Humankind has sinned. They have received a gracious punishment and generous promise. Though they chose death, they will live. Though they were defeated, they will have victory. The seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent and his seed. Humankind now lives outside the Garden of Eden. The man is cultivating the ground by the sweat of his brow.
1 וְהָ֣אָדָ֔ם יָדַ֖ע אֶת־חַוָּ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַתַּ֙הַר֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־קַ֔יִן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר קָנִ֥יתִי אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃
2 וַתֹּ֣סֶף לָלֶ֔דֶת אֶת־אָחִ֖יו אֶת־הָ֑בֶל וַֽיְהִי־הֶ֙בֶל֙ רֹ֣עֵה צֹ֔אן וְקַ֕יִן הָיָ֖ה עֹבֵ֥ד אֲדָמָֽה׃
3 וַֽיְהִ֖י מִקֵּ֣ץ יָמִ֑ים וַיָּבֵ֨א קַ֜יִן מִפְּרִ֧י הָֽאֲדָמָ֛ה מִנְחָ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃
4 וְהֶ֨בֶל הֵבִ֥יא גַם־ה֛וּא מִבְּכֹר֥וֹת צֹאנ֖וֹ וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן וַיִּ֣שַׁע יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־הֶ֖בֶל וְאֶל־מִנְחָתֽוֹ׃
5 וְאֶל־קַ֥יִן וְאֶל־מִנְחָת֖וֹ לֹ֣א שָׁעָ֑ה וַיִּ֤חַר לְקַ֙יִן֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַֽיִּפְּל֖וּ פָּנָֽיו׃
6 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־קָ֑יִן לָ֚מָּה חָ֣רָה לָ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה נָפְל֥וּ פָנֶֽיךָ׃
7 הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ׃
8 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה וַיָּ֥קָם קַ֛יִן אֶל־הֶ֥בֶל אָחִ֖יו וַיַּהַרְגֵֽהוּ׃
9 וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־קַ֔יִן אֵ֖י הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יךָ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי׃
10 וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃
11 וְעַתָּ֖ה אָר֣וּר אָ֑תָּה מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ לָקַ֛חַת אֶת־דְּמֵ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ מִיָּדֶֽךָ׃
12 כִּ֤י תַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹֽא־תֹסֵ֥ף תֵּת־כֹּחָ֖הּ לָ֑ךְ נָ֥ע וָנָ֖ד תִּֽהְיֶ֥ה בָאָֽרֶץ׃
13 וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה גָּד֥וֹל עֲו-נִ֖י מִנְּשֹֽׂא׃
14 הֵן֩ גֵּרַ֨שְׁתָּ אֹתִ֜י הַיּ֗וֹם מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה וּמִפָּנֶ֖יךָ אֶסָּתֵ֑ר וְהָיִ֜יתִי נָ֤ע וָנָד֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וְהָיָ֥ה כָל־מֹצְאִ֖י יַֽהַרְגֵֽנִי׃
15 וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ יְהוָ֗ה לָכֵן֙ כָּל־הֹרֵ֣ג קַ֔יִן שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקָּ֑ם וַיָּ֨שֶׂם יְהוָ֤ה לְקַ֙יִן֙ א֔וֹת לְבִלְתִּ֥י הַכּוֹת־אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־מֹצְאֽוֹ׃
