Life Outside the Garden

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Genesis 4:17-26 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. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 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.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

25 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.” 26 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.

INTRODUCTION

Experience tells me that some of you would have preferred this sermon to be called something like, “Where Did Cain’s Wife Come From?”. Or, perhaps, “Did God Condone Polygamy?”. Both of those are interesting questions, aren’t they? I’ll get to both a little bit in a little bit, but the simple fact is that the bible doesn’t answer those questions explicitly and so we can only offer educated, deductive guesses.

The biblical stories (especially in Genesis) raise lots of interesting questions; some of which are answered and some of which aren’t. In this passage alone, there are several more examples of that.

It is important, therefore, that we hold fast to the biblical teaching that in the bible God gives us everything we need to know to live lives pleasing to Him. As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, this means that the bible is our guide not only in the things it does say, but also in the things it doesn’t. It tells us what matters in both what it includes and in what it leaves out. In other words, while we might want to know where Cain’s wife came from, the fact that the bible doesn’t even tell us her name teaches us to redirect our questions. It teaches us that we don’t need to know that (or anything else it leaves out) to live our lives for the glory of God. And so we trust in God’s wisdom and focus on what is clear.

What is clear in this passage is that life outside of the garden continued to decline even as glimpses of God’s redemptive plan remained. And because that’s the focus of this passage, that is the focus of this sermon.

Let’s pray now—would you pray with me?—that God would help us once again to see how utterly foolish it is to try to improve upon or wander from his Creation-design. And let’s pray that God would help us to see all the ways we’re doing that right now in order that we might turn back to His path of life and joy and blessing. And let’s pray that God would help us rejoice in the amazing grace that makes that possible—especially as we begin Holy Week.

POINTS OF INTEREST

By my count, there are nine points of note in this passage. Individually, they seem fairly disconnected and several seem fairly insignificant. Collectively, however, they move the story along (toward Jesus) by helping us see that life outside of the garden continued to decline even as glimpses of God’s redemptive plan remained.

There are two parts to this sermon, therefore. In the first part I want to quickly look at the nine points of interest. And then in the second part I want to help you to find vast measures of hope and help in showing you how together they point to the increased chaos of life east of Eden and the irrevocable plan of God to save sinners in Christ.

Cain’s Wife (17)

On to the first point of the first part of the sermon. So far in Genesis we’ve seen that God made Adam and Eve. And then, according to God’s design and commission, Adam and Eve began multiplying. The biblical text clearly states that Eve bore two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel. At this point in the Genesis story, then, it would seem that there were only three people on the planet: Adam, Eve, and Cain. But look at v.17.

Genesis 4:17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.

So from where would Cain have gotten a wife? As I mentioned in the introduction, we just don’t know. The bible doesn’t tell us explicitly; again, it doesn’t even tell us her name. Our educated deduction is that Adam and Eve had other kids and Cain married one of them—which, of course, would mean that he married his sister (or perhaps a niece). As strange as that sounds to us today, the bible gives no indication of any plan other than that. In other words, we’re given no hint in the bible that God initially meant anything other than for Adam and Eve to have kids who would eventually marry each other in order to have kids of their own. There’s no talk of God creating other, unrelated pairs of humans from nothing.

Again, then, we’re left to trust in the goodness God’s decision not to tell us where Cain’s wife came from.

Building a City (17)

To see the second point of interest, look at the second half of 4:17. It tells us that Cain went out and built a city.

Genesis 4:17 When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

How did Cain build a city? What did it entail? How did he even know what a city was? How does that relate to his wandering curse (4:14)? Again, we don’t know the specific answer to any of those questions.

(At least part of the answers are found in the fact that Genesis was written to the Israelites many years after this event, and after many cities on earth had come and gone. In other words, Moses was writing with the knowledge and terminology he had centuries later.)

But this is noteworthy, though, in that through it, through building a city, sinful Cain was in some ways and with some degree of goodness living in obedience to God’s commission. By building a city he was bringing order and stability and productivity, and as we’ll see shortly, music and metal and animal farming. He was bringing about culture and civilization; and that was part of God’s design for him and all humanity.

The First Genealogy (18-26)

The third point of interest found in this passage spans from vs.18-26. In those verses we find the first genealogy. Moses doesn’t tell us why he included this family line, but we do know that every word of the bible is on purpose (God did not waste a single word). Therefore we know that recording this part of Adam’s family tree is important.

The thing for us to see here is probably the contrast between the line of Cain (here) and the line of Seth (yet to come). Cain’s line of sin would soon die (7 names in total), while Seth’s line would carry on. In fact, many years later, at the end of the third chapter of Luke’s gospel, we finally see the true importance of this passage. While sinful Cain’s lineage had long ago ended, righteous Seth’s lineage had continued on all the way to our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ! The sinful line died and brought death, while the righteous line lived and brought life.

