The late Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
In the light of the significant data studied in the previous chapter, the few details furnished us by the Scriptures concerning the history of the two spiritual seeds during the prediluvian period may be clearly understood.
As we have remarked before, the Scriptures are selective in their account of the history of this period, and extremely brief. Yet they furnish us with sufficient details that we may clearly understand the history. We are told something of the beginning of the two lines, that of Cain and that of Seth. In Cain’s case, we are informed concerning his ungodly offering, his killing of godly Abel, his curse, and his building of a city (naturally, under the pressure of the curse).
The information concerning Seth is briefer still. The Bible informs us that Seth was given instead of Abel: a significant fact, because it informs us immediately both as to the spiritual character of Seth and as to his place in the history of God’s covenant. He is of the seed of the woman. For the rest, almost nothing is told us. The only other significant fact concerning the line of Seth in its early history is recorded in Genesis 4:26: the fact that men began to call upon the name of Jehovah. This can only mean that at this early point there was the public maintenance of the name of Jehovah, in worship, prayer, and open confession. As such, this fact is significant: it distinguishes the line of Seth at once from that of Cain.
As it were in snapshot form, the Scriptures tell us something, secondly, of the height of the development of these two lines. Cain’s line is briefly described as reaching its height in Lamech, the seventh generation from Adam. In his family there is a mighty development in riches, in the arts, in invention and industry, but also in wickedness. Again, the Scriptures are briefer still concerning Seth’s line. There is only the very brief notice concerning Enoch in Genesis 5:21-24. But this notice is sufficient to give us the picture. Seth’s line reached great heights about the same time as the line of Cain, but in an altogether different sense: Enoch, also the seventh from Adam, walked with God in the midst of an ungodly world, and prophesied of the coming of the Lord for judgment.
Finally, the Bible gives us a brief account of the end of this course of development. It furnishes the picture of Cain’s line, full of wickedness, ripe for destruction, being judged and destroyed in the Flood. It describes the triumph of the seed of the woman in Seth’s line as it proceeds to Noah, the righteous, who finds favor in the eyes of the Lord, who also walks with God, and who becomes heir of the world.
Yet this brief, almost snapshot-style account is very significant. In the first place, as far as this period is concerned, it gives us a fundamentally complete account. What else of significance is there to relate of any period of history? We have the account of the rise of the two conflicting lines, their development and conflict, and their end — an end in which the triumph of God’s grace and of the cause of His covenant is clearly set forth.
Secondly, however, we should not overlook the fact that the Scriptures present this history as typical. From this point of view, the significance of this period lies in the fact that in it there is an enactment, as it were, of all of history. These various stages of development are repeated. The beginning stage is marked by the fact that the world departs from God, while the church calls upon the name of the Lord. The development-stage is marked by a great manifestation of power on the part of the world, while the church walks with God. The end-stage is that of the consummation. The end of the world is destruction, while God’s covenant people shall have the victory and shall inherit all things in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The description of the development of the line of Cain which the Scriptures give us in Genesis 4:19-24 may be aptly summed up in the language of Psalm 37:35: “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.” It can hardly be doubted that in this passage there is a description of exactly that situation: great power and development and boastful wickedness. Not many details does the Bible give us, but just enough to draw such a picture.
An analysis of the few details which the Scriptures give us brings to light, in the first place, the fact that there was a marvelous development of power and genius at the time of Lamech and his family.
Notice what we are told, first of all, of the sons of Lamech: Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain.
Jabal was the proud son of the beautiful Adah and Lamech. The significance of his name is not to be ascertained with certainty. But his reputation and significance in the history of those times is recorded in the Scriptures: he is described as the father of those who dwell in tents and possess cattle. The point is not that he was the father of people like the wandering Bedouins, nomads, who roam from place to place. Surely, in his generation men did not become pilgrims and strangers in the earth, as were the people of God, who looked for the city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. But Jabal is the father of the rich, of those who make it their ideal to gain the whole world, of those who call the things of the earth their own. To be rich at that time was to have cattle. Jabal and his kind would move from place to place, pasturing their herds, and thus dwelling in tents. Jabal was the father—both natural and spiritual—of those who make it their ideal to pile up for themselves the riches of the world: the father of those who are rich according to the world, but are not rich toward God.
