Genesis 4


As we enter Genesis 4, we see that mankind didn’t stop sinning. Although the text doesn’t tell us if Adam and Eve continued to sin or not, the text clearly tells us that their son certainly did.

‘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

In Genesis 3 we saw that sin entered the world and it separated man from God. And what we are going to see in Genesis 4 is that sin quickly begins to separate man from his brother. This is the very first family feud and I think we will find that this story still has got a lot to say today.

This story speaks of the two ways all men must choose. Genesis 4 documents the assertion that was made by God back in Genesis 3:15, that there would be enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman.

And it didn’t take long for that enmity to show up, and Cain and Abel are going to be viewed in Scripture as the prototype of the two races. We divide men up into black and white, male and female etc. God only sees two kinds of people, lost people and found people, saved people, unsaved people, saints, aints. Children of Abel, children of Cain.

Now no child ever entered this world with a greater measure of hope than Cain. I believe that Adam and Eve saw him, as the head crusher that God had promised would come from her seed.

Remember they have never gone through pregnancy before, it’s a totally new experience for them. God has promised that from your seed there is going to be somebody that is going to crush Satan’s head. Her body starts changing, she’s going through all kinds of feelings she’s never had before, then she delivers a baby, something that has never been done before.

And she says on the day that boy is born, ‘Quanah’ or ‘acquired’, that’s what she named that baby. The idea was, ‘here he is’ or ‘I’ve gotten him’. In fact, the Hebrew literally says, ‘I have gotten a man, the Lord’. In other words, what she was saying was, ‘here is the deliverer, here is the head crusher.’

But as we read on the great irony is, that Cain isn’t going to be a Saviour, in fact, he is going to be a killer. And the Bible is later going to describe the popular path that most people take, the path of rebellion, the path of wickedness. The Bible calls it, ‘the way of Cain’.

I believe that Cain was the prototype of all people bound for hell. I think Cain was the first man sentenced to hell. And his way has been popular, his way his broad. I want to focus on what the Bible says about Cain’s younger brother because Abel managed to say a lot in a short time, Hebrews 11:4.

In what way, does Abel still speak?

A message to the seed of the woman. A message of rebuke to the seed of the serpent. What does Abel still say to us today? Well, he says three things.

1. Abel still speaks of the necessity of faith.

In that great chapter in Hebrews 11 where all the heroes of faith are mentioned, the very first name is Abel’s. You remember that chapter says in the beginning, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God.’ Hebrews 11:6.

And the very first person that showed us that principle was Abel. By faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice to God than Cain did. One thing that story tells us is not only is man called to work but from the very beginning, he’s been called to worship. So, in Genesis 4 we see men coming to God to worship Him.

Now we need to ask the question, why was Cain’s offering of labour not pleasing to God?

They both brought to God the best of what they did all day. In the Old Testament, grain offerings were often given to the Lord and he was pleased with it. But why wasn’t he pleased with the grain offering of Cain? Now obviously, the story leaves a lot out. But I think the text implies that God had given specific instructions concerning proper sacrifice.

‘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.’ Genesis 4:2-3

Notice, for example, there appears to be a proper time because the text says literally, ‘in the course of time they came to the Lord.’ So, in other words, there was a ‘prescribed time’. Apparently, there was also a ‘prescribed place’, it says, ‘they brought their offerings to the Lord.’

Now, where was that?

My suspicion is, that it was at the place where the cherubim were because in the Old Testament often the cherubim guard the presence of God, but that is just speculation. But there was apparently a prescribed time at the end of days. There was a prescribed place to the Lord and evidently, there was also a ‘prescribed way’.

‘But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favour. So, Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 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 master it.’ Genesis 4:4-7

Notice God said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? If you do what’s right, won’t you be accepted?’ God could only say that if Cain knew what was right to do. What does the Bible say about faith? ‘Faith comes through hearing.’ Romans 10:17.

You can’t act in faith until you’re given a revelation from God for you to act on. So evidently God had given to them an instruction about a time and a place and a way to bring him offerings. And evidently, God had instructed these first worshippers, that the only acceptable offering for sin had to involve death.

