Only two chapters separate the events of creation from the days of the flood and, yet, the period covers 1656 years. Forty-two of the verses contained in chapters 4 and 5 consist of the genealogy of Adam. New Testament teaching says, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom 15:4). Therefore, we must conclude that these two chapters can tell us much about the world leading up to the flood.

A voice of hope

The tragedy that overcame the world when Adam sinned was softened in the mind of Eve with the birth of her first child. When God issued His words of condemnation upon the serpent, He also offered hope. Eve would have a son, who would crush the head of the serpent power (Gen 3:15). That hope was anticipated even further with the birth of Cain and there appears to be a sigh of relief in her exclamation, “I have gotten a man from Yahweh” (Gen 4:1). Cain means “acquired”, a hint that Eve was eager to acquire the promise. The Revised Version margin renders the text, “with the help of Yahweh”, but Rotherham and Bullinger both offer the following translation: “I have gotten a man even Yahweh”.

This is significant in light of the fact that Yahweh means, “He who shall be”. It seems reasonable that Eve anticipated in her son, Cain, the fulfilment, or at least the beginnings of the fulfilment, of the promised seed. In addition, the translation indicates that she fully appreciated the subject of God manifestation – the seed would be God manifest in the flesh – Emmanuel.

This confidence appears to dwindle with the birth of Abel and suggests that Cain was showing signs of moving in a direction contrary to God’s way. The name Abel comes from a Hebrew word meaning “emptiness” or “vanity”and Strong’s concordance suggests it signifies something transitory and unsatisfactory. No doubt any fears Eve might have had regarding Cain were confirmed when he murdered his brother; once again darkness covered the face of the earth.

However, a light shone in the darkness with the birth of Seth (Gen 4:25). His name means “appointed” or “substituted”. Seth appears to be a spiritually minded son; this is suggested by the name he gave his son and the events that transpired as a result of it: “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). Enos means “mortal and frail”; the Hebrew corresponds to the word translated “man”, depicting the descendants of Adam in a weak and corruptible state. An allusion to this is provided by Paul in the epistle to the Romans where he says, “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who had subjected the same in hope” (Rom 8:20). The Emphatic Diaglott renders this as “the creation was made subject to frailty”, an interesting link with the meaning of the name Enos.

In these smallest of details, we are given an insight into the thinking of Adam’s children. Seth was very much aware of the plight of the human race; he recognized how frail we are and evidently taught his family the importance of turning to God as the only solution. This is borne out by the words, “then men began to call upon the name of Yahweh” (v26). Some have suggested that this phrase refers to false worship (Bullinger’s Companion Bible), and the International Standard Version (ISV) translates it as “At that time, profaning the name of the Lord began”. However, the Hebrew is identical to the words spoken by Abraham (Gen 12:8; 13:4; 21:33) and later, Isaac (Gen 26:25). Calling upon the name of Yahweh demonstrated where their priorities lay; men looked to the future, towards He who shall be, and took comfort in the fact that God would provide what He had promised (Gen 3:15; 22:14). Rotherham adds another detail to this phrase in his translation, “then was a beginning made, to call on the name…” and the AV margin says, “…to call themselves by the name of Yahweh”. Both translations add a further dimension to the narrative: first, a new beginning was established – the events of Abel’s murder were put behind them and men, once again, turned to the Creator for help; secondly, a divine family was established under God’s name1 – by calling upon God, they demonstrated faith in His purpose and rejected the secular approach of Cain.

The term “sons of God” is a biblical reference to those who are, “children of God by faith” (Gal 3:26). From this point onwards two distinct mind-sets begin to develop. For the next 1400 years both lines would live side by side, with one of the lines exercising a strong influence over the other.

The generations of Adam

Various figures have been cited for the population of the earth at the time of the flood. For example, if eight children were born to each family over eight generations an estimated 1.5 million people would be alive when Noah was born; increase the number of children to eighteen per family and the population would increase to 1.5 billion2.

