Studies in Genesis I-XI: God Preserves His Word Amid Sin’s Consequences (11) & The Faithfulness of God From Generation to Generation (12)


Scripture: Genesis 4

To reflect on our world today is to lose all hope.

Every day, if we are at all sensitive, our heads whirl and our hearts weep at man’s inhumanity to man. Homes are riddled with hatred. Communities are destroyed by fear. Nations engage in their never-ending race to produce weapons capable of wiping out whole civilizations within the span of moments. Who can count the tears which flow from millions of eyes every hour? Who can bottle up the streams of blood which have been poured upon the earth in Bangladesh? Has all the world f!;one mad with a cruel and capricious madness which can’t be cured? No wonder many echo the lament of Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“The anguish of the world is on my tongue. My bowl is filled to the brim with it; there is more than I can eat.”

We need feel no surprise, then, when people insist that such a world cannot last. This age isn’t sowing the seeds of dissolution; it is reaping the whirlwind harvest which will not be halted. Nothing seems to make sense any more. T. S. Eliot spoke of our time even more than of his own, fifty years ago, when in his The Waste Land he likened life to a spiritual desert sharp-bitten by drought and deadness.

Yet those who know the living God and seek to live by His word are not in the dark. These things, they affirm, must needs come to pass. Here we live in a world under judgment, yet judgment which at all times is tempered with mercy by the sure promise of God. Our life is not ruled by chance or fate; it is ruled by God who refuses to abdicate despite all man’s recriminations and rebellions. The key to meaning He has given in His Word. While passing judgment on Adam and Eve for their transgression, He utters the promise. And that promise He will surely keep. Not for a moment does He swerve from His purposes. This is evident from Genesis 4, a chapter which belongs to the same “book of the generations” as does Genesis 3.

We find here, then, not so much the story of Cain and Abel, the record of a developing civilization among Cain’s descendants. Indeed, what is said about all that is factual; not legendary. But the emphasis of the chapter is on how God keeps His covenant word despite all man’s sins. And therein lies our hope also for our todays and tomorrows.

The fruit of the womb is from God Adam and Eve have been banished from the Garden. The beautiful world lies behind them. With a flaming sword the cherubim stand guard to prevent any attempt at return.

What we now read seems so ordinary.

Yet this is not so. Here we have our parents, having heard and believed God’s promise of victory, bringing forth children. The mandate to replenish the earth was not abrogated at the time of man’s fall. Instead, it was confirmed. In the “seed of the woman” the consequences of man’s sins will be overcome.

Not only did Adam believe that promise (ch. 3:20) but also Eve. When the first child is born to her and her husband, she says: I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah. His name derives from the word “to get.” Just what Eve intended with these words has been the subject of long debate. Among the early church fathers and during the middle ages many insisted on the translation: “I have received (gotten) a man, namely, Jehovah.” This would then imply that she somehow expected as deliverer a seed both human and divine. The promise, however, would give her no indication of this at all. Not until much later in the history of God’s self-revelation would the two natures of our Lord be made manifest. A rather common translation, “I have received a man from Jehovah,” is not accurate. It is rather to be translated “with” Jehovah, that is, with His help. That her expectations were high at the time of Cain’s birth seems evident. How sorely disappointed she and her husband will be in this first-born son!

When Abel is born, we read nothing of the details. Even the name is not explained in the sacred record.

Both boys grew up. Each followed an appropriate vocation. We might want to know just why the choice was made; also how they learned to sow and reap as well as to tend sheep to obtain food and clothing for themselves. But, while all this is presented to us as fact, as history, God’s Word isn’t interested in giving us the story of the first family as such. Hence we don’t read either about other children born to Adam and Eve. Yet from this silence we may not conclude that none were born to them. In fact, later verses in this chapter indicate that by the time Cain became a fugitive, there was a growing population sprung from our nrst parents.

We do read about worship, however. Again, its origin is not explained. That Adam and Eve must have spoken to their children about their creation and their time in the Garden of Eden with the tragic consequences of the temptation seems self-evident. How else would their descendants know anything specific about the living God? The introduction of bringing an offering is recorded as if it were a very ordinary and expected occasion in the lives of these two. Each brought a “gift” from that which he had first received from the Lord. Family-life, child-bearing, name-giving, farming, tending sheep, and worship belong, according to Moses’ record, to the very days of man’s life in the present world. Here are no nomads, who seized wives at will, lived in clans rather than families, and hunted wild beasts rather than farmed the land. The Biblical presentation of the facts contradicts the evolutionary reconstruction of man’s story at almost every point.

