Genesis 4: 16 through 5: 32 are passages that most of us like to skip over when we’re reading the bible. It contains two long genealogies—one of Cain and one of Seth, Adam’s third son. Seth’s list mentions incredibly long lifespans, including Methuselah, who lived 969 years. He fathered a son at 187 years--but that was nothing compared to Noah, who had three sons at 500!
Other things distinguished Seth’s line besides extreme old age. Seth’s family was unusual in their devotion to God. Enoch “walked with God and was not,” one of two people who escaped physical death. (The other was Elijah.)
God blessed Seth’s descendants in a way He didn’t bless the children of Cain. Both lived under the curse of Adam’s sin, but Cain’s descendants were doubly cursed by the sins of both Adam and Cain. Cain’s sins added to Adam’s sin, making it worse for his children and grandchildren.
Your parents make a difference in your life. They either bless you by their love, example or forethought, or they curse you with abuse, neglect, or bad example. We cannot, any of us, fully escape the influence of our ancestry. Our ancestors make a difference.
It makes a difference who your parents and grandparents were. We receive something from them all. If they do good and walk before God, then we receive good. If they do evil and don’t, then it makes it harder for us. Both the good and bad we do in turn are transmitted down to our children.
This principle can be overdone, of course. Racists, elitists, blue-bloods, and don’t forget that we are all free moral agents, and choose our own fates. You can’t inherit salvation from your parents, neither can you blame your parents for what you do wrong. But our parents affect us, nevertheless.
Many people are ancestor worshippers--I mean it, they worship them! They think their ancestors could do no wrong. But there’s a little Seth and Cain, and a whole lot of Adam in all of us. Your parents may have been Godly people, but if the only reason you believe in God is because your parents told you to, and you have no personal knowledge of Him, then you are not worshipping God, you are worshipping your parents! Our real god is not the God we believe in, but what is our ultimate concern in life, the source of all our understanding. If we serve God only because our parents told us to, that’s dangerous. But if we have an example of our parents bowing before God, and we seek the same God they worshipped, then we may find Him. Every generation’s God must be their own. Our parent’s relationship with God may point us in the right direction, but we have to go seek Him ourselves.
If our parents don’t honor God, then it sets a bad example for us, and hurts us in the long run. It places a generational curse on our life that is difficult to overcome.
A prison chaplain once told me that they offered Mother’s Day cards for the prisoners in a men’s prison. Nearly every one of the prisoners wanted one. They were glad to send cards to their mothers.
They tried the same thing for Father’s Day. Strangely, very few prisoners wanted Father’s Day cards. It seemed that most of the prisoners either did not know their fathers, or they did not want to know them. Their fathers had been absent, abusive, or completely out of their lives. They wanted nothing to do with them.
Isn’t it possible that there is a connection between them being in prison and the sins of their fathers? Isn’t it likely that many of these men would have had a different life if they had honored God and followed His ways?
Studies have shown that families who attend church together produce more successful children, that those who give their children a religious foundation produce healthier children. There is a much higher proportion of people who suffer from diseases at an early age among those who neglect their children’s spiritual upbringing. The children of those with good training are more socially aware and adept. It matters who your daddy is.
I know extended families where there is not a single successful marriage. I know families so filled with pride and self-worship that not one of them cares about the poor. It is very difficult to come from such families and have a proper understanding about what it means to follow God.
This is not a message for children, to blame their problem on parents. This is a message to parents, to watch how you raise your children. Your children are affected by your treatment of God. Make sure that you do all you can to teach them right from wrong.
Even so, we can have a new God who is greater than our families. The question we need to ask of ourselves is not “Who’s my daddy?” but “Who’s my daddy now?” Am I basing my live on what my parents did, or on having a relationship with God right now? He is more powerful in our lives than everything that has gone before.
Looking at Cain and Seth’s generations, we may be tempted to read the wrong message about modern families into it—to think of one family as a “Cain” family and another as a “Seth” family. But we can’t do that. The sons of Seth married daughters of Cain and vise-versa, so we’re all a little Cain and a little Seth. Our common ancestry contains both good and bad.
