Genesis 4:1-26

Genesis 4:1-26

V 1-2:  The word “knew” is used to indicate not only sexual intimacy, but unity. It is important to retain the Hebrew, because the Hebrew shows that Eve believed she was giving birth to the redeemer promised in Genesis 3:15 it should be translated: “I have gotten a manJehovah.” The Jerusalem Targum, an Aramaic interpretive translation of the Hebrew Text, translated it as: “I have a gotten a man, the angel of Jehovah.” The rabbis recognized that Eve thought this child to be more than how most interpret this verse.  The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan reads, “I have gotten for a man, the angel of the Lord.” Eve’s understanding of Genesis 3:15 was that the Seed of the Woman, would be the Redeemer who would be a God-Man.  “Cain” in Hebrew (qayin) is similar in sound to the verb “I acquired” (qaniti), which can also mean “create” (14:19) and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.  That this was not the promised child become apparent by his actions, in fact he was not of the seed of the woman but of the serpent.  Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.  

The Hebrew word for Abel is hevel, which means “vanity.” Literally, his name means “a breath.” It emphasizes the brevity of human life. It is used that way in Job 7:16: for my days are vanity or of a breath; Psalm 144:4: Man is like to vanity or a breath. This shows that by the time Abel is born, the curse of the Fall had begun to make itself felt in the lives of Adam and Eve. The birth of Abel came during a time or a sense of vanity, and the hope of Cain as the Redeemer had failed. By the time of Abel, Eve realized that Cain was not the God-Man. Cain became a tiller of the ground, which had been cursed and Able had become a Shepherd of flocks. 

V 3-5 As a farmer, Cain offered the fruit of the ground, an acceptable offering, later in the days of the Tabernacle and Temple, but not what God required for atonement (Lev. 6:20‑23). Abel on the other hand was a shepherd.  Since animals were not yet used for food, the sheep and goats were used for milk and for garments such as wool. Sheep were also raised for the purpose of sacrifice. Both Abel and Cain presented an “offering”, but Abel’s is described as the best of his possessions, “the firstborn of his flock” (v. 4). The “fat” meant the best portion (Ex. 13:2, 12; Lev. 3:16; 22:17‑25).  What made Abel’s offering more acceptable was that it contained blood (Lev 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 (Heb. 9:22). The biblical emphasis on the blood of the sacrifice, and ultimately the Messiah, points to the “exchange of life principle.  The life of an animal is in his blood, and it it serves as an exchange of life that – the sacrifice instead of the offeror.  The animal’s life is accepted in exchange for the person who offers the sacrifice. The sinful attitude of Cain is evidenced by the comment of the Lord about his countenance and his resultant anger (4:15), which led to murder (1 John 3:12).

V. 6-8 God asks Cain two questions: Why are you angry? and Why is your countenance fallen? These were rhetorical and in v 7, God gave a warning and counsel to Cain: If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? To do well is a reference to offering an acceptable sacrifice. If Cain does, he will be accepted. Otherwise, sin is crouching at his door.  This is first use of the word sin, and it is pictured as a lion ready to attack. The word literally means “to lie down,” or “to bow down beneath a heavy burden.” It is translated this way in Ex. 23:5 and Num. 22:27. Then God added: “it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Which means that sin desires to rule Cain. Sin will cause him to bow down to the ground an allusion to the curse of Genesis 3:17. A suggested paraphrase would be “If you do well, you will stand upright. If you do not and continue to sin, this sin will be the burden that will cause you to crouch upon the ground.” The Targum has it this way: “If you will amend your ways, your sins shall be forgiven; but if you will not amend your ways, your sin awaits you for your day of judgment when you will be punished if you will not repent. But if you repent, it will be forgiven you.” 

Cain had to be acceptable in his heart according to God’s conditions. The Lord urges Cain to overpower and master sin (James 1:14, 15, 1 Pet 5:8).  Despite 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 which involved repentance or turning from his wrongful attitude.  His continued path would lead ultimately to murder. This murder allowed Satan to eliminate two of the possible offspring from the seed of the woman that ultimately would crush him. 

V 8 Cain talked with his brother; this could lead one to infer that the killing was pre-meditated. The Hebrew gives the idea that Cain lured Abel to the field, away from the public eye as in Deut. 22:25–27. Perhaps the words of Able so infuriated his brother that he sought to forever silence his convicting voice. Scripture declares that Able was a righteous man Matt. 23:35; Luke 11:51; 1 John 3:12.

V. 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.  He responds with a blatant lie, but in a sense, Cain did not know where Able was. He was in Sheol the residence of the spirits of the dead. In Luke 16:22-23 it is described as “Abraham’s bosom” and is a Jewish figurative expression denoting the place where Lazarus in the parable was carried at his death. It is a synonym for “Paradise” (23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4) and “heaven.” “Hades” is another word for “hell.” The rabbis divided the state after death into a place for the righteous (Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise) and a place for the wicked (Hades).  Cain could silence the convicting voice of Able by killing him, but his blood still spoke.  That blood speaks is a foreshadowing of the blood of the Messiah (Heb 12:24). The curse on 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. This is indeed a judgment on Cain who seemed oriented toward farming.  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.

V. 13-15 with this punishment Cain now has sorrow for his sin but not a sorrow that leads to life (2 Cor 7:10). Cain’s complaint is not only that he would be hidden from the face of God, but also a fugitive from fellowship with God, he would be more susceptible to the wrath of the population at large.  God gave Cain some mark on him: The Hebrew word indicates a sign rather than a physical mark.  This sign indicated to Cain and perhaps to others as well (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 signs on the fleece to Gideon, to Elisha the sign of seeing Elijah taken away in the chariot of God.  In the tribulation period those that belong to the antichrist will have a sign on their bodies that will be visible while God’s children will have a sign on them that will be visible only to God and the angels.  The sign did not give Cain the peace that comes from a relationship with God, but it was sufficient 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 Gen 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 for the most part not worshipers of Yahweh. There appears to be some exceptions if the names are any indication and in Scripture names very often an indication of nature and faith. In 4:18b: Irad gave birth to Mehujael, which means “God makes me live” showing that perhaps there were possibly some believers in the line of Cain. This is in keeping with the history of mankind God has always extended grace to all people who will seek Him. In 4:18c: Mehujael gave birth to Methushael, which means “man of God” or “man of prayer,” a further indication of godly offspring from the line of Cain and furthermore the blessing of one generation being a blessing to the next. 

Even though Cain’s offspring had many skills (vv. 21, 22), their sins rapidly thrived. The first evidence of polygamy appeared with Lamech (v. 19), who not only committed murder but also was boastful and arrogant about it (vv. 23, 24). Cain’s family did all that they could to thwart the effects 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.  Metalworking and tools were developed to ease the “toil” of the curse, musical instruments to distract from the curse.  While Polygamy was not forbidden there are some negative consequences for such behavior. Metal weapons were fashioned to gain power over other men.  And in this chapter, we read about Lamech’s boasting about his independence and self-sufficiency.

Vv. 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,” and 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 (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 or noble state while the Hebrew adam focuses on man’s mortality (Ps. 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.

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