16 וַיֵּ֥צֵא קַ֖יִן מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־נ֖וֹד קִדְמַת־עֵֽדֶן׃
17 וַיֵּ֤דַע קַ֙יִן֙ אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וַתַּ֖הַר וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־חֲנ֑וֹךְ וַֽיְהִי֙ בֹּ֣נֶה עִ֔יר וַיִּקְרָא֙ שֵׁ֣ם הָעִ֔יר כְּשֵׁ֖ם בְּנ֥וֹ חֲנֽוֹךְ׃
18 וַיִּוָּלֵ֤ד לַֽחֲנוֹךְ֙ אֶת־עִירָ֔ד וְעִירָ֕ד יָלַ֖ד אֶת־מְחֽוּיָאֵ֑ל וּמְחִיּיָאֵ֗ל יָלַד֙ אֶת־מְת֣וּשָׁאֵ֔ל וּמְתוּשָׁאֵ֖ל יָלַ֥ד אֶת־לָֽמֶךְ׃
19 וַיִּֽקַּֽח־ל֥וֹ לֶ֖מֶךְ שְׁתֵּ֣י נָשִׁ֑ים שֵׁ֤ם הָֽאַחַת֙ עָדָ֔ה וְשֵׁ֥ם הַשֵּׁנִ֖ית צִלָּֽה׃
20 וַתֵּ֥לֶד עָדָ֖ה אֶת־יָבָ֑ל ה֣וּא הָיָ֔ה אֲבִ֕י יֹשֵׁ֥ב אֹ֖הֶל וּמִקְנֶֽה׃
21 וְשֵׁ֥ם אָחִ֖יו יוּבָ֑ל ה֣וּא הָיָ֔ה אֲבִ֕י כָּל־תֹּפֵ֥שׂ כִּנּ֖וֹר וְעוּגָֽב׃
22 וְצִלָּ֣ה גַם־הִ֗וא יָֽלְדָה֙ אֶת־תּ֣וּבַל קַ֔יִן לֹטֵ֕שׁ כָּל־חֹרֵ֥שׁ נְחֹ֖שֶׁת וּבַרְזֶ֑ל וַֽאֲח֥וֹת תּֽוּבַל־קַ֖יִן נַֽעֲמָֽה׃
23 וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לֶ֜מֶךְ לְנָשָׁ֗יו עָדָ֤ה וְצִלָּה֙ שְׁמַ֣עַן קוֹלִ֔י נְשֵׁ֣י לֶ֔מֶךְ הַאְזֵ֖נָּה אִמְרָתִ֑י כִּ֣י אִ֤ישׁ הָרַ֙גְתִּי֙ לְפִצְעִ֔י וְיֶ֖לֶד לְחַבֻּרָתִֽי׃
24 כִּ֥י שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקַּם־קָ֑יִן וְלֶ֖מֶךְ שִׁבְעִ֥ים וְשִׁבְעָֽה׃
25 וַיֵּ֨דַע אָדָ֥ם עוֹד֙ אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וַתֵּ֣לֶד בֵּ֔ן וַתִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שֵׁ֑ת כִּ֣י שָֽׁת־לִ֤י אֱלֹהִים֙ זֶ֣רַע אַחֵ֔ר תַּ֣חַת הֶ֔בֶל כִּ֥י הֲרָג֖וֹ קָֽיִן׃
26 וּלְשֵׁ֤ת גַּם־הוּא֙ יֻלַּד־בֵּ֔ן וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱנ֑וֹשׁ אָ֣ז הוּחַ֔ל לִקְרֹ֖א בְּשֵׁ֥ם יְהוָֽה׃ פ
The carnal man (v. 1-8)
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.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 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; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 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.”
Adam and Eve do what married people do, they have sex. Eve conceived and gave birth to Cain. Here, we see Moses assume that Cain began to exist at the moment Eve conceived him after having sex with Adam. Even though he becomes the bad guy, so to speak, Scripture celebrates both his conception and birth. As Christians, people of the book, we also celebrate every conception and birth. It is a gift from God, not something to be contended against. Eve celebrates and praises Yahweh. With Yahweh’s help, she bore a manchild. Though it was the sexual act that provided the seed, Yahweh is the one who formed Cain from conception and carried him through the womb. Cains life is sacred to God. Every life is.