Now I suspect that He gave that revelation remember when he made coats of skin for Adam and Eve. Genesis 3:21. But somehow God had communicated a revelation that an offering of atonement must involve death.

Yes, the Bible does talk about grain offering but never for atonement. Any offering in the Bible for atonement always involved blood, Leviticus 17:11 / Hebrews 9:22.

Now think about this, is that why possibly Abel was a keeper of flocks? Because he wanted to act in faith to the Lord’s command. We might ask, well why wouldn’t he keep flocks? Now, remember at this point man is still a vegetarian. Why would he keep flocks, if he’s not going to eat meat? I guess the wool would be useful for clothing. But evidently, it was important to Abel to always make sure there was always a lamb ready for sacrifice to God.

When it comes to approaching God, all men have got to choose either the way of Cain or the way of Abel. Abel offered God faith, and Cain offered God fruit. Because those exact two choices are still the same two choices that people make today. Most people go the way of Cain and they offer God the fruit of their hands.

It could be their labour, it could be their morality, it could be their religion, it could be their knowledge. Whatever it is, they’re going to offer God the fruit of their hands. But the Bible says in the very beginning, ‘God is not pleased with an offering of fruit for atonement.’

The only thing that can make atonement is blood. It cost God the blood of His holy and sinless Son to make atonement for sin. The Bible says, ‘God’s way of making us right with him depends on faith, counting on Christ alone.’ Philippians 3:9

And that’s what Abel still says, he still declares it’s impossible to please God without faith.

2. Abel still speaks of the hostility against righteousness.

‘Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.’ Genesis 4:8

This is the first recorded murder that was committed and the first from religious motives and Abel was the first human to suffer physical death. Originally Cain was angry at God, so why did he turn his anger at God onto his brother? Worldly people cannot stand to be reminded that their lives aren’t lined up with the will of God. Abel is telling us that devote people should expect hostility from an ungodly world, 1 John 3:11.

Abel was hated because his life was a public rebuke to the way of Cain. In Luke 11:51 we find that when Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, He says, ‘you know, you guys, you kill prophets and then your kids make monuments to them’, he says, ‘you’ve been doing that ever since the days of Abel.’

So, Jesus says Abel was a prophet, so perhaps not only did Abel’s own righteous life rebuke Cain but perhaps Abel even preached to Cain. Perhaps Abel tries to say to his brother, ‘Brother Cain, you need to listen to God, you should not go your own way, you should not rebel against God, you need to do what God says and you need to honour God.’

Jesus knew something, He knew that the murder of Abel was really the work of the serpent. He said in John 8:44, ‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning.’

Jesus knew who was behind the murder of Abel, He knew the offspring of the serpent would always be at enmity with the offspring of the woman.

Paul said, ‘Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.’ 2 Timothy 3:12. We can just count on that, there aren’t going to be any peace talks. There’s only one way we can avoid hostility from the world and that’s to compromise and look so much like the world that they can’t recognise their own actions as evil as they are. That’s the only way.

In other words, there’s going to be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman as long as this world turns, it’s going to be with us until Jesus comes back. If you accept a standard that’s different from the world, there’s going to be clashes. If you pursue loyalties that are above earthly loyalties you’re going to be opposed.

When God said, ‘from this woman’s seed there’s going to be a head crusher’, Genesis 3:15. Satan made up his mind that he was going to attack every godly seed that comes from this woman. He did to Abel, he did to every prophet who came after Abel and he’s still doing it today. Don’t be deceived by thinking that someday there is going to be great harmony and there’s going to be great peace between the people of God and the people of the world. There’s never going to be peace because Satan doesn’t want peace.

What I’m saying is that Christians need to feel good that we’re on the serpents enemy list and when he comes after us and he attacks us, when he sends the Cains of this world to attack and oppress and confront and ridicule us, Christians need to feel good that we’re on the serpents enemy list, because this thing is going to keep going until the world stops.

And that’s what Abel is trying to say, he’s trying to say,

1. ‘you’ve got to focus on faith’, he’s saying

2, ‘the hostility between me and Cain is going to last until Jesus comes back’.

And 3. ‘Abel still speaks of the certainty of judgement.’

Evidently, Cain thought that nobody would notice his crime.

