Genesis 4-5: Cain and Abel.

January 12, 2014.

Daily Reading: Genesis 4-5.

Background: Genesis 1-3.

Highlights and Key Concepts:

Chapter 4

1. Obedience is expected from God: The story of Cain and Abel is one of the first instances where we see worship not being accepted by God. The implication from the story and the mention by the Hebrew writer that Abel offered his offering “through faith” (see Hebrews 11:4) was that God had told both Cain and Abel how to conduct these offerings. In the Patriarchal age, God spoke directly to the fathers of the household as can be seen with His conversations with Adam, Cain, Abraham and other father figures in the time before the Mosaic Law came into place. With this knowledge, it is not unreasonable to assume that God spoke to both Cain and Abel, and thus why they would conduct the offering in the first place. From Leviticus 2:12 we can see that though the first fruits of the ground were an acceptable offering to bring to God, they were not to be offered on the alter. Since God is the same today, yesterday and forever, it is reasonable to assume that the first fruits of the ground were still not acceptable to be offered on the alter in the time of Cain and Abel, as it is also reasonable to assume that God told both Cain and Abel this, and thus Abel was abel to offer the firstborn of the flock through faith. We need to recognize that obedience is more pleasing in the sight of God than worship. King Saul had this problem when he offered sacrifice to the Lord (out of impatience) when he was not supposed to. The prophet Samuel told him that to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (see I Samuel 15:21-23). Since Cain was a keeper of the ground, perhaps he thought his offering from the ground would be more sufficient than for what God asked. We need to be sure that our offerings to God are through faith, in that we are obedient to His call, not to our own opinions.

2. God’s love in spite of man’s anger: We often focus on the bad aspects of this story, the part where Cain disobeyed and his offering was not accepted or the fact that it is the first recorded murder, and we miss the story of the love of God that is evident here. When the two brother’s go to offer their offerings to the Lord, the Lord accepts Abel’s and rejects Cain’s; but notice how God approaches the situation. When Cain got angry, God came to him and asked why he was angry. He didn’t strike him down for the unaccepted offering nor did He scold him harshly. He comes to Cain and He cares about him, telling him the fact of the situation. If you do well, your offering will be accepted. Then He gives Cain the encouragement to rule over the sin that desired to overtake him. Yet Cain doesn’t take this advice to do better next time, but his anger and no doubt jealousy leads him to murder his brother. Even after this, however, the Lord does not immediately strike him down and condemn him. Yes, the Lord punishes Cain by cursing the ground from which he got his livelihood, but when Cain appeals that his punishment is too harsh and that anyone who finds him will kill him (there were no cities of refuge at this time, nor would they have helped a man who purposely killed his brother, see Numbers 35:6-34), God grants a protection to Cain so that none would avenge Abel’s death. He even puts a warning on anyone who would kill Cain, that vengeance on them would be sevenfold. We might not know all the details of what went on in conversation between Cain and God, but it would seem that Cain was repentant of what he had done, at least to some extent, and the Lord showed His steadfast love and mercy to Cain. Cain did not deserve to live for what he had done, but the Lord granted this gift to him anyway. In the same way, we do not deserve the grace and mercy of our Lord due to our unrighteousness (see Romans 3-4), but Jesus came to die for us anyway. We do not need to forget that though we are often hard on Cain, we are like Cain in many ways.

3. The practice of justifying one’s actions: It is interesting to note that here in the fourth chapter of Genesis we find the first recorded instance of someone using their own reasoning to justify their actions. In verse 23-24, Lamech calls to his two wives and says that he has killed a young man for wounding him. Then he says “if Cain’s vengeance is sevenfold, then Lamech’s vengeance is seventy-sevenfold.” It is apparent that Lamech saw is actions as justified, for the young man that he had killed had wounded him first. Thus, Lamech was right to take his life as it was perhaps even self defense. Or so he thought. Notice that God doesn’t issue this decree as He did for Cain earlier, but Lamech makes a point to call his wives so that he might have someone to tell of his excuse and justification. How often do we do the same things in our lives. We can easily see the sin of others, but the sin we commit isn’t really that bad, or it may even be necessary. We have a tendency, just like Lamech, to justify our actions. It is ironic how unchanged our mindsets are over thousands of years, because in order to feel justified, we often feel the need to tell other people why we are justified in our actions in hopes that they will indeed validate our feelings. This is likely the reason that Lamech called his two wives to tell them this. We need to be careful with our own justifications, as it is so easy of a mindset to fall into.

Chapter 5

Walking with God: There are two characters in the bible that did not see physical death, Enoch and Elijah (see II Kings 2:1-14). Both characters were prophets of the Lord (see Jude 1:14-16 for Enoch mentioned as a prophet) and both seemed to have been very faithful. A high complement is paid to Enoch in this chapter, saying that Enoch walked with God. Unfortunately, Enoch is one of the lost stories as we simply don’t know all that much about his life before he was taken by God. We know that he was very faithful and pleased God from the Hebrew writer (see Hebrews 11:5) and there is a Jewish tradition that ascribes a book as have been written by Enoch (referenced in Jude 1:14-16), that was excluded from the biblical cannon because it was not considered inspired by most of Christian thought. Regardless, Enoch was sure to have been a very interesting character and a strong spiritual leader for the people in his day. He would be a good role model for us to live up to. It is interesting to note that Enoch’s son, Methuselah, was the oldest person to live (at least by actual years on earth).

Summaries, Lessons and Connections:

Chapter 4

v. 1-7: Adam and Eve had a child that they named Cain who was a worker of the ground, and then another child they named Abel who was a keeper of the flock. They both brought forth an offering from what they knew best, but only Abel’s offering was accepted. Abel is said to have offered through faith in Hebrews 11:4, thus it would seem that God had told each of the brothers how to offer sacrifice. See note above about obedience.

v. 8-16: Cain’s anger and jealousy lead him to kill his brother, marking the first recorded murder in history. When the Lord confronts him about it, he says the iconic phrase “Am I my brothers keeper?” But God knows all and His question wasn’t for the purpose of gathering information, but rather to give an opportunity to Cain to admit what he did. God curses the ground from which Cain gets his food and sets Cain as a wanderer and fugitive on the earth. When Cain says that his punishment is too great and states his fear of other men who will want to kill him because of the blood of Abel, God puts a mark on Cain so that all men would know not to kill him, lest vengeance come upon them seven fold. See note above about God’s love.

v. 17-22: This sections reveals a short, relatively detailed genealogy of Adam and Eve. It is interesting what is included as the legacy of some of the early people, such as the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock and the father of those who play musical instruments (and even another who was the father of those who forge the instruments of bronze and iron). There were likely many other children that each of these men bore (as is apparent in chapter 5) that are not mentioned here or even elsewhere in scripture.

v. 23-26: Lamech becomes the second recorded man to shed the blood of another man in the bible (see note above about justification). Then the Adam and Eve have a child that Eve sees as the replacement for Abel, naming him Seth to denote that he was appointed to her by God. It is in these days that the children of men began to “call upon the name of the Lord,” which was probably a reference to ascribing deity to His name and beginning to style a more formalized worship to Him.

Chapter 5

Adam’s descendants to Noah (“Child Bearing Age” denotes the age at which they had the child that is listed below):

Name (son of above) Child Bearing Age Full Age
Adam 130 930
Seth 150 912
Enosh 90 905
Kenan 70 910
Mahalalel 65 895
Jared 162 962
Enoch 65 n/a
Methuselah 187 969
Lamech 182 777
Noah 500 950

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 6-10.

Stand strong in the Lord.

-Walter

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