Hints on Genesis 3-4

In Prov. 8 it is the wisdom of the counsels of God. “Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was; when there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains abounding with water, before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth, while as yet he had not made the earth nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world; when he prepared the heavens I was there, when he set a compass upon the face of the depth, when he established the clouds above, when he strengthened the foundations of the deep, when he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not pass his commandment, when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him as one brought up with him,” as his own beloved nurseling, “and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him, rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” Wisdom personifies Christ there. In Luke the heavenly host say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good pleasure in man:” the proof of this was that His Son became a man. We could not have a part in counsels until redemption was wrought; but when it was, we are brought in. Now in Proverbs we see Him always rejoicing in the habitable parts of His earth before the earth was made; and so when He comes, He does not take up angels but sons of men.
But in Genesis it is not what wisdom was before the foundation of the world, but the foundation of the world, and man put in his responsibility. In Prov. 8 His delight was not in creation itself and (therefore we have “habitable"); it was in the men themselves. But we have no counsels brought out until Christ died. In the first seven chapters are good and evil, corruption and violence; and then in chapter 8 God's wisdom in His counsels. And in the former chapters you have, too, the divine mind expressed in the relationships that God has formed; it is, “my son, hear my voice,” and so on. It is remarkable it is nearly always Jehovah in Proverbs, while you do not find Jehovah in Ecclesiastes at all.
When fallen, Adam got Christ for the tree of life. So Augustine exclaims, “Oh, happy fault!” that Adam sinned. God never would have been known as He is if it had not been for sin. There would have been no need for grace, redemption, righteousness, that is, as to man. But now, all that God is has been displayed and this in the cross, righteousness of God against sin, the holiness of God, and the love of God. These would not have come out at all, if man had not sinned; and they are the things that the angels desire to look into.
“Prudence” in Eph. 1 is wisdom in putting it all together.
God does not shut the man out until He has covered his nakedness—sovereign grace at the very beginning. It is the intimation that God covers him in mercy.
I have no doubt that death had come in, because it is “skins,” and animals must have been killed; how, it is not said, but this is the case with many things, because it is not the object of revelation. They had made themselves aprons of fig leaves, and still were conscious that they were naked as ever, for they hid themselves in spite of it. But God clothed them, and then they were not naked at all. It was grace coming in, but only of course the sin thereby covered. And I think there was faith too, because it comes immediately after Adam calling his wife's name Eve because she was the mother of all living.
But we read, “lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life;” because God would not let him take of it and live forever: that would have given him life in sin. Man might have attempted to countervail the whole thing and to set up the old man thoroughly. Thus the turning out of the garden was more than judgment; it was mercy when we come to think of it. It could not be allowed that man should not die in spite of God. So it was judgment, but mercy at the same time in another way. There would have been no possibility of a flood to destroy or of anything else to put an end to man's wickedness.
Now came Cain and Abel. (Chap, 4) The question is early raised, whether a man can worship God without Christ. Cain was a wicked person; but, as appearance went, he was doing what was right in paying what he owed God. But really it was bringing the sign of the curse; it was going to God as if nothing had happened; it was the most perfect hardness of heart, because, if I come to God at all, why have I such toil and labor? why give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul, except I am away from God and something has happened? The whole thing tells its own story. Man has been driven out, and he cannot come to God on the same footing, as if he had not been put away. When, in the garden, there was any feeling of God, he goes and hides himself; but now, when outside, he goes hardened to God. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” But how did he know that this was right? He knew of these slain beasts for skins, and he may have had more for aught we know. “By which Abel obtained witness that be was righteous,” was by sacrifice as well as by faith. Both are in the verse, “God testifying of his gifts;” but sacrifice is the least thing referred to.
The man is pronounced righteous. In Hebrews the point is not God giving a thing to us, but faith carries Christ in hand figuratively, and God says “you are righteous.” What is the value and character of my righteousness? I say, Christ. Abel is pronounced righteous: but the measure and character of his righteousness is Christ.
Cain came as the expression of horrible hardness of heart; to him and to his offering God had not respect. So Cain was wroth, and Jehovah says, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?”
Should it be “sin” or “sin-offering” lieth at the door? I am disposed to think it a sin-offering: only that the sin-offering is never mentioned historically until we come to Leviticus under Moses. It is in this kind of way, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and unto thee shall the desire of thy younger brother be, and thou shalt rule over him; but if you fail to do well, there is a remedy, and therefore you ought not to be wroth.” “Lieth at the door” means crouching. It is not the expression, “It is at your door,” as we say; and therefore I was inclined to take it, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” ("and if thou doest not well,” there is a remedy)—in parenthesis— “and unto thee shall be his desire and thou shalt rule over him.” I have no quarrel with the other, because sin did lie at his door.
