GENESIS 4:1-17  


Verses 1-17

(Hebrew Pronunciation guide:
The capital "A" represents the "ah" sound as in father, from the vowel sign qamets.
The small "a" represents the short "a" sound as in pat, from the vowel sign pathach.
ā represents the long "a" sound from the vowel sign, sere.
The "e" represents the short "e" sound from the vowel sign segoal
ō represents the long "o" sound as in note from the vowel sign cholem
The "u" represents the long "u" sound as in the vowel sign qibboots
The small "o" represents the short "o" sound as in got, from the vowel sign qamets chatoof.)

Adam and Eve began their life outside the garden of Eden in relationship with God, having accepted God's system for restoration to spiritual life, as taught by the animal sacrifices. As they adjusted to this new life of labor and hardship, they lived in anticipation of God's promise of a Messiah/Savior. They dwelled just outside the garden even though access to it was denied to them by the two cherubim who were guarding the entrance (Genesis 3:24). This is indicated by the fact that when Cain left, it is said that he dwelled in a land area just east of Eden.

Adam was the first family priest, the one responsible for representing the divine value system to his family. It is perhaps, a leap of faith to think that Adam had a whole system of moral and spiritual values by which to govern his life, but I suggest that it is quite reasonable for God to have given him such a code, for he would really have no way of knowing what was expected of him as a child of God in a world system controlled by Satan unless such a code was taught to him. It is not reasonable to think that God slaughtered animals and gave Adam and Eve clothing from the hides without teaching what the sacrifice of the animal meant in reference to the Messianic promise, especially in view of the promise stated to them indirectly at Genesis 3:15. It is suggested, therefore, that what we have written in Genesis three through six is a basic outline of events and the vast majority of data that was taught and followed is left unrevealed to us, but fully understood by Adam and the other family priests as history progressed.

There is evidence of this at Genesis 4:7, where God tells Cain, "if you do right, won't you be accepted?" This indicates that there was at least ONE standard or set of standards, for properly relating to God. It would have been taught to all the children by both Adam and Eve, as well as by Abel as a functional prophet following in Adam's footsteps (Luke 11:49-51).

It was probably not very long before Eve brought forth her first born son, whom she immediately associated with the promise that had been given to them about "her seed" being the one who would defeat Satan. Although we have only a seed pod of information in the promise at Genesis 3:15, I suggest that all the details were later explained in full to Adam and Eve as they would now be responsible for cultivating the moral and spiritual values that resolved around the Messianic promise. Included in those details would be the truth that the promised Messiah would be Yahweh Himself (Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23) coming into the world as a man to defeat Satan (Psalm 110:1) and to bring salvation to the human race (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 1:21). It would be natural for Eve to think that her first born son was the fulfillment of the promise until otherwise indicated. Thus, when the child was born, she proclaimed, "I have gotten a man - Yahweh." There is a little particle here, eth, that can be either the sign of the direct object (and something in apposition to the direct object) or, the preposition WITH, in which case, it would read, "I have gotten a man WITH (the help of) Yahweh," (NASB, NIV).

The KJV renders it "from the LORD," and although that is certainly true, the use of eth does not justify that translation. Since both uses of eth are proper, it needs to be determined as much as possible from the context which translation is better. Up until this point, the particle has been used 5 times always as the sign of the object. At verse 5:22 and following, it is used both ways. Thus, both uses can be justified from the context, and although there is no basis to be seriously dogmatic toward either one, I prefer the appositional use that identifies the baby as Yahweh, as I suggested above.

The narrative continues at verse two, "And she continued to bear his brother, Abel." As a result of this literal translation, it has been suggested that Abel was a twin of Cain rather than a child born in a subsequent year. I do not see that it really matters as there were probably many sets of twins (as well as other multiples) born to both Eve and her daughters as the years went by. At the same time, I truly believe that if Cain and Abel were twins, that the language would be perfectly clear to indicate it.

As the boys grew up, they chose different professions according to their individual preferences. Both professions were necessary for life in that society; the vegies of course, were the food supply, and the sheep were the source of clothing and were for the animal sacrifices which were conducted as an expression of worship and a teaching aid for salvation truth. It seems that the meat of the sheep was not used as a food source because meat was not instituted as a food source until after the flood (Genesis 9:3). However, I am willing to concede the possibility that the sheep were eaten (since there was certainly a vast amount of meat that would otherwise have been totally wasted), and that the permissive policy after the flood was simply an extension of the animal-food source to animals other than sheep.

