The Way of Cain, Pt 1 – Genesis 4:1-16

The Way of Cain
Genesis 4 (Pt. 1)
Hope In Christ Bible Church 9/9/18
God has graced us with another opportunity to continue our rich study through Genesis. Though Moses recorded this account around 1500 B.C. and while the events happened around 6,000 (not million) years ago, it is so timely for us today. For God has prepared for us in Genesis a treasure trove of encouragement for our lives. We saw last week from the 3rd chapter how Adam and Eve exited the garden to a much different life in a sinful world.
As we come now to chapter 4 we see how sin spreads through Adam and Eve to their descendants. That includes Cain whose heart was far from God.
Genesis 4 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a
wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. 16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”
Here we see not the evolution but devolution of the human race under the curse of sin.
For things don’t get better but worse with Adam’s offspring. It is not progress but regress.
The focal point in chapter 4 is on Cain. So we begin looking at what brought about his disaster.
1. Siblings 1-2
The King James Version in verse 1 closely adheres to the Hebrew text. With intended delicacy and discreetness it says, “And Adam knew his wife….”
In the O.T. , knowing someone is not about impersonal information but intimate union.
It’s the one flesh relationship God has designed and hallowed between man and wife.
Eve conceived and 9-months later gave birth to her first born son, Cain meaning “gotten.”
That was the first birth in the world, with the promised pains of child birth. She exclaimed, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.”
It may well be that Eve’s expected that baby was the promised one who would one day crush the seed of the serpent.
Because in saying, “I have gotten a manchild” she sees the boy as if he was already grown up.
And Eve wonderfully affirms that she had brought this boy into the world “with the help of the LORD.” So she lives with a view toward God.
Well, if she had messianic hopes in that son, she would soon learn he was not the one.
Cain would not long be an only child.
For the next arrow God would place into her quiver was Abel.
The name “Abel” (Hebhel) is identical with the Hebrew word that means vapor or vanity. His name foreshadows his brief life.
King Solomon would describe life apart from God that way: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Eccles. 1:2
As these boys grow up, they embrace two of the oldest professions known to man- farming- that was Cain’s choice and shepherding which was Abel.
Nowhere does our text intimate that either of these boy’s occupations was somehow inferior.
They could have each pleased the Lord in their life work.
Friends, so too, working with your hands, working outside in God’s creation is no second class work. That can and should all be done for God’s glory and to provide for one’s household.
The unforgettable day in those brothers lives followed what should have brought them together.
2. Sacrifices 3-4
Cain and younger Abel bring an offering to the Lord.
Where did they learn that? They must have seen Adam model such an act of worship to God.
Their offerings are much different. We know Cain the farmer brought produce from the ground. It was the spoils from his hard work of cultivating, planting and raising plants.
Imagine an offering of some fruit and sheaves of grain placed on an altar.
Abel we are told in verse 4 brings from his flock what was most likely a sheep.
Now what are we to make of God’s response to their offerings?
For we are told (v. 4-5), that the Lord had regard for Abel’s offering but for Cain’s offering He had not regard.
Abel’s offering pleased God, but not Cain’s. Why? Why would God react to one positively and to the other negatively?
Was it because God disliked an offering of the fruit of the ground?
Was it because God would only accept a blood sacrifice?
Pages and pages have been written seeking to prove that. Yet our text simply does not say God required a blood sacrifice. Nowhere in Genesis and nowhere in the Bible are we told that Cain should have brought an animal sacrifice.
To believe that is to read later revelation into the text.
By the way, if we are going to appeal to what comes later through Moses’ inspired pen, then
we must remember, that grain offerings were also pleasing to the Lord (Lev. 6:13, Isa. 66:20, Mal. 1:11).
And then we must recall what David confesses God is looking for in our lives.
Psalm 51:16–17 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
So, what reason can we point to for God responding completely different to the two offerings?
We have to look where God looks and notice what He notices.
Not just the offering but the offerer.
It’s so clear in the text, yet gets bypassed too easily.
End of verse 4 tells us, “the LORD had regard for Abel and his offerings.”
Very important, the regarding with favor directs itself first to the person.
And keep going, it’s the same with God’s disfavor. It aims first at the person: V. 5- “but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.”
Here’s what God wants us to see. The worshipper and his offering go together.
