Biblical Genealogies and the Law of Inheritance:
LONANG Law of Inheritance – Adam & Eve
by Gerald R. Thompson*
Earlier I mentioned that the biblical genealogies, while they sometimes mention wives, mothers and sisters, only trace the male lineage, never the female line. To be sure, there are some instances in 1 Chronicles where the male descendants of a particular woman are delineated, but the biblical genealogies never trace a person’s female ancestors or his or her female descendants. Even Mary’s genealogy in Luke, though it terminates with her, is strictly concerned with her male ancestors. Why is this?
It is not because the biblical genealogies are part of any ideological system that men are inherently dominant or superior to women. Neither are the genealogies indicative of an unjust social system that oppresses women. Frankly, none of what we are about to discuss was the idea of any man or group of men because – I suggest – it was, and is, God’s idea.
I start with the assumption that the genealogies, as much as any other part of the Bible, are God-breathed, Holy Spirit inspired, and ultimately authored by God. Thus, not man invented or man perverted. And if that is the case, it may profit us to ask why God would do things this way, whether there is any way to make sense of it, and what we can learn about our world if this be so.
Let me suggest that there is such a thing as the law of the nature of inheritance, which is to say, there is a law of inheritance which is part of the law of nature. In biology, the law of genetics is such that each human child takes equally from both parents, one of which must be male, and the other which must be female. However, according to the law of the nature of inheritance (hereafter, the law of inheritance), each child takes solely from the father and the mother is disregarded. So while genetics says a child takes from his parents 50-50, for purposes of inheritance a child takes 100% from the father and 0% from the mother. Thus the difference between science and law.
It is most important that these two laws of genetics and inheritance not be confused. The law of genetics applies in the physical realm which mainly pertains to biology. The law of inheritance applies in the legal realm which mainly pertains to authority over property, the right to rule, and also goes to the matters of nationality and ethnicity. Before you get up in arms over gender-equality, let us see what evidence there is in the scriptures for this law of inheritance.
I have already noted that the Matthew genealogy makes reference to four women in the lineage from Abraham to Jesus, namely, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. I should also note here the general significance of the Matthew genealogy which I will discuss at length later on, namely, that it establishes the right of Jesus to rule the nation of Israel as the heir of David. So this genealogy is pretty darn important.
Imagine, if you will, that the Matthew genealogy was defective and insufficient to establish Jesus’ claim to the throne of David. This would be extremely important, as well. And that is exactly the result we should expect – if the right to rule is to be inherited pursuant to the law of genetics, i.e., 50-50 from the father and the mother. Why? Because there are several women in the lineage which are not Israelite, and at least two of which are not even descendants of Abraham through any child other than Isaac. If the law of genetics is controlling here, Jesus has a real problem.
The scripture does not indicate the nationality of Tamar, but in any event we can be fairly certain she was not Jewish. Why? Because Jews, or to be more precise Israelites, were descendants of the sons of Israel (i.e., Jacob). Tamar, the concubine of Judah, was undoubtedly neither a child or a sister of Judah or any of his brothers, as the sons of Jacob were themselves still in the process of having the first generation of descendants. Tamar may have been a remote descendant of Abraham though one of his sons other than Isaac, but at least she was not an Israelite.
Rahab’s ethnic identity is not identified either, but since she was not a part of the Israelite nation which had escaped from Egypt and undergone 40 years of testing in the Sinai, she could not have been Jewish. Most likely she was a Canaanite, since Jericho (where she resided with her father’s household) was located in Canaan. And Canaanites were descendants of Ham, not Shem (of the sons of Noah).
Ruth is specifically identified in scripture as a Moabite (Ru. 1:4), or a member of the nation of Moab, who were descendants of Moab the grandson of Lot (Abraham’s nephew). Thus, she was not a Jew or a descendant of Abraham. Bathsheba, in contrast to these other women, appears to have been an Israelite.
But here is the point: none of that matters. The purpose of the Matthew genealogy, remember, is to show that Jesus was a descendant of both Abraham and David. And in reckoning this lineage, the ethnicity of the mother never enters into the equation. It would not have mattered if every single wife and mother from Abraham down to Jesus was a non-Jew. As long as each male in the lineage was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then the lineage of Jesus as a descendant of Abraham and David is intact due to the operation of the law of inheritance.
