Lesson 4: Genesis Chapter 4
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” 8 Now 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 killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
In this verse the first husband and wife become father and mother. Now the fulfillment of all the promises and curses she had received concerning her seed was begun. She was to have conception and sorrow multiplied. But she was to be the mother of all living. And her seed was to bruise the serpent’s head. Her feelings are manifested in the name given to her son and the reason assigned for it. She “bare Cain and said, I have gained a man from the Lord.” Cain occurs only once as a common noun, and the word here seems to denote a thing gained or achieved. The word “man” probably indicates that Eve fully expected her son to grow to the stature and maturity of her husband.
Abel means “breath”. Thus, Eve is equating this son with the life that was “breathed” into Adam by God.
The two primitive employments of men were the agricultural and the herder. Here is the second allusion to some use which was made of animals soon after the fall. Coats of skin were provided for the first pair; and now we have Abel keeping sheep. In the garden of Eden, where the tree of life was accessible, an exclusively vegetable diet was designed for man. Whether this continued after the fall, we are not informed. It is certain that man had dominion over the whole animal kingdom. It can scarcely be doubted that the outer coverings of animals were used for clothing. Animals are to be employed for sacrifice. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that animal food may have been used before the flood, as a partial compensation for the desire of the tree of life, which may have been suited to supply all the defects of vegetable and even animal fare in sustaining the human frame in its original vigor.
And at the process of time. – This may denote the end of the week, of the year, or of some longer period. The season of the year was probably the ingathering, when the fruits of the earth and the firstlings of the flock would come in, and when it was not unnatural for the first family to celebrate with thankfulness the anniversary of their creation. Cain and Abel have arrived at adulthood, the years of discretion and self-dependence, and solemnly come forward with their first voluntary offerings to the Lord. Prior to this, they had come under their parents; now they come on their own account.
Here, accordingly, we go from the secular to the eternal. We find a “church” in the original family. If Cain and Abel offer to God, we may imagine it was the habit of their parents, and has descended to them by parental example.
Cain brings of the fruits of the soil. There is no intimation in this verse of the state of Cain’s feelings toward God. Notice that Cain was “in his fathers business” of tending the plants (as Adam was placed to tend the Garden and dress it), but that this work did not make a suitable sacrifice, because there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood.
And Abel brought. – Abel’s offering differs from that of his brother in outward form. It consists of the firstlings of his flock. These were slain; for their fat is offered. Blood was therefore shed, and life taken away.
And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering, – but not unto Cain. We have now the simple facts before us. Let us hear the inspired comment: “ ‘by faith’ Abel offered unto God ‘a more excellent sacrifice’ than Cain” Hebrews 11:4. There was, then, clearly an internal moral distinction in the intention of the offerers. Abel had faith – that confiding in God which is not bare and cold, but is accompanied with confession of sin, and a sense of gratitude for his mercy, and followed by obedience to his will. Cain did not have this faith. He may have had a faith in the existence, power, and bounty of God; but it did not include that penitent returning to God, that humble acceptance of his mercy, and submission to his will, which constitute true faith. It must be admitted the faith of the offerer is essential to the acceptableness of the offering, even though other things were equal.
However, in this case, there is a difference in the things offered. The one is a vegetable offering, the other an animal; the one a presentation of things without blood, the other a sacrifice of blood.
And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. – 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.
Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? – The Lord does not yet give up Cain. In great mercy he communicates with him. He puts a question which implies that there is no just cause for his present feelings. Neither anger at his brother, because his offering has been accepted, nor vexation in himself, because his own has not, is a right feeling in the presence of the just and merciful God, who searches the heart. Submission, self-examination, and correction of what has been wrong in his approach to God, alone benefit the occasion. To this, accordingly, the Lord directs his attention in the next sentence.
If thou do well, shalt thou not be accepted? – To do well is to retrace his steps, to consider his ways, and find out where he has been wrong, and to correct his offering and his intention accordingly. He has not considered that he stands before God as a guilty sinner, whose life is forfeited, and to whom the hand of mercy is held out. Yet, the Lord does not immediately reject him, but with patience directs his attention to this, that it may be corrected.
And if thou do not well, at the door is sin lying. – Sin past, in its unrequited and unacknowledged guilt; sin present, in its dark and stubborn passion and despair; but, above all, sin future, as the growing habit of a soul that persists in an evil temper, and therefore must add iniquity unto iniquity. One sin if not repented of and forsaken involves the dire necessity of plunging deeper and deeper into the gulf of depravity and retribution. This dread warning to Cain, expressed in the mildest and plainest terms, is a standing lesson written for the learning of all mankind. Let him who is in the wrong retract at once, and return to God with humble acknowledgment of his own guilt, and unreserved submission to the mercy of his Maker; for to him who perseveres in sin there can be no hope or help. Another sentence is added to give intensity to the warning. See 1 John 1:5-10.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother. – Cain did not act on the divine counsel. He did not correct his offering to God, either in point of internal feeling or external form. Though one speak to him from heaven he will not hear. (See Luke 16:27-31) He conversed with Abel his brother. The topic is not stated. When they were in the field, and therefore out of view, he rose up against his brother and killed him. The deed is done that cannot be recalled. Here, then, is sin following upon sin, proving the truth of the warning given by God. When Cain killed Abel, the literal wording is “slaughter”. He would not “slaughter” an animal to worship God, as he had been instructed, but in his anger he WOULD “slaughter” his own brother.
Where is Abel thy brother? – The question here reminds us of the question put to the hiding Adam, “Where art thou?” It is calculated to strike the conscience. The reply is different from that of Adam. The sin has now advanced from hasty, incautious yielding to the tempter, to reiterated and deliberate disobedience. Such a sinner must take different ground. Cain, therefore, attempts to parry the question, apparently on the vain idea that no eye, not even that of the All-seeing, was present to witness the deed. “I know not.” In the madness of his confusion he goes further. He disputes the right of the Almighty to make the demand. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.”
