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1. The Legacy of Cain: Departure from God (Genesis 4:3-24)

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The period from the Fall to the Flood was approx. 1500 years. The days of Noah are of special interest and importance to us because Jesus said, Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be also in the days of the Son of Man (Lk. 17:26).

By Genesis 4:8, Cain has already murdered his brother, Abel, out of jealousy because Abel’s offering was accepted by God but Cain’s was rejected (Gen. 4:3-5). Subsequently, Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, as a “replacement” for Abel. The genealogy of Adam is traced through these two sons. Cain is the ungodly line and Seth the godly line. Lamech, from the line of Cain, shows the downward spiritual and moral trajectory that can  happen when a family line turns away from God to worldliness and lawlessness. Enoch, from the line of Seth, shows the upward spiritual trajectory that can happen when a family line remains true to God through godliness and faithfulness.

The ungodly descendants of Adam are traced, then, through the line of Cain. That’s our subject in this article: “The downward trajectory of human degeneracy” (Gen. 4:16-24).

The lesson from this passage can be summed up as follows: When you nurture anger it can lead to rebellion against God, and when you rebel against God, theres no telling where you may end up. Here we see a history of steady degradation and deterioration in the family, the society, and ultimately the entire age. Notice firstly that…

1. Degradation In The Family Leads To Deviant Behavior (Gen. 4:3-11)

3In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground,4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (Gen. 4:3-5).

Anger marks the first step in Cain’s walk away from God. It’s often asked why God accepted Abel and his offering but not Cain and his offering. In response, some scholars propose that the difference was in the type of offering – Abel offered a blood sacrifice, whereas Cain offered a sacrifice of the fruit of the ground. While it is true that a blood sacrifice had special significance, there is no specific verse that states that God rejected Cain’s offering because it was the wrong type or quality. The distinction here seems to go  beyond the nature of the offering itself. In fact, Scripture attests to the fact that Abel was righteous, the evidence for which was his offering (Heb. 11:4), whereas Cain was of the evil one and his deeds were evil (1 Jn. 3:11-12). So, it appears that God saw right into each man’s heart and recognized in Abel a righteous, worshipping heart, but in Cain, a deviant, degenerate heart.

Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him (4:8). Moses, in the book of Exodus, also rose up in a field and killed a man, the Egyptian task master. It seems that both Moses and Cain chose a place where they thought no one was looking and, therefore, that no one would discover the truth. Out of jealousy and anger, Cain murdered his brother and that led to him turning away from God altogether.

How easily one sin can lead to another! If you don’t judge the first sin, you are open and susceptible to the next temptation. Anger needs to be nipped in the bud. Don’t let it fester; judge it right away, because when you nurture anger it can lead to rebellion against God, and when you rebel against God, theres no telling where you may end up. Unjudged and uncontrolled anger can lead to murder. “Oh,” you say, “I would never murder anyone.” Really? What about in your heart? That’s where it begins and often that’s where it takes place. Jesus said that out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). We need to keep short accounts with God by confessing our sins (especially those of the heart that cannot be seen by other people) before they take root and draw us away from him.

Cain appears to have been a man with a hot, trigger temper, a man with a competitive nature, a self-willed and spiritually proud man. He had brought an offering of the fruit of the ground and God had rejected him along with his offering.

When something we do is unacceptable to God we have two choices. We can repent of what we did, change, and do it God’s way. Or, we can become angry with God, turn away, and continue on in our own self-will and rebellion. Cain chose the latter course of action. If God would not accept Cain’s worship, then Cain would cut God out of his life.

Degradation in the family leads to deviant behavior. And…

2. Deviant Behavior In The Family Leads To Disconnection In Society (Gen. 4:12-15)

12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12).

This is a punishment that manifests God’s grace. God could have put Cain to death for murdering his brother; instead, he consigns Cain to a life of wandering and disconnection from society.

Not only is Cain disconnected from society, he is also thoroughly disconnected from God. He shows absolutely no remorse whatsoever. All he did was complain about his lot:

13Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me’” (4:13-14). And yet again, God extends his grace by providing for Cain’s protection: “15 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him” (4:15).

Deviant behavior in the family leads to disconnection in society. And…

3. Disconnection In Society Leads To Departure From God (Gen. 4:16-18)

“Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (4:16).

Departure from God starts with distance from God. To go out from the presence of the Lord may seem like a benign act, perhaps the result of a fit of temper or self-will. But it begins a course that will degenerate into even more ungodliness - no interest in any connection with Eden; not wanting perhaps to be connected with the place where God had once walked with his father in the cool of the day; not wanting to be reminded of God’s judgement every time he saw the cherubim with the flaming sword guarding its gates; but instead wanting to be rid of God altogether, to be farther removed from Eden than even Adam and Eve were.

Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,  east of Eden. Cain became an outsider – outside of the family unit, outside of the society of his parents and upbringing, and outside of the presence of God.

