23 Lamech said to his wives:
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 Cain's revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold.”
Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: The Fruits of the Fall
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: The Origin of Society Part 1 and Part 2
In our passage today we see the contrast between the godly (line of Seth) and the ungodly (line of Cain).
Often the Bible does not give specific commentary on the actions of people - whether they were morally right or wrong. That's because it shouldn't have to. Here we see that Lamech took two wives (he may not have been the first to do so, but he is the first mentioned in the Bible). We know that this is wrong because of Genesis 2:24 - marriage is defined by God as being between one man and one woman. And we see, over and over again, the sorrow that comes from disobedience to this command (Abraham and Sarah/Haggai, Jacob and Rachel/Leah, etc).
In this passage we also see God's gift of common grace. Cain's descendants made huge strides in cultural and scientific development. Can you imagine how strong and intelligent these first people were? Yes, the effects of the fall had begun, but they were falling from a state of perfection and they were incredibly healthy, strong, and intelligent. Imagine how well you could perfect your craft if you lived over 900 years! Or how far 900+ years of research, and trial and error would go towards advancing technology. Cain's descendants became experts in animal husbandry, music, metal forging, and poetry (demonstrated in Lamech's boastful poem).
Man at his worst is able to produce things beneficial to mankind. But man at his worst is also quickly able to use those same things for evil - sin enticing music, idols made from metal, etc.
We also see Lamech's penchant for violence and utter lack of humility.
Deffinbaugh: Lamech brings us to the point in the history of man where sin is not only committed boldly, but boastfully. He bragged to his wives of his murder. More than this he boasted that his sin was committed against a mere youngster who had only struck him. This murder was brutal, bold, and volatile. Worst of all, Lamech shows a disdain and disregard for God’s word: “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24).
God had spoken these words to assure Cain that he would not be killed by the hand of man. He also warned men of the seriousness of such an act. These words were spoken to reveal the fact that God valued human life. Lamech twisted and distorted them as a boast to his violence and aggressive hostility toward man and God.
Thankfully, the chapter doesn't end there....
“But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).
Sin surely abounded in the line of Cain, but the chapter will not end without a glimmer of the grace of God.....
Eve had hoped for salvation through her first son, Cain. It would surely not come from him or from his descendants. Neither could it come from Abel. But another son was given whose name, Seth, means “appointed.” Not only was he a substitute for Abel (verse 25), he was the seed through whom the Savior would be born.
Seth, too, had a son, Enosh. It began to become clear that the deliverance Adam and Eve hoped for was not to be soon, but it was nevertheless certain. And so it was that in those days men began ‘to call upon the name of the Lord’ (verse 26). I understand this to be the commencement of corporate worship. In the midst of a perverse and crooked generation there was a believing remnant that trusted in God and hoped for His salvation.
The New Testament offers a lot of commentary on this chapter actually.
Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah! (Jude 11).
Jude warns his readers of those who are spiritual counterfeits (verse 4). They are not saved, but they endeavor to pass as believers and to pervert the true faith and to divert men from experiencing the grace of God. In verse 11 these men are described as being like Cain. They are like him in that they are rebels who hide under the banner of religion.....
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous (I John 3:11-12).
Those who are evil cannot stand those who are truly righteous. They proclaim brotherly love but they fail to practice it. It is no wonder, then, that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day rejected Him and put him to death with the help of the Gentiles....
For those who would walk in the way of Cain there is little reason for hope. There may be the illusory gains of culture or technology, but they must ultimately suffer the fate of Cain. They must spend their days away from the presence of God and they will find their days on earth full of sorrow and regret ultimately.
We can rejoice that there is another better way, and that is the way of Abel.
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks (Hebrews 11:4).
In order that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the house of God; yet, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation (Luke 11:50-51).
And to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24).
That which made the difference between Cain and Abel was faith. Abel trusted not in himself, but in God. His sacrifice was a better sacrifice because it evidenced his faith and it reflected that the object of his faith was God. No doubt he also had some grasp of the value of the shed blood of an innocent victim.
But Abel was more than an example of an early believer, he was, according to our Lord, a prophet. Perhaps by his lips, but surely by his works, he proclaimed to his brother the way of access to God. He was also a prophet in that he predicted in his death the fate of many who would come later with a word from God to unbelieving men.
While God valued the blood of Abel that was shed for his faith, it is not to be compared with that better blood that was shed by Jesus Christ. Abel’s blood was a testimony to his faith. Christ’s blood is the cleansing agent by which men are purged of their sins and delivered from the penalty of eternal separation from God.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 5