Genesis 4 works through the lineage of Cain after reporting his exile. Here’s a couple of thoughts about this lineage:
1. The most tragic statement is Genesis 4:16 where we find “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.” How sad is that expression? Here we are, one generation from Eden and losing fellowship with God even further. First, the loss of the Garden of Eden, and now Cain has to move on, farther away.
Notice this: the world in which Cain lives knows no prejudice, no religious quarrels, none of the things that many people would have us believe cause our problems. You do not have to look far for those who would have us imagine peace and harmony by simply growing past our prejudices and religious views. Cain, on his own, proves that point wrong. He lived near the evidence of God, he was raised to know God, he had all necessary advantages.
And still he sins. Sin is not a problem stemming from lack of education or resources, from prejudices or presuppositions. It’s the condition of mankind’s heart. We are bent toward sin. Otherwise we could solve our own problems, which we just cannot do. Democracy, republic, commune, communism, monarchy, oligarchy, anarchy---no human government has helped mankind become better. We have become smarter, perhaps, and able to do more---we can now fight wars that kill millions rather than just thousands. We can cure diseases that have killed millions and raise enough food to feed the world, but we cannot distribute those medicines and foodstuffs without violence. Why?
Sin. Plain, simple sin. The Amish struggle with it despite eschewing technology; Silicon Valley fills with it though on the cutting edge. Baptists have it though preaching against it, Presbyterians have got it, and so do Muslims, Jews, Mormons, and Catholics, though they all preach against Baptists!
Cain saw Abel as the source of his sin, but sin was within him. He fled, becoming a vagrant and a wanderer but he could never escape the sin. His lineage, living in the city he started, followed in his footsteps: Jabal becomes a nomad and wanders as well. Lamech introduces polygamy and states his willingness to avenge himself. It’s more important to note in Genesis 4:23 that Lamech is declaring that he will do for himself what God said that God would do for Cain.
He’s declaring his independence. He’s declaring his own sufficiency. He needs two wives to multiply faster and grow his line.
2. A side note, but with a number to highlight it: not everything done in the lineage of Cain is sinful. For example:
Jabal’s nomadic lifestyle is not inherently sinful. If he is moving to avoid responsibility, that’s sinful, but the text does not give that meaning.
Jubal’s music is not apparently sinful: he simply is the first musician. Throughout Scripture we see music used for both good and bad purposes.
Likewise, Tubal-Cain’s forging of bronze and iron: that can be good and bad. It is the use of instruments that is evil or good. note: there are some things that are so blatantly only useful for evil that labeling them “evil” instruments is a valid simplification.
3. Finally, the text returns to Adam and Eve. We see the birth of Seth. Genesis 5:3 tells us that this son is in the “image and likeness” of his father, echoing the creation of Adam in the “image of God.” Seth stays with Adam and Eve and raises the line discussed in chapter 5.
The most relevant point from Genesis 4:25-26 is where the text records that “Then men (or they) began to call upon the name of the Lord.” The worship of God is now seen as an identifying mark. Cain’s line does not seem to participate at all, yet there is a haunting foreshadowing here:
Neither will all of Seth’s line.