The First Rebel
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Max Juke, an atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly woman, and from this union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars [before inflation].
Then there is a record of a great man of God, Jonathan Edwards. He lived at the same time as Max Juke, but he married a godly woman. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards, of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States Senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one Vice-President of the United States, 80 public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. Jonathan Edwards' descendants did not cost the state a penny1
Adam and Eve have been removed from the Garden of Eden and prevented from entering by an angel holding a flaming sword, posted at the entrance.
What a life for an angel. How faithful and untiring is their service to God. One day I hope to speak with that angel.
This first couple living on earth settled down to a new life. This life involved work, danger, pain and regret. They have repented of their sin and been forgiven. But this will not bring back Eden into their experience. They will live in a world that has been cursed. Nature has been cursed. Animals that could get along with each other … will now eat each other. The word 'wild' has just taken affect. Adam and Eve need to avoid them.
As family life begins to take shape they soon find themselves expecting a child. Does Eve think this will be the 'seed' that will crush the serpent? She probably does. She says that she has received a 'man from the Lord'. She names him Cain. The name has a meaning. It is a Hebrew word that means, 'Something that is made'. It is hard to imagine what she thought as she first looked at him. This is the first human to be born. This baby was inside her, growing for over nine months. There was no such a thing as having an ultrasound. There was no book she could read about the growth and development of a prenatal child. But holding him in her arms she could marvel at the creation of God. She saw a perfect baby. She saw delicate little hands. She saw the cutest little face. This was her little man from God.
She gave birth to another little boy. Was this about a year later? Could it have been a couple of years later? Possibly. We don't know how 'fertility' worked back then. We will read later on that Noah did not have children until he was about 500. Why? We don't know.
She names this little boy, Abel. The name means 'breath'. Maybe with this child what really impressed her was that first breath. She delivered a perfect little man, just as she did Cain. But from a seemingly lifeless form to one that suddenly takes his first breath, coughs a couple of times and begins to cry, what impresses her is life. The breath of Life. It comes from God, the giver of Life.
It is a fact that every child born has a 'hopeful' beginning. Every child, every criminal who was once a child, had a hopeful beginning. They were spiritually alive2 … until they became aware of sin … and chose sin over God.
A few years go by and we read that the boys grew up and got involved with specific occupations.
Meanwhile, Adam and Eve are continuing to have children.
They were told to be fruitful and fill the earth.3
Genesis 5:4 After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. 5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
Sons and daughters. Adam lived to be 930 years old. He lived 800 more years after the birth of a son named Seth. This makes Adam 130 at the time that Seth was born.
Notice how time just seems to sneak past. In Sunday school you may have pictured Cain and Able as being teenagers … and then Seth coming along about that time.
Lets take a closer look at the lives of these first two boys.
Abel is mentioned first … he is a keeper of sheep – flocks of a smaller type animal, while Cain works the soil.
There is no special significance relating to the jobs they had. There was nothing lowly or demeaning in either occupation. Both occupations were essential to life.
When you think about it, their existence would be something that we would consider too precarious for us to attempt. We think about the first settlers coming to North America... they brought with them a few items to help them get settled, but they came knowing full well there would be no hospitals, no stores, no manufacturers .. no nothing. We admire them for their great courage and tenacity. But here we are reading about Adam and Eve … now living in bodies subject to weakness. Personal health was likely not an issue. There would be no cold or flu germs. No transmittable diseases. No genetically inherited diseases or conditions. No health issues related to pollution or genetically modified food. But this does not take into account injuries from accidents or attacks from animals.
So, as far as work was concerned … eating was the only thing that they had to focus on. In the early days there would be no libraries or book stores. There would be no musical instruments. What would they do for fun … for joy … for fulfillment? They likely sat around in the evening and remembered stories. But there would not be many stories to share. History was just beginning. A more complete answer to this actually is coming up soon in a subsequent chapter of Genesis.
In verse 3 the boys bring an offering to God. What this tells us is that Adam and Eve had a system of worship. Well, not exactly a system … but it would be safe to say that God had clearly talked with Adam about sacrifices. God made us to be worshipers. And everybody worships something.
Either we worship the true God in a correct manner …. or we worship the true God in an incorrect manner, or we worship a false God … or we worship ourselves. But we all worship.
