The Line of Cain
When reading about the early chapters of Genesis — particularly the events of Genesis 6 — it’s been rare to find the texts spoken about without reference to the “ungodly line of Cain” and the “godly line of Seth.” I admit, for much of my Christian life, I’ve judged Cain’s line by Cain’s actions, and Seth’s by Seth’s.
I’ve read Genesis 4 [amp] 5 umpteen times, and just about every time, I do so with the idea that Cain’s descendants are all patently “ungodly,” in a way over and above the fallen nature common to all men.
And I admit, it doesn’t start well for that family.
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. The Book of Genesis, 4:8
Murder. Countless families have faced generations of strife because of murder, and no doubt there are grim results to Cain’s selfish act.
What immediately happens as a result of Cain’s disobedience? I would have expected that Cain would be put to death — smote by Yahweh for his disobedience. Harsh? Perhaps, but it would be a punishment fitting the crime (Genesis 9:6).
What happens, though, is the complete opposite: God has mercy on Cain. In a testament to the patience, the love, the grace, the pure mercy of God, history’s first murderer comes face to face not with a guillotine, noose, electric chair, or stoning… but with a second chance.
And while Cain’s life would never be the same, the Lord allowed him to at least have life. Cain would be an outcast, a wanderer in the world, alienated from his parents and other siblings.
The mercy just keeps on flowing, though, for when Cain points out how hated he would be, that anyone who finds him would kill him, God places a mark upon Cain, a mark of protection, ensuring Cain that anyone who would attack him would be punished sevenfold. It seems to me that God has a plan for Cain, and I don’t say that in the warm [amp] fuzzy way that the prosperity or self-esteem preachers might say it. Rather, I’m saying it in the sense that God is sovereign — a corollary to that is God has a plan for your life. Such it is with Cain.
The Land of Nod
Cain leaves his family. If you’re a parent of adults, you know what it’s like for your children to leave home. I don’t know that feeling, but I can imagine that it is difficult.
I can imagine it being much harder for Adam [amp] Eve. They had just lost one son to murder and, as a result, are now losing another.
At this point, I would expect the Scriptures to no longer tell us about Cain. Adam [amp] Eve bore him, he grew up, hardened his heart against God [amp] brother, murdered his brother, and was now exiled. What more could we possibly need to know?
God tells us that Cain “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (v. 16. Do you know where Adam [amp] Eve, Seth, or even Noah dwelled? No? Neither do I.
Yet we know where Cain, a man of unencumbered evil (1 John 3:12), settled with his family. That’s interesting, isn’t it?
So Cain moves to Nod, the land of wandering, with the woman who would become his wife. Who was she? Suffice it to say, I believe she was his sister; incest was not forbidden until much later, and the relative purity of the human genome at this point would have precluded any negative birth affects due to inbreeding.
What do they do? They obey. That’s not what we typically think when we think of Cain is it? I’m not trying to make Cain out to be a saint — the elder apostle John says Cain was of the evil one — but he was a man who was fruitful. He multiplied. I doubt that he had children out a desire to obey; his child-bearing may have been motivated by a desire to surround himself with people who were not aware of his seedy past.
Or it may have simply been a desire to have a family. Such a desire is very human.
Cain and his wife had a child Enoch, after whom Cain’s city was named (Genesis 4:17). Thus began the “[ungodly] line of Cain”:
The Line of Cain
Cain ⇒ Enoch ⇒ Irad ⇒ Mehujael ⇒ Methushael ⇒ Lamech
Of most of these men, we don’t know much, at least not until we get to Lamech (Genesis 4:18).
The first interesting thing we’re told about him? Lamech had two wives. I durst not say whether this was right or wrong of Lamech; the Scriptures do not record any sort of reproof of Lamech’s sexuality, so make of it what you will. If you decide to defend Lamech, though, be forewarned that doing so is a “thankless job” which requires a steadfast determination that few people seem to have nowadays, at least so far as so-called “lost causes” are concerned.
