Genesis 4:1-7 - The First Children, Cain and Abel: False Versus True Worship
· Genesis 1 tells us about the creation of the universe, including the creation of man.
· Genesis 2 gives us more detail about man and his world.
· Genesis 3 tells us what happened to man and the earth. Genesis 3 reveals how man brought sin into the world and how he and his world had to be judged and condemned to corruption. But Genesis 3 also reveals God’s great promise of a Savior and of a godly seed of people who would survive and serve God down through the coming centuries.
Now, Genesis 4-5 shows how the seed (descendents) of the woman branch out into both an ungodly and a godly line of people. Some of the woman’s seed will be godly people and some will be ungodly people. Genesis 4-5 discusses the children of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman upon earth. Their seed, their children and descendents, stand at the head of the ungodly and the godly lines of the human race.
· Cain and his offspring represent the ungodly line of civilization and society.
· Abel, who will be killed by Cain, and then Seth and his offspring represent the godly line of civilization and society. It is Abel who worships God as God dictated, and it is Seth and his seed who “call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26).
God made a wonderful promise to Adam and Eve after they had sinned. He promised a seed—descendents, children—through whom a godly line of people was to be born, and He promised that a Savior would come through that line (Genesis 3:15). Genesis 4-5 shows us the beginning of God’s promise being fulfilled. Genesis 4-5 gives us “The Birth, Development, and Corruption of Both the Ungodly and the Godly Seed (Descendents) of the Human Race.” The fact to remember is this: from this point on, history—all of history—is a struggle to preserve the godly line or seed of the human race.
Chapter 4 is a significant passage of Scripture.
· The central lesson deals with true and false worship, true and false approaches to God.
· The lesson centers around the first two children born upon earth, Cain and Abel.
· In one brief statement or description, whole periods of their lives are covered. Our minds thirst and reach out for more information, but the Holy Spirit has given us only this brief record.
A. Scene 1: The children’s birth (v.1-2a).
1. “The man had relations with his wife; she conceived and gave birth to Cain…” (v.1).
a) Cain’s birth (v.1).
(1) Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant.
(a) Remember, there had never been a pregnancy or birth upon earth before. Adam and Eve had been created by the direct power of God’s Word and breath.
(b) But not any more; thereafter, the human race was to be reproduced through the process of conception, pregnancy, and birth.
(c) Just imagine the experience of Adam and Eve throughout the nine months, their surprise and joy...
(i) when Eve began to gain weight and her stomach began to enlarge.
(ii) when Eve began to feel movement within her and Adam began to feel the growing child kick.
(d) Today, the joy of expectant mothers and fathers is wonderful, but the joy of Adam and Eve must have been a joy beyond imagination. Just imagine being the father and mother of the first child ever born upon earth!
(2) But, there was more to Adam and Eve’s joy than just the pregnancy and birth of the first child. There was the hope of the promised seed, the Savior of the world. Remember:
(a) God had promised that He would send the Savior through the seed of the woman.
(b) Adam and Eve believed the promise of God. Their belief was so strong that Adam named the woman Eve, which means to give life or the mother of all living.
b) Lessons for us that are parents.
(1) Parent’s joy and hope can be turned into sorrow and tragedy by the child. Usually one thing makes the difference between a joyful or a sorrowful child: how the parent trains up the child.
The writer of Proverbs put it this way, "Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB95)
This is what I want to be able to say when my kids are grown up, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 4, NASB95)
(2) Every parent needs to believe in the promised seed of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ.
A passage that all of us know, Jesus said "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16, NASB95)
The gospel is so simple even a child can believe, Paul said "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:9-10, NASB95)
(3) Every parent needs to believe the Word of God and the promises of God.
The word of God is what builds us up, in Acts 20 we read "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." (Acts 20:32, NASB95)
As Paul was writing to Timothy he said "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;" (2 Timothy 3:16, NASB95)
2. “Then she bore Abel…” (v.2a).
a) Abel’s birth (v.2a).
(1) The Hebrew word means vanity, breath, temporary, meaningless, or empty. Why would Eve name her second son Abel, a name that meant empty or meaningless?
(2) Some commentators believe several reasons:
(a) Eve already learned that Cain was not the promised seed or Savior
(b) Eve now disheartened and downcast because she sensed that the promised Savior was not to come any time soon.
(c) Eve is just sensing the emptiness and meaninglessness of life itself.
(d) Eve and Adam were, most likely, having to work hard to cultivate enough land to provide food and to survive in a fallen and harsh environment.
b) Emptiness of life.
(1) Scripture does not say why Eve was sensing the vanity, meaninglessness, and brevity—of life.
(2) But by naming the child Abel, Eve was saying that human existence is sometimes vanity upon vanity: life is sometimes empty, meaningless and temporary as brief as breath itself.
