Part D. From Adam to Noah (4:1—5:32)
D1. The first murder (4:1-16)
D2. Genealogy of Cain (4:17-24)
D3. The birth of Seth (4:25-26)
† The moral condition of man continued to degenerate. Cain committed the most serious of all crimes: murder. The problem of killing was becoming serious; the word “kill” appears 5 times in this chapter.
4:1 the Lord (Heb. Yahweh): used by Eve for the first time; reminding of the God who saves. Eve imagined herself as a kind of partner of God in man-making.
4:2 Abel: The name (Heb. hebel) sounds like the Hebrew word for empty, vanity, or breath (hebēl), possibly implying his short life and apparently without any descendants.
4:3 in the course of time: Hebrew meaning “at the end of days”, probably on the Sabbath.
offering of the fruit of the ground: probably similar to OT grain offering of grains and flour (Lev 2:1-3,14-16); but Cain’s offering was not described as first fruits like Abel.
4:4 firstborn: immediate offering after the first produce; thus offering the best to God.
had regard (NIV: looked with favour): How did God show His favour? Probably fire descending from heaven burning up the offering, as in Hebrew, “have regard” can be translated “kindle into a fire.”
4:5 very angry: violent anger; literally, “it burned to Cain exceedingly.”
his face fell: looked depressed.
4:6 Why are you angry?: Similar to Adam, God used questions to appeal to his conscience.
4:7 if you do well: The conditional “if” indicates that Cain must have done something unworthy.
if you do well....if you do not do well: can also mean “if you think it is good...if you think it is not good.” He could either accept God’s rejection of his offerings as a good thing or not as a good thing. If he thought it was good, he could feel better (by lifting his face). If not, then beware of sin.
sin is crouching at the door: God forewarned Cain that sin is like a wild animal ready to pounce on Cain once he opens the “door” of opportunity.
Some view God’s word to Cain not as a reprimand but a consolation. While God did not favour Cain’s offering, He still cared about Cain so much that He talked to him directly. Cain’s relationship with God had not been broken. God warned Cain and asked him to ponder his choice.
4:8 Cain spoke to Abel: In Septuagint, the verse contains the request of Cain: “Let us go out to the field.” This was probably part of the plan of murder.
killed: Cain violently murdered Abel, caused by jealousy. Jealousy is a dangerous sin.
4:9 Where is your brother?: similar to the question asked of Adam after the Fall: “Where are you?”
I do not know: a lie. Just like Satan, Cain was a murderer and a liar (Jn 8:44).
am I my brother’s keeper?: Cain mocked God by talking back, showing the absence of repentance.
4:10 What have you done?: same as the question to Eve. It was a question to poke Cain’s conscience.
the voice of your brother’s blood: It probably refers to the cry of Abel’s spirit from Sheol.
4:11 cursed: the first cursed person in the world (Adam and Eve were not personally cursed).
no longer yield: After the ground was profaned with spilt innocent blood, the field would no longer produce for Cain as it had for Adam. He had to abandon his occupation of farming.
4:12 fugitive and wanderer: perpetual exile, no home to stay in, moving all the time.
4:13 My punishment is greater than I can bear: Cain’s punishment: [a] could no long farm, [b] exiled from his land, [c] fear for his life, [d] wandering without a home.
4:14 whoever finds me will kill me: Over the course of Cain’s long life, there could be many opportunities for retribution by Adam’s other children.
4:15 Not so!: God showed His mercy to Cain who deserved no mercy. He contradicted Cain’s fearful outburst and said that nothing more than the original sentence (banishment) would occur.
put a mark: The mark was something that people would recognize as God’s sign of protection. It could be some easily seen mark (perhaps on his forehead, Eze 9:4-6).
sevenfold: symbolizes complete vengeance from God and will be certain and severe.
4:17 his wife: either his sister or his niece. Marriage to close relatives was only prohibited later in the Law of Moses (Lev 18:9).
Enoch: not the Sethite Enoch in ch.5. The name means introduce, perhaps as the founder of the city.
4:19 two wives: first record of polygamy, transgressing the original law of marriage. While the OT does not explicitly prohibit polygamy, cases of polygamy almost always led to tragic results.
4:20 father: instructor of all who worked in that occupation, e.g. Handel as father of oratorio music.
4:22 Tubal-cain: Tubal means “smith”. He was the legendary first metalworker.
forger: may mean “hammerer/sharpener”. His metallurgy probably included weapons as well as agricultural tools. His craft could be used by Lamech (his father) for his assault and murder.
v.20-22 recorded the rapid advance of human civilization including: tent building, keeping livestock, advance in music, metallurgy, metallic instruments, perhaps weapons for fighting.
4:23 said to his wives: Lamech bragged to his wives for his sinful behaviour of revenging a wound with murder. Perhaps this is an indication that murder was very common in his time.
4:24 seventy-sevenfold: While Lamech murdered, he prohibited others from doing the same to him.
4:25 Seth: may mean foundation (Ps 11:3; Isa 19:10), pointing to the new beginning in the person of Seth. Eve interpreted the birth of Seth as God’s response to the loss of the righteous Abel.
offspring: literally “seed”, same in the whole Genesis. Perhaps Eve was hoping that this was the one prophesied by God in Gen 3:15.
4:26 began to call upon the Lord: Organized religion (public regular worship as a group, as opposed to individual worship) became part of civilization. Ancient documents attribute to Enosh the innovation of calling on the name of the Lord. They view Enosh as a righteous hero.
Cain’s family was a microcosm of human failure in today’s world: technical advance and moral failure. Whereas Cain’s descendants founded the civilized arts, Seth’s descendants began the practice to worship the Lord together.
† God is a merciful Saviour despite man’s sin, e.g. protecting Cain, appointing Seth to replace Abel. He will always accept our repentance no matter what the situation is.
† We should learn to watch out for different sins described in this chapter, e.g. jealousy, anger, hatred, revenge, lies, pride.