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Faithlife

Genesis 4a

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Genesis 4:1-2… Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Commentary

            The narrative begins with “Now” signifying a new chapter in this ongoing saga of how life began on the earth. Adam and Eve have been banned from the Garden of Eden and are now living under the curse. They haven’t died as God promised they would, but they are dying. Genesis 2:17, in speaking of what would happen if they ate the forbidden fruit, literally says, “…dying you shall die.” Now Adam and Eve are dying – descriptive of all humans beings.

             In the midst of living in a cursed world and living out a death sentence, Adam has sexual relations with his wife (KJV “knew his wife”) in obedience to the command to “be fruitful and multiply…” (Gen. 1:28). This union produces the first offspring. There is no mention of the pains that were involved in the first conception/childbirth as a result of the woman’s curse, and just like the modern day, the woman seems forgetful of that pain when she brings forth a “man.” She names him “Cain,” meaning “gotten,” and this is a practice throughout Scripture where names are given to children in association with specific events. Eve begat Cain, but she recognizes that he comes from the Lord (literally, “Yahweh” – God’s personal name, the One who fulfills His promises from Exodus 6:3-5). It is possible to translate the passage “I have begotten a man – Yahweh” signifying Eve’s hopeful expectation of giving birth to the Messiah (denoted by the use of Yahweh in the Hebrew text), the promised “seed” that would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). This translation would stem from the allegorical interpretation of Genesis 3:15 where a redeemer is promised. At any rate, Eve reveals her faith in God – the God who placed her under a curse for disobedience – and brings forth her first child with His help.

            Verse 2 speaks of another child Eve bears, and she names him “Abel” – a name that means “vapor” or “vanity.” Why she would name her child “vanity” is unknown, but it might suggest that this is how she saw life at this point  – pointless and nothing but a vapor (cf. Ecclesiastes). There is no way of knowing just why she named him as such, but the fact that she named Cain in proportion to her jubilation and her possible expectation that he would save her and her husband from the curse, means that Abel’s name likely also reflects her mood at the time of his birth. How much time passed from the birth of Cain to the birth of Abel is also unknown, but all indications are that they were close together. Abel is said to be a shepherd – one who looks out over the flocks, and Cain is said to be a farmer. Abel works with the animals who are cursed, and Cain works the ground that is cursed. Though Abel’s job as a shepherd was not one that produced meat for food (because this is forbidden until after the Flood in Genesis 9:3), the fact that God “covered” Adam and Eve with animal skins as a result of their nakedness is a strong indicator that people used animals for sacrifice for their sins, and it was Abel’s job to provide them. Now there is no mandate for this that we’re aware of, but it does point to their future when Moses gives them the Law which requires the shedding of blood for sins.

Food for Thought

            Genesis 3:15 speaks of two “seeds,” one from God, and one from the devil. The two types of people on this planet are either God’s children (Abel) or Satan’s (Cain). Both have their physical births by a woman, but spiritually they are different. First John 3:10 says, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”

Genesis 4:3-5… So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 And Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

Commentary

            The opening phrase literally says, “And it came to be at the end of days…” This signifies that an undisclosed amount of time had passed in leading up to a designated time apparently set by God of bringing sacrifices to Him for worship. Cain, being a farmer, brings an offering from the produce of the land. It might be carrots and potatoes, grains and figs, or fruits from trees and vines. Whatever it was it was for the worship of God – a gift given back to God in recognition and worship for His gifts to man. The “offering” is a word for “gift” and “tribute.” Note that at this point there is no law in the scriptures that instructs these men to bring various animals and/or fruits of the ground. Apparently God had made it clear to them, however, to bring such.

            Verse 4 says that Abel also brought an offering, but his offering comes from the “firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.” Whereas Cain just brought “an offering,” Abel’s offering is noteworthy. Since Abel was a shepherd he brings animals. The “firstling” (Hebrew, “birthright”) is in reference to the firstborn animal of a shepherd’s flock dedicated to God later on in scripture. Abel also brought the “fat portions” which means that he brought the best of what he had without keeping it for himself. Both men brought offerings to the Lord as an act of worship, and probably obedience too, though there is nothing in the text that tells us God had commanded this from them. Abel, however, clearly brings a better offering, for the Lord is said to have “regard” for Abel’s offering. The word for “regard” means “to gaze at; to look on with favor,” and although there is no indication of how God does this (they likely approached the pre-incarnate Christ), it is clear that both men knew which offering the Lord preferred.

            Verse 5 is the straightforward way of how God felt about Cain’s offering – He had no “regard” – the same Hebrew word used for Abel’s offering. In other words, God looked on with favor at Abel’s offering, but He took no delight in Cain’s. As a result, Cain “became angry, and his countenance fell.” When the text speaks of Cain’s becoming “angry” it uses a strong Hebrew word meaning to “burn with anger,” but the text also uses a preceding superlative (“very”) to show just how outraged Cain becomes in seeing the Lord’s response. The TEV translation of the Bible says that Cain “became furious, and he scowled in anger.” His childlike offering was akin to his childlike outburst of anger – a sure-fire indicator of any man’s spiritual immaturity.