In addition to these choices of a SECULAR profession, choices had to be made concerning the divine priority - both the issue of salvation relationship with Yahweh, and the issues of righteous living. Abel had trusted in the Messianic promise, was living according to the righteous standards of the divine value system, and was even a communicator of truth to the rest of the family clan. Cain, on the other hand, had not trusted in Yahweh, but had his own ideas about how to find happiness and success in the world. All throughout his life he obviously WENT ALONG with the system, offering sacrifices and making the proper noises when necessary, but he never accepted the divine value system, and sought for an occasion to become a recognized teacher of a DIFFERENT WAY.

The contact that the human race had with God at this time was very unique, as He interacted with them on a personal level, even communicating at times with those who were not believers. The means by which God had chosen to administrate His truth to the people of the earth during the first 2500 years of man's history, was through the stewardship of the family priest. That is, men who were functionally consistent in following the divine value system and specifically chosen by God to be the spiritual leaders of the family clan. As the population increased, and families became more separated by distance, the need arose for additional family priests to perpetuate the teaching of God's word. Thus, God would choose additional family priests based on their moral and spiritual consistency, and their dedication to the divine value system. See Topic: DISPENSATIONS

Apparently, this choosing was accomplished through a formal appearance before God, at which time He would recognize the testimonial consistency of the individual and formally establish him as a family priest.

At verse three we are introduced to just such an occasion when offerings were presented before God as an expression of the believer's salvation trust in God and his devotion to the divine priority in Christian (Messianic) living. The divine priority refers to God's viewpoint and policy for representing LIGHT in the world system of darkness. We read, "And it came about at the end of days," which indicates a consummation of a time period. It could refer to the end of a sabbath cycle and have in view the sabbath day, or it could be some other cycle of days, such as a month or a year. It has been suggested that this "end of days" refers to a specific point in the life of each man when they would first be called upon to demonstrate their trust and devotion to God. There are two things that argue against this suggestion. (1) There was a difference in years between the two men and such an INITIAL ritual would not occur at the same time for both of them. (2) The New Testament teaches us that Abel was viewed as a prophet, an established communicator of God's word (Luke 11:49-51), and as such, this event recorded at Genesis four, would not be an INITIAL ritual since Abel was already established as a communicator before the ritual, and was killed very shortly after this meeting with God.

Much more likely is the idea that this was a specific formal meeting with God when He would choose a new OFFICIAL family priest. This is suggested based on two factors. (1) The fact that Abel received a formal testimony of being righteous as a result of his offering, and (2) that after he was killed, he was later replaced by another son, born after the fact, who was viewed by Eve as the replacement for Abel (Seth, at Genesis 4:25). Keeping in mind that there were DOZENS of children who were born after Abel, who could just as well qualify - unless we are dealing with a SPECIALIZED office that Abel was to take, and which was not offered to another after his death, until the RIGHT person came along.

The ritual in view involved a testimonial expression to God by offering an animal sacrifice which indicated that the person had trusted in the Messianic promise and that he was submissive to the divine priority - God's viewpoint and policy for living in the antagonistic environment of Satan's darkness system. Accordingly, at Hebrews 11:4, we learn that "by faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the TESTIMONY that he was righteous." And at 1 John 3:12 we are told that Abel's deeds were righteous, that is, in line with divine viewpoint and policy - the divine priority.

The two men both approached God with an offering and with the intent of obtaining from God the divine approval to become a functional family priest. At Genesis 4:4, we learn that Abel brought to God "the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions." This makes it clear that it was indeed an animal sacrifice and not just a presentation of sheep to God. We also learn that this was what God wanted as an expression of genuine worship, for "Yahweh looked (with favor) upon Abel and upon his offering."

The verb is shAAh (as a qal imperfect/c) which means to gaze intently. The "intent" of that gaze depends on context, and here, the idea is clearly one of favor or acceptance. As noted earlier, Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel obtained the desired recognition from God, that he was righteous. This would then qualify him to be the next family priest, which was apparently the intent - or at least, the understanding of Eve, as she commented at the birth of Seth (APPOINTED ONE), "God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel" (Genesis 4:25).

