Genesis 4:1-24 – Week Six
Last week, in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, a whole lot happened. Eve had a little chit-chat with a snake. The snake misquoted God. Eve misquoted God. Eve sees something that looks good, pleasant, and desirable and eats it even though she’s been told not to. She shares with Adam.
The root of sin is planted.
They realized that they were naked and they tore some fig leaves off a tree to cover themselves. They hide when they hear God. God confronts them, and point-blank asks Adam if he ate what he wasn’t supposed to eat. Adam blames God and Eve. Eve blames the snake. And in verse 15, God delivers the first prophecy which is the direct result of deceit and disobedience. “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 NLT
After this, God delivers the consequences to Adam and to Eve and they are sent away from the Garden of Eden. Eve is told that childbirth will be painful and Adam is informed that his form of labor will now be painful as well. We pick up with chapter 4 and there’s no way of knowing what the timeframe is here.
Genesis 4:1-5 GNT “Then Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she became pregnant. She bore a son and said, “By the Lord’s help I have gotten a son.” So she named him Cain. 2 Later she gave birth to another son, Abel. Abel became a shepherd, but Cain was a farmer. 3 After some time Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to the Lord. 4 Then Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, 5 but he rejected Cain and his offering.”
These five verses of chapter 4 obviously cover a number of years. The first pregnancy and first birth occur in the first verse. A second son comes along in verse 2. Before we even get to verse 3, both sons have occupations. We don’t have a clue as to how old they are at this point and if either of the sons had married. We do know that Abel is a shepherd and Cain is a farmer. Both of these would have been honorable and respectable occupations. Cain, it seems, followed more in his father’s footsteps in that Adam was a farmer. Verse 3 has both men participating in worship. We’re not privy as to when God instituted the idea of bringing offerings to him, but it is obvious from verse 3 that this was a normal ritual. We’re told that Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to the Lord. Abel, we read, brought the first lamb and gave the best parts of it as an offering to the Lord.
God was pleased with Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.
Other than the fact that Cain is the firstborn, he’s a farmer and he brings some of his harvest as an offering, we don’t know much about him up to this point. However, there does seem to be an assumption in verse 1. Eve credits the Lord for giving her a son. Different translations are “By the Lord’s help I have gotten a son.” (GNT) “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” (NKJV) “I have produced a male child with the help of the LORD.” (NAB) Notice that she doesn’t name Adam or include him at all. The name Cain means “acquire” or “possession”. It’s also translated as “here he is”. The fact that Cain is seen as something that has been acquired or something that is a possession and the fact that Eve doesn’t consider any contribution from Adam can suggest that Eve, when looking upon Cain, sees him as the promised seed from God that will crush or bruise the devil.
That’s not an unreasonable assumption, is it? When God delivered that first prophecy about Jesus, there was no time frame given. There was no generational history to consider. Cain was the first baby. They perhaps didn’t understand how natural growth takes place changing an infant into a boy into a man. They may not have thought that Cain would have children of his own one day. All of this would have been very new to them. All that Adam and Eve knew was that God had said that a seed of Eve’s was promised and then sometime later, a child was born. I could see where Eve (and possibly Adam, as well) would have assumed that Cain was to be their messiah, the fulfillment of that prophecy. So, if they thought that, surely the devil considered this a possibility as well. If that is the case, Cain was born with a target on his head.
We have no idea how old Cain and Abel are at the time of their offering. We do know that they are old enough to labor and grown enough to make an offering to God. We aren’t given any specifics about how they were as they were growing up. Did they mind their parents? Did they play well together? Did they love the Lord? Verses 1-4 of Genesis 4 just give us a piece of scant information. And up until verse 5, it would seem that all was well. Both boys (or men) were working and both made offerings to the Lord.
But then we learn that God rejected Cain’s offering.
I remember being at a young girl’s birthday party many years ago and she opened up a doll that was similar to a Barbie doll. But, it was not a real Barbie. It was a generic, cheap version of a Barbie. The little girl was not shy about her displeasure. As her mother told her to thank the giver of the fake Barbie, the birthday girl offered it back to the giver and said, “You can keep it. I don’t really like it.” Of course, the mother of the birthday girl was horrified and reprimanded her. The giver of the imitation Barbie was embarrassed and hurt.
