The Two Seeds Expand: Cain and Abel

Not Without Blood

God had commanded Adam to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28)Verse one begins the fulfillment of that command.

“Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, ‘I have gotten a man child with the help of the LORD’.” (Gen. 4:1)

The name “Cain” means acquisition, or to acquire. Eve had acquired a son from God. She said literally, “Kenah!” I have acquired a man-child even the LORD. Remember that God had promised a redeemer called “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15).  Eve felt that she had birthed that redeemer.

“Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Gen. 4:2)

“Abel” means vanity.  The same word is used in Ecclesiastes.  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Eccle. 1:1-2). The word means “empty” or “nothingness.”  Eve called her second son, nothingness! Why do you suppose Eve would name her son “nothing”? She picked the wrong kid. But she was now a sinner with a fallen mind. God had chosen Abel.

What kind of man was Abel?  Notice how Jesus described him.

“So that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” (Matt. 23:35)

What about the writer of Hebrews?

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” (Heb. 11:4)

God declared Abel to be righteous by faith. “By faith” Abel offered to God a better sacrifice.  His right standing before God was not achieved by offering the right sacrifice.  He demonstrated his faith by offering the right sacrifice. That is true of all those mentioned in Hebrews 11.  By faith Enoch, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham – all revealed their faith by a certain action.  But the action did not save them; the faith did.

“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5)

“And may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Phil. 3:9)

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Imputed righteousness is righteousness that is placed to one’s account, not because it is deserved, but based upon faith alone.  Abel was also called a prophet.

“For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’” (Luke 11:49-51)

Prophets were the mouthpieces of God. If he was a prophet, what did he say?  We cannot find anything in the Bible that Abel actually said. His message was in his actions. What do we know about his actions? They revealed his attitude toward God.

Right Sacrifice Right Attitude

“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground.” (Gen. 4:3)

Cain’s sacrifice was produce that he had grown. Cain’s offering had a precedent. His role models may have been the story of his parents and their fig leaf clothes (verse 7). He grew his little garden and brought his offering from the work of his own hands. It was not acceptable.  Cain decided what offering Cain should give.

Abel’s offering also had a precedent. He had possibly heard of the animals were taken to clothe Adam and Eve after their fall.

“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.” (Gen. 4:4)

Abel brought a unique sacrifice.

  • His sacrifice required death.  It was a blood sacrifice of an animal.
  • It was a selective sacrifice.  That is, it was the first of his flock.
  • It involved faith.

Abel remembered that God had clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins.  There had been death. Blood had been shed. By faith, he followed the example!  “Regard” is to look at with interest and approval. God looked at the man and the offering. The Hebrew indicates that there was some visible sign of God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice.  Maybe fire came down and consumed it. We do not know!

“But for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 4:5)

God looked at the man and at the offering and did not accept (regard) Cain’s offering. The Hebrew indicates that there was a graphic way to tell that God had rejected Cain and his offering. Maybe his sacrifice was not consumed. Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.  In other words, he was furious! He was red in the face, with the veins popping out in his neck!

Man’s efforts to please God have no affect on God.  This attitude is what the Bible refers to as man’s own way. That is why people reject the gospel (Titus 3:5) The gospel involves nothing of man!

“All we like sheep have gone astray and everyone has turned to his own way.” (Isa. 53:6)

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?’” (Gen. 4:6)

The question that God asked Cain was not asked because He needed information. He asked in order to teach. “Cain, what is the reason for your anger?”  Think about this!  Why are you furious? It is God who approaches the sinner. The sinner does not approach God.  God is attempting to teach us the source of Cain’s problem.

“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.” (Gen. 4:7)

God gave Cain the opportunity to change his mind but he did not. “Sin” here reminds us of the serpent in the garden. Sin is pictured as lurking at the door of the human heart.  It is eager to devour Cain’s human soul, but he was told that he must master it.  To master it is not to work in some way to destroy it, but it means to make the right choice. He still had time to make the right sacrifice. He obviously understood what God wanted. There was no excuse for not doing by faith what God sought. But he would not. That bent to rebel is in our flesh.

