A new beginning

In a Peanuts cartoon strip Lucy and Linus are staring out the window, watching it rain. The conversation goes like this: Lucy: “Boy! Look at it pour. What if it floods the whole world?” Linus: “It won’t. In Genesis 9, God promised Noah that would never happen again. The sign of that promise is the rainbow.” Lucy, turning back to the window with a big smile: “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.” Linus: “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”

 

We laugh at that cartoon but my man Linus was on to something. Sound theology not only takes a load off our minds; it also teaches us what God is like and what He expects of us. Theology is not dry, dull, and boring. Nor is it just for biblical scholars who sit in ivory tower libraries. Theology is meant to alter the way we live life. As we look at Genesis 9:1-17, we are going to learn how a strong theology guides us through this life.

[In the first seven verses, we learn that a strong theology helps us to…]

1. Appreciate the value of life (9:1-7). Moses begins with these words: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’” (9:1). This verse is a renewal of God’s first blessing and commission to Adam (1:28). Like Adam, Noah and his sons were blessed and commanded to reproduce and fill the earth. The word “blessed” is the key word in Genesis. It is a reminder that the God of the Bible has always been a God that blesses His people (cf. James 1:17). This is such a good word for us to hear. It is so easy to be restless and discontent. We always want more. We are never satisfied. Yet, God’s will for us is to express gratitude for His every blessing. A strong theology appreciates God’s many blessings.

 

Additional blessings are found in 9:2-4: “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” Why did God put this fear and terror of man in all creatures? For two reasons: (1) For the protection of animals who will no longer be at peace with man, and (2) for the protection of man who will no longer be at peace with animals. Moses writes that God gave the animals into Noah’s hands (Jeremiah 27:5). This means humans have been given authority over animals. The Lord then informs Noah and his boys that meat is to be a normal part of the human diet. The only restriction is that they must not eat meat with the blood in it. Humans are not to devour animals the way animals devour one another, while the blood is pulsating in the flesh. The reason for this is respect for life and the giver of life. In Leviticus 17:11, Moses teaches that life is in the blood and God is the giver of life Disregard for the gift of life is an affront to the giver of life.

 

Moses continues to record the Lord’s words in 9:5: “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” God will demand an accounting of any animal that sheds man’s blood (see Exodus 21:28). So valuable is human life that a compensation of life will even be exacted from animals. The last phrase of 9:5 is a bit confusing. The literal translation is “from the hand of a man, his brother.” The point is that God will require the blood of someone who kills, since the person killed is a relative (“brother”) of the killer. The language reflects Noah’s situation (after the flood everyone would be part of Noah’s extended family), but also supports the concept of the brotherhood of mankind. According to the Genesis account the entire human race descended from Noah.

 

In 9:6, the Lord puts His law in a compelling poetic stanza, which declares: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” As we look at this controversial verse, it is important to note two things.

 

First, it is clear that this verse is giving us a command and not just a suggestion or permission. Verse 5 states that God demands a punishment: “from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man.” Three times in 9:5, the Lord Himself says, “I will require” blood for blood. This is what I would call putting emphasis on a command with an exclamation point! It is also important to note that God has never countermanded this command. Consequently, it is still in force.

 

Second, the reason given for this action is one that remains in force for as long as men and women are made in the image of God. In 1:26, when God created man, He created him in the image of God. Until human history ends, all men and women will be created in the image of God. Into the eternal realm, man will continue to bear the image of God.

 

These two observations help us to conclude that God instituted capital punishment. Of course, the natural question is: why? The Bible provides four very important reasons:

1. Human life is so precious and sacred to God that when murder is committed, the death penalty is in order (Lev 24:17-18). When a person murders another human being, he or she extinguishes a revelation of God. God takes this very seriously.

 

2. The person who murders another being made in God’s image shows contempt for God as well. To kill another person usurps God’s sovereign authority over life and death. When a man or woman murders another person he or she assumes the role of God.

3. Capital punishment provides appropriate justice. The Scriptures teach there is a divine validity to punishment for crime. Before the flood, the lack of capital punishment led to blood vendettas.

 

4. Capital punishment is intended to serve as a deterrent. Any society that loses its reverence for life cannot long endure. For this reason, God instituted capital punishment as a gracious restraint upon man’s sinful tendency toward violence. Some people raise the issue of Christian love and forgiveness. Undoubtedly, these expressions are very important but they do not necessarily negate the consequences of one’s actions.

 

Although the Bible teaches the death penalty for deliberate and premeditated murder, it is important to remember that this responsibility is the sole prerogative of human government; because government is a “minister” of God (Romans 13:1-4) Of course, the death penalty must be applied with such reluctance that where “reasonable doubt” exists, we err on the side of mercy and waive the death penalty. In an imperfect judicial system not all defendants will be treated equally or fairly because economic status, social standing, race, or political and legal connections will place some “above the law.” However, we will warn that such cheating does not escape God’s notice, nor does it change His laws. It only becomes another divine indictment on that society that dares to exercise unevenly the divinely ordained demand for justice. That nation is going to be judged for such a cavalier attitude toward God’s mission.

 

The Lord closes this section in 9:7 with a strong contrast by reiterating what he said in 9:1: “As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” Against the backdrop of the warnings about taking life, God now again reminds His people to produce life.

[Sound theology helps us to appreciate the value of life. It also enables us to…]

2. Celebrate God’s Covenant (9:8-17). In 9:8-17, God told Noah and his sons that He would preserve life by not flooding the entire earth ever again (see 9:11, 15). Moses writes, “Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. And God said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.’”

 

This passage reveals three important aspects to God’s covenant. This “covenant” is unconditional (9:9), universal (9:9-10, 17), and eternal (9:12, 16). Several clues bear this out:

1. The recurrence of “I,” “Myself,” and “My” demonstrates the unconditional nature of this covenant. God Himself will ensure that this covenant is carried out. It is not dependent upon man’s work or faithfulness. This is how God typically works. There is nothing man can do to earn His favor.

 

2. The replication of the phrase “every living creature” (9:10a, 10b; 12b) and its equivalents, “all flesh” (9:11b; 15b; 17b), and “every living creature of all flesh” (9:15a; 16b)—a total of eight times, affirms God’s passionate concern for, and certain commitment to, the preservation and care of all living species on the earth. Since God appreciates both animal and human life, so should we.

 

3. God clearly states that this is an “eternal covenant” (9:16), “for all successive generations” (9:12). Since God is the eternal God who dwells outside of space and time, He can maintain His covenants as long as He sovereignly chooses. The Bible teaches that God fulfills His covenants and promises. If He failed to fulfill even one covenant or promise, He would cease to be God. Furthermore, if He failed, or fails sometime in the future, how could we know with any degree of confidence that the Gospel is trustworthy? Those that suggest the Scripture has errors often overlook this point. Yet, God’s Word must be free of inaccuracies or God is not God and the rest of His Word is suspect, at best.

 

A biblical covenant usually involved three things: parties, terms, and promises. Suppose that you were a painter and I wanted my house painted. We could make a covenant together. You and I would be the two parties involved and the terms would include what areas were to be painted, what color, and when the job should be completed. The promise I made to you would be in the amount of money I was going to pay you when the job was finished. Your promise to me would be that the job would be completed as originally agreed. The agreement that we make concerning these elements: parties, terms, and promises, would be the covenant that we made with each other.

When God makes a covenant with us, it normally involves these three elements. The difference is that God alone determines the terms of the agreement, and that God always comes through on His end of the deal.

If God is willing to make a covenant with us, and He is willing to bind Himself to that covenant no matter what, what does that say about the relationship God wants to have with us? It says that we can be hopeful about the future, because we worship a God that not only desires our companionship, but who is willing to take the steps necessary to obligate Himself to that relationship.

In 9:12-17, God also attaches significance to the rainbow as a “sign” of His covenant. The Hebrew word for rainbow (qeset) is also the word for a battle bow. The point seems to be that the bow is now “put away,” hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the “battle,” the storm, is over. Thus the rainbow speaks of peace. As a result, whenever clouds appear over the earth and a rainbow appears, God will “remember” His covenant with man. God said that the rainbow would cause Him to remember His unconditional covenant with man. God is a faithful God!

 

I hope you have seen that a sound theology helps us to appreciate the value of life and celebrate God’s covenant. My prayer for you today is that you are living with gratitude to God for His gift of life and that you are enjoying your relationship with God who is a covenant keeper.

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When it rains, God pours

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper: “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.” There was only one problem; Alfred Nobel had not died. Actually, it was his older brother who had died, but a newspaper reporter had somehow gotten it wrong. Regardless of how it happened, the account had a profound effect on Alfred Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Peace Prize, the award for scientists and writers who foster peace. Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”

 

How will you be remembered when your time on earth is over? When you are gone, how will others describe your faith in God? Are you preparing for God’s judgment? The story of Noah will challenge us to answer these questions. Today, we will be looking at the better part of three chapters because the narrative treats these paragraphs as one long section. We will read through this section because we value learning God’s Word but some portions will be given more attention.

  1. Write your epitaph(6:9-12). Moses writes, “These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God. Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (6:9-10). In 6:8, Noah “found favor” or “grace” through faith. Then in 6:9-10, we learn four important things about Noah.

First, Noah was a “righteous man.” The word translated “righteous” (tsaddiq) connotes “conformity to the standard.” In the case of Noah, he conformed to the standard set by God. He was able to do so because God granted him grace. This reminds us that God’s grace always comes before anything. It’s easy to think that God loves us for what we are intrinsically, for what we have done, or can become. But God does not love us because of that, nor is He gracious to us because of that. On the contrary, He loves us solely because He loves us. He is gracious to us only because He is (cf. Deut 7:7-8). This is a crucial truth for us to understand. We do not earn God’s grace or favor (Eph 2:8-9); He bestows it upon us for His own good pleasure (Eph 1:4-6).

 

Not only was Noah a righteous man but 2 Peter 2:5 tells us that he was also a “preacher of righteousness.” Noah preached righteousness in the same way that his great-grandfather Enoch had done before him (Jude 1:14-15). The reason he could do this is that he himself was righteous. The reason that we do not have more preaching of righteousness in our day is that those who profess Christ are often not living righteous lives.  Are you living with “right-ness”? Does your life match your convictions?

 

Second, Noah was “blameless.” The word “blameless” (tamim) involves the idea of completeness. Noah conformed to the standard set by God and his life was “complete,” with no essential quality missing. The modifying phrase “in his time” indicates all the more clearly that Noah’s righteousness and blamelessness stood out against his contemporaries’ sinfulness. Noah was not only righteous in the sight of God; he also had a credible reputation among the people of his day. They could not pin a single wrong action on him. He was blameless. Arthur Friedman once said, “Men of genius are admired. Men of wealth are envied. Men of power are feared. But only men of character are trusted.” Does your character demand the trust of those people in your life?

 

Third, Noah “walked with God.” This means he had daily, step-by-step fellowship with God. He had God as his companion as he walked through life. This type of imitate fellowship does not happen by osmosis; it must be cultivated. It takes work to be godly. Is your walk with God vibrant?

 

Lastly, Noah walked with God before his family. Noah’s godliness was the godliness of a man who was involved in ordinary life. He did not withdraw from society. Real godliness is not like that. Noah was out and about in God’s world. He provided for his family. The linking of the names of his sons with his faithful life surely indicates that Noah influenced his family in spiritual matters. Apparently, Noah instructed his family to believe in God…and they did! More often than not, when a husband and father exert spiritual leadership in the home, the entire family responds and follows his lead.

 

It is interesting to note, however, that Noah’s only converts were his wife, his sons, and their wives (6:18). Apparently, not a single person outside his family paid the slightest attention to what he had to say. He preached for the better part of 120 years and won no converts other than his own family. Nevertheless, by God’s grace, Noah won those that mattered most. Sadly, I have known men and women that have been so absorbed in winning their world for Christ that they have failed to win their own home. This is a travesty! Our top priority must always be to influence our family members for Christ. This is one of the top requirements of leadership; to have children that believe and to manage one’s own household well (1Tim 3:4-5, 12; Titus 1:6). Is this your conviction? Are you investing well in your family?

 

I need to go even further. I believe an important principle is illustrated here: Noah’s faith and obedience resulted in the salvation and obedience of his family. This principle can also bear fruit in our lives as parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, many of us wonder why our children and grandchildren aren’t turning out the way that we would like. Often, we don’t stop to immediately ask what role we have played in their lack of spiritual development. How can we expect our children to be obedient if we aren’t obedient? When Christian parents grieve over a lost child who has rebelled against God, His Word, His Son, and His church, they wonder where he learned to rebel. Quite often a child learns at home, from parents who have been rebellious is some area of life. Parents, we must live up to the standard that God has set for us if we hope our children will be fruitful disciples.

 

In 6:11-12, Moses goes on to write, “Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.” Three times in 6:11-12 we are told how “corrupt” the earth had become (contra 1:31). The word for “violence” is used of robbery, taking wives by force, and murder. The entire social fabric had disintegrated and human life was no longer sacred or respected (see Isa 59:6-8). The two words “corrupt” and “violence” (Ps 14:1-3) give us respectively the character and expression of the sin, the cause, and the effect. The corruption has led to violence, for badness always leads to cruelty in one form or another. A life that is wrong with God necessarily becomes wrong with its fellows.

 

It is critical to recognize that Noah lived in terrible days. The world around him was degraded and depraved; yet Noah lived an above reproach life. When all the people around him were immersing themselves in evil and earning the wrath and judgment of God, Noah set his heart to follow the path found in the person and character of God. He stood his ground and remained uninfluenced by all that was happening around him. If Noah was, so can you. God has given us everything “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3).

 

  1. Obey God’s Word(6:13-22). In 6:13, Moses writes, “Then God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.’” For the second time in three verses, the Lord mentions the “violence” of mankind (see 6:11; cf. 49:5). He then tells Noah that He is about to “destroy” these violent people “with the earth.” This section demonstrates that the earth and nature suffer because of human sin (cf. 3:17-19; 4:12; Rom 8:20-21).

 

In 6:14-16, Noah received detailed instructions that he was to follow in building the ark. The ingredients were “gopher wood” (or “cypress wood”) and “pitch.” The dimensions are as follows:

 

Dimensions Noah’s Ark22 Contemporary Equivalent23
Length 450 feet 1½ American football fields
Width 75 feet 7 parking spaces
Height 45 feet 3 stories
Cubic Feet 1.5 million 800 railroad boxcars
Capacity 14,000 gross tons Princess of the Orient

 

As best we can tell, the ark was shaped like a shallow rectangular box topped with a roof, with an 18 inch space under the roof, interrupted only by roof supports, so light could get into the vessel from every side. This design uses space very efficiently. The ark would have been very stable in the water. What a monster this ark was! Noah had more than enough work to keep him occupied for a century.

Remember, there were no trucks, no chain saws, and no cranes.

 

A question that is asked is: How could Noah’s ark hold between one-half billion to over a billion species of animals?

First, the modern concept of “species” is not the same as a “kind” in the Bible. There are probably only several hundred different “kinds” of land animals that would have to be taken into the ark. The sea animals stayed in the sea, and many species could have survived in egg form.

Second, Noah could have taken younger varieties of some larger animals. Third, as I have already said, the ark was not small; it was a huge structure—the size of a modern ocean liner. Furthermore, it had three stories (6:16), which tripled its space to a total of over 1.5 million cubic feet! Given all these factors, there was plenty of room for all the animals, food for the trip, and the eight humans aboard.

 

After giving the dimensions, in 6:17, God authoritatively speaks: “Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.” This verse places significant emphasis on the personal role of God in the ensuing storm. The phrase “I, even I” reminds us that God is responsible for natural disasters. Ultimately, He is the sovereign Controller of the universe. Therefore, we can trust in Him and what He brings into our lives and the lives of others.

Yet, in the midst of the flood’s promise, there is good news. In 6:18, God says to Noah, “But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” This is the first occurrence of the word “covenant” (berith) in the Old Testament. Here, in the midst of judgment, the Lord stooped down to meet the needs of His servant (Ps 40:1; 113:6).

 

In the wake of our tragedies and trials, God wants to do the same for us. He longs to speak to us through His Word. He wants to draw us close to Him. Are you running to Him or away from Him? This verse also illustrates another important biblical principle. While God bestows His saving grace and love on individuals, He is concerned about their families as well. Acts 16:31 summarizes this principle: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” God loves to save families.

 

Chapter 6 concludes with these words: ‘“And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them.’ Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (6:19-22).

Apparently, all of the animals would “come to” Noah voluntarily (6:20). It would seem that he would not have to hunt them down or look for them in remote places. Their natural instinct for self-preservation, energized by a special act of God, would bring them unerringly to Noah’s ark.

 

The key to understanding biblical narratives is what is repeated in the context. In 6:22, Moses records this very important statement: “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did.” In chapter 7, he then repeats this phrase three more times (7:5, 9, 16). This informs us that God must be obeyed in all His instructions if His people expect to enjoy the fruit of life and blessing (e.g., Deut 26:16-19; 28:1-14).

Before we move into chapter 7, we must quickly put ourselves in Noah’s sandals. Though he was thrust onto the front pages of his day’s newspaper as a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5), he did not flinch when the criticism came. No doubt he was called a fool and worse. Just imagine how many Noah jokes people came up with over a century! But he went on believing and working. Noah remained obedient, doing exactly what God said for 25, 50, 75, 100 years…until the ark lay like a huge coffin on the land. What a powerful reminder that God sometimes calls His servants to obey Him even when it seems nonsensical. In these situations, all that we can do is trust in the promises of God’s Word.

 

This section also reminds us that it is possible to be right with God, even amidst surrounding iniquity. God is the same today as He was to Noah, and if only we are willing to fulfill the conditions we too shall walk with God and please Him.

 

  1. Trust in God’s Provision(7:1-16). Moses writes, “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.’ Noah did according to all that the LORD had commanded him.” How many animals went into the ark? The truth is that there is no inherent incompatibility between the two texts as they presently stand.

 

Genesis 7:2-3 is just more precise than 6:19-20 on the question of the types and numbers of animals and birds that would board the ark. Noah’s first instruction was to admit pairs of all kinds of creatures on the ark to preserve their lives (6:19-20). That was the basic formula. Then he was given more specific instructions about admitting seven pairs of each of the clean animals and seven pairs of each kind of bird. The purpose of this measure was to become clear only after the flood. Birds would be needed to scout out the earth (8:7-12), and the clean animals and birds would be offered in sacrifice to the Lord (8:20). If Noah had taken only one pair of each and then offered each of these pairs in sacrifice, these species would have become completely extinct.

God is still a holy God. He still hates sin. He still is slow to judge. He watches the sin of man and warns that it will not be allowed to go on and on forever. God tells that world what He will do. Our world will also come to an end (2 Pet 3:1-13). We have prior notice that the judgment of God is on its way. In His grace, God warns His people. He tells us in advance that sinful men do not deserve to live on God’s earth. This is the basic message of the Genesis flood.

 

In 7:6-16, Moses writes, “Now Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of water came upon the earth. Then Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him entered the ark because of the water of the flood. Of clean animals and animals that are not clean and birds and everything that creeps on the ground, there went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. It came about after the seven days, that the water of the flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. The rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him.” The account of the floodwater inundating the earth is both majestic and terrible. Moses was careful to describe the flood in terms reminiscent of the creation. Like Genesis 1, the account of the flood is structured by a careful counting of the days (371 total days).

 

o   7 days of waiting for the waters to come (7:4, 10),

o   40 days of water rising (7:12, 17),

o   150 days of waters prevailing (7:24; 8:3),

o   40 days of water receding (8:6),

o   7 days of waiting for the waters to recede (8:10), and

o   7 more days of waiting for the waters to recede completely (8:12).

  1. Remember God’s power(7:17-24). Moses writes, “Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days, and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. The water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. The water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. All flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.” The flood is to be a reminder to us of the reality of final judgment (Matt 24:38-39Luke 17:272 Pet 2:5; 3:5-6).

 

God holds the world accountable for its behavior. It tells us that God is grieved over our sin and the harm it does to others. He will not put up with it forever. We live in a moral universe, and to go against the moral laws which God has built into the world invites disaster. Sin affects our personal lives, our families, our church, our community, our nation, and ultimately, our world. The Bible says that every mouth will be silenced and that the whole world will be held accountable to God (Rom 3:19). We cannot escape the fact that we are responsible to God for our behavior and that a future judgment is coming when we will answer for the way in which we have lived. That simple fact should dramatically affect our perspective in life and make us desire to be faithful to the God who has been faithful to us.

There is a great debate on whether the flood was universal or local. It seems to be universal. In the first place, the universalist language favors it, with such terms being used numerous times. With forty days of rain over the land, how could it be otherwise? In addition, if one wanted to describe a universal flood, how would such a description differ from the one given in these chapters? In the second place, the depth of water favors a universal flood. Mt. Ararat, on which the ark came to rest, is over 17,000 feet in altitude, and the waters were over twenty feet higher than all the mountains (notice the language of 7:19 with its “all’s”).

In the third place, God’s promises of never allowing another such flood favor a universal one, for there have been many devastating local floods since then (cf. 8:21; 9:11, 15; 2 Pet 3:6). The New Testament authors seem to favor this view also.

 

  1. Rejoice in God’s grace(8:1-22). In 8:1-5, Moses writes, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark; and God caused a wind to pass over the earth, and the water subsided. Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained; and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of one hundred and fifty days the water decreased. In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat. The water decreased steadily until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains became visible.” The word “remember” (8:1) is the high point of this story. It refers to God acting toward someone because of a previous commitment. God remembers His children.

 

During the eleventh to twelfth centuries A.D., Mt. Ararat became the traditional site known as the place of Noah’s landing. Verse 4, however, does not specify a peak and refers generally to its location as the “mountains of Ararat.” The search for the ark’s artifacts has been both a medieval and a modern occupation; but to the skeptic, such evidence is not convincing, and to the believer, while not irrelevant, it is not necessary to faith. Modern Mt. Ararat lies on the border between Turkey and Armenia and encompasses Turkey, Russia, and Iran—the center of the ancient world. Sadly, the Armenian people worship Mt. Ararat today. The creature worships the creation instead of the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). From this region Noah’s descendants spread out over the earth.

 

In 8:6-17, Moses writes, “Then it came about at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made; and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. Then he waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again. Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’” We can almost hear the “Hallelujah Chorus” playing in the background! What a day of rejoicing that must have been! God had been faithful to see Noah through.

 

In 8:18-19, Moses writes, “So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.” Verses 18 and 19 may seem like needless repetition to the modern reader, but they document Noah’s obedience to God’s words, which Moses stressed in the entire flood narrative.

 

Our section closes in 8:20-22 with these words: “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.’” What is the first thing that Noah does when he gets off the ark? Does he tend for food, find water, and create shelter? The first thing that Noah did when he left the ark was to build an altar and offer God a sacrifice (8:20). This demonstrates his dedication and gratitude to God. Noah’s “altar” is the first mentioned in the Bible. His “burnt offerings” were for worship. As the head of the new humanity, Noah’s sacrifice represented all mankind. God may judge the wicked catastrophically and begin a new era of existence with faithful believers.

Giants in the land

The message of the Bible runs contrary to our societal views. The Bible states that mankind is sinful. As a result, God must judge man’s sin. Yet, although God must judge sin, the Bible also teaches that He loves mankind and invites man to enter into a relationship with Him. Genesis 6:1-8 shares this tension.

 

  1. Prepare for God’s Judgment(6:1-4). In 6:1-2, Moses writes, “Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose.” Theses two verses teach that there was a population explosion (cf. 1:28) and men were marrying women. For a brief moment we see a snapshot of everyday life. We would call it “business as usual.” Yet, we also will see that this is the calm before the storm (Matt 24:38-39; Luke 17:26-27).

 

Few texts in the history of biblical interpretation have aroused more curiosity and divergence of opinion than Genesis 6:1-4. It is at once tantalizing and deeply puzzling. The three most popular positions may be labeled “the cosmologically mixed races view” (angels and humans), “the religiously mixed races view” (godly Sethites and worldly Cainites), and “the sociologically mixed races view” (despotic male aristocrats and beautiful female commoners). Each of these views has its own unique problems. The key to discerning which interpretation is best is determining which has the fewest problems, and most accurately reflects the context of this passage and the whole of Scripture.

 

Genesis 6 begins by naming two opposing groups: “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men.”

Question: “Who were the sons of God and daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-4?”

 

Answer: Genesis 6:1-4 refers to the sons of God and the daughters of men. There have been several suggestions as to who the sons of God were and why the children they had with daughters of men grew into a race of giants (that is what the word Nephilim seems to indicate).

 

The three primary views on the identity of the sons of God are 1) they were fallen angels, 2) they were powerful human rulers, or 3) they were godly descendants of Seth intermarrying with wicked descendants of Cain. Giving weight to the first theory is the fact that in the Old Testament the phrase “sons of God” always refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7). A potential problem with this is in Matthew 22:30, which indicates that angels do not marry. The Bible gives us no reason to believe that angels have a gender or are able to reproduce. The other two views do not present this problem.