If you think that you were blessed with great ancestors, then please think again. You are only remembering the best of your ancestry. Your parents and your lineage was not perfect, nor was it always right. In the end, God doesn’t judge you for what your parents did, but if you ignore the sins of your parents, and think you are more worthy in God’s eyes, because of your last name, then you are wrong. God will judge each of us by what we do ourselves.
The difference between Seth’s and Cain’s line is found in Genesis. We are told that after Cain went into exile people began to call on the name of the Lord. Calling on God’s name as a family is more important than wealth, position, or power. In the end, it is all that matters.
Cain’s line accomplished some great things, too. Enoch (This is a different Enoch from the one who didn’t die) founded the first city. Lamech’s sons-Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain all accomplished great things, in spite of the fact that their father was an unrepentant murderer. Jabal invented the nomadic herdsman lifestyle, which was the dominant way of living in the Middle-East, and still is in many places. Jubal was a musician who invented musical instruments. Tubal-Cain invented working with metals. You couldn’t have modern society without the work of these three men. Cain’s descendants were city planners, kings, artisans, musicians, and ranchers—but none of them had any male descendants to pass on works to others. Though they made contributions, their families were all wiped out in Noah’s flood. You can have all the good things of earth, but that doesn’t mean anything if you survive without godliness, you are lost.
All of us fathers want to leave a legacy for our children, but most of what we leave will wind up like the sons of Cain. We create businesses and wealth and some disaster ruins it, or our kids misuse it. We educate our children, and everything they learn winds up useless. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal may have done great things, but what good did it do them when the flood waters carried their kids away? Death came to their children and their names.
But Seth’s line kept going. Seth produced the future, not Cain.
Parents, you have an awesome responsibility. Teach your children to honor God. Don’t let anything keep you from that. Honoring God produces good fruit—maybe not in one generation, maybe not in two, but in the end, it is the meek before God who inherit the earth and find the future.
But when a person chooses to follow God, you choose a new daddy. The generational curse is broken. No matter what our upbringing, we can improve on it, if we choose to do the right thing. If your father was abusive, you don’t have to be abusive. If you mother was anxious and afraid, you don’t have to live that way. You have a choice. You can change and improve on your ancestry. Other people from the worst families with the worst upbringing will choose the right way. You can change your ways and it affects everyone.
It is interesting that in all these listings of sons there is only one daughter mentioned. Her name is Naamah, the sister of Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain. We cannot know for sure why she is mentioned. However, there is a Rabbinic tradition that may possibly explain it. According to the ancient Rabbis, she became the wife of Noah. Now, the Bible doesn’t say this, and we cannot say it with any certainty, but for the moment let us assume that this tradition is correct. If it were so, then Naamah would have been the only one who survived in the family. Naamah would have been the mother of Ham, Shem, and Jephthah, Noah’s children. She would be the second mother of all people, the second Eve. Through her, the line of most of the human race would be descended. Her brothers may have distinguished themselves by all kinds of worldly accomplishments, but their descendants were wiped out. Naamah would carry the legacy when she and Noah founded the last Godly family.
You can change your family legacy when you call upon the name of the Lord, and choose to obey Him. Changing our ways affects our kids. You may have grown up in a godless place, but choosing God can give you a future and a hope.
You may have lived a bad life up till now, but a change in life means a change in legacy.
Paul Harvey once told the story of a bookkeeper in Chicago who was a member of Al Capone’s mob. Eventually he suffered from a terrible attack of conscience. He did not want his children to live like he did. He went to the police and turned state’s evidence against Capone. His testimony helped convict Capone of tax fraud. It also sent him to prison. He said he did it in the hopes that his son would forgive him, and choose a better way.
His son did choose a better life. He became a pilot--one of the most decorated in World War II. Today the name of his son, Edward O’Hare, is the name of Chicago’s airport. His name is known to millions around the world, and his legacy through that name lives on.
How do we change our name? By getting a new Daddy. God believes in second chances. He delights in helping us break our bad legacies. Jesus came to earth to change people and families. He gave us forgiveness for sin, so we can go out and live better lives. You may be the first in your family to find Him, but that doesn’t mean you will be the last. Jesus breaks the curse of Adam and the power of all generational sin. Give your life to Jesus, and begin a new path today.