A better rendering is, “will you not be exalted?” The translation of this verse has long vexed scholars. The Septuagint, which KJV closely follows, suggests that if Cain did the right thing, then he would retain his priority over his younger brother as the first born.

Sin is crouching at the door. The word “crouching” might mean that as a wild animal lies in wait, ready to pounce on its prey, so sin would do to Cain.  “Sin” is “like a crouching beast hungering for you.” The word “desire” has negative implications.

Cain’s sin was a rebellious attitude! God gave Cain the opportunity to exercise the same faith as Abel. “Sin” reminds us of the serpent in the garden. Sin is pictured as lurking at the door of the human heart.  It is eager to devour Cain, but he was told that he must master it. He obviously now understood what God wanted. There was no excuse for not exercising faith! But he would not! That bent to rebel is the essence of the fallen man.

First Murder

“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.” (Gen. 4:8)

“Slew” in 1 John 3:12 is not the usual word for “killed.” Cain slaughtered his brother.  He slit his throat like an animal.

“Not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” (I Jn. 3:12)

Why did Cain slay Abel?  Cain slew his brother because he was of the evil one. He was the seed of the serpent.

“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.” (Jude 11)

Balaam rebelled against God’s priesthood and led a group who wanted to form their own.  The desire to come to God man’s way is the way of Cain.  It is “Operation Grow Your Own” – do it yourself.  Man’s first attempt at self-reformation was “Operation Fig Leaves.” Here is man’s second attempt – “Operation Grow Your Own.”

From now on throughout the entire Bible the human race will be divided.  Some will be drawn to God following His way and others will attempt to come to God their own way.

Cain killed Abel, revealing that religion hates grace.  Religion emphasizes man’s work, energy of the flesh, and pride. Throughout history religion has always sought to destroy grace.  If you are living or teaching grace, you will be hated!

Cain’s answer revealed Cain’s arrogance and pride.

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen. 4:9)

“Not” is in the emphatic position in the Hebrew, meaning he said it loudly and emphatically.   Who else told a similar emphatic lie?  Satan, when he said, “You will not die.”  That “not” was also emphatic.

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” was a denial of Cain’s responsibility. God could have said, “Cain, you are a liar, you are arrogant, and you are abrogating a responsibility which I have given to you.” But God was gracious!

  • Why are you angry?
  • Why is your countenance fallen?
  • Where is your brother Abel?
  • What have you done? (verse 10)

“He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.’” (Gen. 4:10)

As arrogant and proud as this man was, God over and over extended to him the opportunity to change his mind.

“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” (Gen. 4:11)

The ground was forced to receive the blood of Abel.

“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.” (Gen. 4:12)

To “cultivate” is to work hard. Remember, Cain was a farmer!  No matter how hard Cain worked, the ground would no longer produce for him. But he still must live. He must have food and shelter.

Culture as we know it today will now begin to develop from Cains family. Things will be given value and man will begin to trade for “stuff.”  By man’s human effort, creativity and talent, he thinks he can acquire true peace and prosperity apart from God. What do we call this today? Humanism!  Note Cain’s response to God’s judgment of him.

“Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is too great to bear!’” (Gen. 4:13)

Sin always has consequences and God’s justice must always be served.

“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.” (Gen. 4:14)

God’s justice with Cain was severe, but Cain was wise enough to realize that man’s justice would have been even more severe. Cain feared for his life, but God once again extended His grace.

“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.” (Gen. 4:15)

This sign (mark) could have been some indication that God had already judged Cain for his sin and, therefore, could not be the recipient of double jeopardy.  This could be the seed form of a judicial law for the protection and preservation of the human race.

“Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Gen. 4:16)

Cain went out from the presence of the Lord. He would begin to establish a world independent of God that would utterly fail. This civilization would end in complete annihilation.



New American Standard Bible

Chafer’s Systematic Theology

R. B. Thieme

Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament