Genesis 4:17-25 : Sin City

Ancient_City_Ruins

Summary of Cain and Abel

We left off a couple of weeks ago with the story of Cain (whose name means Accomplish) and Abel (whose name means worthless).  We saw that God chose what was despised in the world – he chose the humble Worthless who loved him and rejected Accomplish, who was the favoured son, because Accomplish didn’t feel he needed God.  Accomplish killed Worthless out of jealousy and God condemned the act.  Accomplish was punished by being cast further away from God’s presence, having even more difficulty in cultivation placed upon him, and was additionally given a mark to protect him from his brothers and sisters who want to kill him for his crime.  He moved and settled in the land of wandering, where our story continues.

Story Continues

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for striking me.

If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,

then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

The Continued Sin of Cain

It’s easy to skim over Cain’s genealogy and hurry on to the flood study in chapter 6, but doing so would be a real disservice to all the things we can learn from details listed here.  We can learn at least three things from what the text tells us about Cain.

(1)   God cursed Cain to wander.  He responds to this by founding a city and refusing to wander.

(2)   God told Cain that His mark would protect him, but Cain has no trust in God’s promise.  The word that’s being translated “city”, עיר, can refer to anything from three houses with a fence around them to a giant metropolis with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.[1]  The main idea is that the community is protected from outsiders by a fence or a wall and a gate.  Cain seeks to protect himself, choosing to ignore God’s promise of protection.

(3)   Cain names the city after Enoch, his son.  God is so insignificant in his mind that he has nothing more important in his life to name this city after than his child.

In short, Cain continues to disobey, distrust, and disregard God.  He is relying entirely on his own efforts and is striving with full strength against anything God has said to him.

Before we scorn him too harshly, we should always first look to see if there are similar logs in our eyes:

(A)Are we refusing to obey God’s commands?  Cain refused to wander – has God told us to do things that we absolutely refuse to do?  Jesus has commanded us to love and pray for our enemies, and to devote all of our lives to him.  How are we doing with this?  If we utterly refuse to do these things, we should take the warning seriously – such an attitude displays the heart of an enemy of God.

(B)  Are we distrusting what God has said in the Bible?  God told Cain that the mark he put on him would protect him – Cain lived his life as though God’s word was a lie.  Does your daily life show that you believe God’s words or that they are just interesting fairy tales in your eyes?

(C)  Are we cherishing God’s gifts over God?  Cain loved Enoch more than he loved God and so named the city after him.  When we think about what makes us happiest, is it our children?  Our past accomplishments?  Our grandchildren?  Our spouse?  If these are our first answers and God is something we just feel obligated to put on the list, then we are walking in the same steps as Cain who loved the gifts over giver.

 Sin City

Cain, having established a city named Enoch, paved the way for further rebellion and rejection of God.  W. G. Lambert, a well known Ancient Near Eastern scholar puts it best when he considers the development of polytheism thousands of years ago: “as civilizations grow, the dependence of the people upon their gods decreased, and they began more and more to see their gods as merely larger and more powerful versions of themselves.”[2]  Even pagans, who made up their own gods, lost respect for them and downgraded their importance when they began to believe that they could manipulate the world to their benefit on their own.

Do we not see the same attitude today?  The most developed countries in the world are the most inclined towards atheism or agnosticism.  The least developed countries in the world are the most spiritual in mindset.  Technology tends to bring with it feelings of self-sufficiency.  Feelings of self-sufficiency reduce feelings of dependency upon the divine realm, and so the most scientifically advanced peoples tend to be the most prone to reject the notion of deity.

In case anyone here is prone to think otherwise, please be reminded that it was belief in God that produced science in the first place.  The two men who are normally credited with the development of the scientific method are Roger Bacon and Francis Bacon.  Roger Bacon, born around 1200 AD, was a Franciscan friar who reasoned that since God is consistent, then the universe should be consistent and we should be able to conduct experiments and expect consistent results.  Francis Bacon, born around 1500 AD, furthered the methods of Roger and promoted the world and the Bible as God’s two books, teaching humanity about what the divine is like.  Both of these men were devoted to the idea that the physical universe manifests the character of God, and so it is studiable.  This is quite different from the pagan notion of warring gods, where one deity may beat up another deity and change the physics of how things work at any time.  The Christian view is also quite different from the atheist view, which through observation alone could never have concluded that the universe was consistent (universal ultimate truths are beyond human reach, and science relies on it being ultimately true that the universe is consistent – no experiment can prove this, it can only be assumed; assuming that the universe is consistent is a blind assumption on behalf of the atheist).  So, we see that modern progress is the result of assuming that the Bible’s worldview is correct.  However, the necessity of God’s consistency for all of our accomplishments is quickly forgotten as our minds and hearts are drawn to focus solely on the accomplishments themselves.

The very same problem that is happening today also happened back in Cain’s city of Enoch.  Their development blinded their need for God.  We can see this in two observations.

First, the descendents of Cain are accredited with impressive inventions and innovations:

  • Jabal is credited with innovating the idea of traveling the country side with flocks of sheep and living in tents – this allows for the city to be provided with food meat without having to produce animal farms.  This allows for city dwellers to focus on things other than raising animals.
  • Tubal-cain is credited with having created all tools made of iron and bronze.  His work allowed for better city construction, and also irrigation.  The city of Enoch was most likely located somewhere in Mesopotamia where the rivers would change courses year by year, causing farmers to wander and re-plant near the new location of the river ever year.  However, tools allowed for farmers to dig and redirect the river back to them if it should move.  Also, this allowed for improved irrigation.  All of this would mean that, once again, city dwellers could have a working class in the irrigation fields while an upper class relaxed and partied it up in the city.
  • Jubal is credited with creating and mastering the harp and the lyre – the people of the city could be entertained and have parties, effectively distracting themselves from God.

So, we see that Cain’s descendents were increasing in their technological advancement and creating ease in their lives, allowing for artisans of music and metal to arise.  Do we not see the same thing today?  We’ve created a society in which some people don’t have to spend all day working, and when we have free time we like to spend it on entertainment rather than on God.  Not much has changed.

Side Note On Entertainment

Imagine a husband who vowed to his wife on his wedding day, “I will devote myself to knowing and loving you in everything I do.  I will not cheat on you or lie to you.”  Years later, the husband has spent his time playing golf and fishing and barely pays attention to his wife.  He never cheated on her or lied to her.  Has he kept his vows?  Clearly he has not kept the vow of being devoted to his wife, and the mere fact that he has avoided doing the things he swore he wouldn’t do doesn’t make him a good husband.  This applies to the Christian who makes their decisions based on asking “is it sin for me to do this?”  And then does it just because the Bible didn’t say “don’t do this.”  The Bible tells Christians to be 100% devoted to God all of the time and gives us more ways to do this than we have hours in the day (prayer, devotions, evangelism, serving others, etc.).  Ignoring all of the things God says He wants you to be doing and watching television just because the Bible doesn’t condemn it is no better than the husband mentioned above.  When we get upset and say “what about my entertainment?” we forget that: (1) we’ve been bought with a price and our job is to entertain God, not ourselves; (2) rest from having to function as God’s representative on earth only happens in Heaven; (3) when God demonstrated what rest means by resting on the 7th day He demonstrated it by governing the world for the benefit of others – “my Father is always working, and so am I” – He didn’t sit back and tune out, and neither did Jesus in his life or in his resurrection; (4) finding television shows, movies, and sports more entertaining than God and His mission on earth is blasphemous – you want to TUNE OUT from contemplating God?  (5) there are no examples of godly people in the Bible having hobbies (other than those things that turned out to be sin) which were not related to worshiping God or serving others (which is a form of worshiping God).  It goes without saying that a person who spends more time on secular entertainment than on reading scripture has their priorities all mixed up – but even this is a horribly low standard for a Christian to live up to.  Anything less than demonstrating devotion to God in 100% of every activity is too low and the things we defend in the name of “Christian Freedom” will be things we will be ashamed of in Heaven.  Do you really think you’re going to see the glory of God and think to yourself, “boy I’m glad I watched that season of Breaking Bad and kept up to date on the World Cup – serving God during those times would have been such a foolish waste.  Also, seeing God’s glory now is so disappointing that I was right to seek entertainment outside of contemplating God and what He has said.”

Lamech

Second, Lamech, the poet of this chapter, demonstrates the departure from God that feelings of self sufficiency envoke.  Allow me to quote it for us again:

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man for striking me.

If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,

then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

What should stand out to us immediately is that Lamech is proud of being a polygamous murderer – he even writes authors songs or poems about it!  The quality of morality in the city of Enoch is clearly demonstrated in the person of Lamech.  The people have no concern for following God’s monogamous marriage example from the garden, so Lamech is free to take two wives for himself – women have become mere objects to collect and use.  The city also has no concern for justice, as Lamech kills people who so much as hit him.  The term being translated “young man” is יֶ֖לֶד, and it often means a small child, although it can sometimes mean a young/immature man.  Another way to translate the passage would be, “I have killed a man for wounding me and a small child for hitting me.”