 

The weakness of views 2) and 3) is that ordinary human males marrying ordinary human females does not account for why the offspring were “giants” or “heroes of old, men of renown.” Further, why would God decide to bring the flood on the earth (Genesis 6:5-7) when God had never forbidden powerful human males or descendants of Seth to marry ordinary human females or descendants of Cain? The oncoming judgment of Genesis 6:5-7 is linked to what took place in Genesis 6:1-4. Only the obscene, perverse marriage of fallen angels with human females would seem to justify such a harsh judgment.

 

As previously noted, the weakness of the first view is that Matthew 22:30 declares, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” However, the text does not say “angels are not able to marry.” Rather, it indicates only that angels do not marry. Second, Matthew 22:30 is referring to the “angels in heaven.” It is not referring to fallen angels, who do not care about God’s created order and actively seek ways to disrupt God’s plan. The fact that God’s holy angels do not marry or engage in sexual relations does not mean the same is true of Satan and his demons.

 

View 1) is the most likely position. Yes, it is an interesting “contradiction” to say that angels are sexless and then to say that the “sons of God” were fallen angels who procreated with human females. However, while angels are spiritual beings (Hebrews 1:14), they can appear in human, physical form (Mark 16:5). The men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with the two angels who were with Lot (Genesis 19:1-5). It is plausible that angels are capable of taking on human form, even to the point of replicating human sexuality and possibly even reproduction. Why do the fallen angels not do this more often? It seems that God imprisoned the fallen angels who committed this evil sin, so that the other fallen angels would not do the same (as described in Jude 6). Earlier Hebrew interpreters and apocryphal and pseudopigraphal writings are unanimous in holding to the view that fallen angels are the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4. This by no means closes the debate. However, the view that Genesis 6:1-4 involves fallen angels mating with human females has a strong contextual, grammatical, and historical basis.

 

 

Another interpretation – Who are the “Nephilim”? In 6:4, Moses writes, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Before answering this question it is critical to understand that 6:4 is a parenthetical statement. This verse does not state the Nephilim are the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men. Rather, they are merely contemporaries of the sons of God and daughters of men that were on earth when the sons of God sinned. Moses is careful to record that “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward.” With that said, the word Nephilim occurs only here and in Numbers 13:33, where it refers to the sons of Anak, who were people of great stature. However, in Genesis 6:4, a term is included that further defines who the Nephilim are. The Hebrew word is Gibborim. The word gibborim comes from gibbor, meaning “a mighty man of valor, strength, wealth, or power. In Genesis 10:8, Nimrod was such a gibbor. He also was clearly a king in the land of Shinar. Hence, the meaning of Nephilim-Gibborim is not “giants,” but something more like “princes,” “aristocrats,” or “great men” (i.e., fierce warriors, heroes, or mighty men). These characters are the famous men on the earth. In our society today, this would include all the hot musicians, actors, actresses, and athletes.

 

In 6:3, Moses continues this narrative with these words: “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” There are two interpretations of the phrase “nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” One possibility is that the 120 years may signify the new age limit for people. It can be argued that 6:3 should be contrasted with 3:22 where eating of the Tree of Life would produce immortality. There seems to be ample evidence that after the flood the recorded ages steadily decline. While only Joseph lived less than 120 years in Genesis (50:26), by the end of the Pentateuch, Moses dies at 120 (Deut 34:7).

 

Another view is that the 120 years refers to the time remaining between this announcement of judgment and the coming of the flood. Reference to the Lord’s patience in 1 Pet 3:20 seems to confirm this option. This verse reminds us of the truth of Exodus 34:6: “The LORD God [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” Yet, eventually it is possible for man to reach the point of no return and judgment becomes inevitable.

 

[The main point of these verses and the ones to come is that mankind deteriorates morally and spiritually. This incurs God’s wrath, therefore, we must prepare for God’s judgment. We must also…]

 

  1. Perceive God’s ways(6:5-8). How does God respond to mankind’s sinfulness? In 6:5-8, Moses shares four ways. First, God notices sin. In 6:5, Moses writes, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil.” Genesis 6:5 may be the most strongly worded verse in the entire Bible! The first half of the verse reveals how extensively human evil had spread around the world: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (6:5a). The last half emphasizes that sin had permeated intensively, deep into the heart of every single human: “…and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5b). This passage states that sin pervades every pore of the human being. The key word in this verse is the word “intent” (yeser). The noun form of this word is used in 2:7 for the formation of man—God had made human beings by design (yasar), but they had taken their God-given capacities and devised evil continually. This word comes from the verb that describes a potter in the act of forming and molding his vessel (Isa 29:16). There is an emphasis on mankind’s wickedness. The words “every,” “only,” and “continually” point to the all-consuming depravity of man.

 

Later, in 8:21, Moses quotes a portion of 6:5 and observes that the phrase “only evil continually” or “all the time” (NIV) means “from childhood” on. Original sin among human beings began with Adam and Eve, but each of us participates in original sin in another sense as we begin to exhibit sinful traits after we are born. David confessed that fact after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Ps 51:5; see also 58:3).

 

Can you imagine a world where every member of a family would fight over the biggest piece of pie? Where no one would allow anyone else to merge into a line of traffic? Where abortion would be as accepted as a tooth extraction? Where the killing of the elderly and the infirm would be honored as an act of mercy? Where lawsuits would be as common as traffic tickets? Oh, of course, you can imagine such a world…you’re living in it! Our world has excluded God and is focused on self.

 

Second, God grieves over sin. In 6:6, Moses writes, “The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” Note the contrast between the heart of the wicked and the heart of God. This is no heartless regret, but the reaction of someone who loves deeply. This terminology is love language; it in no way suggests that God is not immutable (Mal 3:6).

 

The word translated “grieved” means “indignant rage.” The word is used to express the most intense form of human emotion, a mixture of rage and bitter anguish. Dinah’s brothers felt this way after she was raped; so did Jonathan when he heard Saul planned to kill David, and David reacted similarly when he heard of Absalom’s death (34:7; 1 Sam 20:34; 2 Sam 19:3). A deserted wife feels this way (Isa 54:6). The word is used of God’s feelings in two other passages (Ps 78:40; Isa 63:10). Only here is the verb supplemented by the phrase “in His heart,” underlying the strength of God’s reaction to human sinfulness. Fortunately, Christ’s sacrifice will pacify God’s bitter indignation against sin (see 8:21).

 

Many are legitimately startled when they read that the Lord “was grieved” or “repented” that He had ever made man and woman upon the earth. How can both the immutability and the changeableness of God be taught in the same canon of Scripture? Scriptures frequently use the phrase “God repented.” The Hebrew root (nacham) behind all the words variously translated as “relent,” “repent,” “be sorry,” and “grieve.” In its origins the root may well have reflected the idea of breathing or sighing deeply. It suggests a physical display of one’s feelings—sorrow, compassion, or comfort. When the Bible says that God repented, the idea is that His feelings toward some person or group of persons changed, in response to some change on the part of the objects of His action or some mediator who intervened (often by God’s own direction and plan). Often in the very same passages that announce God’s repentance there is a firm denial of any alteration in God’s plan, purpose, or character. From our human perspective, then, it appears that the use of this word indicates that God changed His purpose. But the expression “to repent,” when used of God, is anthropopathic (i.e., a description of our Lord in human terms).

 

All of this is to say: Ultimately, God’s sorrow means action must be taken, not that a great cosmic mistake has been made. God is a living person and, as such, He can and does change when the occasion demands it. He does not change in His character, person, or plan. But He can and does respond to our changes. Our heavenly Father’s heart breaks when we disobey Him. To cause Him such grief in light of all that He has done for us in Christ is the height of ingratitude (see Eph 4:30).

 

Third, God judges sin. In 6:7, Moses writes, “The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.’” As the ground must endure the consequences of its ruler’s sin, so also must the animals (see 3:17). God’s judgment would involve a complete erasure of man and all accompanying creatures from existence. The destruction of everything from man to animals has to do with man’s given sovereignty over the earth, for the irrational creatures were created for Him and therefore were involved in the fall. There would be no half-measures in dealing with sin. Depravity requires God’s judgment. God’s pain over sin, especially idolatrous activities, prompts Him to blot out the wicked. The Bible tells us God watches our world with patience “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9b). But don’t mistake His patience for toleration; or His love for acceptance; or His grief for weakness. There is a limit to God’s patience with the world, but He never sneaks up and delivers His judgment by surprise.

 

If our world, like Noah’s, is provoking the judgment of God, how is He warning us today? In the Old Testament, when a nation slipped so far away from God that its people no longer read His Word or heeded the prophets, He warned them of impending judgment through national or natural disasters such as an invading army or a locust plague. Today, He warns us in the same ways. When we hear of a nation invading another nation or a country self-destructing into civil war or a volcano erupting or a tidal wave sweeping villages away or an earthquake leveling entire cities or a forest fire devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands or a drought shriveling millions of acres of farmland or an epidemic threatening to wipe out a nation’s entire population, are we hearing the warning of the Creator demand, “Repent! Judgment is coming! I am holding you accountable for your wicked, willful ways?”

 

Finally, God grants grace. The narrative concludes in 6:8 with this powerful statement: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.” Often in biblical passages, the last word is one of hope. Such is the case here. The word translated “favor” (chen) is also the word translated “grace.”

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word comes from a root meaning “to bend or stoop”; thus, the condescending or unmerited favor of a superior person to an inferior one is implied. So grace means, “God’s unmerited favor.” Grace gives us what we don’t deserve and sustains us through all of life.

 

This is the first mention of one of the most beautiful words in the Bible—grace, though we have seen many examples of God’s grace thus far. This word is likely first used here because Moses wants us to understand that Noah’s righteousness is not his own but a gift of God’s grace. It was God’s grace that saved him. In the same way, it is only by God’s grace that we can escape His judgment on the wicked.

 

Why are we saved? Paul tells us in Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

Man still deteriorates. Society still runs down unless God intervenes. There will be an end to our world as there was to Noah’s world. A savior was chosen then; a Savior is available now: Jesus Christ. Jesus has provided a way of salvation, as Noah provided an ark. Men and women are invited to go in. Jesus died on the cross, and paid a price for our sins. They had to trust Noah’s ark. We have to trust in Jesus’ cross. They had to get inside the ark. We have to get inside Jesus’ cross. Jesus will be to us what Noah was to those in the ancient world. When we go in to Jesus He will keep us safe (1 Pet 3:18-22). If you’re looking for safety from the consequences of your sins, ask Jesus to rescue you today. When you trust Jesus as your Deliverer, you will be saved from the penalty of your sin.

 

 

Our family tree

In Genesis 5, we come to the first of many genealogies of Scripture. These have proved to be a stumbling block to many who seek to read the Bible through. They start well, but they soon get to the desert of genealogies and give up their reading. Admittedly, these genealogies are somewhat difficult. So why don’t I just skip over them? For the simple reason that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

 

Think about this: Have you ever poured over fine-print stock quotations or lists of baseball players and their batting averages? Have you ever studied recipe books or interior design magazines? If so, you must confess that details can be interesting and important. This is equally true in the Scriptures. Believe it or not, genealogies make significant theological points.

First, genealogies show the world that God is at work through human history. Second, genealogies show that God has preserved His faithful promises to create and bless through the family of Adam to Abraham to David and ultimately, through His Messiah, Jesus Christ. Obviously, these are not trivial or boring matters. Our faith rests on these types of issues.

[So let’s launch into this chapter of genealogy and see what the Lord has for us to learn.]

  1. We were created and blessed by God(5:1-2). Moses writes, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” These first two verses tell us that Moses is starting a new section (“book”) that will define a significant portion of Adam’s family tree. Again, Moses shares the story of God’s creation of Adam and Eve. These verses reiterate that Adam and Eve were made “in the likeness of God.” This is what gives us value, worth, and dignity. I’ve been thinking a lot about how being created in the likeness of God relates to expressions of God-given creativity. If you are artistic, musical, or creative, God wants you to use your gifts and abilities for Him. We must recognize that we have been created in the image of an Artist! So we should continually look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.

 

In 5:2, Moses returns to the theme of God’s “blessing” man (cf. 1:27). This point needed to be reemphasized after their sin and subsequent loss of Paradise. Much has been forfeited. But much is still possible because Adam and Eve still bear the privilege of relating to God. This is equally true for us: Even though we live in the wake of the curse, we can live a blessed life. We ought to exude joy and pleasure as we go through life. This is also a part of his overall scheme, to cast God’s purposes for man in terms that will recall a father’s care for his children.