Strife in the first family

At the altar of God the hearts and lives of men become transparent.

Both Cain and Abel are engaged in worship. Yet how divergent these two men were. With the one God was pleased; with the other not. To attribute God’s displeasure with Cain to the nature or kind of offering brought has no foundation. We are rather to find this, in accordance with what the rest of Scripture so clearly affirms, in the attitude of mind and heart. Details, however, are not given, To claim that God at this time in man’s history insisted on “blood sacrifice” pointing forward to the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ is entirely without warrant.

Cain at once knew that God was displeased. How he knew this is not recorded, But he was very wroth (hot with anger).

Again God reveals himself as patient, longsuffering and just. He comes with His warning. Sill in this case is described by God as a wild heast crouching at the door of Cain’s heart. Over this, Cain, morally responsible before God for his attitudes and actions, must rule.

Instead of heeding the warning, Cain turns away from the Lord and His Word, He speaks to Abel (told . . . his brother), Just what and where is not stated. Thereupon both of them find themselves in the field, away from the rest of the family, He vents his rage on Abel and slays him,

Now follows another judgment scene.

Jehovah immediately confronts the murderer with the issue in the question directed to him. That Cain is devoid of any sense of repentance is plain. Churlishly he responds to God. Then God announces that his brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. No answer is forthcoming, Calvin—himself trained in law—makes here some pertinent and incisive comments:

“He, the Searcher of hearts, has no need of a long, circuitous course of investigation; but, with one word, so fulminates against those whom he accuses, as to he sufficient, and more than sufficient, for their condemnation, Advocates (i.e., lawyers) place the first kind of defence in the denial of the fact; where the fad cannot be denied, they have recourse to the qualifying circumstances of the case. Cain is driven from both these defences; for God both pronounces him guilty of the slaughter, and, at the same time, declares the heinousness of the crime, And we are warned by his example, that pretexts and subterfuges are heaped together in vain, when sinners arc cited to the tribunal of God.”

The penalty follows immediately.

Now the ground witnesses against Cain, He becomes cursed, in consequence of which the ground will be far more stubborn than it was for Adam. In addition, he is to be a fugitive and a wanderer, exiled from the family and its relative security. And when Cain protests at the severity of his punishment and worries about himself being killed, God appointed a sign for Cain. This will be testimony that God will watch over him, so that anyone who slays him will be avenged by God sevenfold. What the sign was we don’t know. Much speculation has been spilled uselessly trying to discern this, But that it was not “upon” him seems plain. In the light of what the Bible says about sign elsewhere, however, we conclude that it was some kind of visible token.

The road that leads to ruin

The second section of this chapter tells of the descendants of Cain. It is a strange mixture of moral and spiritual deterioration accompanied by a developing civilization. Cain now leaves the presence of the Lord. There is no evidence that at any later time God again spoke to him. He seeks lodging in the land of Nod, which may be translated “the land of wandering.” It is away from the rest of the descendants of Adam. But he starts a family. He has a wife, undoubtedly one of his sisters who perhaps was married to him before he became a murderer. It would seem strange that any of the sisters would willingly go with him and become his wife after his dastardly deed, But, again, the details aren’t given, A son is born to them. A city is built, named after the first-born.

Often the question is raised how Cain could be condemned to wandering and still erect a city. Several solutions have been offered. The wandering may be interpreted as having no fixed dwelling, whieh would make the building of a city a direct refusal of Cain to submit to the punishment. It may also be that the wandering is to be understood as being exiled from the rest of the family and finding no peace of mind and heart because of an accusing conscience. In any case, we need not think of the city as a sizeable place with high walls and thick gates, Undoubtedly by this time Cain and his wife had a sizeable number of children who in tum married and produced children of their own, Thus several dwellings with adjacent buildings might have been enclosed with a palisade to protect them from others and from the beasts, Certainly it seems that fear on the part of Cain was at least one motive for doing what he did.

Now the record mentions seven generations in the line of Cain from Adam to Lamech, Only their names are listed. We know nothing of any of them, not even their ages, until we come to Lamech.

