The story of Cain and Able is well known for being the first murder. Yet, the entire story has applications meant for our lives in the current day. The chapter begins by reminding that childbearing is a gift from God.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.Genesis 4:1-2
God gifted mankind with the ability to reproduce complex life through an act of love and intimate connection. This is why the marital union is so sacred to God, and why lust and sexual immorality is so offensive to Him.
We, as parents, then have the responsibility to share our knowledge of God so they will grow in love and respect for God. But, ultimately it is up to the child to walk in the right path. The offerings of Cain and Able revealed what was in their hearts.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,Genesis 4:2
When we compare the offerings we see a difference in the quality each offered. Although Cain brought an offering, it was not the first fruits of the harvest. The quality of the offering demonstrated that Cain prioritized himself over God. He felt God was only entitled to his left-overs. Abel, however, revealed his heart for God by offering the best portions of meat from the firstborn of his flock. Offering our best to God first demonstrates we trust God to continue to provide. This is something we should consider in our own offerings. Do we, like Abel, offer God what we have first and trust him to provide for our needs? Or are we like Cain, thinking of ourselves first and offering God what is leftover at the end?
…but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Genesis 4:5
Being the firstborn son, Cain was probably used to being favored. But when Abel’s offering was praised while Cain’s offering was rejected, his pride must have been deeply wounded. It never feels good when our mistakes are pointed out. It causes embarrassment and self-doubt. However, when we allow ourselves to be humbled, we are able to make the necessary changes to better ourselves. When criticism is not received with humility we only grow in anger and resentment. Cain’s pride blinded him to his own faults. Instead, he blamed Abel for his embarrassment.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”Genesis 4:6-7
God knew what was in Cain’s heart, and offered him a warning (just as he had with Adam). Do what is right. Turn away from the sinful desires of your heart or it will destroy you. But, just like his parents before him, Cain didn’t listen. He had already chosen his path.
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.Genesis 4:8
Cain harbored enough hate in his heart to kill his brother, but his actions after his sin reveals even more about his character. He has a complete lack of remorse, exhibited by his flippant and contemptuous response when questioned by God.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”Genesis 4:9
God then revealed his knowledge of Cain’s sin and proceeded to pass judgement upon him.
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”Genesis 4:10-12
Cain’s sin brought exile, just as it had for his parents before him. Further, Cain was cursed by God. The only other being to be cursed was the serpent who introduced death to mankind. This joint punishment was fitting because he was not just a sinful man. His heart had been consumed by evil. Because he had defiled the earth God cursed Cain to be a restless wanderer, a nomad, within a desert land. Cain only becomes distressed when he learns of his punishment.
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”Genesis 4:13-14
There was no guilt or remorse for his actions. Rather, he worried about what would happen to him. Throughout the entire story, Cain’s only concern is himself. In God’s mercy, he promises no harm will come to him.
But the Lord said to him, “Very well; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod (wandering), east of Eden.Genesis 4:15-16
After he leaves, Cain and his wife have a son. The Bible generally only mentions the lines of the firstborn sons. It is unknown how many children were fathered by each patriarch. Cain begins to build a city named after his son,, Enoch. It stands to reason that the inhabitants of this city all stem from the line of Cain. It is important to remember Cains character because values are passed down generational. Five generations pass between Cain and Lamech, and we see continued moral decline. We learn that Lamech has taken two women as wives. We also gather that the story of Cain was altered as it was passed down.
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;Genesis 4:23-24
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
We can infer that Cain portrayed himself as worthy of God’s favor protection after his brother’s murder. Likely by portraying his brother as the villain. Further, Lamech’s pride exceeds that of Cain’s. Because he was such a great man, God would exceedingly multiply the vengeance on anyone would would rival him. These corrupted values were passed to his offspring which split into three different groups forming the pastoral nomads, the musicians of pipes and strings, and metal craftsmen of iron and bronze. Thus, evil and corruption became widespread.
But all was not lost. Adam and Eve had another son.
Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.Genesis 4:25-26
This chapter is overflowing with lessons for us today. In fact, how can we not see ourselves and our society within this story? It teaches us about God’s intention for the family unit. God made our ability to reproduce dependent upon the unity of man and woman. When the two become one they can produce new life. This is both a wonderful gift and a tremendous responsibility.
It is our responsibility as parents to share the love of God with our children. Family values form the foundations of our morality when we are young. Sharing our faith with our children allows them to start life on the right path. Even still, as they grow into adults, there is no guarantee they won’t turn away. However, if a child grows up with no moral foundation, they will only stray further. The human heart is naturally inclined to selfish pride, and this is only overcome with the help of God.
We like to pretend that mankind has changed and grown so much over time. Although our surroundings may have changed, it is evident in this chapter that our natures have remained the same. There will always be those who seek to satisfy themselves, even at the expense of others. But there will also always be those willing to stand for what is right and protect what is good. Ultimately, we must each choose our side.