GENESIS - CHAPTER 4
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
4:1. “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived, and bore Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.”
Cain was the first to enter the world by birth, and his name means, maker: fabricator (literally smith).
4:2. “And she again bare his brother, Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”
Abel means vanity (i.e., transitory). These two men, the first to be born into the world, are representative of the two great rivers of humanity: Abel represents the godly line through which Christ, the promised Seed would come, but Cain represents the godless line through which the seed of the serpent will come. Cain, the firstborn, represents man in his natural state, but Abel represents the new man who comes by the second birth, “Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God” (1 Pe 1:23). Each is clearly also representative of the order of those births, “that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Co 15:46).
In the Lord’s acceptance of Abel, and His rejection of Cain, we have the earliest annunciation of the truth proclaimed by the Lord Jesus Christ in Jn 3:3,6,7, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Ye must be born again,” for, as Paul writes, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Co 15:50).
All that comes by natural birth is subject to death, for it has its source in Adam, who is himself fallen and corrupt, unable to beget anything not also fallen and corrupt, as it is written, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?” (Job 14:4).
The principle introduced here can be traced throughout the Scriptures. The first man Adam had to be rejected and replaced with the second man, the last Adam, Jesus Christ. Cain the firstborn must be rejected, and replaced with the second, Abel. Abraham’s firstborn, Ishmael, was rejected and replaced by the second, Isaac. Isaac’s firstborn, Esau, was rejected and replaced by the second, Jacob. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn by the first wife, was rejected and replaced with Joseph, the firstborn of the second wife. Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn, was rejected in favor of the second, Ephraim. (See Ge 48 for the interesting account of Joseph’s unsuccessful attempt to circumvent the divine order of blessing). Israel’s first king, Saul, the people’s choice, was rejected in favor of David, the man of God’s choice. The first covenant, of law, has been replaced with the better, the covenant of grace.
All of these are but the symbolic demonstration of the truth that the natural man must be rejected and replaced with the spiritual. Natural birth produces the first: the new birth, faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, produces the second man, acceptable to God, and fitted to enter heaven. Cain portrays, the first; Abel, the second.
As representative men they portray also the two “seeds.” Abel is the seed of the women, but Cain, though born of the woman, is spiritually the seed of the serpent, and as such is a type of the beast who will rule during the Tribulation.
Scripture lends no credence to the popular philosophy that we are all God’s children. The Lord Himself refuted the claim of the Pharisees that they were children of Abraham, by declaring, “Ye are of your father the devil” (Jn 8:44). In the same connection we read also in 1 Jn 3:8-10, “He that committeth sin is of the devil.... Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him (i.e., God’s life and nature are in him): and he cannot sin because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” (Incidentally, this doesn’t teach sinless perfection of believers, but rather explains sin in the believer’s life. Sin springs from the old nature still in the believer and living side by side with his new nature which cannot sin because it is God’s nature. The old nature is devilish, not godly, James 3:15).
4:3. “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
What could be more natural or logical than that the farmer should bring to God an offering consisting of that which had resulted from his labor? God, however, doesn’t reason as does fallen man. Their bringing an offering implies a knowledge of how God may be approached, and of the offerings that are acceptable to Him. That this instruction had been received from Adam, who in turn had been instructed by God, seems obvious. In this connection Adam had learnt that blood alone could atone for sin, and render man acceptable to God. Cain’s bloodless vegetable offering therefore, speaks all too clearly of the rebellious self-will that would ignore the divinely revealed way, and substitute one of its own choice. Jude, referring to men of similar character, describes them as having “gone in the way of Cain.”
There have been many of his kind since then, and they abound today, for Cain is the representative of all who reject the only acceptable way, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and dare to intrude by a way of their own choosing. It isn’t that Cain refused to acknowledge God: it is that he refused to acknowledge his own unfitness for the divine presence. The proper way, the offering of a lamb, was in itself the confession of the offerer that because of sin, his life was forfeit, but it was also his confession of faith that God would accept an innocent substitute’s life instead, because that slain lamb pointed to the day when God’s Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, would die as the Substitute for all who would believe upon Him as Savior.
Cain’s bloodless offering was the denial of all this. It advertised his refusal to admit that he was a ruined creature, corrupt, both as to his nature, and also as to his manner of living, totally unfit for the presence of a holy God. It advertised also his rejection of the divinely revealed way of cleansing and approach.
The man of similar self-righteousness who refuses to see that his life is forfeit, refuses also to see the necessity for Christ’s death. If no life is forfeit what need is there of the life of a substitute? Such is the wisdom of the self-righteous man. All who reason this way are going “in the way of Cain.” God says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Ro 3:10), “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa 64:6), “Without shedding of blood (Christ’s) is no remission” (Heb 9:22), “And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
In bringing an offering, Cain was willing to acknowledge God as the Giver of the harvest, and he was willing even to express thanks for that harvest, but that fell far short of what he needed to acknowledge: his own need of a Savior. He who is willing to acknowledge everything about God, except that He has a claim upon man’s life because of a law transgressed, and who is willing to confess every need except his need of a Savior, goes “in the way of Cain.”
Cain’s offering may have been the very finest of what his own labor had wrung from the earth, but that earth was cursed. It could produce nothing that was not also cursed, and therefore unacceptable to God. Yet multitudes, going “in the way of Cain” bring similarly tainted offerings. They bring good works, prayers, Bible reading, church membership, money.... excellent in man’s estimation, but worthless in God’s. The only man to be accepted by God is the one who confesses himself a sinner, acknowledges his need of a Savior, and presents the Lord Jesus Christ as that Savior. God will accept nothing else.