‘Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ 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.’ Genesis 4:9-11

God comes to him and says, ‘Cain, where is your brother?’ And this arrogant fool thinks he can even fool God. ‘I don’t know, I don’t make it my job to keep up with my brother’.

This was Cain’s opportunity to confess just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, Genesis 3:9-13. And God says, ‘What have you done? Listen!’

Now I’m sure there was a pause and Cain turned his head, he hears the sound of the birds in the trees, the sound of the breeze against the grain. ‘What? What?’ Then God said, ‘your brothers blood cries up to me from the ground,’ and for the first time God curses a man.

‘When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’ 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.’ But the LORD said to him, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he 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, east of Eden.’ Genesis 4:12-16

Cain is so hardened in sin at this point, that he doesn’t respond with remorse, he doesn’t fall down on his face and repent. He responds with reproach, he says, ‘You can’t do that, that’s too much, I can’t bear what you’ve done.’

Basically, he’s saying, ‘God, you don’t have the right to assign that kind of judgment.’

The serpent’s seed is always blasting God at his right to assign judgment. Have you ever heard this question?

How can a loving God send people to hell?

The serpent has been getting Canaanites to ask that question since the beginning of creation. That is not the question the Bible asks, the Bible says upfront that a Holy God has the right to assign judgment.

Here is the question of the Bible, how can a Holy God let Christians into heaven? How can a Holy God let people into heaven? And that’s the question the Bible answers. Now the amazing thing to me is that God put a mark on Cain to say to the rest of the world, ‘even this evil man’s blood is my property, so don’t touch it.’

Who was going to kill Cain?

Cain was to come to represent the social world and his mark was for protection from his family, his brothers or sisters, Genesis 5:4. God knew that Cain’s family would take revenge for killing their brother, Genesis 4:24.

But God also sent out another word, He put the world on alert that God hears the cries of the Abels who have been treated unjustly and He will take up their cause. One of the things that burden us as believers, is that we see a world where is little justice and we get upset with God.

Why do innocent babies get shot when there is a war? Who’s going to speak for all the infants that were torn out of wombs by abortionists? What all the women who have been raped and the people who did it were never caught? All the millions and millions of kids who have been abused and violated and nothing ever happened?

The list just goes on and on and on and on and on, and sometimes it gets so big that people even start to doubt God. And they see this world that is so full of un-judged evil, they start to think nobody is in control. This story tells us that judgement is certain, God has heard the cry of every innocent drop of blood that’s ever been spilt, Revelation 6:9-11.

Wait God says and that’s probably not the answer you want to hear to that question, God, how long are you going to wait before you avenge the blood of all the righteous people on earth? And the answer is, ‘I’ll take care of it, but not yet.’

But we need to understand that nobody is going to escape the justice of God’s court. That happens in the world, sometimes in the world, people fall through the cracks in the justice system, but God’s justice system doesn’t have any cracks, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

A time is coming when all men will either be born again or wished they had never been born at all. The blood of Abel still cries for justice.

You might be thinking, wait a minute, I’ve made mistakes, I’ve gone the way of Cain in my life, what hope is there for me if all the people I’ve hurt are crying for justice? Well, Abel still speaks, but Abel doesn’t have to have the last word because Jesus speaks too, and Jesus speaks a better word than Abel. We are told, ‘how awesome God is, how God is a consuming fire, how God is a God that makes men tremble and quack.’ Hebrews 12:28-29

But this is what it says about us as Christians. ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.’ Hebrews 12:22-24

Abel’s blood cries out for judgement, but Jesus’ blood cries out for mercy, Abel’s blood sends the sinner away from God to wander and Jesus’ blood opens the way back to God. And so, the Hebrew writer said, ‘Brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus.’ Hebrews 10:19.

All men can’t hear the blood of Abel, but God can, but there is something else that God can hear that men can’t hear. God hears the blood of Jesus and God hears every time the blood of Jesus speaks for a sinner, every time.

We need to pray for sinners who are still living the way of hostility, these people will face judgement, and if they don’t have the blood of Jesus to speak for them, the blood of Abel will speak against them and they will be lost.

