Genesis 2011 - Lesson 4B

Chapter 4:8-17

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  • We drop back into the story of Cain and Abel after God has instructed Cain to seek the sacrifice offered him to atone for his sin

    • But as we will see today, Cain doesn’t take that offer

    • And in fact, Cain goes further in the opposite direction, indulging his sinful flesh

Gen. 4:8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
  • In understanding what transpired, we face another lost in translation challenge

    • The opening phrase of verse 8 reads “Cain said to Abel his brother…”

      • There is something missing

      • Most modern English translations have tried to make it read as if this phrase stands alone (i.e., unconnected to the rest of the verse)

    • But the earliest surviving Hebrew, Greek and Latin texts all state this verse as:

      • “Cain said to Abel his brother, let’s go out into the field.”

      • The NET Bible has also chosen to render it this way

    • This better translations conveys Cain’s premeditation, as Cain convinced his brother to go to a remote place before committing murder

      • Cain must have had a large enough extended family at this point that he had reason to need privacy, and fear retribution

  • So Cain commits the first murder in the Bible, the full depravity of the human heart on display from the very beginning

    • All the sin required for us to do the very worst things in life existed from the time of the second man

      • The condition of the world is not the result of a worsening of the human condition that leads to things like murder

      • It has always been a part of the human heart

    • We should also notice the conscience at work as well

      • Why did Cain feel the need to lure his brother into a remote place?

      • There can be no other explanation than that Cain felt guilt over his crime even before he committed it

      • And he was protecting himself from discovery – evidence of a conscience

  • What was the basis of Cain’s anger at Abel?

    • Simply, a hatred of those who gain God’s approval

      • As Jesus warned:

John 15:18  “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
John 15:19 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but  I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.
John 15:20 “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me,  they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
John 15:21 “But all these things they will do to you  for My name’s sake,  because they do not know the One who sent Me.
  • When Cain murdered Abel, scripture tells us it was the most ungodly man living destroying the most godly

    • The first believing son persecuted by the first unbelieving son

    • The spiritual son of the first murderer, Satan, rising up against the first prophet, Abel – first among many to be persecuted

    • The pattern continues unabated today

  • Now we have the second time God has confronted man after a sinful act

Gen. 4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 
Gen. 4:10 He said, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 
Gen. 4:11 “Now  you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 
Gen. 4:12 “When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you;  you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.” 
  • Verse 9 is one of the most sarcastic and disrespectful statements spoken to God recorded in the Bible

    • God gives Cain the same opportunity for repentance that He offered Adam and Eve in the Garden

      • And instead of responding with confession, Cain offers this remarkably blunt response

        • In fact, this is the first human lie in history

      • Clearly, there is no repentance nor remorse in his heart

      • But don’t miss the grace of God on display in these early chapters of Genesis

        • Despite watching mankind turn away from Him, disobey Him, disrespect Him, nevertheless God maintains a patient forbearance with all of it

    • And as a result of the first murder, we also see in v.10 the first burial referenced 

      • That’s the meaning of the phrase “from the ground”

      • And the earth “opening” its mouth to receive Abel

      • In this case, the burial was done out of the need to cover up a mistake, not out of respect for the body

  • God then responds to Cain’s insolence with a statement of judgment

    • God says, look what you have done (in the form of a question)

      • And that Abel’s blood cries to God from the ground

      • God is aware of injustice and of the affliction of His children by faith

        • Abel’s blood cries out to God for vengeance and God acts in the due course of time

    • The punishment God delivers to Cain sounds similar to Adam’s but is actually quite different (and it’s unique to Cain alone)

      • God says “you” are cursed from the ground

        • While Adam’s sin resulted in a curse against the ground

        • Now the ground itself becomes evidence against Cain and brings a curse upon him

      • In Hebrew, the sense is that the ground has been Cain’s prosecutor and jury, convicting Cain of his sin

        • And the verdict that the ground demands is death

        • So God pronounces a curse on Cain

          • Remember, a curse is a permanent judgment of damnation

          • There is no recovery possible for Cain

    • Furthermore, God declares that the earth will no longer give its produce to Cain

      • He is no longer a farmer who stays in one place

    • Instead, Cain will wander the earth and scrounge for his living

      • The word for vagrant is nua, which means to shake in fear or to stagger, to walk to and fro

      • To wander is nud, which is similar in meaning but with an emphasis on grieving and mourning 

      • He will forever wander the earth in fear and grieving

    • More importantly, Cain must live out his days away from the rest of his family and from God Himself

      • At this point in the history of humanity, Cain can expect to be alone for the most part

      • More importantly, Cain is being banished from God’s presence on the earth

    • It’s obvious that God has maintained some kind of presence among men on earth even after the Fall in the Garden

      • Cain and Abel sacrificed to God

      • Later we’ll see that other men in Adam’s family knew God and even walked with Him

    • So Cain’s banishment means he is leaving the community where God is frequently visiting in some form

  • Cain’s removal from God’s presence is a remarkable picture of what we know happens to all unbelievers in eternity

    • They are eternally separated from God’s presence as they feel the weight of their sins

      • This is the cursed outcome of every unbeliever

    • Notice that according to this analogy, the unbeliever isn’t annihilated

      • Cain’s existence didn’t come to an end

      • He continued on but apart from God, in an existence of suffering

      • Similarly, the unbeliever under judgment is also subjected to a continuing existence apart from God

    • Cain’s story is a Biblical picture of how unbelievers are going to be judged one day

