Genesis 4:1-2: The word “knew” is used to indicate not only sexual intimacy, but unity. Eve exclaims that she has made a child with the help of the Lord. “Cain” in Hebrew (qayin) is similar in sound to the verb “I acquired” (qaniti), which can also mean “create”, it the same word translated “creator” in (Genesis 14:19). That this was not the promised child becomes apparent by his actions. In fact he was not of the seed of the woman but of the serpent (1 John 3:12).
Abel’s name means “breath, vapor, or vanity”, which is an indication that Adam and Eve had both come to realize the ramifications of the fall and that life had become both a vapor and vanity. Cain became a tiller of the ground, which had been cursed and Able had become a Shepherd of flocks.
Genesis 4:3-5 As a farmer, Cain offered the fruit of the ground, in itself an acceptable offering, but not what God required for atonement (Leviticus 6:20-23). Both Abel and Cain presented an “offering”, but Abel’s is described as the best of his possessions, “the firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4). The “fat” meant the best portion (Exodus 13:2,12; Leviticus 3:16;22:17-25).
What made Abel’s offering more acceptable was that it contained blood (Leviticus 17:11). The principle of blood atonement is God’s divinely ordained remedy for the problem of sin. The Scriptures insist that atonement for sin is not possible apart from the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). The biblical emphasis on the blood of the sacrifice, and ultimately of the Messiah, points to the “exchange of life principle. The sinful attitude of Cain is evidenced by the comment on his countenance and his resultant anger (Genesis 4:15), which led to murder (1 John 3:12).
Genesis 4:6-8 Cain had to be acceptable according to God’s condition. “Sin” is personified as a wild animal, lurking at the door of Cain’s life, desiring to enslave him. The Lord urges Cain to overpower and master sin (James 1:14,15;1 Peter 5:8) In spite of the anger of Cain, God promises to restore fellowship with him, if he “did what was right”.
This is an allusion to Cain approaching God in His appointed way. His continued path led ultimately to murder. This murder allowed Satan to eliminate two of the possible channels for the seed of the woman to be born that ultimately would crush him. In Genesis 4:8 Cain talked with his brother, this could lead one to infer that the killing was pre-meditated. Perhaps the words of Able so infuriated his brother that he sought to forever silence his convicting voice.
Genesis 4:9-11 – Immediately God called Cain seeking a confession from him. Instead of confession, Cain challenges God’s right to ask him the whereabouts of his brother. This was a blatant lie, but in a sense Cain did not know where Able was, in Sheol, the residence of the spirits of the dead. In Luke 16:22,23 “Abraham’s bosom” is a Jewish figurative expression denoting the place of repose to which Lazarus was carried at his death.
It is a synonym for “Paradise” (Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4) and “heaven.” “Hades” (Luke 23:23) is another word for “hell.” The rabbis divided the state after death into a place for the righteous (Abraham’s Bosom, Paradise) and a place for the wicked (Hades). Cain could silence the convicting voice of Abel by killing him, but his blood still spoke.
That blood speaks is a foreshadow of the importance of the blood of the Messiah (Hebrews 12:24). The curse upon Cain is not necessarily a curse of eternal damnation. It involves two things:
1) being driven away from the cultivated and arable portion of the land and subsisting by the greatest of difficulties.
2) Being compelled to shift and wander on the face of the earth. Since the earth drank up Abel’s blood it is appropriate that the earth should not bring comfort or blessing to Cain. That he would be a wanderer never finding rest also is appropriate.
Genesis 4:13-24 With this punishment pronounced Cain now has sorrow for his sin, but not a sorrow that leads to life (2 Corinthians 7:10). Cain’s complaint is not only that he would be hidden from the face of God, but also that as a fugitive from the justice and wrath of God, he would be more susceptible to the wrath of the population at large. God gave Cain a mark or a sign to him: The Hebrew word indicates a sign rather than a physical mark. This sign indicated to Cain:
(1) that vengeance belongs to God, and
(2) to prove the faithfulness of God’s grace and mercy to sinful man.
One can only speculate concerning the nature of the sign. God gave Noah the sign of the rainbow; He gave the signs on the fleece to Gideon, to Elisha the sign of seeing Elijah taken away in the chariot of God. The sign did not give Cain the real peace that comes from a relationship with God, but enough so that he did not live in constant fear of retaliation. The land in which Cain settled was called Nod, the meaning of which is “wandering”.
Its precise location has not been determined, but seemingly it was still in Mesopotamia, though at a distance from Eden. The remaining portion of Genesis 4 gives us a picture of the life of the world prior to the flood. Two types of men flow from Adam and Eve; the sons of God and the sons of men. What we have in the rest of chapter four is the chronicle of the sons of men. This begins a record of Cain’s descendants who were not worshipers of Yahweh. Even though they had many skills (Genesis 4:21-22), their sins rapidly proliferated.
The first evidence of polygamy appeared with Lamech (Genesis 4:19), who also not only committed murder but was boastful and arrogant about it (Genesis 4:23-24). Cain’s family did all that they could to thwart the effect’s of God’s curse. Urban or nomadic life was preferred to tilling the ground, cattle raising for food rather than eating food from the earth.
Metal working and tools were developed to ease the “toil” of the curse, musical instruments to distract from the curse. Polygamy rather than monogamy was commanded by God. Metal weapons were fashioned to gain power over other men. And now we read about Lamech’s boasting about his independence and self-sufficiency.
Genesis 4:25-26 – We are now brought back to Adam and his offspring through Seth. We see the sons of Cain as a picture of the seed of the serpent. Eve saw the birth of Seth as from the Lord. Seth, meaning the “appointed one,” is so named because Eve interpreted the child as one “appointed” by God, as a replacement for Abel. He is also confirmation of God’s faithfulness to the promise of a “seed” (or descendant) through whom the strife between humanity and the Serpent would be pursued (Genesis 3:15). No further allusions to Cain appear in the Genesis narrative because, in his willful sin, he had cut himself off from God’s blessings.
When Seth bore his son he gave him the name Enosh, which means “man” and is from the root of “ish” which is man in his higher state where the Hebrew adam focuses on man’s mortality (Psalm 90:3). This verse records when men began to worship and proclaim the name of Yahweh. Those in the lineage of Seth are contrasted with the wicked lineage of Cain.