Cain, on the other hand, did not follow God's policy for qualifying to be a family priest. Acquiring a sheep for the sacrifice would be no problem - that was not the issue for Cain. Access to the sheep raised by others was not denied, and would probably have been provided in exchange for equal value measured either in vegies or labor. There is no indication whether Cain had offered animal sacrifices before, but it is reasonable to think that he had participated in the ritual, as it would have been a regular and even mandated activity while he was growing up. But this is not a NORMAL expression of worship at this time, but a formal meeting with God to acquire His approval for priestly function. It would be this occasion where Cain could make his case before God and acquire His blessing for a different WAY to worship and relate to the world. Cain wanted to be an official family priest, but not one who would represent the things of God, but rather, his own ideas of how man should live on this earth.

So Cain came to this formal occasion seeking approval from God on his own terms instead of God's terms. John further amplifies Cain's attitude and action by telling us that he was "out from (ek) the evil one," and because "his deeds were evil" (1 John 3:12). The word evil in both cases is the Greek word, ponāros, which refers to an infectious, antagonistic evil that seeks to influence and dominate others. In the first case, the EVIL ONE refers to Satan who possesses a usurped authority over this earthly world (Luke 4:6; John 12:31). According to 1 John 5:19, "the whole world lies (exists) in the sphere of the evil one." That is why Jesus could say of the UNBELIEVING Jews at John 8:44, "You are out from (ek) your father - the devil." It is those who have not trusted in the Messianic promise who EXIST in the sphere of Satan's authority, and under the constant reign of the sin nature (Romans 6:17). This then applies also to Cain. He had not trusted in the Messianic promise, that is, he had not believed in Yahweh's promise to send a Messiah/Savior into the world. Thus, he thought that he could solve the happiness and the sin issues of life through his own ideas, independent from what God's policy had ordained. And that makes his deeds evil, and because they were evil, he sought to influence others, and what better way to do this than to be a family priest. So here he is, presenting himself before God, hoping that God would recognize the sincerity of his heart in wanting to help his fellow man, and accept him as the next family priest.

But God's viewpoint is perfect and His policy is absolute, and is based on a perfect standard of righteousness that exists because of SPIRITUAL LAWS which cannot be changed by the whims and fancies of men. Cain failed to take into consideration the true spiritually depraved condition of man and that HUMAN WORKS and good intentions cannot solve that condition. Thus, God did not - COULD NOT - accept Cain and his offering, for his WAY was inherently inconsistent with that perfect standard of righteousness and was doomed to failure. This attitude and action of trying to relate to God through one's own human viewpoint logic and efforts is called "the way of Cain" at Jude 11.

As a result of God's disfavor toward Cain, he became quite angry and showed it. The verb, chArAh plus the adverb meodh indicates the intensity of Cain's anger, for not only does meodh (very) indicate this, but the verb means to BURN WITH ANGER. And thus, even by itself, the verb expresses a very intense "burning" of emotional negativity. The next idea, "and his countenance fell," indicates a change of facial expression as an indication of severe emotional disruption, and should probably best be seen as a statement of result that shows the overt expression of his inner anger. We would say in our modern idiom, "Why are you all bent out of shape?"

The falling of the face would indicate that as Cain appeared before God with his offering, he was in an expectant mood, anticipating a great response of favor from God. We could almost picture him as smiling with excitement, for he truly wanted God's approval. But when God's rejection was expressed, his expectations were dashed to pieces. And instead of responding to that rejection with humility and teachability, Cain's response was from the self-centered control of the sin nature in the severe anger that comes from creature arrogance.

But God taught him anyway and called upon his frame of reference concerning what is RIGHT - giving him another opportunity to adjust to divine viewpoint and policy.

At verse 6, God challenged Cain's negative response and then at verse 7, He spelled out both the problem and the solution.

God asked, rhetorically, "Why are you angry and why is your face all bent out of shape?" The question calls Cain into account for his actions and at the same time, applies some divine logic. What has happened, God asked, that justifies you being angry? Did I do something wrong, or did you do something wrong? But then God answers the question Himself by explaining both the principle of acceptance and the reason for rejection.