Abel worshiped the true God in a correct manner. He killed an animal – one of the best of his flock … a firstborn. Is this co-incidental? Sounds to me like this was the will of God. The act of worship was such that Abel would be killing one of the best, an innocent animal, to offer in place of himself. A substitute. When we talk about the doctrine of salvation today, we cannot do so with out mentioning the 'substitutionary atonement' of Christ. He was the innocent Lamb of God, the best Lamb, who died so that you would not have to.
So how old is Abel at this time? Since we are not told we have to do some digging and reasoning. First of all, it says that Abel brought from the firstborn of HIS flock. Not his father's flock. He was not doing this for his dad. No doubt he got his experience from home. While he lived at home the flock would be the family flock. But in our passage we read that Abel brought a firstborn from his own flock. This speaks of a degree of independence from his family. It sounds like he is on his own. And it certainly sounds like this was not the first time that Abel had been involved in offering a sacrifice.
Further, there is really nothing in the text to imply that this is the first time Abel, now living on his own, offers a sacrifice. This is a family practice done in obedience to God. It is likely that Cain … also living on his own, at first offered animal sacrifices.
But something changed in him. For whatever reason Cain decides to change to the rule. “I can bring whatever I want to God for my offering.” This is not too different from people today who feel fine about doing things their own way. After all, it is nobodies business but theirs. People often claim that God 'led them' to their particular worship experience.
But what motivated Cain to change things? What motivated him to try something that God had not prescribed?
In his own logic he may have thought … Abel takes of the best of HIS flock … (even though that is what God had told them to do) so why can't I do that? Why can't I take some to the best stuff that I produce and offer that? I have an amazing garden. I have really worked hard at it. Why can't I honor God with an offering of my Best?
What we have going on in Cain's mind is two evil thoughts.
- I don't have to do something just because God said to. I can think for myself. (That is rebellion. That is willful disobedience and disrespect.)
- What I have produced is really very good. (That is pride)
Let's see what God has said about each of those.
Philippians 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
Cain was not bowing his knee to God at all. On the contrary, he is standing up to God. He is substituting his own will for God's clear instruction. That is rebellion.
Proverbs 6:16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, (etc.)
The sin of pride is right at the top of the list of things that God hates. Pride is taking credit for something that you had nothing to do with.
Whether it is your talents (they come from God), your physique (that came from God) your beauty (that came from God) your wisdom (that is a gift from God)
1Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God——and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—--
31 that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the LORD."
There is no place for pride. Pride was in Cain's heart. Pride filled his heart. His actions and reactions that we see in the following verses show us just how deep this pride problem was.
Verses 4 – 7
God had respect for Abel's offering … and for Abel himself. How do we know this? What we do not know is whether God was there in person to say 'Thank you' for the offering … or if there was some other way that God let them know whether or not the offering was acceptable. There are many Bible commentators who, because of the offering system introduced later for the Jewish people, believe that a burnt offering was likely the acceptable offering right from the beginning. That being the case, some assume that once the offering was in place … it would be lit by God. If that is true, Cain placed his offering of vegetables before God and … nothing happened. We have no other scriptures to bear this out, except possibly the time that Elijah was in competition with the worshipers of Baal to see whose sacrifice would be 'lit' by God.
Whatever the case, it was clear to both of them that Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's was rejected.
But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour.
Cain is very angry and 'his countenance fell' … his face was downcast. Very angry is a strong word. It shows, I believe, just how strongly he felt about his right to offer the way he wants to. His feelings toward his brother would be jealousy and arrogance. After all, he is the older of the two.
Cain has decided to 'worship the true God' in his own way. God did not accept that. God still does not accept that. The written Word of God has the prescription for our worship. We are to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. His Word is truth. How much of God's word did Cain have? No written word of course. He might have had direct communication with God. But for certain he would have heard all that Adam and Eve knew about God. We can only imagine the number of times the boys were at their fathers knee, listening to stories of what the Garden of Eden was like. They would have heard many times about the serpent's deception. As they grew a little and were expected help with the 'weeding' in their garden, they would have been reminded that this was a result of their disobedience. It is possible that Cain grew up harboring bad feelings about God. Perhaps he rationalized to himself, 'What was so bad about eating from that tree? It really wasn't my Mom's fault at all … she was tricked! I don't like God.'
But Cain would have seen innocent animals killed periodically as Adam and Eve worshiped God according to what they were instructed. He would have been told the significance of the innocent dying in place of the guilty. But apparently he grew up thinking this was unreasonable of God. As I said, I don't think he liked God.
