September 10, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe


PART I: A GENERAL HISTORY FROM ADAM TO ABRAHAM—Gen. 1:1-11:9.


Topic #C: Three Sons of Adam and Their Posterity. Gen. 4.1-5.32

                 



Lesson I.C.1: Cain and Abel.


Gen. 4.1-8 (KJV)

1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 

2And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 

4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 

5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 

6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 

7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.



Commentary


1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 


Adam and Eve have been exiled from Eden, but God in mercy has covered them with His grace; therefore, they are animated by hope, assured of the Divine forgiveness, and filled with a sweet peace. The first pair has entered their new life, in which they must experience hard work and sorrow, and the human race begins its headlong progression of development, perhaps in sight of the mystic cherubim and flaming sword. 



And Adam knew Eve his wife; 

In this verse the first husband and wife become father and mother. This new relationship must be very fascinating to both, but especially to the mother. This is the first fulfillment of all the intimations she had received with reference to her seed. God said pain and sorrow in childbearing would be multiplied, but she was to be the mother of all living, and her seed was to bruise the serpent's head. Her remembrance of what He said must have added greatly to her natural interest in becoming a mother. Her feelings concerning this child are revealed in the name she gives to her son and the reason she gave it. She "bare Cain and said, I have gained a man from Yahweh." “Cain” occurs only once as a common noun, and is rendered by the Septuagint as "spear-shaft." The original meaning of the root word is “to set up, or to erect, as a cane;” therefore, it means “to create, and make one's own,” and is applied to the Creator in Genesis 14:19—“and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth”; and the parent in Deuteronomy 32:6—“Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” Therefore, the word here seems to denote a thing gained or achieved, a figurative expression for the birth of a child. The gaining or bearing of the child is evidently the foremost thought in Eve's mind, as she names the child. Knowing the reason behind Eve naming her child Cain helps to explain the sentence, and therefore the sentence is to be rendered "I have gained (borne) a man (with the assistance) of Yahweh."



“And Adam knew Eve his wife” is the first specific mention of sex in the Bible. It is a euphemism, or modest expression of the sexual relations between a husband and wife. The term “knew” or “to know” is a polite way of saying they had sexual relations and the term is used often in the Bible in this sense (Genesis 4:17, 4:25, 38:26, Judges 11:39, 1 Samuel 1:19). There is power in this way of referring to sex. It shows the high, interpersonal terms in which the Bible sees the sexual relationship. Most terms and phrases people use for sex today are either coarse or violent, but the Bible sees sex as a means of knowing one another in a committed relationship. “Knew” indicates an act that contributes to the bond of unity and the building up of a one-flesh relationship. There is one opinion that interprets it, "had known", instead of “known.” It says they had relations even before he sinned, and was drove out of the garden; but if Adam had fathered children while he was in a state of innocence, they would have been free from sin, and their nature would not have been tainted with the corruption it contracted afterwards. But others think it was a considerable time after they were driven out of paradise; as long as thirty years. However, we have no reason to believe Adam and Eve did not have sex before this. Adam and Eve were certainly capable of sexual relations before the fall, because there is nothing inherently impure or unclean in sex.



and she conceived, 

The Divine blessing—“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’" (Gen. 1.28)—which our first parents received during the week of creation was suspended during the period of their innocence, while it was determined whether the race of men would develop as a holy or fallen seed, but now it begins to take effect. 



and bare Cain, 

“And she conceived and bare Cain” in the ordinary way women have given birth ever since, after carrying her baby for nine months. Whether this name was given to her first born by her, or by her husband, or both, is not said; but it seems to have been given by her, for the reason given above. 



Some Jewish writers have expressed the opinion that along with Cain and Abel were born twin sisters, which became their wives (Although I am unaware of any scriptural basis for this.). 



and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 

The word "man" probably indicates that Eve fully expected her son to grow and mature into manhood, and become very much like her husband. If she had given birth to daughters before this, and saw them grow up to maturity, this would explain her anticipation and enthusiasm, and at the same time give a new significance and emphasis to her exclamation, "I have gotten a man (Up to this time I had only women) from the LORD (Yahweh)." It would intensify her delight even more if she expected this to be the very seed that would bruise the serpent's head.



Eve is under the influence of pious feelings. She has faith in God, and acknowledges him to be the person behind the precious gift she has received. She is motivated by feelings of gratitude to confess her faith in Him, and she also uses a new name to designate her maker. In the dialogue with the serpent she had used the word “Elohim” to denote God. But now she adopts “Yahweh.” In this one word there is a treasure chest of comfort. "He is true to his promise. He has not forgotten me. He is with me now. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He will give me the victory." So who can blame her if she really believed her son this would be the promised deliverer who would bruise the serpent's head?—“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel" (Gen. 3.15). 



“I have gotten a man from the Lord” suggests she considered her son a gift and blessing from Him, as children always are; or by him, by his favor and good will; and through his blessing upon her, causing her to conceive and bear and bring forth a son. Some render it, "I have gotten a man, the Lord;” that promised seed that would break the serpents head. This way of thinking would indicate that she thought that seed would be a divine person, the true God, even Jehovah, that would become man; though she must have been ignorant of the mystery of Christ’s incarnation, or of his being born of a virgin, since she conceived and bare Cain through her husband's knowledge of her: however, if she did have this notion, she was sadly mistaken, since he proved not only to be a mere man, but to be a very bad man—“Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous” (1 John 3.12).



2And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 


And she again bare his brother Abel. 

Eve gave birth Cain (or Hebel) and now to a second son, “His brother Abel.” Abel means "breath, vanity." Does a sense of the vanity (pride) of earthly things grow in the minds of our first parents? Has the mother found her sorrow multiplied? Has she had many daughters between the births of these sons? Is there something delicate and fragile in the appearance of Abel? Has Cain disappointed a mother's hopes? There is something extraordinary in the phrase "his brother Abel." It evidently points with touching simplicity to the coming outrage that was to destroy the peace and purity of the first home, and that notion receives emphasis from the frequent (seven times repeated) and almost pathetic mention of the fact that Abel was Cain s brother. The name Eve gave to her first child was an expression of her faith in Jehovah, and in naming her second child she may have desired to preserve a monument of the miseries of human life, of which, perhaps, she had been forcibly reminded by her own maternal sorrows. Perhaps by a spirit of prophecy Eve foresaw what would happen to her second son, that he would be deprived of his life very early and in a violent manner. Some of all these thoughts may have prompted her to give him this name. There are some noted commentators who are of the opinion that the peculiar phraseology of this clause suggests that Abel was Cain's twin brother, though this is not necessarily implied in the text.  



There are at least two opinion regarding the time of Abel’s birth; one says he was not born immediately after Cain, but perhaps the following year; though another opinion reasons that because no mention is made of her conceiving again, that she gave birth to Abel at the same time she did Cain, or that the birth of the one was immediately followed by that of the other. And it is the common opinion of the Jews that along with both Abel and Cain, was born a twin sister, whom the Arabic writers call Lebuda. 



And Abel was a keeper of sheep, 

 In this place the term “sheep” also includes goats: “And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats…” (Lev. 1.10). “Keeper of sheep” was a calling which he either chose himself, or his father assigned it to him to, since it was a necessary line of work; and though he and his brother were born to a large estate, being the heirs of Adam, the lord of the whole earth, yet they were not brought up in idleness, but in useful and taxing occupations.  Abel chose that employment which provided the most time for contemplation and devotion, which is seen as one of the advantage of a pastoral life. Moses and David kept sheep, and in their times solitude conversed with God.



The two main occupations of primitive men were in agriculture and the pastoral vocation of shepherds or herdsmen. Here is the second mention of some use which was made of animals soon after the fall. Coats of skin were provided for the first pair; and now we have Abel shepherding sheep. In the Garden of Eden, man dined exclusively on vegetables and fruit and he was designed to thrive on that diet. We are not informed how long this continued after the fall, but it is certain that man had dominion over the whole animal kingdom. It can hardly be doubted that the outer coverings of animals were used for clothing. Animals would soon be used for sacrifice. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that animals were used for food before the flood, since it is hard to imagine that a vegetable only diet could sustain the human frame in its primeval stamina and strength.



Man in his primitive state, then, was not a mere gatherer of acorns, a hunter, or a nomad. Adam and his descendants did not spend tens of thousands of years living as hunter-gatherer cave dwellers. He began with gardening and farming, the highest form of rural life. After the fall he resorted to the cultivation of the field and the tending of cattle; but still he had a home, and a stable method of living. It is only by a third step that he degenerates to the wandering and barbarous state of existence. And only by the predominance of might over right, the selfish lust for power, and rampant ambition, does a form of society evolve into the highest state of barbaric civilization and the lowest depth of bondage and misery.



but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

Cain was a tiller of the ground, the same occupation as his father, since he was probably brought up to follow in his father’s footsteps. These occupations were indirectly suggested by God when He gave the command to till the ground and by the gift of the clothes made from animal skins. Both were undoubtedly practiced by the first man, who would have taught them to his sons. It is neither justifiable nor necessary to ascribe to the young men a difference of moral character because of their different callings which they selected, though their choices were probably determined by their talents and their tastes. Abel is often seen as a figure of Christ "in his occupation of shepherd, and in his sacrificing and martyrdom." 



3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 


And in process of time it came to pass, 

“In process of time” is rendered by some, “at the end of days,” which may denote the end of the week, of the year, or of some longer period. Others think the anniversary of the creation is what is intended; it is more probable that it means the Sabbath, on which Adam and his family undoubtedly offered religious offerings to God, because the worship of God was definitely instituted, and there is no doubt the Sabbath was observed in that family. This worship was, in its original form, very simple. It appears to have consisted of two parts: 

1. Giving thanks to God as the origin and dispenser of all the bounties of nature, and performing religious exercises suggestive of that gratitude.

2. Offering sacrifices to pay homage to His justice and holiness, implying recognition of their own sinfulness, confession of transgressions, and faith in the promised Deliverer. If we consider the passage here along with the apostle's allusion to it in Hebrews 11:4, we can discover the reason to form this conclusion—“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb. 11.4). The superior excellence of Abel's sacrifice compared to Cain's, lay both in the substance, and in the manner of it; the one was offered wholeheartedly to the Lord, the other only in show; the one was offered in faith, the other not; Abel looked through his sacrifice to the sacrifice of Christ, but Cain did not. Abel's sacrifice was a lamb, a type of Christ, the Lamb of God; a firstling, a figure of Him who is the firstborn of every creature; one of the fattest of his flock, expressive of the excellency of Christ; and this was offered up at the end of days, as Christ at the end of the world; and the superior excellency of the sacrifice of the one to that of the other, appears from God's regard for the one, and not for the other, from which it may be concluded, that sacrifices were instituted by God, and were very early types of Christ; and that there always were two sorts of worshippers, spiritual and carnal ones, whom God can distinguish, for he seeth not as man seeth; that the acceptance of persons depends upon them being in Christ, and occurs prior to their offerings; that whatsoever works do not spring from faith are unacceptable to God; that no dependence is to be had on birth privileges, or outward actions; and that electing and distinguishing grace appeared very early on the earth.



The season of the year was probably the ingathering (The time when the family comes together in a central place.), when the fruits of the earth would be harvested and there would be new birth in the flock, and when the first family would come together to celebrate—with a subdued thankfulness—the anniversary of their creation. This would seem to be the proper season to bring an offering to the Lord, in gratitude for the abundance of good things they had been blessed with; the same as the Israelites, who in later times held a feast for the ingathering of the fruits of the earth—“And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou 


hast gathered in thy labours out of the field” (Exodus 23:16). And the situation here seems to have been the time when Cain and Abel have arrived at the age of freedom of choice and self-dependence, and they solemnly come forward with their first voluntary offerings to the Lord. Up till now they may have come under their parents, who were then the ones who actually made the offering. Now they come on their own account, and with their own offering. If Cain and Abel offer to God, we may imagine it was because it was the habit of their parents before them, and they are merely following their example, but there is no way to verify this. They had parental examples, no doubt; but whether Adam and Eve had ascended far enough from the valley of repentance and humiliation to make a bold offering to the Lord is a question we cannot answer. The deep sense of shame in the first offenders would make their confidence and faith grow very slowly. It would be more natural for their children, being one generation removed from the actual transgressors, to make the first approach to God with an offering.



that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 

The word translated “offering” is explained in Leviticus 2:1 to be an offering of fine flour, with oil and frankincense. It was in general a Eucharistic or gratitude offering, and is simply what is implied in the fruits of the ground brought by Cain to the Lord, by which he testified his belief in Him as the Lord of the universe, and the dispenser of secular blessings. Cain‘s offering of corn, herbs, seeds, etc. was good and acceptable except is was incomplete, because the burnt offering could not be without the meat offering. 



It is the opinion of at least one commentator that Cain brought what was left of his food, or simple and trifling things, such as flax or hemp seed. He brought it either to his father, as some think, since he was the priest in his family; or rather he brought and offered it himself at the place appointed for religious worship, and for sacrifices. It is highly probable it was near the entrance of the Garden of Eden, where the Shekinah, or the divine Majesty, was, and appeared in some remarkable manner. There is another opinion that believes Cain brought his offering to the tree of life because cherubim guarded the tree of life (Genesis 3:24), and cherubim are always associated with the dwelling place or meeting place with God (Exodus 25:10-22). Cain and everyone else on the earth at that time probably met with God at the tree of life, where the cherubim were.



Cain, whose name means "acquisition" is a type of the ordinary man of the earth. His religion was destitute of any adequate sense of sin, or need of atonement. This religious type is described in 2 Pet 2. Seven things are said about him:

1) he worships in self-will

2) is angry with God

3) refuses to bring a sin offering

4) murders his brother

5) lies to God

6) becomes a vagabond

7) is, nevertheless, the object of the divine solicitude.



4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 


And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock

“And Abel” was a shepherd, his flock consisted of sheep; and the firstlings (firstborn) of the sheep is the lambs that he brought to the ingathering of his family, where he presented them as an offering to the Lord. Lambs, perfect and without a single blemish were afterwards frequently used in sacrifice, and were a proper type of Christ, Jehovah's firstborn, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world: a lamb without spot and blemish is a fitting representative for One who is innocent, harmless, and meek. Later the Lord would demand that the first born of every animal be given to Him—“that you shall set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord's” (Exodus 13.12). 




These animal sacrifices were slain; because their fat is offered. Blood was shed, and life taken away. To us who are accustomed to eating animal food, there may appear nothing strange here. We may suppose that each brother offered that which was the produce of his own hard work. But place yourself in that primeval time when only the fruit tree and the herb bearing seed were given to man for food, and we must feel that there is something new here. 




The simple facts are these. The Lord said, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4). There was clearly an internal moral difference in the intention or disposition of the brothers. Abel had faith—that confiding in God which is not bare and cold, but is accompanied with confession of sin, and a sense of gratitude for His mercy, and followed by obedience to his will. Cain did not have this kind of faith. He may have had a faith in the existence, power, and bounty of God; but it lacked that repentant returning to God, that humble acceptance of His mercy, and submission to His will, which constitute true faith. It must be then, that the faith of the offerer is essential to the acceptableness of the offering, even though everything else may be equal.



There is also a difference in the things offered. The one is a vegetable offering, the other an animal; the one a presentation of things without life, the other a sacrifice of life; therefore, there is "more in it" than in the former. The two offerings are expressive of the different kinds of faith in the offerers. They are an outward symbol of the faith of each. The fruit of the soil offered to God is an acknowledgment that the purposes of this earthly life are due to him. This expresses the barren faith of Cain, but not the living faith of Abel. Abel has realized that life itself is forfeited to God by transgression, and that only by an act of mercy can the Author of life restore it to the repentant, trusting, submissive, loving heart. He has thought about the suggestions of sympathizing mercy and love that have come from the Lord to the fallen race, and cast himself upon them without reservation. He slays the animal of which he is the lawful owner, as a victim, in that way acknowledging that his life is owed for sin. But he offers the life of the animal in place of his own, not as if it were of equal value with his own, but as an indication that another life, equivalent to his own is required, if he is to go free by the as yet unfathomable mercy of God.



From this, we arrive at the conclusion that there was more in the animal than in the vegetable offering, and that it is more essential to the full expression of a right faith in the mercy of God, without having access to the light of future revelation. Therefore, the nature of Abel's sacrifice was the indicator of the genuineness of his faith. And the Lord had respect unto him and his offering; thereby indicating that his heart was right, and his offering suitably expressed his feelings. This finding is also in keeping with the testimony of Scripture, which views the outward act as the simple and spontaneous indication of the inward feeling. 



and of the fat thereof. 

“The fat thereof” may refer to either the actual fat of the sacrifice, which later on was claimed by the Lord for his own—“And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD'S” (Leviticus 3:16) (the fat was removed from all the parts intended for the sacrifice of peace offerings, and burnt.): or to the fattest of his flock, the best lambs he had; the fattest and plumpest, and those which were most free from defects and blemishes; not the scarred, or lame, or sick, but that which was perfect and without spot; because God is to be served with the best we have. 



This is a proof that flesh was eaten before the Flood, since "there would be no reason for the Lord praising Able for bringing the fatlings for his offering, if he did not eat them himself." 



And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: 

And the Lord had a high regard for Abel’s offering, because it was that which he had conceived and designated to be used for sacrifice, and was a suitable type and representation of the Messiah, and His sacrifice; and the Lord appreciated it even more because it was offered up by faith, and in consideration of the future sacrifice of Christ, which is of a sweet smelling savour to God, and by which sin is atoned for and the Lord is satisfied—“Abel had faith. So he offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. Because of his faith Abel was praised as a godly man. God said good things about his offerings. Because of his faith Abel still speaks. He speaks even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4). God smiled upon Abel’s sacrifice, accepted it, and expressed His pleasure; that He was pleased and satisfied with it. The Lord probably consumed it by fire from heaven, as he did on many occasions—“and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Lev. 9.24). (Also see 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38). The words, "had respect to," signify in Hebrew,—"to look at anything with a keen earnest glance," which has been translated, "kindle into a fire," so that the divine approval of Abel's offering was probably shown in its being consumed by fire.



“Unto Abel and to his offering” suggests that He accepted Abel first and then his gift—“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But the prayer of the upright is His delight” (Proverbs 15.8). The sacrifice was accepted for the man, and not the man for the sacrifice; but still, without a doubt the words of Moses imply that the substance of Abel's offering was more excellent and suitable than that of Cain's, and one can hardly doubt that this was the idea the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews had in mind. Abel's sacrifice was fuller than Cain's; it had more in it; it had faith, which was wanting in Cain’s. It was also offered in obedience to Divine instruction. The universal prevalence of sacrifice points to Divine instruction as the source rather than to man's invention. If Divine worship been of purely human origin, it is almost certain that greater diversity would have prevailed in its forms. Besides, the fact that the manner of worship was not left to human ingenuity under the law, and that will-worship (arbitrarily invented worship: would-be worship, devised by man's own will) is specifically condemned under the Christian dispensation—“Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23)—favors the presumption that it was divinely appointed from the first.



God hates wicked people, whose hearts are evil and their lives malicious, and even their sacrifices are an abomination to him. God has sacrifices brought to him even by wicked men, to soothe their conscience and keep up their reputation in the world; but their sacrifices are not accepted by God, because they are not offered in sincerity or for a good reason; they play-act with God, and their devotions are a lie, and for that reason they are an abomination to Him. But God has such a great love for good people that even though they cannot bring an expensive sacrifice, their prayer is a delight to Him. Praying graces are his own gift, and the work of his own Spirit in them, with which he is well pleased. He not only answers their prayers, but delights in their talking to him, and in doing them good.



5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 


But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. 

But God did not have any respect for Cain’s offering; not because of the substance of it, as some have thought; not because he was ignorant of his sinfulness, and consequently proud; not because the heart of Cain was no longer pure, but had become saturated with a criminal disposition, since that did not occur until his offering was rejected. But the reason God did not respect his sacrifice was because it was not offered in faith and sincerity, but in a formal and hypocritical manner, without any thought given to the Messiah and His sacrifice, and without any consideration for the glory of God. God did not approve of it, and He showed Cain that He was not pleased by ignoring it. We are not informed of the manner in which God showed his approval of Abel’s sacrifice, but it was probably, as in the case of Elijah, by sending down fire from heaven, and consuming the sacrifice (see Ge 15:17; Jud 13:20); but God simply ignored Cain’s.



Cain’s reaction clearly shows he was far from having a right state of mind, since there was no sorrow for sin, no spirit of self-examination, no prayer to God for sympathy or pardon. Yet the Lord does not immediately abandon the callous and thoughtless transgressor, but instead He will patiently argue with and instruct him as to how he too might obtain the same blessing of acceptance which his younger brother enjoyed.



And Cain was very wroth, 

And Cain was very angry with God, because he did not accept his offering, and with his brother, because he and his sacrifice were preferred to he and his sacrifice; and he began to boil with jealousy. That displeasure which should have been turned inward, against his own proud heart, was turned against his innocent brother. Both were highly privileged, yet Able made a much better use of the advantages which he shared in common with his ungodly and wilful brother.



Abel should have been angry at himself for his own unfaithfulness and two-facedness, by which he had lost God’s approval; and his countenance should have fallen in repentance and holy shame, like the publican’s, who “would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven” (Lu. 18:13). But, instead of this, he lashes out against God, as if He was biased and unfair in distributing his smiles and frowns, and insinuating He had done him wrong. “The foolishness of man perverteth his way,” and then, to make bad worse, “his heart fretteth against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3). His envy of his brother, provoke him to conceive a hatred for him as an enemy, or, a rival. It is not unusual for those who have made themselves unworthy of God’s favor by their arrogant sins to resent those who are dignified and distinguished by His approval. 



and his countenance fell. 

“And his countenance fell,” which is a facial expression that we are all familiar with. Perhaps God was the only One who saw the cheerfulness disappear from his countenance, and the look of dejection; and instead of lifting up his gaze towards heaven; he looked down at the earth; he looked surly, miserable, and sullen, ill natured, full of hatred and revenge, and in his mind he envisioned various ways in which he could vent it; he knit his brows and gnashed his teeth, put on a surly countenance; and there in his face were all the signs, not only of grief and disappointment, but of rage and fury; though some interpret it an expression of shame, jealousy, and confusion. 



Cain’s anger was undoubtedly rooted in pride. He couldn’t bear that his brother was accepted before God and he was not. It is even possible that this was public knowledge, if God consumed the sacrifice with fire as a sign of acceptance. The epidemic of sin is quickly becoming worse. Cain now commits the rather sophisticated sins of spiritual pride, hypocrisy and murder.



6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 


And the LORD said unto Cain, 

 “And the Lord (Jehovah) said unto Cain,” speaking either through Adam, or more probably directly by his own voice. The Lord has not yet give up on Cain; He reasons with him in hope that he might repent and ask for mercy. He asks a question which implies that there is no rational cause for his present feelings. Neither should he be angry at his brother, because his offering has been accepted, or upset with himself, because his own has not. These are not the kind of feelings a person should have when in the presence of the just and merciful God, who searches the heart. Submission, self-examination, and correction of what has been wrong in his approach to God, are the only appropriate acts on such an occasion. The Lord will direct his attention to this matter in the next sentence.



Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 

Of course, God knew the answers to those questions, but He wanted Cain to know and stop what was happening inside himself. These words were spoken as a gracious warning, and to prevent the crime which Cain was beginning to conceive in his mind. The Lord was undoubtedly aware of his wrath and resentment, but He wanted to bring him to a conviction of his sin or sins, which were the cause of God's rejecting his sacrifice, and then see things as God does, to repent and change his mind and actions. He wanted to show him that he had no reason to be displeased, either with Him or his brother, for treating him and his offering different from his brother and his offering; since the fault lay in himself, and he had no one to blame but himself and his own conduct, which in the future he should take care to control according to the divine will; because if he did, things would take a different turn.




7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.


If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? 

In order for Cain to do well he must look at his past to take into account his behavior and opinions, and figure out where he went wrong, and to make corrections to his offering and his intentions accordingly. He has not given the proper consideration to the relation in which he stands to God as a guilty sinner, whose life is forfeited, and to whom God’s hand of mercy is still extended; and consequently he does not feel this way, or given expression to it in the nature of his offering. Cain's failing was that he did not bringing a sin-offering when his brother brought one, and his neglect and contempt caused his offering to be rejected. However, God now graciously informs him that, though he had done wrong, his case was not yet desperate, since a proper victim for a sin-offering was lying at the door of his sheepfold. How many sinners perish, not because there is not a Savior able and willing to save them, but because they will not use that which is within their power! How true is that word of our Lord, “Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life!” Yet, the Lord does not immediately reject him, but with longsuffering patience directs his attention to these things just mentioned, so that they may be amended. And if he will make these amendments, he makes it clear to him that both he and his offering may still be accepted. But he does even more than this. Since Cain seems to have possessed a particularly hard and indifferent disposition, he completes his warning, and deepens its awful repercussions, by stating the other alternative, both in its form and consequence.




The gist of this sentence may be stated this way: “if in general you do good works in a right way and manner, according to the will of God, and directed to his glory, from right principles, and with the right purposes in mind”: or "if you do your works well, because it is not merely doing a good work, but doing the good work well, which is acceptable to God.” If applied with respect to sacrifice it may read this way: “if you do your offering well, or rightly, and offer not only what is materially good and proper to be offered, but do it in a right way, in obedience to the divine will, out of love for God, and with true devotion to Him, having faith in the promised seed, and with a view to His sacrifice for atonement and acceptance; then thine offering would be well pleasing and acceptable.” Does God reject any man who serves him in simplicity and godly sincerity? 

God sets before Cain both life and a blessing: "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” 

1. "If you had done well, like your brother did, you would have been accepted, as He was." God is no respecter of persons, hates nothing that he has made, denies no one His goodwill except those who have forfeited it, and He is an enemy to no one but those who through sin have made Him their enemy: so if we come short of being accepted by him the fault is entirely our own; if we had done our duty, we would not have missed out on His mercy. This will justify God in the destruction of sinners; there is not a damned sinner in hell, who, if he had done well, as he could have done, he would now be a glorious saint in heaven.  

2. "If you will do well now, if you repent of your sin, reform your heart and life, and bring your sacrifice in a better manner, if you not only do that which is good but do it well, you shall yet be accepted, your sin shall be pardoned, your peace and honor restored, and all shall be well." Here we see the effect of a Mediator’s intercession between God and man; we do not stand upon the footing of the first covenant, which left no room for repentance, but God has come to new terms with us. Though we have offended Him, if we repent and return, we shall find mercy. See how early the gospel was preached, and the benefit of it offered here even to one of the chief of sinners.



and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.

This dreadful warning to Cain, expressed in the mildest and plainest terms, is a standing lesson written for the benefit of all mankind. Let him who is in the wrong repent at once, and return to God with humble acknowledgment of his own guilt, and unreserved submission to the mercy of his Maker; because anyone who persists in sin can have no hope or help. Another sentence is added to intensify the warning—“If you do not do well, sin lies at the door.” God warned Cain about the destructive power of sin. Cain can resist sin and receive blessings, or he can give in to sin and be devoured.



If you do not do good works, or offer an offering as it should be offered, sin lies at the door of your conscience; and as soon as that door is opened, sin will enter in and spoil everything there, as it did afterwards—“And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13)—or the punishment of sin itself is what is meant, which lies at the door, and will soon be carried out. Some render the word which has been translated “sin”  as “a sin offering;” and then the sense becomes, that though he had sinned by offering the wrong sacrifice, nevertheless there was a propitiatory sacrifice for sin provided, which was at hand, and would soon be offered—“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5.21)—so that he had no need to be dejected, or his countenance to fall; because, if he looked to that sacrifice by faith, he would find pardon and acceptance; but the former sense has found more acceptance. 



The relevance of the divine rebuke of Cain was this, "Why are you angry, as if treated unjustly? Can wrath and indignation against your righteous brother save you from the displeasure under which you have fallen? If you had done right (that is, were innocent and sinless) a thank offering would have been accepted as a token of your dependence as a creature. But since you have not done right (that is, being a sinner), a sin offering is necessary, which if brought would have met with acceptance." This would imply that previous instructions had been given regarding the manner of worship; Abel offered through faith—“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Heb 11:4).



In the previous clause, God sets before Cain both life and a blessing, but here He sets before him death and a curse: But, since you did not do well, that is, "Seeing that you did not do well, did not offer in faith and in a right manner, sin lies at the door," that is, "sin was imputed to you, and you were frowned upon and rejected as a sinner. Such a terrible charge would not have been laid at your door, if you had not brought it upon yourself, by not doing well." Or, as it is commonly stated, "If now you will not do well, if you persist in this rage against your brother, and, instead of humbling yourself before God, harden yourself against Him, sin lies at the door," that is, 

1. Further sin. "Now that anger is in your heart, murder is at the door." Sin flows down-hill, and men go from bad to worse. Those who do not sacrifice well, but are careless and inconsistent in their devotion to God, expose themselves to the worst temptations; and perhaps the most scandalous sin lies at the door. Those who do not keep God’s ordinances are in danger of committing all kinds of abominations—“Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 18:30). 

2. The punishment of sin. Sin and punishment are so similar that the same word in Hebrew signifies both. If sin be harbored in the house, the curse waits at the door. It lies as if asleep, but it lies at the door where it will soon awake, and then it will appear that the damnation slumbered not. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). Sin may be at the door, but Christ, the great sin-offering, is said to stand at the door—“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). And those that will not go to the door and give the sin-offering entrance deserve to perish in their sins. All this considered, Cain had no reason to be angry at God, but only at himself



And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

“And unto thee shall be his desire”; or "its desire,” as those who render it as “SIN lying at the door,” whose desire was to get in and tempt and persuade him to do that which was evil, and overcome “and rule over him.” But, since it refers to Abel the meaning is that even though his offering was accepted by God, and not his brother Cain's, this should not alienate his affections from him, or cause him to refuse subjection to him; but he should still love him as his brother, and be subject to him as his elder brother, and not seek to get the birthright from him, or think that that belonged to him, because his brother had forfeited it by his sin; and therefore Cain had no reason to be angry with his brother, or envious of him, since the effect of their offerings would not alter their civil affairs or relationship as brothers. “And thou shall rule over him,” as you have been, since you are the firstborn—which shows the privileges and authority belonging to the first-born in patriarchal times. The great distinction conferred by priority of birth is described in Genesis 27:29: “Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.” It was Cain's conviction, that this honor had been withdrawn from him, by the rejection of his sacrifice, and conferred on his younger brother—that thought kindled the secret flame of jealousy, which grew into a solid hatred and descended into revenge.

 


This sentence, “And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him,” has all the stringency and familiarity of a proverb. It has been employed before, to describe part of the tribulation the woman brought upon herself by disobedience, namely, the forced subjection of her will to that of her husband in the fallen state of humanity—“He told the woman, “I’ll greatly increase the pain of your labor during childbirth. It will be painful for you to bear children, “since your trust is turning toward your husband, and he will dominate you.” (Genesis 3:16). It is accordingly, expressive of the condition of a slave under the hard bondage and arbitrary whim of a master and a tyrant. Cain is evidently the master. The question is, who is the slave? To whom do the pronouns "his" and "him" refer? Obviously, they refer either to sin or to Abel. If to sin, then the meaning of the sentence is, the desire, the entire submission and service of sin will be granted to you, and you will in fact make yourself master of it. Your condition will no longer be that of careless ignorance, and subsequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes from sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he does not instantly repent. But it is necessary to deal plainly with this strong-willed, vindictive spirit, if he is to have any hope of being brought to a right mind. But, if the pronouns refer to Abel, the meaning will be pretty much the same thing. The desire, the forced compliance, of your brother will be conceded to thee, and you wilt rule over him with a severity and a violence that will terminate in his murder. In violating the image of God by shedding the blood of your brother, you will be defying your Maker, and fiercely rushing on to your own hell. As a result, in either case, the dark doom of unrenounced and unforgiven sin looms fearfully in the distance.