 

Throughout the remainder of the book of Genesis, a recurring theme is that of the father’s blessing his children (9:26-27; 27:27; 48:15; 49:1-28). In keeping with such a theme, the author shows at each crucial turning point in the narrative that God Himself renewed His blessing to the next generation of sons (1:28; 5:2; 9:1; 12:3; 24:11). Seen as a whole, the picture that emerges is that of a loving Father insuring the future well-being of His children through the provision of an inherited blessing. In this way, the author has laid a theological foundation for the rest of Scripture. God’s original plan of blessing for all humanity, though thwarted by human folly, will nevertheless be restored through the seed of the woman (3:15), the seed of Abraham (12:3), and the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (49:8- 12; cf. Rev 5:5-13). [While we are created and blessed by God, the Bible also teaches…]

 

  1. We will die because of Adam’s sin(5:3-20, 25-32). This fifth chapter is a list of the ten descendants of Adam down to Noah (5:1-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-24, 25-27, 28-31, and 32). In the description of each generation, the same literary structure is followed:

(1) the age of the father at the birth of the firstborn;

(2) the name of the firstborn;

(3) how many years the father lived after the birth of this son;

(4) a reference to the fathering of other children;

(5) the father’s total lifespan.

 

This genealogy covers at least 1,600 years. Within the time-scale of the Bible, this chapter covers the longest period in world history. Like a VCR fast-forwards a tape, genealogies move the narrative ahead rapidly. This begs the question: Why does God include this genealogy? God is more interested in people than we are. If we were writing Genesis, we would have left all of these names out. But God genuinely cares about people. The world may not pay much attention to you; in fact, the more like Christ you are, the less the world will be interested in you. This can be lonely. But know this: God knows you and He cares about you.

 

One of the remarkable facts that leaps out of this genealogy is that the average age of the 10 people listed in this genealogy is about 900. This longevity, plus the fact that each man “had sons and daughters,” argues for a vast population by the time of Noah and the flood (cf. 6:9ff). If we assume that the sons and daughters of these men also had children and that these ten men were able to have additional children throughout their lifetime, there would have been millions of people by the time of the flood.

The Bible does not tell us why or how men lived so long before the flood. There have been a number of suggestions. Some have argued that the long life spans may be a reflection of God’s blessing upon the Sethites. Longevity, in Old Testament thought, is a sign of divine blessing upon the godly (see Deut 4:25; 5:33; 30:20). Others have suggested that the earth’s atmosphere was different before the flood. Therefore, it is possible that the earth had never had any rainfall, and the effect of cosmic rays and environmental factors may have been drastically different from our current surroundings. Another view is that, theologically, it is possible God granted these long life spans in order for humans to “be fruitful and multiply” according to His instructions (1:28). The view I hold is that the effects of decay and disease, due to sin, took time to do their damage on the physical part of humanity. Sin’s deadening power was gradual. Adam and Eve were “genetically pure and less affected by the deteriorating results of sin.”

 

One of the most important elements of this genealogy is the phrase “and he died,” which occurs eight times in this chapter (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, and 31) and serves as a reminder of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall. It reveals that God’s plan also includes the death of humanity. Death is the consequence of Adam’s sin (2:17; 3:19; Rom 6:23). Despite technology (4:17-24) and spirituality (4:25-26), man cannot rise above the curse of deathRomans 5:12tells us, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

 

A couple of times a week I exercise on an elliptical. It is as boring an exercise as I know. I hop on and step to nowhere. But this exercise allows me to stay awake and spend time in prayer. Human life is like a stationary exercise machine. You work out and get off, work out and get off, work out and get off. Live and die. Live and die. Live and die. The truth is the day is coming when the earth will not know us. We will be gone. This constant awareness is so important. At death, life is short for all. This is why Solomon says it’s better to go to a funeral than a party (Eccl 7:1-4). This chapter teaches the great truth that no matter how long you live you are going to die. This chapter also teaches the truth that no matter how long you live you will be in eternity a lot longer than you were here in time. Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. This ought to stir us to put first things first. Genesis 5 can be a reminder to live with the awareness of the end, and to take the calling of God seriously.

If you fear death and are not sure where you will spend eternity, it is imperative that you hear these words from Jesus.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26a).

If you believe in Christ, when you close your eyes in death, your new life will begin.

[We were originally created and blessed by God. Unfortunately, as a result of Adam’s sin we will die. But there is good news in 5:21-24.]

As I have already stated, the genealogy in these verses, generally speaking, follows a fairly rigid pattern. Therefore, when you encounter a structured genealogy, you need first to identify the structure, then, and perhaps more importantly, you need to observe what does not adhere to the pattern. That which does not follow the pattern of the rest of the genealogy is probably being emphasized by the author of the text for some specific reason. Determining that reason (if possible), therefore, is vitally important in order to understand, in part, what the author of the genealogy considers particularly significant.

 

  1. We can walk with God(5:21-24). In 5:21-24, we find a unique man named Enoch who is the one significant exception in this genealogy. With the exception of Enoch, each man’s death is recorded. The phrase “and he died” is utilized to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Enoch did not die. With this in mind, we would do well to take some time to study the life of Enoch. Moses writes, “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Enoch is the bright hope in an otherwise fairly depressing account. The placement of Enoch’s name could not be more intentionally dramatic. Evil Lamech, the man who worshipped his sword, was number seven in the Cainite genealogy, while here, Enoch, the man who walked with God, is number seven in the Sethite genealogy.

 

The phrase “walked with God” is only used of Enoch and Noah (cf. 6:9). “Walk” is a biblical figure for fellowship and obedience that results in divine blessing. The sense of “walk” (halak) in its verbal stem indicates a communion or intimacy with God. The Minor Prophets use this phrase to describe the intimate walk of priests who entered the Holy of Holies to speak directly with the Lord. It describes the closest communion with God—as if walking at His side. Enoch went through life, step by step, in fellowship with God.

 

I don’t like walks because they’re not efficient. If you’re trying to get something done quickly, you don’t take a walk. That is why the metaphor of a walk with God is so helpful. When you’re walking with someone, you’re not moving so fast that conversation is difficult. You can enjoy your companion. And then everything else becomes enjoyable. You can look together at the cloud formations, the turning of the leaves in the fall, the sound of the stream that you’re walking by, or whatever else is going on. And so taking long walks with someone is a great picture of intimacy.

The phrase “walked with God” also speaks of unswerving obedience and faithfulness. Hebrews 11:5-6 is a divinely inspired commentary on Genesis 5:22-24. The writer of Hebrews bolstered the hearts of his readers by communicating the concept that faith is the key to perseverance in the furnace of suffering (Heb 10:32-39). After giving a brief definition of faith (11:1), he cited an impressive list of people who gained God’s approval (11:2) and won spiritual victories by means of faith. Faith enables believers to understand creation (11:3, referring to Gen 1-2). Abel gained a righteous standing with God by means of faith (11:4, referring to Gen 4). And next is Enoch who, by faith, “was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (11:5). The next verse (tucked between references to Enoch and Noah, both of whom are said in Genesis to have walked with God) is critically placed and theologically significant: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (11:6).

 

A profound lesson in regard to legalism and faith can be mined from the account of Enoch. It is important to see that for the author of the Pentateuch “walking with God” could not have meant a mere “keeping” of a set of laws. Rather, it is just with those men who could not have had a set of “laws” that the author associates the theme of “walking with God.” By choosing such men to exemplify “walking with God,” the author shows his desire to teach a better way to live than merely a legalistic adherence to the law….For him the way to life was exemplified best in men like Enoch (“Enoch walked with God,” 5:22), Noah (“he walked with God,” 6:9), and Abraham (“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” 15:6). It is to these patriarchs, who lived long before the giving of the law at Sinai that the author of Genesis turns for a model of faith and trust in God.

 

Another interesting element of Enoch’s faith was that he served God (Jude 14-15). Enoch did not walk with God in a secluded environment; he was a spokesman for God in the ungodly marketplace of his day. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Enoch did this, but from the Genesis and Hebrews passages we can safely infer that Enoch served God right up to the day God took him.

 

Enoch lived this intimate and obedient life of progressive maturity for 300 years—three centuries! And so at the age of 365, while still a young man, “he was not, for God took him.” We don’t know how this happened. He may have been picked up in a chariot like Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11-12) or he may have been beamed up directly by God. Somewhere in the days of his fellowship with God, God revealed to him He did not wish Enoch to die. Amidst the endless dying that had gone on for thousands of years, God planned to give a demonstration of His power over death. And Enoch believed God! By faith Enoch was taken up (Heb 11:5).

But notice that Enoch did not always walk with God. The first 65 years of his life were quite another story. Evidently, he reflected for 65 years the same godless attitude as those around him. You ask, “Well, what started him walking with God then?” And the answer is given to us here. It was not receiving his Social Security payments when he reached 65, but it was the birth of a son, a boy whom he named Methuselah. The Bible says so. “Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years.” So it was the birth of this baby that started him walking with God. Surely there is more to this than simply the fact that he became a father. I have noticed that becoming a father has a profound effect upon a young man. It makes him more thoughtful, makes him more serious, more sober in his outlook on life. It does have a very beneficial effect but there is more to it than that, and it is revealed by the name that Enoch gave to his son. Methuselah is a very interesting name. It means, literally, “His death shall bring it,” or loosely translated, “When he dies, it will come.” What will come? The flood!

 

Enoch, we are told in another passage of Scripture, was given a revelation from God. He saw the direction of the divine movement, looked on to the end of the culture, the comforts, and the mechanical marvels of his own day, to the fact there must come an inevitable judgment on the principle of evil in human life. He saw the certainty of destruction of a world living only to please itself. When he saw it his baby was born, so, in obedience, evidently to God’s Word, he named the baby, “When he dies, it will come.”

 

Even though the death motif is strong in this chapter there is even more emphasis on God’s grace. We see this in the references to life, fertility (sons and daughters), Enoch’s translation, and other blessings. The finality of death caused by sin, and so powerfully demonstrated in the genealogy of Genesis, is in fact not so final. Man was not born to die; he was born to live, and that life comes by walking with God. Walking with God is the key to the chains of the curse.

A helpful exercise that has encouraged me to think through this issue is to ask the question, “What will they write or say in my eulogy?” When you are gone from this planet, what will your friends and family say about your contribution to them? Writing your own eulogy is a sobering exercise. It certainly brings focus to life! Because the reality is, you will not escape death! One day you will be no more, for God will take you to Himself.

Worship God on His terms

Do you remember the TV show The Incredible Hulk? The main character was a scientist named Dr. David Banner. Banner was basically a very friendly man. But whenever he got angry, his eyes would turn green and he would be transformed into this big, green, hulking monster (played by former professional bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno). If you were a person in need, he would save you. But God help you if you were the one he was mad at because he would pick you up and throw you to the other side of the room like you were a rag doll. Dr. Banner didn’t like what anger did to him. In fact, the whole show is built around Dr. Banner’s desire to find a cure so this won’t happen to him anymore.

 

The lesson that I learn from The Incredible Hulk is: If you don’t learn to deal with your temper, it will turn you into a monster of a person. It can change you into someone you don’t want to be. This is what happened to Cain in Genesis 4. He had a bad temper to start with, but he didn’t deal with it. Eventually, it turned him into this other person…an evil person. However, Cain’s problem was not an anger problem; his problem was a worship problem! The expression of inappropriate anger was a sin that was symptomatic of a greater problem. In Genesis 4:1-26, we will learn from the account of Cain how to worship God on His terms.

 

  1. The birth of the two sons(4:1-2). Our account begins with these words: “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain” (4:1a). After the fall, Adam and Eve began a family. Eve gave birth to “Cain” whose name means, “acquire, get, or possess.” His Hebrew name is Cain; his English name would be “Got.” Eve responded to Cain’s birth by saying, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD” (4:1b). The literal rendering of Eve’s reply is, “I have gotten a son, the Lord.” Some Bible students interpret this to mean that Eve believes she has begotten the Savior (cf. 3:15). This is possible, of course. Perhaps more likely, Eve understood from the prophecy of 3:15 that one of her offspring would bring about her redemption.

 

Regardless, in this statement there is an implicit declaration of faith and gratitude (cf. 3:20). Eve acknowledges that God has enabled her to bear a child, a child through whom her deliverance may soon come. In 4:2a, Moses records, “Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel” (4:2a). Unlike Cain’s name, Abel’s name is not explained by Eve. However, the Hebrew word “Abel” is the word “vanity” or “breath,” appearing throughout Ecclesiastes. Traditionally understood, his name reflects on the temporary nature of his existence. It is important to notice the terms “brother” and “Abel” each appear seven times, stressing the relationship between the two men. In these opening verses, Moses is trying to prepare us for what is to come.

