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No Strength Apart from God – Genesis 4:17-4:26

Having been expelled from God’s presence, Cain and his generations continued to distance themselves from God. This is inherently coupled with a belief in one’s personal strength. Cain, either through a feeling of alienation or defiance, had chosen to not seek a return to God. Cain’s descendants had begun to struggle with their role in society versus personal glory. Lamech would highlight this separation through his own attempt at justification and self-protection. God was no longer in the picture. Hope and glory was not found in self-reliance.

The Art will be visible once we have at least five pieces to show.

Genesis 4:17-26

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech. 19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”

25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.

 

The Theme Explained

Before continuing, read the passage above and slowly let the images soak in.  Each image is someone’s personal expression of the theme.  Discover how the images reveal the theme from the passage.


Having been expelled from God’s presence, Cain and his generations continued to distance themselves from God. This is inherently coupled with a belief in one’s personal strength.

God had given Cain the role of fugitive and vagabond, yet, true to form, he shirked that role as well by starting a family and founding a city. The contrast between the birth of Cain’s son and the birth of Seth highlights the honor given by Eve to God and the silence of Cain’s wife. Cain’s wife (representing Cain himself) no longer saw God as provider. Further, while Cain glorified his son by naming a city after him, the birth of Seth, his brother, at the end of the chapter, was highlighted by a return to calling upon the name of the LORD. Hauntingly silent in this passage is God Himself, whose only mention is in the final line following the birth of Seth, thus emphasizing the separation of God and Cain, and through him, Man, until the provision of Seth.

The sons of Lamech and their roles contrast a challenge to God and his order. The sons of Adah, both names meaning stream (something that flows), represent the beginnings of two central aspects of society, work and music. The children of Zillah, represent personal innovation (iron crafting) and beauty. Taken in parallel, the contrast shows the focus on one’s role in God’s provision for community versus one’s desire for personal benefit and glory. This contrast illustrates the battle each individual waged as God was further and further separated from their thoughts.

Emphatically stating this separation from God and reliance on personal strength is Lamech’s poem of protection. Contrasting this with Cain’s own punishment dialogue in chapter 3, in which Cain is pleading with God for protection, first, the highlight is the demanding of protection, claiming it through his own authority, and even magnifying it over the protection God had given to Cain. Secondly, Cain is addressing God who is his protector even in punishment; Lamech, on the other hand, is merely informing his wives of his own decision, the parallelism in 4:23 highlighting their role as wives. Third, God’s absence in the Lamech narrative further indicates just how far apart Lamech had grown from his creator. While it was God who sought out Cain, Lamech is the one who confronts his wives. Fourth, the justification of the murder and the callousness in addressing the victim is in contrast with the emotion in the Abel murder. Lamech has reasoned that it was his position or role to commit the murder. While the Cain murder is vividly described, the Lamech murder is an afterthought to his own self-defense. Finally, by approaching his wives, Lamech is once again presenting the social order in reverse, which would have required the dialogue (not monologic demand) to be addressed to God. Lamech represents how distant Man had grown from God.

Cain, either through a feeling of alienation or defiance, had chosen to not seek a return to God. Cain’s descendants had begun to struggle with their role in society versus personal glory. Lamech would highlight this separation through his own attempt at justification and self-protection. God was no longer in the picture. Hope and glory was not found in self-reliance.

 

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