God’s not just concerned about what’s brought but the attitude of the one who brings it.
He looks at our lives.
What an example of this the Macedonian churches were. They begged Paul to let them give to others believers even though they themselves had so little.
What made their gift so acceptable is this: “they first gave themselves to the Lord!” II Cor. 8:5
Now notice the difference between the two brother’s offerings, because it reveals their hearts.
Of Cain we are simply told in verse 3 he brought “an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground.” There’s no statement about it being the firstfruits or anything special.
Yet two things set Abel’s offering apart.
First, he brought to God (v. 4) from the firstlings of his flock (in other words the first and best)!
It wasn’t a mere donation. It was a true sacrifice.
And note the second descriptive phrase. Not only did he bring the best of his sheep but also we read, “and of their fat portions.”
By the way, the fat portions of the animal speak of what the special and savory part.
So he doesn’t give God just a token, He gives God what is most special, most excellent.
It’s not just a donation. It’s total devotion.
Now I want to show you the core of what made Abel’s sacrifice better and acceptable.
Hebrews 11:4 “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous….”
Here God tells us what distinguished Abel’s sacrifice as superior. It was offered to God with a believing heart.
Abel’s offering was given in faith, Cain’s was not.
In other words, Abel’s heart was right with God. He presented that lamb to the Lord, the best He had, with the greatest concern that it was pleasing to God. And it was.
In fact, Abel becomes the first one God chooses to lead off that mighty Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 for us to follow after.
So instructive for us. For remember God tells us 2 verses after commending to us Abel’s faith, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Heb. 11:6
Here’s the encouragement from Abel’s example to us.
True faith gives God the best. Doesn’t give God the leftovers. Doesn’t offer to God what’s easy or convenient. It’s a joyful sacrifice to the Lord. In other words, it’s not just going through the motions.
In these two brothers, we see a line drawn between religious ritual and a righteous relationship with God.
They both gave. Yet only one gave his best in faith.
One day our Lord looked up and saw rich religionists putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
No doubt it looked impressive.
Then He notices a poor widow putting in two small copper points.
And Christ shows which one’s offering was most acceptable. The widow’s. He explains,
“for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4
How could she let go of all that she had left to live on? By faith.
She gave with a heart of faith fully confident that such a sacrifice was pleasing to God. And it was.
Beloved, let’s take this lesson of faith to heart. God calls us to be His children that walk by faith and not merely by sight (II Cor. 5:7).
And we show that faith every time we take opportunity to give our best to God.
Your time, your talents, your future plans, give God the best and not the leftovers.
As you have choices to make each day, remember Abel gave the best of his flock to the Lord and follow his example in faith.
It’s that kind of a life offered to God that is pleasing in His sight.
You might be thinking, I wish I could live by more faith. How can I grow in really trusting God when I face challenging days and unnerving trials?
Ask Christ to do that. The apostles did.
They said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). And He did.
And here’s how. He taught them to focus not on the quantity of their faith but on the power of God.
And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6 By referring to the tiny mustard seed Christ directs their attention away from the quantity of faith to the object of faith.
Now what of Cain after realizing he and his offering were not pleasing to the Lord?
3. Sin 5-8
There in verse 5 we are told, “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.”
Rather than repenting from not pleasing the Lord, Cain responds in deep anger. The original Hebrew text describes it as Cain’s anger burning in him.
That inward passion became visible in his facial expression- he was seething with rage.
He acts as if he is justified in his anger when in reality he has offended God who has ever reason to be angry at him.
Just like with Adam after He sinned, God draws near to speak with Cain. (V. 6) “The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?
God questions Cain not to gain information but to give opportunity for repentance.
That’s why God then says to him, (v. 7a) “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?”
In other words, “Cain, you are not a helpless victim. You can make the right choice and not cave in to your anger.”
Now in this personal conversation God has with Cain, He gives a vivid warning. (v. 7b) Here by the way is the first mention of sin in the Bible.
“And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
The serpent is ready to strike again.
God depicts sin here as a vicious animal ready to pounce on Cain.
Friends, we dare not picture sin as some annoying cat that wants to jump on your lap.
Rather, see sin as a wild, blood-thirsty tiger that was after Cain… and he’s ready to pounce on us. For it’s our adversary the devil.
That’s why the apostle Peter pleas for us as believe to: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8
That’s the meaning of, “its desire is for you.” Satan and his diabolical followers are out to destroy you through sin.
