It has become so common on crime dramas that we don’t even think about it. A weapon is found at a crime scene, and the first thing the investigator does is “dust it for prints.” What the naked eye cannot see is “brought to life” with a little smoke and the application of scotch tape. The hidden marks identify a criminal! They were there the whole time, but they needed to be discovered and matched to the person to place them at the scene. This wasn’t always the case. You may be interested to know…
Dactylography or the “science of fingerprint lifting for the purpose of identification” probably began in Mesopotamia as far back as the time of Abraham, about 4,000 years ago. King Hammurabi (c. 1950 BCE) apparently used “finger seals” (on clay impressions) embedded in contracts. Law officers of the day were authorized to secure fingerprints of arrested persons accused of violating their contracts. We have no information on how the prints were used (like point-to-point comparisons) but we know they were used.
On the other side of the Himalayan Mountains in about 650 CE, a Chinese historian made reference to fingerprints being used in the preparation of contracts. A law book from the same period insisted that a divorcee sign a document with his fingerprint. Yet in the west, it wasn’t until the late 1700’s that a German doctor reported fingerprints were “never duplicated by nature.” A little later, historians credit Sir William Herschal in 1858 as the first western person to deliberately use fingerprints for identification purposes. Working in Bengal, India under the British crown, Herschal made natives place their inked prints on contracts and receipts.
The first person in western history given credit for using fingerprints to solve a crime was Henry Faulds. He wrote in Nature magazine that when bloody finger marks or impressions on clay, glass, etc. exist, they may lead to the scientific identification of criminals. Ironically, Faulds’ first use of the science was to successfully resolve a case of stolen liquor. He eventually joined Scotland Yard Police where he later worked to establish fingerprint identification methods.
I mention this little history to suggest something from the Scriptures. If God is the Author of the Bible, as He claims, can we uncover with certainty His identity by looking for “prints?” I think we can. The strange part is they have been staring us in the face silently tucked over scrolls of genealogy lists. Here is the truth for our study…
Key Principle: In even the most mundane parts of Scripture, the Author left fingerprints of His identity.
In this lesson, we want to look at two name lists, two records of family genealogies. I am almost hesitant to tell you what we will read, because our natural inclination is to switch off our minds on mundanity. Yet, there is a “Cracker Jack” surprise for anyone who will take the time to search the box. It is in there. To find it, we must look at the end of Genesis 4 and contrast it to the list of names offered in Genesis 5:1-6:8.
This List came with a specific context marker:
Genesis 4:17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.
In our last lessons, we noted that when expelled from the Garden, Eve conceived and the moment of her greatest blessing ensued. We noted that as a moment of HOPE for the one broken by rebellion. Here in Genesis 4 is the same pattern: Though expelled, Cain’s life wasn’t done yet. The writer noted Cain became a city builder and made something he could leave to his son. Both men were apparently proud of the labor of Cain.
Following that note, Genesis offered the line of Cain in a little more detail…
Genesis 4:18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech.
Fixated on the character of the “last of the line” named Lamech, the writer then offered this detail about his family:
Genesis 4:19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
The narrative even offered details about the children of each wife.
Genesis 4:20 Adah gave birth to 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 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
The text ends with the boastful expression of the end of that family line.
Genesis 4:23 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Even on a first-pass over this short record, there are a couple of observations about the words that are in order.
First, the text is a genealogy, just like the one that follows it in Genesis 5. No matter how you cut it, the text appears to be a boring list of names with a few interjected notes about the people. If you feel that way when you read them, you aren’t unspiritual; you have common sense. It isn’t more exciting on its face than reading a phone book for pleasure. Yet, there are a few interesting clues that more may be here than first understood.