Cain is representative of a worldly person, he was self-willed, Jude 11, he suited himself about how he wanted to worship God. He got angry with God when his offering wasn’t accepted, Genesis 4:5. He was an intentional murderer, it was planned, Genesis 4:8 and he was a liar. Genesis 4:9. And yet God had mercy on Him and God is still prepared to be merciful to the worldly people today.

The Mark Of Cain

What was the ‘mark’ of Cain? From the way in which Genesis 4:15 reads in some popular translations, it’s not surprising that Bible readers are led to hold the view that God placed on Cain a physical mark which was intended to be a sign to any who might want to harm him, that he was under the protection of God.

Indeed, the expression, ‘the mark of Cain’, has become proverbial. It may even have influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American author, 1850, to produce a novel which became a classic of American literature.

‘The Scarlet Letter’, tells the story of a young woman who, in the early days of New England, was found guilty of immorality and was sentenced to be branded with the letter ‘A’, to indicate the nature of her sin.

Was Cain marked in a similar way, with a visible, physical emblem of some kind? The Theories. Let me list some of the theories that have been advanced.

1. Some scholars thought that Cain’s appearance was changed so that people couldn’t recognise him as the murderer of his brother Abel.

2. At the other extreme, some of the older writers believed that he was marked on the forehead in a way that openly identified him as his brother’s murderer.

3. There was also support for a theory which said that Cain’s forehead was marked with the letters ‘YHVH’, to warn possible aggressors that he was under God’s protection.

4. The Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the Greek version, describes him as being destined to ‘groan and tremble’, and this translation caused other early commentators to suppose that God inflicted some sort of physical disability on Cain.

Perhaps they were led to this view by the fact that, after Jacob’s struggle at Peniel, Genesis 32:23-24 and Genesis 32:31-32, he walked with a limp. He was left with a physical handicap that was intended to serve as a reminder of the amazing event that changed both his life and his name.

5. But, to descend from the sublime to the ridiculous, one Jewish Rabbi had a ludicrous notion that the ‘mark of Cain’ was a horn, which God caused to grow out of his forehead! Probably some folk were gullible enough to believe it!

The word ‘mark’

The problem is that word ‘mark’, and, if we discover what the original word means, we may reach a clearer understanding of what happened to Cain. The Hebrew word is the word ‘oth’ and it occurs 79 times in the Old Testament and is mostly rendered ‘sign’. But, 14 times it is translated, token, and, significantly I think, only once does it appear as ‘mark’, and this one time occurs here, in Genesis 4:15.

The Differing Versions

You can understand, then, why the various English translations differ as widely as they do.

The ‘Authorized version’ says that YHVH, set a mark upon Cain, and this is the translation followed by a fairly large number of versions. For example, ‘The Living Bible’, tell us that God, ‘put an identifying mark on Cain’.

However, both the ‘English Revised Version’ and the ‘American Standard Version’ say that God ‘appointed a sign for Cain, whilst the ‘Revised Standard Version’ of 1884, for some strange reason reverts to the rendering of A.V. of 1611!

‘Ellicott’s Commentary on Genesis dismisses this view with the words, ‘This rendering suggests an utterly false idea’. Cain was not branded or marked in any way. What the Hebrew says is, ‘And YHVH set, that is appointed, unto Cain a sign’.

The Greek translation also, says that He ‘gave to Cain a mark’. Notice God did not ‘put a mark on Cain’, but ‘gave to him a mark’. ‘Young’s Version’ says that God ‘set a token to Cain’. The literal meaning of these phrases is that, to confirm a promise, God gave to Cain a sign, token or pledge, that no-one who met him would harm him.

A Similar Grammatical Construction

The language is similar to that used in Genesis 9, where we read that God promised Noah that He would never again destroy mankind by a flood. As a permanent reminder of this promise, God gave a token, a sign, Genesis 9:8-17. In this passage, the word ‘sign’ occurs three times.

The Sign of a Divine Promise

We see, then, that the ‘sign’ that God gave to Noah served as both a reminder and a confirmation of a promise made by God. In a similar fashion, the ‘sign’, or ‘token’, that was given to Cain, was intended to assure him of the faithfulness of God’s gracious promise of safety.

What that token was can only be a matter of speculation. We cannot know, because we are not told. What we can know with certainty is that it was a sign given to Cain and not a ‘mark’ on him. I stress this fact, it was a sign or token, given to Cain and no one else.

