Great Mercy in Genesis 3-4

            In my time spent this morning reading through Genesis 3-4, I found myself amazed at the mercy of God. So often people are tempted to think that God is not truly kind and merciful until the New Testament. But, a quick look at the fall of man and the subsequent generations of humanity shows that God has been merciful time and time and time again.


Genesis 3:15


“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.”


            Perhaps the most familiar piece of mercy from Genesis 3 occurs right here. God had told Adam that death would be the result of his eating the fruit of the tree. Adam rebelled intentionally. God could have killed him right then and there. God could have wiped humanity from the face of the earth and started over. But God did not do so.


            What did God do instead? In the verse we just read, God made a promise. It was a glorious promise. One would come, born of woman, who would crush the deceiving serpent. One would come who would be the one to set things right between God and his people again. Only the seed of the promise is in this verse, but it is there. God promises the coming of the Rescuer in the shadow of the rebellion of his people. This is a merciful God.


Genesis 3:21


And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.


            In another act of mercy, God clothed Adam and Eve. Their sin had brought them shame. They experienced the horror of being fully exposed. They tried to cover their nakedness, but could not effectively do so. But God took the skins of animals and made clothing for the people who had just spurned his rule by their defiance. Perhaps this is the first blood sacrifice, though Scripture does not emphasize it if it is. Either way, God is showing kindness, mercy, and grace to people who certainly had earned his wrath.


Genesis 2:24


He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.


            God refused to allow Adam and Eve to live in the garden. He was protecting against the likelihood that they would try to eat of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever. This sounds like judgment, and it may be—at least partly. But I also see mercy here. God would not allow Adam and Eve to live forever in their fallen state. Something better exists for sinful humanity beyond this life. We would not want to live forever in a state of perpetual failing, frustration, and fallen-ness. No, God’s refusal to allow the people to eat of the tree of life in their sin-ravaged state is a mercy, because this moves humanity into an existence that includes our death and our resurrection with Christ into a state of perfection.


Genesis 4:1-2a


1 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.    


            Any time we see in the book of Genesis that a woman had a baby, we need to understand that God has been merciful. God allowed Eve, the woman who first ate the forbidden fruit, to be a part of his plan to fill the earth with people created in his image. This is kindness.


Genesis 4:7


If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”


            God warned Cain. He did not allow him simply to stew in his anger. God showed Cain that there was an alternative to acting out in the malice that was building in his heart. Any warning from God against our sin is mercy. He could just kill us and be done with it.


Genesis 4:15


Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.



            God could have killed Cain for his crimes. God however allowed him to live and even marked him to prevent others from killing him.


Genesis 4:17


Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.


            Again, a child is born, even to a man who had rebelled. Also, notice that Cain built a city. The concept of a city was not mentioned until now. Progress is happening here, even in the midst of the sadness of human sin.


Genesis 4:20-22


20 Adah bore 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 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.


            Lamech was a bad man. He had multiple wives—the first time this is mentioned in Scripture. He also was a murderous and vengeful man (cf. Gen 4:23-34). Yet, to Lamech three sons are born. These sons show great inventiveness and creativity. They change the world. God’s hand of kindness and mercy is evident, even to the sons of a very sinful person.


Genesis 4:25-26


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.


            Eve has another son. The line of those who might follow the Lord is not extinguished. IN fact. Seth and his sons begin to call on the name of the Lord. God has allowed people, children of Adam and Eve, to call on his name. He has not hidden himself. He has not cut off the human race. His promise of one to crush the serpent will not go unfulfilled.


            Yes, there is much mercy in God’s word. He has not treated us like we deserve. He has not given us all the hardship that he could have given us. He has not cut us off and put us to death at the moment of our first sin. He has allowed even rebellious people to make progress that blesses the world. And his gospel will be preached to all the world so that people from all nations might turn to him for mercy and eternal life.