The righteous live by faith. This is the way of salvation. No one can earn God’s favor by what he thinks, says, or does. This is true of the Old Testament as much as it is true of the New Testament. The saints of the Old Testament were not saved by their adherence to their peculiar dispensational law; they are saved by trust in the promises of the gospel.
This is why it is so important to translate Genesis 4:1 correctly. Most translations, from the King James to English Standard Version, translate this text incorrectly and rob the Christian of the blessed doctrine of justification by faith.
The simplest, natural way to translate Genesis 4:1 is: “I have gotten a Man, the LORD.” Eve believes that God is fulfilling His promise. She believes that Cain will be the Messiah, the Christ. She trusts that Cain shall crush the serpent’s head, thus breaking the power of Satan. Here, Eve stresses Who the Messiah is going to be: He shall be the LORD, the Savior God.
I have paired both Genesis 4:1 and Genesis 5:29 together, because they are complementary to one another. In the first, we see a woman, who confidently trusts that the promised Seed shall come from her body. The one who was deceived by Satan’s lies now rightly discerns her Savior’s word. This hope, while misplaced, reveals a joyful and confident faith at the beginning of the world.
In the second, we get a different picture. Lamech, whose name means “to make low,” stands at the end of the antediluvian world. Enoch, the powerful preacher of doom and grace, has disappeared, leaving the church of God bereft of his mighty words. From now on, the church of God would be, like Lamech, diminished.
Lamech’s father, Methuselah, is a living memento mori. His name, often translated as “the man of the dart,” could be translated in this way: “when he is dead it shall be sent.” Think of that! It is as though the Lord said to Enoch: “Do you see that baby? The world will last as long as he lives and no longer! When that child dies, I shall deal with the world in judgment.” And so it was. In the very year that Methuselah died, the Deluge came.
Lamech was also grieved at the great violence on the earth, now that the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18). The great Antichrist of that era, the Cainite Lamech, degraded marriage with bigamy, and sang a song of atheism and self-aggrandizement. And here is the mystery of iniquity: the Cainite Lamech’s sons made great technological strides, while the world fell into deeper and deeper sin. As their knowledge increased, so too did their folly abound.
And yet, Lamech did not despair. He heard the words of his ancestor Adam regarding the Woman’s Seed. And now, things are so bad that the Messiah must surely come! And so, in the midst of great and violent unrest, Lamech names his son Noah. Noah means “rest,” or “comforter,” because “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29).
Here, Lamech is complementary to Eve. Eve speaks of Who this Seed shall be, Lamech speaks of the Seed’s work. This promised Seed shall undo the effects of the Fall. He shall be comfort to His people. He shall remove the curse of thorns and thistles, which have and will continue to plague mankind until the trump of doom.
These two bookend testimonies concerning the faith of the antediluvian patriarchs are necessary for us to learn today. As our Lord Christ said, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37).
While their age was peopled with herculean heroes of faith and cyclopean sinners, the essence remains the same. God’s kingdom advances by the preachment of the gospel, while the devil seeks to sow false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Men today are saved by the same faith as they were in that far, distant epoch.
So let us “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Let us read and meditate upon the promises concerning the Christ, so that we too might ardently long for and trust in Christ’s second coming, just as these saints of old trusted in Christ’s first coming.