The land of Nod means the land of wanderings. This is exactly what God had said about Cain, that he would be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth (4:12). Someone has said that: “Essentially, Cain’s punishment in becoming a wanderer and a fugitive was to lose all sense of belonging and identification with a community. Living in the ‘land of Nod,’ Cain lived without roots in isolation” (

There is no record that Cain ever came back. He turned his back on his family roots and he turned his back on his family’s God. He undoubtedly knew all about his family’s history. He probably heard from Adam, his father, about the beauty and perfection of Eden, about the single restriction that had been placed on them – that they could eat of every tree of the garden but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die(2:17). He had undoubtedly heard from his father how his father and mother had been deceived by the serpent and about how they had been thrust out of the garden by God as punishment for their sin.

Cain knew that it was right and proper to worship God. He had undoubtedly learned that from his father too. But he wanted to worship God on his own terms, not God’s. It seems that Cain held deep-seated resentment against God - perhaps because of what God had done to his parents; perhaps because of his own willful character. Whatever the reason was, he turned his back on God.

Cain became an apostate. He knew the God of his father and he knew the truth of God. He had been among God’s people. He had participated in the worship of God. He looked like a believer, enjoyed the benefits of a believer, but chose to turn away.

It’s one thing for a person not brought up in a Christian home to never give God a thought – that’s tragic, but understandable. It’s one thing for someone who has never read or heard God’s word, never been to a Bible-believing church, never had anyone share the gospel with them, to be thoroughly indifferent toward God – that’s tragic but understandable. Though they are fully responsible before God because of the testimony of creation and the testimony of their own conscience, nonetheless, we can understand them living a life without God. But for someone who has known the truth, been brought up in a privileged, believing household and enjoyed intimacy with God, for such a person to turn away from God altogether is apostasy - willfully turning away from known truth. This is why Jude presents Cain as an apostate.

Cain’s indifference toward God when he went away from the presence of the Lord didn’t stop there. It wasn’t just a temporary indifference, or forgetfulness of God, or busyness with other pursuits, or spiritual backsliding. Cain’s departure from God started with distance from God and led to complete disconnection from God. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch (4:17).

Cain completely removes and replaces every trace of his past and every reminder of God in his life. Eden is replaced by the city of “Enoch.” He is moving on from a garden to a city – the very first city in the Bible. He doesn’t want to stay where he was with his family; he wants to live his life in independence from them and from God. The paradise God had created and which his parents had once enjoyed is replaced by a city created and built by Cain’s own hands. The paradise that they had lost at the Fall is replaced by a “paradise” of Cain’s own making. All God’s bountiful provision for his father, Adam, and his mother, Eve, are all a thing of the past for Cain now.

Cain wants nothing more to do with the past. As far as he is concerned, God’s promises are untrue, God is too demanding, and Cain will strike out on his own. After all, he is creative, clever, and ambitious. He can make a life for himself without God. He isn’t interested in God’s paradise of the past or the future. He just wants to  live his life now - to eat, drink and be merry. So, he builds a city where he and his family can have all the luxuries, entertainment, and conveniences they desire, where they can satisfy their every whim. They weren’t going to be held back by a God who demands obedience – despite the fact that, in return for obedience, God had promised them eternal life and a paradise to live in.

Cain would make the land of “wandering” into a place of permanence. Neither he nor his descendants would be rudely evicted from anywhere again for this was his city, the city of Enoch. And there his family expanded: “To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech (4:18).

Do you see what’s happening? Departure from God starts out with indifference toward God which leads to independence from God. This is the downward trajectory on which sin takes us if you don’t judge it and get right with God. Perhaps you find yourself in that situation right now. As you reflect back on your life, you realize that where you are now in your relationship with God started with a small step of departure from God. Then over time you became indifferent towards God and, later, independent of God altogether. That’s the downward progression in which sin leads you. So, stop that downward slide right now! Get right with God – right now!

Notice then the downward trajectory so far. It starts with deviant behavior in the family (4-11), which leads to disconnection from society (12-15), then to departure from God (16-18). Finally…

4. Departure From God Leads To A Degenerate Age (4:19-24).

This is the end result of an ungodly downward trajectory of deviant behavior in the family, disconnection within society, and a general disregard for God. The sin of Adam led to the deviant behavior and spiritual disregard of Cain and, ultimately, to the degeneracy of Lamech: Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah (4:19). This new world order gives rise to a new moral order. Lamech stoops to a new moral low. Polygamy is now introduced to the new age in the new city. Deviance and disregard (indifference and independence) have bloomed into lust and lawlessness manifested in polygamy. Now, there is no moral sensitivity whatsoever toward God, nor any religious sensitivity or activity at all! Life now has become completely secular – no thought of God, no fear of God before their eyes. They are thoroughly worldly in their thinking, pursuits, ambitions, and lusts.

The family unit that God had created and which had been given to Adam is now a thing of the distant past. God’s principal for marriage that a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) didn’t enter their thinking. This is a sophisticated society now - not people who work the land with their hands, not people who are accountable to God, but a society with new ways, new occupations, and new morality, where individuality trumps community, where you can do whatever you choose, where no one is shocked by the most outrageous acts. Does any of this sound familiar?

