Gen 4:1-7                              Cain and Abel                                              11/12/2017   ßà   





#1.      The Sacrifice (Gen 4:1-7, 3:24, Heb 4:12)









#2.      The Difference Between the Two Sacrifices (Gen 4:4-5, Heb 9:22, Gen 3:17, Job 14:4)









#3.      Cain’s Response (Gen 4:6-8, 2Tim 3:5, Rom 3:20, Jam 1:14-15)








Please open your Bibles to the prophecy of Genesis, Gen 4:1 (2X). Today I want to begin a new series on Genesis. Four years ago, from April 2003 to July 2003, I preached 10 sermons on Gen 2 and 3. That should be sufficient for Gen 2 and 3. You can always find it on the Internet if you desire to look at those references. But today I would like to continue that work on Genesis and start a new series beginning with the story of Cain and Abel in Gen 4. The title of this sermon is very simply, Cain and Abel (2X). Today I would like to introduce to you the two sons of Adam and Eve:

Ge 4:1-2  And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.         And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Ge 4:3-5  And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.    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:        But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

Ge 4:6  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

Ge 4:7  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.

The firstborn son of Adam and Eve was Cain. Eve named him Cain, which means “A Possession, or A Spear”, for she said, “I have gotten a possession from the Lord”. Adam and Eve expected great things from Cain; he was their pride and joy for he was their firstborn. Cain was the one in whom they have put all their hopes for a glorious future. On the other hand, they did not expect much from their second son, for Eve called him Abel, which literally means “A Breath, or A Vanity”. But God valued Abel more than his elder brother Cain. And this was a pattern that would be repeated many times. Think for example of the two brothers Ishmael and Isaac of which Ishmael was the firstborn, and of the twin brothers Esau and Jacob of which Esau was the firstborn, and of the twin brothers Zerah and Pharez of which Zerah was the firstborn, and of the two brothers Manasseh and Ephraim of which Manasseh was the firstborn, and of the two brothers Aaron and Moses of which Aaron was the firstborn, and so on. Think of the firstborn of King David, which was the wicked Amnon. God may have greater plans for the second son than for the first one. But in those cases where the firstborn receives the greater blessings we need to keep in mind that it is God who defines the term firstborn. In God’s eyes the one who is a child of God is called “firstborn”. God said in Ex 4:22, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn”, where the name “Israel” can refer to Jacob (technically the second son of Isaac) or to Christ who is also called Israel and who is Jehovah’s Firstborn Son. In Heb 12:23 God says, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven”, where the Greek text says literally, “church of the firstborn ones having been enrolled in heaven”. There in Heb 12:23 all the saints are called “firstborn”. Since Christ is called the Firstborn, all those who belong to Christ are also called after Him, the firstborn, for He is the Bridegroom of the body of believers who belong to Him, and thus they are named after Him.

Here in Gen 4:1 we see in Cain the effect of the curse, which God pronounced upon Eve in Gen 3:16. Please turn one page to your left to Gen 3:16 (2X). There we read, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception”. Paraphrased God says, “I will greatly increase thy sorrow and I will greatly increase thy conception”. In other words God says to Eve: In addition to those who are children of God you will also bring forth many descendants who will bring you great sorrows, for they are not children of God. You have started sin, and now like leprosy, sin contaminates, and spreads, and causes very great sorrows, and death. It generates people who have no fear of God before their eyes. It generates people who shall cause great sorrow throughout all the earth.

#1.      The Sacrifice (Gen 4:1-7, 3:24, Heb 4:12)

What is the central truth here in Gen 4:1-7? The central truth is that God must be worshipped, and that God must be worshipped through sacrifice, and that God must be worshipped in faith, and that God must be worshipped in a manner that He has prescribed and not in a way that we may invent on our own. Let us consider the sacrifices that Cain and Abel brought to God in the light of what we have already seen in Gen 3. There is a close connection between Gen 3 and Gen 4.

First of all there was a place where God was to be worshipped. Look for a moment at Gen 3:24.

Ge 3:24  So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Literally the Hebrew Masoretic text says:

Ge 3:24  So he drove out the man; and he caused to dwell at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword whirling around, to guard the way of the tree of life.