By this time a fairly developed civilization has appeared among the sons of men, It is, however, as the Bible indicates at least implicitly, one without God. Lamech defies the creational ordinance of marriage by taking to himself two wives, By these he begets four children whose names and achievements are recorded. We need not suppose, of course, that he had no other children. Jabal carries on cattle raising on a large scale and adopts a semi-nomadic pattern of life, likely to find adequate pasture for the herds. He isn’t a shepherd; the animals referred to here would be asses, camels and cows. Something of the joy and beauty of life, despite sin and its ravages, is apparent to Cain’s descendants. One of them, Jubal, becomes a musician, the father of those who play the harp (stringed instrument) and the pipe (a woodwind). Tubal-cain learns the art of preparing all kinds of instruments of copper (brass) and iron. Seemingly no long “evolution” was required to discover these two metals and make use of them. His sister receives the name Naamah. which may mean according to the Hebrew “beautiful, attractive.” Was she perhaps so unusually lovely? Or is this an indication of the growing emphasis among the sons of men upon external form and grace in the absence of the cultivation of an inward beauty of mind and heart before the Lord? We dare not read too much in such a name, lest we would make God’s Word say more than it does. Yet such thoughts seem to spring to mind at once, as we read these words.

The brutal, offensive, cruel nature of sin, when it is not restrained by man in his life, is demonstrated in the ode of Lamech. He sings, perhaps with a sword in his hand which had been forged by his son Tubal-Cain. He calls out to his wives to listen to what he has to say. Here we have lines which are definitely poetic, employing the parallelism so characteristic of Hebrew songs. Recognizing this, we wonder how those who want to insist that Genesis I is poetry (and hence doesn’t have to be taken with “historical” literalness) can defend such a position. It is a bloodthirsty song which Lamech sings, of one who takes vengeance in his own hands even for a small hurt. And while God (Lamech apparently knew this from stories told him as a boy) promised to avenge Cain’s death sevenfold, should any man lay a hand on him, Lamech will not only take matters in his own hands hut will be far more vengeful than the holy, righteous God. This is the spirit of man hardened in sin.

Now the line of Cain’s descendants breaks off. No more need be said by the sacred writer to teach the horrendous effects of life without God.

To be sure, these verses give no indication at all that God is displeased with man engaged in cultural development. 111is was in accord with the mandate given to Adam in the garden of Eden. But where culture is not subservient to the will of God, moral and spiritual shipwreck will result for the individual and for society. This thread in the story will be picked up by Moses in chapter 6.

Light still shines in the darkness

The last two verses in this chapter may not be assigned to the next. They belong here, and that by deliberate intent of the writer.

Here light breaks upon the scene stained with man’s sin.

Once again Adam and Eve receive a child. From the setting it seems likely that for a season, after the fearful murder of Abel, our first parents “abstained for a while from the conjugal bed”—to put it in the words of Calvin. Now they saw before their eyes and fell the wounds deep within their hearts of that which resulted from their sin. We need not suppose that before this only Cain and Abel had been born to them. Were that so, whence came Cain’s wife and why should he be afraid that someone might take his life? The birth of Seth is mentioned, because in him and his descendants God preserves the seed who will deliver the human race. Again it is Eve who gives the name to this son. In distinction from most of the names recorded in this chapter, it like Cain’s name is explained. It seems that she had expected earlier that the godly line would have been preserved through Abel, so ruthlessly removed from the family. Now her hope revives with Seth.

But the light grows brighter, despite the increasing gloom which pervades the race as in Cain’s line it runs headlong away from God and His promises.

Seth receives a son and calls him Enosh, a name which also means “man” but man in his weakness.

In his days began men to call fl1lon Ole name of ]ehovah. This can hardly be explained as the first indication of worship among mankind. Undoubtedly not only Adam and Eve but also some of their children prayed to God. Cain and Abel brought their gifts. This must then refer to a public, corporate worship, a gathering together of true worshippers in contrast to the numbers who forsook the Lord and sinned against Him. Here, then, is a miracle of God’s rich grace in the midst of a world running headlong into ruin. The name scems to mean here, as it ordinarily does in the Bible, the whole truth that God had revealed concerning Himself. Also this is a “cultural” development, made possible by and manifested only after the number of mankind had increased. But how different this “life-style” than that which prevailed in the generations of Cain.

How appropriate that Moses closes this section, which began in 2:4, with an extolling of the Lord’s faithfulness. In such a world of sin and shame God preserved a people for Himself. He made known sufficiently both Himself and His ways, so that they in response could publicly call upon His name. This was the bright light in the deepening darkness of the days before the flood. This will remain the light which shines through the centuries until God’s purposes of salvation are accomplished. Let the world ignore, despise, reject the worshipping congregation; it, too, will rise in judgment against them when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.


1 – At the onset we should recognize that this chapter is intimately connected, so far as content and message are concerned with the preceding. This often escapes the attention of the average reader who is accustomed to the division into chapter.; and thereby misses the unity. Hence the emphasis in these outlines on the structure of Genesis, i.e., its division into toledoths.

