Genesis 4

Cain and Abel

1.  Their birth. Adam and Eve looked forward to more than a richer family life when they anticipated the birth if their first child. For them it was the evidence that God’s promise of Genesis 3:15 was being realized, for there, God had promised salvation through the children that should be born to them.  Therefore when Cain, Eve’s firstborn arrived, she joyfully cried:  “I have gotten a man from the Lord.”  It is very well possible that she thought for the moment that Cain might be the promised Seed, the Christ.  And, although we know now that in that respect she was sorely mistaken, it was still true that by the birth of this first child God assured her of future generations through which the promised Seed should be born.  The Lord would teach her that Christ could only come by way of struggle, struggle between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

How different her attitude when she looked at Abel.  It is possible, although not certain, that Cain and Abel were twins.  Yet there was such an outstanding difference between them.  While Cain was strong and robust, the very picture of health and strength, Abel was small and weak.  Therefore, she called him “breath”, “vanity”, as if she could plainly read in him the results of their sin and the curse.  But God’s ways are not our ways.  God was pointing out that the carnal seed would always be larger and superior to the spiritual seed from every natural point of view, so that the carnal seed would persecute the spiritual seed and try to destroy it.  The whole world would unite as one man against the Christ the great promised seed.

2.  Their marked differences. “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Cain, in harmony with his robust physique, chose to wrestle with the soil.  The more strenuous life of the farmer appealed to him.  While Abel, as we can readily see, chose the less strenuous, but meditative life of a shepherd.  Cain was the man of great earthly ambitions, Abel sought his delight in fellowship with God in prayer and meditation.  Although they both had the same covenant training in their youth, the result of this training for Cain was that it brought out the depravity of his nature, while for Abel it revealed the work of grace, strengthening him in his faith in the promised Savior and the hope of eternal life.

This difference revealed itself particularly in their sacrifices.  Cain could not entirely ignore or forget his early training.  He was willing to bring a formal sacrifice to God, if for no other reason than to give some of his gifts to the Most High.  It tickled his vanity to do something that God should appreciate.  Abel, on the other hand, manifests a deep humility.  He brought the firstlings of his flock, the very best, thereby confessing that God is the sole Possessor of all things and that even these small gifts came to him from God’s hands.  Therefore, also the choice of a lamb was significant.  Ever since God had given to Adam and Eve the skins of animals to cover their nakedness, it was evident that blood had to be shed as an atonement for sin.  This Cain ignored.  But Abel understood.  Therefore, when he sacrificed his lamb, he did so to confess his sins before God and express his hope in the promised Christ.  Cain’s sacrifice was the Arminian attempt to appease God with our own works, while Abel’s sacrifice was an act of faith.  Hebrews 11:4.  Therefore God also accepted Abel’s sacrifice, and rejected Cain’s.  Just how it became evident to Cain and Abel that the one sacrifice was accepted and the other rejected, we do not know.  But we do know that Abel experienced peace with God, while Cain did not.  Therefore “Cain was wroth, and his countenance fell.”  Even then the Lord warned Cain, pointing him to the fact that the Lord (Jehovah) is a righteous God.  God pointed out to him that those who keep God’s commandments are approved and accepted of God.  While on the other hand, those who defiantly transgress His law must experience a transgressor’s reward.  The soul that sins becomes a slave to sin, for sin is like a lion crouching in his den, ready at the first opportunity to pounce upon his prey and devour him.  It is the duty of man to have mastery over sin, to oppose and resist all evil.  This statement does not imply that Cain was capable of keeping God’s commandments or of doing good in the sight of God, as it is often interpreted.  But it does point out the righteousness of God and His just punishment upon the transgressor.  This even Cain cannot deny, even though he turns a deaf ear against it.

Cain soon shows that he is very really “the seed of the serpent”, a child of Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning.  For in his hatred against God, Cain also hates those who love God, and thus turns against his own brother.  Whether Abel admonished him or not, whether this contention went on for some time or not, we have no way of knowing; but we do know that Cain’s furor arose to a fever pitch against Abel, so that he arose and slew him. I John 3:12.