Jubal, also a son of Lamech and Adah, is renowned as the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. In him, therefore, another aspect of his father Lamech’s genius and his mother Adah’s sensuality becomes manifest. He was an artist!
Music as such is a good gift of God. The harmony of notes is a creation of God. The ability to discover and express and make use of that harmony is as such also a good gift of God. This harmony and the power to reproduce it on instruments of music, through string or pipe, was discovered and developed by Jubal. Jubal’s genius is artistic, and he invents musical instruments to enhance the joy of life and to create song in the midst of the groaning creation. But music, in itself a good gift of God, is either good or evil, according as the regenerated heart plays and sings by faith to God’s glory, or as the unregenerated heart expresses that which is of sin, of lust, of the world, and of rebellion against God. The spellbound world of Jubal’s day would sit and listen when he would express what lived in his own and in the world’s soul in soft and melodious strains bespeaking the lustful pleasures of sin and immorality, or in strident and thunderous notes of mighty power and proud rebellion. Jubal’s art (and related to music are the art-forms of color and line and speech) is for the celebration and elevation of the life of this world.
Tubal-Cain was the son of Zillah and brother of Naamah. He turns his genius to industry. He is the father of every artificer in brass and iron. His genius is inventive and technological. He is the artificer of utensils and instruments which are useful for man in peace and in war. Inventive genius, developing the means of life and subjecting the powers of nature, was remarkable in Tubal-Cain and his generations.
To sum it up, these three renowned sons of Lamech represent all who make it their aim and ambition and achievement to make the world rich, to make it beautiful and pleasant, and to make it useful and convenient.
Now it is a very striking fact that these masters of vast possessions, these masters of art, these giants of industry are in the line of Cain-Lamech. They are descendants of the mighty Cain, the murderer of the righteous. They are sons of the proud and boastful and self-asserting Lamech. They are the seed of the serpent. When it comes to these things, you read nothing of Seth and his descendants. In the genealogy of Seth-Noah you find no record of mighty achievements according to the standard of the world. They called upon the name of Jehovah, and they walked with God, and they preached righteousness, but you do not find among them the possessors of this world’s goods, the artists, the industrialists. The latter are the men of the world. It is the sons of Lamech and his two wives, Adah and Zillah, who are reputed as possessing this remarkable power and genius. In the line of the wicked generations of Cain an unusual degree of natural power of mind and body displayed itself and rapidly developed. The picture here drawn by the Scriptures is that of the world approaching the zenith of its glory.
But that glory is the glory of the world! At the very point when the world before the Flood reaches the zenith of its glory it also becomes great in wickedness. For the Scriptures clearly witness to the fact that these mighty men of renown and women of renown were people of the world and for the world. The love of God was not in them. They were of the seed of the serpent. It is this very strong and swift development of natural life which constitutes a significant element in accounting for the rapid decay and development in sin of the first world.
That there was indeed such a decay and development in the manifestation of sin at this time is abundantly evident.
In the first place, the record of the Word of God here speaks loudly of the lust of the flesh and of vanity. There is the fact that Lamech took two wives. He and his wives are the first who are mentioned in the Scriptures as trampling God’s fundamental ordinance of marriage.
There is the fact, also, that the Scriptures give evidence of the voluptuousness and sensuality of the women in Lamech’s family. For one thing, these women are on the foreground, as appears from the very mention of their names. The name of a woman is not mentioned at all in the generations of the sons of God. In fact, a god-fearing woman is not mentioned by name until the time of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and she is recorded in the Scriptures as an example of a godly woman of a meek and quiet spirit. But these women are on the foreground! Besides, it is to be noted that to his wives Lamech sings his “Ode of the Sword,” indicating that they must have been of a kindred spirit with him, given to the lust of the flesh. Moreover, the names of the women in Lamech’s family bespeak the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. Adah means “the adorned”; Zillah means “the shady”; and Naamah, the daughter of Zillah, is “the pleasant” or “lovely.” These women made themselves a name by being the very embodiment of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, boldly displaying whatever may please and attract the sinful lusts of the flesh.
