Genesis 4:8-15 - The First Murder, Cain Kills Abel: Sin Cannot Be Hid
Under normal circumstances parents expect great things for their children. We want them to be wise, handsome or beautiful, filled with grace, successful. In some cases we look to our children to live out our own limited successes or overcome their failures.
But here we are going to look at a child who has grown up to be what we would not want our children to end up like. We are going to talk about Cain and Able. Cain is the example of not mastering sin but sin mastering Cain. We are going to learn how to deal with anger and how to control it rather than anger controlling us. We are going to learn about deception, murder, ignoring and rejecting God’s warning and Word and choosing to follow the way of sin rather than the way of the Lord. Listen to Psalm 1:
"Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalm 1:1-6, NKJV)
A. The deception and murder (v.8).
1. “Cain talked with Abel his brother, Cain rose up against Abel and killed him…” (v.8).
a) Cain lured Abel into a field, attacked and murdered him.
(1) Note a few facts:
(a) Cain had been angry at both his brother and at God (Gen.4:8). He was angry because God had rejected him but God accepted Abel.
(b) God had warned Cain that sin was crouching at his door (Gen.4:7).
(i) Sin was just like a wild beast, ready to lurch forward and consume him.
(ii) Cain allowed his bitterness and hostility against his brother and against God to fester and consume him.
(iii) Cain did not allow himself to be mastered by God and so became enslaved by the devil. Sin had its way with him, and he became the first murderer.
(c) Cain is now seen deceiving Abel. Cain deceived—deliberately and wilfully deceived—his brother so he could carry out his murderous plot.
(d) Note how often Abel is said to be Cain’s “brother” throughout this passage (six times). This graphically shows how terrible Cain’s sin was: it was his very own brother—the very brother who came from his own mother’s womb—whom he plotted to kill and whom he eventually murdered.
(e) The ungodly seed was now planted upon earth. Cain was the first man...who let sin consume him (James 4:1-3).
James talks about how sin starts, grows and finishes, he says "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (James 1:13-15, NKJV)
James asks the question "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures." (James 4:1-3, NKJV)
(2) So here we see the deceit in Cain’s heart.
Cain sounds exactly like the description of Proverbs 26 that says "He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.” (Proverbs 26:24-26, NKJV)
The worst deceit of all is when "Jesus said to Judas, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48, NKJV)
!!!!! (3) Cain plotted Abel’s slaughter and then pulled it off.
(a) He said, “Let’s go out to the field”. Then, when they were in the field out of sight of others, “Cain attacked his brother and killed him.”
(b) But Cain was not out of God’s sight. God sees everything, and God saw Cain.
(4) Note the sins of Cain:
(a) Anger, deception, murder
(b) ignoring and rejecting God’s warning and Word
(c) choosing to follow the way of sin and of Satan
When it comes to murder, we must always remember the words of Christ: "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matthew 5:22, NKJV)
(5) The lesson for us is clear: anger held within the heart is equal to murder in God’s eyes.
Exodus 20 says "You shall not murder." (Exodus 20:13, NKJV)
Peter said "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters." (1 Peter 4:15, NKJV)
John says that Cain "Was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous." (1 John 3:12, NKJV)
B. The confrontation with God (v.9-10).
1. “Where is Abel your brother…?” (v.9a).
a) God questioned Cain (v.9a).
(1) God was not asking for information; God knew exactly where Abel was. God wanted Cain to think about his sin and what he had done so that he would cry out for mercy.
(2) Note that Cain is not seeking after God, but God is seeking after Cain.
(3) God is love—His very nature is love—therefore, God set out to demonstrate His love. God went after Cain, like He did Adam asking: “Adam, where are you?” This is the call of God as the seeking Savior.
Jesus said "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4, NKJV)
Jesus "has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”“ (Luke 19:10, NKJV)
To the church in Laodicea, the Lord said "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20).
(4) Here is a prime example of the mercy of God.
(a) God still speaks to Cain and gives him an opportunity to repent.
(b) Jesus also gave Judas and opportunity to repent (Lk.22:48).
2. “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper…?” (v.9b).
a) Cain denied responsibility for his brother (v.9b).
(1) Think how evil this reply is. The lie was Cain’s denial that he knew his brother’s whereabouts.
(2) But sin had mastered him at this point that he not only lied; he lied to God, no doubt thinking that he could get away with it.
(a) It is true that Adam and Eve had tried to shift the blame when God had confronted them with their sin on the occasion of the fall.