Food for Thought

            Notice that both men offer sacrifices to the Lord. It’s not as if Cain was some sort of atheist who hated God. Cain was plainly a religious man who paid tribute to God by offering a gift to Him. His problem in relation to his brother, however, is that Abel offered his sacrifice “by faith” (Heb. 11:4). Cain offers his out of some sort of religious duty of going through the religious motions. There is no faith however, and his heart isn’t totally dependent on the Lord. Bruce Waltke says that Cain first fails in his worship, and because he fails in worship, he fails in his work. Because of his unorthodox view of God (bad theology) his ethics fall by the wayside.

            How is your worship of God? Is it just a religious ritual where you act pious for a half hour per week in church? Or is it marked by faith – a faith that gives God the best of your time, of your money, and of your life? Choose the latter because the former isn’t looked on with favor at all by God. In fact, God disdains that kind of religiosity, and you’re no better for it either.

Genesis 4:6-8… Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 And Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Commentary

            Cain’s great fury is noticed by God immediately, and He asks him why. God prods Cain as to why he was so angry over something that is all his own fault. When a man offers less than his best, then gets jealous over the Lord’s favor in another man’s life who has been faithful, God has the right to ask, “Why are you angry?” It’s the same type question God asks Adam and Eve when they hide from Him after their sin in Genesis 3. God’s question is designed to illicit a repentant response. But, just as in Adam and Eve’s case, Cain too is unmoved by God’s question. In the same way that his parents had no defense for their blatant sin, neither did he. Instead, he ignores God’s question and sows the seed of hatred that eventually evolves into murder.

            In verse 7 God explains to Cain that all he needed to do was to obey Him (“if you do well”), and his anger would subside – his “countenance” would be lifted up (taken away). The flip side of the coin was that if he continued to “not do well,” that is, fail to obey, then sin was “crouching” at his door. Sin is personified by God and made to look like a wild animal waiting for its prey. The Apostle Peter says as much: “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). It’s as if God was looking at the spiritual dimension that Cain couldn’t see, and what He saw was Satan waiting to seize upon Cain who was basking in a jealous and furious rage. Furthermore, God tells Cain that sin “desires” him. This is the same word used for Eve in her desire for authority over and above her husband as a result of the curse in Genesis 3. In the same way that women have a natural desire to rule over their husbands, sin is crouching at Cain’s front door step desiring him. Now as frightening as that sounds, God’s words reassure the reader when He says, “but you must master it.” The word for “master” here is the same word used for Adam in relation to his wife in Genesis 3:16 when it says, “but he shall rule over you.” It literally means “overwhelm,” and God tells Cain that he has the responsibility and the power to rule over sin without sin ruling over him. “Sin wants to master you, but you must master it!” Obviously sin can be mastered.

            God’s words fall on Cain’s deaf ears in verse 8. He is said to have “told his brother Abel.” Though what Cain told Abel is not revealed in the most accurate Hebrew texts (MT), it seems unlikely that he conveyed the actual words of God to him. It may be, as the Septuagint and other ancient versions have, that “he said to his brother, ‘let’s go out into the field.’” This falls in line with what Cain is conspiring to do, namely, seeking an opportunity to get his brother alone so he can murder him. And he does just that in verse 8. The simple act of partaking of the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3 by a deceived woman and a spineless man has now led to the murder of an innocent and righteous man. Genesis 3:15 is in full motion here. The seed of the serpent (Cain) has reared its ugly head by striking the heal of the seed of the woman (Abel).

Food for Thought

            The Apostle John writes, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.” Cain murdered Abel because he was of the seed of the serpent – the devil’s child. His actions were fueled by his blatant refusal to obey God and control his anger. Jesus also teaches that anger is as much a sin as murder (Matt. 5:21-22). Look out for that today.

Genesis 4:9-12… Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?” 10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you; you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

Commentary

            The conversations that go on between the Lord and man throughout the early chapters of Genesis are most likely face-to-face conversations between the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ and man, God’s creation in His own image. After Cain kills Abel the Lord appears to him again to ask him the same type of rhetorical question He asked Adam after he ate the forbidden fruit. Cain lies to God about not knowing where Abel is, and then he asks his own rhetorical question to God in mock sarcasm. Notice the condescending and disrespectful way Cain answers back to God when he asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Only the seed of the serpent could stand before the Lord with such insolence. It’s the same way Satan himself speaks to God in Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5, and we shouldn’t be surprised to see his children talk to God in the same disrespectful manner.

            Verse 10 is another rhetorical question by God addressed to Cain so as to condemn his action. Abel’s blood is said to be crying out from the ground. The first mention of blood in the Bible here is personified, and even though Abel is dead, the Lord hears his cry for justice. Though having no voice while being dead, the voice of his blood was more passionate than any cry he could have made while alive. Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:50-51 speak of Abel not only as a righteous man but as a prophet too. Cain had been able to silence the voice of the righteous prophet, but he couldn’t escape the voice of his blood that had been poured out on God’s created soil at the hands of a wicked man. The same is true of all righteous martyrs who die needlessly.

