Thursday, March 7, 2013

Genesis 4: Jealousy Turns to Murder

Check out today's episode

Cain and Abel (v. 1-26)

Adam and Eve had 2 sons, Cain and Abel. Abel kept sheep and Cain worked the ground. They both brought sacrifice to the lord, Cain brought fruit from the ground and Abel brought the first born of his flock. The Lord was happy with the offering from Abel, but he was not impressed with Cain's offering. Cain got angry and God asked him why he was angry, he just had to do better and the sacrifice would be accepted, if not he is opening himself up to sin.

So Cain offers fruit from the ground, and he works the ground so this seems reasonable, but God is not happy with his offering. Is it because it is fruit, or because he is offering a poor selection of his fruit? If it's just because it is fruit that seems pretty unfair for God to be upset. On the other hand, Abel didn't just bring a lamb, he brought his best. As a kid I remember this story being told as if Cain just brought scraps and that is why God was upset, I'm not sure I read that in the story here, except perhaps verse 7 where God tells him to do better. I wish there was a little more detail here, oh well.

I looked at a couple of different commentaries here (Guzik, Matthew Henry), they both don't really have a good answer, but they do seem to read a lot into this. It seems that they have the same wish as me that this was explained better. 

Cain responded to all of this by killing his brother.

That seems like a bit of an over reaction. So what is the lesson here? Don't be jealous? Perhaps not to let your emotions get that far out of control.

Guzik says this is a message about the destructive power of sin.

God asks Cain where his brother is, and Cain responds "Am I my brothers keeper?" God then says that Abel's blood calls out to him from the ground, and he then curses Cain saying the ground won't yield its strength to him anymore. Cain says it is more than he can bear and is worried that anyone who finds him will kill him. The lord puts a mark on him and says that anyone who kills him will have vengeance in return sevenfold.

God punishes Cain, takes away his livelihood but doesn't allow him to be killed by other people. I'm not really sure how I feel about this, Cain clearly needs to be punished and he is, but God also shows mercy by not allowing him to be killed. It's good I guess.

Guzik brings up a good point that I missed, he points out that when Cain said "My punishment is greater than I can bear!" he didn't feel bad about what he did, only about his punishment.

Cain went away from the presence of the lord and ran east to the land of Nod. We hear about 7 generations of Cain's descendants before we get back to Adam and Eve.
Cain's family tree. Hope you enjoy my MS paint skills :)
This raises a few questions for me. First, how get Cain get away from the presence of the lord? Yesterday we had a similar situation where Adam and Eve were hiding from God in the garden and he was asking where they were. I argued that it is possible God was feigning ignorance of their position. This is different, verse 16 is not from the perspective of Cain thinking he was getting away from God, it is just stated as fact from the narrator. Clearly the God described here is not omnipresent or omniscient.

Second. where did Cain's wife come from? We say yesterday (Gen 3:20) that Eve is the mother of all of humanity, and yet Cain is going to another land to find a wife. Further, we will see shortly in verse 25 that Eve is given a son to replace Abel, implying that Abel is her third son. Again, where did the other people come from? Given that God in this story apparently only can see a small area of the planet, and there are people outside of his influence, maybe he is only one of many God's creating life on this planet. 

Guzik says that he must have married his sister. Still doesn't explain when she was born or where she came from. Also, there was apparently this whole land of Nod to the east, where did all of those people come from?

Adam and Eve then had another son and called him Seth, a replacement for Abel as Cain had killed him. Seth had a son named Enosh.

I'm guessing this didn't have to happen in this order. We don't necessarily have to take Seth's birth as happening after all of the descendants of Cain right? If they tried to interleave them it would be confusing. I hope this isn't the reason why people say Adam and Eve lived so long. [edit - Tomorrow's reading specifically says Adam lived 930 years]

For the verses of note post


Genesis 4:1-8 Jealousy leads to murder

"...the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell...And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him."

--Properties of God--

Genesis 4:16 God is not omnipresent

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


  1. As for who Cain married, that question came up from non-Christians from time to time during my fundie years.

    The answer likely comes from Genesis 5:4:

    "After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters."

    They had other children besides Cain, Abel and Seth, who are named by name in the Bible.

    There's no mention of other families being created, so the only logical conclusion is that humanity began through incest. Pleasant thought, right? (Though it would explain all the genetic problems in the world ;) )

    1. That probably the best answer they can get out of the bible. A quick reading of the bible suggests to me that the order of children was Cain then Abel then Seth then others. But closer inspection shows it wasn't actually that precise, it is possible the other children happened in between.

  2. It is a really strange story, huh? It gets even stranger when you consider that 1) Abel sacrificed according to the sacrificial codes which would be given later, and 2) Abel was a shepherd before anyone ate meat. I highlight some of that in my post on this event.

    1. That's really interesting, I totally missed that verse in Genesis 1 about everything being a vegetarian back then. Although looking back at the verses, I'm not sure I completely agree. Gen 1:29-30

      And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.

      I would argue that one interpretation is that God has provided veggies for everyone to eat, but he hasn't forbid them from eating meat instead. Is there some reason I'm not seeing that this interpretation fails?


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