Gen 4:1-17 – Cain and Abel

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Gen 4:1-2

  1. The first time “sex” is described in the Bible, it is with the word “knew”. This reflects both the caution with which the Bible describes sex, but also the intimate and personal closeness that two spouses feel for each other through their marital life together. It is certainly a great contrast to the way our society describes sex.
  2. The name “Cain” is almost identical to the Hebrew word “got”. Eve named her firstborn “Cain” because she was happy that she had “received” him from the Lord. Eve understands and acknowledges that the child she has given birth to has been given to her by God. Every child is a miracle and a gift from the Lord.
  3. Perhaps Eve thought that the child she had was a fulfillment of God’s promise that Eve’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15). But this promise was fulfilled when Eve’s offspring Jesus Christ died on the cross.
  4. The name “Abel” means “breathing”, “temporary” or “meaningless”, alluding to Abel’s short life and meaningless death.

Gen 4:3-5

  1. Cain and Abel each brought an offering to the Lord from their respective work. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. However, this is not because animal sacrifices are better than plant sacrifices, but because Abel offered his sacrifice in “faith” (Heb 11:4), which Cain did not. God does not accept religious sacrifices without faith simply because they are “religious”. On the other hand, God accepts sacrifices in faith, whether they are performed in a proper “religious” manner or not.
    1. Cain’s sacrifice of crops certainly looked more beautiful than Abel’s limp and bloody animal fat. But God is not interested in beautiful, but empty and meaningless, religion. God wants to receive the faith and genuine worship of our heart.
      1. The difference between Cain and Abel’s sacrifice is the universal difference between the faith of the heart and empty religious rites. It is better to worship God in spirit and truth in solitude in one’s sleeping chamber, than to perform religious rites without faith in a beautiful church in a beautiful costume.

Gen 4:6-7

  1. Cain was jealous of his younger brother Abel when God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Cain could not accept that God considered Abel righteous but not Cain.
    1. Sin began to grow in Cain’s heart, he became angry and his eyes became dark. But God has not rejected Cain, but instead is lovingly trying to speak to him. God warns Cain that the anger he still holds inside could quickly lead to violence if he does not repent.

Gen 4:8

  1. Despite God’s warning, Cain completed the sin that he had allowed to grow in his heart. Cain lures his younger brother into the field and kills him. This was neither an accident nor a spur of the moment, it was a planned and premeditated murder.
  2. Cain’s sin as a whole consisted of carrying out empty religious acts without faith, becoming jealous of a true believer, which led to murder and finally lying before God.
    1. This sin is called “the way of Cain” in Jude verse 11. Paul describes it as having a “semblance of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim 3:5). Being religious without faith risks leading to jealousy and persecution of the true believers.

Gen 4:9

  1. God knew the answer to his question, of course, but he wanted to give Cain a chance to confess his sin. But as if Cain’s murder wasn’t enough, now Cain hardens his heart as he continues his sin by lying to God as well.
    1. Once you start sinning, sin continues to hold you in its grip until you confess your sin and God helps you to find a way out through forgiveness and restoration.
  2. Cain tries to hide his sin by saying: “Shall I keep track of my brother?” This attitude towards his fellow man is a direct consequence of trying to live a life of sin far from God. When we humans no longer care about God, we no longer care about our fellow human beings.
    1. But the fact is, yes, Cain should keep track of his brother. All of us humans have a responsibility to care for one another (Matthew 25:35-40).

Gen 4:10-12

  1. Abel’s blood cried out from the ground to God for sin and murder. Much later, the blood of Jesus will cry out from the cross to God for forgiveness and atonement (Heb 12:24).
  2. The blood of Abel cried out from the land where Cain had previously grown crops. God’s punishment will be linked to the sin Cain committed, and he will no longer be able to cultivate the land. The curse on Cain is an amplification of the curse on Adam when he sinned (Gen 3:17-19). While Adam would be allowed to till the soil “by the sweat of his brow” and live by “toil”, Cain would not even be able to till the soil at all. While Adam was driven from Eden, Cain would find no home on earth.

Gen 4:13-14

  • Cain is more distressed by the punishment God is about to give him than by the harm he has done to his brother. Of course, it would have been better if Cain had been more despondent about his own sin than about God’s punishment, because then God could have given him forgiveness and restoration.
    • It is rare that God gives a judgment in the Old Testament that is immediately executed. There is almost always time and opportunity for repentance when God gives a judgment.

Gen 4:15-16

  1. Even though Cain’s sin was very great, God did not want Cain to suffer the same terrible fate that Cain had inflicted on Abel. After all, God cares about Cain and makes sure that no one can murder him.

Gen 4:17

  1. Adam lived 800 years after he had his child Seth, and during that time he had many sons and daughters (Gen 5:4). Perhaps it was one of all these daughters of Adam that Cain married, i.e. his own sister.
    1. Although the Bible later forbids marriage between siblings, it was not forbidden at that time. Since Adam and Eve were the first humans, there were not many other women to choose from.
      1. Abraham married his half-sister Sarah (Gen 20:12).
      1. Moses forbids marriage between siblings when Israel received its law (Leviticus 18:9).
  2. It is interesting that even though God condemns Cain to a life of wandering homelessness, Cain builds a city to live in. Most likely, the city is the “sign” that God gave Cain for protection, similar to the Israelite “sanctuaries” where people could flee to avoid blood vengeance and the like (Numbers 35:9-34).
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