In the second place, the record of Lamech’s family is a record of human pride and boastfulness, of rebellion and vengefulness and cruelty. In whatever way Lamech’s song may be interpreted—and there is room for difference as to the details of its meaning—the thrust of it is very plain. It bespeaks murder. As sung in the ears of his wives, it bespeaks the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. In its insolent reference to the avenging of Cain, it bespeaks haughty contempt and arrogance over against God and man.
In the third place, the Scriptures give us a direct evaluation of the age of Lamech. Enoch, like Lamech, was also the seventh from Adam, and therefore a contemporary of Lamech and his family. In his prophecy, as referred to in Jude, 14 and 15, we find the following evaluation of the generation in which he lived: “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Notice the emphasis on two related items here: 1) the ungodliness of that generation; and, 2) the coming of the Lord for judgment.
Finally, we should take note of the fact that history confirms this evaluation. From this point forward there is the amalgamation mentioned in Genesis 6. There is increase in wickedness until the earth is filled with violence. Soon the measure of iniquity is filled, the world becomes ripe for judgment, and the Flood comes and destroys them all.
Now the question is: what is the significance of this development—both the development in natural life and the development and progress in the manifestation of sin—with respect to the history of this period? There are several related questions involved here. How is it that this strong development of natural life occurs in the generations of Cain-Lamech, not in the generations of Seth-Noah? Why was there this strong development in the sphere of things natural in the generations of Cain? Or rather, what is the divine reason and purpose in bringing that development about in the generations of Cain? Was there divine grace in it? Or divine wrath? Why, from the viewpoint of the divine reason and purpose, was there not such a development in the generations of Seth? What, too, was the spiritual, ethical significance and effect of this development in the generations of Cain? Then, too, there is the question what effect all this had on the subsequent history of this period, on the development of the conflict between the two spiritual seeds, and thus on the achievement of the consummation of this prediluvian history in the Flood.
All these questions are fundamental. The proper understanding of the history of this period, and, in fact, of all history, is involved in them. One’s “philosophy of history” is at stake here. We may add at once: at this point it is of fundamental importance whether one’s view of this history is colored by the theory of common grace, or not. Needless to say, our answers to these questions must be biblical, not philosophical.
In this connection, in the first place, we must remember that the strong and unusually swift development of natural life is an element which accounts for the rapid degeneration and the development in sin of the first world. The two facts of the great natural development manifest in Lamech’s family and the wickedness which was manifest do not merely stand side by side or merely coincide in time. There is a connection. That connection is one of means and result. The inventive genius and its products, of which we have spoken, stood in the service and employment of sin. They were actually employed also by the flesh unto corruption. The spiritual motive of their development and employment was that of enmity against God, and the spiritual product of the development and employment of those great natural talents was greater sin and corruption. As that first world reached the zenith of its development from a natural point of view it also reached the zenith of its development in point of wickedness.
The principle is that of the organic development of sin as it proceeds hand in hand with the organic development of the race. The point is not that the natural development and its products were in themselves sinful and corrupt. Not the genial power as such, not the art and the science and the industry and the ability to gather possessions, not the harp and the organ and music and song as such are wicked and ungodly. Such is never the case. Neither sin and the curse nor grace and blessing are in things as such. But as the natural gifts and genius and power and talents manifest in Lamech’s family developed in various directions, they stood in the service of sin and darkness. They provided all the more means for the development of a carnal and sinful life. They were the means which sinners employed in creating for themselves an entire world of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. For, we must remember, the sinner commits iniquity always with and in proportion to the means which God in His providence gives him. The more that sinner grows in power and the more he grows in gifts, the more he develops that power and employs those gifts in the sphere of natural, earthly existence, and the more he grows in the ability and the means wherewith to commit sin.