Note that when man has turned from God and spurned a life of following Him – his life becomes about his ability to make something, build something, or leave something behind. In the absence of a view toward afterlife, his human journey becomes about what he can do to leave something on Earth. In Cain’s story in verse 17, it was the city he left for Enoch (Hanoch) that his son could have for his use. There is nothing wrong with leaving behind something for your children – provided you leave them a heritage of spiritual connection with God. Apart from that, you are working, night and day, to accumulate yard sale items that will be sold for pennies on the dollar after your demise.
Let me say it this way: A life lived without eternity’s values will become a life swallowed by temporal treasures, where moth and rust will work their wonders to reduce it all to nothing.
Drop your eyes to the end of the list in verse 19, and look at the colorful character of Lamech. He decided that one wife wasn’t enough, and added a second. Adah and Zillah became his prizes. There is no note that God instructed in this area, and this line of Cain, destined for extinction in the flood of Noah, simply made up its own rules. Please note that.
Man, when denying God the right to make the rules and set the boundaries on everything and its use, makes up his own version based on what he DESIRES. This isn’t done without intentional arrogance about his right to satiate any desire he chooses. Listen to Lamech’s hot hits from the local radio station recalled in Genesis 4:23-24. He demanded the attention of his women based on his physical prowess and his unrepentant spirit of vengeance. His song revealed he truly believed the best way to live was to “look out for number one” and mercilessly avenge any infraction against him.
Don’t look past the details. In the first line of people who lived on our planet, among people who defied God openly, there is found another marker of the work of the enemy. Lamech was arrogant, vengeful and “touchy” about anyone who challenged his right to be whatever he wanted to be, according to moral standards he “made up on the fly.” Keep your eyes open for people who have such a character in modern life. This is an old play, re-run in a new theater.
Let’s think of it this way: A life lived apart from God is a life forging moral standards from his own desires and hungers. What one desires becomes enshrined first in his identity, then in his practice.
It appears there really are lessons here.
Yet, genealogies may have something even MORE than the lessons found, not in the lists, but in the little inserted stories of some of the people of the list. Maybe it would help us not to overplay the lessons if we understood what genealogies are made to do.
In the Bible, genealogies organize narratives. The whole record of Genesis is organized around the Hebrew word “toledot” translated “these are the descendants of…” That word marks transitions between stories as we have noted before in our study. We find it in places like:
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created (Genesis 2:4a).
The very idea of “generations” organizes the narrative into “scroll” sections, even in cases where family histories are not the heart of the story.
Genealogies also make claims about social roles. Kings and queens prove their bloodlines to demonstrate rightful claims. Other positions in ancient society are organized by kinship, like that of jobs assigned to Levitical families. Take, for example, the choosing of musicians appointed from each of the families of Korah, Gershom, and Merari for service in the sanctuary (1 Chronicles 6:31-48).
Genealogies established national and tribal inclusion. After the temple was destroyed and the exile to Babylon was complete, Ezra and Nehemiah both counted on the tribal record of the Levites to show who could work in the renewed temple. Nehemiah enrolled returnees by genealogies, establishing who “rightfully” belonged in which community. When returnees claimed priestly descent but couldn’t find their names in the genealogical record, they were excluded from priestly roles (Nehemiah 7:61-65).
Here is another tip, though. Sometimes genealogies tell a story. This is where the smoke and scotch tape lifting of the prints becomes important.
One obvious example can be found in Matthew’s Gospel at the opening of the story. One of two genealogies of Jesus is offered by the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17, cp. Luke 3). Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus doesn’t seem to align with Luke’s (see Luke 3:23-38) nor does it recount any story of the Hebrew Scriptures that we can readily identify. The oddity of it seems to point to offering truth about something else. The scene offers clues that must be followed…
Matthew’s genealogy places Jesus within a story of the people of Israel as a whole. Yet, it offers four unique features:
• First, the list connected Jesus to Abraham, as One Who descended from the patriarch to whom God promised to “make of you a great nation” (Genesis 12:2).
• Second, the list highlighted the prominence of King David in the credentials of Jesus as King in order to be the Messiah (the Anointed, just as ancient Israelite kings were anointed).
