The Birth, Employment, and Religion Of Cain and Abel
Now Adam and Eve discovered the pleasures of lovemaking, and soon Eve conceived and gave birth to a son whom they named Cain.
Eve (excited): Look, I have created a new human, a male child, with the help of the Eternal.
The Voice (VOICE)
How must Adam and Eve have felt to have the first pregnancy and delivery in the world?
They not only didn’t have any manual for raising children, but they had no example of how they were raised. This speaks to the fact that the Lord imputed certain reason to every human being. It’s not just learned (Romans 1:18-20). We see this reflected throughout the animal creation.
God commanded our first parents to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth”, and they obeyed this mandate. While it’s true that the building of a family isn’t the only purpose for marriage, and not every marriage is blessed with children, it’s also true that children are a precious gift from God and should be welcomed with joy. The Jewish people in the Old Testament and the Christians in the first century church would be appalled at today’s abortion statistics and the philosophies of the people who produce them.
The name “Cain” sounds like the Hebrew word for “acquired.” Eve praised God for helping her through her first pregnancy. After all, this was a new experience for her and she had no doctor or obstetrical nurse to assist her.
Eve went on to give birth to Cain’s brother, Abel. Abel grew up to become a shepherd, and Cain grew up to become a farmer.
The Voice (VOICE)
Her second pregnancy brought Abel into the world. His name means “breath” and is the word translated “vanity” at least thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes. Cain’s name reminds us that life comes from God, while Abel’s name tells us that life is brief.
From the very face of this account it appears evident that Cain and Abel were twins. In most cases where a subject of this kind is introduced in the Holy Scriptures, and the successive births of children of the same parents are noted, the acts of conceiving and bringing forth are mentioned in reference to each child; here it is not said that she conceived and brought forth Abel, but simply she added to bring forth Abel his brother; that is, as I understand it, Cain was the first-born, Abel, his twin brother, came next.
Genesis is a “family book” and has a good deal to say about brothers. Being the firstborn son, Cain was special; but because of his sin, he lost everything and Seth took his place (Gen. 4:25). Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn, but God bypassed him and chose Isaac. Esau was Isaac’s firstborn son, but he was rejected for Jacob; and Jacob’s firstborn son Reuben was replaced by Joseph’s two sons (Gen. 49:3-4; 1 Chron. 5:1-2). In fact, God even rearranged the birth order of Joseph’s sons (Gen. 48:8-22). Throughout Old Testament history, God’s sovereignty is displayed in His choices of those who receive His blessing, for all that we receive is because of God’s grace.
Sibling rivalry among brothers is another theme in Genesis. Ishmael persecuted Isaac; Jacob left home so Esau couldn’t kill him; and Joseph’s brothers intended to kill him but decided to sell him as a slave. When sin entered the human race, it gave us dysfunctional and fractured families, and only the Lord can put families together again.
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
New Living Translation (NLT)
There has been much speculation about why God respected Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. The reason most often given is that Abel’s offering was a blood offering that symbolized Christ’s atonement. But I don’t think that was the problem at all. Offerings are supposed to come from what we have, not what we don’t have (2 Corinthians 8:12 – “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”) Cain was a tiller of the ground. He brought what he had. There was nothing wrong with his gift; it was his heart that was the problem.
Hebrews 11:4 makes it clear that faith was the ingredient that made Abel’s offering better than Cain’s:
“It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.”
How did God show His respect to Abel’s offering and rejection of Cain’s offering?
The Scripture doesn’t say, but the context suggests that He spoke to them. Certainly Cain’s reaction to God’s question about Abel’s murder showed a familiarity with the voice of God that people today don’t have.
The fact that people attend religious meetings and participate in church activities is no proof that they’re true believers. It’s possible to have “a form of godliness” but never experience its saving power (2 Tim. 3:5). “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” The most costly sacrifices apart from the submission of the heart can never make the worshiper right before God (Ps. 51:16-17). “The way of Cain” (Jude 11) is the way of self-will and unbelief.
God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
The Message (MSG)
When God rejected his offering, Cain became very angry. (The Hebrew word implies that he was “burning with anger.”) God spoke to him personally and tried to lead him back to the way of faith, but Cain resisted. It’s just like the Lord to give us another opportunity to obey Him, and it’s just like stubborn sinners to refuse His gracious help.
Many people would fault someone who showed preference for one child over another, as the Lord did here. But the Lord was saying to Cain that there was no justification for this response. Today our politically correct world tries to make everyone feel accepted and faults us for the way others react, but that’s not what God did here or does today.
There are things that are right and wrong. People aren’t always okay, and they need to learn to deal with it. I believe the Lord was telling Cain that if he did what was right, God would accept him. If he didn’t do what was right, then there was a sin offering that he could offer to make things right.
The Lord warned Cain that temptation was like a fierce beast crouching at the door of his life, and he had better not open the door. It’s dangerous to carry grudges and harbor bitter feelings in our hearts, because all of this can be used by Satan to lead us into temptation and sin. This is what Paul meant when he wrote “neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). If we aren’t careful, we can tempt ourselves and bring about our own ruin.