17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. 23 Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” 25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Manwhen they were created. 3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. 6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died. 9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died. 12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died. 15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died. 18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died. 21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. 25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. 28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relieffrom our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. 32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
How is it possible that two sons born into the same family can end up so very different from one another? That is actually a question that researchers have looked into. In a very interesting NPR articled entitled “Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities,” three major theories were put forward:
Theory One: Divergence
“…[W]hen organisms compete,” says [Frank] Sulloway, “there tends to be a phenomenon…called the principle of divergence. The role of divergence is basically to minimize competition so it’s not direct. And that leads to specialization in different niches.”
So if one child in a family seems to excel at academics, to avoid direct competition, the other child—consciously or unconsciously—will specialize in a different area, like socializing…
Theory Two: Environment
The second theory has a slightly confusing name; it’s called the non-shared environment theory, and it essentially argues that though from the outside it appears that we are growing up in the same family as our siblings, in very important ways we really aren’t. We are not experiencing the same thing.
“Children grow up in different families because most siblings differ in age, and so the timing with which you go through your family’s [major events] is different,” says Susan McHale, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “You know, a parent loses a job, parents get divorced. If you are three or five years behind your sibling, the experience of a 5-year-old whose parents get divorced is very different from the experience of a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old.”
Also, McHale says, children in the same family are rarely treated the same by their parents, even if parents want to treat them the same.
“Children have different needs,” McHale says. “They have different interests. They have different personalities that are eliciting different treatment from parents.”
Theory Three: Exaggeration
The final theory is the comparison theory, which holds that families are essentially comparison machines that greatly exaggerate even minor differences between siblings.
Imagine, says McHale, two friendly children born in the same family. “One of those children is incredibly extroverted, and the other is just very sociable,” says McHale. In the context of any other family, says McHale, the second child would be considered an extrovert. “But in this family,” says McHale, “she’s the introvert.”
And once the introvert label is assigned—even if in an absolute sense it’s not really true—it influences the choices that the child makes.
“And so we pick different groups of friends, we spend our time in different ways that only reinforces what may have been a very small difference to begin with,” McHale says. “And, you know, once you get these forces feeding on one another, differences escalate over time.”
Again, all of this is very intriguing, and I have no doubt that many of us in the room today have our own theories about how the divergent paths of children coming from the same home come to be, but I would like to consider that second principle a little closer, the principle of divergence. There may indeed be something to this idea that human beings take divergent paths to “avoid direct competition,” but there is another option. I am speaking of the option of removing your competition all together.This is the path that Cain took. He simply killed Abel when he sensed, in his mind, competition. Even so, in the latter half of Genesis 4 we find something very interesting: God gives Eve another son, Seth, who, she said, would took the place of slain Abel, and the divergent paths continued anyway.
The descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth represent divergent paths, two paths, two approaches to life. These sons, born to the same parents, represent two ways of living life and two ways of viewing God and God’s role in our lives. These divergent paths coming out of the first family have been recognized throughout Christian history. For instance, Augustine of Hippo, in the 4th/5thcentury, observed:
We have two lines of succession, one descending from Cain and the other from the son who was born to Adam in order to be the heir of Abel who was killed and to whom Adam gave the name of Seth…Thus it is that the two series of generations that are kept so distinct, the one from Seth and the other from Cain, symbolize the two cities with which I am dealing in this work, the heavenly city in exile on earth and the earthly city, whose only search and satisfaction are for and in the joys of earth.
Later, Konrad Pellikan, the 15th/16thcentury German Protestant reformer and Hebrew scholar, wrote:
Cain is the patriarch of all the impious, the first stone in the edifice of the city of the devil, the archetype of the sons of this world who do not believe in God, who blaspheme his judgments, persecute their neighbors, envy their brethren’s good fortune and despair of the mercy of God. But Abel, according to the testimony of Christ, is the first righteous one, the ancient church’s first martyr for the sake of righteousness, chosen by God through faith and charity, and his works were accepted on that account.
And here is one more example. The 16thcentury Anabaptist Dirk Phillips put it in these terms:
…from that time on two kinds of people, two kinds of children, two kinds of congregations have existed on earth. They are, namely, God’s people and the devil’s children. God’s congregation and…assembly of Satan…
Two sons. Two paths. Two ways of doing life.
Here is my thesis: everybody in this room today is on one of these two paths right now, at this very moment.The important thing is to understand this and to see which path you are on.