Verse 7, thus states the divine viewpoint and policy through the phrase, "If you do right," The verb is yAtabh (hiphil imperfect) and means to BE good, well, or pleasing (in the qal stem). In the hiphil stem, it means to CAUSE good, which is then rendered, to DO good or right, or what is pleasing. This is a general statement of principle which PRESUPPOSES that the standard of good or right is understood, which of course, it was, because the requirements for both relationship and fellowship with God, had been taught to all of Adam's children. In fact, Abel had been an effective proclaimer (prophet) of these truths over the years. But this situation is even more specific since it deals with the procedure for becoming qualified to be a family priest.

So, God tells him that if he does (what is) right concerning relationship with God and qualifications for OFFICIAL service to God (ie, trust in the Messianic promise and recognition of the animal sacrifice as the official teaching aid of the family priest), that there would be acceptance and promotion (exaltation). But the statement that God makes refers to PREPARATION in general and not a QUICK-FIX and an INSTANT promotion for Cain. There is a process of acceptance and promotion to this OFFICIAL place of service. Abel progressed from functional believer to the office of PROPHET (proclaimer of truth), and then to the office of family priest. If Cain recovers - turns around and begins to DO RIGHT - then promotion will come respective to his progress. If he fails to recover, it is because he has chosen to follow the sin nature rather than God.

This principle, in general, should be applied to all members of the human race. If one does what is right (trust in the Messiah) there is acceptance before God - spiritual promotion (a lifting up). There is the initial promotion when one becomes a believer, which is basically, the imputation of God's righteousness onto the believer, as seen with Abraham at Romans 4:3, "And Abraham believed God and it was calculated to him as righteousness." And then there is the progressive promotion throughout the Christian way of life as the believer maintains consistency in fellowship and growth.

1 Peter 5:6 tells the believers, "humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time." And James 4:10, "humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and he will exalt you."

The last part of this statement (or question) has TWO parts to it and is rendered in a variety of ways by various translations.

(1) KJV: "shalt thou not be accepted?"
(2) NASB: "will not your countenance be lifted up?"
(3) NASB/margin: "surely you will be accepted."
(4) NIV: "will you not be accepted?"
(5) Keil/Delitzsch Commentary: "is there not, if thou art good, a lifting up?"
6) ASV: "shall it not be lifted up?"
(7) RSV: "will you not be accepted?"
(8) NEB: "Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine?"
9) DARBY: "will not (thy countenance) look up (with confidence)?"
(10) YOUNGS: "Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance?"
(11) WEBSTERS: "shalt thou not be accepted?"

The first issue is whether it is a question or a statement. As can be seen, all but one of these render the phrase as a question. This is because of the adverbial construction at the beginning, which is -

the interrogative Hā plus the negative Lō (hālō). The natural understanding of this would be, "is it not true that." However, it needs to be recognized with Gesenius, that sometimes this construction is used to indicate a POSITIVE or TRUE idea instead of a negative. He writes, "since it serves merely to express the conviction that the contents of the statement are well known to the hearer. . ." and "a surprising communication is introduced in this way (by hālō) in order to show it to be absolutely true," (Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, Section 150 e, page 474). The BDB Lexicon, page 520 states, "it has a tendency to become little more than an affirmative particle, declaring with some rhetorical emphasis what is, or might be, well known."

Thus, either a question or a statement of assertion (surely, certainly) can be in view for this clause, and although I took the effort to explain this, it does not really alter the meaning behind God's communication at all.

Whether God said - "Is it not true that, IF . . . you will be accepted?" or "Surely, IF . . you will be accepted." - the meaning remains the same. The marginal note in the NASB (Lockman Foundation) recognizes this optional AFFIRMATION of a truth, while the text translates it as a question. For the sake of making a decision, I will translate it as a question, "If you do what is right, won't there be a promotion (lifting up)?"

The second issue deals with the idea of lifting up or acceptance. The word is the noun, seāth, which means a lifting up or exaltation.

Thus, "If you do what is right, will there not be a lifting up?" OR - "If you do what is right, there will surely be a lifting up."

As we can see from the translations above, some want to associate this lifting up with the "fallen" countenance, while others see the idea of acceptance, but in the other 13 occurrences of this noun, there is no idea of acceptance. In the context as I have developed it, the issue here is recognition by God that one is qualified to function as an OFFICIAL family priest. The standard meaning of this noun then (seāth), a lifting up, an exaltation, a promotion - fits perfectly with the idea of being approved by God as a qualified family priest.

Thus, the idea is communicated, "If you do what is right (established policy), won't there be a promotion (a lifting up)?

