Read Genesis 4
Cain and Abel
1 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. 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.
17 Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah.20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to call on the name of the Lord.
It’s not an unfamiliar story to us, Cain and Abel. Two brothers, same gene pool, same upbringing, same opportunities. Yet, very different in their personality and professions. Both maintained some kind of worship of God because both bring offerings to God.
Abel, although his offering was bloody and messy, sacrificed the very best he had as worship to God. Cain, although his offering looked pleasing, sacrificed “some” of what he had. Scripture doesn’t tell us how the brothers knew that one offering was accepted and the other rejected. We only know that they knew because Cain responds with anger and jealousy. Eventually, Cain, consumed with rage and bitterness, kills his brother, Abel. And we all collectively sigh because we know it was never supposed to be this way for the first siblings born into the world.
All throughout Genesis, we see God’s character and kindness on display over and over again, contrasted against the plight of humanity in sin. Cain deserved death and God promised him life. God’s grace and mercy on full display. What was true for Cain is also true for us. God promises us life through Jesus, even though we don’t deserve that grace.
God’s character is unchanging. His promises are true. His precepts are for our good. He expects us to give Him our very best offerings—time, talents, gifts, finances. How will we respond? Giving Him all we have like Abel or withholding like Cain? May we be people who worship God by offering Him everything we have.
Abel’s offering represented what was most costly, and he showed his love for God above all else by giving such a costly gift. When was the last time your offering to God cost you something (money, time, talent)?
In verse 7, God lovingly confronts Cain. What do you learn about the character of God in this exchange?
Why do you think Abel’s offering was accepted and Cain’s was rejected? When was the last time you were jealous that God seemingly blessed someone else when you thought He should bless you?
Did You Know?
Many commentators regarded verse 26 as the first reference to prayer as we know it in the Bible. Prayer is a major theme in Genesis. However, the phrase “call on the name of the Lord,” in the Pentateuch, usually refers to proclamation (preaching) rather than prayer. Here, it probably refers to the beginning of public worship of Yahweh.