The names of Lamech’s wives are instructive. Adah means “ornamental” – perhaps he was attracted to her beauty. Zillah means “seductress” – perhaps he was lured by her sexuality. Lamech is trapped and controlled by what his eyes saw and what his flesh lusted after.

The new world order also gives rise to new vocations and lifestyles as demonstrated by Lamech’s sons. This was a new age of agricultural development.Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock (4:20). Moving out of the city, Jabal developed a new way of living. He became a nomadic farmer – just like they still have today in many parts of the world (e.g. the Fulani in west Africa). Perhaps he saw an opportunity to fill a need. After all, cities need farmers to provide their food. Perhaps he recognized this new market that emerged out of the new urban society. He was “the first” (the pioneer, the father) of a new development in corporate agriculture, in raising livestock. He was an entrepreneur - he saw a need and filled it. He started a new career, a new way of life, a new livelihood. He was the pioneer of ranching. He designed and developed the know-how for producing food for the city dwellers. Anybody who wanted to know how to do it went to Jabal – he was the “father” of this type of livelihood. This was truly a new age of agricultural development.

And this is a new age of recreational development – an age of distraction. The next brother, Jubal, was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe (4:21). People who live in a city want entertainment, something to fill their leisure time. So, Jubal jumped on the bandwagon and started an orchestra. He was appealing to the new demand for pleasure, for when you live in the city you have to have something to fill in your spare time. It’s not like living off the land as his fore-bearers had done by the sweat of their brow. Possibly this demand for pleasure was also generated by the drift away from God. They didn’t want to remember God or allow their consciences to be active, so they needed to be entertained during their leisure time. What better way to do that than through music? Music drowns out everything around you. Music fills your mind, ears, and heart.

This was also a new age of industrial development. “Zillah also bore Tubal-Cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron (4:22). Make no doubt about it, these sons of Lamech were clever, inventive, and ambitious. Tubal-Cain initiated the first industrial revolution. He had discovered, designed and developed metal processing and manufacturing. He was known for his knowledge and creativity in the area of metal working. Not everyone could do this – this was a technological, scientific and manufacturing break through. This would have put him at the cutting edge of technology in that day. He was the Benjamin Franklin of the day, the Alexander Graham Bell, the Henry Ford, the Bill Gates, the Steve Jobs. This was as much a breakthrough in that day as the printing press would be later and, still later, industrial production.

Along with all this advancement undoubtedly came material prosperity, social pleasure, and economic power. They were on the cusp of a new world order, a new age that abandoned their religious upbringing and morality in favor of the thrill of independence and prosperity and the throwing away of restraint.

Lastly, this was also an age of societal development. Here, sadly we reach the all-time low in the downward trajectory of societal degeneracy, because personal degeneracy leads to societal degeneracy, which is usually marked by anger, revenge, retaliation, and outright defiance. 23 Lamech said to his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cains revenge is sevenfold, then Lamechs is seventy-sevenfold’” (4:23-24). Lamech’s departure from God through lust and pride led him to this – to murder! Perhaps his son’s invention of metal working had led to the development and production of weapons – the text doesn’t tell us. Perhaps the family had become so powerful and so rich that their lives were threatened – the text doesn’t tell us. But evidently Lamech’s reaction to someone who had injured him went far beyond what was reasonable so that, in defending himself, he killed someone. Now he claims a far greater measure of protection than God had promised Cain – not sevenfold but seventy-sevenfold. This is an exclamation of egregious vengeance: “Anyone who tries to harm me will receive back seventy-seven times what he gives me!”

This is truly an age of utter defiance - defiance of opponents and defiance of God. That’s what happens in advancing societies. People become rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing. Their lives are self-sustaining, self-propagating, self-enriching, and self-advancing. They have economic prosperity, social pleasures, and military protection. But none of this leads them closer to God. On the contrary, it leads them further away from God and further down the path of degeneracy.

Concluding Remarks

There you have the downward course of this antediluvian family. Does any of this sound familiar to you? It all started with anger that went unjudged and led to murder. And from there it all went downhill from deviant behavior in the family, to disconnection from society, to departure from God, and ultimately to a thoroughly degenerate age. Remember my proposition: When you nurture anger it can lead to rebellion against God, and when you rebel against God, theres no telling where you may end up.

Today, we too live in a new world order with a new morality. Today, we too live in a degenerate age, which openly practices deviant behavior, disconnection from society, and departure from God. Marriage has been redefined. Your gender is self-determined. Life has been devalued so that doctors kill preborn babies and, now, euthanize the aged, diseased, and disabled.

So, how should we then live in such a society? Firstly, we must be on our guard and be aware of what is going on around us. Secondly, we must live according to God’s standards. Thankfully, as we will see in the next article in this series, even in the midst of spiritual and moral darkness God always has a testimony. While the ungodly line of Cain departed from God, the godly line of Seth began to call upon the name of the Lord.

Related Topics: Character Study, Christian Life

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