      • They will appear before God

      • And He will test their work, but they won’t have an answer for His questioning

        • And in the end, their deeds will be found lacking, and they will receive punishment in eternal separation from God

      • And as an unbeliever, Cain pictures the eternal through the experiences of his earthly life

  • The Bible declares that Cain was an evil person who had no faith in God

    • And this is why he finds no forgiveness

    • But if we are ever tempted to think that someone may be converted to faith through some convincing display of God, remember Cain

      • Cain knew God

      • He spoke with God, He talked to God

      • Yet he didn’t accept the gospel

      • He didn’t submit his will to God’s

    • An encounter with God or a powerful religious experience cannot create faith

      • Hebrews tells us that God is the author and perfecter of our faith

      • He is also the perfect judge of all who oppose Him

Gen. 4:13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 
  • Cain reacts with regret and sorrow, and a complaint

    • Cain seems to understand the significance of God’s judgment

      • In literal Hebrew, Cain declared or said that his iniquity (or crime) was too great to be lifted or forgiven

    • He may not be talking about his punishment, but rather his offense

      • He recognizes he won’t find mercy from God

    • Don’t be misled by what you see in Cain here

      • This is worldly sorrow, not godly repentance

2Cor. 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 
  • Only God can produce true spiritual repentance, and it leads to a faithful response to God’s word

    • In 2 Cor. Paul explains the difference to his readers as encouragement

    • They had been chastised by Paul and felt sorrow, but Paul says this was good sorrow, because it led them to lead a more godly life

  • No such godly response is taking place here

    • Instead, Cain is simply showing regret over his circumstances

Gen. 4:14 “Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and  whoever finds me will kill me.” 
  • Cain now argues his case before God

    • He says he is being…

      • Driven from the face of the ground

      • Banished from the farming of the land – his way of life

      • Made a wanderer

    • These are simple restatements of God’s words

      • But then Cain adds that this existence will leave him vulnerable to attack

      • Moving around puts at him risk from those who would harm him

    • The irony here is that what Cain himself started, he is now concerned about receiving

      • The first murderer fears being murdered

      • What he sows, he now fears reaping

    • And who might threaten Cain?

      • Reasonable projections of population growth arrive at a likelihood that there were 20-30 thousand people on earth by the time Abel died

      • All of these people are relatives, and since Cain is the first to murder, the prospect of retaliation is on Cain’s mind

  • So God responds to Cain’s concern with a measure of grace

Gen. 4:15 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him  sevenfold.” And the LORD   appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. 
  • God is bringing some protection to Cain

    • God declares that anyone who takes vengeance on Cain for Abel will receive a seven-fold (meaning divinely complete) vengeance on his own family

    • Then to be sure that this promise was trustworthy, God gave Cain a sign that he could remember

  • The typical reading is that a mark was put on Cain, but the word for sign is oth – a sign like that given to Noah

    • More likely, God simply gave Cain something that he knew meant that he could trust God’s promise

  • Why does God protect Cain?

    • Ultimately, Cain stands as a witness against lawlessness for many generations

    • Secondly, God has not instituted earthly punishment for sin

      • There is no government or laws to constrain men’s behavior

      • So God is merely controlling sin more than protecting Cain

Gen. 4:16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. 
Gen. 4:17 Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. 
Gen. 4:18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech. 
  • Cain is no longer in the presence of the Lord

    • And so he goes east of Eden

      • East is always a picture of where the unrighteous go (Babylon)

      • West is always a picture of righteousness and the Kingdom

        • This is a common motif in the Bible

        • Mesopotamia is in the East

        • Israel is in the West

        • Abraham was called out from the East and sent to the West

        • Isaac’s bride Rebekah, who pictures the Church, is called out from the East and meets her husband in the West

        • Ishmael and Esau leave the West and go East

        • Etc.

    • Cain lands in Nod, which could mean wanderer in Hebrew (similar to nud)

      • This shows fulfillment of prophecy

  • In v. 17 we hear that Cain has a wife, and at this point, a question everyone asks is – where did Cain get his wife?

    • In fact, this question is one of the first places critics of Scripture will go to suggest the Bible is untrustworthy

      • How can Cain have a wife?

    • But the answer is so easy, even children can answer it correctly

      • His sister! (Or likely some other female relative, a niece  perhaps)

      • Can this be appropriate?

    • First, consider that our hesitation to accept this answer is conditioned on modern standards and mores

      • We understand today that incestual relationships are unhealthy

        • They produce defective (disabled) babies – DNA is a problem when you bring together parents with closely matched genes and those defects pass down to the child

    • Secondly, God Himself outlawed incest in the Mosaic Law

      • Prior to this time, brother-sister marriages were not unlawful, although they were uncommon

        • Take Abraham, who married his half-sister

      • In the beginning, the need for brother-sister marriages was obvious, and God permitted it

    • But initially such marriages were not unhealthy because the DNA of Adam was perfect, as he was created perfectly

      • The curse on the Earth introduced the wearing down of the human genome and the introduction of genetic defects - albeit over many generations

    • Later, after DNA errors began to build up, God outlawed such marriages to protect families from the problems bad DNA would cause

  • This is a classic example of wrongly interpreting scripture with a modern viewpoint 

    • Today we have been conditioned to see incest as bad and harmful, and therefore it is outlawed - rightly so

    • But in Cain’s day, there was no prohibition and no medical concerns with the practice

    • And it was essential to growing the population of men on Earth