Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1 – 4:26)
Cain and Abel
Eve gave birth to a son she named Cain. Later, Eve gave birth to a second son that she named Abel. As Cain and Abel grew, they each chose occupations to pursue. Cain became a farmer while Abel tended to animals such as goats and sheep.
To show their love for God, people in biblical times often presented “offerings” to God in order to demonstrate their willingness to sacrifice. As an offering, Cain brought fruits and vegetables to give to God. To Cain, an offering was nothing more than another chore. When Cain presented his offering to God, God did not approve of it.
Abel on the other hand, took some of the best animals from his flock and gave them to God as an offering. Abel went out of his way to please God and as such, God was pleased with Abel’s offering.
When God refused Cain’s offering, he explained to Cain that he must always do what was right, even when doing the right thing was hard to do. God told Cain that if he always did the right thing, everything would turn out good for him. Rather than trying to understand why God refused his offering and follow the advice that God offered him, Cane became angry and jealous of his brother. Cain was envious of Abel yet unwilling to do what was right to get back into God’s good grace. Cain decided to kill Abel.
Shortly after, God noticed that Abel was missing and asked Cain where his brother was. Of course, God knew that Cain had killed Abel. Cain said that he did not know and retorted, “Am I supposed to watch him like a baby?” God told Cain, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”, revealing that he knew the truth, that Abel had been murdered.
God told Cain that from this time forward, Cain’s attempts at farming would fail and Cain would have to wander aimlessly over the Earth looking for a place to plant his crops. Cain was afraid. He could not stay in one place because his crops would not grow but if he travelled all over the place, he had to fear someone killing him to avenge Abel’s death.
For the second time, rather than correcting the wrong or recognizing that the punishment he was receiving was a result of his own actions, Cain complained to God that the punishment was too severe. Cain pleaded to God, explaining to him that others would be angry at him and that they would kill him. Despite his evil deed, God still loved Cain so he placed a special mark on Cain so that anyone who saw him would know to not harm him. Cain eventually settled in a place called Nod and had a son named Enoch.
Adam and Eve’s loss of Abel surely caused them great pain. They eventually had a son that they named Seth. Eve was happy and felt that the Lord had blessed her with another son to replace Abel. One of Seth’s descendants would be a man named Noah.
What the story means to us today
Cain’s murder of Abel was a horrific act. It was premeditated and was based on envy and jealousy. Cain didn’t just kill a stranger, he killed his own brother. And once it was done, he lied and joked about it.
The story of Cain and Abel demonstrates that there is good and bad in the world. We all do bad things at times but we must recognize that if we do something bad, we will be held accountable for it. If we do something wrong, we must recognize what we did and do the right thing to correct it. Biblical stories repeat the theme over and over – sin disrupts the relations between God and human beings.
The story shows us that it is dangerous to carry grudges and harbor bitter feelings against others, as Cain did with Abel. Jealousy and bitterness can easily lead to more sinful acts.
The story also serves as a warning against harboring ill feelings towards others. It’s easy to imagine that Cain killed Abel a hundred times in his mind before he actually committed the act of murdering his brother.
Cain sinned and then lied about it – to God! Often one sin leads to another. Doing one small bad thing can often lead to doing even worse things later.
It is also important to recognize that just as God showed compassion for Adam and Eve by clothing them before sending them from the Garden of Eden, God showed compassion and love towards Cain by marking him so that no further harm would come to him. God is a god of judgment, and love.
Additional thoughts and considerations
It is unclear why God did not accept Cain’s offering, whether it was because Cain did not freely give, because the offering was an offering of fruits and not meat, or if God simply rejected Cain because he was sinful. All the Bible tells us is that God was unhappy with the offering, but not why.
Some may question why God accepted one offering but rejected the other. There are two points of thought on this. Firstly, it is surmised that God rejected Cain’s offering because it was not an animal offering. This theory is often discounted because in later years, the Laws of Moses prescribed offerings of grain and fruit, demonstrating that offerings of this type were perfectly acceptable to God.
Others believe that God did not reject Cain’s offering because of what he offered but rather rejected the offering because of Cain himself – he was not right with God.
The most popular belief is that Abel brought the best of his flock (the firstborn) while Cain just brought what he had on hand at the time. The amount of sacrifice each brother was willing to accept was much less for Cain than it was for Abel.
Note that the story of Cain and Abel demonstrates the ever present struggle between good and evil. It is useful to note the similarities and differences in Adam and Eve’s sin and Cain’s sinful actions. Adam had to be persuaded to sin while Cain could not be dissuaded from sinning, even by God himself. Also, Adam told the truth about his sin while Cain lied and made a joke about it. Finally, Adam accepted God’s judgment in silence and respect while Cain argued with God and refused to accept responsibility. The character differences between Adam and Cain are apparent.
This biblical chapter goes on to discuss the descendants of Cain and Seth. Cain’s descendants were noted for city building, music, and metal working while Seth (Adam and Eve’s other son) had a more holy line of descendants (e.g. Noah).
4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. b She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print.
Adam slept with Eve his wife. She conceived and had Cain. She said, “I’ve gotten a man, with GOD’s help!”
2 Then she had another baby, Abel. Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer.
3 Time passed. Cain brought an offering to GOD from the produce of his farm. 4 Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. GOD liked Abel and his offering, 5 but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.
6 GOD spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? 7 If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.”
8 Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at Abel his brother and killed him.
9 GOD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?”
10 GOD said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me from the ground. 11 From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. 12 You’ll farm this ground, but it will no longer give you its best. You’ll be a homeless wanderer on Earth.”
13 Cain said to GOD, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! 14 You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15 GOD told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” GOD put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
16 Cain left the presence of GOD and lived in No-Man’s-Land, east of Eden.
Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.
The NET Bible
4:1 Now the man had marital relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. Then she said, “I have created a man just as the LORD did!” 4:2 Then she gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel took care of the flocks, while Cain cultivated the ground.
4:3 At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to the LORD. 4:4 But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock—even the fattest of them. And the LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering, 4:5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast.
4:6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why is your expression downcast? 4:7 Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”
4:8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” And he replied, “I don’t know! Am I my brother’s guardian?” 4:10 But the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! 4:11 So now, you are banished from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 4:12 When you try to cultivate the
ground it will no longer yield its best for you. You will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” 4:13 Then Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to endure! 4:14 Look! You are driving me off the land today, and I must hide from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth; whoever finds me will kill me.” 4:15 But the LORD said to him, “All right then, if anyone kills Cain, Cain will be avenged seven times as much.” Then the LORD put a special mark on Cain so that no one who found him would strike him down. 4:16 So Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press, 2006. Print.
King James Version
4 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD. 2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 4 And 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: 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7 If 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. 8 And 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. 9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? 10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. 11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; 12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.