Divisions of the Bible books into smaller sections began early, necessitated by its use in public worship. Here the explanation of James Orr in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. I, p. 469 (Howard-Severance Co., 1915) is helpful:

“Already in pre-Talmudic times, for purposes of reading in the synagogues, the Jews had larger divisions of the law into Parashahs, and of the prophets into similar sections called Haphtarahs. They had also smaller divisions into Pesukim, corresponding nearly to our verses. The division into chapters is much later (13th cent.). It is ascribed to Cardinal Hugo de St. Caro (cf. 1248), by others to Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1227). It was adopted into the Vulgate, and from this was transferred by R. Natllan (c. 1440) to the Hebrew Bible. Verses arc marked in the Vulgate as early as 1558. They first appear in the N. T. in Robert Stephens’ edition of the Greek Testament in 1551 . . .”

Thus while helpful for the Bible reader and student, such divisions are not always equally apt and may undermine for us a sense of the unity of the Bible books.

2 – For an understanding of the intent and purpose of this chapter S. G. De Graaf, Verhmldsgeschiedenls, vol. I, p. JOf. (Kok, 1952) makes some helpful comments:

“The content or this chapter is not the lire and death of righteous Abel, and the life and development of godless Cain. Reflect on what you are doing, when you tell the story in this fashion! In this way the kingdom of heaven is shut up. The kingdom is not opened by examples—even though these have their Significance—but by the Word of grace. If only the examples are there, if God does not speak and act, and speak and act first of all, these examples take flight.

“The chief intent of this chapter is designate<! by what precedes. Adam called his wife Eve, and by this demonstrated that he embraced the promise. Now the promise is fulfilled in the birth of children, and there the truth of God is confirmed. Yet this faith is afterward put to the test. Cain does not appear to be the living one, and Abel perishes. Then hope is revived in the birth of Seth.

“The line must be drawn from Seth to Christ . . .”

3 – Higher critical scholars have often denied the tlnity of this chapter. Aalders cogently, though briefly, defends the unity in his Korte Verkiaring, I). 158 (Kok, 1933). Skinner, for example, finds here in the mention of the names only “desiccated legends, in which each member is originally independent of the rest.” op. cit., p. 98. Then he and others with him try to find some reason for piecing together the fragments of various traditions. Needless to say, one man’s guess in this game is us good or bad as another’s.

4 – On Eve’s exclamation ut the birth of Cain, cf. Aalders, op. cit., p. 150 for several different interpretations; also more briefly Leupold, Genesis, vol. I, p. 150.

5 – On the precise statements found in the dialogue between God and Cain—both before and after the slaying of Abel—cf. any good commentary. The Scriptures apparently record this in some detail, in order to provide insight into what happens in the mind and heart of man when sin grips his life.

6 – Much discussion has been carried on about the origin and nature of sacrifice among men. The word-study of Girdlestone: Old Testament Synonyms, pp. 190–191 (Eerdmans, 1948) provides some understanding:

“The general Hebrew word for a gift, whether to God (Gen. 4:3) or to men (Gen. 32:13) is Minchah; it is also the word which translators (KJV) have rendered meat-offering—‘meat’ being here in its old sense of ‘food,’ and not signifying ‘flesh’ . . . The minchah which was cloesly connected with the ‘olah must be regarded as a token of love, gratitude, and thanksgiving to God, who is Himself the giver of all good gifts. It was an acknowlegement on the part of man that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof . . .’”

The importance of the Cain-Abel event is emphnsi7.ed by the fact that it is referred to repeatedly in the New Testament; cf. Matt. 23:35, Luke 11:50, 51; Heb. 11:4; 12:24; 1 John 3:12; Jude vs. 11. 8 – On why the line of Cain is included in the record and yet apparently left incomplete, in distinction from the line in which God works His redemption, is explained by E.J. Young: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 1964).

This “has introduced an important characteristic of the framework of Genesis. It is the custom of Moses, in his selection of the genealogical history from Adam to Jacob, to interrupt the narrative at the proper point and to insert the genealogy of a divergent line (here the Cainites) before reverting to the history of the chosen people (p. 52).” Cf. also Ishmael before Isaac, 25:121., Esau before Jacob, 38:1, 9. Why? because the history of the “church” is never divorced from the history of mankind. God builds His kingdom of redemption in the midst of a world ruined by sinful men.

9 – On why God spared Cain’s life many suggestions have been made. Some go so far as to insist that this was His mercy and grace; most commentators, however, emphasize another aspect of the consequence of God sparing Cain.

