Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cain and Abel – Genesis 4 vs. 1 – 26

I would like to begin with a scripture that has been on my heart lately.  It is from Proverbs 3 vs. 3 – 4: Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 

Considering that Cain did not portray the above, I thought it very applicable starting this chapter with off with this verse.

Therefore with this in mind let us begin.

GEN 4: 1-2… Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. (Probably means living or gotten)  She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel (Probably means breath or vapour).

It is interesting to note at this point however, just for future reference, that some Bible versions use the word ‘begat’ to indicate birth.’ The word ‘begat’ actually may mean children, grandchildren or other lineal descendants and this if very important to keep in mind when working with the chronology of the Bible as it could actually skip several generations.  However, in this case I don’t think this is the case and instead I think that Cain was the first baby born, the first child to grow up and the first person to commit murder.

GEN 4: 3…  Now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil.

No longer was anything easily provided for, they had to work hard and struggle against the elements to provide food, shelter and clothing for their family. Abel was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer.

GEN 4: 4-5…  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

So why do you think that God rejected Cain’s offering? The bible does not specifically say. 

Some Bible experts believe that Abel’s sacrifice was worthy because it was a blood sacrifice and that he learnt this was the correct way from his parents and obeyed. These experts further believe that this already showed a theme in the bible about blood sacrifice and is a foreshadowing of when Jesus died for our sins in the New Testament.

While this may be true in some aspects, I don’t believe in this view of thinking fully.  Cain was a farmer not the shepherd.  If all Cain had to give was the first fruits of the harvest, which is normally the best and ripest, then God would have accepted it.  We further know that later God actually commands the first fruits of the grain harvests to be brought in offering to Him.  So in my opinion I agree with the experts that believe it was not the type of offering Cain brought that was rejected. 

But if it was not what Cain brought then what was it?

Well it is believed that Cain may have already been downcast, and his intentions could have been wrong.  He could have brought the offering not as worship to God but as someone wanting to get something out of it. 

So, as the problem was not what Cain gave but how he gave it (grudgingly), we can gather that God does not only look at the quality of the gift but at the heart / motive behind the offering. Cain’s gift was an acceptable gift from an unacceptable heart, which made it an unacceptable gift.  Abel’s gift was an acceptable gift from an acceptable heart of a giver which made it acceptable. 

The best gifts given without a givers heart are unacceptable gifts but the smallest and most humble gifts (fat of an animal) given with a givers heart are acceptable to the Lord.
Therefore, when we give to God and others we must do so willingly and joyfully through time, money, possessions and talents.  Remember that all things are God’s in the first place so we should not worry how much or what we are giving but offer it as a thanks to God who is our provider.

GEN 4: 6-7…  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you but you must master it.”

After Cain’s offering was rejected God gave him another chance to correct it, to right his wrong and try again. For Cain to master the sin lurking at the entrance of his desires, he would have to give up his jealous rage / anger so that sin would not find a foothold in his life. 

The next time someone suggests you have made a mistake or done wrong, take an honest look at yourself and choose God’s way.

So did Cain do this?

GEN 4:8-10…  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Nope, Cain did not learn from his previous mistakes but instead Cain tried to play God.  God created life and therefore only God has the right to take it away. 

Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought sin into the world and they may have thought eating a piece of fruit wasn’t so bad, but look at how quickly their sinful nature developed in their children - from disobedience to outright murder and from sin against God to sin against God and man.

A clear theme is emerging and by taking note of the reason behind the murder we can already begin to see the theme.  What is the reason behind the murder? Well put simply its envy or jealousy.  This is also the same reason they kill Jesus centuries later.

It is also interesting to note at this point that Abel was the younger brother.  As we progress though the Bible you will see this theme emerging (i.e. Cain and Able, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau).  In those days it was the eldest who inherited everything but I think God did not want anybody to think they had a natural right to His gifts and inheritance. 

GEN 4:11-16 … God continued, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.  You will be a restless wanderer of the earth.”  Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear.  Today you are driving me from the land and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”  But the Lord said to him, “Not so if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.”  Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.    So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod (means wandering), east of Eden.

God judges all sins and there are always consequences for our actions because he desires to correct us and restore our relationship with him.  In Cain’s case he polluted the ground which he had worked with Abel’s blood which seeped into it and for this he became useless at his job.  He was a farmer and the ground would no longer produce food for him. Moreover he was alienated from his family and like his parents’ who was sent out of Eden, Cain is sent out further from the presence of God.

“He will suffer vengeance seven times over,” means that if a person were to kill Cain, their punishment would be complete, thorough and much worse than that received by Cain for his Sin.

But why was Cain so worried about being killed by others though?

Well he was scared that his family would take revenge or punishment into their own hands.  After all he was probably married to one of his sisters.

GEN 4:17… Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.  Cain was then building a city and he named it after his son Enoch. 

So … where did Adam’s children and grandchildren get their mates?  Well Adam lived 930 years and we will later read that ‘he had other sons and daughters.’  He could have had over 100 children during that time and if he took a second wife, he could have had even more.  Then his offspring married other offspring and so the human race was established.  It is believed that as the human race was new and still genetically pure, that there would have been no repercussions / side effects in marrying a family member.

GEN 4:18-22… To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.  Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock (cattle, donkeys and possibly camels).  His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute.  Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron.  Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

It is interesting to note that one of my books actually hint at the fact pre-flood genealogies especially in the Ancient East and Mesoptaman text like the Sumerian King List records lists of monarchs that ruled the land before the Great Flood and some of these texts attest / confirm the Bible texts of genealogies.

Alongside the names of Cain’s descendants are listed their achievements. This short summary of Lamech’s family shows us the variety of talent and ability God gives humans.

Urbanization also came from Cain’s line as it was Cain who began to build cities.  This however started concentrating sinners and sin in one place and following these verses, we see where it leads as we continue back along the line of sin which seems to be presenting itself in the line of Cain …

GEN 4: 23… Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words.  I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.  If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

When left to their own devices, people tend to get worse instead of better.  For some reason at this point my mind drifts to the high school set work book ‘The Lord of the Flies’ wherein there is a total degeneration of behaviour when boys are left to fend for themselves on an island.

Anyway, getting back to the Bible, there is another killing presumably in self-defence and Lamech makes it that anyone who took revenge on Lamech would suffer 77 times worse punishment than Cain’s murderer would have suffered if they had sought revenge at the time. We are unsure of the reason for this perhaps because it was self-defence or perhaps there was more reason and opportunity for Lamech to be killed compared to when Cain committed the murder. But what is interesting is that Lamech states this and not God.  It seems as if God has stopped talking to Cain’s family…

GEN 4:25-26a… Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”  Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. 

Seth took Abel’s place as the leader of God’s faithful people.  Through Seth, came the generation of Adam that continues the Bible story.

GEN 4:26b… At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.

They began to seek God in (public) worship.  Details are not given but the implication is that this calling began in Seth’s own family circle.

Two distinct groups are appearing:

1.    Those who show indifference to sin and evil (i.e. like Cain’s descendants)
2.    Those who call on the name of the Lord and are repentant of sin (i.e. like Seth’s descendants)

Though we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, you can still choose which group you belong to and what kind of life you with to live.

To end off, I thought I’d let all of you know that I have started a Facebook group so make interaction and discussions easier.  You can find it at the following link:


  1. Hebrews 11: 2 helps: "By faith Abel offered ... a more excellent sacrifice than Cain". The major difference is that one offered in faith and the other did not. But I think it was the faith that made Abel realise that blood had to be shed. God had clothed his parents in "coats of skin".