The first couple teach their sons about God. About sin. About redemption. Abel comes to God His way and offers the firstborn of his flock; Cain acts independently of God and defines his own way to God.
God confronts Cain and Cain kills his Abel.
God curses Cain and Cain learns to lives outside of the presence of God where violence and polygamy prevail.
Adam and Eve believe God and communicate God’s way of redemption to their sons. Abel went down this path and sacrifices the innocent animal. God accepts his offering. Cain, however, chooses another path, the one of his own making and God refuses his offering. God, ever the Divine Gentleman, comes to him and offers him another chance. Cain refuses and kills his brother.
What about God's promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15)? One son cursed. The other dead. Never fear. A promise made by God is a promise fulfilled by God, “And Adam new his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth. “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Genesis 4:25). Seth’s descendants continue down the road of faith and call upon the name of the Lord while Cain’s descendants ignore God and live independently of Him by continuing down their own path.
Hundreds of years pass and man fills the earth with image-bearers. Few, however, bear His image. Most bear Cain’s.
Two ways of walking thread their way throughout the remainder of the story. God desired that Adam and Eve trust His goodness and His word. Sadly, they did not. All of their descendants received their DNA download of sin—a proud countenance and an independent spirit. God paved another road on which men may walk—the way of faith and redemption.
God’s instructions before the Fall demand man’s faith in the veracity of God’s Word and the goodness of His character. God’s promises after the Fall demand man’s faith in the veracity of God’s Word and the goodness of His character.
Few trust in the veracity of God’s Word and the goodness of His character. Most don’t, however, and remain under the curse of Cain and in the way of Cain.
He is good. He does good.
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor."
Abel begins the list in Hebrews chapter eleven of those who walked with God by faith in the Old Testament. Enoch and Noah, descendants of Seth, were second and third on the list.
Abel's offering differed from Cain's in that it was a sacrificial offering given in faith. His offering copies God's slaying the innocent animal (something He described as "good") in the garden of Eden to cover man's nakedness. The writer of Hebrews defines Abel's offering as a sacrificial offering, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." (Hebrews 11:4). The blood of this animal could not remove sin, but its offering demonstrates Abel's understanding that sin has to be atoned and that the wages of sin is death. God had promised that the seed of the woman would come who would crush the serpent's head and restore man to God.
Cain represents all religion as he brings his offering, the fruit of the soil and offers it to God. It's a good offering but it isn't a substitutionary offering. And God doesn't accept it. Cain, in his pride, refuses to go to his brother to obtain a lamb, so he kills him instead.
Abel understood substitutionary death. God's sacrificing one of the Garden animals prophesied of the One to come, the Innocent One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Abel may not have understood the virgin birth or the name of the Coming One but he understood that it cost the innocent life of an animal to cover man's sin. And, he knew that God accepted his offering.
The way to God has always been the way of faith--faith in what God would, one day, do through the coming of the One from Eve's seed (3:15). Old Testament believers looked forward in faith for the Coming One. New Testament believers look back in faith to what God has already done through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Both trust in Jesus Christ. We look back while they looked forward.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Genesis 4:1-5:32
- How does Eve describe the first childbirth experience? What does she understand about God?
- At the end of each day of creation God assesses His creation and then makes an evaluative comment. He continues to do so with Adam's children. How does God respond to the brothers' offerings? How do Cain and Abel's offerings differ? (See Matthew 23:34-35; Hebrews 11:4; 12:24)
- How does God confront Cain? How did God confront Adam?
- What does this tell you about God's goal in confrontation? (Proverbs 28:13)
- Read 1 John 3:12 and Jude 11 for New Testament commentary regarding Cain. What does this tell you about Cain? the Serpent?
- Make two columns and make a list of the differences between the lineages of Cain and Seth.
- From 5:1-3 describe the difference between Adam and Eve and their son, Seth.
- How had God described the reproduction process in Genesis one? What does this tell you about Seth? about post-Fall mankind?
- What was God's goal for mankind in Genesis 1:28? How is the world described in Noah's day in chapter 6:11-13?
- What happens when Seth's descendants/sons began intermarrying with Cain's descendants/daughters?
- When you read of Nephilim think of men of wicked heroic proportion (the Hitler's of this world).
- Read Hebrews 11:5-7. How does Noah respond to God's overture? What does God look for from His people? What is the one thing that pleases God? What does "faith" look like in people's lives?
Ask the Lord to make you a person of faith -- faith in Him, so that He can entrust you with a promise and a personal assignment. Ask Him to expand your view of Him.