The First Polygamy (19)

Fourth, please notice the shift in the practice of marriage. In chapter 2 we saw God’s design for marriage as one man and one woman. In v.19, we see the first deviation from that design. Notice also that the passage doesn’t say anything like “God told Lamech to take two wives” or “Lamech took two wives and God approved.” It simply says “And Lamech took two wives” without any hint of God’s command or approval. And this helps us to see at least two significant things.

First, the fall of Adam and Eve infected everything. In Adam all mankind had been corrupted and, therefore, it should be of no surprise that mankind was already busy at work corrupting God’s institutions, including marriage.

Second, an important feature of narrative—story—is that it doesn’t always distinguish between is and ought (between right and wrong). Usually narratives simply describe what happened, not necessarily what should have happened. This has important practical implications. Above all, it means that simply because we find that something did happen in the bible doesn’t imply that it was good, much less that God meant his people to continue the practice. It might mean that, but we need more than the simple story to know that. We need God to explain his perspective on the situation in the narrative itself or elsewhere.

Marriage is a good example. If all we had was the Genesis 2 account of Adam and Eve’s marriage, we would not have sufficient evidence for believing that God meant it to continue among his people (much less in that exact way and excluding everything else—bestiality, polygamy, homosexuality, etc). But, as I tried to help you see in earlier sermons, the rest of the bible is filled with various (non-narrative) explanations of the fact that God meant Adam and Eve’s marriage to be absolutely paradigmatic. Many well-meaning Christians have gone destructively astray by failing to make this distinction.

Women Named and Named for Good (19, 22)

The fifth notable aspect of our passage for this morning is the fact that several women were named.

Gen 4:19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

Gen 4:22 The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

This is significant because even though men, under God’s inspiration, dominate the story (for their good and evil), the fact that it includes women, most of whom are named, helps us to see that in spite of the corruption caused by the fall (wherein men often selfishly misused their God-given headship), God still has a special place for both men and women. In fact, in a story dominated by sinful men, the only moral act attributed to a woman, as we will see below, was Eve rightly acknowledging the fruit of her womb as a gift of God (4:25).

The Father Of (20-21)

The sixth thing to see here is the term “father of”. It’s both interesting and important.

Genesis 4:20-22 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron.

In this context “father of” (and probably “forger of”) signifies the inventor of, or the first one to do something. In that sense, Jabal was the inventor of tent-living and livestock-farming (Abel only cared for sheep), Jubal invented musical instruments, and Tubal-cain was the first to work with metal. It’s easy to forget that almost everything was new at this time. The things we take for granted had never before been seen, done, or heard on earth. Even though it was all tainted by sin, this was still an amazing time of discovery and invention and ingenuity and ordering (driving out chaos and bringing about order; driving out wilderness and bringing in civilization).

Lamech Sang About Killing a Man (23-24)

Seventh, evidently Cain felt that he was just in murdering his brother, Abel; that his “revenge” was justified. Indeed, it seems here that Cain must have bragged about that story to his offspring for Lamech knew of it. Indeed, it seems that—in Lamech’s mind at least—vengeance had become a mark of masculine pride. Consider again vs.23-24.

23 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.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

In this passage Lamech confessed to his wives that he killed a man (a boy?) like his father, Cain. What’s more, he boasted about it as if it were a good thing. His revenge, he said, was eleven times as severe as Cain’s. More shocking still, he not only went beyond Cain’s sin, he not only bragged about it, but he also turned it into a song! The reason these words are indented differently in your bible is because it’s actually a poem or song. And not only that, worse still, by all accounts it is a good poem; a well written, well timed, well structured, and well rhyming poem. Again, it’s easy to see the corruption of mankind growing and sinfully working to reshape God’s design.

God Appointed Another Son (25)

Eighth, I want you to notice Eve’s words upon bearing Seth.

Genesis 4:25 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.”

Just as with Cain and Abel (4:1), in spite of having endured the murder of one of her children at the hand of the other, it is clear that Eve continued to understand children to be gifts from God. She did not waiver from the belief that the fruit of the womb was in the hands of God’s sovereign grace. Though God had made “natural” means of procreation, it was still Him, Eve knew, that granted fruitfulness. While much was going wrong in the fallen world, we see glimpses like this of God’s grace being preserved.

People Began to Call Upon the Name of the LORD (26)

Finally, the ninth idea of note in our passage is found at the very end of v.26.

