“And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son, and she called his name Seth: for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed for Abel, because Cain slew him. And to the same Seth also there was born a son, and he called his name Enos. Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4: 25-26).
Very little is known of those dark days of human history prior to the Great Deluge. What few facts we’ve gathered have been from divers tales and legends that have drifted down to us through forgotten centuries. And yet the only factual account remains the testimony of Moses, the inspired prophet, from which, if one study diligently, he may piece together– none too perfectly, perhaps– the story of those earliest years when men dwelt upon the earth. By the time God gave Adam and Eve another child in the stead of Abel, civilization had reached a high degree of refinement. We have intimations of this in Gen. 4: 21-22, where it is related that Jubal and Tubal-Cain, the children of the tyrant Lamech, contributed to the arts of music and metallurgy. There was certainly a degree of culture prevalent among the men of that time. And yet, morally, mankind had reached a low point. It was in the House of Cain that the institution of marriage was first corrupted (Gen. 4: 19). And, if one looks closely enough, he’ll find that Cain’s race formed the germ of that nation of Canaanites, which would vex and persecute God’s people throughout all ages of human history.
We should not think the Cainites rude or unlettered individuals. When Cain begot his son Enoch, he founded a city (Gen. 4: 17). It is from here that we trace the first beginnings of that mighty nation against which God’s people would wage continual battle. What was their function? and what the primary distinction between them and the House of Seth? Going back to the original contention between Cain and Abel, one perceives that Adam must have instructed his children in the principles of worship. For both children offered sacrifices to God. And yet there was a pronounced moral difference in their respective sacrifices. It is said that Cain “brought an oblation unto the Lord of the fruit of the ground” (Gen. 4: 3), while Abel “brought of the firstfruits of his sheep, and of the fat of them” (Gen. 4: 4). We leave it to the reader to decide why God had respect unto Abel’s sacrifice, and not Cain’s. I suppose God would have accepted Cain’s sacrifice had his heart been right with God. And yet the fruits of the sin-accursed earth were clearly insufficient as a means of purging the conscience; whilst Abel’s firstfruits of the flock looked forward to the great sacrifice of Calvary. It was the blood that purified Abel’s conscience, making him acceptable to God. And therefore God accepted his sacrifice.
But these sacrifices only show that the institution of Divine worship existed from the earliest days of the human race. And it is said that, after the murder of Abel, God appointed Adam another son in place of the slain. It is clear that God willed that His worship should be continued among men. And thus the formation of a church was necessary. By the time Cain’s posterity apostatized, it was high time that another heir should have been appointed. And in the genealogies of Gen. 5, one may trace the succession of Christ’s church down to Noah. That this was the true church cannot be questioned seriously; for both Enoch and Lamech (son of Methuselah) were prophets. Enoch spoke of the General Judgment (Jude 14-15), while Lamech perceived his son Noah as a foreshadowment of the coming Messiah (Gen. 5: 28). Seth’s posterity, then, were the sons of God. And this House of Seth must have formed the ancient people of Israel, over against whom stand the Cainites, the ancient race of Canaan. Discerning these truths may help us break into the very nature of those fundamental relations which have existed, time out of mind, between the righteous and the wicked.
Of course, this brings us to the subject of the Great Deluge. Wherefore did God purpose to destroy man from off the face of the earth? There can be no other answer than that the church had corrupted his way upon the earth. It is said that the sons of God (House of Seth) mixed with the daughters of men (House of Cain). And this brought ruin upon humanity, both moral and judicial. While God appointed time for repentance (Gen. 6: 3), it seems that his forbearance was completely disregarded. I realize, of course, that Josephus holds to the Jewish tradition that the “sons of God” were angels. This theory may have some corroboration in 2 Peter 2: 4 and Jude 6, as also in the traditions of antiquity. The casting down of the wicked angels and their subsequent imprisonment in Tartarus has parallels in an old Grecian fable. Thomas Bullfinch, a leading authority on such matters, writes: “Jupiter, with his brothers and sisters, now rebelled against their father Saturn and his brothers the Titans; vanquished them, and imprisoned some of them in Tartarus, inflicting other penalties on others.” While a few individuals may take these accounts seriously, I tend to agree with the Orthodox opinion that the Sons of God were the House of Seth, which degenerated insomuch that God purposed to destroy mankind from off the face of the earth.