If this were not the case, i.e., the law of inheritance is not what I say it is, then the lineage of Jesus would be tainted or polluted by the presence of non-Israelite women in the genealogy. If, on the other hand, the lineage is untainted, then it must be because the ethnicity of the women is always to be disregarded as irrelevant. And if that is true, it strongly suggests that for all purposes with which the Matthew genealogy is concerned, only the fathers are important in determining the character and quality of that inheritance which is passed to the next generation.
There is an interesting property case in the Old Testament I like to refer to as In re The Daughters of Zelophehad found in Num 27:1-11 and Josh 17:3-4. In legal cases, the term in re (or, in the matter of) refers to a judicial proceeding having some item of property at the center of the dispute rather than adverse parties. In this case, the property at issue is the estate of Zelophehad.
Zelophehad was an Israelite of the tribe of Manasseh who died and was survived by five daughters and no sons. At this point the nation of Israel was still quite young, just having emerged from the 40-year wilderness experience and the rudimentary principles of property transactions were just being established. Moses is still alive. In the immediately preceding chapter (Num 26), Israel had just undergone its second census, being the one which numbered the people emerging from Sinai.
At the conclusion of the census, even before Israel had taken possession of most of its Promised Land, God laid down the rule for property distribution. “The land shall be divided by lot. According to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit.” Num. 26:55. So here the law of inheritance was expressly made applicable to property in the land of Israel. In other words, property was to be inherited solely from one’s father, not the mother.
What is unstated, but necessarily implied, is that only the sons would inherit from their fathers. If the second, or any succeeding, generation were also to inherit from their fathers, of necessity the only persons who can inherit must be limited to those who will one day become fathers themselves. If a daughter were to inherit, then her children would inherit from her (their mother), and the whole system of inheriting only from one’s father would unravel quickly. Thus, as an initial rule, no provision was made for either wives or daughters to inherit.
But now comes the wrinkle, which had to happen eventually, where a man dies leaving no sons to inherit from him. But his property has to go somewhere, right? And now, the daughters of Zelophehad have presented Moses with this exact problem.
Notice that this case presents two problems which must be resolved. First, who was eligible to receive Zelophehad’s inheritance: would it be the daughters, would it go to another relative of Zelophehad, or would it escheat to the nation or tribe and be auctioned to the highest bidder? Second, how to guard against the scenario that land allotted to a particular tribe might end up in the hands of a different tribe (if the property was auctioned off, for example), thus altering the geo-political structure of ancient Israel?
The two questions are related, but separate. The first relates to what Blackstone called the laws of descent, or who is eligible to receive what from a decedent. The second question relates to the theocratic laws of ancient Israel which, generally speaking, have no relation to modern Gentile nations. But there is an underlying principle of a general nature which controls the outcome in both cases, namely, the law of inheritance.
Let’s review what the law of inheritance is: for purposes of inheritance a child takes 100% from the father and 0% from the mother. In the case of Zelophehad, notice there is no mention of his wife. Whether she is alive or dead at the time is irrelevant – under no circumstances can she inherit. In other words, the wife inherits (if at all) only from her father, not her husband. Thus, she plays no part in this little drama. As for the daughters, Moses was instructed to “transfer the inheritance of their father to them.” Num. 27:7. So yes, daughters could inherit in some instances.
In this way the first question (who was entitled to inherit) was answered in relevant part by the law of inheritance: a father’s inheritance goes to his children. For the mother’s part, anything she may have inherited from her father went to Zelophehad upon their marriage. And if she survived him, the mother was bypassed in allocating the inheritance. It was up to her children, as a moral duty (to honor their father and mother, i.e., the Fifth Commandment), to provide for the welfare of the mother during the rest of her life.
The second question (preservation of tribal integrity) is also answered by the law of inheritance. To understand the problem and its solution, consider what would have happened if the daughters of Zelophehad (of the tribe of Manasseh) shared his estate, and then married men from other tribes of Israel – say, Reuben, Gad, Simeon, Benjamin and Levi. When it came time for the grandsons of Zelophehad to inherit, the land they would take from their father’s estates would be regarded as belonging to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Simeon, Benjamin and Levi, respectively. In point of fact, the land would have been assigned to those tribes immediately upon the marriages of Zelophehad’s daughters.