And so God cautions Cain, “You must master it.”
John Owen put it this way, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
He’s spot on and got that from Romans 8:13 where we are called to “mortify the deeds of the body.”
In other words, instead of listening to temptation and giving in you must refuse to comply. That’s how you kill sin.
God’s warning makes it clear that Cain didn’t have to continue down the path and give in to sin. And neither do we.
So, Christian, remember this when you are battling anger, lust, pride, slander and all temptation. God always give you a way out.
Act on the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Yes, Satan that roaring lion is crouching ready to attack. He’s after you, Christian.
Thus I Peter 5:9 continues, “But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.”
Cain could have responded to God’s warning in faith, repented, and resisted sin’s desire.
But he refuses to deal with God. Instead of talking to God “he told Abel his brother.” (v. 8)
Cain spoke with the fuming anger that filled his heart.
And here we witness in the words before us the first murder and the first death in history:
Genesis 4:8b “…and it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”
This was no accident. The word “killed” (harag) shows he murdered his brother intentionally.
This is first degree, premeditated, cold-blooded murder.
What Cain did was unimaginably evil- fratricide- a brother killing his own sibling.
Seven times in this account, we are told that Abel was his own brother.
How could he ever do that? Why did he kill his younger brother? God gives us the motive in I John 3:11–13.
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as 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.”
When it tells us “Cain…was of the evil one” it means he was following in the steps of his father the devil who was “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).
Cain killed Abel because his jealous drove his anger.
While his life was evil, he knew Abel’s was righteous, therefore he hated him to the point of death.
Let me show you an amazing statement Christ makes about Abel that shows us more about this that helps us get the full pictures. It’s in Luke 11:49–5.
In referring to the guilt of his contemporary Jews who hated him, Christ points back to what happened to Abel.
For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’
Jesus here includes Abel as one of the prophets. One of the prophets who died for what he proclaimed. That makes Abel a martyr- the first martyr ever.
As a prophet he not only lived a righteous life. He also proclaimed God’s truth which included confronting sin… no doubt of his brother.
Cain despised him and tried to silence the witness of his life through murder.
And yet God testifies of Abel in Hebrews 11:4, that “though he is dead, he still speaks.” For his life of faith could not be silenced even through death.
4. Consequences of sin 9-12
The Lord now comes and speaks to Cain. Cain should have been scared stiff. But he’s not.
When God asks him, “Where is Abel your brother? he lies to God’s face saying, “I do not know.”
Try as he will, Cain cannot hide his sin from God.
For God knows as well as Cain does where Abel’s lifeless body lay. Perhaps Cain had covered him with dirt trying to hide the evidence.
He then brashly asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” His hard heart assumes he was not.
Now God drops the gavel of judgment. He confronts Cain in his sin (v. 10). It’s a monumental statement:
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”
What had he done? He had not only killed his innocent brother. He had destroyed a life made in the image of God.
And in so doing, He had assaulted God and His sovereignty who alone has the right to give and take life.
And that blood-stained ground cried out in witness against Cain the killer.
To whom did it cry? It cried out to God. God is the one to whom innocent blood cries out to. And it cries out not only as an evidence of guilt but as a plea for justice.
Friends, what happened that day in the field informed the criminal law of Israel. And it used to inform the laws of our land.
For capital punishment would be commanded by God for murder.
As soon as the flood subsided, God told Noah and his sons: Genesis 9:5–6 “Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”
Leviticus 24:17 calls for the same: “If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death.”
Yet God showed great mercy to Cain. Instead of striking Cain dead or requiring Adam to end his life, God lets him live.
He tells him the consequence of his sin (v. 11): “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”
Cain’s penalty fit the crime. He had caused the shed blood of his brother to stain the soil. Now the soil would resist him and be unproductive for him. This was a step beyond the weeds and the thorns of Adam’s curse.
That forced Cain to be a vagabond and wander for the rest of his life just like the devil who roams “to and fro on the earth” (Job 1:7).
Rather than being grateful that God did not kill him, Cain complains to God.
5. Complaint 13-14
Look at the objection he voices:
Genesis 4:13–14 “Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! “
By the way, there’s no ounce of repentance in Cain’s heart. He doesn’t hate his sin but only the consequences of his sin.