[After giving a brief account of the birth of the two sons, the narrative focuses on the worship of these two brothers. The primary purpose of this account is to reveal what kind of worship is pleasing to God.]

 

  1. The worship of the two brothers(4:2b-5). In 4:2b, Moses writes“And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both of these vocations are noble; one is not better than the other. This leads into an exercise in worship in 4:3-5a: “So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit9 of the ground. Abel, on his part also10 brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.” Both brothers bring offerings to the Lord suitable to their vocations (4:3). Yet, God regarded Abel and his offering and not Cain and his offering (4:4b). Some insist that the reason for this is Abel offered a blood sacrifice while Cain did not. However, there does not appear to be anything wrong with Cain offering fruit as opposed to animal sacrifice.

 

Later in Israel’s history, grain offerings and harvest offerings are legitimate expressions of worship that God accepts and even commands. So if it is not a failure to bring a blood sacrifice, why does God reject Cain and his offering?

The New Testament authors inform us that God regarded Abel because he had faith (Heb 11:4) while Cain did not (Jude 11-13 and 1 John 3:11-12). Therefore, it seems clear that Abel was in relationship with God and Cain was separated from God. A very important principle is this: “God always inspects the giver and the worshipper before He inspects the gift, service, or worship.” This means it is critical that you are in relationship with God before you seek to worship or serve Him. Otherwise, your worship is unacceptable.

 

There is also an interesting clue in the Genesis account that tells us about Cain and Abel and their offerings. In 4:4, Moses records that Abel offers “the firstlings of his flock” (cf. Exod 34:19; Deut 12:6; 14:23) and the “fat portions” (cf. Num 18:17) for his offering. The word that is translated “fat portions” means “choicest, best part, or abundance.” Abel gave what cost him most—the firstborn! On the other hand, Cain merely offers “the fruit,” not the first fruit, of the ground (4:3). Abel brought the best parts of his flocks and Cain was not so particular. Abel went out of his way to worship God by giving his best. Cain merely discharged a duty. One of the key themes throughout Scripture is God seeks worship that is perfect and costly (Lev 22:20-222 Sam 24:24). He will not be satisfied with second best (Mal 1:6-14Rom 12:1).

 

The Butterball Company set up a Thanksgiving hotline to answer questions about cooking turkeys. One woman asked if she could use a turkey that had been in the bottom of her freezer for 23 years. The Butterball expert—how’s that for a job title—told her it would probably be safe if the freezer had been below zero the entire time. But the expert warned her that even if the turkey was safe to eat, the flavor would likely have deteriorated and wouldn’t be worth eating. The woman said, “That’s what I thought. We’ll give the turkey to our church.” While this is an amusing story, it does hit a bit close to home for some Christians. Sin first shows itself in what you give God.

 

Motives matter to God. God is not impressed with those who do the right thing for the wrong reason. This truth is taught throughout the Bible. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus looks at the Pharisees and quotes Isaiah, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (see also Micah 6:7-8). Sometimes people can have very bad motives for doing good things. There is a story about a man who was riding in a New York City taxi. He noticed the cab driver slowed down to avoid hitting a pedestrian. Trying to compliment the driver’s action, he said, “I noticed you slowed down for that fellow.” The driver responded, “Yeah, if you hit them, you have got to fill out a report.” I would stay out of the way of that cab if I were walking in New York.

 

What are our motives for serving the Lord? Every so often we need to do a motive checkup and ask ourselves: Why am I nice to other people? Why do I put money in the offering plate? Why do I serve in Kids’ Church?

[Whatever the cause of God’s rejection of Cain’s offering; the narrative itself focuses our attention on Cain’s response. It is there that the narrative seeks to make its point.]

 

  1. The response of the oldest brother(4:5b-8). When Cain learned that God had “no regard” for his offering, “[he] became very angry and his countenance fell” (4:5b). Cain became angry with God! Rather than being concerned about remedying the situation and pleasing God, he became very angry. We must stop here and ask these questions of ourselves: How do we respond when God says no?

When God convicts us and deals with the sin in our lives, how do we respond? Do we seek to make things right? Do we come before the Lord in worship and confession with a humble and contrite heart?

Or do we pout and get ticked off? The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, said it best, “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2b).

 

Do you have a problem with your temper? One lady said, “I occasionally lose my temper, but it’s over quickly.” Her pastor replied, “So is an atom bomb explosion, but think of the damage it causes. So is a cyclone, but think of the destruction it leaves. So is a bullet fired, but think of the death it can cause.” We must not assume that unrighteous anger is ever justified or appropriate.

In customary fashion, in 4:6, the Lord pursues Cain with three consecutive questions: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” God was not pleased with Cain or his offering. These first two questions demonstrate that He was even more displeased by Cain’s response. Yet, many of us have been told by other well-meaning Christians that it is perfectly acceptable to get mad at God. We like to justify our anger by saying, “He’s a big God. He has broad shoulders. He can handle my cussing and complaining.” Well, sure He can, but is this the appropriate response to the almighty Creator of heaven and earth? I don’t think so. He is a sovereign God that is to be feared. He wants us to trust Him, even when things don’t make sense. Unfortunately, many Christians have a small view of God that allows them to have temper tantrums with Him.

In 4:7, the Lord says, “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” This clearly implies that Cain knew what was right. He knew the quality of offering to bring and chose not to bring it. He knew his heart was not right, but he chose not to address it. Yet, this verse also shows God’s grace, for Cain was still invited to bring the correct offering. God warned Cain and He wanted Cain to “do well,” but Cain hardened his heart. Sin is like a wild animal ready to pounce and devour its victim. What a graphic picture the Lord paints! What a reminder that we do indeed have a choice whether or not to sin. Flip Wilson was wrong when he said, “The Devil made me do it.” On the contrary, when we sin, we sin because of our refusal to rely on God’s power to “master it.

 

Unfortunately, instead of heeding God’s warning, Cain ignored God’s words and allowed himself to be mastered by sin. This resulted in the very first murder. Moses writes of the tragic event in 4:8: “Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” In his anger, Cain took the life of another human being…and his victim was his very own brother. The use of “rise up” is most appropriate, since the “rising up” of Cain to kill his brother is a direct consequence of the “falling” of his countenance, when Abel’s offering was accepted but his was not. Under the Mosaic Law, the fact that a killing took place in a field, out of the range of help, was proof of premeditation (cf. Deut 22:25-27). We cringe at such a horrible act and think, “I could never do something like that.” But if we were honest, many of us would have to confess our own lists of people we’ve assassinated with our words or attitudes.

 

A lesson we learn from the murder of Abel is that anger and jealousy can be very destructive. It is certainly not Abel’s fault that Cain’s sacrifice is not pleasing to God. But when God accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s, Cain directs his anger, jealousy, and hatred toward his brother. The history of crime shows that when given the opportunity, hatred often leads to murder. That is what Jesus was pointing to in Matthew 5 where He says hating your brother is really the same as murder.

 

You may be angry today. It might have been something, which happened this morning. Or maybe something happened years ago. Perhaps a neighbor or someone in the church cheated you out of some money or took advantage of you in some way, and you still have a bitter attitude. Whatever type the anger is, you need to get control of it and get rid of it. Ephesians 4:27 says if you don’t control your anger, you give the Devil a foothold (lit. “a place”) in your life. That is what Cain did. Uncontrolled anger and jealousy resulted in Abel’s death and destroyed Cain’s life too. Don’t let it happen in your life. Acknowledge that the attitude is wrong, confess it to the Lord, and ask His help in overcoming this destructive attitude.

 

  1. The pursuit of a gracious God(4:9-16). In 4:9, Cain foolishly thought he could hide his sin from God. He’s following in his father’s footsteps (3:8). Yet, God seeks Cain just like He sought Adam and Eve. God is a seeker. After Cain’s treacherous sin, the Lord does the unthinkable—he dialogues with Cain. He speaks with grace, not wrath. The Lord says to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain responds by saying, “I do not know.” Cain begins on a sinful note by lying to God. Puny old Cain tells an omniscient God that he doesn’t know where his brother Abel is. Come on! The fact that Cain can dispassionately deny what he has done and show a total lack of care and concern for his brother closely parallels man’s total lack of regard for woman in 3:12, where man icily refers to his companion as “the woman” and places all the blame on her, thereby revealing a complete absence of the intimacy and companionship that earlier had characterized their relationship.

 

To make matters worse, Cain goes on to utter the infamous old adage, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” This was a tragic mistake on Cain’s part. Now, if I was God, I would have smoked Cain right where he stood! But not the Lord! Instead, He asks Cain a follow-up question that is the same question He asked Eve (3:13): “What have you done?” Wouldn’t you just hate to be Cain right now? The Lord then stops asking questions and says, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground” (4:10). This is a key sentence. The words “to me” demonstrate how seriously God takes first-degree murder. When another person kills a baby, a child, or an adult made in the image of God (1:26; 9:6), the blood of the victim cries out to God! Sin cannot be covered up from God. It can be hidden from people, but not from God. Secret sin on earth is open scandal in heaven!

 

As a consequence of Cain’s act of deliberate sin, God curses him (4:11-12), just like He cursed the serpent (3:14) and the ground (3:17-19). Woe! Moses records these tragic words: “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” This is the first instance in Scripture where a human is “cursed.” The ultimate penalty for a Hebrew is not death, but exile, a loss of roots.

 

In 4:13-14, “Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.’” Cain’s complaint is peppered with the use of seven personal pronouns. All Cain cared about was himself. There was no fear or reverence for God, no regret for the loss of innocent life, no sorrow for sin, and no thought for his parents who had lost one son tragically through murder and would be losing another through rebellion. There was only a preoccupation with himself. The killer fears being killed. He who turned on one of his relatives now must watch out for any of his relatives.

 

In 4:15, the Lord speaks again to Cain, “‘Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.” God continues to demonstrate His grace and compassion—even to Cain! The Lord gave Cain a sign before judgment was carried out. Isn’t this just like the Lord?

 

The Lord’s program always seems to be mercy before judgment. How fortunate we are that this is the case. If it weren’t, we would have been snuffed out a long time ago! No matter what you’ve done, God wants a relationship with you. There is no sin that you have ever committed that is too big for God. He will accept you IF you accept His Son’s sacrifice for your sin. We do not know what the “sign” was. Some have supposed it was a mark of some kind on Cain himself (e.g., a tattoo), others a special hairstyle. One of the ancient rabbis argued that the sign was a dog that accompanied Cain on his wanderings. The dog assured Cain of God’s protection and frightened attackers. Others think it is some sign in the external world, such as an intensified fear of killing another human being. To that end, God places a mark on Cain before he expels him. This will protect Cain from recrimination. Here again is mercy before judgment.

In 4:16, we read these sad words: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” One question that is asked is: Did Cain repent? Probably not. The New Testament Scriptures uniformly speak of Cain in the negative with phrases like “the way of Cain” (Jude 11) and one “who was of the evil one and slew his brother” (1 John 3:12). His life is contrasted with “righteous Abel” (Matt 23:35). Nevertheless, we do not know what ultimately happened to him. He may have responded to God. Cain was not beyond God’s grace and neither are you.

[It is important to note that Adam’s sin (3:6-7) progresses to murder between brother and brother (4:1-16), and then to the decay of society (4:17-26).]

  1. The tale of two men(4:17-26). In 4:17, we have a well-known proof text used by skeptics. The verse reads: “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.” Of course, the obvious question is: Where did Cain get his wife? The answer is quite simple: Cain married his sister (or possibly a niece). The Bible says Adam “had other sons and daughters” (5:4). In fact, since Adam lived 930 years (5:5), he had plenty of time for plenty of children! Cain could have married one of his many sisters, or even a niece, if he married after his brothers or sisters had grown daughters. Regardless, one of his brothers would have married a sister. Marriages between close relatives were at first unavoidable if the whole human race came from a single pair. Marriage between siblings and close relatives was not prohibited until the Mosaic Law, instituted thousands of years later (Lev 18:6-18). There were no genetic imperfections at the beginning of the human race. God created genetically perfect Adam (1:27). Genetic defects resulted from the fall and only occurred gradually, over long periods of time.

 

In 4:18-19, we read about a man by the name of “Lamech” who becomes the first bigamist. Bigamy was common in the ancient Near East, but it was never God’s desire (cf. 2:24; Matt 19:4-5). God permitted it, however, as He did many other customs of which He disapproved (e.g., divorce, marrying concubines, polygamy, etc.); but He was not pleased with this violation of the marriage covenant.

