“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.” Genesis 4:1-2
“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.” Genesis 4:25-26
In Genesis chapter 4, there is a fascinating expectation of the gospel promise given to Adam and Eve, and subsequently all fallen humanity, in Chapter 3:15. In this promise, often called the protoevangelion or first Gospel, God declares that He will provide an offspring from Eve who will crush the head of the serpent. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15
If we were to think about this in context, perhaps how Adam and Eve would have understood this promise, we find their expectation for an “offspring” who would crush the head of the serpent who had just deceived them, i.e. that God would fulfill His promise. When we read this promise today, we have the completion of Scripture which shows the unveiling of this promise culminating in the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. But for Adam and Eve, their hope was in the promise of God and His faithfulness to it through the arrival of the promised or appointed One.
So it is that we see Eve’s expectation of this promise in the passage above, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” which she sees fulfilled at the birth of Cain. Matthew Henry points out that Cain’s name “signifies possession; for Eve, when she bore him, said with joy, and thankfulness, and great expectation, I have gotten a man from the Lord.” Certainly it is reasonable to speculate that her hope in Cain would be for his triumph over the serpent. As we know, she was mistaken. Henry points out that her next son, Abel, “signifies vanity. When she thought she had obtained the promised seed in Cain, she was so taken up with that possession that another son was as vanity to her.” Names in the Old Testament are significant in their meaning, so with speculation, one could conclude that for Eve, the fulfillment of God’s promised, triumphant offspring was to be Cain, while Abel was less significant, even vanity, because the purpose rested with his brother.
As we often find in Scripture and in life, God’s plans are not our plans, and much like the choice of Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau, God’s plan was not to be fulfilled in Cain. He succumbed to jealousy and sin overtook him leading to the murder of his brother Abel. If we may, imagine for a minute the bewilderment of Adam and Eve, whose expectation for the fulfillment of God’s promise was, at least initially, to be found in Cain. Not only was this not the case, but he murdered their other son, leaving them with (presumably) no offspring to fulfill God’s promise. Would the word of God fail so soon in redemptive history? Certainly not!
After the murder of Abel and God’s curse upon Cain, in which He also showed him great mercy (Genesis 4:13-15), we find Eve’s hope in the promise of God surfacing again, “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.”
Commenting on this Henry writes, “This is the first mention of Adam in the story of this chapter. No question, the murder of Abel, and the impenitence and apostasy of Cain, were a very great grief to him and Eve, and the more because their own wickedness did now correct them and their backslidings did reprove them. Their folly had given sin and death entrance into the world; and now they smarted by it, being, by means thereof, deprived of both their sons in one day, ch. 27:45. When parents are grieved by their children’s wickedness they should take occasion thence to lament that corruption of nature which was derived from them, and which is the root of bitterness. But here we have that which was a relief to our first parents in their affliction.” This relief came in the form of another offspring, Seth, whom Eve points out was appointed by God, from which Seth’s name derives its meaning.
“Observe God’s kindness and tenderness towards his people, in his providential dealings with them; when he takes away one comfort from them, he gives them another instead of it, which may prove a greater blessing to them than that was in which they thought their lives were bound up. This other seed was he in whom the church was to be built up and perpetuated, and he comes instead of Abel, for the succession of confessors is the revival of the martyrs and as it were the resurrection of God’s slain witnesses.”
As Henry points out above, it would be through the lineage of Seth that God would provide His promised offspring, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would fulfill perfectly the expectations of Genesis 3:15, crushing the head of the serpent and disarming rulers and authorities (Colossians 2:15). Note also that in this verse, Eve recognized that her initial plans for Cain were not to be, as at some point her hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise seemingly shifted to Abel, “another offspring instead of Abel”. It is my opinion that Eve believed the promise of God given in the Gospel from Genesis 3:15 and that her expectation for the fulfillment of this promise can be clearly seen in Genesis 4. In this respect, as with other Old Testament saints, salvation came to her by way of grace through faith, albeit a prospective faith, nevertheless it was by faith alone.
Finally, in 4:26 we read, “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.” In this passage we see the continuance of God’s promise by providing offspring for Seth, ultimately leading to the Messiah. At this time people began to call upon the name of the Lord. One might postulate that the reason that led them to call upon God’s name was observance and delight in the covenant faithfulness and goodness of God to be true to the promise that He had made.
The expectation for God to be true to His gospel promise by providing an Appointed One, a Redeemer, Savior, Messiah, is the grand theme of Scripture. We may therefore look to Christ and behold His glory as we sit in amazement at the faithfulness of God who extended mercy and grace to a sinful people who deserved nothing but His wrath. Surely through the birth of Seth to begin the lineage of Christ we may see that God is in the details, sovereign over every course of life and His plans will not be thwarted by sin or Satan. We must often realize that our expectations for how God will act doesn’t always, in fact hardly ever, predict the plans of God. However, we may take comfort and be rest assured that He has purposed it, He will accomplish it.
Soli Deo Gloria!