In the second place, it should be noted that this development cannot be explained on the basis of a “common grace.” This is important. Precisely at this juncture one’s basic view of history as it is involved in the question of God’s attitude toward the righteous and toward the wicked, toward elect and reprobate—and this, of course, is the basic question in the common grace theory—precisely at this juncture, one’s basic view of history comes into play.
First of all, if it is held that in a certain favor, or grace, over the reprobate ungodly God gives them the things of this present life, it is inconceivable how those very things could be the means for their destruction. If they are the latter, then there can be no grace involved; and if they are the former, then there can be no destruction involved. In other words, the old, unanswered question presses itself to the fore: what grace is there for the reprobate in the things of this present time? Nor will it do to present matters as though God bestows blessings upon the reprobate, but the reprobate turn these blessings into a curse. For this is destructive of the very idea of divine grace. No more than a father in love bestows upon his child the very instrument which will be to his destruction, no more does God bestow things in His grace when those very things are, and cannot be anything else than, means to grow in corruption and to become ripe for destruction. The very suggestion of this idea is preposterous with application to the living God and His grace.
Nor, secondly, do the Scriptures teach anything like this. The contrary is true. God’s Word does teach that we are by nature children of wrath, and that the wrath of God abideth on such as believe not the Son (John 3:36). It does teach that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18). It does teach that God hates all the workers of iniquity (Ps. 5:5). It does teach that “the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Ps. 11:5).
With respect to the things which the wicked receive in this present time and the status of the wicked in this present time, the Scriptures also express themselves in no uncertain terms. Here is the picture drawn in Psalm 37:35, 36: “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found.” Similar language occurs in Psalm 92:5-8: “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever: But thou, Lord, art most high for evermore.” Psalm 73 speaks very clear language concerning God’s dealings with the wicked, telling us what Asaph learned in the sanctuary of God when he was troubled by the very prosperity of the wicked: “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors” (Ps. 73:18, 19).
Hence, the wicked—also the wicked of that age—receive many things under the providence of God, but they receive them in such a way that they corrupt these gifts unto their own destruction. They receive their soul and their body, their mind and their will, their gifts and great talents, their physical strength and their mental capacity and genius, their wives and their children, their wealth and possessions and all the resources of this earth. All these are bestowed upon them by God in His providence. In fact, even as is the case in this particular instance, so the Scriptures generally picture the ungodly as having a greater proportion of all these things than the godly. This is also the general picture of history: the wicked prosper, and God’s people are the poor and despised.
But grace and providence are not the same. The operation of God’s providence is motivated either by His favor or His wrath, according to His purpose of election and reprobation. To be sure, unless the ungodly receive all these things, they could never sin, and they could never increase their guilt and fill up the measure of iniquity and become ripe for destruction. But these very gifts constitute, as it were, the capital wherewith they sin and develop in ungodliness. We must understand, therefore, that these things are a means both for God, who sovereignly executes His purpose, and for the wicked, who act as responsible moral agents. The wicked employ them knowingly and willfully in the service of sin and corruption. Thus, they are responsible and harden their hearts unto their own destruction. God uses these same means according to His sovereign counsel and in His wrath over the ungodly, thus fitting them as vessels of wrath unto destruction. Accordingly, the greater the gifts and talents, the more means the wicked have wherewith to sin and to develop in sin, and the more swiftly they run to destruction. The riches of Jabal, the arts of Jubal, and the inventive genius and industry of Tubal-Cain, as well as the great strength of Lamech and the physical beauty and charm and glamour of an Adah, a Zillah, and a Naamah—all these are means to make sinners great as sinners, and thus means for their destruction.
In the third place, we face the question as to the reason why the generations of Seth-Noah, in contrast, are so conspicuous for their lack of those same mighty achievements for which the generations of Cain are famous. There is a sharp contrast here; and this contrast surely has a reason.
