Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission.
A Discovery Book. Published by Word Books, in cooperation with Discovery Foundation, Palo Alto, California.
Library of Congress catalog card number: 77-83286
1. THE DEVIL'S OPPORTUNITY
2. THE MARK OF CAIN
3. TOO MUCH, TOO SOON
4. ADAM'S BOOK
5. SIGNS OF COLLAPSE
6. THE WAY OF ESCAPE
7. THE END OF THE OLD
8. THE NEW BEGINNING
9. RULES OF THE GAME
10. THE THREE FAMILIES OF MAN
11. GOD'S FUNNEL
12. CONTROLLING GOD
In a companion series of studies from Genesis calledUnderstanding Man, I focused on the true nature of man
as revealed in that section of the Scriptures (Genesis 2:4-3:24). Of course that was not an exhaustive study of
man; the whole Bible is in part an elaboration of this fascinating subject. Furthermore, as we look at the
famous characters in the chapters comprising the current study--Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Nimrod, and a
doomed cast of thousands--we certainly have some additional pointed insights into the nature of man.
But in these chapters (Genesis 4-11:26) relating early human history we also see the underlying threads of all
human society, for all time. Moses has provided us with a very sturdy framework for understanding
ourselves--in society--which is how most of us live, give or take a few hermits.
The general and persistent thrust of mankind is to band together, even though the result is nearly always
disastrous. In one place we can see bumper stickers proclaiming that "We Are One," while in another place
there are signs announcing the rules of apartheid. There are tides, upheavals, and movements in human
society which no sociologist can come to grips with apart from understanding the reasons for them as given
to us in the Bible.
These reasons are not spelled out as such. They are presented as parables and left for us to understand, if we
will. Without doubt, there was a real Cain, there was a genuine 40-day deluge, there was a solid gopher-
wood ark, and there was an actual tower of babbling confusion. There is no need to question the historicity of
these events, nor is it my intent to prove them historical. I believe they are, but further, that they are recorded
so as to teach us graphically the principles upon which man has built his society, and the inherent flaws in
those principles. The point is not simply to accuse man; God's point, always, is to show a better way.
Part of the process of discovering God's way is first to come to an understanding of the dismal effects of
man's way. Always the bad news precedes the good news. The cross precedes the resurrection. But keep in
mind that the expulsion from Eden was also the beginning of redemption, the first step into the kingdom of
We are all more than individuals; we are political beings. We struggle to understand how to live in
community--especially, in recent years, in the Christian community. But we will fail, with the best of
intentions, unless we understand what Moses has set before us in the chronicle of the beginnings of man in
his first attempts to live in society.
HISTORY, AS WE KNOW IT, is largely the story of the wars, battles, and bloodshed of mankind. It is the
chronicle of man's progress from the primitive ax to machine guns, napalm, and nuclear explosions. But why
is this? Why has humanity throughout the entire space of its history wrestled unendingly with this terrible
problem of human hatred and bloodshed? The shallow answers which have been given, such as economics,
adventure, greed, power politics, have all long since been shown to be insufficient and superficial, though
you still hear them echoed from time to time. The key to our twentieth-century dilemma actually lies in a
story that took place at the dawn of history, the story of two brothers. The account begins in chapter 4 of
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with
the help of the Lord." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and
Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of
the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had
regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very
angry, and his countenance fell. The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your
countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is
crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let
us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and
killed him (Genesis 4:1-8).
Here we have what is obviously a highly condensed account. This story undoubtedly covers a span of many
years--perhaps more than thirty or forty years, or even as many as a hundred. We are not told how old the
two were when Cain slew Abel, but undoubtedly they had grown into manhood and most likely were in their
early thirties. The story begins with the birth of Cain and the joy of his mother, Eve, and it centers on three
highly important matters: the naming of the boys; the offerings which each presented; and the reaction of
Cain to God's rejection of his offering.
Let us begin with this name, Cain. It is a very significant name because, as the account tells us, it means
"gotten" and comes from the Hebrew word,g an ah, which means, "to get." You will recognize it is as the
derivation for our English word, "begotten." We speak of begetting our children, and this comes from the
name, Cain. The text says Eve named him Cain because, as she said, "I have gotten a man with the help of the
That latter phrase is a bit weak in translation. It is not merely "with the help of the Lord" (which is true of
every birth), but what Eve probably said was, "I have gotten a man, even the Lord." By that she was referring
to the great promise God had given her, saying she would bring forth a seed who would bruise the serpent's
head (Genesis 3:15). She understood that the "seed" would be a divine Being, so when her first child was
born--a male--she felt perfectly justified in naming him, "Gotten." "I have gotten a man, even the Lord."
It is characteristic of predictions in the Bible that they do not often include a time element. Eve apparently had no idea how long it would be before this promise would be fulfilled. Remember that Jesus said to his disciples, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts
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