ABERDEEN — We see in these famous genealogies in Genesis 4 and 5 a curious similarity of names in the two separate family lines descending from Adam. The one line names the descendants of Cain, the other names the descendants of Seth, whom Eve claimed as another offspring “appointed for me instead of Abel” (Genesis 4:25).
There are several mild similarities in the names of the separate lines, but one is striking: it is Lamech and what is said about the two men with this name.
In these genealogies no one is directly quoted except the two Lamechs. Each man makes a solemn pronouncement. Cain’s Lamech brags (4:23, 24) about killing a young man with seventy-seven-fold vengeance, far more than God’s vengeance (4:15); by contrast, Seth’s Lamech expresses hope in God, that in Noah the “Lord shall bring us relief from our work and the painful toil of our hands” (5:29).
Two lines, two peoples. This contrast runs through the whole Bible; a contrast between people who shake their fists, so to speak, in the face of God, and those who put their hope in God. The two sets of “offspring” recalls God’s pronouncement on the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers” (Genesis 3:15).
If the offspring of the woman are human beings, what are the offspring of the serpent? We might reply, “Well, if it is meant spiritually, does it mean the servants of the Evil One? The demons?” This certainly makes sense as far as it goes, and the Bible is certainly clear that there is a kingdom of spirits somehow allied with the Evil One.
But there is an even more unsettling reality here. The offspring of the serpent are also human beings. Jesus himself gives us guidance. Jesus said of those who “cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (John 8: 43,44). This does not mean that unbelievers are “possessed” by some demon; possession is another category. But it does mean that human beings are under the influence of the Evil One until they are freed by Jesus. Thank God this liberation is also a reality, as Paul bears witness when he says, “God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:14).