Understanding of a further point in Cain’s rebellion requires that we recognize him and his brother Abel to be types of more than the seed of the serpent and of the woman respectively. Cain is a type of the nation of Israel, and Abel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be more clearly seen if we remember that Israel is described as God’s firstborn, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn” (Ex 4:22). Cain was also a firstborn. When Christ was born two thousand years ago He was typically the second son, for Israel the firstborn had preceded Him as far as natural birth is concerned. (It is to be noted that it is only in regard to His humanity that Christ is the secondborn, “The first man is of the earthy, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven (1 Co 15:47), but in resurrection He is “the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col 1:18), i.e., He is the first to rise from the dead never again to die. It is only relative to Adam’s race that death attaches to the firstborn. The new creation, of which the risen Christ is the Head, is beyond the power of death, He having annulled its power by His death on Calvary’s cross.
Cain was a tiller of the ground, as it is written, “The first man is of the earth, earthy,” but Abel was a shepherd, type of Christ the Good Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep. Cain’s self-righteousness adumbrates that of Israel at the time of the Lord’s incarnation. His hatred of Abel foreshadowed Israel’s hatred of Christ, and his murder of Abel was but the rehearsal for the murder of Christ at the hand of the Jews.
What Cain required was what he didn’t possess: a lamb, and he refused to go to the younger brother Abel to obtain one. There seems to be an implied refusal to bring the correct offering because it would have required him to acknowledge that the despised younger brother had what he himself lacked. Israel similarly refused to go to Christ, the despised “younger broth-er,” and acknowledge that He had what they lacked: perfect righteousness, without which they were unacceptable to God.
4:4. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”
Of Abel and his offering it is written, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb 11:4).
The one thing that distinguished Abel from Cain was his faith. In all other respects they were alike. Both came from the same fallen parents, and as such possessed the fallen ruined nature of those parents. The sentence of death rested upon both of them as it did upon Adam and Eve, and as it does upon all descended from Adam. Abel, as a man with a fallen, ruined, corrupt nature was no more fit for God’s presence than was Cain, but he had faith, and that made all the difference. That faith led him to acknowledge his condemned state, and to bring the only thing that would cover it, the divinely appointed lamb that would die as his substitute, that lamb of course being a type of the Lamb God would yet provide to fulfill all the types of the OT age. His faith simply trusted in or believed God, not only as to his need, but also as to how that need could be met. As the sin of his parents had been atoned for by the blood of the lambs they had brought, and as their nakedness had been covered by the skins of those same lambs, so would his sin be atoned for (covered) by the blood of his lamb.
His offering was completely different from that offered by his rebel brother. There was nothing connected with his lamb for which he could take credit. It was apart from any effort of his that the lamb existed. God, and only God, had provided it. Nor could he take any credit for its unblemished perfection: that too was God’s doing. There was nothing, in fact, that gave any glory to Abel, except his faith - but his faith saved him.
This is God’s model for all men who would be saved. They will live eternally because of faith in the blood (death) of God’s unblemished Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“... and of the fat thereof” teaches another truth in connection with Christ. Pure fat is too rich for man’s digestive system to assimilate, and the fat of the offerings, which was always burnt on the altar, and was always for God, tells us that there is in Christ’s sacrifice an element that transcends human comprehension. God alone can understand it and measure its worth.
Scripture records the offering of only one sacrifice by Adam and by Abel, thereby teaching the truth that there is only one Sacrifice for sin. That sacrifice is God’s Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, and having been offered once at Calvary, it needs no repetition.
4:5. “But unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth (angry), and his countenance fell.”
The man and his offering stand or fall together. The acceptance of the offering guarantees the acceptance of the offerer. God says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit 3:5), “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
Cain’s offering implied the very opposite: it represented what his own efforts had produced. It gave God some credit for having provided the material of the offering, but it gave Cain credit also, when in fact none was due him. He may have tilled the ground, watered the seed, and removed the weeds, but he failed to recognize that he had as little part in producing one stalk of wheat as had Abel in producing a lamb. In this God would teach men the folly of adding their own good works to Christ’s perfect work. Man has no part in salvation except to bring to God what He alone has provided, the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
4:6. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou angry? And why is thy countenance fallen?”
“God is longsuffering ... not willing that any should perish” (2 Pe 3:9), and he was willing to be patient so that the rebellious Cain might yet be delivered from receiving the wages of his folly. One thing should be remembered, however: patient though God is, He will persuade, but He will not compel any man to enter either heaven or hell. Each man, by accepting or rejecting Jesus Christ as Savior, chooses by an act of his own free will, whether he will be for ever in heaven, or in the torment of the lake of fire, also for ever.
4:7. “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”
“If thou doest well” is literally “if you offer correctly.” The emphasis is on bringing, not doing, and it is still the same. Sinners are accepted, not on the basis of doing, but bringing - bringing to God the only thing He will accept: the Lamb He Himself has provided.
“... sin lieth at the door.” The same word translates both sin and sin offering, so that this statement may be read either, “sin lieth at the door,” or “the sin offering lieth at the door.”
Regarding it first as the sin offering, we learn several lessons. God was not only patient, He was willing also to remind Cain again of the ready availability of the proper offering. In that the word lieth is used, we are pointed to the meek submission of the lamb he must bring to be accepted. It was there, lying at his tent door. It is a picture of Christ. As God’s Lamb, He came to earth to “lie at man’s tent door,” making Himself available to all who would accept Him.