When we give something to someone, we expect that it will be received; not rejected. We certainly would never think of God rejecting any of our offerings, would we? Why did God reject what Cain had to offer?
Some believe that it was because of what Cain was offering; he brought forth part of his harvest. Some believe that God required a sacrificial offering that would have involved bloodshed. I personally don’t agree with this theory. There are multiple references to grain offerings and first fruit offerings to God that weren’t rejected. I don’t think it mattered what Cain brought as an offering. I believe the theory that the rejection had to do with Cain himself. Warren W. Wiersbe said, “ Cain wasn’t rejected because of his offering, but his offering was rejected because of Cain. His heart wasn’t right with God. It was ‘by faith’ that Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain which means that he had faith in God and was right with God.” Hebrews 11:4 confirms this. MSG “4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice.”
What are some things that we present to God as our offering? Besides money, we can present our time, talent, our bodies, our influence, our words, and our attention. But every one of those must be rooted in love and faith in order to be acceptable to God.
2 Corinthians 9:6 ESV “6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
I’m going to presume that all of us have dealt with someone who just did not like us. And I’m sure that we’ve had encounters with these people who were sugary-sweet to our face but we just knew that they were as fake as that Barbie doll at the birthday party. It’s insulting and offensive to be on the receiving end of insincere kindness. We would much rather be ignored than be treated with fake friendliness. So would God.
“Without the heart it’s not worship, it’s a stage play.” Stephen Charnock
Isaiah 29:13 NIV “13 The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
I can’t help but shudder at this. How many times in my life has my appearance of worshipping been just that? An appearance. An act. How often have I seemed to be so focused on listening to the Word of God being preached when, in my mind, I am so consumed with other thoughts that are far from God? How many times has God been heartbroken because my heart was so far from Him yet my words, empty as they were, made it sound as if He was my everything? True worship isn’t rooted in obligation, rituals, or habits. True worship is overflowing adoration, seasoned with thankfulness, love, and reverence. Cain had none of these and God called him out on it.
Genesis 4: 5b TLB “This made Cain both dejected and very angry, and his face grew dark with fury.
6 “Why are you angry?” the Lord asked him. “Why is your face so dark with rage? 7 It can be bright with joy if you will do what you should! But if you refuse to obey, watch out. Sin is waiting to attack you, longing to destroy you. But you can conquer it!”
God asks Cain, “Why are you angry?” but God knows why. In fact, God knows better than Cain why he is angry. Cain’s wrath is aimed at God and it’s aimed at Abel. Just like his father Adam did years before, Cain diverts his own guilt towards God and another person; not willing to take responsibility. All Abel had done was to be obedient in bringing his offering; he did nothing to Cain. And in response to the whole situation, Cain became sad and very angry.
The words “angry”, “dark”, “fury”, and “rage” paint the picture here, don’t they? Cain is exhibiting strong emotions. When you think of these words, do you think of sin? Here’s what the Bible has to say. “Be angry and do no sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” – Ephesians 4:26-27 ESV
Notice God’s warning to Cain. Genesis 4:7 CSB “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Taking this step by step, God tells Cain that if he chooses to not do the right thing, then the next step is that sin is waiting to pounce. In other words, anger itself isn’t a sin, but it is often a short bridge between the two. “It’s dangerous to carry grudges and harbor bitter feelings in our hearts, because all of this can be used by Satan to lead us into temptation and sin.”[i] Anger is something we’ve all experienced in some way or another. What causes us to be angry? There are obviously many things that anger us. It may be your neighbor who likes to start mowing his lawn at 7:00 am on a Saturday morning. It could be telemarketers who call day after day. It might be when someone pulls into a parking space that you’ve already claimed as your own. It could be something more severe. Someone you trusted betrayed you. Someone intentionally tries to harm you or a family member. You suffer from some kind of injustice. There’s a whole spectrum of causes of anger. “Anger is a natural, instinctive response to threats.”[ii] And we know that there are some people who are more prone to getting angry than others. Hotheads. Those with a short fuse. People who live their lives like an active volcano and can erupt without warning. I tend to think this may have been the case with Cain.
Because instead of trying to get himself right with God, asking forgiveness, searching his heart, and taking God’s advice, Cain goes to the darker side.
The next verse may have happened immediately after God rebuked Cain or sometime later. No one knows for sure. Genesis 4:8 NIV “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”
The root of sin was planted in chapter 3 of Genesis. Now we have the fruit of sin.
