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Chapter 4

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Cain And Abel (ch. 4:1 - 26)


Chapter 4 concerns the story of Cain and Abel.  Theologians suggest that we have the formation of two different lines of humans here. There's the evil line from Cain, and the good line from Abel.  Abel seems to be good and Cain seems to be evil.  Many theologians hold to the idea of these two streams of people that carry on down through history.  Others suggest that we are all evil at heart.  Both views might be right.  Whatever the case, from the very beginning of time, we see there are always those who are good, and those who have faith in God.  Abel clearly had faith and Cain didn't.  You can see this in their offspring as well.   You can also see this when you study Hebrews 11.   


In chapter 4 verse 1 we see that Adam and Eve came together and conceived Cain.  Eve said that the Lord had helped her through the birthing process.  He had given her a male baby.  The text doesn't say that Cain was the first baby that Eve gave birth too, but it is my guess that he was.  There's no hint that Eve gave birth to any children before the fall.  I'd suggest that most scholars believe that Cain was Eve's first baby.  She was expecting a hard time because part of her curse was the fact the giving birth would become painful.


The name Cain means "to get", or "gotten".  This is why he was so named., that is, Eve got the child she wanted and because she got him she named him Cain.


Verse 2 says that "later she gave birth to his brother Abel.  The name Abel means "breath."  We don't know how "later" this was.  We don't know if Abel was Eve's second baby.  We don't know haw many babies she had.  She lived quite long and so she probably gave birth to many children and it is a good chance that Abel was not her second child.   Abel may only be mentioned due to his untimely death, committed by Cain.  The story of Cain and Able take pre-eminence over the story of the other children that Eve had. 


Scholars tend to believe that by the time Cain was older and went out to find a wife, there were probably thousands of people who had populated the earth.  There's no way of proving this, but the point should be made that we probably should not be thinking in terms of a small little family here, consisting of Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and maybe a couple more children.


Of course the question is always asked, where did Cain and Abel find their spouses.  The answer is simple.  They married their sisters, or possibly a cousin.  One thing we need to note here is that life was different after the fall, yet life was even more different after the flood in Noah's day.  Many scholars believe there was a  canopy of water around the earth that sheltered mankind from the sun.  This could have slowed down the aging process.  We know from Genesis 1 that above the sky was water.    So Eve had many children.  Just imagine how many children a woman could have if she lived to 900 years of age.  Then all of these children would have had children who had children, and so on.  It is quite likely that Cain and Abel married distant cousins. 


The rest of verse 2 says that Abel kept flocks, or sheep as the KJV says, while Cain worked the soil.   These flocks might well be the livestock that is mentioned in the creation account of chapter 1.  We don't know for sure.  When the KJV uses the word "sheep"  that is somewhat of guess.  We really can't be one hundred percent certain the Hebrew word means "sheep."


The point is that Abel's work had to do with animals, while Cain's had to do with grains.  If you remember, God drove Adam from the Garden of Eden, where he had to work the fields as well with the sweat of his brow. 


One thing we need to always remember when reading Genesis, and much of the Bible, is that we don't know the whole story.  We know the important facts, enough to give us the truth that God wants us to know.  This is important to understand.  For example, much of the facts relating to chapter 4 are simply unknown to us.  We don't know why Cain worked in the fields and Abel worked with animals.  There's much missing concerning the bringing of sacrifices to God.  There's just a few things said at this point concerning sacrifices.  We fill in the blanks as best we can.  I wonder if Abel worked with animals because he was to prepare them for sacrifices.


In verse 3 we learn that "in the course of time Cain brought some of the fruit of the soil as an offering to the Lord."   One thing to note here is that in chapter one we see God as just God, or Elohim.  In chapter 2 and 3 He is seen as Lord God, or Yahweh Elohim.  And now He is known as just Yahweh.  Some liberal scholars say this is evidence that more than one person wrote Genesis, but that is speculative.