Inasmuch as the same word signifies sin or sin offering, we are being taught how completely the offerer is identified with his offering. This is symbolically portrayed when the offerer placed his hand on the head of the lamb that would die as his substitute. In that act his sin was symbolically transferred to the substitute, and when it died it was accepted by God as though the offerer himself had died. Type gives place to reality at Calvary. There Christ became completely identified with the believer’s sin, “He who knew no sin was made sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21), and with God the death of Christ is accepted as though it were the believer himself who has died.
Sin, the other equally valid meaning of the word, conveys a vastly different message, however. If Cain would not bring the sin offering, then there was left outside his tent door, not the lamb that would save him, but sin itself, the savage deadly thing waiting to spring and destroy him. Here it is the lion, not the lamb, lying outside the tent door. In the symbol, God points to the terrible reality that will follow rejection of Christ as Savior, for Scripture presents Him under the figure of two animals: a lamb and a lion. His first coming was as the Lamb of God to bear away the sin of the world by His death on the cross. His second coming will be as “lion of the tribe of Judah.” Those who refuse Him as the Lamb, must meet Him as the Lion.
“And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” As the firstborn, Cain ruled over the younger Abel, and Cain’s anger may have stemmed in part from the fear that God’s acceptance of Abel would reverse that role. A patient God sought to allay his fears. He hadn’t yet passed beyond the pale. He had but to bring the lamb, and he would be accepted, and his position preserved. But as it was with the evil fallen spirit who was urging him on in the path of rebellion, so was it with Cain. Pride had accomplished Satan’s ruin, and would accomplish Cain’s also.
To obtain that lamb which meant eternal life or eternal death, that lamb that was the price of his soul, required him to receive it from the hand of his despised younger brother, but that he refused to do, and it cost him his soul. The same stubborn pride cost the Israel of Christ’s day, not only the millennial kingdom, but also the kingdom of heaven.
Countless millions have “gone in the way of Cain.” Stubborn pride prevented his going to Abel to obtain the lamb. The same pride prevented the nation of Israel, the “firstborn,” from accepting salvation from the hand of Christ, the despised “younger brother,” and having refused the Lamb, they have fallen prey to the “Lion.” For two thousand years, Satan the “roaring lion” (1 Pe 5:8) has ravished them, and the worst is yet to come. The day is near when “they also which pierced Him” (Re 1:7) will stand and tremble in the presence of the Christ, no longer the Lamb, but now the Lion of Judah exacting judgment. Those who proudly refused the invitation of the Lamb, “Come unto me ... and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28), will be powerless to disobey the command of the Lion, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41).
4:8. “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.”
The proud rebellious spirit that prevented Cain from bringing the proper offering, led him to take the final step that consummated his eternal ruin. He slew his brother Abel.
God had graciously extended opportunity for repentance and presentation of the proper offering, but Cain’s murder of Abel ended his day of grace. A patient God warns men, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Ge 6:3), and again, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Pr 29:1).
There is no more dangerous presumption than that which concludes that salvation can be accepted at a time of man’s choosing. God warns, “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).
It is written concerning the Lord’s presentation of Himself to rebellious Jerusalem, “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.... Thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee ... and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee ... because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Lk 19:41-44).
Cain likewise knew not that it was the time of his visitation, what men call “his hour of destiny.” Countless others like him know not the time of their visitation, and, like him, lose their souls. They rashly assume that salvation can be accepted any time they choose. God warns otherwise.
But this is more than the record of Cain’s murder of Abel. It is the demonstration of the murderous hatred of the seed of the serpent against the seed of the woman. It was Satan’s first, but by no means his last attempt to destroy the godly line through which the true “Seed” would come. It is also the foreshadowing of the enmity that exists between the old nature received by natural birth, and the new nature received by the new birth when a man trusts Christ as Savior, and becomes “a new creature.”
But even this doesn’t exhaust the full implication of Cain’s deed. It was the preliminary rehearsal of the drama enacted at Calvary where “the firstborn” (Israel), slew the “younger Brother” (Christ).
The added detail, “when they were in the field” reminds us that in Scripture “the field” is the symbol of the world. Abel didn’t enter the field with the intention of dying there to redeem the elder brother who hated him. Christ did!
4:9. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my broth-er’s keeper?”
As has been noted already, God’s questions are not to elicit information, but confession. No confession, however, came from the lips of the impenitent Cain. His rebel heart returned the insolent answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and with that final defiant word he stepped across the invisible line that separates God’s mercy from His wrath. This points to Israel’s attitude following the resurrection of Christ, when Peter pleaded with them to cast themselves on God’s mercy, assuring them that He was willing to count their murder of Christ as a sin of ignorance, see Ac 3:17. They, like Cain, however, sealed their doom, and declared their impenitence by slaying Stephen. That act carried them nationally beyond the pale of mercy. Continued impenitence carries sinners also beyond hope of mercy.
4:10. “And He said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
It is significant that to this second question no answer was given, nor, in fact, does God appear to have desired one. Cain’s day of grace was ended. He knew not the time of his visitation. It was too late for confession. The God Who had waited patiently to dispense mercy, answered the question Himself, as he declared, not only the rebel’s crime, but also his punishment. And as it was with the blood of Abel, so is it also with the blood of Him whom Abel typifies. The blood of Abel cried unto God, but the blood of Christ cries with a louder voice, for it is described as, “the blood... that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb 12:24).
