The fourth chapter of Genesis feels like the turn of a new plot in God’s story. It is sinking deeper into the prologue—the narrative of God’s creation and man’s fall into sin. The first couple fell from grace and so did the first family. This is that transitional moment in the storyline.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:1).
The name “Cain” has a unique way of distracting us. Its mentioning conjures thoughts of evil, jealousy, hate, spite, and brokenness. It leaves a sour taste in our mouth and rightly so. It is what we know about Cain: the firstborn of the first family and, sadly, the first one to take the life of another.
So much can be said about Cain, but this verse is not about him. He is merely introduced at this point as Adam and Eve’s firstborn son. Suppose he was only mentioned as a son. How differently would you read this text?
You see, much has happened in the first three chapters of Genesis. First, God created all things, and all things were qualitatively good. One of those things was very good. It was mankind—represented in the first couple, Adam and Eve.
Second, God instructed this couple to steward the earth on His behalf. This meant they would cultivate life on it, both physically and agriculturally. This work would bring God glory and them joy. There was only one caveat: God told them not to eat from a particular tree; for if they did, they would introduce death into God’s creation.
Third, the couple disobeyed God and ate from the tree. Death ensued. Everything began to die. Sin infected all of creation, and God’s plan for life took a turn for the worse. It would seem to be the end of it all. Humanity’s paradise of life was corrupted by the misery of death. The couple was ejected from the heavenly garden to the outskirts of the fields. The two drove humanity into the ground. Life was no more.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore a son, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:1).
Without “Cain,” this passage reads like a breath of fresh air. You can feel the mercy of God in the wind of these few words: Adam knew his wife and she conceived a boy. The two were fruitful. They cultivated life. They continued God’s plan. After the ash of death in the lovely garden, we see the brilliance of God in the thorny field. His plans were unfoiled. His desires unopposed.
God set in motion a story to illuminate His glory and not even death could thwart it. The first family cried out from its dust, “God is powerfully glorious!” Adam recognized it. Rather than giving up, he believed God would correct the course of the world he had messed up. God gave him life; Adam blew it. God gave him mercy; Adam embraced it.
Eve was no stranger to God’s glory either. It’s enough to note that she participated in the start of the first family, but there is more. She was excited that her offspring was a boy. For God promised that a son would crush the serpent that once deceived her in the garden.
We shouldn’t miss this. Adam was convinced of God’s trustworthiness. Eve was confident in God’s promises. Together, they continued in the way of God to cultivate life as the first family on earth. Sin cannot defeat God’s plan.
Sadly, Cain distracts us from God’s glory, even in this short verse. He not only kills his brother, he kills our vision to see the glory of God. He is both the defector and deflector. Most of us will never see God’s glory because we are sidetracked by sin. Look past Cain to see the glory of God.