Another thing to note is the words "course of time."  We don't know how long of a time "a course of time" is.  We could be talking decades here.   This is important when answering the question, "to whom did Cain and Abel marry, and how did they find their wives?"


Here in verse 3 we see the first mention of giving a sacrifice to God.  We need to understand that there is more not said in the Genesis account that what is said.  This is important because much is not said about when and why Cain and Abel gave sacrifices to God.  It is my opinion that God must have explain this to Adam and Eve shortly after He killed the animal to clothe their nakedness.  It seems to me that God Himself made the first sacrifice on the part of Adam so that he understood the idea that from here on out, blood had to be shed for man's sin.  God said that when Adam eats from the tree of good and evil, he would die.  Everything died, as seen in the killing of the first animal, the first sacrifice.  So I would suggest that the first sacrifice was not made in Genesis 4, but in Genesis 3.  I'd also suggest that the sacrifice here in Genesis 4 might not have even been the second sacrifice.  We don't know the time frame of this chapter.  By chapter 4 decades or centuries might well have passed with hundreds of sacrifices.


We see that Cain's offerings were from the fruit of the soil.  This only makes sense because that is what he worked at.  Abel brought the fat from a first born animal.  That makes sense to because he worked with animals.


We should note something here about the "fat" that Abel brought before the Lord.  We see this type of offering is part of the sacrificial system that God established in the Law of Moses.   Leviticus 3:16 speaks of offering the fat to the Lord.  So here we have a specific sacrifice that was codified in the Law of Moses hundreds of years later, but was being performed close to the beginning of time.  This tells me that many of the regulations set forth in the Law of Moses was already in existence.  They were simply codified into law in Moses' day. 


Also in the Law of Moses are many references to grain offerings.  I say this because some people think that Cain's sacrifice was not acceptable to God because it wasn't an animal sacrifice, but that might not be so. 


Hebrews 11:4 has something to say about why God rejected Cain's offerings.  The writer of Hebrews said that "by faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.  By faith he was commended as a righteous man…"   I believe this verse tells us that it wasn't the grain offering that bothered God, but a lack of faith on Cain's part that bothered God.  Able had faith.  He came to God as one who trusted God with his life, because that is what faith is.  Cain, obviously did not trust God with his life, and therefore no sacrifice would have been acceptable.  Faith, or trust comes before anything we do, or anything we might give to God.  The writer of Hebrews  says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6)"   Also, Paul said that anything done outside of faith is sin (Romans 14:22). 


So as we saw allusions to New Testament salvation based on the cross of Christ in the first animal being killed, and in the offspring of Eve bruising the serpent's head, so we see it here.  We see the importance of faith.  We see that faith, or trust, is basic in our relationship with God.  Without trust as a basis to our relationship with God, or with anyone else, we have no real relationship.  Remember faith is trust.  Faith is not some abstract philosophical concept.


We seem to have a progression here in Genesis, a progression that the apostle Paul seems to use in the book of Romans.  We first see God as creator in chapters 1 and 2.  We then see man and his fall in chapter 3.  We also see the need for a sacrifice in chapter 2 with the killing of an animal.  And now we see the need for faith here is chapter 4, faith that produces works which is the sacrifice in this case. 


Verse 5 states that God did not accept Cain's offering, and now we know why.  As a result, Cain was very angry.  The self-centeredness of the fall of man shows through here.  "I sacrificed. My sacrifice should have been accepted."   The words "I" and  "my" are fundamental to the new nature of mankind after the fall.


In verse 6 God asked Cain why he was angry and why his face was downcast.  We've said this before but I'm sure God did not have to ask Gain this question.  God knew what was going on.  He knew why Cain was angry.  He just wanted Cain to verbalize what he was going through, as is often the case with God. He often wants us to confess, that is, confess our sins as well as confess our faith. 