This could only happen if Cain were to adjust to God's viewpoint and policy, and "do what is right." This of course, requires trust in the Messianic promise, and then complying with the policy of offering an animal sacrifice. But God is not telling him that if HE does right he would be promoted RIGHT NOW, for recovery itself, would not qualify him to become a family priest. A life of consistency prior to the MEETING with God is required in order to be recognized by God as family priest material.

The next part of God's answer to His rhetorical question deals with what is involved when one fails to do what is right.

He says, "if you do NOT do what is right," which refers primarily to a failure to trust in the Messianic promise, and only secondarily to the failure to bring an animal sacrifice.

THEN there is a CAUSE for this failure - this volitional decision NOT to do what is right, and as God continues to address Cain, He explains it as, "sin is crouching at the door." The Hebrew word here is, chattAth. This is the first time that SIN is mentioned and the only time that chattAth is used to refer to the sin nature. It is not mentioned again until Genesis 18:20, and then occurs often for a total of 256 times. Here, we see the IDEA or the INFLUENCE of sin that comes from the sin nature. It is not some ACT of sin, for it is given a type of animation, that can only refer to the sin nature, which is an active influence or inclination in our mentality that expresses total independence from God. We have already studied the sin nature in Genesis chapter three, and the reader can refer to that commentary or simply see the Topic: The Sin Nature

The word, crouching, is rAbhats, as a qal active participle - used to characterize the sin nature. The word means, to stretch out or lie down - sometimes for rest, and sometimes with the idea of making its lair or home at that location (Psalm 104:22; Isaiah 13:21; Ezekiel 19:2). This is a PASSIVE idea that is used to indicate a constant presence (or home) in the life from where the sin nature wields an active and aggressive influence as it inclines the person's self-consciousness into attitudes and actions of independence from God. When a person has rejected the viewpoint and policy of God, the reason is because the sin nature has MADE ITS HOME in the life and wielded a continuous influence.

Some interpreters want to make this word, sin, refer to a sin offering lying at the door, waiting for Cain to grab it and offer it up to God.

There reason for this is that this word for sin is used 91 times in the context of the Mosaic law for a sin offering. This is not a likely meaning since the use of chattAth as a sin offering did not occur until some 2500 years after our present setting, and the use of the word DESIRE and MASTER, has nothing to do with offering an animal sacrifice.

As we continue, we learn of the sin nature, that "its desire is for you." The word, desire, is teshuqAh, and it refers to a very intense, compelling force in the soul. It occurs only three times, and we have already seen its meaning in connection with Genesis 3:16, where it is used to describe the emotional connection and dependence that a woman has for the man whom she loves; an intense, compelling devotion. At The Song of Songs 7:10, it speaks of the intense emotional and compelling devotion of a man toward the woman whom he loves.

In all three cases, there is the idea of OBSESSION and POSSESSIVENESS - two times, good and positive, and one time, harmful and negative.

Its desire is for you, then, communicates the INTENT of the sin nature to control the soul of the person and promote independence from God.

We learn later in Genesis 6:5 and 8:21, that the inclination of man's heart is HARMFUL (evil) from birth. From Proverbs 22:15a, we learn that FOOLISHNESS (creature independence and arrogance) is present in the heart of children, and from Psalm 58:3, that the wicked are ESTRANGED (independent from God) from the moment of birth.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart (dominated by the sin nature) is deceitful and seriously sick (out of alignment with God).

At Mark 7:21-23, we see that from the HEART (controlled by the sin nature) come all the harmful attitudes and actions that are contrary to the righteous standards of God's divine value system.

At Romans 7:14-23, Paul tells us that the hurtful things he does come from THE SIN (nature) that exists in his physical body, and that it is continually waging war against the righteous standards (law) that exist in his mind.

By comparing all these factors, we learn that although the HEART is the means by which evil is EXPRESSED, the INFLUENCE comes from the PHYSICAL mutated mentality genes in THE FLESH, where the sin nature resides.

However, even though this sin nature is a powerful and even DOMINANT influence in everyone's life, there is still the ability in man's soul - his self-consciousness, where there exists the capacity of volition - to resist it. Thus God tells Cain, "but you must master it."