(b) But they did not lie; they told the truth even though they were trying to escape from under it. But now Cain lies, and the lie is to God.
(3) Second, he asks a question and this is even worse than the lie.
(a) So hard is his heart that he now suggests that his brother, whom he killed, is not his responsibility.
(4) Do we hear the voice of modern man in Cain’s cruel question? I think we do.
(a) I read of a woman who was murdered in New York while more than thirty neighbors heard her screams and ignored her cries for help.
(b) In Oklahoma City a woman gave birth to a baby on the sidewalk while similarly calloused people ignored her cries and her need for help.
(c) These stories could be multiplied indefinitely. Although many people do answer such cries for help, this only reinforces the cruelty and sin of the many more who do not.
(5) The great tragedy is this: we deny that we know where about people in great need.
(a) We deny responsibility for them. But, just as Cain lied, we are lying. Our communities and neighborhoods, our whole world, is full of hurting people, and we know it.
(b) God’s voice still thunders forth: “Where is your brother? You are responsible! You are his brother, his keeper!”
(6) Remember Jesus was asked “who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29-37)?
b) God revealed an undeniable truth: Sin cannot be hid (v.10).
(1) Cain made himself think a most foolish thought: he could hide his sin from God.
Cain thought he had gotten away with his evil deed, but let’s remember Num.32 that says "you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23, NKJV)
Proverbs 28 says "He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13, NKJV)
Isaiah pronounced a woe saying "Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord, And their works are in the dark; They say, “Who sees us?” and, “Who knows us?” (Is.29:15)
(2) Cain hardened his heart against God and refused to repent.
Proverbs 28 warns us by saying "Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” (Proverbs 28:14, NKJV)
Another warning in Proverbs 29 is "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." (Proverbs 29:1, NKJV)
Paul told those that were unrepentant "In accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God," (Romans 2:5, NKJV)
The exhortation to all this is found in Hebrews 3: "Exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13, NKJV)
(3) God not only saw the sin of Cain, God heard the cry of Abel for justice (Heb.11:4).
(a) The point is this: his blood still cries out for justice against all who do evil against their brothers upon earth.
(b) Abel’s blood still cries out against all the injustices against people. His blood cries out for godly vengeance.
Jesus said in Luke 11 “The blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation." (Luke 11:50-51, NKJV)
(4) The blood of Christ proclaims a much greater message than the blood of Abel. Christ’s blood proclaims redemption, even the forgiveness of sins, not vengeance.
We read in Hebrews 12 "Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:24, NKJV)
And because of Jesus "We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7, NKJV)
C. The judgment of God (v.11-13).
a) Less than he deserved (v.11-12).
(1) Earlier in Genesis, on the occasion of God’s judgment on Satan, Eve, and Adam, following the sin of our first parents in eating of the forbidden tree
(a) Satan is cursed (Gen. 3:14) and the ground is cursed for Adam’s sake (Gen. 3:17).
(b) But Adam and Eve were not cursed, as we have seen. Now for the first time the curse of God is laid on a mortal.
(2) This curse was a fearful thing. Yet in certain ways it was less than Cain deserved. What Cain really deserved was death.
(a) A few chapters farther on in Genesis, God institutes capital punishment, saying to Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6).
(b) If death is the divinely appointed punishment for murder, God certainly had every right to punish Cain in this way. Yet he did not, so great is his mercy to our race.
(3) Scripture teaches two things about the curse of God upon sin.
(a) Sin has put every person under the curse of God.
Paul said "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness," (Romans 1:18, NKJV)
He also said in Galatians 3 "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." (Galatians 3:10, NKJV)
(b) Jesus Christ delivers us from the curse and wrath of God.
If your sin has made you weary, there’s good news, Jesus said "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Even though every person is under the curse "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)" (Galatians 3:13, NKJV)
Hebrews 2 says "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:14-15, NKJV)
b) More than he can bear (v.13).
(1) We have seen, then, that God punished Cain with far less a punishment than he deserved. But in Cain’s eyes this was, far more than he could bear.
(2) Such is the complaint of the unrepentant, and Cain was certainly unrepentant.
(3) Remember the rich man in Christ’s parable?
(a) In this life he was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. Lazarus was a beggar, covered with sores.
(b) We are told that he longed “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table” (Luke 16:21). But apparently not only did the rich man not feed him, he was even reluctant to drop those crumbs. In time both died.
(c) The beggar was transported by angels to be with Abraham. The rich man was sent to hell and was in torment. Looking up he saw Abraham and Lazarus beside him.
