The Right Question to Ask and the Abundant Life: Genesis 4:17-26

Cain’s Descendants by Christopher Leth (from Christophers Photos)

Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out ofbronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD.

Genesis 4:17-26


In this passage of scripture we find 7 keys to living the abundant Christian life.


Ask the right question

Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. (v.17) The question is often asked, “Where did Cain’s wife come from?” And the answer is probably that with Adam’s life span of 930 years, Adam and Eve had plenty of opportunity to be fruitful and to multiply. Thus Cain almost certainly married a relative. Not a problem, I believe, in Cain’s day for in its beginnings the purity of the human race was such that the problems now experienced from such a relationship would not yet be realized. The real issue with the question, “Where did Cain’s wife come from?” is that it’s the wrong question. I believe that from God’s perspective, that question and those like it, such as, can God make a rock so big that even He can’t lift it, or how is it possible that the Red Sea parted, are akin to the questions sometimes asked by toddlers. Silly questions, such as what does the color yellow sound like, or what bedtime stories does a mother dog read her puppies. In fact, the question that should be asked, by all of us, is, “what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30) (please see So Your Life Is Falling Apart if you’re asking that question)

It’s worth noting that Enoch the son of Cain, spoken of here in Genesis 4, is a different man than the holy man of God, Enoch the son of Jared, spoken of beginning in Genesis 5:18.


Choose the right priorities

Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. (v.17) Cain built a city and dedicated it not to the Lord, but rather to his son. Cain is an example of a man whose priorities are out of order. He prioritized his anger above his brother’s life. Now we see him prioritize his son above the Lord. God first, family second, work third, and recreation last of all. Those I’ve observed who rearrange these begin to spiral down, sometimes slowly sometimes quickly, toward a life that’s unnecessarily filled with despair.

Cain’s propensity to glorify man over God is further expressed in the name of his grandson Irad.

To Enoch was born Irad… (v.18) Irad means “City of Witness.” However the problem here is that the orientation of the witness is toward man’s glory, not God’s.


Adopt the right attitude

Irad was the father of Mehujael… (v.18) The meaning of the name Mehujael: the first part comes from the verb maha which means to wipe out. This is the verb that’s used in Genesis 6:7 when the Lord speaks of wiping out mankind with the flood. The second part comes from the the common abbreviation of Elohim. So the name Mehujael literally means “To wipe out God.” The name Mehujael is a sad commentary on the heart of Cain toward God — a heart of bitterness. In our own lives, we can ward off bitterness with thankfulness. At some point in your life you’ve asked yourself, “What is God’s will for me?” I have good news. God anticipated that question and He gave you the answer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 God says, …give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


Make the right choice between Spirit and flesh

Lamech married two women… (v.19) Here we see the first mention of polygamy. God tells us in Genesis 2:24 that For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Notice that the word wife is used, not the word wives. While it’s been said that polygamy comes with its own punishment, multiple mother-in-laws, it appears that this was never God’s intention. It’s not surprising that polygamy is first found in the line of Cain. Cain was a man who succumbed to the desires of his flesh by murdering his brother. Now we see Cain’s descendant Lamech succumb to the desire of his flesh by engaging in polygamy.

…one named Adah and the other Zillah. (v.19) Adah means “Ornament” and Zillah means “Shadow,” “Seductress,” or “Shabiness.” There’s something lost in the translation of Zillah here because the meaning in the Hebrew has a negative connotation. Could it be that Lamech found Adah to be desirable and Zillah undesirable? It’s human nature to love one and not the other. That’s why it’s so important to invest in your wife, or your husband and to avoid extramarital relationships, even close friendships, with the opposite sex, including relationships on the internet. That’s also why it’s so important to avoid investing your time in watching sexually explicit material on television, at the movies, or on the internet. In the end, investing in these things will leave you without desire for your spouse. Invest in your spouse and you’ll desire your spouse. Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. (Proverbs 5:15) For more on this topic I highly recommend reading Proverbs chapter 5.

In your own life choose to feed your Spirit. Feed your Spirit and watch him grow. However, if you feed your flesh, you’ll watch him grow. You must choose which type of person you desire to be, a person who feeds his Spirit or a person who feeds his flesh.

As an aside, much of what makes up society today came from Cain’s line. Cain himself built the first city and the three descendants of Cain mentioned in verses 20-22 were initiators of three additional aspects of human society.

Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. (v.20) Jabal was the first professional rancher.

His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. (v.21) Jubal was the first professional musician.

Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. (v.22) Tubal-Cain was the first metal worker and weapons manufacturer.


Set the right example

Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.” (Genesis 4:23-24) The last father mentioned in the line of Cain killed a man as Cain did. If you think you can sin “without hurting anybody” think again. Your example is a powerful influence on your kids, your kids’ kids, and the generations beyond. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. (Titus 2:7)


Rightly recognize that God’s on the thrown

Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” (v.25) Seth means “Appointed.” Here we see that God raises up a man to take the place of Abel. It’s good to remember that individual people are not uniquely necessary for God to carry out His plan. The great theologian John Wesley has an inscription on his tomb that reads, “God buries His workmen, but He carries on His work.”


Rightly recognize your own mortality

Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. (v.26) Enosh means “Mortal” or “Subject to death.” It seems to be our nature that the degree to which we’re aware of our own mortality is the degree to which we call on the name of the Lord. Not surprisingly then, the second half of verse 26, the last verse of chapter 4, reads:

At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD.



References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Ray Stedman

Jon Courson‘s Application Commentary, Vol. 1, Nelson 2005

Matthew Henry

Photo from Christopher’s Photos Blog

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