In verse 7 God said that "if you do what is right you will be accepted."  Note that God didn't say, "if you offer a right sacrifice your sacrifice will be accepted.".  No, the sacrifice was not the issue here.  The attitude of Cain's heart, the lack of faith was the problem.


 One thing to note here is from 1 John 3:12 where John said that Cain was of the devil.  This sheds a bit of light on why his sacrifice was not accepted by God.  It was that he had given his life to the devil.  Some might say that he did not give his life to the devil before he sacrificed, but after, and that might well be.  It is hard to say.  All we know for sure is that at some point, he gave his life to the devil. 


God then said, "if you do not what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it."  First of all look at how God presents this negative statement.  He presents it in a positive way, that is, "if you do not what is right…"   He did hot say, "if you do what is wrong."  The emphases is on what is right, even when the intent of the statement is "what is wrong." 


Also note the phrase "sin is crouching at you door."  Sin here seems to have a personality of its own.  It's much like we see in Romans 7 when Paul speaks of sin in the same light.  He speaks of it as something without him, something separate from him, who wants to take control of him.  The same thing is seen here.  Sin is crouching at the door of Cain's life, ready to pounce on Cain. 


God continues to say that "sin desires to have you."   The word "desire" here is the same Hebrew word that we saw in Genesis 3, where part of the curse placed on Eve by God was that her "desire would be to her husband."  That is, "her longing" would be to Adam.  Sin longed to have Cain, as it longed to have Paul, as seen in Romans 7.  Sin longs to have you and I, as if sin has life in itself. 


The words "sin desires to have you" reminds me of the time Jesus told Peter that satan desired to have him, but He would pray for Peter that his faith, or trust in Him would not fail.  The same thing is going on here.  Sin, backed by satan, wanted Cain.  God wanted Cain's trust, or his faith.  The battle was on in Abel's life.  The battle between sin and faith, but sin did not act on its own.  It was backed by the power of satan. 


God told Cain that he needed to "master sin."  This means that Cain needed to be in control to the extent that sin would not become his master.  He should be the master of sin. Sin should not be the master of Cain. 


Faith, that is, trust in God is one tool Cain had, as we  have as well, to master sin.  We are responsible to trust God and do the mastering.  Man has a part to play in all of this.  Of course, we do it with God's help, but we do the mastering.


In verse 8 we see that Cain says to Able, "let's go out to the field."  The field is probably where Cain had his crops.  The Hebrew suggest that Cain "lured" his brother out to the field.  How he did this, we really don't know? 


It's clear that between verse 7 and 8 sin got to Cain.  He was unable to master the sin that was crouching at his door.  We don't know how much time elapsed between verses 7 and 8.  We often tend to view such events happening close to each other, but as I've said before.  We don't have the full story.  We simply have a few highlights, and because of this, we think things happen quickly, one after the next.   Yet in this instance, a good amount of time could have elapsed, possibly days, weeks, months, or even years.  Anger could well have been simmering in Cain's heart for quite some time before he actually killed his brother.        


The last part of verse 8 states that Cain attacked Abel and killed him.  So here we see again the death that entered the world upon Adam and Eve's disobedience.  As I've said before, Adam and Eve weren't the only ones who died.  Here we see the death of Abel, the first murder.  It didn't take long before man was killing man, thus the social death we spoke about as well.


One thing we can note about Abel at this point is that in Luke 11:51 Jesus calls Abel a prophet.  The Genesis account does not say Abel was a prophet, but if Jesus said he was, then he was.  This should help us to understand why Abel's sacrifice was accepted.  He must have understood what God wanted, or at least wanted to please God.  If Abel was a prophet, then God must have spoken to him and he must have passed on the message to others, since that is what prophets do.   It might be possible that since Adam disobeyed God, God chose Abel to represent Him.  God always has a remnant of people on earth that will represent Him.  Abel might well be the first of this remnant.   