Though Scripture does not say that Cain is Adam’s firstborn, it is important to recognize that Scripture places the rights of the firstborn on Cain. There is a question that often arises when we begin reading this part of the narrative because there are other nations on the earth. Did Adam and Eve have children prior to the Fall? I don’t know. Scripture does not tell us. Despite what some claims are, it would not present a problem with regard to original sin because sin is not adopted genetically but federally. Adam was the federal head. Creation that existed concurrently with him at the time of his sin became cursed under him. So, if there were any born in the Garden of Eden, they would still be under the curse brought by their federal head. Since the curse is not itself genetic (though it does affect the human genome), a problem does not present if Adam and Eve had offspring prior to their exile from the Garden. It should be understood, however, that even if Cain is not the literal firstborn, he is given firstborn status here as his position in the family.
Eve also gives birth to Cain’s brother, Abel. We have two individual offspring mentioned by name. “Offspring” in Chapter 4 is the same Hebrew word used for “seed” in Chapter 3 (זרע). If we read Chapter 4 like it naturally follows from Chapter 3, we would expect the story to follow the cursed seed and the seed of promise. If we pay attention, a few motifs present here in the typology of Genesis.
Cain presents some of his fruit as an offering to Yahweh. Abel also presents an offering—one of the firstborn of his flock and fat portions. Notice the differences. Cain merely brings some of what he has. Abel presents his first and best. Yahweh regards Abel’s offering, not Cain’s. Read this carefully. Cain’s offering is not accepted. He is not yet cut-off from Yahweh. I wonder how many people there are who give God only some and believe God is pleased with that? They’ll be part of the community of faith some. They’ll do some for the kingdom. They’ll give some of what they have to God and others. God has no regard for that kind of offering. He has regard for our offering when that voluntary offering (and this is voluntary, not the matter of salvation) is our first and best. We can’t haphazardly worship God in the arenas of our lives.
Notice that the Law is not yet instituted. Offerings and sacrifices are not salvific. Moses wants the Israelites to know this before presenting the imperatives of the Law (Torah).
Cain responds to Yahweh’s rejection of his offering with anger. His countenance falls; he becomes distraught, depressed. Yahweh’s asks him directly why he is angry. Why is Cain distraught and depressed? God takes the opportunity to disciple Cain. Because of the context (Chapter 3), I am inclined to think this is still the preincarnate Christ personally present with the first family. Christ speaks, “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.”
He does not speak about the person being accepted based on works. Instead, He speaks about the countenance of the person—like He cares about Cain regardless of Cain’s offering. If Cain does well, presents his first and best, will his countenance not be lifted up? Christ gives Cain the cure for anxiety, frustration, discouragement, and depression right here. Work hard in your arena. Do well. Present your first and best. If you do well, will your countenance not be lifted?
Christ reveals the other side of the equation. If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it. I heard something once about idle hands being the devil’s workshop. That is biblical truth. People who do not labor and have good work ethic, with their hands or minds in their respective roles, will cause trouble. Healthy homes, societies, and churches are characterized by working people. We can recognize this in our day. People who contribute only some or none are normally the ones causing problems. But this is about more than mere unity in a household or society. This is about sin. If people are lazy, sin is crouching at their door. Sin is personified, here. Christ teaches that sin’s desire is for Cain. It desires to have us. Laziness gives way to sin. He tells Cain that he must master it. How can Cain master sin? He can do so by developing a healthy work ethic and presenting his first and best to God. The same is true for every person. Sin is there. It will be as long as we inhabit these carnal bodies. We master it by developing a healthy work ethic and presenting our first and best to God.
Preachers—Work hard in your sermon prep and present your best to God in exegesis and presentation. If you are only giving some, your sin is crouching at your door. Fathers, homemakers, blue-collar workers, CEOs, office workers, craftsmen, writers, and thinkers, work hard and diligently doing what it is you do—paying attention to every detail. If you are only giving some and not offering up your first and best to God, sin is crouching at your door. Children, teenagers—learn to be productive now. I hear that depression and suicide rates are at a high-point in the United States. I believe it. It correlates with the lack of productivity among young men and women and their absence from the gathering. Parents are no longer schooling their children, teaching them family businesses, trades, housekeeping, and so on. Instead, children are expected to attend state schools and learn on a standardized basis. Instead of learning how to be a productive part of society under God, it seems they are learning mere facts about things and how to only try to gain for themselves—that’s the entitlement that brings Cain to where he is in this story. I think Scripture here gives us the answer for the state of the Union as I write this.