The focus with, "but you," establishes the presence and function of human volition (or free will) and makes Cain responsible for his own decisions. He could GIVE INTO the sin nature influence, as he has already done in reference to this specific issue - or he can resist it and accept the Messianic promise, and begin to follow God's righteous standards. The fact that Cain is an unbeliever, and "of the evil one" (1 John 3:12), does not mean he CANNOT choose for God, for God requests this kind of choice from him - and indeed, from all members of the human race. Jesus put it into perspective when he gave the invitation at John 5:24, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life," and then explained at verse 40, "and you are NOT WILLING to come to me so that you may have life." This was Cain's problem. Yes, the influence from the sin nature was strong, but he was not forced into yielding to it, just as God told him, "but you must master it." The words must master, are from mAshal, as a qal imperfect, which means to rule over or to master. Usually this imperfect tense would be rendered, "but you SHALL rule over it," but the context requires the idea of MUST or SHOULD. Obviously, they cannot both be MASTER of the soul, so in order to prevent the influence of the sin nature from dictating EVERY thought and action in one's life, the self-consciousness is called and upon and able to resist - sometimes, simply from the standpoint of SELF-PRESERVATION. In fact, God's standards (as revealed by God's prophets and from there by societies that have been influenced by God's word) are directed to the free will of man to make such decisions concerning both morality issues and the issue of the gospel.

When we learn about or experience something that is adverse to our personal well-being, quite often we will make adjustments to protect ourselves. There are also moral standards that a society and individuals within that society hold to. This does not make a person sinless or RIGHT with God, but it indicates the function of volition in doing what is deemed as right and proper in a moral context. So also the message of the gospel appeals to the self-preservation mode of our self-consciousness and offers a way of escape from the penalty of sin and the wrath of God. Such an appeal to man's soul PRESUPPOSES an ability to choose the way of escape, and that is what Yahweh is doing with Cain. The mastering of the sin nature, or the RULING OVER of the sin nature refers, then, to the CONSCIOUS resistance of its influence so that a RIGHT and PROPER decision is made, whether it be right moral choices, or the choice to trust in the Messiah. Such a decision in either area, does not remove the presence of the sin nature or its constant influence on the soul, but it simply resists a particular inclination at that moment of time.

Cain leaves the meeting with God, still in ANGER mode and finds his brother. After God rejected him, Cain, still angry, went to Abel to try to solicit some support from him. When Cain came to Abel for support or guidance, whatever might have been his concern, instead of lending any kind of sympathy or support for Cain, Abel gave him a mini bible class and explained, probably as a repetition of previously taught information, what was necessary for proper worship of God, and what was required to qualify as a family priest.

At verse 8, Cain told Abel about God's rejection and all Abel could do was to repeat the gospel and remind him of the animal sacrifice that God had instituted as a teaching aid and as an expression of worship. But Cain's self-centeredness and independence from God, now channeled into burning anger, was so intense that instead of responding in a favorable manner to Abel's teaching, he extended that anger to Abel, and he grabbed that very SACRIFICIAL knife that Abel was using to illustrate the animal sacrifice, and slit his throat, killing him. We know this was the likely scenario because the Genesis narration tells us that Cain went and told his brother, and John tells us that Cain killed Abel with a sacrificial knife at 1 John 3:12, by using the Greek word, sphadzo.

The next concern in the narrative is the accountability that God requires from Cain for the murder of his brother.

At Genesis 4:9a, we read, Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?"

Now, of course, God knew what had happened, but God works in this way with people in order to call them into account so that they might take responsibility for their actions. He did the exact same thing with Adam and Ishah after they had disobeyed God in the garden (Genesis 3:9ff). Cain's answer, by claiming no knowledge, denies personal responsibility, and demonstrates the degree of his creature arrogance and saturation with darkness viewpoint.

Genesis 4:9b, And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

The arrogance of his answer is reflected in his second statement, but in the first statement we have the stupidity of creature arrogance. Creature arrogance refuses to acknowledge the character of God. It rejects His sovereignty, denies His power, and is oblivious to His omniscience. Can you imagine trying to hide something from God? God knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), and the hearts of men lie open to Yahweh (Proverbs 15:11), and Yahweh searches all hearts and understands every inclination of the thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9). But darkness in the soul blinds the mind to spiritual reality (1 John 2:11), and causes unabashed rebellion against God.

At Genesis 4:10-12, God indicts Cain for the murder of Abel and metes out the just penalty according to his own righteous standards.

The initial question, "What have you done," simply rhetorically calls Cain into account for his actions.

Next, the idiom, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground," identifies specifically the act of murder.

Verse 11-12

The punishment upon Cain is twofold.

(1) "And 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 shall no longer yield its strength to you."

The word cursed, is Arar, as a qal passive participle, and is used to indicate that something or someone is under the effects of some kind of negative influence. In this case, God will administer a specific influence that prevents the ground from allowing Cain success in agricultural pursuits. God created and controls the laws of nature, both in general and specifically for individuals, societies and nations (Deuteronomy 28:12, 23-24; Exodus 9:23-26). It is no problem for him to so participate in Cain's life that He could prevent any cultivation success for him.

(2) "you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."

This is the result of having no agricultural success, for he will be forced to wander instead of settling down, and he will have to beg from others or labor for others, or perhaps simply turn to raising domestic animals for a living. The two words used here to describe his nomadic life style are (a) vagrant (nua as a qal active participle), refers to one who totters and wavers as he roams around. This speaks of the uncertainty that would constantly plague Cain as to how he would survive. It also speaks of instability and unreliability.

(b) wanderer (nudh, as a qal active participle), refers to one who just wanders around, not being able to stay in one place too long. Such wandering and instability is not very attractive to others and Cain thinks that he will be vulnerable to the selfishness and disdain of others, and accordingly fears for his life.

In verses 13-14, Cain appeals to God for physical protection, reviewing the 4-fold status of his punishment and suggesting that he will be "open game" for those who think lightly of him. This is a valid concern and probably emanates from the fact that this is how Cain would treat others in the same situation.

"And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is too great to bear! Behold, (1) Thou hast driven me this day from the face of the ground; (2) and from Thy face I shall be hidden, (3) and I shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, (4) and it will come about that whoever finds me will kill me."

Number (2) is the only one that requires special comment. Whereas, prior to this, God would meet with Cain, even though he was an unbeliever, that would never again be something that Cain would experience.

At verse 14, Yahweh gave him the protection he desired.

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, lest anyone finding him should slay him.

The word for sign is OTH, which means some kind of sign, and NOT a MARK, which is the traditional understanding. Notice also, that this sign is FOR Cain (Hebrew Le) and not UPON him. This SIGN was not a darkened skin as some actually believe. The dark skinned peoples arose from Noah's son, Ham, many years after the flood. Nor was it some kind of mark upon his skin (forehead or hand, as some would fantasize), but rather, it was probably the very FACT of his existence that served as a warning to others. God spared Cain, not so much to benefit him, although it was still possible for Cain to recover spiritually and become a believer, but to serve as a warning to others of the severe consequences of sin. For we must recognize that even though Cain's life was spared, he lived in considerable fear and misery until he died - never knowing who might slay him, in spite of God's warning - and forever separated from the wonder of growing things from the ground. It is actually quite impossible to determine with certainty what this sign was, but it was just as certainly known and understood by all the peoples alive at the time, and in fact, even a couple of generations later, knowledge about it was still a part of human society (Genesis 4:24).

So, conversation over, Cain began his years of wandering, taking his wife with him and dwelled in an area east of Eden which became known as the place of wandering - Nod (from the verb, nud).

Verse 16

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Verse 17a

And Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch.

It seems that there is a never-ending wonderment from many as to where Cain got his wife. It is quite simple. It was one of his sisters. The divine regulation against such unions was not given by God until 2500 years later in the law of Moses. The physical danger of procreation between brother and sister was nonexistent at that time, not really becoming a problem until the physical environment changed after the flood, and the harsh rays of the sun began to produce a mutated gene pool.

Verse 17b

and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.

The Hebrew construction here is the qal imperfect/c of hAyAh (and he WAS) plus the qal participle of bAnAh (building), which together is rendered, "and he was building a city," which indicates only the function of building, and not the activity of settling down from his nomadic existence. It was probably for the benefit of his family that he built an enclosed encampment, and not as an attempt to thwart God's curse upon him. The word city (ir) need not refer to any kind of TOWN or METROPOLIS, but simply to a small village which would serve as a semi stable environment for his wife and children. Cain, of course, continued his wandering and SHAKY existence as a man who was never able to find a foothold and settle down.

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İRon Wallace, Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
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