The promise of God that there should arise a Deliverer, who should break the power of the adversary, was supplemented by an act of God, which shed light on the way the deliverance would be brought to pass. Adam and his wife had attempted to cover their nakedness with fig-leaf aprons, and had failed. The Lord God did cover them with coats of skins. Now skins are not a vegetable but an animal product, and only available to clothe man when death has come upon the animal that produced them. Here then we find the primitive revelation of the fact that man can only stand clothed before God on the basis of death. He must own that the death sentence, which righteously lies upon him, has been endured by another in his stead.
The act that revealed this was followed by another act of God equally significant. Man had acquired the knowledge of good and evil without any power to achieve the good but rather with an acute propensity to the evil. Lest he should perpetuate his living in this condition he was driven forth from the garden of Eden, and his way back to the tree of life was barred by the cherubim with a flaming sword. This was doubtless an additional act of judgment but it contained within itself a strong element of mercy.
Supposing Adam had been able to put forth his hand and eat of the tree of life, what would have been the result? He would have perpetuated his condition of sin and misery, making himself a deathless creature in a hell of his own devising. That would have been bad enough. But it would have been a much worse disaster in this respect, that even by becoming Man it would not have been possible for Christ to die. His death has become to us the door into life. In eating of the tree of life Adam would have closed and barred that door. We may well thank God for the cherubim and the flaming sword!
Our first parents had now lost their innocence, lost their Paradise, and lost such happy communion with God as they had at the beginning. They had gained the knowledge of good and evil, but only to find themselves enslaved by the evil, and they had brought themselves and the creation beneath them under a curse. Under these sad conditions the propagation of the race began, as stated in the first verse of Genesis 4.
The first man to be born of woman appeared and Eve thought she had acquired him "from" or "with" the Lord, and hence the name that was given to him. We are not told what Adam said but only what she said, so it may have been again the case that she took the leading place which belonged to her husband. Anyway she again was wrong, for Cain was not from the Lord, but rather "of that wicked one" (1 John 3: 12). The Lord Jesus told the Jews that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning," and again that "he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8: 44). We see him as the liar in Genesis 3, and as the murderer in Genesis 4.
When the second son appeared a name was given him more in accord with the fallen state of mankind; Abel meaning Vanity or Transitoriness. At this point the record of Adam's family stops, and we hear no more as to them until we come to the end of our chapter. Adam doubtless had many sons and daughters but God's object in Genesis is not to give us history, but to furnish us with sufficient detail to instruct us in His governmental dealings with fallen men, and that with a view to their ultimate deliverance and blessing.
When Adam was expelled from the Garden he was bidden to go forth and "till the earth," so there was no fault to be found with the occupation that Cain followed. Abel became a shepherd, since sheep are defenceless creatures and man's fall had produced wild beasts. Man had revolted from God, and feared His presence. The animal creation, broadly speaking, consequently revolted from man, and feared his presence.
Yet a day came when both brothers felt they ought to render some tribute to the Creator and seek a basis of approach td Him. In the sacrificial offering that Abel brought we see the second foreshadowing or type of the death of Christ. The first was in the coats of skins that clothed the guilty pair, where we discover that only by death can man's nakedness and sin be covered. Now we advance a step and find that the onlybasis of approach recognized by God is the death of an acceptable sacrifice.
In Cain's offering. there was no recognition of this. He brought the fruit of the ground which God had cursed—though probably he brought the finest produce of the toil of his own hands—and in this there was no acknowledgment of the death sentence that lay upon him. He was like a condemned criminal under sentence of death, seeking to curry favour with his judge by bribing him with something nice. Whatever an earthly judge might be tempted to do, God had no respect to this manoeuvre, and he found himself rejected.
Abel's offering involved the death of the sheep, as is evidenced by the words, "and of the fat thereof." At this point Hebrews 11: 4 should be read. It shows us that his offering was an act of faith—the first to be put on record. Now faith lays hold on what God has revealed. If we ask what had been revealed for Abel's faith to apprehend, we can only refer to what we have in verse 21 of Genesis 3. Abel apprehended the significance of the coats of skins, and hence by his offering acknowledged that he was a sinner under the death sentence, and could only approach on the ground of the death of a victim. Cain had no faith, He ignored this, and approached under false pretences.
Thus almost at the start we see human life like a river dividing into two diverging and even opposite streams. which have continued to this day. Hence we regard this incident as one of the most fundamental in the whole Bible, and lay the greatest stress upon it Near the end of the New Testament we read of a "Woe" that rests on those who "have gone in the way of Cain" (Jude 11), and the number of those doing this—even though they might wish to be called "Christian —has greatly increased in our day. The verse in Jude shows it to be the first of three steps that lead down to perishing in utter apostasy.
On the other hand, Abel stands at the head of the men of faith, who are recognized in Hebrews 11. The sacrifice he offered was "more excellent," and to it God bore testimony, accepting it in some way that was visible and definite, and this acceptance was clear evidence to Abel that he was righteous, or in other words, right with God. Yet even today there are to be found not a few who do sincerely trust is Christ and through a defective understanding of the Gospel, considering themselves rather than the Divine testimony, they have their doubts as to how they stand with God. Amazing, is it not? to think that nearly four thousand years before Christ came, Abel enjoyed what many are missing nineteen centuries after He has come.
Rejected by God, Cain became very angry with God, and wreaked his vengeance on the man of faith whom God had accepted. The picture is true to life, for the same thing has been re-enacted times without number in the history of the world. Cain was not irreligious. Had he been, he would not have troubled himself even to make an attempt at approaching God. No! He was a religionist, and just because he was, anger and hatred filled his breast. God. was beyond his reach. He could not strike at Him. Abel was well within his reach, so the blow was effectually aimed at him. The most prominent example of this in the New Testament is Saul of Tarsus. He hated Jesus of Nazareth with an intense hatred, and because He was in glory beyond his reach he struck at His followers on earth.