 

In 4:20-24, we see that Cain prospered even though he rebelled against God. Cain’s prosperity led the way in producing cities, music, weapons, and agricultural implements—in short, civilization. Even among ungodly people God allows development and progress. It is part of His kindness to the entire human race. This is another indication of God’s grace. Cain’s descendants took the lead in building cities, developing music, advancing agriculture, creating weapons, and spreading civilization.

 

In 4:23-24, 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; if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’” Lamech, who is Cain’s great-great-great-grandson, writes a piece of poetry, but what an ugly piece of poetry it is! It is a song.

 

One can easily see that its lines are parallel and poetical. Lamech is singing a song. But what is he singing about? He is singing about polygamy, murder, and revenge. This is a “sword song” in which Lamech wears violence as a badge of honor. God allows the makers of musical instruments to arise, but they misuse their very culture to promote violence. This is how men and women use their culture. God allows family life, music, and technology but how does man use His blessings? He perverts them! Music is wonderful. Yet, music can be used for wicked purposes also.

 

Do you realize the influence of the media on you and your children? Think about many of the songs that are popular today. They are full of violence, sex, and self. What about the impact of television? Did you know that the average American family watches 6.5 hours of TV daily? One way of making sense of this astronomical figure is to consider this: The average child spends 900 hours a year in school but 1,500 hours a year watching TV.

[Just when things seem to be beyond hope, the Lord shows forth His hand of sovereignty and promise.]

In 4:25-26, Moses writes, “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.’ 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.” Obviously, 4:25-26 should not be understood as a sequel to 4:17-24. Cain’s genealogy does not extend six generations before Adam fathers a child again. Cain’s sons prospered and founded the new world after the fall. Yet, they were not to be included in the lineage of the Messianic “seed” (cf. 3:15). The author turns another page with the birth of “another offspring in place of Abel” (4:25). This strategic birth reveals that the “seed” would continue through the line of Seth. Seth’s name, from the Hebrew verb translated “granted” and meaning “to set or place,” expresses Eve’s faith that God would continue to provide seed despite death.

 

After the birth of Enosh (Seth’s son), it is noted that “then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.” The phrase “call upon the name of the Lord” usually refers to proclamation rather than prayer in the Pentateuch. Here it probably refers to the beginning of public worship of Yahweh. This is the inauguration of true worship (cf. 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21:33; 26:25). “Enosh” means “weakness” and in his weakness he turns to God with petition and praises (Ps 149:6). Man will not pray until he recognizes his human weakness and inability and is utterly dependent upon God. So Cain’s firstborn and successors pioneer civilization, while Seth’s firstborn and successors pioneer worship.

 

Will you humble yourself, acknowledge your own weakness, and turn to the Lord for His strength? As Paul writes in the New Testament, “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25).

Don’t play hide and seek with God!

In 2004, a 22-year-old man robbed a Chevron station and then led Poulsbo, Washington police on a high-speed chase. After cleaning out the cash register, the robber and a passenger took off in a red Honda and soon cops from four towns were in pursuit. The caravan zoomed at speeds up to 100 mph through the winding roads of western Puget Sound, where twists and turns can leave even locals disoriented. After a while the fugitives managed to lose their pursuers in the darkness but they had no idea where they were. That’s when the robber pulled his Honda into a Chevron station to ask for directions to Seattle—unaware that it was the very same establishment he’d just robbed. Police caught up to the Honda soon afterward.

 

Sometimes, playing hide-and-seek doesn’t work out so well. Have you ever played hide-and-seek with God? Have you ever sinned and then tried to run away from Him in shame? If so, you’ve probably realized that no matter how good you are at hiding, you can’t hide from God. Fortunately, God doesn’t play hide-and-seek, He plays “seek and hide.” He is the great pursuer that always tracks down His man or woman. Today, if you’re feeling far away from God, I have a word of hope for you. It is found in Genesis 3:8-24.

[In 3:1-7, we learned how to win over sin by overcoming temptation. Now in 3:8-24, we will learn how to recover from sin by confessing our sins and learning from discipline. How can I recover from sin? In this narrative, we will be able to see two clear prescriptions.]

 

  1. Confess your sin without blaming God or others(3:8-13). In 3:8, Moses records: “They [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” “The sound of the Lord God” represents the grace of God reaching out to man in a crisis situation. The “cool” of the day can be translated, literally, the “wind” or “spirit” of the day. In the Bible, the wind/spirit is the symbol of God’s presence (see 1:2). God came to Adam and Eve in this wind. He began to seek them; yet our text records that they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” A more complete transformation could not be imagined. The trust of innocence is replaced by the fear of guilt. The trees that God created for man to look at and enjoy (2:9) are now his hiding place to prevent God seeing him.

 

In the midst of this game of hide and seek, God calls out to the man because he is the one in authority, the one first created (1 Cor 11:3). He is responsible for where they are and why. The Lord says, “Where are you?” (3:9). The Lord’s question carries the force of “why” are you there. God asked, “What’s the problem? What’s going on?” Of course, the Lord knows, but is demanding that man give an account of his actions. He wants Adam to take personal responsibility for his actions. This is all grace. Even in Adam’s sin, God lovingly woos Adam back to Himself. He is seeking a confession.

 

In 3:10, Adam answers the “why” question with these words: “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” As soon as Adam heard God’s presence, he remembered about spiritual life and relationship with God. He now realized that the attempt to cover up his disorientation to Eve had been in vain. He realized that it was the loss of spiritual life that was the cause of his disorientation to Eve and that there was nothing he could do about either. That’s why he still viewed himself as naked, even after covering up. And that’s why he was afraid. It was “spiritual” nakedness that was the real issue. The only solution he could devise was denial and avoidance. He hid himself, but of course it didn’t work. Because the human race is naked, there is no end to their attempts to avoid the truth of God’s grace. Denial and substitution has been the evidence of man’s nakedness all throughout history.

 

In 3:11, God answers Adam in the form of another question. He says, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” God is being specific to make certain they understand exactly what happened. Eating from the tree of which God commanded Adam not to eat was the only way he could become alienated from God and Eve. God is making it perfectly clear that the failure was in not obeying the Word of God. Yet, bear in mind, God took the initiative in seeking out the sinners to re-establish a relationship with them. Evidence of God’s love is His unwillingness to abandon those He loves, even when they failed to do His will. He is a compassionate and gracious God.

Adam responded to God’s question by saying, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (3:12). Remember Adam’s ecstasy when he first laid eyes on Eve? “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (2:23a). Now he turns on her like a wild banshee! What infamous treachery! Here, Adam implies that a good God would not have given him Eve. He makes excuses for himself and plays the blame game.

 

A woman was walking along the beach when she stumbled upon a Genie’s lamp. She picked it up, rubbed it, and a Genie appeared. The amazed woman asked if she got three wishes. The Genie said, “No. Due to inflation, constant downsizing, and fierce global competition, I can only grant you one wish. So, what’ll it be?” The woman didn’t hesitate. She said, “I want peace in the Middle East. See this map? I want these countries to stop fighting with each other.” The Genie looked at the map and exclaimed, “Lady, these countries have been at war for thousands of years. I’m good but not THAT good! Make another wish.” The woman thought for a minute and said, “Well, I’ve never been able to find the right man. You know, one that’s considerate and fun, likes to cook and helps with the housecleaning, is romantic, gets along with my family, doesn’t watch sports all the time, and is faithful. That’s what I wish for—a perfect husband.” The Genie let out a long sigh and said, “Let me see that map again.”

 

After hearing Adam’s response, the Lord God moves on to the woman and asks, “What is this you have done?” (3:13a). “And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’”(3:13b). The Lord’s question has the sense, “What in the world have you done?” or “Do you realize what you’ve done?” Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, the woman blamed the serpent. Can you see the progression? Adam blamed the woman, and then blamed God for having given her to him. Eve blamed the serpent. This is typical of human nature. The sinner blames everyone but himself. It’s been said, “To error is human; to blame it on others and upon God is more human.”

 

Adam and Eve are guilty of “passing the buck” and blaming others. Mankind has been guilty of this behavior ever since. We sometimes blame God for placing us in circumstances that we regard as too much for us. Some students cheat, rationalizing that God is to blame for giving them a difficult professor and a busy schedule. Some thieves steal, blaming God and life for their stealing. “God, you know my weaknesses, but there it was. Why did you allow it?” Consider the adulterous man who blames God for the ingredients that led to his sin—his depression, his poor self-image, that woman, his loneliness. Mankind loves to find someone or something to blame for their behavior (e.g., spouse, parents, siblings, children, co-workers, the boss, the weather, the neighbor’s dog).

 

Yet, if you’re going to “pass the blame,” why not pass it on to Jesus? The Bible tells us that the Second Adam took all the sins of the world upon Himself and died to cover the penalty for sin (Rom 5:17). Have you stopped passing the buck? Have you humbled yourself before God and others and said the guilt for your sin is yours alone? And then, have you passed it on to Jesus? When you come to the realization that you have sinned and there is a penalty for your sin, if God is drawing you to Himself, you will also recognize your need of a Savior. The moment you trust in Christ, you enter into a relationship with God that can never be lost. What hope! What blessing!

[Whether you are a pre-Christian or a Christian, you can recover from sin by confessing your sin to your loving Father. The second prescription for recovering from sin is to…]

  1. Trust in God’s care as you face the consequences(3:14-24). The consequences of sin are detailed in 3:14-19. First, God deals with the serpent. Then He deals with the woman, and finally, the man. God’s judgment on each trespasser (the snake, the woman, and the man) involved both a life function and a relationship. In each case the punishment corresponded to the nature of the crime.

 

In 3:14, Moses writes, “The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.’” The snake had been “crafty” (‘arum), but now it was “cursed” (‘arur). In the Bible, to “curse” means to invoke God’s judgment on someone, usually for some particular offense. It is the opposite of “bless.” The text says the snake had to move on its belly. Some commentators take this literally and conclude that the snake had legs before God cursed it. Others take it figuratively, as a reference to the resultant despised condition of the snake. I opt for the latter. I believe snakes did not originally walk upright on their feet. This was just a way of saying that the serpent’s downfall would be certain. This is confirmed by the phrase “and dust you will eat all the days of your life.” In the Bible, this describes humiliation and total defeat. To boil this down, recognize that even Indiana Jones feared snakes. Since the fall of man, snakes continue to keep the revolting image of Satan before our eyes. While God cursed all animals and the whole creation because of the fall (Rom 8:20), He made the snake the most despicable of all the animals for its part in the fall.

 

In 3:15, we have one of the most important verses in the entire Bible: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The word “enmity” means “hostility and antagonism.” There would be antagonism between the Serpent and human beings (3:15a). This obviously exists between snakes and people, but God’s intention in this verse seems to include the person behind the snake (Satan) even more than the snake itself.

 

The “seed” of the Serpent refers to natural humanity whom he has led into rebellion against God. The “seed” of the woman refers to her descendants. Eve’s descendants were the Jewish people. However, the “seed” of the woman in 3:15 also refers to one particular individual, not a whole group of people. It is referring to the Messiah, who would come forth from the Jewish people. The moment the Serpent delivers a blow to the heel of the Messiah is the same moment in which his head is crushed (cf. Gal 3:16, 19; Heb 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8; Rev 19:1-5). The Bible connects the death of Jesus Christ with the defeat of the Devil (John 12:21-33). Satan would strike His heel, but the wound would mean that the Son would strike a deathblow to Satan. Jesus suffered a terrible but temporary injury (John 12:31; Col 2:15). Satan only crippled Christ. Christ would deal Satan the fatal blow. The forces of Satan did not realize that the plan of God would actually be promoted and fulfilled by the death of Christ. God’s curse upon Satan meant that His own Son would one day become a curse for us. Grace is rooted in Christ’s victory. This first judgment on sin is tinged with hope, something that recurs throughout Scripture (cf. 6:5-8), as God’s mercy outweighs His wrath (cf. Exod 20:5-6).

 

Now in 3:16, God turns His attention toward the woman. He says to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” God speaks to Eve about her role as mother (3:16a) and as wife (3:16b). Biblically speaking, these are the two points where a woman experiences her highest fulfillment. And at these two points there will be pain and servitude The “pain in childbirth” refers to the whole process from conception to birth. This includes anxiety about whether she will be able to conceive a child, anxiety that comes with all the physical discomfort of the pregnancy, anxiety concerning the health of the child in the womb, and anxiety about whether she and the baby will survive the birth process.