Abel’s blood cried out for vengeance; that of Christ proclaims peace. Abel’s blood condemned the rebel brother who had shed it; Christ’s cleanses rebel sinners from all sin.
It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that Abel’s blood brought condemnation to one who had already refused God’s way of acceptance. So will it be with the blood of Christ. To those who trust Him as Savior His blood cries out to God of a Substitute Who has died in the rebel’s stead, and Whose death enables God, on a basis of perfect justice, to pardon sin and bestow His gift of eternal life. For those who reject Him, His blood will cry more loudly for vengeance than did that of Abel, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.... Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant ... an unholy thing? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:26-31).
4:11. “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.”
What was not said to Adam when he sinned, is said to Cain, “now art thou cursed.” For Adam there was the lamb he could offer by faith to die in his stead, and he brought it. Cain had refused to bring the lamb whose blood would have made atonement for all his sins, and now he must himself suffer the consequences of refusing God’s remedy. That blood placed in contrition on the altar, would have saved his soul, but, rejected, it was replaced with his brother’s blood, spilled as a worthless thing on the ground, and from the ground it cried for the blood of the murderous rebel. By his own stubborn pride he had transmuted the blessing of God into a curse.
4:12. “When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee its strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”
The cursed man is doomed to spend his days in unremitting struggle with a cursed earth, in order to extract from it a reluctantly given meager yield. The punishment is peculiarly appropriate. Cain had placed his confidence in that cursed earth to produce something acceptable to God, but now he was to learn, not only through the weary years of time, but through eternity, the terrible folly of trusting in anything except the blood of God’s Lamb. In addition, he had become a fugitive and a wanderer. Fugitive means one who is fleeing, as from prosecution, intolerable circumstances, etc., and a wanderer is one who moves about without a definite purpose or objective.
Like his parents, he learned too late that the enticements of Satan bring ruin. For the rest of his days he must wander, fleeing from place to place, but finding, as did Esau who later walked in his footsteps, that for the man who rejects God’s way of salvation, there is no place of repentance to be found, though it be sought carefully with tears (Heb 12:17).
That his sentence was invested with prophetic significance is clear. The nation of which Cain is but the type, has received the same sentence. For their slaying of Christ, their punishment has been that their once fertile land “flowing with milk and honey,” has become for the most part desert, yielding its fruit only in exchange for arduous husbandry. In addition they have been expelled from that land, and condemned to wander as fugitives among the nations in whose lands they have been scattered.
4:13. “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.”
There was complaint against his punishment, but there was no contrition, no confession of having sinned. The seed of the serpent will never take the place of the penitent. The “old serpent” and his viper brood are strangers to humility, confession and repentance, and must therefore suffer eternal punishment. The judgments of the Tribulation serve but to identify those who are “the seed of the serpent.” Those judgments that will lead others to repentance, will cause these evil men to “gnaw their tongues for pain,” but the pain will not produce penitence, for it is written that they will blaspheme God because of their pains, but will not repent (Re 16:10-11).
Cain, the first of that evil brood to be born on to the earth, complained against his punishment, but would not confess that it was merited. The breed is numerous. One hung unrepentant on a cross beside the One Who would have been his Savior, while the other malefactor, just as guilty, saved his soul by confessing his sin and trusting in Christ. Well might Cain cry, as will all who go “in the way of Cain.” How unbearable the punishment was can be seen at Gethsemane and Calvary, where its weight caused the sinner’s Substitute to sweat great drops of blood, and cry out in agony, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
4:14. “Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me.”
The fact that there were others from whom Cain would flee, implies that his murder of Abel occurred, not when they were very young, but when they were perhaps several hundred years old, and men had begun to multiply on the earth. The guilty Cain must dwell apart from the fellowship of other men.
This raises the perennial question of where Cain obtained his wife, and it is easily answered. Cain and Abel were only the first of many children born to Adam and Eve, and it is clear that in that early day brothers and sisters married, God forbidding such unions only at a later date.
It is to be noted that Cain bewailed the loss of fellowship with other men, the loss of fellowship with God being mentioned only as if it were of secondary importance. Fallen man has no desire for fellowship with God, but the spiritual man values it above all else.
The prophetic aspect of Cain’s punishment is seen also in this detail. Israel has not only been driven out from fellowship with God, but also in large measure from fellowship with other men. The Jew has virtually no fellowship with those outside his own race. Among the nations to which he has fled, the Jew has dwelt, for the most part, cut off from the fellowship of men. He has dwelt amongst them as a merchant and trader, but rarely as an intimate associate. His social life has been with his own kind. And history is the competent witness to the justification of his fear, expressed in the words of Cain, “Any one that findeth me shall slay me.”
Even today, underneath the superficial acceptance of the Jew, runs the deep strong current of hate and distrust. The creed to which the lip of “civilized” man yields service is rarely the same creed as that to which, unseen, the heart beats, and, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” There is a day foretold by God, and fast approaching, when the veneer of civilization will be stripped away, and the sword that has so often spilled Jewish blood, will spill it again, and in greater quantity than anything the past has ever seen.
4:15. “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”
Again, the prophetic character of the narrative is too obvious to miss. Driven, as he has been, to wander as a fugitive among the nations, with every man’s hand against him, the Jew has, nevertheless, been preserved. From a human viewpoint the survival of the Jewish people has been a miracle. They should, by every law of reason, have disappeared as a race, either by annihilation, or by absorption into the life of the nations among which they have been scattered, but they have been neither annihilated nor absorbed. Wherever he is found, the Jew is a Jew, a race set apart. The preservation of Cain is the foreshadowing of Israel’s preservation.