            Verse 11 is God’s punishment to Cain for his sin. Whereas God had already cursed the ground in Genesis 3:17-19 because of Adam’s sin, Cain is further cursed from the ground – the very ground that is now soiled with an innocent man’s blood on account of his actions. And verse 12 reveals to Cain exactly what verse 11 means. All efforts to cultivate the ground by Cain would now amount to nothing – it would no longer yield its “strength” – it’s fruit and substance. Cain’s very livelihood, the way he makes his living, is now taken from him. Since Cain has forfeited the right to till the ground and produce fruit, he is now nothing but a “vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” He’s is now homeless and jobless, yet he maintains his own life.

Food for Thought

John Calvin said, “Murderers indeed often exult, as if they had evaded punishment; but at length God will show that innocent blood has not been silent, and that he has not said in vain, ‘the death of the saints is precious in his eyes,’ (Psalm 115:17). Therefore, as this doctrine brings relief to the faithful, lest they should be too anxious concerning their own lives, over which they learn that God continually watches, so does it passionately thunder against wicked men who take no hesitation in destroying those whom God has undertaken to preserve.”

The blood of Abel even today cries out for God’s vengeance on wicked men because his death is the first of its kind concerning all human suffering endured by God’s righteous children at the hands of Godless men. He was a prophet – a man of God who walked with God yet who was killed by a child of the devil. But as Hebrews 12:24 attests to, whereas Abel’s blood seeks God’s vengeance, the blood of Christ covers it. His shed blood came as a result of our murder. 

Genesis 4:13-15… And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, Thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Thy face I shall be hidden, and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, lest anyone finding him should slay him.

Commentary

            Cain’s response to the Lord after his sentence is consistent with his character. He still refuses to repent, and although he alone is to blame for his actions, he still complains. In verse 14 he repeats God’s sentence on him, but he comes to a stark realization of what that means by adding “and from Thy face I shall be hidden…” This attests to the possibility that God was present in Cain’s life in the form of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. Now that he was being exiled from his home to wander, he realizes that he will no longer have access to God’s “face.”

            Cain also says something else that reveals his fear of wandering. He says, “…whoever finds me will kill me.” If there was only four people on the planet at that time, who was he afraid of? It’s important to note that though Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel are the only people spoken of to this point in Genesis, they are only the focal point main characters. Genesis 5:3-5 clearly shows that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters. Their son Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old following the death of Abel, and then Adam lived another 800 years having children – multiplying and filling the earth. It’s conceivable that when the account of Cain and Abel is given, there are hundreds, even thousands, of people on the earth. Of course this would mean that Adam and Eve’s children would have had to procreate with their own siblings, but this was not forbidden nor was it genetically dangerous in the beginning. The people Cain feared had to have been people from his own family in the first 125 years of the earth’s existence. Since Abel is called a “prophet” in Luke 11:50-51, it is likely that he was a preacher of God’s righteousness to his many brothers and sisters. He must have been dearly loved by them, and now Cain fears those who loved Abel. He must fear the fact that he has to face the ones he has hurt so badly. It would be like allowing the infamous “sniper” to go free in the streets of Washington D.C. He would greatly fear the retaliation of those whom he hurt.

            But God is once again showing grace to Cain in verse 15. He gives Cain a “sign” and announces His Own vengeance on anyone who kills Cain. If someone were to kill him, they would apparently suffer seven times more than the way Cain was to suffer. It’s noteworthy that God gives Cain a “sign” – possibly a mark on his skin to protect him. It is unknown what his mark was, but it must have been quite obvious to those who came in contact with him, and it had to have been a deterrent to all who wanted to harm him for killing righteous Abel.

Food for Thought

Cain responds to his sentence for murder as all unbelievers will respond when they face the Almighty God and go into the eternal lake of fire. They’ll respond like Cain with something like, “This isn’t fair! It’s too much to endure!” But they will have only themselves to blame. Just like Cain they will have rejected God’s counsel to “master” the sin that seeks to “master” them. They will have gone “the way of Cain” (Jude 11); their pride, haughtiness, indifference to Christ, questioning God’s goodness, and hatred for those who faithfully follow after Jesus will bring them to the very place they most fear. The Gospel call for salvation in Jesus Christ alone for has gone out to the world. You either love it or hate it. Indifference to it is hatred for it.

The Seed of the Serpent: The Story of an Unrighteous Man

Scripture reading: 1 John 3:1-12

Homiletical Observations:

1.     Offerings to God MUST be from faith – from the BEST of what we possess.

2.     God’s people ARE one another’s keepers, and we MUST love our brothers.

3.     Innocent blood cries out to God for vengeance – it is God’s (Deut. 32:35).

4.     Life w/o God and His blessing is a dangerous life outside of His protection & fellowship. We are simply wanderers w/o God’s leading.

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