Cain didn’t heed God’s warning. He allowed his anger to put him in a position where he basically volunteered to be sin’s prey. There was a window of opportunity for Cain to do what was right. He passed on that opportunity. And guess who couldn’t have been more thrilled?
1 John 3:23 CEV “Don’t be like Cain, who belonged to the devil and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? He did it because his brother was good, and he was evil.”
If it was believed that Cain was the seed of Eve that was to crush the devil, can you just picture the look of smug satisfaction on the devil’s face as he watched this first murder take place? I’ve often wondered why the devil would have orchestrated it with the death of Abel rather than the death of Cain if he thought that Cain was the real threat to him. If Satan believed that Cain was the promised seed that God had promised would crush the head of Satan, wouldn’t it have made more sense to eliminate the threat? Here’s a thought on that. Perhaps Satan was aware of the righteousness within Abel. To have caused Abel to murder Cain would have been a great victory for the devil, but the potential for that righteousness to overcome any moments of evil would have been too big of a risk. By eliminating the righteous son, Satan still has a soldier on the field, so to speak. The one who may have been a threat to Satan now becomes his puppet. Little did he know.
Genesis 4: 9 NIV “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?””
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Cain goes from murdering his own brother to lying about it. This indicates the lack of respect and fear for God that Cain possesses. No wonder his offering was rejected. Cain seemed to be under the impression that he could go through the motions of bringing just anything to God without any kind of thoughtful worship and that God would be okay with that. Then he seemed to think that God wasn’t wise enough, all-knowing enough to have a clue as to what had just taken place. And then to add insult to injury, he shirks any responsibility of being a brother. Am I my brother’s keeper? Well, Cain is about to find out that nothing is hidden from God. Not his heart, not his emotions, not his motive, not his actions, not his sin.
Genesis 4: 10 NIV “The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
He’s been caught red-handed. God lets him know that it is no secret what he’s done. And God curses him. This is the third curse that God has handed down. The first was to the serpent. The second was to the ground that Adam would farm. This curse is the first curse God places on a man. “The beginning of this curse is that Cain, himself, would be “cursed from the ground.” Cain had murdered his brother in the field. The ground had received Abel’s blood. In a form of poetic justice, the ground would no longer give back to Cain any crops. Cain’s days of working the ground to make a living for himself were over. This punishment fits the crime on several levels. It was Cain’s offering—presumably inferior—of crops which displeased God in the first place (Genesis 4:3–5). Cain’s choice not to obey, but to dig deeper into sin, resulted in him losing everything.”[iii]
Cain lost it all. His livelihood and his home. He was pronounced as a restless wanderer; no place to call home. What is his response to that? Genesis 4: 13 NIV “Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 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.”
Cain expresses no remorse for what he’s done. He doesn’t ask for forgiveness. He admits no wrongdoing. His concern is his punishment and his safety. But God shows mercy. Genesis 15: NIV “15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” “ The land Cain dwelt in was called the land of Nod, which means, ‘shaking,’ or ‘trembling,’ and so shows the restlessness and uneasiness of his own spirit, or ‘the land of a vagabond:’ they that depart from God cannot find rest anywhere else.”
Although he is forced to leave the presence of the Lord, he is sent with some kind of mark that protects him from being killed. Cain is afraid of being killed by whoever finds him which suggests that there may have been others besides Adam and Eve of whom he would have been fearful. And beginning in verse 16 we’re told that Cain “knew his wife” and as a result, Enoch was born. Does this mean that Cain was married to his sister? Possibly. Or it may have been his niece or great-niece. We don’t know for sure, but we do know that this heritage of evilness continues for generations.
Here’s what we can learn from Cain and Abel. The entire world is full of Cains and Abels. There are those who have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus and there are those who aren’t either by a choice or non-choice. Both Cain and Abel went to God and provided an offering. One was sincere; one wasn’t. One was rooted in faith and love; the other was rooted in obligation and habit. If you’re not passionate about worshipping God, if you’re not approaching Him with a heart full of thankfulness and openness, if you’re not walking towards Him in faith, then you may need to ask Him to help you. Are you spending your life “raising Cain” or being “Abel-minded and Abel-bodied”?
[i] Be Basic by Warren W. Wiersbe