Home

Recap:

So far we have looked at the account of creation, Adam and Eve, The Garden of Eden, and Satan. Last week we looked at the created order of Men and Women, and the first sin.


Genesis 4

 1 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

   Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.


We move from a narrative that began day-by-day, moved into possibly week or month-by-month, and now the years seem to slip by quickly.


Eve has her first child and is quick to acknowledge the Lord’s help in this amazing miracle of re-creation. Time passes and Abel is born. The children grow up and start to take their place working for the family.


By verse 3, they are now adults. Cain is moved to bring an offering to the Lord. Abel follows suit and also brings an offering. But – V4: The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.

Why was that? (There will be various answers and basically no-one actually knows – we aren’t told! But we can look for clues.)


Maybe the first few words of verse 4 hold a clue: The LORD looked with favour on Abel. The Lord is actually not interested in the offering itself – his interest is in the heart and motive of the one making the offering. Let’s look at


1 Samuel 15:22

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.


Also Psalm 51:16-17

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.


And Hebrews 11:15

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name.


And Jude 4, 11

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.  .  .  .  .  .11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain;


And Hebrews 11:4

By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.


And so in Genesis 4:5 we have the problem: but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.  


Was the problem with Cain, or with his offering?


Why do you think Cain decided to bring an offering in the first place? (There is no record or any offerings before this)


Did he have a guilty conscience? If the Lord chooses to put his finger on something unpleasant in our lives, or if by his spirit he causes our consciences to cause us discomfort over something we have done (or not done), what is (or should be) our response?


(Remember from our last study that our guilty conscience may either accuse or excuse us – but we know we’ve still done wrong)


What was Cain’s response?


Genesis 4:5b So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Cain looked down. Remember the tax collector, praying in the temple? Luke 18:13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'


But not Cain; he was very angry, and like the self-confident Pharisee in Luke 18, he could not accept that his offering wouldn’t placate God.


How dare God reject him! How dare God reject him but accept Abel!  


6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”


Cain was standing on the edge of a precipice. He could turn back (repent) or he could take one more step and go over the edge. We are often confronted with our sin and given the choice to turn from it. Here we must recognise that sin can appear attractive, and ‘really not as bad as all that’. But all sin is sinful and an affront to God. We must turn from it. Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.


But Cain would not repent: 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.


Sin often causes us to do irrational things. Basically Cain killed Abel because God was not happy with him. How could murder put things right between him and God? So the Lord speaks to Cain again:


 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”


Even now, if Cain had felt remorse and had turned to the lord in repentance and asked for mercy, I’m sure he would have been restored. But no, he now lies to God:


“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 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.”

13 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.”

15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he 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.


Cain is not repentant; he is only sorry for himself that he has been punished, and now he is afraid that someone will come after him for revenge. (v14)


He didn’t deserve it, but in compassion the Lord reassures Cain that he will be protected from any that might want to avenge the death of Abel (v15). And no, nowhere are we told what the ‘mark of Cain’ is!


Verse 12a is interesting: When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. This was Cain’s life – he was an arable farmer. Was the offering he brought a result of pride? Pride in the crop that he had produced? Was he boasting and showing off to God when he brought his offering, rather than acknowledging that it was God himself who had produced the harvest?

If so, God fits the punishment to the crime, and Cain is now denied the very thing that gave him pride.


And verse 12b: You will be a restless wanderer on the earth. To be a farmer you have to stay with your land, ploughing, sowing, waiting for growth, reaping, storing seed, sowing again. Year after year: a settled life. This too is now denied to Cain.


But worse, verse 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.  It seems that unrepentant Cain now turns his back on the Lord. Note that it was he who went out from the LORD’s presence and away from God’s blessing.


17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.


Where did Cain’s wife come from?


The only realistic answer is that she was Cain’s sister. In these early days the DNA contained within the first humans was uncorrupted and intermarriage would not be a problem. For many years the practice of intermarriage within families would continue, and that way tribal loyalties were developed.


18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

   “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words.

I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.

24 If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”


V 23, 24: Lamech too seems a nasty piece if work. Here he boasts to his wives and twists the words of God (to Cain in verse 15): if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over. The threat of vengeance was only to reassure Cain that he would be kept safe. Here Lamech takes it as a licence to kill anyone who crosses him.


From this point the author of Genesis breaks off from recording the line of Cain and no more is heard of him or his family.


It is possible that we imagine that the earliest humans were stone-age Cavemen. But they were actually highly intelligent skilful people. What do verses 17, 21 and 22 tell us?

(17 – Cain built a city, 21 – they had musical instruments and the skill to play them, 22 – they had bronze and iron and the skill to smelt and work them)


Where did these skills come from?

It has to be that in the same way that Adam would have had to be told the many aspects of successful farming, the Lord also provided the knowledge and skills these early humans needed (remember the detailed instructions God gave Noah in Genesis 7:14-21).


25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

   At that time men began to call on the name of the LORD.


It is now 235 years since the creation of Adam (5:3, 6) and the family line which started so disastrously with Cain and Abel now starts afresh with Seth.


Perhaps that was the reason that men began to call on the name of the LORD.


Genesis 5Genesis 3








Free small group Bible Study guides, commentary, lessons, questions and other material. For the PDF version click   HERE

Genesis 4:1-26 Cain and Abel