• Third, Matthew’s genealogy highlights four female ancestors of Jesus, in addition to his mother Mary: Tamar (1:3), Rahab (1:5), Ruth (1:5), and the wife of Uriah (i.e., Bathsheba, 1:7). Each woman has something both scandalous and heroic in her story. Perhaps this was to make clear that Mary, the mother of Jesus, who was an unwed mother, did not create a scandal eliminating her from God’s use in her (Matthew 1:19). That deserves more exploration, but we will simply make the note and pass by in this lesson.
• Fourth, the notation of the number of generations is made obvious in Matthew 1:17.
Matthew 1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.
The problem is, the number of fourteen generations is not historically correct. Check the Hebrew Scriptures. There are more generations than fourteen.
For example, Matthew 1:8 states that “Joram begat Uzziah,” but 2 Kings chapters 8, 11 and 14 show that:
• Jehoram or Joram was the father of Ahaziah.
• Ahaziah fathered Jehoash or Joash.
• Jehoash or Joash was the father of Amaziah.
• Amaziah was the father of Uzziah.
In other words, ‘begat’ can mean “was related in the line to.” In the Bible, terms like ‘son’ and ‘father’ can mean ‘descendant’ and ‘ancestor’ respectively.
Matthew’s genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17) of Jesus was arranged into three successions of 14 generations each, and that genealogy is clearly selective. The secret is in the number “14”.
In Hebrew as in ancient Roman culture, numbers did not reserve their own fonts. People wrote numbers in letterform. As a result, a name was a number and often a
number formed a name. In Revelation 13, the “number of the name of the Antichrist” is called “666.” In Hebrew, the number “14” is formed by the spelling of the word “David.” The genealogy didn’t ignore the number of people in each segment – it offered fingerprints to the clue that Messiah was a son of David. The number wasn’t WRONG; it was the POINT of offering Matthew 1:1-17.
Granted, this isn’t really riveting stuff.
In fact, Ray Stedman tells the story of an old Scots minister who was reading from the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel, which is another genealogy. Ray wrote:
“He started reading, ‘Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac beget Jacob, and Jacob begat Judah,’ and he looked on ahead and saw the list to follow and said, ‘and they kept on begetting one another all the way down this page and halfway into the next.’”
On its face, a genealogy isn’t interesting, but it may have within it a clue to something essential to your understanding. It may offer the fingerprints of the One behind the scene of the obvious.
Let me show you by going back to where we were in Genesis 4.
Take a moment and see if you can recognize a pattern when I read to you the meanings of the names on the list. Be a little careful here, because Hebrew words can have more than one meaning, and are less specific than their English counterparts. With that in mind, look at this as a viable possibility of fingerprints:
Adam – means man
Cain is from Qayin, a word that can mean a spear from quwn (a word for a lance), but in its most basic consonant form (used only in antiquity) could be the base of a verb can be “acquired,” “received” or “gotten.”
Enoch or Hanoch, was from a verb Hanach, meaning “initiating” or “commencing,” like the beginning of a new stage of life.
Irad is from the word “Ir” which means city. It appears to be an early term for townsman or citizen. It may be “city dweller” as opposed to cowboy.
Mehujael (mekh-ee-yaw-ale’ is from machah and ‘el: smitten of God). The name simply means, “smitten of God” and may be a positive sense of “God struck.”
Methusael (meth-oo-shaw-ale’) is a tough combined word that includes a couple of ideas. Look it up and you will find a range from “Man of God” to “Who demands his death?” It is used in a wide range of forms. Meth was sometimes used in antiquity as the poetic designation of “that guy” or “a male.” It was used of a “champion” or a “man’s man.” In some places, it was used of a sword-wielding man who could increase his spoils, etc.
Lamech (leh’-mek) probably came from “to make low” in Hebrew and became the figurative word for “despairing.”
In Genesis 4:19 Lamech’s two wives had boys named…
Jabal (yaw-bawl’) which was a word for the meandering stream or watercourse, which figuratively seems to mean “wanderer.”