There is nothing in the chapter that suggests that anyone else even knew about this ‘sign’. It was an act of God’s compassion shown to a man who was obviously suffering the fear and anguish of a tortured conscience.

Bear in mind that, in those days, Cain had little understanding of the truth of the omnipresence of God and therefore he was afraid that, being driven, ‘from the presence of God’, that is, away from Eden, the place with which he associated God, he would be outside the protection of God. And therefore, he felt very vulnerable, exposed to danger from any who might want to avenge the death of Abel.

If God had placed on Cain a physical mark that identified him as the murderer of his brother, it’s reasonable to suppose that, instead of protecting him, it would have placed him in greater danger.

But God acted in mercy, not in judgment, in giving him this assurance, and was granting him the opportunity to repent. We may learn that even in Genesis there are glimmers of the grace and tenderness of God which was later to emerge fully in the Gospel.

Whether Cain later gave evidence of repentance we are not told, and therefore we cannot know. Sadly, we do know, however, that, along with those of his parents, Adam and Eve, his name is absent from the list of those who, in Hebrews 11, are honoured because they lived ‘by faith’.

‘Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; 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.’ Genesis 4:17-24

Where did Adam and Eve’s son’s wives come from?

Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve recorded in Scripture. He and his brothers, Abel, Genesis 4:2, and Seth, Genesis 4:25, were part of the first generation of children ever born on this earth. Even though these three males are specifically mentioned, Adam and Eve had other children.

‘After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.’ Genesis 5:4-5

Here we read a statement that sums up the life of Adam and Eve. During their lives, Adam and Eve had several male and female children. In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus wrote, ‘The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters.’

Scripture doesn’t tell us how many children were born to Adam and Eve, but considering their long life spans, it would seem logical to suggest there were many. Remember, they were commanded to ‘be fruitful, and multiply’, Genesis 1:28.

We’re not told when Cain married or many of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that Cain’s wife was either his sister or a close relative.

‘Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.’ Genesis 4:17

A closer look at the Hebrew word for ‘wife’ in Genesis reveals something readers may miss in translation. It was more obvious to those speaking Hebrew that Cain’s wife was likely his sister, although there is a small possibility that she was his niece, either way, a brother and sister would have married in the beginning.

The Hebrew word for ‘wife’ used in Genesis 4:17, the first mention of Cain’s wife, is ‘ishshah’, and it means, ‘woman/wife/female.’ The word ‘ishshah’ is the word for ‘woman,’ and it means ‘from man.’ The word is used back in Genesis 2:23. Thus, Cain’s wife is a descendant of Adam, man. Therefore, she had to be his sister, or possibly niece.

If Cain married his sister or possibly a niece, wasn’t this incest? This seems foreign to us today but back in the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to marry sisters or there wouldn’t have been any more generations!

We have to remember that in Cain’s time there was no command not to marry a sister. This command came thousands of years later and Cain cannot be held responsible for a law that wasn’t in effect at his time. At the time of the giving of the Law and the Old Covenant to Israel incest is clearly denounced, Leviticus 18:6 / Leviticus 20:17 / Deuteronomy 27:22.

Through polygamous marriages men began to multiply rapidly, they learned skills for the development of society. However, apostasy from God developed as the centre of reference for moral behaviour in society turned from the laws of God to men.

Man started doing that which pleased the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and what manifested pride in life. This moral degradation is illustrated in the act of Lamech who killed simply because someone wounded him, Genesis 4:23.

‘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

Though mankind reached heights in achieving great things, he sunk into the depths of sin. Economic development never assumes moral allegiance to the will of God. The word ‘again’, doesn’t indicate that this was only the third time Adam had either laid with his wife or the third time she conceived. It simply means that he had sexual intercourse with his wife again in order to conceive a son to carry on the righteousness that was characteristic of Abel.

The name ‘Seth’ means ‘appointed’ or ‘placed.’ Since Abel was the child who was appointed to bring into the world a future generation of faith among men, Seth was to be his successor. The future generation of Cain was evil, but the future generations of Seth who were faithful to God would continue among men throughout the history of the world.

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"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."