Cain killed his brother. He did so because he would not own up to his unacceptable offering. Where did he learn such hubris? Did he observe the blame game being played by his parents? Humility would have led him to admit his failing to the Lord and to ask him for forgiveness. But no response of his is recorded to the Lord’s admonishment in Genesis 4.6. Was his the first passive-aggressive reaction? Instead of humility, he sought revenge. He refused to be shamed by his sin.
Lamech promised payback to offenders. He called his wives to listen to his threats. He immor(t)alized his violence in song, Genesis 4.23-24. Perhaps he was the first rapper. Instead of seeking reconciliation, he sought to cow opposition and to vanquish every challenge to his supremacy. So he escalated violence. He would have made a great dictator. The NET Bible provides a subtitle for Genesis 4.17-26, which sounds ironic: “The Beginning of Civilization.”
After the eloquent ranting of Lamech, the end of this section ends with a modest affirmation, perhaps noting the desperation of people in this new civilization: “At that time people began to worship the Lord” Genesis 4.26. God save us from the lack of humility among men!
Chapter 5 of Genesis is mostly genealogy, tracing the line from Adam to Noah, who plays the main human part of the next story. So in Chapter 6, this godly, blameless man who walked with God is the great exception to the rule of increasing wickedness which caused the Lord to regret having created man. He decides to start over by wiping out humanity with a flood. Noah and family would be spared.
After the flood, in Genesis 9 Noah’s son Canaan lacks humility when seeing his drunken father’s nakedness. He apparently comments in an evil way to his brothers, because he is cursed for his action. But Shem and Japheth show humility by walking in the tent backwards and covering their father’s nakedness. (This state is always a shameful thing in Scripture.)
As a rule, humility is not a natural human trait. Like Cain, we blame others and destroy them for their goodness. Like Lamech, we twist God’s plan (two wives he had) and play the game of upmanship in evil. Like Canaan, we take advantage of others in their weakness.
The lack of humility is an ugly thing.
It takes Creator God to show us the beauty of humilty. Unlike Cain, it assumes, or takes upon itself, the blame of others to bring redemption. Unlike Lamech, it fulfills exactly the will of God and turns violence into peace. Unlike, Canaan, it lifts up the weak and, like Shem and Japheth, covers a multitude of sin.
Let us learn from the Son of God the power of humility.