A Miracle Amidst a Mess (Genesis 4:14-26)

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One does not have to be a sociologist with keen powers of perception to see that society—particularly Western society—is in a mess. It is characterised by malice, malevolence and misery because of a defiance of the divine. In short, because society defies God, we live in a ‘broken’ world where sin abounds. Simply put, things are a mess.

But amidst the miserable mess in which we find ourselves we are often privileged to witness a miracle—or miracles—of grace. I was recently somewhere with a church member who was undergoing a most severe trial—doubtless the most trying time of his life. As we were driving he broke out into a smile and spoke to me of God’s grace in the midst of his trial. He was “so blessed,” for he realised that God is “good even in this.”

There is no doubt that the verses cited above describe a real mess. It is a sad and ugly account of a civilisation that is alienated from God (4:16-24). But as the verses draw to a close we see a wonderful miracle of grace, one that literally changed the course of human history (4:25-26).

We will consider these verses over our next two studies in the Book of Genesis. In this study we will consider primarily the mess of 4:16-24 followed in our next study by a glorious consideration of the miracle in 4:25-26. The goal of these studies is that we might be encouraged to live our lives looking for a miracle amidst the mess of our world.

These verses provide a biblical worldview—one which the Christian must understand and embrace. One’s worldview—as the term suggests—is simply the way in which one views the world. I think it is fair to say that most Christians today have a very pessimistic worldview, which is marked by this attitude: “Just hang on to the end; the Lord will return soon.” But the Bible offers the believer a far more optimistic worldview: amidst the mess of our world we can expect to see miracles of grace from our gracious God—here and now! What happened in this chapter so long ago can still happen in our world today.

A Look at the Mess

As the section opens, Cain has murdered his brother Abel and judgement has been passed. Part of that judgement is that Cain would be “a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth” (Genesis 4:14). Despite Cain’s objections we see these words being fulfilled in 4:16ff. Moses writes:

And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. 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. And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. 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.

(Genesis 4:16-24)

Again, pictured in these verses is a civilisation without God. It is man-centred, characterised by what we might call secular humanism.

Precisely what is ‘secular humanism’? According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘secular’ refers to “that which lasts only for a certain period of time.” That which is ‘secular’ is without regard for the transcendent or the eternal. Since that which is ‘secular’ is without regard for the transcendent, that which is secular is without regard for the God of Scripture. For He is revealed as being “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 90:2; cf. Psalm 41:13; 103:17; 106:48).

Christians often wrongly denounce humanism as being wrong in-and-of itself. But there is nothing wrong with humanism per se. Humanism as such focuses simply on humanity and the Bible has much to say about this subject. For centuries, the church focused on biblical humanism and there was (and is) nothing wrong with that. But secular humanism is a different story for it focuses on man only in light of the here-and-now. Those who believe the Bible (i.e. Christians) know that there is more to man than the here-and-now. Christians thus focus on the invisible God, who is behind all things that we see.

The secular humanism with which we, in Western society, are familiar is nothing new. Though it is rampant today it is an age-old phenomenon. In fact, the beginnings of secular humanism can be seen in Genesis 4 in the lineage of Cain. The verses under consideration record the beginning of civilisation as we know it: man-centred with occasional lip service to God. “It is a culture,” wrote Francis Schaeffer, “with a mark upon it: a culture without the true God.” Just as Cain was marked so was the society that sprang from him. And there are at least six major marks on this society as identified by God.

A Rebellious Society

Cain obviously had no regard for the Lord for he quickly “went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” Cain’s attitude reveals three rebellious characteristics about the society that followed him.

First, the society was seen to be running from God: “and Cain went out from the presence of the Lord…” As noted, Cain had murdered his brother and God had put a curse upon him. This was a curse specifically upon Cain and his line. Though the ground had been cursed because of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:17-19) it was even further cursed for Cain. This was not a curse upon all mankind but only upon Cain and his family. Whilst his neighbour might have a wonderful harvest he would have a meagre one.