The above statement of the Lord to Cain, is fraught with the most powerful motives that can bear on the mind of man. It holds out acceptance to the wrong-doer, if he will come before God with a broken heart and a corresponding expression of repentance, in the full faith that he can and will secure the mercy of God. At the same time it points out, the insidious nature of sin, the inclination of a selfish heart to sin, the tendency of one who persists in sin day-after-day, to eventually produce a crime which ends in the everlasting destruction of the soul. These words must have come from the mouth of the Almighty to the ear of Cain with all the evidence and force they were capable of receiving.



Note: We prevent sin from ruling over us by allowing God to master us first. Without God as our master, we will be slaves to sin.



8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.


And Cain talked with Abel his brother:

We are not told the nature or subject of the conversation between Can and Able, though one opinion says it pertained to the subject matter of the previous verse. On the other hand, another opinion argues that it is psychologically very improbable that Cain would have related a warning to his brother which produced such a little impression upon his own mind; and it certainly relieves us from the necessity of adding to the moral depravity of the unhappy fratricide by depicting him as deliberately planning his younger brother's murder, of him watching for an opportunity and at last accomplishing his shameful act by means of treachery. Without a doubt the historian intends to describe a crime rather suddenly conceived and hurriedly performed than one deliberately planned and treacherously executed. However, there is a sense here that Cain planned to catch Abel by surprise, lulling him with pleasant conversation. This shows that Cain may have committed premeditated murder, and therefore clearly ignored God’s way of escape.



There is nothing thus far to indicate that Cain changed his offering to God, either internally in regard to how he felt about it or externally, as to its form. Though one speak to him from heaven he will not hear. The divine objection failed to change his heart; perhaps it only increased his irritation. 



and it came to pass, when they were in the field, 

They were probably alone and at a distance from their parents, or from any town or city, if any were built at that time, as some think there were, and out of the sight of any person that might come and interfere and rescue Able. 



that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

One thing we can say for certain is that Cain did not act on Divine counsel. “Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” in a violent manner, without any provocation, and took his life. He could have struck him with some agricultural tool, which might be in the field where they were, or with a stone. The deed is done and it cannot be recalled. The motives which caused it were diverse; selfishness, wounded pride, jealousy, and a guilty conscience were all at work—“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).  The sacrifice which he offered, though it was not evil in itself, was offered with an evil mind, and with an hypocritical heart, and without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, and so was unacceptable to God; whereas, on the other hand, the sacrifice his brother brought was offered up in faith that Christ would come, by which he obtained a testimony that he was righteous, and that the work he did was a righteous work, being done in faith, and so was acceptable to God; when Cain recognized this, he was filled with envy, and this put the thought in his mind to kill  Abel. Then sin is followed by worse sin, proving the truth of the warning given in the merciful patience of God.



We may rightly conclude that the first murder committed in the world was the consequence of a religious dispute; but since then, millions have been murdered due to prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance. Here, certainly, originated the many-headed monster, religious persecution; the spirit of the wicked one in his followers impels them to afflict and destroy all those who are partakers of the Spirit of God. Every persecutor is a legitimate son of the old murderer. This is the first triumph of Satan; it is not merely a death that he has introduced, but a violent one, as the first-fruits of sin. It is not the death of an ordinary person, but of the most holy man then in being; it is not brought about by the providence of God, or by a gradual failure and destruction of the earthly creation, but by a violent separation of body and soul; it is not done by a common enemy, from whom nothing better could be expected, but by the hand of a brother, and for no other reason but because the object of his envy was more righteous than himself. Alas! How exceeding sinful does sin appear in its first manifestation! No human had ever died or been killed before, but Cain saw how animals were killed for sacrifice. He extinguished Abel’s life in the same way. The downward course of sin has progressed quickly. Now the hoped-for redeemer is a murderer, and the second son is the victim of murder. Sin wasn’t “nipped in the bud,” and it could not be contained.



Now the sin of Adam had grown into fratricide in his son. The writer intentionally repeats again and again the words "his brother," to clearly point out the horror of the sin. Cain was the first man who let sin reign in him; he was "of the wicked one" (1 John 3:12). In him the seed of the woman had already become the seed of the serpent; and in his deed the real nature of the wicked one, who was "a murderer from the beginning," had come to light: so that already there had sprung up that contrast of two distinct seeds within the human race, which runs through the entire history of humanity.


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