This would cause enormous geo-political problems by re-allocating the specific portions of land deeded by God to each tribe. Not to mention the added problem of vesting land in the tribe of Levi, which was prohibited from owning any portion in the land. Num. 18:20. So the solution was simple, i.e., require each of the daughters to marry a man from the tribe of Manasseh, which is what they did. In this way, the geo-political integrity of the various tribes would be maintained. That way, land allocated to the tribe of Manasseh would always stay with that tribe.
It is easy for us to get caught up in the tribal geo-political structure of the problem and then dismiss it as something irrelevant to us today. After all, that system was put into place as part of the unique theocratic laws of ancient Israel, which always were, and always will be, inapplicable to Gentile nations. But don’t lose sight of the underlying operation of the law of inheritance, which is not part of ancient Israel’s theocratic laws (because it has far wider application than merely ancient Israel), and therefore still has importance.
Aside: The foregoing discussion should not be confused with the ancient Israelite law of the birthright, or what we call primogeniture in Anglo-American law. The birthright essentially gave a double portion of the inheritance to the firstborn son, was based on the principle of the firstfruits, and was totally unrelated to the principles discussed here. See, Deut. 21:15-17. Also see the cases of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:31-34) and Reuben and Joseph (Gen. 43:33; Gen. 49:3; 1 Chr. 5:1-2).
Curious, that we see the example of the ancient Jewish laws of descent mirrored in other nations throughout history. According to Blackstone,
“A second general rule or canon is, that the male issue shall be admitted [i.e., inherit] before the female.” “This preference of males to females is entirely agreeable to the law of succession among the Jews, and also among the states of Greece, or at least among the Athenians; but was totally unknown to the laws of Rome.” William Blackstone, 2 Commentaries on the Laws of England, Ch. 14 (1766).
He then noted the extent to which various other nations did or did not follow the same principle, which it is not necessary for us to review. However, I present this quotation to show that the law of inheritance as I have here described it was not limited to the nation of ancient Israel. One of the tests of whether a rule is part of the law of nature is whether it is commonly recognized among the civilized nations of the world. The law of inheritance is such a law.
I suggest that ethnicity or nationality also follows the law of the nature of inheritance. Meaning, that every person takes his or her ethnicity from the father and no part from the mother. The rule applies to women and men equally. And while the principle is easily observed with respect to ancient Israel (though not without some controversy), it is by no means limited to that nation. I assert the principle is universal and applies to all nations and ethnicities.
The national identity of ancient Israel was essentially defined as “the sons of Israel.” We see this when the initial seed population of the nation, i.e., Jacob and all his household, first came to Egypt in the time of Joseph’s rule and was referred to as the sons of Israel. Ex. 1:1. We see it when the nation coming out of Egypt was counted in the first census. “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head.” Num. 1:2. Similarly with respect to the second census in Num. 26.
Thus, when God called out the house of Jacob and the people of Israel as a special people among all the nations of the earth (Ex. 19:3-6), it is understood to refer to the sons of Israel and their households. The Israelites are referred to as the sons of Israel some 30 times in the Bible.
Historical evidence (albeit anecdotal) suggests it is quite possible Solomon had a son with the Queen of Sheba, who returned to her home country (somewhere in the vicinity of Ethiopia, most likely). When the son came of age and married, most likely he would have chosen a bride from the local population of Africans. He and his descendants would have looked African, but ethnically would be Jewish, if indeed parentage traced back to Solomon. Coincidentally, an identifiable culture of Ethiopian Jews a/k/a Beta Israel still exists today.
Yet that result is no different from what happened to all the Jews in the diaspora. To the extent the sons of Israel intermarried with local populations their descendants would take on the physical characteristics of the local population, yet would still be ethnically Jewish via the male line. This is no mere hypothetical. If you are interested, just look into the history of the Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazic Jews – both the results of intermarriage between Jews and varying local populations.