As for the phrases “sevenfold” and “seventy-sevenfold,” the concept of 7 is one of fullness of completion.  God promised that anyone who attacked Cain would receive the fullness of punishment.  Lamech, rejecting God’s ways of justice, promises that any offence against him will result in far more than justice – death is the result for crossing Lamech!  We have this sort of attitude in places like North Korea where the sentence deserved by one member of the family is shoved upon the whole family for at least 3 generations.  Do you want to mess with Lamech?  He’ll have your whole family killed along with you.

Everything God has established for man is rejected in the city of Enoch.  God creates monogamous marriage; the city of Enoch goes polygamous.  God declares that human lives are of great value because they are made in His image, after His likeness; the city of Enoch spits on human lives.  God declares that humans are to work the ground and keep it; the city of Enoch sets some folks aside to work the ground and the rest party it up in wickedness.

Modern Day

It’s easy to look at the flaws of others and shake our heads, but have we considered our own times very well?  Lamech was into killing off the families of people who harmed him.  We’re actually far worse.  We kill children before they have the opportunity to inconvenience our lives.  We’ve not only legalized abortion, but we’ve made it freely accessible.  And we’re proud of it!  The whole of Canada is no better than Lamech – a bunch of murderers and accomplices through silence who consider ourselves civilized and righteous.  Allow me to make a Hebrew-type poem for Canada:

“Courts and Law Enforcement;

you who approve of evil, listen to what I say:

I killed a child for almost annoying me,

a baby for trying to live.

If justice is fair,

then it doesn’t dwell in our land.”

We live not in just the city of Enoch but rather the country of Enoch.  Also, sadly, Lamech would probably fit right in to our society.  Lamech, whose children vastly improved technology and comfort of living, was above all of God’s justice during his days.  Our celebrities and corporations are essentially the same.  How do you feel about living in Canada?  Don’t compare it to worse countries – that’s like feeling good about yourself because you’re not Hitler – Rapists aren’t Hitler, should they feel good?  Look at Canada for what it is and consider how you feel about living here.  If you feel comfortable, like this is a good place to keep living, then consider how far away from God your value systems are.

Today we have seen the effects of sin in Cain and in his descendents and how it leads in a downward spiral of accomplishment, pride, and moral corruption.  There is no hope in such a message.  But the chapter doesn’t end there.  Let us consider the closing lines of this chapter:

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

While the sons of Cain flush out the fullness of sin, another child is born who follows in the steps of Abel.  This time Eve doesn’t gloat about how she’s accomplished getting a child – she openly admits that this child is a gift given by God.  This marks a whole new approach.  The family that despised the shepherd boy by calling him Abel (which means Worthless) is longing for someone like him to return to this world – someone who truly follows God.  And when this follower comes, they do not pat themselves on the back but give glory to God.  Other children of Adam and Eve also follow in these steps and “call upon the name of the Lord.”  This means that they are looking to God and relying upon him, which contrasts with what Cain’s family is doing. Even in the midst of hopelessness God sends hope, and those who rely on God instead of themselves are saved from the darkness of this world.

Have you been like Cain’s family?  Have you been feeling comfortable living in the city of Enoch?  If so, the road you are on only leads to increasing sin and finally the sevenfold justice of God will come upon you when you are fully punished in Hell.  But there is hope.  Just as Eve turned from self-reliance and pride to relying upon God, and others followed in her steps, so you too can turn to Jesus.

Jesus said that he is the way to God, the truth of God, and life that God gives.  If you turn to him and ask him to save you – if you call upon the name of Christ – instead of relying on yourself, Jesus will save you from the punishment that’s coming.  He is the child that God promised would crush the head of Satan.

So turn to him, before it’s too late.  Don’t end your days like Cain and his descendents, upon whom the floods came and killed them all.  God is patient, but His patience has a limit.

[1]Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, 7th ed. (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), 746.  Also see Ernst Jenni, Claus Westermann, and Mark E. Biddle, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2:881.

[2]W. G. Lambert. “The Historical Development of the Mesopotamian Pantheon: A Study in Sophisticated Polytheism” in Unity and Diversity: Essays in the History, Literature, and Religion of the Ancient Near East (Baltimore: John Hopkins, 1975), 194.

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About salutations75

Born and raised Atheist turned Reformed Baptist.
This entry was posted in Ethics, Genesis, Personal, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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