(d) But he did not think of the wrong he had done to Lazarus. He did not repent of any sin whatever. He was thinking only of himself and of how unfairly he had been treated.
(e) He called out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire” (v. 24).
Revelation 16:10–11 would be a fitting commentary on it: “Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.”
(4) Many times we do the same. We think we have more than we can bear in our situation:
Paul said that "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)
Always remember the mercy of God, He says "Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7, NASB95)
c) In harms way (v.12b).
(1) If you have never come to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are somewhat like Cain. You are in danger, and you must flee from it.
(a) The Navy in wartime uses an expression of ships that sail into danger. They are said to be “in harm’s way.” That is an expression for you, if you are apart from Christ.
(b) You are in harm’s way, and you must get back into the safe way before you are lost forever.
(2) There are things that will keep you from it:
(a) Your pride – If you cant humble yourself, confess to God you are a sinner in need of His forgiveness, then that is your pride.
(b) Your hate – Hate is a terrible thing. You do not possess it; it possesses you. It is truly the sin crouching at the door that desires to master the home’s inhabitant.
(c) Resentment and self-pity – Cain was so possessed with resentment against God that he could not see the enormity of his crime and so actually felt sorry for himself when God punished him with far less of a judgment than he deserved.
D. The reaction and complaint against God’s judgment (v.13-14).
1. “Surely You have driven me out from the ground, I shall be hidden from Your face…” (v.14).
a) The complaint against being alienated (v.14a-c).
(1) From the fruitfulness of the earth (v.14a) – Cain is now going to struggle just to meet the necessities of life.
(2) From God (v.14b) – being cut off from the presence of God, Cain now is going to lack the care and blessing from God in his life.
(3) From society (v.14c) – Cain is not ever going to be at rest and have a permanent resting place.
b) The complaint against justice and revenge (v.14d).
(1) Note also that Cain fears other men, that they might seek justice and not mercy. Cain does not abhor his sin; he is reacting and complaining about the judgment of God.
(2) He is accusing God of being unfair and too severe.
c) The complaint against being acceptable to God.
(1) Most people complain against the judgment of God. They do just what Cain did, seek to lighten or excuse their sin.
(2) Most persons believe they will be acceptable to God, in the final day.
Those who are so deceived about their salvation, on that last day, Jesus will say "And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matthew 7:23)
Unbelievers should fear their judgment, Jesus said "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt.10:28)
Speaking about belief in His name, Jesus said "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36, NASB95)
(3) Few persons believe that God will ever judge them, or at least not so severely. When they hear that God will reject them without faith in Christ, they rebel against such teaching.
!! E. The great mercy of God (v.15).
1. “The Lord said, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold…” (v.15a).
a) God warns against revenge (v.15a).
(1) Note the name used for God throughout this passage is LORD (Yahweh or Jehovah). This is the name used when stressing the redemption, faithfulness, grace, and mercy of God.
(a) God wanted Cain to cry out for His mercy and forgiveness. But as we have seen, Cain refused. He still wanted to go his own way and live his life like he wanted.
(b) But God still acted in mercy. He still reached out to Cain.
(c) First, God decreed that vengeance was not to be executed upon Cain. If anyone dared, then a sevenfold vengeance would fall upon the head of the avenger.
(2) All vengeance must be left up to God. Scripture is clear about this.
Paul says in Romans 12 "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord." (Romans 12:19, NASB95)
Speaking about the return of Christ, "and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, NASB95)
"For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”" (Hebrews 10:30, NASB95)
b) God assures Cain—gives him a sign (v.15b).
(1) Second, God set a mark upon Cain to assure him and to protect him.
(a) Was this a visible sign to keep vengeance-seekers from killing Cain or simply the assurance from God that no one would go against God’s threat of judgment?
(b) Scripture is not clear. However, men are seldom kept from doing what they want by the warnings of God, even the warning of eternal damnation.
(c) For this reason, the mark was probably a visible mark that reminded the people of Cain’s day that God meant what he said.
(2) Cain’s case is a sorry one, it is sorrier even than this in that it has become a pattern for many persons who have followed him.
(a) If you are walking in Cain’s way—if you have rejected the way of salvation provided for you through the shed blood of Christ
(b) Refusing to accept responsibility for your own state or the state of others—heed the warning of God and turn back while there is still time. Reject Cain’s way.
(c) Take the way of Abel who, though he was killed, nevertheless had testimony of God that he was righteous (Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51; Heb. 11:4).
God says of Abel, “By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Heb. 11:4).