03/02/19 Genesis 4:1-15 “There are always consequences for every sin”
Genesis 4:1 – And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
Cain – Qayin (possession)
gotten – have got; acquired; obtained
man – ‘iysh
We may assume that Cain was their first son, even their first child although, since daughters are not mentioned. Daughters must have been born to them, yet nothing is recorded about them. Thus we have no idea when such daughters may have been born. And, even though Cain was their first-born son, it was really Seth who is recorded as the son who carried the family line to the next generation (Genesis 5:3-8). Daughters may have been born by then too.
Genesis 4:2 – And she again (or added to) bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
tiller – worker; labourer
Abel – Hebel (breath) It is the same (yet uncapitalized) as hebel (vapour; breath; vanity) hebel in turn derives from habal (to act emptily; become vain; be vain; fill with vain hope)
hebel is translated “vanity” in Ecclesiastes 1:2 – Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.
and Psalm 144:4 – Man is like to vanity (hebel): his days [are] as a shadow that passeth away.
Also note James 4:14b – For what [is] your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Abel is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Hebel; the name means “vanity (that is, transitory)” Thus Abel’s name depicts him as the son who was only alive for a brief period of time (transitory). Quite often Hebrew names were a prediction of their future. Eg Jacob.
Abel may be assumed to be their 2nd born son, because no other son is recorded from now until the birth of Seth (Genesis 4:25) who is then listed as if he were now the first-born son in Genesis 5:3-8. (Cain has seemingly been disinherited.)
Abel kept sheep and Cain cultivated the ground. Neither of these is more spiritually acceptable than the other, yet Abel’s offering was acceptable while Cain’s was not. It was the sacrifice that was different.
The context strongly suggests that it had to be a blood sacrifice as mentioned last time: Leviticus 17:11 – For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.
However, note that it was still required to give the first fruits of all your increase, whether animal, plant or otherwise.
Proverbs 3:9 – Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
Yet only a blood sacrifice could make atonement for their souls.
atonement – kaphar [cover over (as with pitch or tar); purge; propitiate; atone for sins] The pitch itself was called kopher.
Genesis 6:14 – Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch (kaphar) it within and without with pitch (kopher).
Genesis 4:3 – And in process of time (yowm) it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
in the process – qets [end; at the end (of time or space)] Thus “at the end of days”
“And at the end of days (in due process of time) it came to pass (it was) that Cain brought his agricultural produce as an offering to the LORD (Yᵉhovah).”
Of course, as noted, it wasn’t necessarily bad to bring such an offering, but the context does assume that a special atoning sacrifice must have been required here. It foreshadows the day of atonement sacrifices instituted by the law for the Hebrews after their exodus from Egypt. While it was appropriate at times to bring sacrifices of grain and oil, this could never satisfy God’s requirement for the covering of their sin (atonement). Otherwise, it is noted that Abel brought the best of his flock (and of the fat), and the first fruits (firstlings) whereas the same is not said about Cain.
Genesis 4:4 – And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
the firstlings – birthright; primogeniture; right of the first-born
the fat – choicest; best part; abundance (of products of the land)
Abel, as Cain had, also brought of the fruits of his produce. However, it appears that because Abel’s offerings were flesh and blood, they were acceptable for this atonement sacrifice. Not only were they blood offerings, however, but they were the best part, the choicest, of his flock, and the first fruits of his produce. Of course, Cain may have brought the choicest first fruits of his produce too, but the passage doesn’t tell us this about Cain’s offering.
And God had respect (looked upon; had regard for; looked with favour upon) Abel and his offering. This tells us that Abel’s offering was acceptable while Cain’s offering was not acceptable (next verse, Vs 5). It is logical to interpret this as a blood offering as opposed to a grain or plant-based offering, with the blood being required at this time. However, there is one other aspect that may be considered. While we are told that Abel brought the best of his first fruits (the fat thereof), we are not told anything about the quality of Cain’s offering. It is possible (but not certain) that Cain’s offering did not have the same level of sacrifice involved.
A sacrifice is meant to cost the giver. King David said that he would not offer a sacrifice that cost him nothing.
2 Samuel 24:24b – neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.
Malachi 1:13-14 – 13Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness [is it]! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought [that which was] torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord. 14But cursed [be] the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I [am] a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name [is] dreadful among the heathen.
However, it is clear that even if this cost is a factor in the rejection of Cain’s offering, biblical consistency does seem to require that a blood sacrifice be made here.
Genesis 4:5 – But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very (exceedingly) wroth (burning with anger), and his countenance (face) fell.
But God did not respect Cain’s offering, and accordingly He had no respect for Cain, the giver. That is, God did not look upon Cain and his offering with the favour (respect) that he had given to Abel and his offering.
