After the biblical debut of Satan in Genesis 3, it is remarkable that we do not see the presence of Satan again for quite some time. In fact, the next appearance of Satan (chronologically speaking at least) from Eden is in Job 1 and 2, and there he plays a similar role of inciting particular action and then disappearing, which we will get to in due time. The absence of Satan in Genesis 4 through 6 is remarkable when one considers the sort of content that takes place there. Let us examine what Genesis 4 through 6 reveals about humanity and what the absence of Satan’s references mean.
In Genesis 4, for example, we have the following series of exchanges between God and Cain in Genesis 4:1-15. Satan is not present here, and sin is personified as lying at the door with desire for Cain in the same way that woman is said to have had a desire for man in Genesis 3: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.”
Nor is this an isolated occurrence. The very next passage speaks of great evils, including polygamy and a man who promises to avenge himself seventy-sevenfold for anyone who wounds him in any fashion, and here too Satan is absent, in Genesis 4:16-24: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech. Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 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. Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”” Was Satan absent in these matters? Hardly. And yet he is not discussed as interacting with the people committing these grave evils.
Nor do we see any listing of Satan in Genesis 6:1-8, where the evil thoughts and behavior of early mankind are commented upon: “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The Bible does not give a great deal of detail here, but surely when every intent of every thought of the heart of mankind was wicked, then surely we are dealing with a monumental level of evil here.
So why is Satan not mentioned in these passages? Are we to believe that Satan was not active in inflaming the thoughts of mankind towards evil? This would hardly be a reasonable conclusion to draw. It does suggest, though, that Satan did not need to interact with fallen man in the same way that he interacted with Adam and Eve. And this has important relevance for us, not only in our own age, but also in our own personal struggles against sin. It was necessary for Satan to actively tempt Adam and Eve to sin because they were not naturally drawn and bent to sin in the way that we are with our fallen and corrupt natures. We have to actively fight against our wicked and corrupt longings if we are to attain to any degree of righteousness, but that is because we are born in a fallen world to fallen parents, where both our internal and external world have suffered as a result of millennia of sin and wickedness and rebellion against God and His ways. And this fall of mankind’s nature is seen immediately, in the very next generation after Adam and Eve it is no longer necessary for Satan to actively tempt Cain to murder his righteous brother, but his own fallen nature has provided the envy and hostility and pride that led him to commit the first recorded murder. And the same is true for us. Our own human nature has been shaped by societal and generational patterns of sin, and it is seldom (if at all) necessary for Satan to directly tempt us to sin as Adam and Eve were tempted. We are tempted by our own natures, by the example that has been set before us and that we see around us, and while this does not mean that Satan’s influence is absent, he is not a direct character in the psychodrama of our lives in the same way that he was in Eden, and the exceptions to this will prove to deal with the righteous in particular and not with humanity at large.