Genesis 4:26 At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

This phrase (“call upon the name of the LORD”) is used a number of times in Genesis (12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25), “and it seems to be an umbrella phrase for worship…prayer and sacrifice” (Wenham, WBC, 116). The really important point here is that while Cain represents the sinful line of Adam, he was able to build a remarkable civilization it seems. It’s amazing what God allows his enemies to be able to do. And yet, the people who called upon the name of the LORD were from Seth’s line, the righteous line of Adam. No matter how much Cain did to make life under the curse better, calling on the name of the LORD is an infinitely greater accomplishment. Our charge, Grace Church, is not ultimately to be culture-makers. It is to be God-callers. When we join Seth in calling on the name of the LORD it will likely have a real impact on the culture, but that is never our first aim. What shall we gain if we tame the whole world, but fail to call on the name of the LORD?

THE POINTS COMBINED

I mentioned at the beginning that there were two main parts of this sermon. In the first part I mentioned nine important aspects of the passage; all interesting, but not clearly connected or all overtly important. The second part, the part I’m on now, is meant to help you see that put together the nine points above communicate a very important message. That is, the main point of all of these combined is that life outside of the garden has always been a mixture of corruption spreading and God’s sovereign purposes holding fast. The darkness grows, but the light is never snuffed out.

We see the darkness growing in the practice of polygamy, Lamech’s boastful song about his murder, and the fact that people had already stopped calling upon the name of the LORD. These are truly tragic escalations of the corruption of mankind and God’s design for the world.

On the other hand, we see remarkable glimpses of mercy and grace in God continuing to give the gift of offspring, in the building of civilization, in the preservation of the line of Jesus, the coming Savior of the world, the esteeming of women, the invention of new and good things like livestock, metal working, and music, and the returning to the LORD mentioned in v.26.

Again, individually, the points of this passage are interesting and not clearly connected. But collectively they help us to see that God has always had a plan to put his glory on display through his faithfulness to his promises—especially his promise to provide saving from sin. In all of this, then, we see that we cannot read Genesis well without properly framing it within its place in the bible; and properly framing it within its place in the bible means highlighting it as the beginning of the story of Jesus—the true promise and provision of God.

And all of that helps us to make sense of our own lives. So many of the things we experience on a daily basis—including all of this strangeness surrounding the coronavirus—don’t seem to make much sense by themselves. It’s hard to see the meaning in some of it. As we look back with narrow vision on the past year (or decade) it can be really difficult (impossible) to connect the dots of our lives. On the other hand, when we widen our vision as God intends to the point of looking at our lives as part of the larger story of God’s plan of redemption, then things will make a little more sense. When we move ourselves out of the center of our story and move the cross into it, our vision will start to clear. When we recognize that the fallen nature of the world and the inextinguishable promises of God are as much a part of the world today as the world back in Genesis 4, then (and only then) can we begin to see the world rightly and live rightly within it.

Therefore, here’s the key to applying this passage to our lives today: When we start truly believing that God has a purpose for every circumstance in our lives, we can live with the kind of peace and hope and courage and surrender to God that we were made for. At the same time, when we accept that God’s specific purpose is often hidden from us in the circumstances of our lives, we will be able to let go of a great deal of frustration, fear, stress, and confusion.

In the Genesis story the sins of men are becoming increasingly sinful. The image that leaves us with is that things have not bottomed out yet. But the grace of God is proving unbreakable. The image that leaves us with is that the bottom won’t be total ruin or destruction. There is hope.

And so it is for us, Grace. The current events in the world right now help us to see that the sins of our first parents still have purchase in this world. In many ways the sins of men are still becoming increasingly sinful. Perhaps we, 2000 years later, still have not bottomed out. And yet we know what the people of Genesis 4 only dreamed of. We know the Snake Crusher. We know the name of the Grace of God. We know Jesus and the power of his blood to save. We know how this all ends; and we know that for those who call upon the name of the LORD it ends in everlasting victory and deliverance and joy in God through Jesus.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, then, as we begin Holy Week in a truly unprecedented way, as we begin Holy Week with a stark reminder of the ever-present shockwaves of the sins of the people in Genesis 4, let us hold fast to the promises of the One who won our salvation by laying down his life for us, only to be raised again for our resurrection.

Before I pray, I want to say briefly say something about communion. Today is the day we are scheduled to eat and drink together of the Lord’s Supper. This is a meal that God gave to the Church to sustain and encourage us. It must grieve us that we are not able to commune together in this way. Let us treat this as it is, then. Let us go to God in this fast and ask him to lead us to trust in and long for him in new ways, even as we ask him to bring us back together quickly.

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