Cain was exceedingly angry, burning with rage, and his face was cast down.
Barnes says: A feeling of resentment, and a sense of disgrace and condemnation take possession of Cain's breast. There is no spirit of inquiry, self-examination, prayer to God for light, or pardon. This shows that Cain was far from being in a right frame of mind.
God can never be wrong, yet Cain could not accept that he himself might be wrong. Cain had already self-judged himself and his actions as all that was required, and he couldn’t handle the criticism that came with making a big mistake.
Genesis 4:6 – And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
Of course, God knew perfectly well why Cain was so extremely angry, and why Cain’s face was fallen. (As the saying goes, he was giving God a “black look”.)
Black look - n expression on your face that is full of anger and hate. (Cambridge Dictionary)
an angry or a disapproving expression on somebody’s face. (The Free Dictionary) Sometimes also called a “dirty look”.
God knew already, as He did with Adam and Eve, yet He requires us to personally admit our sin (acknowledge it) in order to repent of it, so that we might be forgiven and cleansed from our sin.
1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It is apparent that Cain wasn’t hiding his feelings at all here! He thought he was right; how dare God say it wasn’t acceptable! But should churches deliver what people want? Teaching [for] doctrines the commandments of men? (Matthew 15:9)
Genesis 4:7 – If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
doest well – do well; do thoroughly; make a thing good or right or beautiful; do right.
accepted – elevated; lifted up; exalted; accepted. Lifting up is often related to the fallen countenance. It is derived from nasa’ as in Job 11.15 – For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
sin lieth at the door – sin is lying down (crouching) at the door (just waiting to come in)
If you do it the right way (as required), then would you not be lifted up? If you don’t do it properly, then sin is waiting (crouching) at the door to come in and ensnare you. The picture is like a dangerous animal crouching in the door way just waiting for the opportunity to spring. Sin’s desire is to get you, but you should instead rule over it (take charge of it). When temptation comes along, its goal is to take some measure of control of you, but you should resist that sin and instead take control over it.
unto thee [shall be] his desire – A similar phrase can be found in Genesis 3:16b – thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
Genesis 4:8 – And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
This is clearly what God was speaking to Cain about. Cain (like his father, Adam) was faced with a choice between right and wrong, good and evil, obedience and sin. Israel was to be given the same choice a long time later.
Deuteronomy 30:15; 19 – 15See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
And when the two brothers were out in the field, Cain made his choice: Abel would surely die. So Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Not “his enemy” nor “his adversary”, but “his brother”.
Genesis 4:9 – And the Lord said unto Cain, Where [is] Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: [Am] I my brother’s keeper?
Again, God knows all the answers before He asks, yet requires an answer of man, that is, confession before forgiveness.
“Where is your brother, Abel?” asked God. Cain replied, “I don’t know. Am I the keeper of my brother (who is also a keeper – of sheep)?” Am I responsible for my brother? Can’t he look after himself?
In fact, Cain has told a straight-out lie. He knows (and God knows he knows) exactly what has happened to Abel. He also denies any responsibility for looking after Abel, yet he is responsible for what has happened to Abel. If the devil is the father of lies, and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), then we can see what had happened to Cain. He has given in to the sin that crouched at the door just waiting for an opportunity to spring and devour. (And satan also seeks whom he may devour! 1 Peter 5:8) Instead of taking responsibility for his choices, Cain is avoiding the issue. But the soul that sins, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). You may choose what you will do, yet you must also be responsible for the consequences.
Genesis 4:10 – And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
God asks, “What have you done?” Not “Did you do anything?” God is not questioning whether or not Cain has done anything. Instead He is claiming that Cain has done something and asking Cain to tell God in his own words what he has done.
Abel is dead but his blood still remains in the ground as a witness to the crime.
Even today we use forensic science to make blood identify the criminal.
God states that He will deal with those who spill blood and kill with violence.
Isaiah 26:21 – For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.
Cambridge says: The Hebrew idea was that blood shed, for which there was no avenger, cried to Jehovah for vengeance against the murderer.
But even though Abel’s blood cried out from the ground, the blood of Jesus spoke even better things than that of Abel.
Hebrews 12:24 – And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel.
God has now assessed Cain’s “Not guilty” plea and delivered a verdict of “Guilty!” Cain is declared guilty of the murder of his brother, Abel.
Genesis 4:11 – And now [art] thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
Let the punishment fit the crime; known as the “Law of Retaliation”.
Exodus 21:24-25 – 24Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Genesis 9:5-6 – 5And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. 6Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
Yet Cain wasn’t put to death for this crime. In fact, by the crime, Cain polluted the ground, and God in the next verse pronounces a very fitting judgment. The same ground which soaked up that blood would refuse to produce good crops for Cain.