So Cain is feeling angry because God did not accept his idea of an offering. (Proverbs 14:12 ¶ There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.)
God himself comes to the angry sinner. This is just like God. He had also come looking for Adam. And he comes to sinners today. He was 'the Evangelist'. Jesus came as an Evangelist.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."
1Timothy 4:10 … we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Today we share in the wonderful responsibility. Jesus said, ... "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." John 20:21
God came to Cain. He asks him a question. We need to realize that God is not trying to get information here. He knows already. But he is giving Cain an opportunity to explain his motives. Motives that he may not realize that he even has. “Why are you angry?” He saying, Cain think about it. What were you SUPPOSED to do? And what DID you do? You can admit you were wrong … right here. Right now.
And if he had admitted his wrong doing … what do we call that? Confession. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is giving Cain that chance. He is calling him to repentance. We might ask Cain, ... do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance? Romans 2:4
God kindly offers Cain a way back to fellowship. He says, Ge 4:7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted? Confess and repent. So simple.
God goes on to warn Cain of danger of not repenting. “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
God is saying that sin lies at the door like a lion, ready to spring on its prey. It desires to get you. But you can fight that, and repent.
It is interesting that the phrase .. its desire is for you is the identical phrase used when God spoke to Eve and said a part of the curse would be that she would desire to get her husband. To conquer, to spring like a lion, to get the best of him. And Adam's part of the curse is that he would be a dominating person. And that is the sin nature even today. As I pointed out in a previous study, the new nature which we receive as believers is the one in which a woman's desire is to please her husband totally and his desire is to please her in every way.
In verse 8 we realize that Cain did not listen to God, did not want to repent … still did not like God.
This sounds like premeditated murder. Cain talks with his brother … to arrange a meeting place to 'talk things out? They meet in the field. Out of sight from Mom and Dad. Who else is Cain hiding from? He thinks God can't see him. He brutally attacks and kills his brother. It is still true that the wicked hate the righteous. If you stand for what is right you an affront to wrongdoers. They won't like you to even be around them. All down through history the wicked have tried to eliminate the righteous.
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.1John 3:12
God comes to Cain again … and asks Where is your brother, Abel? I wonder if Cain had been filled guilt and remorse for what he had just done … and repented at this point … What would God have done? If you have time read the story of David … committing premeditated murder … and how God dealt with it4.
Cain's response is still one of anger and rebellion against God. There is no repentance, There is no sorrow nor remorse.
So God does what he has to do when we reject his mercy and forgiveness. There is an old song with these words,
There's a line that is drawn for rejecting our LORD
When the call of the Spirit is lost...
Later in Genesis we will read, My Spirit will not always strive with man. There is a point at which God rightly says, You have had the light presented to you. You have rejected it. You will have no more opportunity for salvation.
God pronounces a curse upon this unrepentant sinner who has had every opportunity to bow his knee5 to God … and has refused.
The curse corresponds to Cain's offering of pride. God curses the ground. But wait a moment … think back, did not God already do that when speaking with Adam? Yes he did … but this is an even greater curse. “Cain, you will plant and get NOTHING.”
Question … Why didn't God just kill Cain right on the spot? Cain actually thought that his life was in danger and others would try to kill him. By the way, who was out there to try to kill him? It is very likely that he is in his 20's or 30's. Adam and Eve have had other children. Marriage was a matter of separating from Mom and Dad, brother marrying a sister … and setting up a life of your own. Adam and Eve may have been VERY fruitful in producing offspring.
Cain has good reason to fear. He has just done the unthinkable, unimaginable. He killed a beloved one of the family.
But God wants to keep him alive. Perhaps as an example. They would be aware of a brother of theirs who could not make a living anywhere … and he has tried everywhere. Don't mess with God.
Verse 16 is a very sad comment, And Cain went out from the presence of God. That was his own choice initially, but now he can't come back.
Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Abel is in the presence of God. And he is in the faith chapter of Hebrews:
11:4 ¶ By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
1 (quoted in America is Too Young to Die by Leonard Ravenhill, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany Fellowship, 1979, p. 112).
2Romans 7:9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.
3 Genesis 1:22
4 II Samuel 11: - 12:14
5Romans 14:11 For it is written: "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God."
Philippians 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,