In answer to this question, we point to three related elements:
1.The first and deepest reason lies in God’s election. It is the Father’s good pleasure to reveal the things of His kingdom to those who are, as far as things natural are concerned, babes, even as it is His good pleasure to hide them from the wise and prudent. It pleased God to glorify His own grace by choosing and calling the weak and the foolish and the things that are nought in this world. It pleased Him to reveal the wonder of His grace in such a way that no flesh should ever glory in His presence, that, according as it is written, “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” Herein lies the deepest reason why as a general rule God keeps His people small and of no account as far as the things of this present time are concerned, and as far as status according to the flesh is concerned.
The Lord Jesus saw this realized in His own public ministry, and He gave thanks to the Father for it inMatthew 11:25, 26: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The apostle Paul writes of this in I Corinthians 1:25-31: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
2.There is a very sound spiritual reason for this situation. That reason is that God’s people seek the things which are above. Those things constitute the center of attraction for the saints, while for the people of this world the things that are below are the focal point of attraction. Once more, let it be emphasized that sin is not in things as such, or in the possession of things. Riches are not wrong; art is not wrong; and invention and industrial development are not wrong. But the temporal and material things are not properly an end in themselves. This the people of God have learned to understand. They confess that they are strangers and pilgrims in the earth, that the present things can never constitute their goal, that they have here no continuing city, but that they seek one to come, and that therefore they strive not to strike their roots deeply into this present world. They consider the things of this present time to be but means, and they find them useful only as such, considering them legitimate only insofar as they can be used as such. Quite normally, therefore, their attention is less drawn to the things of this present world, and as a result they do not develop greatly, as a general rule, in regard to those things. Different it is for the generations of Cain-Lamech. Their portion is here below. Quite normally, therefore, they concentrate all their attention upon and expend all their energies in the development of and the seeking of those this-worldly things.
3.In close connection with the preceding, we must remember that God’s people must seek the things which are above. They must not seek the things which are below. This is not only a “must” from the point of view of God’s purpose with them, but it is also their sacred calling and obligation. Generally, they are less attached and less attracted to the things that are below when the Lord keeps them small and of little power and influence in the world, and with slight possessions and often many sorrows and tribulations. Again, it is not because sin is in things. But in view of the fact that God’s people have but a small beginning of the new obedience, and in view of the fact that the things of this present time so easily become a source of temptation, normally abundance of possessions and affluence and worldly influence and power are not conducive to spiritual health and vigor of sanctification. In His wisdom and care for His people, therefore, God keeps them small in the world, and takes care that their portion here below is of such a measure that incentive to seek the things which are above does not suffer.
4.Then we should see the broader implications of this situation for the history of this period. As was suggested already in the preceding chapter, the stage was set by means of this sharp spiritual and natural contrast for the antithetical development and progress of history in this period along the lines of sin and grace. This is true, first of all, with respect to the amalgamation of which Genesis 6 speaks. It requires a certain set of circumstances for such amalgamation to take place. One of those requirements is, of course, the sharp spiritual contrast between the generations of the godly and those of the ungodly. Another requirement without which such amalgamation cannot take place is the presence of a carnal element in the generations of the people of God. But a certain historical situation is required also. The world must have the means and the power wherewith to allure and to tempt, to make itself attractive to the carnal seed among the generations of the sons of God.
There must be Jabal’s riches, Jubal’s music, the conveniences provided by Tubal-Cain’s genius, and the charms of a Naamah, in order to attract and to deceive the children of God’s people.
Secondly, we must not forget that there were undoubtedly fierce persecutions at this time. About this we shall speak again in a later connection. But we may bear in mind now that even as the world must have the power and means to make it carnally attractive for one to cast his lot with that world, so it must also have the means and the power to make it carnally unattractive to be spiritually separate from and to oppose and condemn that world. Such a situation developed when the generations of Cain began to flourish in the world “like a green bay tree.”
Thus the stage was set for the conflict to develop and move forward to the point that the people of God were decimated until there were few, that is, eight souls to be saved in the ark, while an entire world of ungodly perished in the very waters by which God’s people were saved.