Genesis 4. Two Sons of Adam. One Bad; One Good.
Key Notes: Why Cain's offering was not accepted. The pain of rejection. Evil as a power. Sibling rivalries.
Cain and Abel are figures woven into our culture. They represent the victory of evil over good in the short term. It was a primordial struggle of siblings complicated by spiritual rejection.
4:1 Cain (his name means"Gotten") was the firstborn of Eve who said, "I have gotten a man from the Lord." Some have interpreted Eve to say that this child would be the Promised One of Gen.3:15.That is not what happened. Then came Abel; his name means "Breath, Vanity". Abel was a shepherd, Cain a farmer, like his father. In time they brought offerings to the Lord. Abel brought the first of his flock, fat portions; Cain brought some of his vegetable crops.
4:4 God approved of Abel and his offering, but not Cain and his offering. Cain was deprived of God's favor. His face fell and he was very angry. It is painful to be rejected and doubly painful to be rejected spiritually.
Why was Cain's offering rejected? It is thought that Abel's sacrifice was favored because it was a blood sacrifice. But there were vegetable (first fruits, grain) offerings authorized by Moses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. (Lev. 6:14–23). However, they were preceded by an animal sacrifice. But we do not know any sacrifice rules that Cain and Abel were bound by so the meaning of the sacrifices in themselves is not clear.
The NT indicates that righteousness and faith on Abel's part and evil deeds on Cain's part led to God's choice of Abel, rather than the sacrifices as such.
"Why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous." (IJn.3:12)
"By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking." (Heb.11:4)
4:6–7 God counseled Cain, and offered him the possibility that he could still do well, but warned him that sin crouched at his door. He must resist. Sin would master him, or he would master it. This counseling is very important for us, because it shows God's concern, speaking into the ear of a human being. God spoke of sin as if it were an objective reality, fighting for mastery of human beings. Rather than the mere absence of good, sin is a power, although, curiously, God did not refer to Satan as such.
"Sin is a power that seeks to rule and ruin everyone and everything. 'It is nothing and has nothing and can do nothing apart from the creatures and the powers which God has created, yet it organizes all these in open rebellion against Him'". (Sin. G.C. Berkouwer; Eerdmans,1971; p.262.)
4:8 Cain showed no sign of a struggle against sin. Eve thought, and dallied with temptation. Cain apparently did not bother to think about it. He did not struggle with sin, but planned. It had already mastered him. He thought he was autonomous, a rebel, but he was a slave of sin, going away from his parents but not getting away from God.
4:9 God did not abandon the murderer. He challenged him: "Where is Abel your brother?" Cain said he did not know, and his remark was defensive and contemptuous: "Am I my brother's keeper?" He respected neither man nor God.
4:10 God said "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground...."
God speaks condemnation and anyone should be frightened by these words. Abel is the first martyr. His death cried for justice and it echoes on for centuries.
"Upon you (Israel) may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Berachiah whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar." (Matt.23:35).
But " ...you have come ...to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel". (Heb.12;22–4)
The blood of martyrs is not wasted. Rev.6:9–11
Abel's blood cries for justice—for all martyrs.
Jesus' blood speaks of mercy—for all sinners.
4:13 Cain was a murderer, autonomous, unrepentant and remorseless. Unrepentant, he only complained about the burden of the punishment and his fear of being killed. Cain could no longer make his own living in farming but must be a fugitive. He would henceforth be required to be a hunter-gatherer. God put a mark on him and a curse on anyone who killed him. Then Cain went away from the presence of God, married (a sister, unnamed), built a village and started a family line. The word “city” is “ur” in Hebrew and means to arouse or alarm: a city in ancient times was a place of shelter from threat of flood, starvation or war.
The line of Cain goes for seven generations. The seventh from Cain was Lamech. Although Scripture leads us to see only one person at each age, the record leaves out the hundreds of progeny that are of no importance to the story and the message. Because the early progenitors of our race lived long lives, the opportunity for multiple offspring is obvious. So we may assume that Adam and Eve had many more than three male children. The others are irrelevant to the history.
4:19 Lamech was a bigamist and violent. He rejoiced over the killing of a younger man in a fight. Ironically, the beginnings of culture come from his children, the sons of Cain the city-builder. Jubal was the first musician; Tubal-Cain was the first metal-smith; Jabal is father of migrant herdsmen. (What of Naamah?)
Iron was used for tools as far back as 3000BC and copper work in the 5th millennium BC. The Hittites were believed to have invented forging of iron about 2000BC. This leads us to the idea that the early days of Genesis are at the beginnings of history and culture as we know it, about 10,000 years BC.
Things got better for a while.
4:25 Eve had another son, Seth. “At that time, men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
Cain had a religious motive for his brother’s murder. God had rejected his offering, and in effect, rejected him. He could not kill God, but he could get rid of the competition, his brother. The dynamics of church life show up the problem of rivalry and spiritual rejection vividly. To be rejected from a church job or office (the monotone cannot stay in the choir) is not only to lose favor socially, but to be rejected, as it were, by God. The second rejection amplifies the first. Great pain can be induced by seemingly trivial administrative changes in the spiritual community. The prospect of causing pain often leads to administrative paralysis and lack of church discipline. The pain is greatly amplified if a pastor is asked to leave a church: he loses his livelihood, the people he loves, and feels rejected by God as well.
Sibling rivalry is a problem in virtually every family. The names of the brothers suggest that Cain was favored in the minds of his parents. “Abel” is related to “vanity”. Cain was older, bigger, working harder (farming vs. shepherding) with the expectation that he would be approved. Rivalry between children of the same parents is seen throughout life, but especially in childhood, at marriages, as careers develop and when estates are settled.
Jesus talked about reconciliation of brothers in Matt. 5:22-. “…if anyone is angry with his brother….” or if "your brother has something against you..."