You may be aware there is a longstanding tradition (via the Halakha) that Jewishness is determined not by one’s father, but by one’s mother. Although, there is a minority report, as it were, which is even older, that Jewishness is determined by one’s father. Both sides have citations from the O.T. scriptures and rabbinic writings to back up their claims.
What people fail to take into account is that God has His own way of doing things. He has His own rules for determining Jewishness and He keeps His own records. Thus, when the 144,000 Jews are called out from among the nations in the Tribulation, 12,000 males from each of the tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8), God will know exactly who the sons of Israel are at that time. Then as now, the question will not be about Jewish self-identity. Rather, the question is how God operates.
What is ethnicity, if not an inherited nationality? And the universal rule used to determine national identity in the Bible is the law of inheritance. See, e.g., the Table of Nations (Gen. 10:5, 20, 31):
The sons of Japheth: … From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations. …
These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. …
These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
So we see that before the nation of Israel even existed, the Bible uniformly refers to all national identities as being determined by who the father was, and those ethnicities carried exclusively through the male line.
Now for a couple of applications of the law of inheritance to current events especially as that law relates to the matter of ethnicity or nationality. First, it strikes me how recent innovations in genetic testing, i.e., as a means of determining a person’s ethnicity or ancestry, are limited and, I suggest, extremely misleading. You’ve seen the advertisements, haven’t you? Send in a swab of your DNA and find out what percentage of various ethnic groups you are. Ah, but the unstated assumption behind all such tests is this: your ethnicity is governed by the law of genetics, counting male and female ancestors equally. Bah, humbug! However, it is now possible to get a Y-chromosome paternal lineage test, which is more useful in determining ethnicity.
Second, there is the favorite topic on everyone’s mind of a political bent, that is, what it means to be a natural born citizen. This question, to be sure, could warrant its own lengthy essay. But let me give you a quick and dirty analysis. In interpreting constitutional language written in 1787, we do not look to subsequent statutes enacted by Congress in the 20th Century. Rather, we must look to contemporary sources existing in 1787. And the singular authority on the subject at the time was Emmerich de Vattel, who wrote:
“The natives, or natural-born citizens, are those born in the country, of parents who are citizens. As the society cannot exist and perpetuate itself otherwise than by the children of the citizens, those children naturally follow the condition of their fathers, and succeed to all their rights.” Vattel, The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law, Bk. 1, Ch. 19, §212 (1758). (Emphasis added.)
We see from this quote that Vattel followed the law of the nature of inheritance, in that a person’s citizenship derives principally from his father, not the mother. When considering candidates for political office, such as Barack Obama and Ted Cruz, the question is not essentially where each was born, but whether the father of each was a U.S. citizen at the time of his birth. And in both of these specific cases, notably, the mother of each was a U.S. citizen, but the father was not. Meaning, both are/were ineligible to serve as President of the United States.
You should not extrapolate any political leanings on my part as a result of this analysis, since Obama and Cruz are, to say the least, on opposite ends of the political spectrum. But that’s the point – this is not a political matter. It is a legal matter, and the law is what the law is. This is not my opinion. Let the chips fall where they may, Kamala Harris.
We also see the law of inheritance applied to the Church, the Body of Christ. Scripture indicates Christians are adopted as sons of God, not sons and daughters. Gal. 3:26. In a spiritual sense, God has children, but no daughters. Why? Because daughters do not inherit from their father, i.e., God.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ….” Rom. 8:14-17. (Emphasis added.)
Notice how carefully this scripture distinguishes the relationship of the various parties. In other words, notice what the text does not say: it does not say that Christians are heirs of Christ. It also does not say Christians are fellow-heirs of God. In order for this whole inheritance thing to work, we have to clearly understand who stands in the position of a father, and who stands in the position of a son. Thus, with respect to God the Father, both Christ and all Christians stand in the same position.
I am not making the argument that women are not or cannot be heirs with Christ. Rather, that women must be placed in the position of a son, spiritually, in order to be a spiritual heir of God the Father. Gal. 4:7. Thus, the N.T. repeatedly refers to all Christians as the sons of God. Luk. 20:36; Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:14, 19; Gal. 3:26; Phlp. 2:15; 1 Jn. 3:1-2.
