Cain & Abel: Two Approaches to God
The History of Cain & Abel (4:1-8)
1 And Man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain [‘acquired’], and said, I have acquired a man with Jehovah. 2 And she further bore his brother Abel [‘vanity’]. And Abel was a shepherd, but Cain was a husbandman. vv.1-2 Adam and Even have two sons, and they could not have been more different. First of all, notice that Eve names her firstborn Cain, saying “I have acquired a man with Jehovah”. It would appear that Eve put her hopes in her firstborn son, perhaps reasoning that this was the “seed” mentioned in the serpent’s curse. She names her second son Abel, which means ‘vanity’. This could mean a number of things. First, it could mean that the parents had seen the flesh in the older son, and had given up hopes in their children. Secondly, by mention of the two so close together, it seems that the Spirit is drawing a contrast… that all hope was put in the first-born husbandman, and no hope in the second-born shepherd. In the course of this chapter, Eve learns the lesson of the ages; that the flesh profits nothing. She names her third son Seth, which means ‘appointed’; seeing the sovereign grace of God as the only hope for mankind. Why didn’t the promised seed come in ch.4? Why was the “fullness of time” four-thousand years? Because “that which is spiritual was not first, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46). In the dispensational ways of God, the first man had to come before the second man, so that the utter ruin of one and the perfection of the other might be manifest.
3 And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to Jehovah. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat. And Jehovah looked upon Abel, and on his offering; 5 and upon Cain, and on his offering, he did not look. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. vv.3-5 In the garden, the Lord had come down to walk with man in the cool of the day. After the fall, man was to approach God on the basis of sacrifice. Both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices. Two things at the end of the previous chapter bear on the chosen offerings of Cain and Abel. The ground had been cursed, yet Cain chooses to bring fruit out of a cursed earth, by the labor of his own hands, for God. However, God had provided coats of skin for Adam and Eve, which required the death of an innocent animal. Abel chooses to bring the firstlings of his flock “and the fat thereof”. This required the slaying of an animal, and the shedding of blood. Abel brought a burnt offering, and he was accepted because of the value of the sacrifice. The two sacrifices represent two approaches to God. All down through human history, there have only been two approaches. The first approach is to come to God seeking acceptance on the ground of our own works; a bloodless sacrifice. The second approach is to come to God on the value of a life offered up in death. Cain’s offering was not accepted, because God cannot be pleased with the work of men’s hands. Cain became immediately angry, and his face grew sullen. It was an attitude of rebellion against God. Man’s heart turns against God when his efforts are not received.
6 And Jehovah said to Cain, Why art thou angry, and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If thou doest well, will not thy countenance look up with confidence? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. v.7 In grace, the Lord reaches out to Cain, seeking to show him the error. The word “sin” (Strong’s H2403) could be translated “sin offering”. Kelly disagrees with this interpretation.
8 And Cain spoke to 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.
The Government of God over Cain: Cain’s Curse (4:9-15)
9 And Jehovah said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper? 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now be thou cursed from the ground, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield thee its strength; a wanderer and fugitive shalt thou be on the earth. 13 And Cain said to Jehovah, My punishment is too great to be borne. 14 Behold, thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a wanderer and fugitive on the earth; and it will come to pass, that every one who finds me will slay me. 15 And Jehovah said to him, Therefore, whoever slayeth Cain, it shall be revenged sevenfold. And Jehovah set a mark on Cain, lest any finding him should smite him.
The Generations of Cain: The World (4:16-24)
16 And Cain went out from the presence of Jehovah, and dwelt in the land of Nod, toward the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city; and he called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch. 18 And to Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael; and Mehujael begot Methushael; and Methushael begot Lemech. 19 And Lemech took two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the second, Zillah. 20 And Adah bore Jabal: he was the father of those who dwell in tents, and breed cattle. 21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of those who handle the harp and pipe. 22 And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, the forger of every kind of tool of brass and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. 23 And Lemech said to his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice, Ye wives of Lemech, listen to my speech. For I have slain a man for my wound, and a youth for my bruise. 24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold; Lemech seventy and seven fold. v.23 A carnal man boasting in his personal vendetta.
The Generations of Seth: A Remnant (4:25-26)
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: … For God has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, because Cain has slain him. v. 25 Abel is the Lord gone into death: Seth is the Lord in resurrection.
26 And to Seth, to him also was born a son; and he called his name Enosh. Then people began to call on the name of Jehovah. v.26 They first had a desire to have the name of the Lord on them.