The Cainites and the Sethites
Genesis 6:1-2
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,…

You will remember that at this time there were two distinct races upon the earth — the descendants of Cain and the descendants of Seth; or, as we will call them, the Cainites and the Sethites. The latter were godly people; they worshipped and served the Lord; they kept up the observance of family prayer; they recognized, in fact, an unseen and spiritual kingdom; and they fashioned their lives, or endeavoured to fashion them, in accordance with their belief. The Cainites, on the contrary, cared for none of these things; they flung off the restraints of religion; they were the secularists and materialists of the antediluvian world. Whether there was an unseen kingdom, and a King to rule over it; whether there was such a thing as truth, or such a thing as righteousness, or even such a Being as God Himself, they did not care at all to inquire. These things might be, or might not be; but, at all events, there was the present visible, tangible, enjoyable condition of existence in which they found themselves placed; and of that they determined to make the best, without troubling themselves about difficult and abstruse questions which could probably never be solved. There is another observable thing, too, about these Cainites. Female names occur in their genealogies; and these female names are of such a character as indicates that especial attention had been given to attractiveness of personal appearance, and especial value set upon it by the women of this branch of the human family. Adah is one name: it means "ornament — beauty." Zillah is another: it means "shade," and seems to refer to the woman's thick and clustering tresses, Naamah is a third: it means "pleasing," and alludes, in all probability, to the fascination and winning attractiveness of manner possessed by the person who bore it. All this seems significant. We gather from it that the women of the Cainite race came into greater prominence, exercised a greater influence of a certain kind than the women of the Sethite race; were more obtrusive and less modest; wore more costly dresses, spent more time in adorning their persons, and gave themselves up to the cultivation and practice of feminine allurements. The recollection of this fact will enable us to understand better the statement of the text. Now, for some considerable time the two races kept completely apart; the Cainites went their way, the Sethites went theirs, and there was no intercourse to speak of between them. But after awhile the separation was removed. We are not informed how the change took place; it may have been through what we may call accidental circumstances, bringing the two races into contact; but it was more probably owing to a relaxation of religious principle on the part of the Sethites, a lowering of the spiritual tone, a departure from the ancient severity of their religious character, which threw them open to the assaults of temptation on the part of their worldly neighbours. And it was through the women of the Cainite race that the danger came in: "the sons of God" (that is, the worshippers of God — the Sethites) "saw the daughters of men that they were fair." Their beauty attracted and ensnared them; their dress was exquisite; their manners were fascinating, if a trifle bold — unlike, they would say, the shy and retiring ways of the women of their own race; and they first fluttered round, and then fell into the net that was spread for them. "And they took them wives of all which they chose." There is indicated in this language a simple following of their own will; there is no reference to God or to duty in the matter. The result was an intermingling of the two races, and a very rapid increase of the corruption of mankind. Possibly some of the Sethites, the sons of God, may have deceived themselves with fancying that they, by the infusion of their goodness, were going to raise from its spiritual degradation the Cainite family, and instruct them in the knowledge and the love of God. Ah, the snow as it falls upon the street may cherish the hope that it is going to cover the pathway with a robe of unsullied whiteness! The pure bright stream may fancy when it mingles its waters with those of some turbulent and turbid companion, that it is going to absorb the other's foulness into its own immaculate purity! But what a miserable mistake this is! Good is indeed more potent than evil when it stands on the defensive and occupies its own ground; but it is feeble, it is powerless, it is soon overcome, when it allows itself to be drawn into the enemy's territory, and to meet him as a friend. This seems to be the true explanation of the narrative to which our text belongs. And now the question arises, Has it any practical bearing upon ourselves, and upon the circumstances in which we are placed? We believe it has. In what did the criminality of these Sethites consist? In that perversion of the moral sense which led them to prefer external advantages, external attractions, to goodness. Yet how often we are tempted to prefer other things to this sterling quality, or at least to think that the absence of it is more than atoned for by the presence of exterior fascinations! Take, for instance, some favourite writer. He is profane, perhaps; he scoffs at religion, or at least sneers in a covert way. "True," we say, apologetically; "but how full of intellect he is! What a masterly hand he lays upon his subject! How magnificent are his descriptions, and how his thoughts roll forth in a grand overwhelming tide from the depths of his mind, sweeping all before them!" Or that companion of ours, whom we have lately been warned against. "Perhaps he is irreligious; perhaps he is a little loose, both in his habits and his notions. But how clever he is! No one ever feels dull in his company!" Instances and proofs might easily be multiplied. Now, all this exactly corresponds to the fault, the sin of the "sons of God," spoken of in our text. It is a criminal preference of external fascinations to the goodness which consists in recognition of God and in consecration to His service. "It is natural," perhaps you will say. Granted; but the Christian ought to carry that about him which enables him to discriminate between the seeming and the real, and to know things, to a certain extent at least, as they really are. Our subject applies to companionship generally, and suggests the extreme importance of a right choice of associates. Many of us, of course, are thrown into unavoidable juxtaposition with those with whom we have no manner of sympathy, and whom we would gladly avoid if we could. The exigencies of business bring into the same office, or into the same pursuit, the pure and the impure, the godly and the ungodly; and nothing is more common than to hear right-minded young people complaining of the words which they are compelled to hear, or of the things which they are compelled to witness, in the place in which their lot is cast. But, after all, a man is safe if he is in the path of duty. It is the voluntary and not the enforced association which exercises a deleterious influence upon mind and character. But the subject suggests more particularly the effect of companionship between the sexes, and, more particularly still, it puts men on their guard against the fascinations of attractive and accomplished, but irreligious and unspiritual, women.

(G. Calthrop, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

WEB: It happened, when men began to multiply on the surface of the ground, and daughters were born to them,

Sons of God Different from the Daughters of Men
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