We may not realize that sin is a crime against God. Sin is lawlessness (1Jn 3:4); that is, it does not accept or live by any law that governs society, or that establishes what is good and what is evil. It is disobedience and rebellion against God and His Word. (Is 1:18-20) It began with Lucifer, now the Devil, and he brought it into Eve and Adam. Sin separates us from God our Father. (Is 59:2) Yeshua came to destroy the works of the devil, and to restore us to a relationship with God, knowing His holiness and righteousness, His goodness, His love. (1Jn 3:8)
Adam and Eve together sewed fig leaves to cover their shame of being naked. God did not accept man’s imperfect and inadequate attempt to hide their shame and guilt. God provided both of them skins of an animal – blood was apparently shed by an innocent substitute, whose life was given – as a covering to keep His eternal righteous judgment ‘on hold’, while in mercy He provided temporal redemption. Man, in our imperfection, does not want fellowship with the perfect and holy God.
When Adam sinned by disobeying God in eating the forbidden fruit, both he and his wife knew that something was wrong: there was now a knowledge of good and evil, which they had not known before. There had been only good. Sin was awakened in Man, and redemption becomes necessary. YHVH did know what evil would be, and how it would show itself. God is good.
Knowing evil is not what we want to know! We want to know what is pleasing to God. (1Cor 14:20) We are always tempted to choose what is not God’s will, to choose not to listen to and obey the LORD. God does not allow man with his sinful tendency to live forever in that state. God cast out Adam and Eve from His garden. When we recognize that God does judge sin, then it will put in us a desire to seek God’s mercy and redemption – even if our hearts are still hardened against Him, like we will see in Cain.
Gen 4:1 Adam intimately knew his wife, in obedience to God’s first commandment to be fruitful and multiply! It seems that while in the Garden of Eden, that they did not “know” each other; it also seems, because of that commandment, that they must not have been very long in the Garden before the serpent came to Eve. Eve understood that YHVH helped her acquire Cain, their son. God helps us when we obey Him.
v 2 Eve had another son, Abel. Cain worked in agriculture; Abel was a shepherd.
v 3-4 God’s ultimate redemption requires the blood of an acceptable sacrifice, which the sinner accepts. Man’s attempts to justify himself and to excuse our sins will not be accepted by God. Cain gave what he found near him of what was his and what was of his work: some plants, or fruit, or vegetables. Abel brought a select gift: he chose the best of what was his and of what held value to him, and it required the shedding of blood. God accepted (the Hebrew word is “yeesha”, similar to “save”) Abel and his offering. It is not written here if either of these offerings by Cain or Abel were for sin, or simply maybe what we call a tithe.
v 5 Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell (changed its appearance in anger), because God rejected (the Hebrew word has the same root as used for Abel’s acceptance) him and his offering. Cain had offered an imperfect and unacceptable sacrifice, like the fig leaves that Adam and Eve had used. Cain did not ask the LORD what he could offer that would satisfy Him.
v 6-7 God did not want to completely reject Cain, and offered him the chance to make good – to do what God wanted. But Cain stubbornly refused, which is idolatry. (1Sam 15:22-23) This is the “way of Cain”, which Jude writes about in his epistle. This “way” is characterized by those who know who God is, unjustly hate the ‘innocent’, refuse to feel any remorse over it, stubbornly do not repent when given the opportunities by God for acceptance by Him, seek their own righteousness by their works, and blame their suffering and punishment on those they envy, even on God.
Sin has a strong desire for us, even as does the woman for her man. We must rule over sin in our lives, if we want the blessing that comes with that; just as a wife must allow her husband to rule over her properly in order for God’s order and peace. (Gen 3:16; Rom 6) And the grace of God has come to help us! We need a blood sacrifice to appreciate the cost of our sin, but animals are not adequate to affect our conscience. We need the blood of the Son of God, Yeshua, and to apply His blood to our hearts, minds, eyes, ears, tongues. If we do not rule over sin in our lives, the enemy will rule over our life: sin will wait for us at our door, and one sin will lead to another sin, and so on, until and unless we confess our sin and repent of it, choosing instead to do what is good in God’s sight.
Am I/we going to be changed by the Word of God, or am I going to continue to do things my way? This question is always before us as we live in this body in this world.
v 8-9 Cain talked with his brother, very possibly about what God had said to him, and then he murdered his righteous brother. When God confronted Cain, Cain was still angry with God. He tried to justify himself and conceal his guilt. But YHVH knows everything, even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts! And we are our brother’s keeper, which fulfills our relationship in a family, and also that we must love our fellow man as ourselves (even though the Law had not yet come in).
v 10-16 God says to Cain that the blood of his brother Abel cries out to Him from the ground. It cries out vengeance, justice. This is similar to the cry of the saints under the altar asking God until when will He judge and avenge their blood on those who dwell upon the Earth?! (Rev 6:9-11) Praise God that the blood of Jesus cries out better things than the blood of Abel: it cries out forgiveness and salvation for all who repent and believe! (Heb 12:24) Remember: Genesis is the seed-bed and roots of all history afterwards, and of God’s plan and hope for the redemption of sinful people is built into His story.
