Genesis 4-6: Poison & Hope in the Line

There’s an ironic juxtaposition of two themes binding these 3 chapters together:  the simultaneous presence of poison and hope in the line of descendants from Adam & Eve after the events of Genesis 3.

Genesis 4.

1.     Hope in the Line.  Genesis 4 opens with the announcement of Eve’s first pregnancy and the birth of the first child of the earth:  Cain, the first “seed” of the woman (cf. 3:15).  Interestingly, verse 1 incorporates a direct quote from Eve to help us understand her perspective on Cain’s birth:  “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.”

This is interesting to me, especially when I consider the proximity of Cain’s birth to the Lord’s promise in 3:15.  Think about what Eve knows at this point in the narrative.  She has heard the Lord’s promise of a conquering seed in 3:15, who will be “her offspring.”  Now, in 4:1, she is pregnant with her first offspring.  After this promise and after her daily-increasing awareness of the consequences of sin after her expulsion from the Garden, wouldn’t her most logical deduction, her most natural hope, be that this first seed that opens her womb would prove to be the promised conquering seed?  I think this hope–that her firstborn, Cain, will fulfill the Lord’s promise of a Deliverer–is precisely what she expresses in 4:1.  Tragically, events soon demonstrate otherwise.

2.     Poison in the Line.  Eve’s understandable hopes notwithstanding, Cain’s story is not the story of the Redeemer’s appearance, but of the need for that Redeemer.  Cain’s premeditated murder of his brother, Abel, demonstrates that the consequences of Adam’s sin are more complex and more serious than we might have thought at first:  the 1st seed reveals that there is a dark and indelible poison in the line.  The tension in the story is now drawn very starkly:  how it will be that a seed of the woman could ever be our Deliverer, if her very first seed was so wicked?  God will have to act to enter and disrupt the “natural” development of the woman’s line.

Genesis 5

1.     Poison in the Line.  Genesis 5, “the book of the generations of Adam” (5:1), is one body-blow after another.  The text gives us accounts of 9 of Adam’s descendants, and 8 of these accounts end with the same refrain:  “and he died.”  The only exception is Enoch (5:21-24), whom the Lord “took” (5:24) because he “walked with God” (5:22).  But, apart from Enoch, the rule is unmistakably death.  The poison in the line is not only unmistakable, but unstoppable:  sin’s onslaught continues to spread unchecked across generations and millennia.  But, as the end of the chapter shows us, sin isn’t the only storyline.

2.     Hope in the Line.  Verse 28 describes Noah’s birth.  Just like Eve’s comment at Cain’s birth in 4:1, Noah’s birth is reported through the use of a direct quote from his father, Lamech:  “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands” (5:29).  Lamech is looking to his son, Noah (whose name means “rest”), to undo the curses of the Fall (“our work and…the painful toil of our hands”–cf. 3:17-19); he is hoping, in other words, that Noah will prove to be the promised seed of Genesis 3:15, the Redeemer who will at last provide the promised and longed for rest.  Which brings us to Chapter 6….

Genesis 6

1.     Poison in the Line.  Chapter 6 chronicles the poison’s reach both extensively and intensively.  Extensively:  “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (6:11-12).  Intensively:  “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5).  (Note that this is God’s evaluation of man, not man’s evaluation of man, what He thinks of our sin, not what we think of our sin).  In a tragically ironic reversal of the Lord’s design for His image bearers in 1:28, the sin in the Garden has metastasized:  it has been bitterly fruitful and multiplied to fill, subdue, and rule man’s life on the earth.  This is no ordinary poison.  And thus, the Lord’s announcement of the Flood to Noah.

2.      Hope.  In the midst of Chapter 6’s darkness, Noah’s faithfulness stands out as a ray of hope, a remnant the Lord resolves to preserve through the coming Flood, in many ways like a new Adam.  Yet, as coming events will demonstrate, Noah, while he represents the promise of hope in the Line, is not himself the fulfillment of that promise from 3:15.  As we will see, he points, not toward himself, but forward away from himself and toward the promised Rest-Giver, Jesus Christ:  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

May each of us come to Him and find in Him the promised Rest today.  SDG.

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