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.
Cain does not listen to Yahweh. He tricks his brother and kills him. Idol hands are the devil’s workshop.
Cain’s exile (v. 9-16)
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 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 said to the Lord, “My punishment is too great to bear! 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.” 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. Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
After questioning Cain, Christ reveals that He already knows what has happened. I have heard it called the first forensic case because the blood of Abel calls out to Christ. Cain was already under the curse of Adam, His father. Now, he is completely separated from the prosperity of the earth and God Himself. He feels his punishment is too great to bear. Indeed, God does give us more than we can bear. The response of His children is dependence on Him. Cain, though, fears death by murder. It is here we learn that there are other nations on the earth, which, as I mentioned previously, does not present either a philosophical or literary problem in the narrative. Christ appoints a sign for Cain so that no one will harm him physically—revealing His goodness even toward the reprobate. If anyone murders Cain, he will be subject to God’s seven-fold vengeance. Cain’s life is still sacred. So, we don’t only care about births. We care about people no matter what they have done. The death penalty, whether given by God in Scripture or people on this earth, is a weighty punishment that not even God takes lightly. He does not delight in the death of the wicked (cf. Ezekiel 33:11). We care even care about the welfare of reprobate people. Cain leaves the presence of Christ and settles in Nod.
From Cain to Enoch (v. 17-24)
Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech. Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Cain bears offspring. His genealogy is here traced through Lamech. In Lamech’s generation, we see that murder is still part of Cain’s legacy. In their sin, the people have taken advantage of God’s goodness. Despite the curse placed upon Cain, they believe God is still on their side. Christ does not dwell with them. People are prideful in their sin. The reprobate may be religious. They may appeal to or try to invoke God. I want us to notice something about their kind of religion. Reprobate religion seeks to invoke God for personal gain, prosperity, healing, and protection. Reprobate people assume that they can invoke God by their words and works. They cannot. What sovereign God could ever be subject to human invocation? So, when people leave the church because Christianity doesn’t work for them, we know that they were practicing a type of religion that is very evil according to the early chapters of the Bible and throughout her pages. Entitlement is the downfall of religion, society, and the family. We would do well not to assume that God is on our side. We should not assume we are entitled to His blessings.
Seth (v. 25-26)
Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth, to him also a son was born; and he called his name Enosh. Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.
Adam and Eve have sex again. She gives birth to Seth. Look at her praise. God has appointed Seth, the offspring, or seed, in the place of Abel. In the third generation, with Enosh, men began to call upon the name of Yahweh. Seth, here, is identified as the offspring of promise. His descendants call upon Yahweh in contrast to Cain’s descendants who merely try to invoke Yahweh for personal gain. The seed of the serpent and seed of the woman motif continues. Throughout the Old Testament we will see a conflict between these two nations—the Cainanites and the Sethites. We know that the motif is not carried by biological ancestry because the descendants of Cain will be destroyed in the Great Deluge and the descendants of Ham will replace them in the motif. This is a typology that represents a spiritual reality. There are two spiritual lineages—the seed of the serpent (the reprobate) and the seed of the woman (the elect).
Adam is the federal head of creation, the firstborn from the ground. In the Gospels, Christ assumes the throne from Adam, becoming the federal head of creation, the second Adam, the second-born from the ground but the new firstborn among creation. In the story of Cain and Able, we see a forsaken firstborn motif that continues throughout the genealogies in the Old Testament. Cain, the firstborn, is usurped by a younger brother. The younger brother represents the seed of promise. We will see the same motif with Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. The forsaken firstborn motif represents the coming ascension of Christ as the federal head of creation in Adam’s place.
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