Cain became a murderer in spite of God having remonstrated with him, reminding him that, in spite of what had happened, his rights as the elder brother should be respected—Abel having the subject place—and indicating where the mischief, and perhaps the remedy, lay. We are told that the Hebrew word translated "sin" also has the meaning of "sin-offering." So it may literally have been that there was almost at his feet a lamb which he might even at this juncture have brought as a sacrifice, and thus have put himself right with God.
Slaying his brother, Cain revealed himself to be "of that wicked one," and he did it because " his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." He proved himself moreover to be not only a murderer as regards his brother but utterly defiant as regards God. Challenged as to his brother's whereabouts, he showed not the slightest sign of repentance, but rather a truculent spirit that feared not God, and made a play in words upon the fact that Abel had been a "keeper" of sheep. He was not going to admit that he was "keeper" to Abel!
But Abel's blood from the ground had uttered its voice into the ear of God, and swiftly a special curse descended upon him, in addition to the curse that had already fallen upon Adam and his race, as we saw in Genesis 3. Adam was to obtain his food only by the sweat of his face, but Cain was to find the earth unproductive even if he laboured to till it, so that he would become a wanderer, fleeing from the face of God Verse 14 shows that Cain realized the significance of this curse and declared it was too great to be borne. From that day to this sinful men, if unrepentant, have complained of the severity of God's judgment. Only when men are repentant do they bow and humbly own that God's judgment is just.
Without a doubt there is in mankind an instinct that urges them to avenge wanton murder by the death of the murderer. Cain himself had that instinct and anticipated that some others of his brethren would slay him. No government was yet instituted in the earth and therefore God would allow no punitive action to be taken against Cain. When government in its most primitive form was instituted, then action was to be taken, as we see in verses 5 and 6 of Genesis 9.
In the last verse of Genesis 3, Adam was driven out of the Garden; in verse 16 of our chapter Cain "went out from the presence of the Lord." The one was a compulsory judgment; the other a deliberate forsaking. To an unrepentant murderer the presence of God was abhorrent. We read in Romans 1 of the barbarians that, "they did not like to retain God in their knowledge," and this was exactly the case with Cain. He departed to the land of "Nod," or "Wandering," carrying with him a wife and a son, and there he built a "city," some primitive kind of stronghold. As far as he could, he defied God's sentence upon him, and showed that he distrusted what God had done that he might not be slain. If the earth was not going to yield its produce for him, then let others have the trouble of cultivating it! Rather than wander he would settle down and protect himself!
With this we take leave of Cain. Verse 18 merely mentions the names of his more immediate descendants. Verse 19 stops at Lamech to give us a few details. Remarkably enough this man was the seventh from Adam in the line of Cain, just as Enoch was in the line through Seth. In the details given we see the world system beginning to take shape. Its basic principles are revealed to us, and they agree with the analysis given to us in 1 John 2: 16.
It was Lamech apparently who first broke through the Divine ordinance as to marriage of one man with one woman, and instituted polygamy. He was a forceful character who intended to do what he liked, and not what God had said. Here, without any question, we see the lust of the flesh raising its ugly head.
The two wives bare children and in the details given as to them we see the lust of the eyes appearing, for that term covers man's search for what appeals to the inner eyes of his mind as well as spectacular shows that appeal to the eyes of his head. In Lamech's family there was the beginning of the life of freedom and the acquiring of wealth— for in primitive times a man's possessions lay in his herds—the beginning also of the arts and sciences in music; and the beginning of applied science in manufactures, especially in brass and iron. Here mankind started its career of expanding inventiveness, which in our day has reached the atom bomb stage. Man's eyes of lust have probed all too deeply into the secrets of the earth, and how much further they will penetrate before God drops the extinguisher upon all his projects by the appearing of Christ in flaming fire—who can say?
Lamech's daughter, Naamah, is the first woman to be mentioned after Eve. This is, we judge, because her name has the meaning of Pleasure or Charming. If we add pleasure, and its pursuit, to the features we have just noticed, we have the foundation principles on which man's world is based.
Lamech's speech to his wives may seem a little obscure, but the rendering of the New Translation, "for my wounding," and "for my hurt," makes it clearer. Some unfortunate young man had wounded and hurt Lamech, who in revenge, simply rose up and slew him. When Cain had murdered centuries before, he betrayed some sense of wrongdoing. Not so Lamech, who came home to brag to his wives of what he had done, and to make scornful allusion to God's action in forbidding revengeful action against Cain. If Cain was to be avenged sevenfold, why, he would be seventy and sevenfold. He felt himself to be eleven times more important than Cain. Here was the pride of life in high degree!
In this man, then, the seventh from Adam, we see both corruption and violence coming plainly to light. All evil may be classified broadly under these two heads, and evidently Lamech's polygamy and murder quickly bore their bitter fruit until just before the flood, "the earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." It is a sad fact that in our day, and in lands where for long the light of the Gospel has been shining, similar conditions are rapidly multiplying.
The two verses that conclude our chapter carry us back long before the days of Lamech, for the next chapter tells us that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born. Many children may have been born between Abel and Seth, but they are passed over in silence for Seth was the seed appointed to carry on the line of faith, as contrasted with the line of Cain. That Seth was a man of faith we gather from the name he gave his son—Enos signifying mortal, weak.
One of the first signs of faith springing up in the heart is that a man acknowledges himself to be a sinful creature under the death sentence. The next thing is that in the light of this he begins to call upon the Name of the Lord. So the closing words of our chapter are very striking. In the New Testament we find that "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10: 13).