13 And Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! 14 Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”
15 And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.
What hast thou done? – The Lord now charges him with his guilt: “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the soil.” In the providence of God, blood has a voice crying to him to which he cannot but give heed. It is vain, then, to attempt concealment.
The curse which now fell on Cain was in some sense retribution, as it sprang from the soil which had received his brother’s blood. The particulars of it are the withdrawal of the full strength or fruitfulness of the soil from him, and the degradation from the state of a settled dweller in the presence of God to that of a vagabond in the earth. He was to be banished to a less productive part of the earth, removed from the fellowship of God and the society of his father and mother, and abandoned to a life of wandering and uncertainty. The sentence of death had been already pronounced upon man.
My iniquity is more than I can bear. – To bear iniquity is in Hebrew phrase to undergo the punishment of it. And the prospect of this, as it presents itself to the eyes of Cain, is so appalling that he shrinks from it as intolerable. It is dark enough in itself, and no doubt darker still in the exaggeration which an accusing conscience conjures up to his imagination. The phrase, “every one finding me,” implies that the family of Adam had now become numerous. Not only sons and daughters, but their children and grandchildren may have been growing up when Cain was sent into exile. But in his present terror even an excited imagination suggested an enemy at every turn.
The reply of the Lord is suited to quell the troubled breast of Cain. One could paraphrase God’s intention here as: “Therefore, because your fears of what you deserve go beyond what it is my purpose to permit, I give you assurance of freedom from personal violence.” “To be avenged seven-fold” is to be avenged fully. Cain will no doubt receive even-handed justice from the Almighty. The assurance given to Cain is a sign, the nature of which is not specifically described.
16 Then Can went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.
19 Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. 20 And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. 22 And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.
23 Then Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The presence of the Lord – seems to have been at the entrance of the garden where the cherubim were stationed. There, probably, the children of men still lingered in faith and hope before the Lord, whom they still regarded as their Maker and merciful Savior. They acknowledged his undeserved goodness in the form of sacrifice. The retreat of Cain from the scene of parental affection, of home associations, and of divine manifestation, must have been accompanied with many a deep, unuttered pang of regret and remorse. But he has deeply and repeatedly transgressed, and he must bear the consequence. Such is sin.
Mankind is now formally divided into two branches – those who still abide in the presence of God, and those who have fled to a distance from him. Distinguishing names will soon be given to these according to their outward profession and practice, as in Genesis 6:1.
Cain is not unaccompanied in his banishment. A wife, at least, is the partner of his exile. And soon a son is born to him. He was building a city at the time of this birth. The city is a keep or fort, enclosed with a wall for the defense of all who dwell within. The building of the city is the erection of this wall or barricade. Here we find the motive of fear and self-defense still ruling Cain. His hand has shed his brother’s blood, and he expects every man’s hand will be against him.
He calls his son Enoch, and his city after the name of his son. The same word is employed as a name in the lines of Seth in Genesis 5:18, of Midian in Genesis 25:4, and of Reuben in Genesis 46:9. It signifies dedication or initiation, and, in the present case, seems to indicate a new beginning of social existence. It appears, from the flocks kept by Abel, the fear of persons meeting and slaying the murderer, the marriage and family of Cain, and the beginning of a city, that a considerable time had elapsed since the fall. The wife of Cain was his sister, a daughter of Adam and Eve.
The names in this verse seem to denote, respectively, fleet as a wild ass, stricken by God, man of prayer, and youth.
This is the first record and probably the first instance of polygamy. The names of the two wives, Adah, “beauty,” and Zillah, “shade or tinkling,” seem to refer to the charms which attracted Lamech. Abundance of wealth and power perhaps led Lamech to multiply wives.
Gen. 4:20 is the first statement of the tent and of cattle (domesticated herd animals). The tent was the thin canvas of goats’ hair, which was placed over poles or timbers. The cattle are designated by a word denoting property, and consisting chiefly of sheep and oxen. The idea of property had now been invented. The Cainites were now prosperous and numerous.
Here is the invention of musical instruments in their two leading varieties, the harp and the pipe. This demonstrates the mental capabilities of the original humans, as the development of both music AND instruments is the work of one man.
The making of tents implies some skill in carpentry, and also in spinning and weaving. The working in brass and iron furnishes implements for war, hunting, or husbandry. The construction of musical instruments shows considerable refinement in carving and moulding wood.
In this fragment of ancient song, we have Lamech, under the strong excitement of having slain a man in self-defense, reciting to his wives the deed, and at the same time comforting them and himself with the assurance that if Cain the murderer would be avenged sevenfold, he the manslayer in self-defense would be avenged seventy and seven-fold.
It has been noticed that the inventive powers were more largely developed in the line of Cain than in that of Seth. And it has been suggested that the worldly character of the Cainites accounts for this. The Sethites contemplated the higher things of God, and therefore paid less attention to the practical arts of life. The Cainites, on the other hand, had not God in their thoughts, and therefore gave the more heed to the requisites and comforts of the present life.
The line of Cain is traced no further than the seventh generation from Adam. We cannot tell whether there were any more in that line before the flood. The design of tracing it thus far is to point out the origin of the arts of life, and the first instances of bigamy and homicide in self-defense.
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” 26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.
Now in striking relief, the godly line of Seth is introduced. It was through this line that the Messiah would eventually be born. When Enosh (meaning “frail” or “mortal”) was born, men began to call on the name of the Lord in public worship (with various family groups meeting together, rather than individual families meeting only by household).
Humanity seemingly divides into 2 groups, those descended of the “God Worshippers”, and those descended of the “God Defiers”.