Whichever figure we choose to work with, the fact is that over this time period, sin had ample opportunity to influence people in the ways of the flesh, including the sons of God. Sin’s influence began to take root in the second generation of Adam, for we read that Cain was “of that wicked one” (1 John 3:12). The lessons we can draw from this period are crucial for our community. They can happen so easily to ourselves – a community that has existed for six to seven generations.

The line of Cain

In reviewing the names of those that lived up to the time of the flood, nine names are identified in the line of Seth, and his line was continued through the flood by Noah’s family. The line of Cain ceased with Lamech’s family; however, there are far more details given about Cain’s descendant, Lamech. This would suggest that great care should be taken in considering this section of scripture.

The descendants of Cain offer an interesting selection of personalities.

  1. Enoch: Cain built a city and called it Enoch, after his son. It means “teacher”, “dedicated”, “initiated”. It was built on the “east of Eden”, or as the Revised Version translates it, “in front of Eden”. There appears to be an element of defiance with its location. The city was in full view of the place where the Cherubim were located, boldly challenging the established worship of God. We may conclude that the city was devoted to promoting an alternate religion to that of Yahweh.
  2. Irad: the name signifies fugitive or one who hides. It suggests someone who is running away and making every attempt to conceal himself. In a sense, the name is reminiscent of the word Nod, which signifies wandering and describes a person who is never content and always searching for something else.
  3. Mahujael: carries the meaning of smitten of God or as Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible notes, ‘God is combating’. This would suggest that this particular descendent was in conflict with God and contending against divine principles expressed in the lives of the sons of God. It implies a generation that placed more emphasis upon the flesh than it did on divine standards. Perhaps it is people like Mahujael that God is referring to when He said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man…” (Gen 6:3).
  4. Methusael: his name means “who is of God”. Here again we have an echo of Cain who claimed to be a worshipper of God. We suggest that Methusael claimed to have a zeal for God but one which was not according to knowledge.

As we scan through these names, we can see a pattern developing, which highlights the direction taken by the line of Cain. The aim of the way of Cain was to educate people in the ways of the flesh. Initially the family of Cain ran away from godly matters; they tried to hide from the face of God, but when this failed, they began to contend with God until, eventually, the line of Cain came to believe that it was working on God’s behalf; they had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.

The line of Seth

The descendants of Seth, in some respects, provide a contrast with those of Cain, and, yet, we detect a conflict developing, a conflict of loyalty:

  1. Enos: Seth’s son has already been identified as that class of individuals who recognize their dependence upon God because of their mortality.
  2. Cainan: a variety of meanings have been given to this name: “possessor”, “purchaser”, “weapon maker”. If we examine the chronology details in Genesis 5, it will be noted that although Cainan was born 325 years after creation, he didn’t die until 1235 years from creation. This indicates that there may have been some overlap with individuals such as Lamech and his son Tubal-Cain, who turned himself towards the steel industry.
  3. Mahaleel: his name demonstrates that, despite the strong influences towards the flesh, some were able to resist them. His name means “praise of God”, from halal and El. Being in the line of the sons of God, he had remained faithful in offering praise to God.
  4. Jared: it means “descent”, “to go down”. Once again there is an indication in this man’s name that a struggle was going on and that the pressure of life was a strong influence.

What a portrait of ecclesial life – each generation actuating; the truth ebbing and owing; being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14). Such has been the case throughout history with the ecclesia of God. Paul reminds us to beware of the “deceitfulness of sin,” of its hardening influence and the need to be “stedfast unto the end” (Heb 3:13-14).


  1. When Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph he said, “let my name be upon them” (Gen 48:16); they entered into Jacob’s family. In the same manner, we are baptised “into the name of the Father…” (Matt 28:19 RV), we become members of God’s family.
  2. In the 1960s it was not uncommon in Newfoundland, Canada for the number of children in a family to number 15, some were as high as 20. These numbers related to people with a life span of 70 years. Before the flood, the average life span was 850 years. It should be noted that the same time frame of 1600 years spanned from the birth of Jesus to the compiling of the King James Bible, at which time, there were approximately three quarters of a billion people on the earth.