 

God also speaks of the woman’s “desire” for her husband. Desire is a source of conflict between husbands and wives, just as sin desires to dominate and control (4:7). This is the first battle of the sexes. Each strives for control and neither lives in the best interest of the other (Phil 2:3-4). The woman’s role and the man’s role both become perverted. The woman tends to want to subtly control the man. The man tends to dominate and tyrannize. Partners become competitors. It has been this way ever since the fall.

 

Wives, in what ways do you attempt to usurp your husband’s authority? Do you nag? Are you critical? Are you cynical? Do you use your emotions to dominate him and get your way? While this behavior is one of the consequences of the fall, you are not to use this verse as an excuse to justify your behavior. Rather, you are called to recognize that your husband is your spiritual head, therefore, you must exhibit a “gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Pet 3:4).

 

In 3:17-19, God directs His final words to Adam. The judgment on Adam is given last because, as the one who sinned without being deceived, having all the facts, he bears the greater responsibility. The Lord says, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God’s punishment or discipline fits the crime. A form of the word “eating” is used no less than five times in response to Adam’s sin of eating.33 It is also worth noting that, in each of these three verses, God says to Adam, “You will eat.” The food produced by the man would sustain the lives produced by the woman, and it would sustain their lives as well. Even in His discipline, God manifests grace.

God speaks to Adam about his role as a worker. Here is where the male experiences his highest fulfillment. And for him, too, there will be pain. Romans 8:20 explains that creation is subject to vanity. This is the law of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics demonstrates that there is an innate tendency towards decay and disorder in the universe. We are currently experiencing this consequence of the curse.

 

In these three verses, man’s natural or original relationship to the ground—to rule over it—is reversed; instead of submitting to him, it resists and eventually swallows him (2:7; Rom 8:20-22). In the Old Testament, in particular, the ecology of the earth is partly dependent on human morality. Sin always puts a wedge between things or people in Genesis 3. It puts a wedge between God and humans, between man and woman, between man and himself, and now between man and the soil. These are the consequences we must face.

 

In 3:20-21, “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Adam expressed confidence in God’s promise about the “seed of the woman,” as he calls his wife “Eve,” which means “the mother of all living” or “she who gives life.” I do not think this name means merely that the whole human race will descend from her. That may be true, but that is not the point of the name. Surely, it is an expression of faith in the promise of Genesis 3:15. Adam believes that somehow, through Eve’s seed, life will come to the human race. Here is hope in the midst of judgment.

 

Previously, Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (3:7). That was their attempt to solve the immediate consequences of their sin. God provided special clothing for them instead of their fig leaves. He used “garments of skin” and clothed them. So with the sentence given, God does for the couple what they cannot do for themselves. They cannot deal with their shame. But God can, will, and does God’s provision of clothes is a way of expressing the fact that, when we believe, He clothes us with garments of salvation (2 Cor 5:21).

 

In 3:22-24, the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever—therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” The author uses irony to demonstrate that when the human race, who had been created like God (1:26), sought to “be like God” (3:5-7), they found themselves, after the fall, no longer with God. Their happiness does not consist of being like God so much as it does their being with God. The goal must always be, to be “with God.” There is nothing better than enjoying the presence of God (cf. Ps 16:11).

 

The phrase “like one of us” probably means like heavenly beings (God and the angels; cf. 1:26). Cherubim, in the Old Testament, surround and symbolize God’s presence. They are similar to God’s bodyguards. Moses pictured them here defending the Tree of Life with a flaming sword. The cherubim at Eden kept man from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life. This was critical because the Tree of Life perpetuated physical life in the perfect environment of the garden. When man acquired a sin nature in the physical body, he started the process of physical deterioration, which would lead ultimately to physical death. If he were to eat of the Tree of Life at this time, it would perpetuate his physical life forever with the presence of the sin nature. And even though man is now back in relationship with God, through faith in the promise of a coming savior, perpetuation of physical life with the sin nature, would perpetuate soul distortion and deny access to the fullness of fellowship with God. Therefore, God forbade man to eat from the Tree of Life and removed him from its presence.

 

The cherubim also guarded man from the Tree of Life to remind him that his legacy was death, caused by sin. And if he considered the cherubim his enemies, it was only because he had forgotten that his own worst enemy was himself. As the late cartoonist Walt Kelly used to express it through one of his characters in the comic strip Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

So how can we go on? This passage provides several applications:

  1. Humble yourself and take responsibility for your sin (3:8-13).
  2. Prepare for the pain of discipline (3:14-19).
  3. Live by faith in spite of your failure (3:20).
  4. Trust in God’s ability to remove the shame (3:21).

Trust in God’s loving protection against unseen consequences from sin (3:22-24).

 

Parallels in Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22

 

Genesis Revelation
In the beginning (1:1) I am. . .the Beginning and the End (21:6)
God created the heavens and the earth (1:1) I saw a new heaven and a new earth (21:1)
Let there be light (1:3) God gives it light (21:23)
The darkness He called “night” (1:5) There will be no night there (21:25)
The gathered waters He called “seas” (1:10) There was no longer any sea (21:1)
God made the two great lights (1:16) Does not need the sun/moon (21:23)
He also made the stars (1:16) The Morning Star (22:16)
Subdue [the earth]. Rule over (1:28) And they will reign forever (22:5)
God blessed the 7th day (2:2-3) 7 angels, 7 bowls, 7 last plagues (21:9)
[God] made it holy (2:3) The Holy City (21:2, 10; 22:19)
Tree of Life (2:9)

He must not take from the Tree of Life (3:22-23)

Tree of Life (22:2)

God will take away His share in the Tree of Life (22:19)

A river watering the garden (2:10) River of the Water of Life (22:1)

The free gift of the Water of Life (22:17)

There is gold (the gold of that land is good) (2:11-12) A measuring rod of gold (21:15)

The city was. . .pure gold (21:18)

The street. . .was pure gold (21:21)

The bdellium stone (pearls) (2:12) Pearls, each gate made of a single pearl (21:21)
Onyx (2:12) Sardonyx (21:20)
You will surely die (2:17)

Or you will die (3:3)

No more death (21:4)
A man will. . .be united to his wife (2:23-25) The bride of the wife of the Lamb (21:9-10)
The serpent. . .was crafty (3:1) The Devil, who deceived them (20:10)
Shown a garden into which sin entered (3:6-7) Shown a city into which sin will never enter (21:27)
The Lord God. . .was walking in the garden (3:8) Nations will walk by His light (21:24)
Walk of God with man interrupted (3:8-10) Walk of God with man resumed (21:3)
I was ashamed [naked] (3:10) Anyone who does what is shameful (21:27)
Initial triumph of the Serpent (3:13) Ultimate triumph of the Lamb (20:10; 22:3)
Cursed. . .cursed (3:14, 17) No longer. . .any curse (22:3)
Eve’s offspring (3:15) The Offspring of David (22:16)
I will greatly multiply your pain (3:16-17) No more. . .pain (21:4)
The Lord God made garments of skins and clothed them (3:21) Blessed are those who wash their robes (22:14)
God banished him (3:23) They will see His face (22:4)
He drove the man out of the garden (3:24) I saw the Holy City (21:2)
Cherubim. . .to guard the way (3:24) With 12 angels at the gates (21:12)
A flaming sword (3:24) Fiery lake of burning sulfur (21:8)

 

The Significance of the Parallels in Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22

  1. Immutability:While we are prone to change, God does not change (Mal 3:6a). Even when we are faithless, He remains forever faithful (2 Tim 2:12). In His first dealings with mankind, He provided the sacrifice to meet the needs of the fallen Adam and Eve (i.e., animal skins, see Gen 3:21). In later events, He provided the sacrifice for the needs of His people (i.e., the Lamb, see 1 Pet 1:18-19).
  2. Restoration:The world as we now know it is not what God intended. Rather, our world is a result of man’s fall (Gen 3:1-24; Rom 5:12-21). Yet, Revelation 20-22promises us that God’s original plan for mankind will one day be fulfilled.
  3. Progress:The new heavens and the new earth are actually an improvement over the garden of Eden in that there is no sea, no night, no sun, or moon, etc. (Rev 21:1, 23-27).
  4. Triumph:God’s purposes are never thwarted by anyone or anything (Rom 9:6-29). Although things may have looked bleak in Genesis 3, Revelation 20-22proves that God ultimately and forcefully triumphs over the Serpent. Eventually, the big three (sin, suffering, and death) will be forever dealt with. This is one of the reasons the book of Revelation is so crucial. Without it, we would be left hanging. But fortunately, God relieves our apprehension and shares with us His glorious future.
  5. Beginning and End:In Revelation 21:6, God says, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” Any comparison of these two passages corroborates that He is the controller of all things from eternity to eternity. As Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last” (Rev 1:17). We can relax in our great God’s sovereignty.
  6. Unity of God’s Plan:Genesis 3:15points out the plan that God has to defeat Satan through the offspring of the woman. Revelation points to the consummation of that plan in the finished work of the Lamb (5:6-14). Thus, if God has a plan from the beginning and is able to actually carry it out at the end of history, then He must be in control of human history. And He must be who He claims to be!
  7. Unity of Scripture:By these extensive parallels (both similar and contrasting), we see that there is very close literary connection between two biblical books, written centuries apart, by different human authors, who were recording the words of a greater, overseeing author, God. Only God Himself could have orchestrated this unity of the Scriptures.

 

When temptation comes…

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Now I would venture to say that in your mind there is the image of an egg…right? Why? There is nothing in the nursery rhyme that mentions an egg. The one who wrote it probably did not have an egg in mind. Someone probably picked it up from the old New England Primer. Many of those in colonial days learned their grammar from that very familiar book. I also want to suggest that the child picked up his idea from the couplets used in that primer for the letters A and X. In the primer it reads, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all; Xerxes the Great did fall and so must you and I.” In a subtle fashion, that little couplet teaches not only the letters A and X, but also a very significant spiritual truth. That is, in the fall we sinned all.

 

You see the one who wrote that little nursery rhyme was not talking about an egg that fell, but a man. And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men (the soldiers of all the kings throughout history) could not repair what had been lost when this man fell. Of course, it was Adam who fell. He sat on a great wall of love and fellowship from which he had a great fall. And no one, from king to servant, could possibly put him together again. His name was not Humpty Dumpty, of course. It was Adam.

 

Genesis 3:1-7 records the account of Adam’s sin. By studying this passage, we will learn how sin entered the world and how we can overcome our sin. Let’s first set the scene: At the end of Genesis 2, life is perfect. Adam and Eve are naked in a lush and plush garden enjoying fellowship with the Lord and each other (2:25). Then something happens that forever changed the world.

 

  1. The Serpent’s Scheme(3:1): Our story begins with the following description: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made” (3:1a). Mankind’s first temptation comes through the mouth of “the serpent.” The creature here is a literal serpent that Satan embodied to carry out this temptation. The Hebrew word for “serpent” carries the idea of bright and shiny. This describes its general appearance as beautiful and pleasant to be around. The serpent made a good pet and was probably constantly around Adam and Eve. In fact, it is also probable, that for this reason, Satan chose to use the serpent as his disguise to deceive Eve.

 

The serpent is called “more crafty than any beast of the field.” The Hebrew word for “crafty” (arum) sounds like the word for “naked” (arumim, 2:25). While Adam and Eve were naked in innocence, the Serpent was crafty in deception. The word “crafty” is not primarily a negative term in the Bible. Rather, it often suggests wisdom. The description of the Serpent as “crafty” is in direct contrast to the foolishness exhibited by the first man and woman. In man’s quest to be wise like God (3:6), man made a most foolish decision. Instead of enjoying all that was “very good” (1:31) man went after that which was clearly forbidden (2:16-17).

 

In 3:1b, the Serpent speaks to the woman and asks the first question recorded in Scripture: “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” This is not an innocent conversation starter. The Serpent reduces God’s command to a question. Satan is so subtle. He does not directly deny God’s Word, but introduces the assumption that God’s Word is subject to our judgment. Notice how Satan spins the question. He does not say, “Why would God keep you from eating the fruit of one tree?” It was couched in more deceptive words as he implies that God, who has forbidden one tree, has forbidden them all. However, the issue was one tree, not “any [every] tree of the garden.” The Devil’s words were misleading, and that is the way temptation always comes.

 

Satan focused Eve’s attention on God’s one prohibition. He suggested that God did not really want what was best for Adam and Eve but rather was withholding something from them that was essentially good. He hinted that God’s line of protection was actually a line that He drew because He was selfish. The Serpent wants God’s Word to appear harsh and restrictive. Satan is cleverly attempting to plant a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind concerning God’s Word and God’s goodness.

