words and that is comfort, a place where you rest or refresh. So these two names suggest their physical beauty. These women give birth to two sons each. V. 20, "And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle." Here is the hint for the first time of a truly nomadic culture. V. 21, "And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." V. 22, "And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah." Tubalcain is the progenitor of metallurgy, and he begins to develop both bronze and iron. Modern archaeology breaking down the history of man goes back to bronze age one and bronze age two, and iron age one and iron age two. That might reflect certain technological realities after the flood, but before the flood there was bronze and iron being developed from the very beginning. Apparently that technology is lost after the flood and it takes many generations before it is recovered.
Then Lamech commits a murder, and he does it in such a way that the idea is that he is impressing his wives as he has defeated this young warrior. V. 23, He puts together this taunt song. "And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." The point that he is making is that he treats this murder so lightly. It is a trivial event to take the life of someone.
One last note as we go through this genealogy. If we were to take the time to break down the population growth and you start off with just six children in each generation—and remember each generation is living around 900 years—and they probably have five or six hundred years of fertility where they are producing children. If we recognize that we have people living concurrently then by the time of the fourth century the population on the earth would have been about 120,000. If we extrapolate that out to the time that the flood comes, and Noah's flood occurs 1,656 years after the creation, then there is an earth's population (with six children in each generation) of seven billion. That gives a totally new idea of what life was like on the earth before the flood. There was an enormous number of people on the earth and only eight had positive volition. Think about that when recalling what Jesus said: that when He returns it will be like it was in the days of Noah, i.e. characterized by extreme negative volition.
As we go through this it should be noted that it is really a polemic against pagan thought and pagan mythology in the ancient world. In the ancient near east it was standard to attribute all technological advancements and the development of civilization to the various gods and deities. For example, in the Ugaritic texts. Ugarit was a city to the north of Israel, and several decades ago they discovered a library there which gave a lot of insight into Canaanite culture at the time of the conquest. In the texts the discovery of iron was made by their god Koshar who was the divine artisan and blacksmith. In Cyprus was a god who invented the Lyre. It was the Greek god Pan who invented the flute. This is in contrast to the biblical account where it is human beings who are inventing these things. Remember that mythology is a perversion and a reversal of what actually happened. They have this faded and distorted memory of truth.
In verse 25 we come back to Adam. "And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew." Seth is born when Cain is thirty or forty years of age. He was born after both Cain and Abel had both grown to maturity and Cain has murdered Abel. Obviously there is a continuation of having children throughout that time. "And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD." What we will see here is that these men who are calling on the name of the Lord—that is a bad translation. The Hebrew word is qara. In some cases it means to call or to summon, but it also means to announce and to proclaim, and in some cases it even has the idea of to preach—are they who began to announce or to proclaim the name of the Lord. The word there for "name" [shem] doesn't simply means they are announcing what God's name it, but name in the Scripture refers to someone's attributes or their character. So what we find here is that at this generation, with the birth of Enos, then there is a positive volition to God and men began to proclaim the character of God. We see, then, this emphasis on worship, on proclaiming the attributes and character of God throughout the land.
Remember what is interesting about this whole period is that there is no human government. There is no establishment of a judicial system. God is still present; He is still dwelling in Eden, and God's presence is with man. And as we saw with Cain and Abel it is God who is executing justice, and He is doing that through His angels. That is why He set the cherubs outside the garden of Eden and gave them a sword. The sword is always a picture of the execution of power and justice in Scripture.