Speaking about the brevity of life, Job says "My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, And come to an end without hope…” "Now my days are swifter than a runner; They flee away, they see no good.” (Job 7:6; 9:25, NASB95)
The Psalmist says "Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.Selah.” (Psalm 39:5, NASB95)
Because life is short, we should be storing our treasures in heaven "For when he dies he will carry nothing away; His glory will not descend after him." (Psalm 49:17, NASB95)
God "Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Psalm 103:14, NASB95)
James says "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:14, NASB95)
Peter says "For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off," (1 Peter 1:24, NASB95)
B. Scene 2: The work of Abel (a herdsman) and Cain (a farmer) (v.2b).
1. “Able was a keeper of the sheep… Cain was a tiller of the ground…” (v.2a).
a) A couple of facts.
(1) First – their profession met the very basic needs of man: that of clothing and of food. Their professions were honorable and contributed to meeting the needs of the family and society.
(2) Second – they had learned their profession from their father. Remember, God Himself had shown Adam how to clothe his family with the skins of animals (Gen.3:21), and God had instructed Adam to till the ground (Gen.3:17-19, 23). As the father, he had apparently taught his sons to work diligently.
(3) Two lessons for us:
(a) Our profession should always be for the good and betterment of man, to meet the very basic needs of man’s life. Never damaging, destroying and tearing down society.
(b) Parents should always teach their children to work and to work diligently.
C. Scene 3: The personal worship of Cain and Abel (v.3-4a).
1. “Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord…” (v.3).
a) Cain’s false worship: offered produce—the works of his own hands—to God (v.3).
(1) The specific time – Scripture indicates that Cain and Abel approached God at a specific time and at a specific place for worship.
(2) The specific time is indicated by the words “in the process [or course] of time” (Gen.3:3). The Hebrew means at the end of the days. What days?
(a) it could refer to the days of harvest, a very special time when Adam and his sons wanted to set aside a very special day of worship and offering to God.
(b) it could refer to the end of the week, the seventh day of rest. Remember: God had already blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a day of rest and worship.
(c) it could also refer to the first time Cain and Abel worshipped on their own, apart from their parents. When they began to approach and worship God on their own.
(3) The specific place – this is indicated by the fact that both Cain and Abel “brought” their offering to a particular place for worship. Where was that place? Scripture does not say.
(4) The specific offering – Cain approached God and offered produce. Cain was a farmer and he brought his produce as an offering to God.
2. “Abel brought the firstlings of his flock and of their fat…” (v.4a).
a) Abel’s true worship: offered a sacrifice—a substitute life—to God (v.4a).
(1) Able approached God and offered a sacrifice—a substitute life—to God. Abel approached God by taking the first—the very best—of his flock and sacrificing the animal and offering it to God.
b) Cain and Abel’s instruction for approaching God.
(1) First of all, I think Adam had established a place for worship to approach the Lord.
(2) Adam would have been very careful how he approached God. Adam would approach God exactly as God had instructed: by the way of sacrifice (Gen.3:21).
(3) Adam would also have been very careful to teach his family how to approach & worship God. Therefore, I believe that Cain and Able knew the way to approach the Lord.
D. Scene 4: God’s response (v.4b-5a).
1. “The Lord respected Abel and his offering…” (v.4b).
a) Accepted Abel and his offering (v.4b).
(1) God did not just accept and reject the offerings; He accepted and rejected the man as well.
(a) Both Abel and his offering were accepted by God (Genesis 3:4b).
(b) Both Cain and his offering were rejected by God (Genesis 3:5).
(c) This is of critical importance: it was the offering that made the man either acceptable or unacceptable to God. This is what this passage is about, the false and true approach to God.
(2) What was it that made Abel’s offering acceptable? The New Testament tells us:
The writer of Hebrews says "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4, NASB95)
(3) What was the sacrifice of Abel? The sacrifice of an animal: its life, its blood.
(a) Why did Abel sacrifice an animal? Because Adam, had taught him to approach God through the sacrifice of an animal.
(b) When Adam sinned, God killed an animal and clothed Adam with its skin. By this very act, God taught Adam...
(i) that sin causes death.
(ii) that an innocent substitute had to sacrificially die in order to clothe man’s shame and guilt.
(iii) that thereafter man could approach God only if his shame and guilt were hid through the sacrificial death of an innocent substitute.
(4) This, of course, pointed to Christ, the promised seed and Savior of the world.
(a) Abel might not have known the full revelation of Christ, but he believed that God accepted the sacrifice of the innocent life as a substitute for him. He believed, even as his father Adam believed.
2. “The Lord did not respect Cain and his offering…” (v.5a).
a) Rejected Cain and his offering (v.5a).
(1) Note two facts about his offering:
(a) Cain offered only produce to God, only what his own mind and hands had produced.
(b) Cain did not offer what Abel offered: an animal sacrifice—a substitute life—to God. Cain did not approach God through the sacrifice of an innocent life.
(2) Why would Cain not approach God through the sacrifice of an innocent life?
(a) Cain did not do what Abel did: seek to be acceptable to God—seek the righteousness of God—through the sacrificial offering of an innocent life.
Again, we read in Hebrews 11 that "By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4, NASB95)
John says "Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous." (1 John 3:12)
!!!!! (3) Cain wanted to use a different way and approach to God. For some reason, he brought the fruit of his own hands to God. Why did Cain approach God this way?