Since this was still at a time when God spoke directly to men, the Lord also spoke to Cain, pointing him to the atrocious crime that he had committed before the face of the living God, and assuring him that God would certainly vindicate that shed blood.  The curse of God upon Cain was twofold:  First, Cain would have a still more bitter struggle to wrestle his existence from the soil.  The ground would produce only enough to give him a bare existence.  And second, he would shift and stray about in the earth.  He was driven from the covenant family to shift for himself as one who was an outcast before God, as is always the bitter experience of the wicked, even when they revel in luxuries.  Cain reacts to this sentence of condemnation with both impudence and despair.  He shows no sorrow, but complains that the same lot might befall him that befell Abel.  He would be like a hunted beast.  But God assures him that he will live out his divinely appointed days upon the earth, since he must serve his own purpose, even if it is in the sphere of wickedness.  The answer of God contains not an iota of grace or mercy, but only shows that vengeance belongs to the Lord, Who will recompense in His own time and manner.  The sign that is mentioned in verse 15 as a “mark upon Cain,” was evidently not some visible mark, but rather a sign to Cain, an assurance of God that he would not be killed.  It is only after the flood that we read that the death penalty upon the murderer was introduced. Gen. 9:6.

  1. The development of the seed of the serpent in contrast to the seed of the woman. 17-26

First is mentioned the development of the seed of the serpent in Cain’s generations.  Here we have the first evidence that Adam and Eve had more children than the two already mentioned.  Here is also evidence that among the sons and daughters of Adam there were others besides Cain who were wicked, as must have been the case with this sister who joined Cain in marriage and continued in wickedness with him.

Here it is also evident that Cain defiantly seeks his future success and happiness apart from God in the things of this world.  The great strides of progress through discoveries and inventions were made by the men of this world, the descendants of Cain.  Cain proceeds to build himself a city.  This may have been nothing more than a few simple houses in an enclosure.  And the original purpose may have been to protect their families from wild animals that roamed about.  But soon this city became an expression of their proud boast that they could get along perfectly well as enemies of God.  They sought a name for themselves.  As is evident from the fact that this city was named after Cain’s son, Enoch.  Psalm 49.

In these generations of Cain, we find names that include the name of God, as is evident from the repeated “El”.  At first there must have been some formal mention of God, but gradually even the thought of God was banished from their minds.  Moreover, in these names we also see the development of sin.  This is especially evident in a man like Lamech.  He committed bigamy, taking to himself two wives.  And the names of these wives express his carnal lust.  Adah means “ornament,” while Zillah means “the shady one”.  In this family appeared the corruption that is so blatantly displayed in our present world, as represented by Hollywood.  See I John 2:16.

Lamech also expressed his defiance of God in his wicked “sword song”.  We can readily visualize him, arrogantly holding his son’s invented sword in his hand, reciting poetry to his wives to express his deep contempt for God’s justice.  He has heard of the punishment that God had once pronounced upon all those who would kill Cain; and he scorns it with his whole soul.  Possibly he already had avenged himself on his enemies, as he intends to retaliate in the future.  Let God recompense him if He will!

It was in this wicked family that the great men of renown appeared.  “Adah bare Jabal.”  And Jabal became a nomad, devoting his time and effort to producing cattle and sheep.  He introduced cattle grazing as a means of livelihood.  “The name of his brother was Jubal.”  He was the originator of musical instruments, both wind and stringed instruments.  Zillah’s son was also an inventive genius, producing instruments and utensils of bronze and iron.  Imagine what an influence these men had on the development of Cain’s city.  Jabal was the shrewd businessman, Tubal Cain improved the manner of living with his instruments of bronze and iron.  Jubal helped to provide the entertainment with his harp and organ.  A miniature metropolis of wickedness had sprung up, throbbing with a life of sin.

That accounts for it that Tubal Cain’s sister is mentioned, Naamah, “the pleasant one.”  She fits in that scene of carnal lust, craving pleasure, ease and luxury.

In contrast to the generations of Cain, a brief account is given of the descendants of Seth.  God remembers His covenant and gives to Adam and Eve another son in the place of Abel.  Seth very fittingly means “substitute,” or “one set in the place of another.”  Was he a reminder to Adam and Eve of the real “Substitute”, the Seed of the woman who would come to bear away their sins?  This we know, the sons of Seth were characterized by their simple life and devotion to God.  They sought a better country, and were strangers on the earth.  Heb. 11:13-16.  Moreover, in the days of Enos public worship was introduced.  The believers also felt the need for a common bond of unity, but they sought it in the communion of saints for the purpose of worshipping God and the strengthening of their faith.