But this is not primarily why Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord.” Though the curse doubtless had something to do with his choice it was nevertheless his choice to run from God. As Derek Kidner has noted, “Cain’s departure was both his sentence and his choice.” Though he was cursed, God never told him to leave His presence: that is what Cain decided to do.

As noted in earlier studies, the phrase “the presence of the Lord” is used in the Bible as a technical term for the place of worship. Most likely, God had appointed the entrance of the Garden of Eden—guarded by the cherubim—as His meeting place with man. It was there that Adam and his descendents were commanded to bring their sacrifices to God. Cain thus made the conscious decision to run from God and—most likely—to never return to the place of worship. Cain ran away from repentance (he never took the opportunity that God gave him to repent), from his requirements (to obey God in sacrifice), from a possible relationship (with God) and from righteousness (which God alone could give him).

Before we are too hard on Cain let us look at ourselves. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6 – emphases added). We must beware of the myth that people seek God. “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11). When a man begins to ‘seek’ God it is only because God has begun to seek him first! This is doubtless true of Western society: it is a society on the run from God.

Second, the society was seen to be restless as Cain “dwelt in the land of Nod…” The name “Nod” means ‘restless’ or ‘wandering’. James Montgomery Boice wrote, “Cain remained a wanderer at heart even when he attempted to settle down. Having rejected God, he had severed his roots and was condemned to restlessness.” When Cain ran from God he found himself in a restless place. He believed that running away from God would ease the curse upon him but he soon learned that he was restless no matter where he was.

Nothing has changed. There are still those who run from God. They try frantically to ‘fill the void’ with many of the things that they do but, at the end of the day, they are as restless as ever, for they have wandered from God. James Montgomery Boice tells the following story. Thomas Huxley (1825-1895), an atheistic philosopher known to many as “Darwin’s Bulldog” was once staying at a hotel in London. In a hurry to get to a particular destination he jumped into a horse-driven carriage and, assuming that the doorman had informed the driver of his destination, cried, “Driver, drive fast!” The driver immediately took off as fast as he could. Soon, Huxley noticed that his surroundings were unfamiliar to him. He asked the driver, “Driver, do you know where you are going?” To which the driver replied, “No…but I’m going fast!” Sadly, this is precisely how many live today: they have no idea where they are going but they are going fast.

Restless and discontented man is ruinous. Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). Mankind’s discontentedness is manifest in his constant desire to have more. This is simply evidence of the fact that man has departed from the presence of the Lord. It is when we rebel against God that we seek something to soothe our restlessness.

Third, the society in Genesis 4 was seen to be rootless. The land of Nod was “on the east of Eden.” This statement is significant for it shows how Cain (and the society of which he was father) moved consistently further from God. In Genesis 11:1-2 we see society moving further east—further away from God. It is in this chapter that Babylon is founded. In Genesis 13 Lot and Abraham separate. Abraham gives Lot first choice of where he would like to go and we read, “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves one from another” (13:11). Once more, you see man moving even further from God. And as he journeys east he establishes himself in the region of Sodom and Gomhorra. It seems in Scripture that the further east man travelled, the further he got away from God. Abraham eventually took his journey back toward the east and drew closer to the Promised Land.

The point is that Cain no longer had roots in Eden and in his relationship with God. He simply journeyed further and further from God and his descendents followed suit. When man departs from God he departs from the root of a purposeful and fulfilling life. In short, he goes from mess to mess.

Simone Weil (1909-1943) was a French essayist and philosopher. One of her works was entitled The Need for Roots. One commentator summarises the work:

Simone Weil…wrote a book entitled The Need for Roots in which she analyzed the uprootedness of her day. She discussed uprootedness in the cities and in the countryside. She discussed it in relation to nationhood. She concluded that the only cure for uprootedness is a rediscovery of the human being as God’s creature and of God himself as the source of those basic elements without which a proper civilization cannot function: order, liberty, obedience, responsibility, equality, the right to express one’s opinion, security, private property, truth, and others. Weil is right. Our roots are in God; and if we will not have God, we are condemned to be vagabonds.