In verse 9 we see that God asked Cain where his brother was.  Once again, God makes Cain verbalize what had happened.  We see this throughout the Bible.  God asks people to both confess their sin and also confess their faith. 


Cain's response was an out and out lie.  He told God that he did not know where his brother was when in fact he did.  He new exactly where his brother was and what had happened to him. As in the case with Adam in the garden, man's good judgment died.  Cain lied to God, something that is quite ridiculous, since God knows all things, but people lie to God all the time.


Then Cain asked God a question, and you might say it's a rhetorical question.  He asked, "am I my brother's keeper?"  Clearly Cain didn't think he had any responsibility for his brother, but that's not how God views things.  We are our brother's keeper.  The negative and incorrect statement of a murderer tells us the truth about what God thinks about looking after our brother.


In verse 10 God asked Cain, "what have you done?"  Of course God knew what Cain had done and for this reason He didn't give Cain a chance to answer.  God then makes a pretty profound statement.  He said, "your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground."   Blood doesn't really cry out, or at least not in human terms of crying, but blood is important to God.  God saw the blood of Abel on the ground, and in the mind of God, it was crying out. 


Leviticus 17:11 states that the life of a creature is in the blood.  The context of these words is in the sense that animals were used as a sacrifice to God to atone for man's sin. Yet beyond animals, as with humans, our physical life is in our blood.  It's the source of human life, thus the shedding of innocent blood in the eyes of God to cover and wipe out sin is necessary.  Yet Cain did not shed blood for such a purpose.  He killed a man, and that man's blood was wasted. 


So in verse 11 God cursed Cain.  This is the first mention of a man being cursed.  In chapter 3 the ground was cursed, but there is no exact reference to Adam or Eve being cursed.  They were punish, not cursed.  Some might argue that there isn't much difference between being punished and cursed, but I think there is.     


It appears that one reason for the ground being cursed is in relation to the blood the fell on the ground from Abel's dead body.  Cain poisoned the ground so to speak with innocent blood.


In verse 12 we note how the ground would be cursed for Cain.  It would no longer yield the crop it once did for him.  He would therefore be restless, a wanderer, moving from place to place. Probably the reason for this constant movement of Cain was in search of land that would actually support him. 


In verse 13 we see that Cain felt that this punishment was too much for him to bear. Even though Cain felt bad, that does not mean he repented.  Merely feeling bad isn't repentance. Changing your mind about things is repentance.    


Verse 14 tells us that Cain felt bad that he was being driven from the land, that's the land that once supported him.  It might well be a particular parcel of land, but it might also be land in general.  Another thing he felt bad about was being hidden from the presence of God.  He knew the presence of God prior to his disobedience.  We see here that sin clearly separates us from God. Like Adam and Eve, spiritual death came to Cain.


He then says that he will be a restless wanderer on earth.  He knew his fate.  He'd be a gypsy so to speak.  But one more thing that seemed to really bother Cain was now he was afraid of being killed himself.   He committed the first murder.  Murder was now known and seen by others, and probably many of these others were quite upset with Cain since they probably knew Abel. 


In verse 15 we see that God put a mark on Cain so that no one would kill him, and if someone did kill him, he himself would suffer at the hands of God with punishment seven times as bad as the murder. So God marked Cain.  We don't know what this mark was.  It might well have just been a mark.  There's all sorts of conjecture concerning this mark, but we just don't know.


Verse 16 tells us that Cain left the Lord's presence.  We know that God is "omnipresent".  That means He is everywhere at all times.  Yet throughout the Bible the presence of the Lord is spoken about, as it is here.  It appears that even though God is everywhere at all times, He has an immediate presence that is some where, at some specific place.  At this time His presence was in the Garden of Eden.  Cain left God's presence, never to return.  That's a sad thought.  I wonder how Cain felt as he walked away from God.  We know he was angry, but I wonder if he had any regrets.  Cain left to go somewhere east of Eden , so that's probably somewhere east of modern day Iraq.


