Foundations - Two Paths For Your Life (Genesis 4:17-6:8)

Series: Foundations

As we have looked at Genesis we have been seeing the truth about who God is, what is means to be a human, and what is wrong with our world. Genesis 4:17-6:8 is one long genealogy and these two family lines represent a proverbial fork in the road. There are two paths that humanity can decide to follow and this text shows the history of others decisions and the consequences that came from those choices. Sadly, there is a consistent downward spiral in this text, but it gives us a glimmer of hope of how we can make the right choice, to stay on the path, and ultimately be saved.

The Line of Cain - Genesis 4:17-24

In 4:16, we ended with Cain leaving the presence of the Lord and settling in in the land of Nod, whose name means wandering. It is more of a departure east of Eden like we talked about last time. This text then goes to show the downward spiral of the line of Cain.

To begin, notice what Jude 11 says about Cain. As Jude describes these false teachers and their behavior, he says that they have walked in the “way of Cain”. That’s a very important description. Cain’s lifestyle is described as a path that people continue to “walk in”, that is, a daily choice of decisions and behaviors. And, it is something that apparently people in Jude’s day could participate in. We should read his story as more than just facts, we should see this as a path that people can follow in their lives.

The text begins with the building of a city - which is the first one in scripture. Cities often have a negative representation in scripture. Cities often are places filled with injustice and violence. Sometimes the concentration of people leads to terrible things happening. Further, notice the description of the people that make up this city. Lamech is the first one to have two wives - that should be a clear warning to us. This is a person that is not respecting God’s plan for marriage.

But, as the story continues we see a mixed bag from Cain’s line. There is great ingenuity and progress that come. We are introduced to those who live in tents and have domesticated animals, we have the creation of music and instruments, and we even have the process of metal working. There is enormous creativity seen in the line of Cain, but sometimes the ingenuity that brought about these creations can also be used for evil - music and metal working being the most obvious. They can be used for joy and entertainment, or they can be fashioned toward wickedness and violence. However, these things are not inherently evil in themselves, and as one man noted, all gifts are not just for the godly. God will use these three different creations by humanity as part of his worship later in the Bible.

Notice then how the text then goes back to Lamech and it underscores what the “way of Cain” represents. On the surface, this seems to be Lamech boasting for killing one or two young men. But notice, these don’t seem to be about self defense, they are not appropriate to the crime. And further, instead of letting God utter the promise of vengeance, Lamech utters his own curse. This is what life is like in the “way of Cain”, it is a life of focus on self, of creativity toward things that are evil - like marrying two wives, perhaps a use of these metal working skills for the violence of others, and a life where God is not present or appealed to.

This is the complicated and evil line that Cain left, and it should be a clear warning to us. We often think that the decisions we make only impact ourselves. But notice, the decisions that Cain made ultimately led to multiple generations of people that continued to drift from God.

The question for us is, what kind of lineage are we leaving for the next generation. Are we walking in the way of Cain? Are we pursuing the life of selfishness and rejection of God? Further, what lineage are you passing on? Notice, no generation steps up and comes back to God. Every generation has a decision, and the tragedy is many generations follow what their parents left. What legacy are you leaving?

The Line of Seth - Genesis 4:25-5:32

In contrast, we have a window into the righteous lineage of Seth. Seth is introduced to us as a replacement seed instead of Abel, and that during his son’s lifetime, men went a different way and began calling upon the name of Yahweh.

Further, the text backs up to creation and shows that God’s creation and blessing of man continues on. Genesis 5:3 shows that the likeness and image concept are passed onto Seth. This obviously seems to include his physical features, but more importantly it includes the representation of God in humanity continues. The work of being the rulers of God and blessing to the world as God desires continues.

And we see this in the account, notice how Enoch and Noah are spoken of. Enoch is introduced to us as a man that walked with God for 300 years. His life is so exceptional that God took him to be with him. Instead of continuing in the world, God allowed Enoch back into his presence. Hebrews 11:5 comments on this and says that it was by faith Enoch did this - he had that righteous, trusting relationship that God wanted. And further, that he was commended as having pleased God. His life was so significant that God overruled death for Enoch and allowed him to come home. We should see a model in Enoch of exactly what God is looking for in us. Instead of walking in the way of Cain, God wants us to walk with him.

Then, we have this anticipation of Noah. Noah is put forth as one that will give rest from the pain that comes from tending the ground. This is significant because this person knows the story of humanity from the garden, and is looking for one that will bring about that relief. According to Noah’s father, he is anticipating this child to be an answer to their struggle. We will see more about the answer in Noah’s life, but there is a clear difference in Seth’s line.

Again, as we spoke about the evil lineage of Cain and how we can leave that to our children, look at the contrast here. We can leave a legacy of faithfulness and walking with God with our children. There’s two ways that we can live. There are two paths. Each of us is presented with a choice, that really comes from what God set up in (Genesis 3:15) of the battle between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed. We have to decide what kind of legacy we will leave.