Certainly Western society is without roots for it has abandoned the one true God. As parents, we must be careful not to give our children responsibilities before we have given them roots. Society tells us that we must give our children freedom (i.e. responsibility) and there is nothing wrong with this—as long as they are properly rooted in the Word of God.

Soon after I had moved to South Africa a church member’s husband gave me a book dealing with the history of South Africa. In the front cover of the book, he wrote, “Everybody needs roots and wings.” He was right: we need the wings of responsibility but we also need roots if we will properly fulfil that responsibility. Too often Christian parents give their children rules and responsibilities without ever having given them roots in their relationship with God. But if we do this we will only produce little Cains—children who have no roots and who, when they have opportunity to spread their wings and fly, abandon God. Yes, we must give our children wings but, without proper roots, we may only raise little Pharisees.

A Rationalistic Society

What follows in 4:17 is not necessarily rebellious but simply a rational step. But it is nothing more than rational: it is rootless rationalism. Cain sought a way by which he could escape the curse, his insecurity and the inevitable result of his lost, rebellious and alienated condition. A way to escape, that is, without acknowledging God. And so we read:

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

(Genesis 4:17)

The term ‘rational’ or ‘rationalistic’ carries the idea of man’s wisdom reigning supreme. The Oxford Dictionary tells us that rationalism manifests itself in “treating reason as the ultimate authority.” Unsaved man has as much reasoning ability as does saved man. But if he does not submit that reasoning ability to God his resourcefulness will simply take him further away from God.

Cain knew that he was cursed to be a vagabond in the earth. Therefore, he built a city (a very wise move, I should say). The city was doubtless built as a means of self-protection (for he was concerned that others might take vengeance upon him for murdering Abel, Genesis 4:14). Contrary to what some would have us to believe, there is nothing rebellious in Cain’s decision to build a city: it was a rational and wise decision.

The sad fact, however, is that despite the wisdom of his move he was still alienated from God. This seems clear from the fact that the city was named after his son. Throughout the rest of Genesis places named by godly people were always named after God (see 22:14; 28:19; 32:30; etc).

The building of the city—however wise it may have been—brought man no closer to God. And this has been true throughout history. In 1950 there were two cities in Africa with a population of more than one million people. By 1997, 37 cities had attained this statistic. If you look at Africa today you will find that most of the problems that exist exist within the cities. For in cities godless men encounter godless men and rebellion multiplies. Since Cain’s city was founded apart from God we can be sure that this was the case there.

Cities, of course, are not always evil in the Bible. In fact, there is a city for which believers are to look: “a city which hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Genesis 4:17 records the beginning of the battle between the city of man and the city of God. The city of man seeks to reason rationally whilst rejecting God’s revelation. Whilst the city of God exists within the city of man there is one major difference: those in the city of God understand that there is more to reality than man’s reasoning; there is the revelation of God by which we are accountable. This is why there is conflict between the city of God and the city of man. Again, there is nothing wrong with the city per se but with the attitude of those within the city. As Boice has said, the problem in the godless city is not the city but the godless! And it is the church’s responsibility as the city of God to be salt and light in the city of man and bring people from man’s city to God’s city.

The fact that Cain named the city after his son reveals his attitude: it is still all about Cain! And so it is today. Man alienated from God is man alienated from man. You can be surrounded by people but, if there is no relationship with God, there will be no sense of community. The local church, then, should be a testimony to the contrary: a place of loving community that is unmatched in the city of man.

And so both the city of man and the city of God are rational. But the city of God alone is revelational. That is, the city of God alone can make sense of life, for it alone accepts the revelation from God in His Word. I recently began a friendly discussion over e-mail with an unbelieving journalist—the science editor—for a newspaper in our country. He had written an article on the reaction of Christians to the Harry Potter phenomenon. He concluded that, at the end of the day, Harry Potter and religion are the same: both for ignorant, uneducated people.