Genesis 4:12 – When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
fugitive – nuwa‘ (quiver; vibrate; swing; stagger; tremble; be unstable; totter)
vagabond – nuwd (move to and fro; wander aimlessly; waver; shake; flutter)
Because Cain was a tiller of the ground (Vs 2 above), that same ground now soaked in Abel’s blood would not deliver good crops again for Cain. This is what might be called poetic justice, that it would be Cain’s chosen livelihood that would be cursed. He had despised Abel’s acceptable sacrifice, but now would be cursed by his own unacceptable sacrifice, and his consequent murder of Abel.
He would become nuwa‘ and nuwd, one who “staggers and totters”, and “wanders aimlessly to and fro”, wherever he went in the earth; there would be no escape. “nuwa‘ and nuwd” are apparently meant to be similar-sounding terms, somewhat like alliteration in poetry. He would be forced to live a nomadic life because the ground could no longer provide a (agricultural) living for him. Cain took Abel’s life from him, and God has now taken Cain’s life (livelihood) from him.
Genesis 4:13 – And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment [is] greater than I can bear.
bear – endure; sustain; be forgiven. It was more than could ever be forgiven him.
punishment – can also mean “iniquity”, but punishment seems more applicable.
Cain clearly recognises the severity of this judgment. He can no longer live how he wanted where he wanted. He will be a wanderer, a fugitive from the criminal act that would now condemn him wherever he went. He appears to feel that his crime was more than could ever be forgiven. That is, he feels he is beyond forgiveness.
Mark 3:28-29 – 28Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
1 John 5:16 – If any man see his brother sin a sin [which is] not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
It is possible that this is the kind of “remorse” talk that so many criminals employ to try to lessen their punishment when facing judgment in court. Cain appears to have accepted his judgment, but bewails the harshness of the penalty. Yes, he’s certainly a murderer, but should he be so severely punished for that? Too many people try to lessen their punishments by making an effort to appear remorseful, a selfish attitude that is always directed at the well-being of the person allegedly feeling the remorse. 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes this as the sorrow of the world. On the other hand, repentance is the genuinely unselfish attitude that is always directed at the well-being of others. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says that For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.
Cain may have been showing some remorse here, but certainly not repentance!
Genesis 4:14 – Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, [that] every one that findeth me shall slay me.
Because the ground would no longer provide for Cain (where before it had been relatively fruitful), he was effectively being driven away from his agricultural existence. Effectively, by preventing the ground from producing a living for Cain, God has forced Cain to seek his food from the desert as a “fugitive and a vagabond” in the earth, that is, he would be a nomad of the desert.
every one that findeth me – every encounter with another one (probably not beast but man). Cain is now a murderer, a criminal in the eyes of other men. (Adam would have had many more sons and daughters who were no doubt brought up to be more obedient to God than Cain.) Cain would have been like a wanted criminal, one who should be made to pay for the crime he committed against his brother. Cain might have been afraid of the vigilante element of living close to his parents.
Genesis 4:15 – And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
Cain’s complaint that others would kill him seems to be possibly an effort to whinge about the extent of his penalty. God’s judgment seemingly has made the slaying of Cain appear legitimate. So God, without removing any of Cain’s penalty, simply promises that Cain will not become the target for such as vigilante hunters. He does this by promising that anyone who did kill Cain for vengeance would then suffer 7 times Cain’s punishment. Cain is an outlaw and banished from his homeland, yet this does not seem to guarantee that others would not follow to hunt him down. However, if they did, God would exact greater vengeance upon them than Cain experienced. God also sets a mark (we don’t know what it was) upon Cain (that others would be able to see and recognise, no doubt) so that others who did find Cain would not be tempted to kill him.
But how would the mark prevent others from killing Cain? It is possible that the mark was some sort of warning to remind others that he was not to be killed. In any case, it appears that God would keep Cain from being killed, perhaps so that he could not escape the hard nomadic life that he had been thrust into. After all, God is sovereign and can dictate certain affairs of man as He wills; if this means preventing Cain from being slain, then so be it.
A seal here denoted that these people were the special possession of God.
Revelation 7:3 – Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
God also provided protection for these people whom He had sealed.
Revelation 9:4 – And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads.
The Holy Spirit also seals Christians. Such a seal gives them the promise that nothing can take them out of God’s hand.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – 21Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, [is] God; 22Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Ephesians 1:13-14 – 13In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 4:30 – And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
And that seal guarantees us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Romans 8:38-39 – 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 9Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A seal therefore is literally the evidence of the promise of God that He is in charge and whatever He says He will do will be done without question. In spite of man’s free will to rebel, God remains totally sovereign.