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Genesis 4: Cain and Abel

Original Publication Date
June 7, 2015
Updated
Jan 10, 2023 1:03 AM
Tags
CainAbelSacrificeMurderJealousyAngerGenesisChapter Study
Bible References
Genesis 4
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Done
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Table of Contents
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on June 7, 2015 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.

Some time after Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, they give birth to Cain and Abel. We are told that Cain becomes a tiller of the ground (or a farmer) and Abel a keeper of the flock (or a shepherd). Most of Genesis 4 centers on these two brothers.

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.Β 2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Twins?

Some scholars believe Cain and Abel were twins. This assumption is usually rooted in either an assumption made from the rapid pace of the of the text, which does not mention any time between Cain's birth and Abel's birth, or the original root of the word again, which is yacaph in Hebrew.[3]

Yacaph means to add to or to continue to do something.[2] There is nothing that particularly supports this idea, nor is there anything that conclusively tells us they were not twins. From the information given, the only conclusion we can make is that Cain was born first.

An even wilder attachment to the idea of Cain and Abel being twins, is that they are fraternal twins with different fathers![5] Some believe that the sin of eating from the tree is symbolic of lust (and adultery) and that Eve's true sin was sleeping with the devilβ€”how do people come up with this stuff? One contradiction with the theory off the bat is that God tells the serpent that his seed and Eve's seed will be at odds with each other. While Cain clearly had a problem with Abel, we see no evidence of Abel having a problem with Cain. On top of that, if one son were actually fathered by the serpent (or the devil), the seed would be both Eve's and the serpent's... That doesn't make any sense at all. Another piece of conclusive evidence that this is not what happened is that Adam also eats the fruit and is also punished by God; in Romans 5:12-14 the blame is placed solely upon Adam for the fall of man. If Eve committed adultery with the devil, why would anyone blame Adam? Furthermore, elsewhere in the Bible, when a man committed adultery and bore a child, we are still told of this. Why would God hide it in Genesis 3?

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:Β 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.Β 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

What was the Difference Between the Offerings?

A better, and more relevant, question from the narrative of Cain and Abel is what made God accept Abel's offering but reject Cain's? We are told that Abel offers God the firstlings (or firstborn) of his flock plus the fat of said animals, while Cain offered fruit from the ground.

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto theΒ Lord.Β 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:Β 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

When God rejects Cain's offering, Cain gets angry (wroth[1]) and God tell him that if he does well he will be acceptedβ€”implying that Cain has not done well so far. God takes this opportunity to remind Cain that if he doesn't do well sin will rule over him. God tells Cain that "sin lieth at the door" and "shalt rule over him" if he doesn't do well. We know that sin attacks those who turn away from God, it overwhelms them because they don't have the power of God to over come it. So in this passage, God is essentially telling Cain that if he turns away from God he will be drawn to sin.

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.

Some may assert that God preferred the blood offering provided by Abel, citing Jesus' blood as the ultimate offering/payment to God, however there is a lot more that can be seen in this passage. The first thing to be noted is that we are told that Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat. From this we know that Abel brought his best, and possibly most prized, to offer God. We are not told anything of Cain's offering. Did Cain offer him rotten, over ripe fruit, or fresh fruit? Did he offer the juiciest, plumpest fruit he could find or small, disfigured, and blemished fruit. In other words, what was the quality of his offering? Another question to be asked is where was his heart? Was he happy and excited to give this offering to God or was he already a little irate at having to give some of his crop away?

Murder and Punishment

As God warned Cain, sin did rule over him, and Cain killed his brother out of jealousy. Just as Adam and Eve were unable to admit their sin to God, Cain refuses to admit to killing his brother when God asks where Abel is. God gives Cain a chance to confess, just as we are given a chance to confess, however when Cain refuses to admit guilt and repent, God punishes him. Cain's punishment was to be a vagabond and to lose his ability to harvest crops from the Earth.

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;Β 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.

The Mark of Cain

People use to believe the mark (or curse) of Cain was dark skinβ€”it was used to dehumanize Africans and justify slavery during the colonial era. No one knows exactly what the mark looked like, however the mark itself was not a curse but rather a mark of protection ensuring that no one would avenge Abel by killing Cain.[4]

The Second Sin

One question the comes up amongst theologians is who the law applies to. Some assert that the law was written for the Jews and that they were the only ones bound to keep the law. As we continue to dive into the Bible, there will be many occasions when we see explicit instructions about the law but there is much to be pointed out even in Genesis 4. It is confirmed in Romans 5:12-14 that the disobedience of Adam and Eve allowed sin to enter the world and that it was a sin. These verses also define sin as disobedience of God's law/command. Even though we have not gotten to the 10 commandments or the laws of Leviticus, Cain and Abel are already presenting offerings to God and Cain is punished for killing Abel. The fact that Cain is punished and God refers to Cain's jealousy (coveting) as sin tells us that Cain had been command not to do either of those prior to that point in the story. It also means that the law of God also predates the Jews.

Questions From God

In my History of the Old Testament class, the professor questioned God's omnipotence citing the fact that here in Genesis 4, God asks where Cain is and in Genesis 3, He asks where Adam and Eve are. The professor suggested that if God knew, He wouldn't have asked. However, in many cases, we give people a chance to fess up to their wrong doingsβ€”even in today's society the punishment is often less severe when we confess what we have done (particularly if you admit remorse). God knew that Adam and Eve were hiding, by asking where they were He was giving them a chance to show themselves and accept their punishment. Similarly God knew that Cain had killed Abel, He says, just after Cain responds, that Abel's soul cries out to Him from the ground. God either wanted to see if Cain would admit to murdering His brother, or was simply beginning the conversation in a non-accusatory tone. If God didn't know where Abel was, why didn't He ask Adam, or Eve? He asked Cain because He knew Cain had killed Abel.

References and Footnotes

  1. Church of the Great God. "Strongs #7107: qatsaph".Β BibleTools.org. 2015
  2. Church of the Great God. "Strong's #3254: Yacaph".Β BibleTools.org. 2015
  3. Gilkerson, Luke. "All the Twins in the Bible".Β Intoxicated On Life. October 15, 2012
  4. "What was the mark God put on Cain?".Β GotQuestions.org. 2015
  5. "Who was the Father of Cain, Adam or Another Source?".Β Let Us Reason Ministries. 2010

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