After reading this, I decided to send an e-mail to this man. As kindly as possible I wrote to him and said that I gathered he was trying to stir people, like myself, who believe in revealed religion. As I wrote I chuckled within myself at the thought that God may one day save this man and he may begin defending Christianity! I let him know in my e-mail of my hope that God would graciously open his eyes to the truth of His Word and concluded, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads, isn’t it?” He wrote back, “Doug, we are all going to the same place: dust to dust.” He asked if I had proof of what I believe. I replied with a short note, “Interesting that you should use a biblical phrase—‘dust to dust’—when you do not believe God’s Word.” “You know what I mean,” he replied. “We are all going to die.” To which I replied, “Really? Do you have proof of that?” That may sound strange but it is a valid question. There is a generation one day that will not die: that generation living at the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; especially 4:17).

Though he has not answered all of my questions, I will continue writing very kindly to him. He needs to come to the point where he realises that his knowledge has a limit. At some point, there must revelation if we will make sense of life. As someone has well said, the only way anyone can know anything for sure is to either know everything or to know Someone who does know everything. I am sure that my friend would not claim to know everything. Nor would he claim to know the One who knows everything. But he can know nothing for sure, other than that which has been revealed by the One who knows everything. I can live life with certainty because I know Him who knows all things.

A man-centred city will eventually become irrational for it has no transcendent truth by which to make right judgements. The longer one lives in the city of man—setting up his own reason as the only basis to know anything—the more irrational he will become. How rational is it for those in the Netherlands, who have been arguing more strongly for half-a-century for human rights than anyone else, to put people to death because they are old? Do old people have no rights? Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) argued during his lifetime that a day would come when the Netherlands would put the physically handicapped to death—and that day is not far off! I recently read a survey informing us that 30% of paediatricians in one European have confessed to putting infants to death without informing their parents! How rational is this? The truth is, we live in an irrational society because man believes that his reasoning is the only way to handle life. Indeed, man is condemned to live irrationally when he rejects God.

A Religious Society

A most amazing thing can be seen in the naming of the children in Cain’s line: “And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech” (Genesis 4:18). You will notice that two of the names in this verse end with ‘el’. ‘El’ is the Hebrew word for God. “Mehujael” means ‘smitten of God’ and “Methusael” means ‘the man who is of God’. What we have here is a godless society naming their children after God! Indeed, this is a society “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).

A society that has rejected the one true God does not necessarily stop talking about God. Such societies are normally very religious. Doubtless, tradition had been taught—but apart from the truth. I would imagine that Cain may have set up his own ‘church’—an altar where he and his descendents could worship their god. Doubtless, they would have had a form of set doctrine but it was simply tradition apart from godly reality.

Not much has changed. There a multitudes in the city of man talking very religiously—much about God. I recently caught part of a BBC show on television, called Hard Talk. The host was interviewing some author of whom I had never heard. Apparently, this author was not raised religious but, in his new novel, he seeks to get people to believe in ‘god’. But he was very careful to state that it didn’t matter which god you believe in. In his book there are three main characters: one Hindu, one Muslim and one Christian. Ironically, the interviewer kept asking the author why he wanted people to believe in a god. Ironic, I say, because there were two unbelievers—neither of whom submitted himself to the one true God—arguing about belief in god! It was obvious that the author had no time for Christianity, although he had much time for religion.

In my early years at Brackenhurst Baptist Church I often received telephone calls from new parents asking if I would christen their baby. When I explained that I would not do that they asked if they could come and have their baby dedicated in the church. Many of these parents, of course, had no intention of being in church the next week but they wanted some sort of tradition whilst giving no thought at all the reality of God.

Culture is rife with so-called ‘Christian’ weddings. Any wedding taking place in a church is deemed to be Christian and have God’s blessing upon it. Now, I believe that marriage is for both believers and unbelievers (although believers should obviously only marry believers) but unbelievers have no business being married in the church. Unbelievers should be married at a magistrate’s court. But only Christians should be married in church.