I have a few rules in my family. Don’t play with our knives. The blades are razor sharp and you can easily cut yourself. Don’t run around in the kitchen. Our kitchen island has sharp corners and you can crack your head open. I have these rules because I am a killjoy that wants to rob my kids of good clean fun, right? No, I have certain rules because I want to preserve my kid’s lives. God has the same intentions for us when He makes rules that prohibit us from doing certain things.

Do you believe God is holding something back from you? Is He preventing you from attaining something that is rightfully yours? Satan does not wish us to ponder the grace of God, but to grudgingly meditate upon His denials. We are to understand that denials (doing without, prohibitions) come from the hand of a good and loving God: “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps 84:11). When temptation comes, stop to think before you take and eat.

Instead of rebuking the Serpent for its craftiness and calling Adam in for spiritual assistance, Eve listens. Eve’s first mistake was to listen to teaching that did not come from either God or Adam. Her second mistake was to listen to teaching that was contrary to God’s previous instructions. Eve placed herself in a vulnerable position by accepting dialog with the Serpent.

 

One of the questions you may have is: why did the Serpent talk to the woman? Why didn’t he talk to Adam or both of them as a couple? I believe Satan attempted to put a wedge between husband and wife to conquer by dividing, thus to capture their minds and cause them to act in disobedience to God’s Word. That’s why God puts such a high premium on the oneness of husband and wife and why, as husbands and wives, we need to encourage one another and build up one another. The minute Satan’s wedge is in, we are candidates to be chewed up by Satan and spit out in little pieces.

 

  1. The Woman’s Response(3:2-3). Instead of shunning the Serpent, Eve obliged him by carrying on a conversation. Rather than running from this one who dared to mock God’s character, she stays to debate. This is never wise. The Devil is not reasonable so there is no point in trying to reason with him. Not to mention, it is always dangerous to flirt with temptation. The moment Eve detected the Serpent insinuating something suspicious about God’s goodness, she should have kicked dirt in his face and made tracks. But instead, she stayed to argue. There are many Christians today that think they can counter the Devil. So they talk trash to him, stomp him under their feet, and make light of his power. How very stupid! Satan laughs at us and could eat us for breakfast if he wanted. We must always remember to have a healthy degree of respect for Satan. He is powerful. We are no match for him apart from Christ’s power working in and through us. (you are not the violinist in the Devil Went Down to Georgia).

 

Let’s take a close look at Eve’s reply in 3:2-3: “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” In her reply to the Serpent, Eve attempts to defend God’s honor but in the process distorts His Word. First, while God said, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” (2:16), Eve said, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat” (3:2). Eve omitted “any” and “freely,” the two words that emphasized the generosity of God (cf. Rom 8:32). Eve subtracts from God’s Word.

 

Likewise, Eve had a distorted impression of the severity of God in prohibiting the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She expressed God’s instruction in these words: “You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die” (3:3). But God had said, “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (2:17). Eve magnified God’s strictness—“Just touch the tree, and zap you’re dead!” Her comment suggested that God is so harsh that an inadvertent slip would bring death. Here, Eve adds to God’s Word (see Prov 30:5-6).

 

While exaggerating the prohibition to the point where even touching the tree was evil, Eve had unconsciously downplayed the judgment of God by omitting the word “surely,” and by failing to report that death would come on the day of the offense. In other words, Eve emphasized God’s severity, but underestimated the fact that judgment would be executed surely and soon. Satan’s first attack on the woman was that of a religious seeker, in an effort to create doubts about the goodness of God and to fix her attention on what was forbidden as opposed to all that was freely given. In this final example, Eve softens God’s Word.

 

Original Command (Genesis 2:16-17) Eve’s Reply (Genesis 3:2-3)
“From any tree of the garden you may eat freely.” “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat.”
“But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” “But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

 

Satan’s scheme was quite diabolical. Had he begun to challenge the rule of God or Eve’s faith in Him, her choice would have been an easy one. But Satan erroneously stated God’s command with a question so as to appear that he was misinformed and needed to be corrected. Few of us can avoid the temptation of telling another that they are wrong. And so, wonder of wonders, Eve has begun to walk the path of disobedience while supposing that she was defending God to the Serpent.

 

  1. The Serpent’s Kill(3:4-5). In 3:1b, Satan operated as a sly ole dog, but now in 3:4-5 Satan unleashes his beastly self. Moses records, “The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (3:4-5). In the first question (3:1b), Satan tiptoed up to Eve on her blindside, but now he steamrolls over her on the broadside with a bald-faced lie. The Hebrew places the word lo (“not”) in front of God’s declaration: “Not—you shall surely die!” Take that God! It’s the Serpent’s word versus God’s Word—an absurd juxtaposition.

It’s crucial to understand the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44) is so saturated with lies that he even attempts to make God out to be a liar!

 

Satan’s strategy began rather innocently by introducing and encouraging doubt. His strategy quickly culminates in a blatant denial of God’s Word (cf. 2:17). In denying it he imputed motives to God that were not consistent with God’s character. God’s true motive was the welfare of man, but the Serpent implied it was God’s welfare at man’s expense. This added suggestion seemed consistent with what the Serpent had already implied about God’s motives in 3:1. Having entertained a doubt concerning God’s Word, Eve was ready to accept a denial of His Word.

As 3:4 reveals, the first thing Satan wants to deny is the doctrine of God’s judgment. He denies the penalty for sin. He says in effect, “You won’t reap what you sow.” Here is the lie that has allured the human race from the beginning: There is no punishment for disobedience. But the Bible again and again makes it clear that no one can get away with sin (Gal 6:7-8). Disobedience brings death (Rom 6:23). It is imperative that we recognize there are consequences for sinful actions. To imply or suggest otherwise is to undermine God’s holiness, justice, and wrath (Hab 1:13).

 

To make this direct contradiction of God’s Word seems reasonable; Satan invents a false motive for God. God, he says, has really invented a nonexistent penalty to keep you in your place. He is afraid you will rise to His level. If you knew as much as God knows, you would become a threat to Him. Eve’s response is fatal. She divorces her God-given reason from God’s Word and relies on her own limited experience.

 

This constitutes the great sin of man: to live independently of God. That is the root of sin. As Burger King says, “Have it your way.” I read that among the unbelieving population, Frank Sinatra’s song, My Way is in first place as a funeral favorite. The chorus is frightening: “But best of all I did it my way.” But the truth is, My Way is the dirge of death, marking the imploding of autonomous self. But what a deadly magnetism it carries.

 

It is interesting to note that what the Serpent said about Eve’s being as God was a half-truth. Adam and Eve did not die immediately, and their eyes were opened. Ironically, she was already as God, having been made in His image (1:26). She did become like God in that she obtained a greater knowledge of good and evil by eating of the tree. However, she became less like God because she was no longer innocent of sin. Her relationship with God suffered. Though she remained like God she could no longer be with Him. The consequent separation from God is the essence of death (2:17). The first doctrine Satan denied in Scripture was that sin results in death (separation from God), or we could say, the doctrine that God will not punish sin. This is still the truth he tries hardest to get people to disbelieve.

Also interesting to note is that the Serpent only speaks twice (3:1b, 4-5). That’s all the talk that was needed to plunge man downward into the spiral of sin. The success of the Serpent can be attributed to his cunning ability to question the goodness of God. The central theme of Genesis 1-2: God will provide the “good” for human beings if they will only trust Him and obey Him, is challenged by the Serpent. He cleverly suggests that God is indeed keeping “good” from His creation. The Serpent’s claim directly contradicted the main point of Genesis 1 and 2, namely, that God would provide what is good for man.

[Again, Eve should have run buck-naked, streaking through the garden, but she stays to tease temptation.]

  1. The Man and Woman’s Sin(3:6-7). In 3:6a: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” In 3:1-5, the Serpent initiated the first two steps. But in 3:6, he let Eve’s natural desires carry her into his trap. This is why we can’t follow Flip Wilson and claim, “The Devil made me do it!” James countered this argument 2,000 years ago when he wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (Jas 1:14).

Eve’s basic needs and desires fell into three categories that share parallels with 1 John 2:15-17. First, physical: “good for food.” This parallels “the lust of the flesh”: the desire to do something contrary to God’s will (i.e., “eat the tasty fruit”). “It will feel good.” The desire for food was a part of what drew Eve into sin. The body exercises a pull on us and sin can use various physical appetites. There are various desires of the body, the desire for ease, laziness, appetite, greed for physical pleasure, sexuality. All of these are channels down which we may be drawn into sin.

 

Second, emotional: “delight to the eyes.” This parallels “the lust of the eyes”: the desire to have something apart from God’s will (i.e., possess the beautiful fruit). “It looks good.” The power of eyesight has an amazing ability to stimulate the desire for sin. It is stronger in this than any other of the body’s senses. Seeing it will heighten our appetite for something. There is an added desire that comes by looking—enticements that come through the imagination, stirred by something seen. If sinless Eve could be pulled down, how much more those who are born sinful.

Lastly, intellectual: “desirable to make one wise.” This parallels “the boastful pride of life”: the desire to be something apart from God’s will (i.e., as wise as God). “It will make me better.” “I need something I don’t have to be happy.” Here is the essence of covetousness.

 

Human Need Genesis 3:6 Temptations 1 John 2:15-17 Parallel
Physical “Good for food” The lust of the flesh
Emotional “Delight to the eyes” The lust of the eyes
Intellectual “Desirable to make one wise” The boastful pride of life

 

The next phrase is absolutely devastating: “and she [Eve] gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (3:6b). Not only did Eve sin, but in her distorted thinking and her false sense of accomplishment, she also gave the fruit to her husband. When Eve brought the fruit to Adam, she was acting contrary to the “helper” principle (cf. 2:18). Instead of benefiting and aiding Adam, she is contributing to his downfall. She is actually inviting him and pressuring him to accept that which is contrary to divine viewpoint.

 

What sin have you invited a loved one to talk you into committing? Disobedience of God’s Word almost always affects someone else. Most tragically, it affects those we love the most. Eve’s disobedience affected her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and every descendant since. The problem of sin doesn’t stop with the choice. Choosing to sin leads to consequences.

 

The word “with” is what is so devastating about this verse. Adam was with Eve while this tempting dialogue with the Serpent was going on. Sadly, Adam did not say a word and then he sinned willfully by eating of the fruit. Make no doubt about it; although the woman was deceived, the man was not (see 1 Tim 2:13-14). Adam passively watched everything. He sinned willfully, eyes wide-open, without hesitation. His sin was freighted with sinful, self-interest. He had watched Eve take the fruit, and nothing happened to her. He sinned willfully, assuming there would be no consequences. Everything was upside-down. Eve followed the snake, Adam followed Eve, and no one followed God.

 

It is analogous to Karen (my wife) and I sitting in our family room watching the Super Bowl. All of a sudden the doorbell rings. Karen gets up to answer it while I keep on watching the Super Bowl. I can overhear her letting in a vacuum cleaner salesman and listening with increasing interest to his sales pitch. I do not want to stop watching the game, so I let the conversation continue, even to Karen signing a contract. If she were then to come into the room and say to me, “Here, you have to sign this, too,” it will come as no shock if I sign it without protest. By default, I have allowed my wife to make a decision and I have chosen to go along with it.

 

In this biblical account, the man chooses to obey his wife rather than God (cf. 3:17). Adam sees and hears her in a fallen condition, spiritually dead and different, and having all the facts, he must decide to embrace her or to embrace God. With all the facts, Adam rejected his relationship with God and embraced Eve. He said no to the Creator of all his blessings, and said, “Yes,” to a created one. He turned down the divine design of Gen 1:28 and turned it over to Satan.

 

Husbands and fathers, if you don’t lead your family, Satan will. Ladies, please don’t take this personal; this is not intended to cause offense. It is a statement of biblical truth. God has set up the home so that the man leads. If the man doesn’t lead, pray that He will but don’t assume his role.

Our passage closes in 3:7 with these tragic words: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” For the first time in Scripture, the word “then” is portrayed in a negative sense. The moment Adam and Eve sinned, they received the knowledge of good and evil. As a result, they “knew that they were naked.” Up until this point, their sexual organs were like their hands, feet, and mouth. Their nakedness was beautiful. But when sin entered the world, nakedness became shameful outside of the marriage relationship (cf. 2:25).

Having committed the sin themselves, and now living with its immediate consequences, they attempt to alleviate the problem themselves. Rather than driving them back to God, their guilt leads them into a self-atoning, self-protecting procedure: they must cover themselves. This is the tendency of mankind when it comes to a relationship with God. Yet, the Bible makes it clear that man can only have a relationship with God through simple faith. God has orchestrated this plan so that no man can boast before Him (Eph 2:8-9). Today, will you stop trusting in yourself and believe in Jesus Christ as your substitute for sin?