The nature of the mark that distinguished Cain from other men has not been disclosed. A similar undefined mark distinguishes the Jew. As Cain was different from others, so is the race of which he is the symbol. God has clearly placed a mark, invisible, yet unmistakable, upon the Jew.
It is surely a blinded closed mind that reads these OT histories, and fails to discern upon the them the stamp of divine authorship. Who, but God, could have so accurately portrayed in an individual, the history of a nation?
4:16. “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.”
Having placed himself beyond the hope of mercy, he went out from God’s presence, never to return. The separation that began in time will continue eternally. The terror that stalked him through his wanderings on earth will stalk him for ever. And as it was with Cain, so will it be with those who go “in the way of Cain.”
Nod is literally wandering, and evokes the thought of aimless journeying without a destination, and without hope of rest.
His going east of Eden is another example of the truth we have already examined in connection with Adam’s expulsion from Eden: a movement eastward in Scripture is always synonymous with departure from God.
4:17. “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.”
This verse begins the record of Cain’s descendants, spiritually “the seed of the serpent.” Enoch is literally Chanoch, which spelling reveals more clearly the similarity to Cain’s own name. It means dedicated, but he shouldn’t be confused with the Enoch of 5:18, a link in the godly line that culminated in the birth of the true “seed” the Lord Jesus Christ, for as noted in other studies, the context must be considered when examining the spiritual significance of names or types, and clearly this genealogy has a bad connotation. The dedication is to evil, not good.
Cain means maker: fabricator (lit., smith), and in 1 Sa 13:19 it is recorded, “Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel....” This was under the oppression of the Philistines who compelled the Israelites to use the services of Philistine smiths only. The absence of the smith in Israel is always connected with her degradation and chastisement because of sin. The Israelitish smiths were those who manufactured and sharpened the swords and agricultural implements. They stand thus associated with that which involved Israel’s warfare, as well as that which supplied her food. The Word of God is likened to a sword, and also to the believer’s food. The Israelit-ish smiths represent godly teachers, who by instructing God’s people in truth, furnish not only the weapons of their warfare, but contribute to an abundance of spiritual food. But since Israel represents the godly seed, and Cain the seed of the serpent, his being a smith marks him immediately as a type of the false teacher. The implements produced by such a smith are not for the defence and feeding of the godly, but for their destruction. The false teacher disarms and impoverishes the people of God.
A fact requiring explanation here is that some of the names, Enoch and Lamech, for example, are found in both lists, while some others have obvious similarity. The lesson being taught in this is that from the beginning, Satan has sought to disguise his evil design by attempting to have his infernal minions mistaken for those who belong to God; and his nefarious scheme, as being scriptural. He has an evil counterpart for virtually everything that is of God. Consider for example, the Satanic trinity consisting of Satan, the beast, and the false prophet, corresponding to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The beast will be his false Christ; and Babylon, the tiered city straddling the Euphrates (so that the river appeared to flow out of the city), was his earthly replica of the heavenly Jerusalem, out of which flows the river of the water of life; while the harlot church, is his counterfeit of the true Church.
With Lamech, the sixth in the line, there is a break which informs us that he took two wives, he apparently being the first polygamist, the line then continuing with the record of the birth of his three sons and one daughter, so the ten is divided into six and four, four being the Biblical number of earth and testing; six, of man and sin; and ten, of God in government, the spiritual lesson being that this godless line, like everything else, is under the government of God, but it is of the earth, earthy, and is marked by the sin and weakness of man living in rebellion against God. It is ominously significant that this sixth link, Lamech, like the first, Cain, was also a murderer. Man in his natural state displays the character of his spiritual father, Satan, the Lord Himself declaring of other sons of that same father, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (Jn 8:44).
This genealogy of Cain is as clearly invested with prophetic significance as is everything else connected with him. The first and sixth links of this small segment of the long line that will culminate in the beast, have upon them the character of the whole line: they are all “the seed of the serpent.” As the first, Cain, and the sixth, Lamech, were murderers, so are Satan, and the beast, who is also associated with six, he being designated not only as the man whose number is 666, but as one who also sheds the blood of the godly line.
The KJ version obscures the truth relative to the builder of the city. It was Cain, not his son, who built it, and called it Enoch after the name of his son. City-building is rarely if ever found in a good connotation in Scripture. Nimrod, the great rebel, for example, built Babylon, of which Scripture has nothing good to say, the evil system which originated there, continuing until the present in Rome, whose character and end are described in Revelation 16-18. It is instructive to note that Lot eventually found his way into a city, but the godly Abraham is never found associated with any earthly city, he being content to dwell in tents (the mark of the pilgrim), because he looked, “for the (not a) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb 11:10).
4:18. “And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.”
Irad means a wild ass, with city of witness as a possible, though questionable second meaning, and in other studies we have noted that the wild ass represents the body as the servant of the old nature, gratifying its every lust, while the domesticated or bridled ass represents the same thing, but here it is the body under some measure of moral restraint, as in the case of the moral, but unconverted man. The spiritual lesson of Enoch’s son therefore, confirms that though Enoch means dedicated, it is a dedication to evil and the gratification of the flesh.
The second meaning of Irad’s name city of witness, points to that great city, Rome, which is the eloquent witness to the cunning of Satan in presenting his poisonous lies as divine truth through a system that accommodates every lust of the flesh, Rome’s antidote for every sin being membership in her false system.