It may not be politically correct in our culture, but this is the way God operates. If your translation of the Bible doesn’t carry this concept forward because it serves the false god of gender neutrality, throw it out.
Why should things be this way? Because it is the nature of God, i.e., Father and Son. Did you think it was just an accident, or a cosmic coincidence, that two persons of the divine trinity should be referred to in masculine terms, and none in the feminine? If you don’t like things this way, don’t take it up with me – take it up with God. But be warned – You can’t mess with the law of inheritance unless you mess with the nature of God as a masculine Being. Which is one reason why female deities are universally despised and hated in scripture (such as the Queen of Heaven). To which we can add Gaia, Mother Earth, Ishtar, etc.
Now having a firm grasp on what the biblical law of inheritance looks like, and how it works, we can go back and see how it was in operation with the very first people, Adam and Eve. I’m doing this analysis for a couple of reasons. First, it helps explain some things in scripture that most people find very difficult to understand. Second, it reinforces the fact that the law of inheritance must be a part of the law of nature if it existed at the very beginning of creation.
The Ultimate Parent
The various references to Adam and Eve throughout scripture constantly reinforce the creation narrative. That is, God formed Adam first from the dust of the ground, and formed Eve second from a part of Adam’s side (typically understood as his ribs). To the casual reader these may be interesting details, often taken non-literally, seemingly having no ongoing significance. But other portions of scripture make it abundantly clear that God attributes significant legal consequences to these creation details.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. … The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen. 6:1-2, 4).
Apparently, the phrases sons of God and daughters of man have proven difficult for many people to interpret or understand. As a result, there is all kinds of speculation about the meaning of them, such as: 1) the sons of God are angels, and the daughters of man are human, (and according to some, the Nephilim are their unholy offspring); 2) the sons of God are righteous men, and the daughters of man are unrighteous women; and 3) much to the same effect – the sons of God are of the line of Seth (i.e., his descendants), and the daughters of man are of the line of Cain.
I have even heard preachers scold the sons of God for “taking any wife they chose,” as if there is some biblical doctrine that a righteous man can only choose as a wife the woman whom God shall choose. I confess, I have searched the scriptures for many years, and have never found such a doctrine. Sure, the Israelites were to marry another Israelite, but that isn’t a general rule for Gentile nations. (Dt. 7:3). And Christians are exhorted not to be unequally yoked to an unbeliever. ( 2 Cor. 6:14). But neither of these establish a doctrine or teaching that God chooses every man’s wife. Nor does the example of Isaac and Rebekah.
May I humbly suggest, that if people would simply stop trying to read some spiritual aspect into the text, its meaning is pretty clear. The entire context, using words like man, sons, daughters, wives, children, and men – indicates the text is talking about people. Ordinary human beings. Men and women are getting married and having kids. Remember, Gen. 6 is describing the period in history immediately before the flood of Noah. What do other scriptures have to say about this time in history?
As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark. (Mt. 24:37-38).
Why look for a supernatural and/or spiritual explanation, when the textual explanation is clear?
So why, you may ask, does Gen. 6 use the phrases, sons of God and daughters of man? It goes straight back to the law of inheritance, when you put it together with the creation account. Adam was the direct creation of God from the dust of the ground, such that he had no human parent. His only parent was God Himself. Eve, however, was not made from the dust of the ground, but was made from a portion of Adam’s side. Meaning that for Eve, her only parent was Adam.
Men, taking their inheritance exclusively from their father, are each a son of God in the sense that He is the ultimate parent of every man. But women stand in the shoes of Eve, as it were – not taking an inheritance from her as ultimate mother (for nothing is inherited from the mother), but taking through the male line until Adam. In other words, the ultimate parent of all women is Adam, not God, just as it was for Eve. Therefore, all men are sons of God, and all women are daughters of Adam. And since the Hebrew word for “man” is “Adam,” then it becomes clear that Man = Adam, and Adam = Man. So, daughters of Adam = daughters of man. That’s why the text does not say, daughters of men.