O the gall he shows in blaming God for what he knows is coming: V. 14- “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
What’s Cain afraid of? He’s afraid of someone killing him like he just killed his brother.
The murderer fears being murdered.
This is a common result of sin- we become crippled by fear of what other people think and what other people will do.
Solomon puts it like this, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing…” Prov. 28:1
A guilty conscience and unforgiven sin causes fear. The antidote still available to Cain was to repent. To humble himself before God.
God was so patient toward this murderous Cain He graciously shows him
6. Compassion 15-16
“So the LORD said to him, ‘Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.”
This indicates the population of the earth would quickly increase through Adam’s descendants. God promised if anyone dare kill Cain he would received 7 times greater punishment than Cain.
And what was the sign? Some believe God put a tattoo on Cain’s forehead. S
One Jewish commentator suggests the sign for Cain was a watch dog accompanied him and scared off attackers!
A better way to see this is that the sign was God’s pledge and reassurance of protecting Cain. Cain could have simply warned others, “You mess with me and God promises you will pay dearly!”
How does Cain respond to God’s compassion?
Unthinkably, we are told in verse 16: “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”
He just walks away from God. He wants nothing to do with fellowship with God.
Cain whose life was given with the help of the Lord now walks away from the presence of the Lord. He turns his back on God.
And there is no indication whatsoever that he ever came to his senses and returned to the Lord.
He continued living in his sin, in his rebellion against God. And because of that he will pay the price of separation from God in terrifying torment forever.
Cain remains a sober warning as the icon of iniquity. The 11th verse of Jude in exposing false teachers declares, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain.”
They chose the way of sin, and it cost them their lives.
There are so many take away for life that flow from what we have seen. Let’s me give you just a couple.
1. Be concerned most for the state of your soul. Cain wasn’t, you must be. The big thing in life isn’t your looks, what you own, your family or friends. It’s where your soul stands before God.
Christ warns in Mark 8:36–37, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 “For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
The answer is nothing. The cost to save your soul is beyond what you could ever pay.
2. Realize the battle for sin is won and lost in your heart.
Christ spoke to a crowd about murder. And he tells them, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty (of murder is the idea) before the court” (Mat. 5:22).
And when you lose the battle of sin in your heart, the consequences are always worse than you imagine.
An old Southern gospel song put it so well: Sin will take you farther than you wanna go Slowly but wholly taking control Sin will leave you longer than you wanna stay Sin will cost you far more than you wanna pay.
3. Come clean with God over your sin. Live a life of repentance, agreeing with God about how He sees your sin.
That starts in coming to Christ in repentant faith for salvation. And then continues in daily confession of sin that lays holds of His grace.
For where our sin is so great His willingness to forgive and cleanse us is always greater.
On October 2, 1998, inside the front door of his Pennsylvania home, 15-year old Zachary Witman, brutally killed his younger brother Greg.
Sentenced for life and put in prison, for 20 years, he claimed he was innocent.
Yet just last year Zach appeared in court and plead guilty of the murder.
Why? Because that makes him eligible for parole. The life sentence was dropped, and he can now be released with the promise of good behavior.
Beloved, our judicial system is a failure. But God’s is not.
The wages of sin in God’s book is always death.
But God solved our crisis of sin in Christ our substitute.
Therefore, don’t run from the presence of the Lord. Instead run to the cross and there find forgiveness of sin.
For in Christ alone, mercy triumphs over judgement.
Gracious God, heavenly Father…
The Way of Cain
Genesis 4 (Pt. 1)
Hope In Christ Bible Church 9/9/18
Review: I Peter 3:7
1. Siblings 1-2 Eccles. 1:2
2. Sacrifices 3-4
Lev. 6:13, Isa. 66:20, Mal. 1:11
Psalm 51:16–17
II Cor. 8:5
Heb. 11:4
Heb. 11:6
II Cor. 5:7
Luke 17:6
3. Sin 5-8
I Peter 5:8
Rom. 8:13
I Cor. 10:13
I Peter 5:9
I John 3:11–13
John 8:44
Luke 11:49–51
Heb. 11:4
4. Consequences 9-12
Gen. 9:5–6
Lev. 24:17
Job 1:7
5. Complaint 13-14
Prov. 28:1
6. Compassion 15-16
Being a doer of the Word:
Mark 8:36–37