“And Jehovah said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? and he said, I know not: am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done?” It is not only now the testimony of sin against us, to say what have we done as sinners. But we bear from God, “Where is Christ?” The Holy Ghost is come and convinces the world of sin, but more than this. He comes and says to the whole world, on God's part, “Where is my Son?” Then there is haughtiness too in Cain's reply, “Ami my brother's keeper?” as though why should God ask? Besides this and more, another important principle comes out—the practically self-righteous man rejecting Christ is then turned out; he leaves the presence of the Lord, and dwells in the land of Nod, that is, “vagabond,” where his son is called Enoch, and he builds a city calling it Enoch, too, after his son. Thus he stretches himself in the world, and gives a family name to the town, and the history shows us artisans and arts, and sciences all in the train. He goes out from God and settles himself in the place of judgment, to do his best with it, in open defiance of God. God neglects nothing, and Cain cannot get out of the reach of His hand, of course; but in his own will he was entirely outside. Cain sets to work to make the earth as comfortable as he can without God; Adam did not want all that in paradise.
As to lake dwellings, and caves with stones, hatchets, and many similar things, we have to remember that in New Guinea people are doing the same thing now: how would London like to do so? In Switzerland and Italy they have been finding, covered with bog, and in the lakes, a hundred villages and all kinds of remains—what the people were eating, and what clothes they wore, as round the Lake of Geneva and elsewhere. And they have learned the natural history of those times. There was a stone in a hole that they could not make out, and at last found it was what they wove with. Occasionally they have discovered a thing that came from Phenicia which was civilized at the very time these villages appear to have flourished. In North America, lying under some magnificent trees seven hundred years old, was a piece of native copper or a square cradle put ready to be carried away, with other distinct marks of an earlier civilization than the present.
Civilization does die away in places; but I know of no case of light from God going away and bringing in barbarism.
It was God's providential government when Satan made the Chaldeans go and take Job's goods. If we refer to the sentence on Cain, there was no direct government at all in that, it did not kill him. Man is now left to himself until we come to the second world. God protects him, putting a mark on him lest any finding him should kill him. This I believe to be a figure of the Jews unto this day.
Cain is “I have gotten,” Abel is “vanity,” because he went to nothing. Eve fancied she had gotten this man from the Lord—that this was the promise, while it was only from nature, Cain means “gotten,” Seth means “appointed,” and Abel means “the dying man.” Eve thinks she has the man that can inherit the blessing. It was not so, as we well know. If you take flesh, the Jews were the men from the Lord, and it only resulted in their killing the Lord; first that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual.
Chapter 4:23 may be taken historically and it is true; but typically it refers to the Jews at the end. There is self-will in it every way. Typically it is the remnant of Israel in the last day; but we must not dogmatize about that. Cain is a figure of Israel having killed Christ, and made a vagabond on the earth. At the end the remnant of Israel will own, like Lamech, they have killed this man to their wounding. In the historical sense he kills somebody and says, “I have been touched and I will be avenged.” If one disputes, I do not. A man once took me to task about a parable and said, “What proof do you give me of its meaning so-and-so?” My answer was, It is like honey which is given you, and you ask me to prove that it is sweet! If you cannot taste, I cannot prove it.
Seth is the man appointed instead of both Abel and Cain. God hath appointed, in contrast with J have gotten, as Eve said of Cain. So now, Seth from God.
Calling “on the name of the Lord” (ver. 25) was dependence; but Cain's family would not own the Lord at all, the appointed man and his family would. In short it is the same dreadful truth as to Cain there as in 2 Thess. 2 Only it will be final by and by. And what is noticeable is that Cain was settling himself in that place without God; it was not so much resistance as independence.
After Seth, the appointed man, comes in, they began to own Jehovah specifically. This is the meaning of “then began men to call on the name of Jehovah.”
As to the discrepancy between the Hebrew and the Septuagint as to the years in chapter 5 I say nothing, save that there is a curious fact in this, that in each of these lives the Septuagint adds a hundred years. Thus “Adam lived 230 years and begat,” instead of 130. This so adds fourteen hundred years to the time of the world, the Samaritan Pentateuch more still. It is not a casual mistake, but done on purpose, for it is to each, and it is only carried down to the point where, if they had gone one more, they would have pushed it over the flood. But there it stops. In Matthew the genealogy is a copy of Jewish records. I do not doubt myself, though it has been disputed since the second century, that Luke is Mary's genealogy. Luke takes it back up to man, but Matthew from David and Abraham, because his reference is to promises. In the Talmud they have got Mary the daughter of Eli.
Then we get afterward the length of years pretty much the same, except Enoch, where stands the important fact that heaven is brought in for anybody that has faith to look at it. God had men for heaven in the midst of all the confusion; as with Elijah, He had seven thousand left that had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Enoch is figure of those caught up, Noah of the remnant of the Jews that go through the tribulation. In Noah the world is comforted, the figure of the millennium.
As to any consecutive meaning in these names, certain people have made something out of them, but I think nothing of this and the like spinning of webs out of the imagination. “We must look for scriptural warrant, at least for the principle; and this is lacking here.