Cain felt that his iniquity was too great to bear (or, to be taken away/forgiven) (v 13 in Hebrew). There is a weight of iniquity; and if we do not give it over to God in His manner, we will have to carry our own iniquity — and die with it. There is also a weight of glory, and Yeshua says that His burden is light. YHVH did not kill Cain for taking another’s life. (This law of retribution only came in after the Flood.) Cain was cast out into a wandering exile; outside the immediate presence of the LORD, which concerned Cain, even though he did not want to submit to His righteousness and grace; and he believed that whoever saw him would kill him. (There would have been other extended family members by that time, who may have wanted to avenge Abel’s murder.) Once again, it is Cain who is acting like the “poor victim”, although he is the unrepentant sinner and murderer! And, once again, God showed that He is merciful and does not delight in the death of the wicked. The first murder in history was a result of religious envy: God accepted Abel and his offering; God rejected Cain and his.
God put a mark on Cain to protect him from being killed, and God promised to avenge Cain seven times should he be killed for his murder of Abel. God prefers forgiveness and redemption over vengeance and death. What a great God we have! Then Cain went out from the presence of YHVH, and settled in Nod, east of Eden. Sin separates us from God.
v 17-22 Cain knew his wife, and they gave birth to Enoch. Cain built a city and named it after the name of his son. God is also building a city, the New Jerusalem, which is only for the children of God in Christ to live in forever. (Heb 11:8-10; Rev 21) Cain’s wife would have been one of his sisters, or cousins, or nieces. We do not know their ages. Until the Law (Torah) of Moses about 2600 years later, this was permissible. In these very early years of humanity, there was civilization: we have not only murder, but also agriculture; the beginning of nomadic life in tents and tending of livestock; musical instruments; mining and craftmanship of bronze and iron. We also have bigamy (polygamy). These all came through Cain and through his descendants – both the evil and the good.
v 23-24 Lamech, a descendant of Cain, is the first man to take more than one woman as his wife. Although there was not any law against it, nonetheless it was not the example or pattern which God established in the beginning of one man and one wife. (Gen 2:18-25; Mk 10:6-8;Eph 5:31-33) Lamech also calls his two wives together to inform them that he has killed a boy who injured him. Was this self-defense; or was it an excessive reaction of a grown man towards a younger person who somehow hurt him? In any event, Lamech is aware that YHVH had promised to avenge Cain seven times if anyone sought to avenge Abel’s murder against him. Yet Lamech presumptuously and intimidatingly claims for himself that he would be avenged 70×7 (or maybe 77) times if anyone sought to retaliate against him! Jesus tells us to forgive anyone 70×7 times if we have been sinned against. (Mt 18:21-22) The New Covenant brings in a higher realm of justice: love your enemy; and vengeance belongs to YHVH. (Dt 32:35-36; Rom 12:17-21)
v 25-26 Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, after Abel’s death by Cain. Then Seth had a son, named Enosh, which means “mortal man; frail”. Then people began to call upon the name of YHVH. In the fear of the true God and Judge, mortal man began to worship Him by name. Moses gives us many names of people in Gen 4 – 5. God, who created the heavens and the Earth and the seas, and all that is in them, also has a name: YEHOVAH. God continues His plan of redemption, which He purposed before time began, in the reality of sin and death. Praise God that He has become our Father through knowing Him personally because we know Jesus! And God knows us!
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)
There is sin/crime; there is punishment. And there is the hope of redemption — in the way of YHVH, not in the way of Cain, nor of Lamech.
We have in ch 4 of the first book of the Bible the core essence of the religious spirits which motivate and distinguish those who profess to know God (there is nothing new under the sun):
–New Testament Christianity: knowing God the Father and His Son; faith based upon the shed blood of Yeshua’s sacrificial death on the cross to satisfy God’s righteous wrath and His love, forgiving our sins and accepting us fully as sons in Messiah’s death and resurrection. God justifies us by our faith in Yeshua/Jesus and His sacrifice for us and our sins. (Heb 11:4)
–Islam: denies the Father and the Son; self-righteousness; multiple wives; knows that God has shown mercy to the Jews and to Christians; yet a vengeful spirit based on rejection, which is used to kill, and to intimidate others not to challenge their beliefs and actions
“Surely I am coming quickly”. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah be with you all”.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, May 10, 2019, and reposted with permission.