One simple truth has not changed since sin entered the human race: there are only two paths in life. We choose either to humbly follow the Lord by faith or go our own sinful way. Cain and Seth illustrate the significant impact our choice can have on generations to come.
In Genesis chapters 4 and 5, the family tree of humanity is beginning to develop into two separate branches.
To this day, there are these same two branches of people, so to speak—people who obey God and people who defy God; people who follow God’s plan and people who choose their own plan.
Here in Genesis we find the origin of these two branches. One descends from Cain, and the other descends from Seth.
After Cain killed his younger brother, Abel, Cain was confronted by God for his sin. Genesis chapter 4 and verse 15 tells us God put a mark of some sort on Cain to protect him from being murdered himself. We’re not told what that mark was, but in God’s mercy, Cain was allowed to stay alive.
However, as verse 16 says, Cain decides to live apart from God’s presence. And then we’re told in verse 17 that Cain takes a wife. People are quick to ask me where Cain got his wife. The obvious answer is that Cain either married his sister or another close relative born to one of his sisters or brothers. Genesis 5:4 tells us Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters besides Cain and Abel.
Keep in mind that the absence of genetic diseases in this early, post-creation world made the marriages of close relatives much safer from disabilities. Abraham will marry his half-sister (Genesis 20), Isaac will marry the daughter of his cousin (Genesis 24), and Jacob will marry two of his cousins—Leah and Rachel (Genesis 29). It won’t be until Moses delivers the law, some two thousand years later, that God will forbid the marriage of close relatives.
Now maybe you’re wondering how many sisters or cousins Cain would have had to choose from. Well, remember, in these early years people lived very long lives. In fact, Genesis 5:3 tells us Adam and Eve have a baby when Adam is 130 years old. Let me tell you, we had our last child when I was in my late thirties, and I didn’t have any energy left then. I can’t imagine being 130.
Well, if couples are having children for decades, the original family tree literally would have produced thousands of brothers and sisters and cousins and nephews and nieces and on and on.
By the way, when the world’s population is destroyed in the great flood later in the Genesis account, all that’s left are Noah and his wife and their three sons and their wives. And God tells them to repopulate the earth. And who was available for Noah’s grandchildren to marry? Brothers and sisters and a whole lot of cousins.
So, why did the law of Moses forbid the practice of marrying close relatives? It was primarily for physical safety. We know now that genetic mutations shared by both parents create physical deformity and illness—literally, a weakening of the gene pool, so to speak. Genetic scientists are alarmed by the increasing number of defects growing within the human gene pool today.
Beloved, when the Bible says mankind will “wax worse and worse,” as the old King James Version puts it (2 Timothy 3:13), I don’t think that’s just moral digression. I think it includes moral, mental, physical, and even genetic digression—growing worse and worse.
Back here in Genesis 4, the family line of Cain is listed for us, and at any point that line could have begun to follow after God. God doesn’t put a time limit on His mercy. But Cain and his family line continue to choose to live apart from God.
Cain has a son, and he names him Enoch (verse 17). This isn’t the godly Enoch of chapter 5—we’ll get to him later. Cain’s son, Enoch, has his own son, and he names him Irad (pronounced Eerod), which means “wild donkey.”
This wild, stubborn donkey of a man has a son and names him Mehujael, meaning “God is combative.” In other words, “I’m at war with God.” He has a son named Lamech, which means “overthrower.”
Lamech grows up to be a proud, cruel man; in fact, in verse 19 he becomes the first person mentioned in the Bible as being a polygamist—he took two wives. This is a practice that’s going to bring jealousy, division, and heartache into the lives of many families.
Somebody says, “But King David and Solomon and others took multiple wives. And David is even called a man after God’s heart.” Well, let me tell you, just because we seek after God doesn’t mean we we’ll never sin against Him.[JKW1]
Solomon and David and every other believer who disobeyed God’s original design for marriage ended up paying a high price for their sinful choices.
Here in Genesis chapter 4 and verse 25 all the way through chapter 5 and verse 32, we’re given the second branch of Adam’s descendants. This is the godly line of Seth.
In Genesis 4:25 we read this:
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel.”
The name Seth means “compensation” or “appointed.” Eve feels compensated for the loss of Abel, who was murdered by his older brother, Cain. But she also believes Seth is appointed by God for something special, and indeed he is.
In fact, through the influence of Seth, we’re told in verse 26 that “people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” They begin to organize together in some fashion to worship God.
The line of Seth is recorded down through the middle of chapter 5, where we’re introduced to an unusual individual. Verse 21 says, “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah.”
At the age of sixty-five, when most people are thinking of settling down, Enoch is starting a family. He and his wife name their first child Methuselah. His name has prophetic significance; it refers to coming judgment. Methuselah’s birth changes Enoch’s life. In fact, we’re told in verse 22 that Enoch began walking with God after his son was born. Maybe you have a similar testimony—the birth of your child made you get right with God.
The New Testament letter of Jude tells us that Enoch preached a warning to everyone that judgment from God was coming (Jude 14-15).
Evidently, Enoch has been given revelation from God that the death of his son Methuselah will trigger God’s judgment. And by the way, Methuselah will live longer than any other human being has ever lived—969 years verse 27 tells us. That’s another way of showing God is slow to judge—His mercy is long-suffering.
Verse 25 tells us Methuselah grew up, and he had a son named Lamech. Lamech grew up and had a son named Noah. Biblical history reveals that the year Methuselah died, his grandson Noah finished building the ark, and the judgment of God came—a global flood, just as God had promised.
God’s promises always come true. God also has promised a final judgment in the future, and 2 Peter 3 tells us it will not be by water but by fire.
Did the people listen to Enoch as he preached all those years? Did they get nervous as they watched Methuselah get older and older? Is the world listening to God’s warning today? Well, I’m not really wondering about the world; I’m wondering about you. Are you listening to the word of God?
One day God’s mercy will end; safety is found only in His Son, Jesus Christ.
My friend, you can be saved from eternal judgment by trusting in Jesus Christ and asking Him to become your personal Lord and Savior. That will put you in God’s family tree forever, safe and secure, as a child of God.