We need to understand that not all the liars and hypocrites are in prison. Many hypocrites and liars sit in churches every week. There are many who want a “Mehujael” or “Methusael” in their lives, but who want to remain alienated from God. But to remain alienated from God—no matter how religious—is to remain in a state of self-deception.

A Reprobate Society

Despite their desire to ‘Christianise’ their line, the family of Cain continued down the path of grave rebellion. We read, “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah” (Genesis 4:19). This is the first recorded instance of polygamy in human history: “Lamech took unto him two wives…”

In Romans 1, we read how God gave ungodly society over to a reprobate mind (1:18-28). Three times in these verses we read of God doing this: “gave them up to uncleanness” (1:24), “gave them up unto vile affections” (1:26), “gave them over to a reprobate mind” (1:28). It is clear from the context that a reprobate mind is one that cannot form right judgements. The result of a reprobate mind, according to Paul, is this:

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

(Romans 1:29-32)

You will notice that all the sins in these verses above result from men not forming righteous judgements. Their “unrighteousness” leads them into fornication, wickedness, covetousness, et al. Such is the case with Lamech in Genesis 4. In taking two wives, Lamech made an unrighteous decision. It is quite clear from Genesis 2:15-25 (and elsewhere in Scripture) that God’s intention for mankind from the beginning was to have one spouse: one wife for one husband. When man and wife are joined they become “one flesh” (2:24). Monogamy was God’s will from the beginning and Lamech doubtless knew that. But he made the sinful choice of taking two wives contrary to God’s will. Because ungodly man believed that his reasoning should rule the way he lived, God’s will was cast aside.

An objection might be raised at this point. What about David? Or Solomon? Or many of the other godly saints of the Old Testament who had more than one wife? Quite simply, it was wrong! Such men simply followed the footsteps of the world rather than listening to the will of God. “This is more contemporary and sophisticated,” says the world. “It makes more sense.” And so the church comes alongside the world and adopts ungodly practices for the sake of not being ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘narrow-minded’. But that does not excuse sin!

The name “Adah” means ‘adornment’ and “Zillah” means ‘shade’ (perhaps a reference to long, beautiful hair?). It seems clear that both were physically attractive women and Lamech chose to have both instead of one. Lamech’s self-centred sensuality led to perversion of God’s created order for marriage. And we can be sure that whenever man flees from God he will distort God’s all-wise principles for society. Consider the modern-day attacks on the family. Divorce, abortion and fornication are rife and people are encouraged to live together rather than (or before) getting married. Why is this? Because the world thinks that it is smarter than God! Sadly, the church has remained eerily silent about this. For we do not want to appear ‘narrow’. But we should realise that the Bible is a ‘narrow’ book and should therefore stand on what it says despite the strongest protestations of the world.

Bob Dylan told us that “the times, they are a-changin’” but God’s Word never changes. It is always “a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path” (Psalm 119:105) and we should always let it guide our thoughts and actions.

A Resourceful Society

The verses that follow record the cultivation of society. This, in itself, is neutral but it seems that, in the case of Cain’s family, resourcefulness was accompanied by moral degradation:

And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

(Genesis 4:20-22)

Adah’s son “Jabal” was the founder of nomadic herding. His brother “Jubal” oversaw the founding of musical instruments. And their half-brother “Tubalcain” was a forger of tools, a metallurgist. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these trades and each can be used for the glory of God. But there seems to be something of a hint in the last clause of the section: “and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.” The name “Naamah” means ‘lovely one’ and it seems that the narrative will not allow us to forget external beauty. It seems that as the culture advanced in agriculture, industry and entertainment that everything was sensual, concentrating more on pleasing man that glorifying God. Matthew Henry’s words on this matter are worthwhile to consider:

See here, (1) That worldly things are the only things that carnal wicked people set their hearts upon and are most ingenious and industrious about. So it was with this impious race of cursed Cain. Here were a father of shepherds and a father of musicians, but not a father of the faithful. Here was one to teach in brass and iron, but none to teach the good knowledge of the Lord. Here were devices how to be rich, and how to be mighty, and how to be merry, but nothing of God…

History shows that even non-Christians have come up with great developments in society. Many pagans have offered great inventions which are useful to modern man. By God’s common grace even natural man is resourceful. This resourcefulness is God-given but, when turned to selfish use, it becomes wrong.

