Bangor Church of Christ

Great Moments in Bible History

Number 5

The Big Sin

It was such a permanent deed. The body lay on the ground slowly giving up its warmth to the cold earth. Only a few minutes earlier that body had been Cain’s brother Abel. But it was not Abel any more. It was just a corpse. Later, when God asked Cain where his brother was, he replied, “I do not know” (Genesis 4:9). He was telling the truth. He knew where Abel’s body lay, but that was not Abel. Where Abel was he knew not. Cain had taken his brother’s life. He had taken what he could never give back. The deed was permanent.

Cain killed Abel

But that was exactly the way Cain wanted it: permanent. He was rid of his godly brother forever. No longer would he have to watch while the Lord accepted his brother’s sacrifices and ignored his own. How that had galled him! But no more. He had solved his problem his own way. And he was not sorry one bit.

Murder. We shrink in horror from such a sin. What price can one place on a person’s life? How utterly wasteful is the taking of even one innocent life. For a person to be a murderer he would have to consider his brother’s life to be worthless, of no value whatsoever. And yet, each one of us is made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). We are all very valuable indeed. How could anyone consider one of his fellowmen to be worthless? What a perverted sense of values he must have. Surely we are justified in calling murder The Big Sin.

But before we go out and engrave in stone the phrase, “Murder Is The Big Sin,” perhaps we ought to consider the sin from Cain’s point of view. Why was it such a big deal for Cain to kill his brother? “Why,” we reply, “because his brother was a fellow human being. His life was valuable.” Why was it valuable? “Because he was made in the image of God.” Yes, that is true. Indeed, were it not for the fact that every person is made in God’s image, murder would be no worse than killing a sheep or a cow. But here we come to a problem in our argument with Cain. Cain had no respect for God. We saw in our previous issue that Cain cared only about himself. He wanted things from God, but he did not want God. God had tried to reason with Cain to get him to repent. Cain had paid no attention. So if Cain had no respect for God, why should he value someone who was created in God’s image? Looking at it from Cain’s point of view, murdering Abel was a very reasonable act.

Cain’s Big Sin had, in fact, already been committed some time before he killed his brother. When he built his life around himself instead of around God, he had laid the foundation for the murder of his brother that followed. God warned Cain of that very thing. “If you do not do well,” He said, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). At the time God warned Cain he really looked like he had his life together. But sin was ready to attack and consume him like a lion at his door. And that is just what happened. With his self-centered life he had no way to defend against that attack.

Too Many Begats

“So-and-so begat So-and-so. And he then begat So-and-so who begat. . .” As you read the Bible are you put off by all the genealogies? It seems like every time you turn around there is another genealogical list to wade through. Why are these genealogies in the Bible? Do they serve a purpose or are they just fillers?

Begat tree

God did not put fillers in His Bible. He had enough to say without having to pad it out. No, there is a purpose for every chapter in the Bible. So what is the purpose of the genealogies?

Actually, the genealogies are closely related to the grand overall theme of the Bible. That theme is first presented in Genesis 3:15. In that passage God promised Eve that one of her descendants would crush the head of Satan. The promise was tantalizingly vague. Which descendant? When would he be born? We have to keep on reading to find out.

Eve may have thought that Cain, her firstborn son, was that promised descendant. But it soon became evident that he was not. Perhaps it would be one of Cain’s descendants. We don’t have to follow Cain’s descendants very far to realize that we are on the wrong track. By the time we get down to the fifth generation from Cain we find that people have gotten worse, not better (Genesis 4:23-24). Once we see that we are on the wrong track we can drop Cain's line and go back to Adam and Eve for a fresh start (Genesis 4:25). Their third son is Seth. As we follow his line we find that we are on the right track. There are a number of godly men among his descendants.

The genealogies in the rest of the Bible follow this same pattern. We will follow a false branch every so often just to see that it really is not leading where we want to go. Then we will be brought back again for a fresh start to pick up the right trail. Gradually the trail narrows as we get closer and closer to the promised descendant.

Genealogies are scattered throughout the Old Testament. But as we begin the New Testament they are all brought together. The very last genealogy in the whole Bible is found in Luke 3. In the Old Testament each genealogy was only part of the story. It is finally all put together in Luke 3. We find out who the promised descendant is and his genealogy is traced all the way back to Adam.

A few years after Luke wrote that chapter God allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem. And with Jerusalem the genealogical records of the Jews were destroyed. No longer would it be possible for anyone to trace his genealogy back to Adam. But there was no need to. There was only one man whose genealogy was worth tracing. He had already come. And so the genealogies ceased forever.

You Call That Progress?

As we read the genealogy of Cain we are not surprised to find wickedness recorded. Lamech was the fifth generation from Cain. He bragged to his two wives that he had killed a boy merely for hitting him (Genesis 4:23). What does surprise us, though, is that Cain’s descendants made great strides in various technical fields (what we would call “progress”). Among Lamech’s three sons, for example, we read that one “was the father of such as dwell in tents,” and “of such as have cattle,” another “was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ,” and the third was “an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.” (Genesis 4:20-22)

On the other hand, the descendants of Seth—the good guys—made no such progress. How come the wicked race made all kinds of progress while the righteous race stood still?

That question is really not difficult to answer. What was the righteous race concerned about? Was it life here on earth? Not primarily. They knew they would spend only a few short years here on earth. What they were interested in was preparing for an eternity after death. They were not going to waste their time and energy making physical progress which would not help them at all after death.

The wicked race, on the other hand, wanted to live life to the fullest. They were not concerned about life after death. The physical was what mattered. So they naturally devoted their efforts to making this life comfortable and enjoyable.

Now, which race made the real progress?