Whatever the conclusions regarding Lamech’s marital relationships, our culture — and thousands of other cultures throughout human history — owe a great deal to his family.
One of his wives was Adah; she bore a son named Jabal who pioneered animal husbandry, making him the “father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock” (v. 20). Jabal wasn’t their only son, and his brother Jubal helped revolutionize music as “the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe” (v. 21).
Lamech’s other wife was Zillah, and she bore to Cain a son named Tubal-cain, a groundbreaking metalworker who was “the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (v. 22).
Technology. Music. Husbandry. Isn’t it interesting that that the sovereign Lord would choose the “ungodly line” to bring such advancements into the world?
Through the technology pioneered by Tubal-cain, the Israelites would forge the adornments, furniture, and items used in their worship.
Through the musical instruments first devised by Jubal, the Israelites would worship the Lord in song.
Through the husbandry skills passed down by Jabal, the Israelites would manage the livestock used not just for food but also for sacrifice.
I don’t know if anyone in Lamech’s family had faith in God. The text doesn’t tell us that, so I won’t speculate. Whether they knew it or not, Lamech’s boys have a fantastic legacy, one which benefits us even today.
Lamech also had a daughter (v. 22, Tubal-cain’s sister Naamah. The immediate text doesn’t say much about her, and it’s at least a little peculiar that a daughter would be mentioned by name here. Even our first parents’ daughers (6:4) are nameless in history, but not Lamech’s. It’s almost as if she has been here memorialized; the speculation in this area is interesting to say the least.
Things were not all happy-go-lucky, reinventing-the-way-humans-do-society for the Lamech family, though.
The Vengeance of Lamech
We aren’t given the specifics. Perhaps there was a dispute over whatever was considered wealth at that time. Perhaps there was an argument over over the works of Lamech’s sons.
Perhaps, like so much senseless violence today, somebody simply wanted Lamech’s shoes.
Whatever happened, a man wounded Lamech, and Lamech killed him (4:23). If we are to take Lamech’s word for it — and the Scriptures record no other word for us to take — then I think we must conclude that Lamech acted in self-defense. He killed the man not out of jealousy-fueled sibling rivalry. No, this was not like what happened between Cain [amp] Abel. This was different. Lamech had cause. Perhaps if Lamech had no acted in self-defense, that man would have killed him. Who’s to say that the man would have stopped at simply wounding Lamech?
In this age especially — an age of no human government, of no law enforcers — did not a man have the right to defend himself, his family? I really don’t know; the subject of self defense once came up at the Fellowship Hall, and I don’t think a conclusive answer was ever determined. I’d love some feedback on this point from you!
The ESV Study Bible says this in its note on this passage:
Lamech’s response is out of proportion to the injury, showing his inordinate vengefulness. This, like his bigamy (v. 19), reveals his depravity. His behavior reveals that the line of Cain is dominated by those who have no regard for the lives of others or respect for the principle of monogamy that 2:23–24 endorses.
I’m a big fan of this study Bible, but I’m thinking it’s way off base with this note. I don’t get the impression that the Scriptures are intending to paint the line of Cain as being “without regard for the lives of others” and so on. Actually, aside from the judgment against Cain, we aren’t told of other judgments against this family. Even Lamech, who the study Bible says demonstrated his depravity in a couple of ways, receives no rebuke from the Lord.
Yet he even invokes the name of the Lord. His great-great-great-grandpappy Cain received God’s mercy [amp] protection after having killed Abel in cold blood.
Lamech is confident in the mercifulness of the Lord; if Cain would receive sevenfold revenge for being killed, how much more should Lamech receive.
The ungodly line of Cain… Music makers. Metalworkers. Cattle raisers. Men who believed that the best defense is a good offense.
And maybe even Noah’s wife.
They may not have the godly legacy of Seth, Enoch, or Noah, but Cain’s line have had a profound impact upon humanity.
At least, that’s the impression I get from the fourth chapter of Genesis. What about you?