Friday, October 23, 2015

Genesis 4: 17-24 - The History of Cain

To understand the  history of the world  means to understand  the nature of the  two civilizations that  came into existence  a result of the  fall.  Here we are not talking about ancient  civilizations such  as  the Canaanites , Egyptians , Assyrians  etc. We speak here about a much profounder division.   Genesis  3:15 is our key text in  this regard.  Here we have already  learned that the two civilisations are  respectively   the offspring of the serpent  and the offspring of the woman. Cain is the prototype  of the   offspring of the  serpent, the kingdom of darkness, the civilization   living  under the curse which God brought upon Cain and his offspring. Abel and thereafter Seth were the prototypes of the offspring of the  redeemed woman  of God, and thus  they are members  of  the kingdom of God .   
Today,  we  will only have time  to  consider  the generation brought  into being by  Cain and his descendants. We begin with  some  primary  observations.   

1. Following  the fall  Cain and his descendants  continue to  live  in  this same   world that God, our Lord Jesus Christ  has created   (Gen 1:1), but they  do not live with this reality in mind.   This fallen world is  still  God’s world,  although  the descendants of Cain  have no regard for this fact.  But it is this world in which God continues to make His sun rise on the evil and the good, and it is  to this world that He sends rain on the just and the unjust.  (Matt. 5:45).  They simply take this for granted and show no gratitude  for this fact.  They have no regard for the fact that  in this fallen world  God’s common grace  greatly restrains evil, so that evil men cannot do  what  they  want to do.  God still  continues to protect  unrighteous  Cain against those who want to kill him  (see Gen. 4:15). The common grace of God sustaining the wicked  in this world   is a fact so unappreciated  by such people. Every day they  are confronted by God’s power and goodness and glory in creation but they  are  defiantly opposed to the rule of God  and   deliberately   live  contrary to the Word of God although  they are continually  surrounded by evidences  of God’s general and particular revelation. 

2. Cain and his descendants are still  made in God’s image   (Gen. 1:27).  The fall  in Genesis 3   does not imply that   man   has ceased to be made  in  the image of  God.  It is true  that the  fall has affected  the display of the image  of God  in man (man hardly looks like that for which they were originally designed) , but it has not lessened the fact  that  mankind has been created  by God in His image.   In fact , in our day  the  Cainite civilization   tries to  argue this fact away  by claiming  that  God had nothing to do with their creation. They substitute  the  biblical doctrine of creation  with  the godless theory of evolution,  and so they think that they  can escape  accountability to their Creator. But this is futile  thinking.    But this  thinking is inherent in the  civilization of Cain , as he  knew that he was destined for a life of  being a fugitive and wanderer from God. Still,  Cain was  God’s Cain. (4:14)   and as such he would  remain  accountable to God .  In this point we are simply trying to establish one fact and in  Genesis 9:6   we find that fact affirmed.  The image of God remains in man after the fall.  No matter how  much a man proclaims that he is an atheist – he  is still  made  in  the image of  God , and as such he is accountable  to God.  John Blanchard points out  that atheists may not believe in God, but God does not believe in atheists![1]  No matter how much  the modern descendant  of Cain protests  that his  origin,  purpose and destiny is not from God nor unto God,  he   remains God’s. No matter how brilliant  he  claims to be in his  independent  thinking  and   expressions of  his   arts, sciences , philosophy etc.,  and   no matter how skilled  he is  in using   his  logic and reason  and knowledge, he does nothing  but to affirm that these  abilities are  from  God.  Sadly however  these good abilities from God  have been abused  and used for selfish ends. The vital point here is  that  they remain  God’s creatures and as such they will have to give an account  to  Him  for  all that they do with their intellects and bodies . 