The Orthodox view tends to be corroborated by the many precepts God gave unto the children of Israel concerning the Canaanites. These forbade the mixing of divers kinds. Regarding matrimonial alliance with the heathen, Moses says: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them, neither give thy daughter unto his son, nor take his daughter unto thy son. For they will cause thy son to turn away from me, and to serve other gods: then will the wrath of the Lord wax hot against you and destroy thee suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7: 3-4). This principle applied even to the sowing of divers seeds and the mixing of fabrics (Deut. 22: 9-11). And Paul gives the church a similar precept in 2 Cor. 6: 14: “Be not unequally yoked with the infidels: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?“
We conclude, therefore, that the early apostasy resulted from the degeneration of God’s people, caused doubtless by the intermixing of the wicked among the godly. Of these unions tyrants were conceived (Gen. 6: 4), and unrighteousness prevailed among men (Gen. 6: 11-12). In every epoch of general apostasy the same retrogradation of morals will be made manifest. One may even take our own age as an example, where lying, thievery, and adultery are not only winked at, but tacitly condoned by both the pulpit and the pew. As in Noah’s day, the signs tell us that judgment is not far off. And perhaps we can learn a lesson from the Great Flood. Not only does God give men space for repentance, but He send his preachers to reprove sin and exhort men unto righteousness. Noah was one such man. Yet his preaching had little effect on that wicked generation.
The House of Cain was certainly that “generation of vipers” on which Christ laid the iniquity of the world. This generation, or seed of evil-doers, far from being eradicated by the flood, re-established itself in Ham’s posterity, founding the kingdoms of Canaan (Gen. 10: 15-19) and Babylon (Gen. 10: 8-10). Agur the prophet paints their essential character in grim colors: “There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own conceit, and yet are not washed in their filthiness. There is a generation whose eyes are haughty, and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their chawes as knives to eat up the afflicted out of the earth, and the poor from among men” (Proverbs 30: 11-14). The remarkable correspondence between Agur’s description and Christ’s delineation of the Pharisees cannot be ignored. This generation of vipers is the same House of Cain known to God’s people today. Over against this wicked seed is the generation of the righteous, or the House of Seth (Psalm 14: 5; 22: 30; 24: 6; 112: 2, etc.). And the House of Seth must be trodden under the House of Cain until the Day of Judgment arrives. As they persecuted Christ, so shall they persecute us: and this refines our souls as fire purges silver. Let no man judge Cain until that day (Gen. 4: 15), for the wicked is reserved for God’s justice (Romans 12: 19).
And yet the children of God have a word of consolation, and a ray of hope. For Zechariah the prophet says: “In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the House of the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 14: 21). As the visible church today still contains its tares and wheat– its vessels of honor and vessels of dishonour (2 Tim. 2: 20)– we must look forward to the time when Christ purges His floors. The effectual separation of the righteus and the wicked will take place at the General Resurrection and Day of Judgment. Christ says: “Marvel not at this: for the hour shall come in the which all that are in the graves, shall hear His voice. And they shall come forth, that have done good, unto the resurrection of life: but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5: 28-29).
It seems strange that Enoch’s prophesy was to be applied to this General Judgment and parousia, and not the Great Deluge. However, his prophecy holds good; and it certainly awaits its fulfillment at the end of human history, this view being in essential accord with hundreds of years of sound Orthodox teaching. Regardless of our individual leanings, however, we should draw a sharp distinction between the two seeds, noting that they form the real point of departure in any serious investigation of the relations between Israel and Canaan. As it was then, so is it now: the elder persecuteth the younger. The House of Seth is the selfsame Israel which has always existed. And the House of Cain constitutes the devil’s brood, which shall continue to wage war against Christ’s church, until our Lord calls the account. And at that time, Paul’s words will ring true in their fullest sense: “Put out the servant and her son: for the son of the servant shall not be heir with the son of the free woman” (Gal. 4: 30). Then shall iniquity have its end.