The cherubim, the plural of Cherub, are not an order of angels as is being taught in so many churches, but from the prophecy of Ezekiel we understand that the cherubim are a representation of God as the Judge. Therefore the literal translation of Gen 3:24 tells us that after God drove out the man and his wife out of the Garden, and  God dwelt there at the east of the Garden of Eden, God jealously guarded the way of the Tree of Life. Why did God guard the way of the Tree of Life? God did not want the man and his wife to help themselves of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This is something that God will give to whom God delights to give it, but it is not something that man can take of his own accord. From all that we can gather out of the Bible concerning the Tree of Life we understand that the Tree of Life was a memorial to what God has done for our salvation. Therefore the flaming sword whirling around is representing the Word of God. We can see immediately that we must understand this verse in a spiritual sense, for what else does it mean that there are many Cherubim but only one flaming sword? God specifies a specific sword. Definitely this sword is the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, as we find it in Heb 4:12. And it is whirling around pointing in every direction to confuse those for whom it is not given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven. God is jealously guarding the way of the Tree of Life, for God is guarding the purity of the Gospel of salvation. And what is the central truth of the Gospel? The central truth is Christ crucified. Therefore in this picture of Gen 3:24 God is letting us know that He jealously guards the meaning of Christ crucified, for this is the way of salvation. In a different metaphor we may say that God established a mercy seat there at the east entrance to the Garden, and that God jealously protected admission to His mercy seat, for whoever would worship at His mercy seat must approach God by way of an appropriate sacrifice. But as a tie in to chapter 4, God was also letting Adam and Eve know that He personally dwelt there at the east of the Garden of Eden, at the entrance to the Garden.

How did Cain and Abel know that they had to bring a sacrifice to God? Their parents told them, and their parents also told them the place where God dwelt, there at the entrance to the Garden. We read in Gen 4:3 that “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground”. And likewise in Gen 4:4 “Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. Where did they bring it to? They brought their offerings to a particular place where they expected God to see what they had brought. And God specifically mentioned the fat that Abel brought, which suggests that there was an altar upon which the sacrifice was offered and upon which the fat was to be burned. Where did they bring it to? Where did they each build an altar to bring their offerings? The only place suggested by the Bible was a location at the east of the entrance to the Garden of Eden, for there they believed God was present. And from the words of Gen 4:16, “Cain went out from the presence of the Lord”, we conclude that this place of worship was a place where they entered in and from where they went out.

Secondly, not only was there a definite place of worship, but there was also a certain appointed time for worship. We read in Gen 4:3,

Ge 4:3-5  And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

And in the process of time” is a very liberal translation, but it indicates a time reference. A more literal translation would be, “And in the end of days”. You can check this out on your computer. But a literal end of days would not fit the context, for in this passage we are not at the end of the world, but at the beginning. And so, when we search these early chapters of Genesis for such a time reference, the only possibility is that God indicated here the seventh day Sabbath. For we read in Gen 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day, and set it apart”. If there would be any preferred day that God wanted to be worshipped in a formal sense it must have been on the seventh day Sabbath. This truth is well supported in the Ceremonial Law given to Moses many years later. And so, we can conclude that Adam and Eve taught their children very well about the things God has disclosed to them, and it was pleasing to God that He would be worshipped on the seventh day Sabbath. We must remember, however that this was written in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, which started after Christ died on the cross, God clearly changed this day from the seventh day Sabbath, which is Saturday, to the first day Sabbath, which is Sunday.

Thirdly, not only did Adam and Eve instruct their children that there was a place where God could be found, and not only did they instruct their children to formally worship God at a certain time, but they also instructed them of the means of their formal worship. Please turn in your Bibles way back in the New Testament to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 11:4 (2X). God could only be approached and worshipped by means of sacrifice. Neither Cain nor Abel would have known anything abut sacrifices unless sacrifices have been definitely taught by their parents as something that pleases God. And today we know that we can only approach God through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf. There is no other way to God than through the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Heb 11:4,

Heb 11:4 ¶  By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

Therefore we must come to God in faith, trusting in the atoning work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. How did Abel know of this faith? God says in Rom 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. It was by faith and not accidentally that Abel brought his offering to God. He had heard from his parents that God required a sacrifice, he believed, and he followed up his faith by action, believing that this was truly pleasing to God. Keep one finger in Heb 11:4 and let us compare this passage with Gen 4:4, and let us now see if we can detect the difference between Cain’s sacrifice and Abel’s sacrifice.

#2.      The Difference Between the Two Sacrifices (Gen 4:4-5, Heb 9:22, Gen 3:17, Job 14:4)

Here are two brothers. They grew up in the same household. They both were under the same preaching from their father Adam. They both went to worship God in the same place, and therefore, metaphorically speaking, they both attended the same church and were under the same spiritual influences. Yet one turned out to be a murderer, always in rebellion against God, whereas the other is called righteous by God. How could this come to pass? Well, this came to pass because salvation is all by grace. God is a sovereign God. The salvation of Abel was a gift from God, because before the foundation of the world God already decided that He would give to Abel the righteousness of Christ. And God did not plan to give this righteousness to Cain, for the unrighteousness of Cain fulfilled a purpose in the plan of God. Therefore, when someone gets saved that person should be eternally grateful to God for this great gift of salvation. We must always remember how great this salvation is, and never complain to God for not saving the other person who remains unsaved. Remember that God easily could have reversed His choices, and He could have passed us by, leaving us in our own sins, and leaving us to pay for our own sins under the eternal wrath of God. When we look at the two brothers, Cain and Abel, up to this point there is nothing to indicate that Cain was the worst man of the two. Cain was not an infidel, or an atheist. Cain was ready to acknowledge the existence of God, and he was prepared to worship God. But he wanted to worship God after his own fashion: Cain brought of the fruit of the ground as an offering unto the Lord. Was that so bad? Let us look at this.

First of all, Cain’s offering was a bloodless offering, and God told us in Heb 9:22, “and without shedding of blood is no remission”. Secondly, Cain’s offering was of the fruit of the ground. In other words, Cain’s offering was the product of his own labors; it was the work of his own hands, and God does not want the product of our own hands; God wants us to offer Him the product of His hands. Thirdly, Cain ignored the Divine sentence recorded in Gen 3:17, where God said, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake”. Nevertheless he brought an offering that came out of that cursed ground. Can anything clean come out of an unclean? God says in Job 14:4, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one”. And so, there is definitely something wrong with Cain’s offering. We should not say that Cain’s offering was not accepted because his heart was not right with God. Even though this might be true, God does not state this here in Gen 4:4-5, and thus we may not speculate about this. But there was definitely something wrong with the offering that Cain brought. Now let us look at:

Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” and in order to do this Abel had to sacrifice “the firstlings of his flock”. In other words Abel brought to God the best of his flock, more than one, for the firstlings refer to more than one sheep. He had to take the life of the innocent sheep, their blood had to be shed, and their fat he separated to burn as fuel upon the altar that he had made. God the Holy Spirit testified of Abel in Heb 11:4 that “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain”. God does not state in Heb 11:4 that Abel was more excellent than Cain, but that the offering which he presented was more excellent and more pleasing to God than the offering of Cain. And thus we have here a statement from God the Holy Spirit that there was something wrong with the bloodless offering of Cain. The next thing we learn from Gen 4:4 is that “The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering”. What does this mean? God says in Heb 11:4, “God testifying of his gifts”. What does that mean? It means that God demonstrated by a sign or a wonder that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable unto God. How did God do that? When we search the Bible for a particular sign from God whereby God shows to all mankind His approval of the offering that is placed before Him, every time God shows His approval with fire from heaven out of a clear blue sky that consumed the sacrifice. Therefore we conclude that God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering was by fire coming down from heaven. And then we read in Gen 4:5, “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect”. Cain’s offering might have been a very beautiful offering. Perhaps he selected the best fruits that he could find. Perhaps it cost him no little toil and labor, and perhaps Cain felt in his heart that he deserved a better treatment from God. But God did not show Cain that God was pleased with his offering. There was no fire from heaven to consume the offering as proof of God’s acceptance. And Cain was furious that all his labors were plainly rejected by God. But what actually was the case? Cain was angry that he could not approach and worship God according to the imaginations of his own mind. You see, Cain ignored the instructions of his parents.

Back in Gen 3:21 God taught Adam and Eve a lesson in worship. God wrote there in Gen 3:21,

Ge 3:21,  Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

By clothing Adam and Eve with coats of animal skin, God showed Adam and Eve that in order for a guilty sinner to approach a holy God he needed a suitable covering. And the necessary covering could only be obtained by shedding of blood of an innocent substitute. Death is the wages of sin. And thus the death of a substitute must be presented when man wants to approach God. Undoubtedly Adam taught his children this lesson. Abel believed and by faith he offered unto God the offering that should be brought, as he heard it from his parents. But Cain reasoned in his mind that he knew better. He was going to bring an offering that looked more beautiful for it was not messed up with blood. Blood sacrifices are messy, and smelly, and cause a lot of pain, and attract flies. Death is so horrible. Cain brought an offering that was looking very nice and clean and much more sophisticated. And is that not what we hear also today from many people who think they know better. They read the Bible, and they are disgusted with the slaughterhouse mentality of the Old Testament. They look at all the blood that the Lord Jesus shed and they consider that He was a victim of the murderous Scribes and Pharisees who in their envy brought Him to the cross. All these bloody sacrifices strike them as uncouth and barbaric traditions of superstitious men. Now they know better. Now in this age they are more sophisticated, and more civilized, and they will not worship a God who demands blood and death and Hell for the wages of sin. Such a barbaric image does not conform to their image of God. You see, unless the darkened mind of man is enlightened by God the Holy Spirit, the human heart will rebel against the idea that it is impossible to approach God except through a bloody sacrifice. The natural man in his pride and self-righteousness hates the idea of substitution for sin and atonement worse than he hates the Devil. But this was the situation between the faithful sacrifice of Abel and the self-righteous sacrifice of Cain. Let us now look at Cain’s response.

#3.      Cain’s Response (Gen 4:6-8, 2Tim 3:5, Rom 3:20, Jam 1:14-15)

Ge 4:6  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

The condition of Cain’s heart was now revealed by his anger toward God, because God refused his offering. His view of worship was like so many today who will worship God only up to a certain point. They have “a form of godliness, but are denying the power thereof” (2Tim 3:5). They will only worship God in their mode of worship, as far as it agrees to their opinion of what God requires from them, but no further. God cannot be asking that we believe everything that we find in the Bible. This Book is just too barbaric. And then God says to Cain in Gen 4:7,

Ge 4:7  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.

This is a difficult verse. The Hebrew word for “sin” in this verse has been translated “sin” 182 times, and it has been translated “sin-offering” 116 times. Could this word here in Gen 4:7 refer to a sin-offering? The answer is NO! In this verse this word must be translated “sin” and it cannot be translated “sin-offering”, for the Bible says that there was no sin-offering before Moses. God says in Rom 3:20, “By the Law is the knowledge of sin”. It was the Law which convicted men of sin and of their need of a sin-offering. Therefore there was no sin-offering before the Law was given. Before Moses these offerings were called “burnt-offerings”. Let us then focus on the meaning of verse 7.

The words “If thou doest well” undoubtedly refer to the bringing of an acceptable offering to the Lord. And in the case that Cain would be willing to do this, God asks, “Shalt thou not be accepted?” Or a more literal translation would be, “Shalt thou not have the excellency?” In other words, “If you are bringing an acceptable offering to the Lord, shall you not be honored with the right of the firstborn over Abel?” From these words we infer the following scenario: Cain and Abel were presenting their offerings unto the Lord simultaneously. Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s offering was rejected. Probably Cain reasoned from this that there would most likely be a change in the order of the rights of the firstborn, so that his younger brother should become his ruler. Therefore Cain was extremely angry. The Hebrew text says “Cain glowed greatly”. 

And then God says, “But if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door”, literally “sin is crouching at the door”. It means, “If you refuse to bring the acceptable offering, sin is crouching like a wild beast at the door, and is ready to pounce on you and devour you”. Cain was glowing with anger, and Cain was ready to kill his younger brother, rather than to submit to him, for Cain intended to be first at all costs. Believing that he had already lost the first place and privilege of the firstborn, and refusing to bring sacrifices until he had brought the acceptable sacrifice according to God’s requirements, and fearing that Abel would now be his ruler, he decided that rather than to submit to this he would kill his brother. Does God know the murderous thoughts of Cain? Absolutely Yes! And God solemnly warns him of the consequences if he refuses to bring the acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. In other words, if his sin is not removed by an offering that is acceptable to God’s righteousness, then sin will pounce on him and it will devour him. What was Cain’s response? Cain refused to obey the Lord’s demands, and the Divine threat was carried out. Sin became the master of Cain, and Cain became a murderer.

We have here a perfect illustration of God’s statement in James 1:15. Please turn in your Bibles way ahead almost to the end of your New Testament to the Epistle of James, Jam 1:14 (2X). In this short passage God speaks through the pen of James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. In this passage  God speaks about temptation and sin. The bottom line is that everyone sins voluntarily, and therefore God can hold man accountable for all his sins, because man sins voluntarily.

Jas 1:14-15  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.     Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

This is exactly the sequence of events in the life of Cain. First lust, then anger, brings forth sin, and sin finished brings forth death, Abel murdered.

Please turn again to Gen 4:8 (2X). Cain could not contain his anger any more, and Cain killed his brother. We read in Gen 4:8-10,

Ge 4:8-10  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.      And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?   And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

There were no human witnesses to Cain’s crime. But God saw it and God confronted Cain with his crime. The Bible says, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked”, and “Be sure your sin will find you out”. God asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” And Cain answered, “I know not”. And from his answer we understand that there was no repentance, no confession of sin, and no fear of God before his eyes. Instead Cain wanted to deny his crime and he wanted to cover it with lies. And now we recognize that Cain’s actions were just an imitation of his parent’s actions in the Garden of Eden. They too denied their crime, and they too wanted to cover it with lies. And so it will be throughout the centuries with all their descendants, until God’s grace takes hold of us and we want to stop this nasty habit. And then we notice that in verse 10 “blood” is mentioned. This is the first mention of “blood” in the Scriptures. The blood here was innocent blood, blood shed by wicked hands, blood which cries loudly to God, and blood which cries out for vengeance. And thus we are drawn here to compare this blood with the blood that the Lord Jesus Christ shed, which was also innocent blood, also shed by wicked hands, which also cries loudly to God, and which also cries out for vengeance, and its vengeance will be meted out on the Last Day when all the human race left on the earth will be held accountable for the shed blood of Christ.

God confronted Cain with his murder, and God’s sentence upon Cain reflected that the Holy One will not for an instant tolerate sin. God said in Gen 4:11-12,

Ge 4:11-12  And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;                  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.

Herein we see that no matter where Cain would go in the world, the ground would be against him, for it was the ground that held the blood of his brother. The remembrance of his murder would always haunt him and pursue him so that he would not find rest anywhere. But look now how close this sentence on Cain is to the sentence on Adam in Gen 3:17-18, where God said,

Ge 3:17  Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Ge 3:18  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

In other words, the entire human race is under the curse on Adam, and the wickedness of  Cain is only one manifestation of the curse on Adam. The difference between Adam and Cain is that Adam did not complain to God that his penalty is greater than he can bear, whereas Cain did. We read in:

Ge 4:13  And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Ge 4:14  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.

Instead of repenting of his sins Cain’s mind is too busy with his punishment, rather than with the sin which caused it. People who end up in the Lake of Fire will complain to God, “My punishment is greater than I can bear”. And Cain complains, “From thy face shall I be hid”. And though he knew it not, Cain’s punishment in Hell will be of this nature. He will be eternally banished from the face of God, and all those who end up with him in the Lake of Fire will undergo a similar punishment. They will be eternally forsaken by God, and Satan and his demons will be their tormentors.

Ge 4:16  And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Where is the land of Nod? It is on the east of Eden, which tells us only that it is outside the region where Adam and Eve dwelt, which was closer to the entrance to the Garden of Eden, at the east of the Garden. But the spiritual meaning of this is far more incisive. The name Nod means “Wandering”. Cain dwelt in the land of wandering, never finding rest for his soul. And so it is also for all those who are following the way of Cain; all those who are going their own way rather than the way of Christ, for there is no fear of God before their eyes. There is no peace for the wicked. God says in Isa 57:20-21,

Isa 57:20-21  But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.                   There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

All the wicked are like Cain. They are murderers of their brothers, and they are murderers of their children, for they will drag their children into the same idolatry that they are engaged in and so they will ensure that their children also go to Hell. And if their sins were not atoned for by the Lord Jesus Christ, God will hold them accountable for these murders. We too at one time were such murderers. But thank God that there is forgiveness of our sins through the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so we thank God daily for such great salvation, for we too were subject to such great wrath of God. “We all were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, for by grace ye are saved”. Praise God for such great salvation.

AMEN.                 Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.