Cain and Abel

The mark of Cain… a model of grace.

Adam lay with 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.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel (Gen. 4:1-2). The Hebrew root for Cain means to procure, while Abel means transitory or meaningless. From Eve’s comment and Cain’s name we discover that the Lord had delegated the procreation process, enabling obedience to His command to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28) with out requiring a direct act of creation for each person born. We can also assume from Abel’s name that she believed Cain would be her redeemer, and therefore felt Abel was unnecessary. (Discovering the meanings of Biblical names can be so fascinating! Whether it’s a person or place, you’ll almost always gain added insight into the passage.)

Now Abel kept flocks and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born 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. So Cain was very angry and his face was down cast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? Why is your face down cast? 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 master it (Gen. 4:2-7).”

Everything Written In The Past Was Written To Teach Us … Rom.15:4

Here we learn that the remedy for sin was first taught to Adam in the Garden, not to Moses at Mt. Sinai. By offering the firstborn from his flock Abel illustrated the concept of innocent blood shed for the remission of sin, a model of the Messiah, while Cain brought the works of his own hands, an offering of thanksgiving. Because the Lord reminded Cain to “do what is right” it’s clear that He had instructed them on this. The sin offering, an act of confession, purifies us and permits our reentry into the presence of God. Only then will our offerings of praise and thanksgiving be acceptable. Formalized in the Levitical system, and simplified in 1 John 1:8-10 this was actually revealed at the instant of the first sin. It demonstrates our need for a Redeemer while teaching the futility of either providing our own remedy for our sins or ignoring them altogether (as Cain did) both of which are actually offensive to God.

Confess Early And Often

Now Cain said to his brother, “Let’s go out into the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:8-9) As was the case with his father Adam the Lord asked the question, not because he was seeking information, but because He was seeking confession. Adam gave a flimsy excuse (it was the woman’s fault) but Cain showed callous indifference. In fact, isn’t it hard to see anything good in Cain’s behavior? He ignored the Lord’s command about offerings and then became angry when his was rejected. Instead of confessing, he let his anger become jealousy toward Abel and lured him into the field for a pre-meditated act of murder. Then he lied about it, and expressed only indifference when confronted. Little sins, left unchecked, become big ones (James 1:15).

The Lord’s warning, “Sin is crouching at your door and desires to have you” bears a closer look. The Hebrew word translated crouching was used in ancient times to describe the way a demon would lie in wait for a victim, perhaps because of this passage, and the word desire is the same one used to describe Eve’s attitude toward Adam in Gen.3:16, meaning “to long for.” Our enemy has a passionate interest in us and will lie in wait, longing for the opportunities presented by our sins. Having failed to apply the prescribed remedy for sin, Cain was fair game and the enemy took full advantage. Please remember, Cain had a relationship with God, spoke with and was taught directly by Him, and still committed a grievous sin. It’s a striking example of the pervasiveness of the sin nature introduced into the human gene pool at the fall, and should remind us all of our tendency toward sin, no matter how “spiritual” we think we are, or how strongly rooted in our faith. (See 1 Peter 5:8 and 1 John 1:8-10).

The Mark Of Cain … A Model Of Grace

So Cain was driven from the land to live as a fugitive and vagabond. He was afraid that he would be forever banished from the presence of God and deprived of His protection. “Not so,” said the Lord, and put His mark on Cain saving his life (Gen. 4:15). The collective mind of scholarship has been probed in vain to determine the nature of this mark, but that’s not the point. All through the chapter the covenant name of God has been used, indicating the scope of Cain’s relationship with Him. Cain sinned and refused to confess, and therefore put himself out of fellowship with God. But God didn’t revoke His covenant, nor did He withdraw His protection. Unconfessed sin interrupts our relationship with God and causes us to wander in spiritual wilderness, but it doesn’t sever our family ties and it doesn’t put our eternal life at risk.

Cain serves as a model of so many Christians today; out of fellowship for refusing to recognize and confess their sins, but still in the family and still living protected (eternal) lives. Objects of the enemy’s passionate interest and fair game for his trickery but marked by the Grace of God as off limits to the stealer of their souls.

And that’s the adult version.