Cain went to live in the land of  Nod.  The Hebrew word that is translated as Nod means wandering.


In verse 17 we see that Cain "lays with his wife" and had a son named Enoch.  The age old question is, "where did Cain find his wife?"  "Did he marry a sister?"  No one knows the answer for sure, but many scholars believe by this time there might well have been thousands of people on earth.  Maybe this was Cain's sister, or maybe it might have been a niece, or even a great niece, or possibly a cousin. 


One thing we see here is that Cain was banished from the presence of God, but along with him being banished was his wife. 


We also see in verse 17 that Cain built a city.  This appears to be the first city, or at least the first recorded city.  Cain left the farm so to speak, and lived in a city of his own invention.  Some people feel that this move towards the city is significant.  They feel that this was the first step in man building the world system that will end with the anti-christ system at the end of this age. In Cain, we see man moving from the rural and agricultural setting God place man in to the city that man himself has built.  God's original intention for man then might well be rural living.   


From verses 18 to 22 we see the first few generations of Cain.  I will not comment on all these names.


In verse 21 we see the first mention of someone playing the harp and flute.  He was Judal.  Music is thus fundamental to man, and is also fundamental to Godly worship.   


In verse 22 we see Tubal-Cain who made tools from bronze and iron.  Some scholars suggest that these tools were in fact weapons.


In verse 23 we see one of Cain's descendents names Lamach.  The text says that he had two wives.  This is the first record of anyone having two wives. 


Cain had left the presence of God. This resulted in his wife leaving God's presence as well.  This also meant that Cain's children, and generations down the line were born outside of the presence of God.  For those who believe that we are born separated from God, they call this "original" sin.  I tend to believe in original sin.  This probably accounts for Lamach having two wives.  He might not have been the first man to have two wives, but he is the first recorded man to have two wives.  Back n Genesis 2:24 we see that a man and a woman would leave his or her parents and be united to each other.  There is no hint in the text that a man could have more than one wife.  It clearly suggests that a man has one wife, and a woman has one husband.


In verse 23 we see that Lamach killed a young man who had injured him in some way.  This is the second recorded killing of a human in the Bible.  Once again, this might not be the second murder, but it is the second recorded murder.  Thus conflict between individuals has now escalated that would in turn bring conflicts between nations.  The fact that Lamach was injured tells us of a prior conflict that led to this murder.  As is typical with human nature, often one retaliates with something worse than what that person experienced. 


Verse 24 says that if Cain was to be avenged seven times, then Lamach should be avenged seventy-seven times.  This is in reference to God telling Cain that if anyone killed him, that person would experience seven times the punishment from God.  So if anyone killed Lamach, that person would experience seventy-seven times the punishment from God.  This clearly tells us that that killing a killer is no answer to avenging a killer.  We know that God does the avenging, not us.  This might be a fundamental point to begin the discussion of capital punishment.  From this verse, and from what God says about someone killing Cain, it would seem to suggest to me that God would do the punishing and the killing of a killer.  That's not our place.  I'm personally not sure at the moment where to stand on this issue, but I lean towards not being in favour of capital punishment.      


In verse 25 we see Adam and Eve again.  They had another son called Seth.  In Eve's mind Seth would replace the loss of Abel.   In Genesis 5:3 we note that Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born.  That gives us a bit of a time frame, but not a lot.  We still don't know when Cain and Abel were born, or how many children were born prior to Seth.  If Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve's first two children, and if they were born early on, then a good number of decades, a hundred plus years could have easily passed by until Seth was born.  Still in Eve's mind, Seth replaced Abel.  Maybe Seth was a prophet like Abel.


In verse 26 we note that Seth had a son named Enosh.  The text says that at that time man began to call on, or proclaim the name of the Lord.   Some scholars suggest that the Hebrew text actually says that at this time man began to stop calling on the name of the Lord.  I personally have no proof to what is more accurate.    

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