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.Genesis 4:17,25-26
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, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.
The legacy of Cain is reflected in the lives that followed his line. It is highly probably that Cain was already married to his sister at the time of his exile, as there is no indication that he took a wife, just that he had relations with her. Yes, incest was necessary at the beginning due to the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply. As the gene pool had not been corrupted yet, familial marriage was safe. In fact, incest within the immediate family also had to resume after the flood in order to repopulate the earth. It wasn’t until much later that incest among immediate family members was forbidden, but not among distant family (i.e., cousins), and usually then in an effort to preserve the family inheritance. So debating the morality of incest in this historical context is a moot point.
Cain’s family line was a record of sin and evil and it is reflected in some of the names of his descendants:
- Cain = “possession”
- Enoch = “dedicated”
- Mehujael = “smitten by God”
- Methushael = “who is of God”
- Lamech = “powerful”
- Jabal = “stream of water”
- Jubal = “stream”
- Tubal-cain = “you will be brought of Cain”
- Naamah = “loveliness”
Up through this point, we are not given any information about the lifespan of Cain and his descendants. This has led to some to argue from silence that the Cain’s family line either never died out or was extinguished in the flood, where all died at that time, with the notable exception for one person (whom I will address in a moment). In the ancient British epic poem of Beowulf, the idea is posited that the creature Grendel bore the mark of Cain, thus reducing Cain and his line to that of monsters. Some have said that this idea was borne of the thought that Cain’s family line never died out and was likely written into the epic by Christian monks seeking to Christianize the epic. Truth be told, this argument from silence makes little sense.
After the line of Cain is laid out, we get a short story about one of his descendants, Lamech. Lamech is the first recorded polygamist in Scripture, with two wives – Adah and Zillah. In Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, Lamech is described as “well known for misusing the arms his sons had invented.” While two of his sons appeared to be more pastoral in nature with Jabal as a livestock farmer and Jubal as the inventor of the lyre and woodwind instruments, Tubal-Cain was the forger of instruments of bronze and iron. This is interesting in that it demonstrates a known transition between what archeologists call the Bronze Age and the Iron Age and Tubal-Cain was an antecedent to both – perhaps the father of the Bronze Age (approximately 3300 – 1200 BC), but laying the groundwork for what would become the Iron Age (beginning roughly 1300 BC) with the Great Flood lying squarely between the two at approximately 2348 BC, by some estimates.
The Scripture abruptly interjects here for Lamech to tell his wives that he had “killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.” (Genesis 4:23) Some have theorized that Lamech’s victim was Cain himself, based on the words of verse 24 – “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” Verse 23 does reveal one thing explicitly – Lamech and the preceding generations of Cain were aware of Cain’s transgression and the consequential judgement of God along with God’s seal of protection upon Cain. It also implicitly demonstrates that the concept of revenge for murder was a known reality – either by Lamech and his family or by Moses and the Israelites. In the honor-shame society of the Ancient Near East, it is not uncommon for a family to seek revenge against the murder of a family member, as opposed to justice where the person is brought to trial and then judged before the people and a third party passes a sentence.
However, there is no evidence that Lamech’s victim is in fact Cain, and the text clearly states the victim was a “young man”. The Hebrew word here is “ye-led” which is a reference to a child, or perhaps someone who was probably about 13 years old – the age of adulthood in Jewish society, which would eliminate Cain as a candidate for the victim. Regardless, we do not know who the victim is, but what is clear is that the line of Cain is marked by sin and violence as a result of the exile from the presence of God.
The end of Genesis 4 and this first full section of the origin of man, we see a contrast. Adam and Eve give birth to another son, Seth. Seth’s name means “compensation” and is reflected by Eve’s declaration that “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” (Genesis 4:25) In Eve’s grieved mind, the gift of another son to propagate their family line as dictated by the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply was God’s way of compensating her for the loss of her other son.
And Seth also had a son (obviously by his wife, which was also his sister) and his name was Enosh. The name Enosh is used 7 times in the Old Testament, and according to Genesius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the word simply means “man” and is almost exclusively used in poetry to represent mankind. In fact, the same word is used in Psalm 8:4 in this sense to contrast mankind from a single specific “son of man (ben ‘adam)”:
“What is man (enosh) that you are mindful of him,Psalm 8:4
and the son of man (adam) that you care for him?”
We close Genesis 4 with a clear contrast between the line of Cain and the line of Seth in that after the birth of Enosh, “At that time, people began to call upon the name of the LORD [Adonai].” Which leaves the question before us: what kind of legacy will you leave behind? What will you and your family most be remembered for when you are long gone from the face of this earth? Will you be remembered as a person of violence and pain and strife? Or will you be remembered as one who “called upon the name of the LORD” in worship and in life? It is my prayer that I will be remembered as one whom Jesus loved and who in turn loved Him. It is my prayer that you will also be known as one who calls upon the name of the LORD.