Irad’s son Mehujael means blot ye out that Jah (Jehovah) is God, and even the feeblest spiritual intelligence will recognize the profane significance of this name. The evil found in the rebel Cain expressed itself in refusal to bring the proper offering, and in the murder of his brother Abel, but in this fourth descendant it has developed into even more terrible wickedness: it would blot out all knowledge of God, and reminds us of what is written in Ro 1:28 concerning that same evil brood, “... they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” verse 30 describing them as “haters of God.”
Methusael means they died enquiring: they died who are of God: man who is of God. The first meaning points to another characteristic of those who are the serpent’s seed, for in 2 Tim 3:7 they are described as those who are, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
The other two meanings must obviously be interpreted in the context of this evil genealogy, so that their being “of God” is not to be construed as describing those who are of God through faith, but rather, those who have been created by Him, but who have chosen to live and die in rebellion against Him.
Lamech means why thus with thee? and unto bringing low. The first meaning yields no readily discernible spiritual message, unless it is perhaps the question that must be propounded by every Spirit-taught mind, Why should such rebellion be found in the heart of the creature against his beneficent Creator?
The second meaning, however, is easily read. The rebellion which marked not only Lamech, but all who are the serpent’s seed, will ultimately bring the rebel low: first down to hell, and then into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.
4:19. “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.”
It isn’t recorded that God had forbidden polygamy, but His provision of only one wife for Adam, and His pronouncement that a man, “shall cleave unto his wife (singular): and they shall be one flesh,” indicate clearly that marriage as instituted by God is one man and one woman only. In addition, as has been noted already, marriage symbolizes the relationship existing between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:23-32), and there is only one Church.
As has also been noted, marriage is a picture of the new birth, the woman, as a wife, representing the expression of the new nature, see notes on Ge 2:18.
To the above evidences in favor of monogamy, is added the fact that since Lamech was of the serpent’s seed, and, like his forbearers, physical and spiritual, a murderer, it is unlikely that there would be anything in his conduct that would be indicative of a desire to carry out God’s will. That being so, his polygamy cannot be accepted as anything but that which was disapproved of God because it went beyond what God had ordained for man’s good. It is instructive to note that throughout Scripture, polygamy and trouble are never far apart. Consider, for example, the households of Abraham, and Elkanah the father of Samuel.
Since one wife represents the expression of the believer’s new nature, the spiritual truth underlying Lamech’s polygamy seems to be that this man, like all of those who go in the way of Cain, was not without religion. In 2 Tim 3:5, for example, we read of ungodly men, “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” Lamech appears to have been such, and there are many Lamechs today masquerading as believers. They occupy pulpits, fill the pews of churches, engage in the ritual of worship, but they have never been born again through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.
As one wife represents the expression of a man’s spiritual life, Lamech’s two wives also speak of something: the old nature, and something masquerading as the new. Neither of his wives was really a wife by God’s standard, there being two precluded the possibility of either one’s occupying the place of a true wife. It is the same with the natural man who has religion, but who doesn’t have spiritual life.
It is not to be supposed that man in his natural state is utterly without capacity for spiritual activity. He can appreciate music, art, etc., even, religion. He can and does worship, but he does not and cannot worship God. One of Lamech’s wives is the symbol of that part of fallen man which is the spiritual part of the old nature, corrupt and ruined. The born-again man has something vastly different: he has spiritual life, the life of God, and it finds its expression, not in art, music, or religion, but in a Christ-like life.
Lamech’s other wife is the symbol of that part of the natural man which apes the life of the born-again man. It represents that part of his life involved in church-going, etc. It may closely resemble true spiritual life, but all the church-going in the world, all the praying, all the Bible-reading, cannot make up for what is lacking: the possession of spiritual life.
Adah and Zillah, neither one truly his wife in God’s sight, but each acting as though she were, stand as representative of the two aspects of that part of fallen man which is spirit. One part busies itself with literature, art, music, etc., and the other, with religion. But it is the activity of a fallen ruined spirit, passing, by human standards, as evidence of spiritual life. True spiritual life becomes man’s possession only through a new birth, which takes places when a man accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior.
The one wife, ordained by God, is the symbol of that new spiritual life. The polygamous wives of Lamech symbolize Satan’s counterfeit. Multiply them as you will, they are still counterfeit.
The meaning of Adah is ornament: pleasure: adornment. Fallen man has ornamented or adorned his corrupt civilization with art, literature, music, religion, etc., and his fallen spirit does find pleasure in these things, but the born-again man, without these things, has what the natural man can never possess, “the peace of God which passeth understanding.”
Paul, the Apostle, with his feet fastened in the stocks in the innermost keep of the Philippian prison, and his back bleeding from “many stripes ... at midnight ... sang praises unto God” (Ac 16:23-25).
Many a Lamech, going in the way of Cain, having drained the goblet of “culture,” has lain at midnight in a comfortable bed, surrounded by every luxury earth can afford, but the pain of a guilty conscience, worse by far than that of Paul’s bleeding back, has produced, not songs, but sobs. Satan’s counterfeit is a poor substitute for God’s reality: peace, independent of earthly circumstances.
Zillah means shadiness: screen: wasted. She is the fitting symbol of fallen man’s religion apart from spiritual life through faith in Christ. Shadiness, while indicative of rest and pleasure, is synonymous also with diminished light. Such is man’s religion. He may, by Satan’s manipulation, find a measure of rest and pleasure in mere religion, but the light of the knowledge of God is missing from his life.