Jubal (yoo-bawl’) is another form of the word for his brother’s name, the fertile root-verb יבל (yabal), figuratively meaning to watercourse, but in this form perhaps more to “carry or bring along” probably as an early word for transport of goods on the water.
The half-brother of the boys was “Tubal-cain” (too-bal’ kah’-yin) is a word not of Hebrew origin. It was likely originally associated etymologically with a foreign priest and meant “higher man or exalted man.” It became a word used in forms as an answer, sometimes to “return an answer.”
After all that complexity, let’s see if we can venture into figuring what the name list COULD mean (if it is intended to tell a story).
• Adam – Man
• Cain – Acquired or received
• Enoch – (his) beginning or start.
• Irad – citizenship
• Mehujael – smitten of God
• Methusael – a man of increase.
• Lamech – despairing or lamenting
• Jabal” – a wanderer
• Jubal – brought along or brought about
• Tubal-cain – a man exalted.
How about this as a rough try: “Man received [a] beginning [of] citizenship smitten of God. Increasing as a champion, he laments and wanders [attempting] to bring about or bare along his [own] exaltation.”
Is that right? We don’t know. It isn’t far off, however. What is interesting is that it IS the story of Cain’s line. It ended with Lamech’s song, later found in Right Said Fred’s 1991 version of the song: “I’m too sexy for my shirt.”
Strip the whole thing down and here is what you will see: The line of Cain went from bad (Cain) to worse (Lamech). The line of Seth held out a little promise. It was in Seth’s days that men began to “call upon the name of the Lord” (4:26).Cain started his banished life making it all about what his hands could build. Men of his line accomplished innovations in self-made morality and exalted themselves. In the next chapter, they all died in the flood at enmity with God.
Ah, but the story with the fingerprints isn’t done. There is another whole chapter of genealogies!
They begin in Genesis 4:26. Let’s zero in on the names of the OTHER LINE of Adam and Eve’s next child, given to lift the countenance of their parents after the couple buried their son, Abel.
Genesis 4:25 Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
Did you notice chapter four ended with a song that was a direct contrast with the “I’m too sexy for my shirt” anthem of Lamech? Seth’s line produced Enosh (en-ohsh’) who seems to have been instrumental in the development of worship – perhaps even making the first worship songs!
Look at Seth’s line in the names alone:
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
Mark the names:
Genesis 5:3 …Adam or man.
Genesis 5:3 …Seth (Shayth) or appointed.
Genesis 5:6 …Enosh (En-ohsh’) or “mortal,” “frail,” or “miserable.” (Note: It is likely from the root “anash” as in to be incurable).
Genesis 5:9 …Kenan (Kay-nawn’). (Note: Many study aids unfortunately presume an Aramaic root synonymous with “Cainan” rather, it appears to be a word from a “sorrow,” dirge,” or “elegy.”
Genesis 5:12 …Mahalalel (Mah-hal-al-ale’). (Note: It appears to be from mahala,l which means “blessed” or “praise”; and El, the name for God). Many Hebrew names included El, the title of God (as in Dani-el, “God is my Judge” or Nathani-el as in “Gift of God.”)
Genesis 5:15…Jared (Yeh’-red). (Note: Probably the future of the verb “yaradh” meaning, “shall descend” or “shall come down.”)
Genesis 5:19 …Enoch (Khan-oke’). (Note: Likely from the word meaning “commencement.” He was the first of four generations of preachers. In fact, the earliest recorded prophecy was by Enoch, which amazingly enough deals with the Second Coming of Christ.)
Genesis 5:21 …Methuselah (Meth-oo-sheh’-lakh). (Note: The name Methuselah may come from two roots: muth – a root that means “death” and from shelach, which means “to bring.” If these are correct, the name Methuselah signifies, “his death shall bring.”
It is worth understanding here that the Flood of Noah in the next chapter was not wholly a surprise.
