Genesis 4 begins with a declaration of hope. Eve states “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” This is much more than just thanks to God for a child – this is praying to God that this might be the child. Eve expresses her hope that God has given what He promised in Genesis 3:15; that Cain might be the one to crush the head of the serpent and destroy sin.
But it becomes quickly apparent that this is not the case, and Cain is revealed to be not the child of hope, but rather the offspring of the serpent. And the Bible makes a distinction between two types of people – those who hope in the Lord, and the rest of the world. They are distinct in their actions and their hearts. Abel brings the Lord both the first and the best of what he has, Cain does not. And the difference in their actions stems from the difference in their hearts.
And we see that where hope in the Lord is lacking, sin abounds…and death abounds. The offspring of the serpent kills righteous Abel.
And from here, we read the genealogy of Cain*, and we see sin establish itself more and more in the world as the creation moves away from God’s design. We see each subsequent generation fall deeper and deeper into sin, until we get to Lamech. It is significant that he is the seventh generation, seven being the number of completion or perfection. Because where Cain sinned and recognized his murder of Abel as sin, Lamech celebrates his sin. Like a badge of honor, he states to his wives that his crime is far worse than that of Cain (notice the seven and the seventy-seven). Sin is complete in a person when they can’t even recognize what sin is anymore. Lamech is a prototype of the lost – evil, and proud of it.
But here is another type of person – the one who hopes in the Lord. And that hope lives in the line of Seth. We again see Eve’s prayer of hope when Seth is born – the promised offspring wasn’t Cain, and it wasn’t Abel who was slain – her prayer is that Seth would be the promised offspring (she used the same word as the promise in Genesis 3:15). It is through Seth that the Lord Jesus would eventually come (Luke 3:38).
And we see that hope grow in the line of Seth. In the generation of his son Enosh, people began to “call upon the name of the Lord.” This phrase is used throughout the Bible to denote someone having saving faith in the Lord (see Gen 12:8, Gen 26:5, Zep 3:9). In the pages of the New Testament, this is shown to be Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21, Rom 10:13, 1 Cor 1:2).
Seth’s genealogy is recorded in Genesis 5**. Note that the years of the lives of Seth’s offspring are counted, but Cain’s are not. Also, the refrain of “he had other sons and daughters” is used of each of Seth’s offspring, but not Cain. This is showing us how the promise of life and the creation mandate of “being fruitful and multiplying” (Gen 1:28) is still typified in the saved, whereas the unsaved have no part in either – they sin, and they die.
There is also a distinction being drawn between Lamech – the seventh in the line of sin, and Enoch – the seventh in the line of hope. Whereas Lamech represents superlative sin, Enoch represents superlative salvation, because though his earthly life ends, he doesn’t die. He lives eternally with God. He is the prototype of the saved.
This portion of Scripture ends with the introduction of Noah. The hope is very much alive in the Godly line of Seth, because his father Lamech (no, not that Lamech) declares:
“Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” – Genesis 5:29 (ESV)
Lamech is clearly vocalizing the same hope that Eve did, first with Cain, then with Seth. He even references the curse God pronounced on man and his working of the ground. He prayed that his son Noah would be the promised offspring.
What these two chapters do is set the pattern for the two types of people we will read about in the rest of the Bible – these are the only two types of people that have existed since the Fall – these are the only two types of people alive today: those who hope in the Lord, and the rest of the world. One type of person will sin, and die. The other will live. And we see another pattern established here: sin breeds sin, and hope breeds hope. And even all those thousands of years ago, that hope was in the promised offspring: Jesus Christ, Who was descended from the Godly line of Seth, and later Noah.
* The question has often been asked by atheists with an air of victory: “who was Cain’s wife?” We read of Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. No mention of anyone else at all. Clearly, the Bible made a mistake!! Well, not exactly. Note that in both the genealogies of Cain and Seth, only one son is mentioned by name. Seth’s line mentions “other sons and daughters” and Cain’s line mentions only those six men. The Bible does not offer an exhaustive family tree, but names only those that are major players in the story being recorded. So Adam and Eve had other children outside of Cain, Abel, and Seth. I mean, Adam and Eve were married 130 years old when Seth was born, and there was no birth control. Get the picture? So who was Cain’s wife? It was his sister, or perhaps a niece born to Abel and his sister. That is how the human race grew. After the flood, it would have been first cousins marrying and having babies. And in both cases, as the generations went on, it would have been more and more distant relatives. And I don’t mean to upset you, but your spouse is nothing more than a very distant relative, and the offspring of Noah. Think about it…
** There has been debate in Christian circles forever over the dating of the world. What year B.C. was the world created? We don’t know. Some have done the math based on the ages of fathers given in the Old Testament until they can pinpoint a year based on extra-Biblical history and they’ve come up with the year 4,004 B.C. I don’t buy that. Note that the Old Testament, in some recorded genealogies, very clearly skips generations. [Just look at Moses’ genealogy in Numbers 26:57-59. If no generations are skipped, Moses is Levi’s great-grandson. If the Exodus happens when Moses is 80, and there were 430 years between Levi going to Egypt and the giving of the law, and since Levi already had Kohath (Moses’ grandfather), that means that Moses was born ~350 years after Kohath. That’s an average age of 175 for these guys when their sons were born. The lifespan was already far less than that. The Bible was simply naming the major players in the story.] What’s the point? Don’t get caught up in the years of Genesis 5. That is not the point that Genesis is making, at all. The Bible is not concerned with dating anything, only with showing us that the lifespans began to get shorter and shorter because the creation is always moving further and further from God’s design. Do not try to take from the Bible facts that it is not intending to communicate! We cannot go beyond what God has revealed.