Thus, the phrases, sons of God and daughters of man merely reflect who is the ultimate parent of both men and women. And, as the context itself suggests, these phrases simply refer to men and women in general, all of them ordinary people – nothing supernatural, or even spiritual. Angels, and angelic offspring, are not in the picture. Nor is any distinction being made in this text between the righteous and the unrighteous. And as we will see in the next section, this whole line of Seth and line of Cain business is just a bunch of bunk.
Fans of the writings of C.S. Lewis will be familiar with the phrase, “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve,” a phrase intended to refer to human boys and girls in The Narnia Chronicles. The implication being that males trace their lineage ultimately to Adam, and females to Eve. I suppose, out of deference to Mr. Lewis, it is possible he used this phrase only in a genetic sense, with respect to X and Y chromosomes – although I doubt it. What do you think – is this characterization consistent with biblical principles, or not?
The Sin Nature
Most people are familiar with the Genesis account of the Fall, where Eve eats the forbidden fruit after being deceived. She then gives the fruit to Adam who also eats it, and God curses them both, along with the serpent who deceived Eve. (Gen. 3:1-19). However, while Eve’s participation in this scenario results in some peculiar judgments on women generally, and has some implications with respect to human authority (as we will see shortly), the main consequences fall on Adam. Namely, the curse of the ground, and death.
In particular, what the scripture calls the knowledge of good and evil, people today tend to refer to as a universal predisposition to sin, or a sin nature (formerly called original sin). This sin nature results from the fact that every person since Adam and Eve has been born separated from God, a condition which every person inherits at birth. Who is this sin nature inherited from (have you been paying attention)? From each person’s father.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned … Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. … For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom. 5:12, 14, 19).
Notice the text does not say, “sin came into the world through Adam and Eve,” or “through the first people,” or anything nebulous like that. No, blame for the whole thing is laid at the feet of one person alone – the first Adam. So sin does not – cannot – come from the DNA, as such, because DNA (as genetic material) follows the law of genetics. Sin and/or the sin nature are not scientific matters. They are legal matters, and they follow the law of inheritance, not the law of genetics. Thus, the sin nature inherits through the male line only.
So while Eve’s sin produced some significant additional consequences, her sin did not have any effect on the sin nature, strictly speaking. Our sin natures are Adam’s fault. Adam was the federal head, or legal representative of us all, and every person alive today experiences the consequences of the fall and the curse. These consequences are inescapable for any descendant of Adam. “In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.” The New England Primer (1690).
At this point, let me comment on a teaching that is all too common, springing from the account of Cain and Abel (Gen. 4) and the genealogy “of the generations of Adam” (Gen. 5). Namely, the claim is often made that the genealogy in Gen. 5, tracing from Adam through Seth and down to Noah, is the “godly line of Seth.” This is contrasted with the supposed “ungodly line of Cain,” described in Gen. 4:17-24. But this whoile idea is based on a set of assumptions which simply are not true.
For one thing, the scriptures never declare Seth to be righteous. Yes, his mother regarded him as a replacement for Abel, but the circumstances of his birth hardly qualify as establishing that he later had faith as an adult. And yes, the line of Seth contains two individuals scripture identifies as being righteous (Enoch and Noah). Which is only 2 out of 9 generations. But more than that, surely each of the named individuals had hundreds or thousands of siblings, cousins and other relatives, all descended from Seth. It’s not like these nine guys are the only descendants of Seth.
On what basis can it be declared that any appreciable percentage of Seth’s descendants were “believers”? And what is the assumption here, anyway? It is not as though righteousness or belief can be inherited from father to son. Let me rephrase that: righteousness cannot be inherited.
So people started calling on the name of the Lord when Seth’s son was born. Gen. 4:26. So what? This is what – a mere 235 years after creation? Who are these people who are calling on the Lord, anyway? Seth’s son is just a baby, and his later descendants have not been born yet. These other people are Seth’s other brothers (and sisters) and their descendants, including Cain’s descendants (the “line of Cain”). That’s all the people who were there at the time, folks. And none of them, other than baby Enosh, was a descendant of Seth, i.e., of “the line of Seth.”