While admitting that “God’s mercy is richly displayed in His dealings with Cain,” Leupold (cf. op. cit., pp. 212–213) insists that this “resulted in a more rigid shutting of Cain’s heart.” He also urges that it “served as a more potent warning to men as to the enormity of the curse of murder” and that “it must be admitted that banishment from God’s presence was the heaviest punishment of all, heavier than the loss of life, and this heavier punishment Cain knows that he has suffered.” Also God lets the wheat and tares grow together, so that sin is permitted “to run a free course and to develop to the full tile potentialities that lie in it, so that the nature of evil as evil may be full y revealed in the historical development of mankind.”

10 – Since the term “enosh” is used quite often in the Old Testament, a few comments on it may be in order. “It is generally considered,” says Girdlestone, op. cit., pp. 50–52, “to point to man’s insignificance or inferiority. In poetry Enosh occurs as parallel to Adam (cf. Isa. 13:12; also Ps. 8:4; 144:3).” Appealing to II Sam. 12:15; Job 34:6; Ps. 69:20; Isa. 17:11; Jer. 15:18, 17:9, 16; 30:12, 15; Micah 1:9, he fixes the meaning also as incurable.

“But it may be asked why the word which signifies incurable should he used to denote man. Perhaps the answer may be found in Gen. 4:26. Seth had been ‘appointed’ in the place of Abel, but man remained unchanged and unredeemed, so Seth’s son was caned Enosh. ‘Then begun men to can upon the name of Jehovah.’ The race was ‘incurable,’ but the Lord was its hope . . . This view of the mutter was taken by Cocceius . . .”


1 – Is it legitimate to speak of an “organic” development of sin? Does the phrase that “these things must needs come to pass” imply that man’s history is fixed by a fate which can’t be avoided? Does God make history, or does man make history?

2 -Should Christians discussing the early life of mankind speak of primitive man? What docs this term usually mean? Did it take man long to “discover” fire, fanning, language, etc.? How do “evolutionary” historians usually reconstruct the early stages of humanity? Why?

3 – Do Christians usually regard sex as inferior, perhaps even quite sinful? What is the Biblical view? Why do both O.T. and N.T. warn so strongly against sexual sins? Are they worse than other sins?

4 – What kind of names should we give our children? Is this important?

5 – What is worship? Do all men worship? How is worship to be related to our daily work?

6 – Look up the N.T. texts which speak about Cain and Abel. What is their significance?

7 – What is the significance of blood according to the Bible?

8 – How would you respond to those who insist that drawing examples und lessons from the Bible stories is wrong, because it obscures God’s revelation of grace? Does the use of such examples lead to “moralistic” teaching and preaching?

9 – Was it wrong for Cain to build a city? Are farmers generally more religious than city dwellers? Why do you suppose Paul usually preached in huge cities? Is it right to let our city churches decline because of the flight to the suburbs?

10 – What is the relation between the gospel (Christianity) and culture? Are evangelical Christians usually anti-cultural? Discuss the meaning of the term culture.


Scripture: Genesis 5

Genealogies aren’t favorite reading today, not even for the people of God.

How many of us are the least bit interested in our great-grandparents, in who they were, where they lived, and what they did? Each new generation in this hectic and harried world seems preoccupied only with the present. Occasionally we may try to peer into the future. wondering what will happen to us and our children after some few years. But for the past we seem to have no time. Is it any wonder, then, that the generation-gap is especially wide and deep in today’s society? 1s it any surprise that in a church which still talks about “covenant faithfulness from generation to generation” on God’s part, such language is unintelligible to ever greater numbers?

The solution doesn’t lie in using other terms. That won’t help a whit, when the “substance” indicated by the words is foreign to the minds and hearts of the hearers.

To use the phrase of a leader in present-day American religious education, we in the churches. schools. and homes must introduce those who hear to “the strange, new world of the Bible.” Not only do we have to instruct in its terms and phrases; we have to explain in season and out of season what God means by what He says. This is the “conversion” of mind and heart away from the thinking of the world—which today champions in words an individualism which it slays in daily practice—to the revealed will of God.

No one really grasps the blessed message of Scripture, if he turns away from its genealogies. To be sure, they may not be the most appropriate reading at table-devotions. But perhaps it’s more than time that parents learn to understand why God has them inserted in His Word. so that they may explain this to their children and their grandchildren. They aren’t dry and dull. The}’ aren’t included simply to fill up space. They aren’t even recorded for a purely historical interest. Also this is subservient to the Biblical witness to God’s faithfulness. He saves not simply individuals; He saves them in and for and with families (cf. Eph. 3:15) as a testimony to His faithfulness and His triumphant grace over sin find all its consequences. Only in this way will we be able to sing and shout His praise upon reading Genesis 5. It is full of gospel for those who understand and believe what they read.