Though lost man is resourceful in many ways, I believe that it is up to the church to reclaim culture for the glory of God. Unfortunately, many Christians are unwilling to do this for they (wrongly) see worldliness as existing in things. There is nothing inherently wrong with technology, business and the arts. I recall hearing a preacher once say that a guitar is okay…as long as it is not a six-string guitar! But you can play a guitar to the glory of God—even a six-string guitar! It is not the instrument that is wrong, but the way in which it is used and the attitude with which it is used. Christian fundamentalism is eager to create a list of things that are worldly but we must understand that biblical worldliness is simply living a life apart from God. A lost preacher can be worldly and a Christian artist can glorify God in his work. You can be squeaky clean externally, sit in church every week and yet be as worldly as Cain. If you are infatuated with that which is fallen and fading then you are worldly.

Christians, then, should be prepared to take dominion of the arts, music and even the media for the glory of God. We need Christian artists, journalists, businessmen, musicians and scientists and perhaps it is time to teach our children that they are to live for Christ in their vocation whether they are preachers or not!

We must beware of the ‘Christian ghetto’ manifest in a smug, superficial, self-righteous, ‘spiritual’ subculture. When I hear people speaking of “going into fulltime Christian service” I feel as if someone is scratching with their fingernails on a blackboard. If you are a Christian you are in fulltime Christian service, whether you are a missionary or a janitor. We seem to think that only pastors, missionaries and evangelists serve God. But we need to get our thinking straight. The Christian doctor should serve God in the field of medicine. The Christian accountant should serve God with his ledgers. The Christian schoolteacher should serve God in the classroom. Yes, there are vocational fulltime Christian servants (i.e. pastors and missionaries who make their living in preaching and teaching) but preaching is no more spiritual than surgery!

St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) submitted his mind to the Word of God and wrote some of the most profound material in the history of man. German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) signed all his compositions Soli Deo Gloria—to God alone be the glory. Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1452-1506) submitted his mind to the Lordship of Christ, as did fellow-countryman and artist Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), English Scientist Isaac Newton (1642-1727) and Scottish political economist Adam Smith (1723-1790).

As each man submitted his mind to the Lordship of Christ they accomplished amazing feats for the glory of God. Columbus attempted to reach Asia by sailing west from Europe and thereby discovered America (1492). Michelangelo created some of the greatest artistic works of all time, including the marble sculpture of David (1501) and the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512). Pascal invented an adding machine and developed the modern theory of probability. Newton invented differential calculus and formulated the theories of universal gravitation (reportedly inspired by the sight of a falling apple), terrestrial mechanics and colour. And Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) laid the foundations of classical free-market economic theory. These men were not preachers (though Newton wrote a commentary on Revelation) but they worked in their own vocations for the glory of God. I wonder how these men would have been looked down on by present day fundamentalism because of their work in the ‘secular’ world.

Today, our heroes seem to be sports stars, TV evangelists and shallow authors. What has happened? We have been so trained that the arts, media, business, science, etc. are worldly things that we shy away from being involved in them for the glory of God. But we must understand that all of culture is the gift of God and we should seek to reclaim these things for His glory.

I am not primarily concerned about the vocation of the men that my daughters will one day marry. Of course, they must be believers but I would be as happy to have sons-in-law who are doctors or accountants as I would be to have sons-in-law who are preachers—so long as they are godly. There is no premium on my daughters marrying preachers; my prayer is simply that they would each marry a man of God.

The world is resourceful but, sadly, is not informed in its thinking by God’s Word. We must make sure that we are different. Resourcefulness is great but Christians should submit their minds to the Lordship of Christ.