For that matter, the scripture never says Cain was evil, or an unbeliever. Sure he was a murderer, but he paid his punishment. Plus, King David was a murderer – did that prevent him from being a believer? Heck no – David had a heart after God’s. Yes, Cain “went away from the presence of the Lord.” Gen. 4:16. But that’s because God made him a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth. Cain’s punishment was to be ostracized. What else could he do, but leave town and build his own city? It doesn’t mean he never repented.
Sure, Cain’s descendant Lamech was a pretty horrible guy. It doesn’t mean anything at all for Lamech’s ancestors. Besides, look at all the accomplishments of Lamech’s children! Gen. 4:20-22. Do we rightly assume they were wicked because they played music and forged metal? Sure, the sin nature, unlike righteousness, is inherited. But inherited equally by all – believer and unbeliever alike.
The scripture is very clear. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23). That means all of the descendants of Seth, and all of the descendants of Cain, were equally born with an inherited sin nature. Every one of them, regardless of who their father was, was born separated from God. So what is this balonay about the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain? To attribute godliness to the line of Seth, and ungodliness to the line of Cain, is simply ridiculous. All descendants of both Seth and Cain were born with the exact same sin nature.
Symbols of Authority
So far, we have seen that the inheritance of a sin nature has nothing to do with either the order of creation, as between Adam and Eve, or who sinned first. Even the question of determining a person’s ultimate parent does not turn, strictly speaking, on who was created first or second. I say this because Eve, if she had been created from the dust of the ground and not from Adam’s side, would have had God as her ultimate parent, whether she was created second or not.
But now we come to an issue – the issue of authority – where the order of creation and who sinned first both play a prominent role.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor. 11:3-10).
In this text, the word head is used in two senses. In Greek, as well as English, the same word has multiple meanings. The first sense refers to authority – specifically, who has authority over who, as between God, Christ, a man, and a wife. The second sense refers to physical human heads. The connection made between these two senses is that how people treat their own physical head – that is, whether to cover their head or not – should reflect their position in the authority hierarchy. In this way, whether and how a person’s head is covered is regarded as a symbol of the authority that person either has, or is under.
I am not here going to discuss either gender equality or family headship. I only wish to show the relevance of the biblical genealogies and the Genesis creation account to these matters.
In starting to understand this text, notice two things. First, the entire basis or justification for the assertions of authority made by Paul is the order of creation between Adam and Eve, and the legal consequences flowing from that fact. In other words, it isn’t merely that Adam was created first, but in creating them separately, God created Adam and Eve for different purposes. In addition, this entire argument is rooted in the account of creation, not any national, religious, or cultural customs, practices or beliefs. This suggests – no, it demands – that the rationale used here is part of the eternal law of nature applicable to all people and places, at all times.
Second, notice the parallel between, on the one hand, the head of a man is Christ and the head of a wife is her husband, and on the other hand, God is the ultimate parent of every man, and Adam (man) is the ultimate parent of every woman. Do you see how these statements complement and reinforce each other? In fact, all these things – the genealogies, the law of inheritance, and the symbols of authority God has given us – first reinforce the creation narrative, and then complement and reinforce each other. There is a divine pattern here, and unless you pay attention to it, you will miss what God is communicating.
Thus, family relationships, especially between husband and wife, ultimately take their cue from the creation account. God is saying, in essence, not to lose sight of the creation account as we live out our lives. That account has ongoing consequences that apply to all people, places and times – as it must, being rooted in the creation of all people. God is not going to forget these consequences, and he has set up these little reminders every so often in scripture, so we can’t miss it. And just as the marital relationship takes its cue from creation, so the functioning of the Church takes its cue from the marital relationship.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. (Eph. 5:22-24).
It should be no surprise then, that even the Church takes an occasional cue from the creation account, even though the Church did not exist at the time. For even though the Church, as an institution, is not a descendant of Adam, as it were, yet every person in the Church is.
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
Did you think this was some random personal bias of Paul, or an error on his part? Was he just hostile to women, and/or a proponent of an oppressive patriarchal society? No – there is a divine pattern here, and Paul is merely following it. This is not theological dicta on his part. These statements are not merely his personal opinion.
However, this is all I will say on the matter. It is my intention to simply show the pattern for what it is, so you may more easily recognize it. What you do with it is on your own head.