How God begins the godly line The sacred writer here begins the third section of the book Genesis.

At once the careful reader notes that something “new” is mentioned. We read not simply of generations (“toledoth”) but of the book of the generations. Nothing of this is mentioned in connection with Cain’s descendants, even though seven generations arc enumerated. It is as if God wants to alert us that in a very real sense to live apart from God is death. But especially is our attention drawn to the insertion of the word book. The term in Hebrew refers to any document, whether long or short, as long as it is complete in itself. Thus it applies to a “bill of divorcement” (Deut. 24:1) as well as to a deed transferring the title of a piece of land (Jer. 32:12). Both Calvin and Aalders conclude that we have here a complete document of those generations which God saved through Noah at the time of the flood. Whether Moses actually had access to such a document, prepared perhaps by someone in the direct line of Noah to preserve this knowledge when men again multiplied on the face of the earth, cannot be ascertained with any degree of reliability. But to affirm that this is quite impossible must also be adjudged illegitimate.

The account takes us back to the beginning, to the creation of man in the likeness of God. Nothing of this is stated about Cain’s family, perhaps because sin increasingly blotted out all true faith and worship among them.

There is a solemnity about this record. It rehearses the basic elements in the story of man’s beginning. Again the sex differentiation is mentioned, as well as the blessing which God gave and the name attached to the race.

What follows is a repetition of 4:25. But now, in sharp contrast to the lineage of Cain, specific ages are cited. It is interesting to note that we are not told Adam’s age, when either Cain or Abel were born. That isn’t important for the record. His age at the time of Seth’s birth must be remembered, however, besides the years allowed to him afterwards and his age at the time of death.

The section closes with the somber and solemn words: and he died. This will be the consistent refrain throughout the chapter with but one exception until we come to the days of Noah. Now the penalty with which God threatened man when forbidding him the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil takes visible shape. Abel had been killed. Perhaps others born of our first parents had died also, but of this we have no knowledge. What must have made a grave impression upon those who believed in God, however, was that their progenitor—the man who had been with God in the garden in a state of rectitude—as a result of his transgression. Calvin, who takes as fact and without question what is said about the ages mentioned in the chapter, comments:

“In the number of years here recorded we must especially consider the long period in which the patriarchs lived together. For through six successive ages, when the family of Seth had grown into a great people, the voice of Adam might daily resound, in order to renew the memory of the creation, the fall, and the punishment of man; to testify of the hope of salvation which remained after chastisement, and to recite the judgments of God, by which all might be instructed . . .”

Does this seem so strange to us? Let us, then, remember the glory with which God had adorned our first parents. Should we be surprised that something of this, be it now in imperfect fashion and in decreasing measure, remained with Adam and his descendants before the days of the flood? People stumble all too quickly at what Moses records, simply because they foolishly suppose that the condition of mankind must always have been as it is in our time. But God’s Word plainly contradicts this. That early world and its inhabitants, though ravaged by the results of sin, could well have retained far more of its former glory and strength than we see.

The line that leads to Enoch

How poignant and painful is the record which now follows.

Here we read of birth, of procreation, and of death which follows in due time with an inescapable finality. We might suppose that it had been better to make mention of this in connection with Cain’s descendants. Yet God deems otherwise. Also believers must daily realize that to be born means, so long as the promise of deliverance is not yet completely fulfilled, to die. Like the monotonous tolling of the bells each brief account echoes the preceding one.

Until we come to Enoch, nothing particularly new or arresting is cited. Even what we read about the days of Enosh in an earlier chapter is not repeated, Names, indeed, are mentioned, some of which bear a rather striking resemblance to those given to Cain’s descendants. Attempting to discern from them something about the character or conduct of these antediluvian patriarchs is foolish and futile. The writer doesn’t indicate in any way why such names were given.

Suddenly the record shifts.

When we come to the seventh from Adam, Enoch, the bright star of hope sparkles again. It is intriguing to compare and contrast this man who walked with God with the seventh in the line of Cain. But let us at this point beware of too much speculation. There doesn’t seem to be any special reason why he stands as number seven. What is significant is the indication of his relationship to God. In consequence of this he is privileged to escape physical death.