Enoch appears to have named his son to reflect a prophecy of the coming cataclysm. In fact, by all we can see in the text, it appears in the year that Methuselah died, the flood came.
The text reveals Methuselah was 187 when he fathered Lamech and he lived 782 years more (Genesis 5:25-26).
Lamech had Noah when he was 182 (Genesis 5:28).
The Flood came in Noah’s 600th year according to Genesis 9:28:
Genesis 9:28 Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.
Add up the 187 years of age of Methuselah when he had Lamech, and add the 182 years of growth of Lamech until he had Noah, and then add 600 years to Noah’s life and you will get 969 years, Methuselah’s age when he died.
Genesis 5:25 … Lamech (Leh’-mek) likely meant “despairing.”
Genesis 5:29 … Noah (No’-akh) means comfort.
If we are even close, when we put this all together you will get:
‘Man [was] appointed mortal and sorrowful – The Blessed God shall come down [and] commencing with his death [one] shall bring the despairing rest.’
Was this a prophecy of the Gospel? Maybe. Was this a prophecy of the death of Methuselah ushering in the end of a time of earthly despair? Surely. We will look at the despair and remedy in our next lesson. For now, it is worth noting this:
If God wrote the story, did He leave His fingerprints anywhere we can find them?
I would say without apology: “He certainly did.” God revealed to man what man could not otherwise know. That is why we study the Bible. It isn’t so we can somehow stump people over the curiosities – it is so we can stand in the presence of an awesome God and know that the line of Seth knew: God is to be praised.
• Cain’s selfishness and sinfulness played out its hand and ended singing an anthem to man’s goodness, man’s rights and man’s self-made morality.
• The gift of God to Eve in Seth was there was another way. The line of Seth would yield worship, wonder and, in the end, warning.
If you know the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you understand the wonder of God well enough, because you have seen His love to you when you didn’t deserve it at all. You have stood back in wonder and fallen down in worship. Today, you have no pleasure in warning a generation that God is serious about sin, and the return of the Savior excites you for yourself, but troubles you for your neighbor who does not yet know Jesus.
If you care little for these things, thank Cain. You can measure life in accomplishments, but the Bible assures they will be swept away. One generation erects memorials to men; the next generation may well tear them down.
It is a generation following Cain’s way that makes up its own rules, defines family as they see fit, and raises arrogant and self-entitled children that have confidence they can bring down God Himself. The problem is, the day of the rains arrives, and they don’t have a boat to save them.
There is a true story about two brothers from the nineteenth century. When I reveal their identities, you will know one of them well enough to share even his middle name.
The older brother was born in 1833 and became perhaps the most famous actor of his generation. He toured throughout America and the major capitals of Europe, performing his signature roles in Shakespearean plays. In 1869, he founded a theatre in New York. Theatrical historians consider him among the greatest American actors, and mark him as the greatest Prince Hamlet of the 19th century. Virtually every one of his generation knew his name, but it was lost after a single action of another actor, his younger brother. The older brother’s name was Edwin Thomas Booth. Ironically, Edwin was noted for his ardent support of the Union in the Civil War, and in 1864, he saved Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert, from serious injury or death on a train platform in Jersey City, New Jersey. Robert Lincoln recalled the incident in a 1909 letter to Richard Watson Gilder, editor of The Century Magazine. Edwin managed the Winter Garden Theatre in New York City and bought the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. He made a fortune, opened a theatre, lost it in the panic of 1873, traveled Europe and regained it all. He founded The Players, a private club for performing, literary, and visual artists and their supporters, and dedicated his home on Gramercy Park to it. Nothing could stop his popularity and success – except his brother. John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 and the infamy associated with the Booth name forced Edwin Booth to abandon the stage for many months. He recovered, but you probably have never heard of his brother John.
Two boys grew up together. They came from the same place. They made different choices, and they led to different ends.
The Cain and Seth story is an old tale, but it is still happening.