Have you ever asked any of these questions?
What can I learn from Jabal?
What can I learn from Jubal?
What can I learn from Tubal-Cain?
Probably not. These names are among the more obscure ones in Biblical history. That being said, when we look at what is said about them and the context in which they are found, there are valuable insights to be gleaned. First, by way of creating context, these men are descendants of Cain and sons of his descendant, Lamech. Lamech was a murderer and the first polygamist in Biblical history. He had two wives: Adah and Zillah; and the aforementioned men were the sons of these two women respectively.
In Genesis 4:20-22 we read…
20 And 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 harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.
Each of these men are identified with the term “father” which, given the context, suggests that they were the inventors of the things associated with them. Jubal was the inventor of ‘tent-making’ and he went beyond keeping sheep to breeding livestock. Jubal appears to have been the inventor of musical instruments, at least the kinds mentioned. And Tubal-Cain was an expert in metalworking, and the first person in the record of history to be identified as such. Additionally, these men must have had remarkable carving and carpentry abilities to succeed at these endeavors.
Thus, early on in the history of humanity there was dramatic creative development and these men were at the forefront of it. The interesting thing is – these men were descendants of Cain and there is no sign of them having a relationship with the one true God. Jabal, Jubal and Tubal-Cain were the recipients of great skills, they were men of great accomplishments, but sadly there is no hint that they leveraged those abilities in response to God’s grace or in the pursuit of God’s glory.
Interestingly, they appear to be contrasted with the descendants of Seth’s line – men like Enos and Enoch whose names are associated with calling on the LORD or walking with Him in faith. It’s as though the reader ought to make an important distinction – it is better to be known by God as a worshipper than known by the world as an inventor. There’s nothing wrong with being an inventor, or an entrepreneur, or a genius; but to be all of those things and more, and not be someone who is a worshipper of the triune God, justified by grace through faith, is to have notoriety for naught.
With that being said, I think there is yet another lesson for us to consider. As Christians, we ought to appreciate the common grace of God that is on display through the gifts and talents of people who do not know Him. This would by no means endorse being entertained by the sinful use of those abilities, nor does it exclude the reality that only believers are empowered with gifts of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church and the glory of Christ; it is simply an acknowledgment that any ability that any man or woman has, whether it be in the field of music, technology, medicine, craftsmanship, and so on, it is a result of God’s grace.
Therefore, may you be exhorted today to glorify God for the display of His common grace in the creativity and capability of fallen men and women, and may you be encouraged to see the priority of being known to God as a true worshipper as opposed to someone the world would crown as a winner.