The second meaning of Zillah, screen, is also instructive. How often is man’s religion a screen, which not only shuts out the light of the knowledge of God, but shuts out also from the eyes of men the corruption under the religious facade. What is invisible to man’s eye, however, cannot be hidden from God. Christ, God the Son, is described in Jn 1:1 as the Word, and in Heb 4:12 we read that the written Word which is the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word, is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The third meaning of Zillah, wasted, surely needs little comment. The man who passes from time into eternity without having accepted Jesus Christ as his savior, will discover eternally too late, that his life, with culture and religion, but without Christ, is wasted.
As always with God’s lists, what heads them indicates relative value or importance. In regard to Lamech’s wives, Adah precedes Zillah. As we have noted, Adah symbolizes the activity of fallen man’s spirit in regard to things cultural or esthetic, while Zillah symbolizes his activity in things religious. To the unconverted man the esthetic is of greater importance, and occupies a larger place in his life than the religious.
4:20. “And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.”
Jabal, meaning a stream, the father of nomads or wanderers who possessed cattle, represents another characteristic of man away from God. His father is Lamech bringing low, and his mother is Adah ornament: pleasure. He himself a stream springing from such parents, is typical of humanity. With all their earthly pleasures and civilized ornamentation of society, with all their worldly possessions, as represented in the cattle, humanity is a stream, a great river, ever going lower, not higher. It is made up of men who are spiritual nomads, wandering aimlessly through life from one area of “pasture” to another, but always without a destination. The natural man will not think of the destination where he must dwell eternally after the years of earthly wandering are over.
The nomad has no thought of a permanent dwelling. His principal concern is to find the next pasture when the present one is grazed out. So is the natural man. He is occupied only with the transient things of this world, heedless of the fact that one day he will reach the last earthly “pasture” from which he must go to dwell for ever in the lake of ire. Jabel is a fitting representative of such.
4:21. “And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”
Jubal means he will be carried, and since he also comes from Lamech bringing low, and from Adah ornament: pleasure, he too portrays a characteristic of the natural man.
The harp and organ are closely associated with recreation and pleasure, and Jubal’s identification as the originator of the arts, points to him as the symbol of man in association with the arts. It is in connection with the arts that the emotional part of man is specifically involved, and in this connection the meaning of Jubal he will be carried is peculiarly significant. Few will deny the power of music to touch man emotionally, and carry him to great extremes of emotional experience.
One of Satan’s most subtle and deadly delusions is to have man confuse emotional experience with spiritual. Countless multitudes have been deluded into mistaking an emotional response to music or oratory, or a combination of both, for the spiritual experience of being born again through faith in Jesus Christ. They may appear to be identical, but they are as different as hell and heaven. The man who has had only an emotional experience will be carried by it down to hell. The man who has had the faith to trust Christ as his Savior will be carried by it into heaven.
What shouldn’t be lost sight of is that these sons of Lamech are Cainites: they are spiritually the seed of the serpent, and are going “in the way of Cain.” Their inclusion in the Cainite genealogy is intended by God to warn men against going in that same way of Cain.
Occupation with “cattle,” the world’s business, has cost many a man his soul, as has also occupation with the “harp and organ,” i.e., the world’s pleasure. The warning, however, isn’t confined to the natural man. It applies with equal force to the believer. What will cause the natural to lose his soul, will cause the believer to lose his crown.
Go not in the way of Cain. Its end is death!
4:22. “And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.”
Tubal means thou shalt be brought, and Tubal-cain means thou wilt be brought of Cain, and Cain, of course, we have already learned, means fabricator or smith. Tubal-cain, then, literally means thou wilt be brought of or by a fabricator or smith, and in this present connotation we have seen that the smith represents a false prophet or teacher. When his name is taken in conjunction with that of his father Lamech unto bringing low, and his mother Zillah shadiness or he wasted, Tubal-cain seems to stand as the representative of the serpent’s seed from yet another viewpoint. He was an instructor of those who work with brass and iron, but in Scripture brass is the symbol of judgment; and iron, of strength, though almost invariably, of strength being used against, not for God’s people. We have already seen that his mother portrays the religious activity of the natural man, and as one descended from such a mother, Tubal-cain seems to portray all too well what springs from that activity, wrong judgment (brass) of spiritual things, and strength (the iron) used to resist and crush all that is of God.
He represents those brought by Cain, i.e., those raised up by the father of all false prophets, Satan, to instruct men in lies and wrong judgment of Scripture, and to marshall the might of corrupt humanity against the things of God. But again, in this man God would show us not only the character of fallen man, but also his end: all who go in the way of Cain will perish.
The very judgment (brass) he uses against the truth will be the instrument finally of his own condemnation, and the strength (iron) used to resist the things of God, he will find at last powerless to save him from a greater strength, God’s, which could have saved him, but which will destroy him because he went in the way of Cain.
The development of fallen man in that sphere which is represented by Tubal-cain may be traced in the great apostate system which brazenly calls itself God’s church on earth. It has instructed millions according to its wrong judgment of spiritual things, and by that false teaching has sent them to hell instead of heaven. It has concentrated in itself colossal power, and used that power (iron) to crush the true Church. That corrupt system is Rome. The judgment she has wrested, and the strength she has misused, however, will become the instruments of her own condemnation. Revelation 17 depicts her end, because she has gone in the way of Cain.
His sister’s name was Naamah, which means pleasantness. In spite of the meaning of her name, she too is of the line of Cain: she is of the serpent’s seed. She was of the same parents as was Tubal-cain. She was his sister.
