Genesis 4:1-2 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. . . . Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Cain and Abel were the first two sons of Adam and Eve. There were not many career choices back then, so Cain grew up to be a farmer, and Abel kept flocks. Cain brought some of his produce as an offering to God, and Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock (Genesis 4:4). This is how they honored God as the source of all they had.
Genesis 4:4-5 The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.
From this it appears that not all offerings are pleasing to God. The text is not explicit, but Abel seems to have brought his best, while Cain brought something less. The real problem was not what they brought, however, but the attitude of their hearts. We learn elsewhere that Abel’s heart was right with God (Hebrews 11:4), and Cain’s heart was not (1 John 3:12). It is not enough to bring God an offering; we must bring it with a heart of worship.
Genesis 4:5b Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Cain thought his offering was perfectly fine, and that God was lucky to have it. He should have received God’s favor, he thought, not his frown. What kind of God would disapprove of an offering anyway? Cain wasn’t sure that he even liked God very much. Then the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? (Genesis 4:6-7).
God was not being unreasonable. He simply wanted Cain to understand worship. Cain’s offering showed a measure of compliance, but it wasn’t from his heart. Giving to God seemed like a tax to Cain, not an expression of love. So God assured Cain that he would be accepted if he would simply do what was right.
Genesis 4:7b But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.
God used a powerful image to illustrate Cain’s struggle with sin—and ours. Sin is not a cuddly kitten, but a savage carnivore ready to devour. Cain could do the right thing and be accepted by God, or he could do as he pleased and be devoured by sin.
Many face a similar choice at one time or another. Some choose to conquer lust, others are devoured. Some choose to conquer drugs, others are devoured. Some choose to conquer hate, others are devoured. Sin is not a toothless tiger, but a ferocious beast hungry for souls.
Genesis 4:8 Cain said to his brother Abel, Let’s go out to the field.
Cain led his brother far enough away that their parents would not hear his screams. Cain probably gave some thought to the place, as well as how to dispose of the body. If his brother went missing, his parents would assume that he was lost, or was eaten by a wild animal. So While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him (Genesis 4:8b).
Cain became the first murderer, and he made his brother the first martyr. Cain was not merely jealous of his brother; he hated him for loving God. Cain hated God so much that he murdered his brother for loving God. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother (1 John 3:12), wrote John.
Believers and unbelievers often get along, but when the devil gets involved, we should expect the worst. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you (John 15:20), said Jesus. Abel was the first to die for his faith, but millions have followed him.
Here we also see that sin can have unintended consequences. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they hoped to elevate the human condition (Genesis 3:5). Instead, their natures were corrupted, and passed down to their children, leading one to kill the other. Even worse, their sinful natures were passed down to future generations. This has produced a world of sin and misery, where everyone dies eventually. If Adam and Eve could have foreseen the results of their sin, they would not have sinned in the first place. Many have a similar story.
Genesis 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel? I don’t know, he replied. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Cain’s sarcastic reply showed that he was completely unrepentant. He had no sorrow for sin, nor any regret for what he had done. He hardened his heart against the voice of God, and became a hardened killer. Even then, God would have received Cain, if he would have repented. [A] broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17), wrote David.
Genesis 4:10 Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.
Abel’s parents did not hear him scream, but God heard his blood crying out from the ground. It is mine to avenge; I will repay (Deuteronomy 32:25), said God. Whoever rejects God’s mercy will have to face his justice.
As part of his punishment, Cain would become a restless wanderer (Genesis 4:12). His life would be an aimless journey, without meaning or direction, leading to the grave, and then to hell below. This sad path is chosen by many, but those who follow Christ journey to a better place. We can go with God, or we can go with the devil, but the destinations are as different as the paths we choose.
Genesis 4:25-26 Adam made love to 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. Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
Cain had rejected God, and his righteous brother was dead, so true religion was in danger of vanishing altogether. But God gave Adam and Eve another son, and then a grandson. Learning their family’s history, they took God seriously, and began to call on the name of the Lord.
This idea occurs throughout the Bible along with a promise of salvation. [E]veryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32), wrote Joel. [E]veryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21), preached Peter. And, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13), wrote Paul.
A little girl fell into a very deep well. Rescue teams worked around the clock for over two days, while others watched and prayed. Almost miraculously, the little girl was saved from the pit of her destruction. There is no place so far down that God is not able to reach us. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Reflection and Review
What kind of offering is pleasing to God?
How is sin like a ferocious beast?
How can we call on the name of the Lord?