The way that we do that is by walking with God - notice that Enoch and Noah are described in this way. Does that describe you and me? Is your life focused on a daily partnership and relationship with God? Do you steer from sin, not only because it’s the wrong thing to do, but because it would break your friendship with God? Do you also see how close God wants to be with each of you? This daily, close, relationship reminds me of the garden (Genesis 3:8). This is a metaphor all through scripture. Will you walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)?

Despite the glimmer of hope here, we cannot overlook the resounding and discouraging blows all the way through this text. Despite the extraordinary life granted to this people, we have this little line “and he died…” This text shows us that man is valuable to God, that there is appointed line for the Messiah, but it also shows a timeline of man’s history and the reign of death. Sadly, we haven’t been around for that long on this earth, and worse, our lives are ending in failure and death because of our sin. What will be the answer? How can God help us?

The Corruption of Man and the Grace of God - Genesis 6:1-8

Tragically, the story does not show man’s progress and more men calling on the Lord. Instead, we are left with an increase of wickedness in mankind. Notice how God speaks in verse 3, he seems exasperated with humanity and the utters an edict. Now, it’s not clear if this is 120 years till judgment, or 120 years as a cap for humanity’s life - which it seems to reduce down to. Regardless, we are left with this terrible picture in verses 5-7, that instead of God’s goodness filling the earth, it is man’s wickedness that is filling the earth. The wickedness is so bad that every intention of man’s heart is only evil continually - that’s hard for us to even imagine.

Now, what exactly is going on here in verse 1-4? This is a section of debate among christians, but it seems tied to the judgment God puts on humanity. The main question we have here is “Who are theses sons of God?” There are two primary viewpoints put forward: These are the decedents of Seth that corrupt themselves with the line of Cain, or they are fallen angels that bring extreme corruption into humanity. Let’s examine each of these briefly.

In defense of the descendants of Seth, the context seems to point that way. As we have laid out, there are two lineages here that ultimately blend into one corrupted humanity. The thought then is that the righteous people have married into the wicked line and been led away. In defense of this, there is clear instruction repeatedly through the old testament about who Israel should marry and that if they marry them they will be led away after their gods. The result then is of mighty men - before and after the flood that continue wickedness. The issue is that this doesn’t fully explain why there are giants in the world. That’s a potential weakness.

In defense of the angels viewpoint, we have the way this phrase is used in the old testament. Other references to this phrase come from the book of Job and they are clearly talking about spiritual beings (Job 1:6, 2:7, 38:7). It could be that the writer is contrasting man (6:1) with the sons of God (6:2). Now, this may sound like a lot to us and contradictory to (Matthew 22:30), but perhaps something changed, or this is part of them leaving their proper domain and bringing these giants in. In addition, there are new testament texts that make us pause. (1 Peter 3:18-22) references the spirits in prison from the days of Noah. 2 Peter 2:4-5 give examples from Genesis and they seem to be chronological with the rebellion of angels being the first before the flood of Noah’s day. Then finally, we have Jude 5-7 that doesn’t deal with it chronologically, but it does seem to parallel the behavior of the angels with what the wicked people of Sodom tried to do with God’s righteous angels. Further, Jude quotes from the book of 1st Enoch in Jude 14-15 and later this story specifically references the account of angels leaving their proper domain, have relations with women, and bringing giants into existence.

Whatever the answer is, in response, God regrets that he made man, he is sorry that he made him, his heart is grieved, and he is going to blot them out along with all the other animals of the world. What a terrible, heart breaking scene. It’s not that God has made a mistake, it seems to be that this is how God feels when mankind decides to go whole sale into the way of Cain.

See, God loves his creation, God loves human beings, God wants a relationship with humans, God wants them to reflect his goodness into the world. But humanity is set on opposing God, hurting one another, and corrupting themselves. This is what breaks God’s heart - Sin.

However, there is one beacon of light - Noah finds favor or grace in the eyes of Yahweh. There is that one that Lamech looked to bring deliverance and salvation to mankind - there was hope.


Notice that the response to the overwhelming wickedness of man is the grace of God. In this case, it is the birth of one that would teach the message of righteousness, life a pure life, and prepare a way for salvation - Noah, a true son of God.

See, at times, our world can remind us of Noah’s day. We live in a world that is ruled by Satan and is full of wickedness - Ephesians 2:1-3, and tragically all of us have believed the lie of the Devil and fallen captive to his will and become sons of disobedience like Cain. But God…

God is the one who stepped in with a greater Noah who truly walked with him and was his ultimate and true son. Remember at his baptism what God said? Luke 3:22 “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is the true son.

Then Luke 3:23-38, goes all the way back through the genealogies to Adam and points out that he was the son of God. The true and faithful son of God came as a gift of God’s grace to rescue the sons that had fallen into disobedience. And when Jesus came he defeated the dark power that all of us have fallen captive to (Luke 4:1-13) and began preached a message of good news that would set the captives free (Luke 4:18-19).

See, the only escape to God’s judgment by God’s grace. We now have the opportunity in Christ to be part of that righteous lineage of faithfulness and walking with God, and we can leave behind the way of sin, violence, and wrath from God.

You’re at the fork in the road, what path do you want to choose?