But what does the writer mean, when he says that he walked with God? That this is a figurative expression can hardly be questioned. Also by this time sin abounded upon the face of the earth, as is evident from what we read earlier in connection with Lamech whose bloodthirsty boasts are recorded. In later tradition, the book of Jubilees (4:17–21) , we read that he was “initiated” by God into all manner of secrets, such as the invention of writing, a knowledge of the stars, and an intimate association with angels. The book of Enoch, penned about two hundred years before Christ, even teaches that God made known to him the coming flood and the history of Israel until the time when Messiah would appear. But in the light of the silence on these matters in this chapter as well as what is said about Noah, who also walked with God, all this must be dismissed as fanciful. All we dare say is that there was about him in that evil generation a piety which was as memorable as it was noticeable. He served the Lord wholeheartedly and well in his time, an explanation which accords with Hebrews 11:5 where it is stated that he pleased God.

In the midst of his days he was taken away—he was not; for God took him. How this went no one knows. The act is attributed entirely to God himself.

Its significance, however, could hardly escape the attention of his contemporaries, especially those who belonged to his family. Much less may it escape our notice. God has been pleased to refer to it twice in the New Testament. Precisely in this somber record, which speaks so much of death, this is a bright star for those who still trusted the promises of God. It is the first reference, and a very early one at that, of the doctrine of “immortality,” of a life beyond this life. For us it is encouraging that this man lived such a normal, ordinary life. He, too, was married, begat children, and must have known by experience the sorrows which are attendant upon such a life. But in it he walked as it were in the daily consciousness of the presence of the Lord in whom he trusted. Such faith, so the writer to the Hebrews emphasizes, never puts to shame.

The comfort of the Lord is not forgotten

Now the record continues its former somber course.

To be sure, we would like to know so much more about that world before the 110od, and especially about those men whose names are recorded in this genealogy. But God has not been pleased to preserve anything more than this. 1s it, perhaps, because otherwise our attention would be so much centered on them and their activities, that we would obscure the mighty deeds of the Lord? This, after all, is what Scripture wants us to see and believe and praise. Everybody, of course, remembers Methuselah. Most children brought up with the Bible can even tell us how old he became. Those who insist that we have a complete, in the sense of an exhaustive, mention of the generations before the flood soon notice that Methuselah died in the year in which the flood came. Some even conclude that he must have drowned in that catastrophe as a wicked man whose place among the godly is an intrusion. For such conclusions there is no shred of evidence.

What is rehearsed in some detail is the event of Noah’s birth. His father, Lamech, provides him with a meaningful name. It is explained. Although the name in Hebrew is the equivalent of rest, Lamech says: This same shall comfort us in our work, and in the toil of our hands . . . . Here, centuries after the death of Adam, is a man who remembers and lives by the Word of the Lord. He recognizes that the sorrows of life have come upon mankind, especially in his labor, as a result of the penalty inflicted by Jehovah. But he also takes hold of the promise. He looks to his seed in hope. To attribute prophetic insight and gift to this patriarch is by no means necessary. The text gives no indication of this whatever. The most natural interpretation of these words is to see in them a confession of faith which, while acknowledging the just judgment of God, looks to Him to fulfill his promise to those who walk in faith.

This chapter concludes with a brief mention of Noah. He, too, grows up, marries, and has children. Three sons are mentioned. Strange at first reading seems to be the fact that Noah is apparently five hundred years old before children are born to him. Several questions press upon us. Did Noah wait so much longer than his ancestors before getting married, because he trembled at the wickedness of the world wherein he lived? Or did God, perhaps, close the womb of his wife for a long season in anticipation of the flood? And what about the precise age? Were all three sons born at the same time—triplets, as some have suggested? A careful reading of the text (vs. 32) shows that it varies somewhat from the form used in speaking about the earlier patriarchs. Here the name of the man is deliberately mentioned twice. Likely this is an approximation, so that we may read: “He was about five hundred years old, when his sons were born to him and he received from the Lord orders to build the ark in view of the coming flood.” More will have to he said about this, when we consider the third verse in the next chapter.


1 – Even Christians tend to think of this chapter as much less fascinating than the preceding one, because so few “interesting” details are provided here. In addition to the emphasis on the marvellous way in which God preserved the true faith in an increasingly wicked world, it is not amiss to call attention to the fact that in so doing God makes use of men and women whose names, in distinction from the world’s leaders and criminals, find their way into the news only in “obituaries.” In his sermon on “Nobodyism” the famous London preacher, Joseph Parker says things worthy of being remembered:

“I want to remind you also that really the best part of human history is never written at all. Family life, patient service, quiet endurance, the training of children, the resistance to temptation, these things are never mentioned by the historian. The man who burns down an abbey, or a minister, immortalized in history; the poor housewife who makes a pound go as for as thirty shillings . . . is not known ever to have lived . . .