3.Cain and his descendants  were civilised  men and  women :  After Cain  went away from the presence of the Lord, he settled in the land of Nod. There he had children and there  he built a city, which he named after his firstborn son, Enoch.   There Cain had a wife!  He built a city  (v.17). What kind or size the city was we do not know, but the implication here is that he  lived in an organised way in an organised  society , surrounded  by all  kinds of people  with  different professions. In this city lived  farmers of livestock (v.20). Here lived those   who   made music  (v. 21). There were those  like Tubal-cain  that  made all sorts  of exquisite items  and instruments  of  bronze and iron.  In cities you  will  typically find  great displays of art  and architecture. Archaeological discoveries have demonstrated this  time and again.  In cities there  are  centres of learning and education,  led by famous masters. Cities  produce  able  artists, musicians,  philosophers, scientists and  medical  experts. The Greek  and the Roman pagan world was filled  with  hosts of such  creative  and innovative people who received their  original abilities from God the Creator,   but  whose creative powers  often were severely  corrupted through sin.  The point we want to make here is that they were  civilized and organised in their societies. This leads us to the next observation :   

4. The world  of Cain   is  very attractive.    The commentator H.C.  Leupoldt  has the following to say [2] :
“… civilization did make far greater strides among those alienated from God than among those who were devoted to Him.  Yet this is not very strange,  if closely  considered , for they, being addicted and devoted to the things of the world and not satisfied with the world’s treasures—for who can be?—they, we say, do all in their power to make an empty existence attractive by the cultivation of the natural resources of the world. Besides, the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”
The world of Cain is very attractive.   It is after all, all  they have. This is their life, and they spend all they have  to make that life as good as  they can. The Greek  Epicurean philosophers  knew this and that is why they coined this phrase also quoted in the Bible : “let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” .   The world of Cain is very attractive.  It is  pleasure centered.  When the   devil took  the Lord Jesus up to the top of a mountain and showed him  all the kingdoms of the world  and their glory, he was  showing him  not  an unattractive  world. He  was tempting him with the world’s attractions and glory!  

5.Cain and his descendants  are  not ignored by God. They are spoken to by God.  Just because Cain’s  descendants  have moved away from God, this does not mean  that  they are ignored  by God.   When Cain  killed his brother,   God  spoke to him: “Where is Abel your brother?”   God asked him: “What have you done ? “  (vv.9,10)  And God  judges  him for what he has done  (vv.11-12).  This is true today. God  continues  to speak  to  fallen men and women.  He speaks  to  all men  by means of  their  consciences (Rom.2:14-16), although they  consciously suppress them. God speaks  through    general  revelation ( i.e.  Creation  cf. Psalm 19) and  by means  of particular revelation (Christ His Son and His Word), so that men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).  The Bible, the best -selling and most widely distributed book of all times is found  virtually  everywhere  in this modern world. The Gideons,  have distributed Bibles  by the millions   in schools, universities, hospitals and hotels. The  Bible is preached  today  all over the world  in many cultures, languages and countries. It is constantly heard over the radio  and  T.V.  even in countries where the Bible is banned. God is continually speaking to all the sons of Cain.   But will they listen?    

UNDERSTANDING THE  NATURE  OF  THE CIVILIZATION OF CAIN  

Everything is ultimately   rooted in  the fall  in  Genesis  3.  The truth about the fall is that it has affected  every descendant of Adam. But  there  is one  significant  observation which we now need to  make.  We have previously  seen  that  a distinction was  made between  two  kinds of people : the  people of the serpent and the people of the woman. 
Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Both  were affected by the  fall, but these two brothers  nevertheless  ultimately come  to represent  two different  people.
Their  attitudes and therefore  their behaviour is fundamentally different, and we saw last  time that the difference was  seen  in the way in which they worshipped.  Cain’s worship  was unacceptable  to God; Abel’s worship  was acceptable. We saw that the  difference was not in the kind  of  offerings that they brought. The difference was in their fundamental  attitude and therefore action, for out of the heart  the  actions follow.  Cain’s heart proved to be a  jealous, murderous heart, and that is why he ultimately not only brought an unacceptable sacrifice to God, but  that is why  he also  killed his brother Abel. It is that graceless heart  which is judged  here by God.  
Abel, by contrast worshiped  God  by faith  and therefore he was commended by God (Hebr. 11:4). 

So what  was the difference?  This is  where we need to make a vital connection with the gospel. The reason  why Abel offered a better sacrifice  by faith  (Hebr. 11:4)  was  due to the fact that he was helped  by “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith …”  (Hebr. 12:2 - this thought  needs to be connected with Galatians  3:6-14). Ultimately  Abel  received grace  to do what he did  by the means of faith.