In the symbolic language of Scripture, the male represents activity of the will, and the female, passivity. Naamah therefore represents the same thing as does her brother, the only difference being that she portrays the natural man’s passive, rather than his active response to the error and power of worldly religion. To the natural man, he who bows lowest to the religious system is esteemed the best. He who obeys its authority to the exclusion of what his own will might desire, is accounted its most worthy member.
Naamah (pleasantness) represents those of the line of Cain, who in their blind delusion, have given themselves completely to the service of religion. To the average “Cainite” this is indeed “pleasantness,” and his only regret is that he can’t attain to it, the reason he can’t, being that he has chosen some other Cainite pursuit. But by whatever path he goes in the way of Cain, every Cainite comes to the same destination - the lake of fire.
4:23. “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.”
It is generally agreed that the literal rendering of this last clause is, “I have slain a young man who wounded me, a young man who had hurt me.”
The sixth member of the Cainite line was guilty of the same crime as the first, murder, but whereas Cain refused to confess his guilt, Lamech, not only confessed, but attempted also to justify the murder. The slain man, he alleges, had wounded and hurt him, and this in Lamech’s estimation justified the murder.
Prophetic truth pervades every detail of this section, and points to the death of Christ. Israel is as clearly represented by Lamech as we have seen her to be represented also by Cain, for the nameless slain man is as much a picture of Christ as is Abel.
Christ, Who will never grow old, is the “young man” whose faithful testimony “hurt and wounded” the sinful nation of Israel, who in revenge slew Him. And as Lamech justified his deed to Adah and Zillah, so did Israel justify herself in the sight of what Adah and Zillah represent, i.e., her own customs and religion. “We have a law,” they said, “and by our law he ought to die” (Jn 19:7). This was the pronouncement of custom. And the requirements of their religion forbade their going into the judgment hall, “lest they should be defiled” (Jn 18:28). Their myopic vision detected defilement from entering the judgment hall, but discerned no evil in the judgment that would send the Son of God to Calvary!
4:24. “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”
God, reserving to Himself the right to execute vengeance, had placed a mark on Cain, thereby preserving him from suffering vengeance at any hand except that of God himself. What Cain apparently failed to recognize was that preservation from premature death was not preservation from eternal judgment. If Cain’s death by the hand of man would result in sevenfold vengeance upon his slayer, it could only be because God in His own time would exact similar vengeance upon Cain for his murder of Abel. The threat against the one who might slay Cain indicated the completeness of the divine judgment Cain himself would receive from the hand of God.
Lamech’s self-pronounced exoneration was the voice of a conscience exercised only by the standards set by man in defiance of God. The self-righteousness begotten by rejection of the divine standard evoked the confident cry, “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” He seems to have been ignorant of the enormity of his crime, or that in multiplying the vengeance he hoped would fall on his slayer, he was unwittingly proclaiming the vengeance God would eventually exact from him.
His cry was but the forerunner of that uttered by the Jews, when in confident, though deluded self-righteousness, they stood before Pilate and exclaimed, “His blood be on us” (Mt 27:25). Could they have foreseen the future, and Lamech his eternal future, and sinful Israel, both her earthly and eternal fate, the proclamation of self-righteousness would have been replaced by confession of guilt, and a plea for mercy. But those who go in the way of Cain are like the blind Laodicean church of which it is written in Re 3:17-18, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed.”
4:25. “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth. For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”
After tracing the line of Cain, the seed of the serpent, the Holy Spirit goes back and begins to trace the line of the seed of the woman, the godly line from which the promised Seed would come, this of course being simply a demonstration of the truth declared by Paul, “Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Cor 15:46).
Seth means appointed or set, appointed, as Eve says, instead of Abel, and it is significant that his mother described him as another seed to replace Abel the first seed. At the birth of Cain she said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” but she never described him as a seed. It may be that God had revealed to her that Abel, while not himself the Seed, was nevertheless one of the links through which, but for the permitted intervention of Satan in having him slain, the Seed might eventually have come.
Abel’s being of the seed of the woman raises the question as to why God should have permitted him to be slain. The answer is obvious. God, in raising up Seth “instead of Abel” showed that He is the God of resurrection whose plans are not circumvented even by Satan’s employment of his ultimate weapon, death. God brings life out of death. Abel’s death is a miniature of Christ’s, for the one who instigated the death of Abel instigated also the death of Christ, but as the place of the slain Abel was filled by that of a living Seth, the place of a slain Christ has been filled by that of a living resurrected Savior.
Only three of Eve’s children are named, though certainly she had many others, and in harmony with the significance of the number three, Seth is presented as her third son, for in him is displayed God’s resurrection power.
4:26. “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.”
Enos means mortal. This first son of the godly line of Seth stands in marked contrast with Cain’s firstborn, Enoch, which means dedicated, and whose name Cain also bestowed on the city he had built, as though in the perpetuation of the name, he would seek to circumvent the fact of death.
The different characters of the two lines is pointed up in the names of these sons, names so apparently similar, yet very different. In naming his son Enos mortal, Seth is confessing what Cain was trying to ignore: all men are mortal, subject to death because of sin. The confession of being mortal is tantamount to the confession of sin. God’s response to that honest confession is to pardon. Cain would not make such a confession, nor will any who go “in the way of Cain.”
The conclusion of this fourth chapter is instructive, “... then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” When? As soon as confession of mortality was made. This is God’s unchangeable order: first, the confession of sin, then a calling upon God. And God’s assurance rings across the ages, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Ac 2:21).