A Revengeful Society

The first poem in Scripture was when God brought Adam to Eve and he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). The second poem in the Bible was a boastful lyric about murder:

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.

(Genesis 4:23-24)

The fact that these are poems is recognised in many Bible versions by the placement of them in stanza format. For instance, the New King James Version (NKJV) renders Genesis 2:23 in this way:

And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

In similar fashion, Genesis 4:23-24 is rendered thus:

Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

I once heard a man teach from these verses that Cain killed two people. “I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt” (emphasis added). But the “and” in this verse does not mean “in addition to.” That is, Cain did not kill a young man “and” another young man. Instead, we have here a case of Hebrew parallelism. Lamech is simply repeating himself for emphasis, “I have killed a man to my wounding…let me clarify…a young man to my hurt.” The NKJV captures this well by legitimately translating “and” as “even.”

As seen in the NKJV, Lamech killed this “young man” because the young man wounded/hurt him. We do not know how this “young man” wounded/hurt Lamech but somehow he did. The phrase “young man” is significant, for it refers literally to a boy, a child. In other words, “I have killed a man for wounding me; in fact, a boy because he hurt me!” The implication is, “Aren’t I something?!”

Lamech’s arrogant boast continues, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” At first blush it may appear that Lamech appeals to God for protection, albeit somewhat misguidedly. In fact, he has no reference to God at all. “I can take care of myself! If God will protect Cain sevenfold, I will protect myself seventy times sevenfold.” He believed that he didn’t need God: he himself was judge, jury and executioner. Cain at least sought protection from God; Lamech simply provokes God, “If you touch me I will kill you myself!”

There is no doubt that society apart from God is revengeful. Just consider the infamous dictators of human history. Consider the vigilantism that is rife in our world. Even religious societies display a desire for revenge. I have been to India several times—a most religious nation—and I have yet to spend time there without witnessing the outbreak of a revengeful riot resulting in death for many.

Society apart from God will eventually manifest a judicial system that is in a mess, eventually leading to totalitarianism. Just consider China and even Communist Russia. How did these nations end up like this? By someone deciding to set himself up as the Lamech to quell anarchy.

Again the city of God stands in contrast. Believers understand that vengeance belongs to the Lord. When Christ was “reviled,” He “reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). He suffered the wrong and allowed the Father to judge. And this is the same responsibility that believers have in this world:

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

(Romans 12:17-21)

In short, society without God is a malicious, malevolent, murderous mess because it is complete man-centred. Western society is most certainly rebellious, rationalistic, religious, reprobate, resourceful and revengeful. So, is there any hope? Is this all we can expect in this world? We will consider this further in our next study but the hope for mankind is seen in the closing verses of the chapter.

A Look at the Miracle

Having read through and contemplated 4:16-24 one is left almost sick to the stomach. The city of man is a most terrible thing. But praise the Lord that there is another city, one that has always existed alongside the city of man:

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. 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.

(Genesis 4:26-26)

We are not sure of the population of the earth at this time. We are not even sure whether Adam and Eve had had other children since the murder of Abel. But it must have taken some faith for them to have more children: what if they birthed another Cain? Nevertheless, they remained faithful to the commission they had been given (Genesis 1:27-28). Doubtless, they held on to the promise of God in Genesis 3:15—that Someone would come from the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent. All around, society grows increasingly wicked. Will things ever get better? “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.” And even then, it was another generation before “men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

Amidst the most terrible of messes God sends another seed—a miracle of grace—and the church is born. Now the city of God exists alongside the city of man and Genesis 5 continues the story of the godly line. And even when the world is overthrown by a flood, the godly line continues through Noah and his family.

Our world is in a mess. A cursory glance at a newspaper shows this to be true. But when things appear to be most hopeless, let us remember that God still performs miracles of grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Instead of focusing upon the mess in which we find ourselves, let us rather focus on God’s miraculous grace in our world.