Now we consider  the decline  of  Cain.  His decline  must not be   seen in  terms of  a lack of advance  in  technology, or scientific advance  in all its various fields, whether medicine, engineering  or whatever. That is not where the  sons of Cain fail. Rather, the  problem is  found  in the spiritual  and therefore  moral decline  of  his   civilization.  It all starts  in  Gen.  4:5 with his false worship. It  continues with the murder of his brother  (4:8),  progressing to  his apostasy from  God in  Gen. 4:16 . Cain went away from the Lord – that is, he went  away from the influences  of the Lord. And then he started a family. His first born son  was called  Enoch. He knew nothing of  life lived in a family  in covenant with God.  Enoch  became the  father of  Lamech. It is  Lamech, Cain’s grandson  that exhibits  the continuing  downgrade of that family.   We see  this in two ways :

(i)Lamech  took two wives, Adah and Zillah. (4: 19-22)  Although there is no explicit commentary  concerning this, we know that this is against  the   explicit  design of marriage  as instituted by God in Gen.  2: 22-24 , which speaks of a union between one man  and  one woman!  The  two (and not the three)  shall  become one flesh! We see how the ignoring of this principle  did so much harm. Abraham’s polygamy caused so much hurt  in the household ;    Esau’s two wives “were a source of grief” to his parents (Gen. 26:35);  Jacob’s polygamous  marriage  to the two sisters  Rachel and Leah  was  nothing but trouble.   Consider Hannah’s unhappiness in a polygamous marriage  (1 Samuel 1). Consider also  David’s  troubled household , as a result of  his  polygamy. Solomon’s kingdom was ruined as “his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (I Kings 11:4).  It all starts here  in  Genesis  4 ! 

(ii) Lamech murders a man!  (4: 23,24).  Here follows the second atrocity and it is stated in poetical  form.    It is a song of vengeance.   It appears as if Lamech  had  a fight  in which a young man had  wounded him.  Lamech  overreached  himself  and  killed  him, and he boasted  about that!  Rather  than being grieved, Lamech boasted, “I have killed a man for wounding me”.  But it gets worse! Lamech remembers  what God once had said to his grandfather, Cain  when he feared that subsequent to Abel’s  death   anyone who would find him would kill him. But God said in 4:15  “ If  anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.”  Now  Lamech builds on this and he claims that  if  God would  exercise a sevenfold  punishment  on those that would harm  Cain,then God would avenge  those who would attack him, Lamech , 77 fold ! This is  arrogant presumption. He is putting words into God’s mouth.  What we see here is the   continual unfolding of the sinful nature as it is exported  through subsequent  generations, and   they become increasingly wicked. Like Lamech they are remembered and mentioned.  Geoff Thomas  comments :  “ You think of the pain that lies under the surface of the whole line of Cain; under the bluster and the rejection of the living God are the broken hearts and the battered wives and babies, the suffering mothers, all the tears and anguish. Isn’t that part of the frustration of men holding down the truth in their ungodliness…. Little wonder multitudes are taking prescription pills for being depressed. Little wonder they want to smoke nicotine, and take drugs, and try to drink their troubles away. You can see all sorts of psychological and social problems in our society as people struggle in the slough of despond because of the misery they are in. The wages of sin is death.

We must end here.   The sons and daughters of Cain are with us  until today  as are the sons of Abel.  They  are called respectively  goats and sheep by Jesus.  The sons of Cain   live in God’s world; they are made in His image ; they are civilised  and they have learned to make their world attractive. But they  do not  recognize God’s influence, and this  fact  has  a vast  influence on  their quality of life in this world. Their cities  are forever destroyed by wars and conflicts. There is hardly a great city in this world that has not seen  devastation at the hands of men. And so they are restless wanderers, just as God said they would  be. 
In their  constant  trials they  are not without God’s influence.  He greatly restrains  their evil and  the restrains others from  retaliating  - doing evil to them. Every now and then  God withdraws His hand and lets them follow their  course and very quickly  their civilization descends into chaos. There will come a day at the end of times, when  Cain’s civilization will be allowed to  bring itself to an end, but at that end will be  the God  whom they despised.  In which civilization do you presently live ?   



[1]  i.e. John Blanchard : Does God believe in atheists ?
[2] H.C. Leupoldt :Genesis , p.

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