(a) Was Cain reacting against the bloody sacrifice of animals as an approach to God? Scripture definitely says this. He just did not believe, but also rejected the way to approach God (Hebrews 11:4).
(b) Did Cain think that giving God the best of his own mind, work, and fruit was a much better way to approach God? Was Cain seeking to establish a different approach and way to God?
(i) This is exactly what Scripture says. Scripture says that Cain was a false teacher who sought to establish a false way to God.
(ii) In fact, Scripture calls all false approaches and ways to God “the way of Cain”
b) The “Way of Cain” (Jude 11).
(1) Cain is depicted as the first murderer and the first willful unbeliever.
(a) After Cain killed Abel, God protected Cain by placing a mark on him (v. 15). But in spite of God’s grace, “Cain went out from the Lord’s presence” (v. 1).
(b) Therefore, Cain not only murdered his brother, but also rejected God.
(c) Cain did not allow himself to be mastered by God and so became enslaved by the devil. Sin had its way with him, and he became the first murderer.
(2) What is the “way of Cain” which the godless men have taken?
(a) The “way of Cain” is the way of religion without faith, righteousness based on character and good works.
(b) The “way of Cain” is the way of pride, a man establishing his own righteousness and rejecting the righteousness of God that comes through faith in Christ (Rom.10:1–4; Phil. 3:3–12).
God’s Word says, “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
False religion says that there is another name, another way. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
(3) Cain rebelled against God’s way of salvation (Gen. 4; 1 John 3:11–12).
(a) By clothing Adam and Eve with the skins of slain animals (Gen. 3:21), God made it clear that the only way of forgiveness is through the shedding of blood.
(b) This is the way of faith, not the way of good works (Eph. 2:8–10). But Cain rejected this divinely authorized way and came to the altar with the fruits of his own labor.
(c) God rejected Cain’s offering because God rejected Cain: his heart was not right before God. It was by faith that Abel’s sacrifice was offered, and that was why God accepted it (Heb. 11:4).
(4) If you are walking in Cain’s way—if you have rejected the way of salvation provided for you through the shed blood of Christ, refusing to accept responsibility for your own sins—heed the warning of God and turn back while there is still time. Reject Cain’s way.
God accepted the sacrifice of Christ "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Romans 5:8-9, NASB95)
We know, even from Genesis chapter 3 that "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22, NASB95)
Speaking about our redemption, Peter says "you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NASB95)
!! E. Scene 5: Cain’s reaction—very angry and downcast (v.5b).
1. “Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell…” (v.5b-6).
a) Dealing with anger.
(1) Cain was angry at God for not accepting and blessing his worship. He was angry because he could not approach and worship God as he wanted.
(a) He should have been angry at himself, for his own unbelief and hypocrisy. Cain was at fault; he was the one who had disobeyed God and approached God this way.
(b) As soon as he felt his face and countenance fall, he should have fallen to his knees, begged for forgiveness, and repented of his unbelief and hypocrisy.
(c) Cain was also angry with his brother, filled with envy and jealousy against his brother. Why? Because God had accepted and blessed the worship of Abel & not his.
The Psalmist says to "Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.” (Psalm 37:8, NASB95)
Having a quick temper results in a lot of bad things "A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated.” (Proverbs 14:17, NASB95)
What about who we hang around with? "Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man," (Proverbs 22:24, NASB95)
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” (Matthew 5:22, NASB95)
Paul tells us a few things we should do if we are Christians "But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)
F. Scene 6: God’s warning (v.6-7).
1. “If you do well, will you not be accepted…? (v.7a).
a) If you do right, you are accepted (v.7a).
(1) Here there is a point in the story that touches me deeply.
(a) Although the offering of Cain was rejected, God did not simply walk away from Cain.
(b) But He approached him and tried to reason with him about his sacrifice and what he needed to do to be accepted.
(c) So also would God plead with you, if you are fighting him.
2. “If you do not do well, sin lies at the door and its desire is for you…” (v.7b).
a) Sin desires you (v.7b).
(1) The picture of sin painted by the Hebrew is graphic: sin is like a wild beast crouching at the door of a person’s house, ready to jump upon and devour the person.
(2) Note this also: this is the first time the word sin is mentioned in the Bible.
(a) It means to miss the mark just like an archer who misses his mark. Cain had missed the mark in his approach to God.
(b) He had approached and worshipped God, but he had missed God.
(3) Sin will lead to more sin (Rom.6:19).
3. “But you should rule over it…” (v.7c).
a) You must master sin (v.7d)
(1) God gave a warning, and the warning was that in Cain’s refusing to come on God’s terms he was flirting with disaster.
(2) The cause of his anger was sin, and sin was about to master him. Is that not our case also?
(3) Sin desires to master us and in many cases has. We must master it. But how? How can we drive sin out and cleanse this old house in which we live?
(a) We cannot do it ourselves (Matt.12:43-45).
(i) We are inadequate for such things.
(ii) In order for us to master sin, we must first be mastered by him who mastered sin. We must be the Master’s.