“Let me say that the hour will be dark in which we pine for things romantic at the expense of a quiet and deep life. Woe to us when we can live only on stimulants! When the house is accounted dull, when only sensational books can be endured, when music and drama and painted show are essential to our happiness, life has gone down to a low ebb and death is at the door. Let us do our quiet work as if we were preparing for kings, and watch attentively at the door, for the next comer may be the Lord himself” (Genesis, pp. 154–158, Moody Press. 1951).

2 – We have no way of ascertaining precisely how long was the period from Adam to the flood. Even the Bible versions we have do not agree. The Hebrew (Massoretic), generally accounted by far the most reliable in most instances, allots 1656 years (Ussher’s chronology); the Samaritan version only 1307 years; the Septuagint (first Greek version of the OT) some 2242 years. For details, consult John Skinner’s commentary in the I.C.C. series on “The Chronology of Genesis 5,” pp. 134–136; Keil’s commentary on “The Generations from Adam to Noah,” pp. 120–124.

3 – It is instructive that scholars of note who hod evolutionary views of man’s origin often express grave doubts as to how long man has lived on earth. Cf. W.R. Thompson’s “Introduction” to Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, who admits that the “only evidence available is produced by fossils” and this is far from precise. He comments:

“We do not really know how old the human race is, but we have no reason to doubt that its members have alwnys belonged to the same species . . .” (p. 124).

R. H. Rastal1 on “Geology” in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1956 ed.). vol. X, p. 168, says: “It cannot be denied that from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists are here arguing in circles. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains embedded in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of the organisms that they contain . . .”

Cf. the evaluation by Jack Ward Scars: Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible. pp. 49f. (Baker, 1969).

4 -On the matter of the language spoken by men before the flood and therefore on the “meaning” of their names, cf. F. L. Bakker: Geschiedenis der Godsopenbaring (OT), (Kok,1955):

“We do not know what language was spoken by the first people. The linguistic differentiation arose after the confusion of tongues at Babel, then also at that time the Hebrew language came into existence. What we find in the Bible, therefore, is the Hebrew transcription of these names, the Hebrew form. Concerning the significance of these names, we may accept that, when a name is explained for us, this explanation also is in accord with the significance of that name in the language spoken by the first people. This holds for the names of Eve, Cain, Seth, and Noah (Gen. 3:20; 4:1; 4:25; 5:2). The other names are explained in their Hebrew form. Whether such an explanation is correct we do not know. It makes no sense therefore to attempt an explanation of those names and to connect therewith all kinds of interpretations about the person who bears the name” (p. 40).

5 – Much has been written about Lamech, the father of Noah. Some insist he was a prophet; others simply that he testified to his faith. Some urge that his statement was evidence of an ungodly attitude, which boasted that through his son God’s curse upon the ground could be overcome. Shades of those who seek their hope in an ecological revolution??? For comments, cf. Aalders, op. cit., pp. 179–181.


1 – What do you understand by the term covenant? Where it is used in Scripture? Who belong to God’s covenant of grace?

2 – How are covenant, church, and kingdom linked together in God’s purposes of redemption revealed in Scripture? Is there a danger of emphasizing one at the expense of the other? Did the godly before the Rood belong to the “church?” What does our confession have to say about this?

3 – How do you think Moses received his knowledge of this material? Can you give Biblical evidence for your view?

4 – Have someone discuss various views about when writing first appearance among mankind. What is the value of written documents? Do our confessions have anything to say about God’s revelation in written form? (cf. Belgic Confession, Art. III, VII).

5 – How old do you think the human race is? In Matthew 1:8, giving the genealogy of Jesus Christ, three names of kings are clearly omitted. Why do you suppose that chapter arranges its material in the scheme of 3 times 14? Could this have an},thing to say about the genealogy in Genesis 5?

6 – Discuss what Scripture says about Enoch in Hebrews 11 and in Jude, vss. 14, 15.

7 – Do you think people can walk with God today? If so, why and how? What do you understand by the phrase?

8 – Where and how does the Old Testament speak about existence after this life? Discuss the difference between “immortality of the soul” and “resurrection from the dead and life eternal.” Why should the New Testament speak more clearly on this subject than the Old?

9 – How did our Savior link up the end-time with the days of Noah? Are our days more like those of Noah than those of a few centuries ago? Give reasons for your answer.

10 – How has our nation wasted its natural resources? What must we do about this as families? What leadership should Christians give in this area? Should we develop a “theological position” concerning the earth and our responsibility to God in its use?