As the story of the Bible unfolds we are told not only of the initial fall of man from his place of favor with God, but the consequences of that fall are detailed in many different manifestations. We can only give the briefest of sketches in this article, but there are so many things that are foundational to our understanding of the remainder of the Bible that we cannot afford to pass over these chapters without giving some attention to them.
There is the account in Genesis 4 of the murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. The incident that provoked this heinous act of violence was the acceptance by God of the sacrifice offered by Abel and His rejection of Cain’s sacrifice. Many read this and get from it a warning that we must do exactly what God commands us to do – and leave the story at that. Of course we should do what God commands, but this is not the whole story of Cain and Abel.
Much later in the Bible we learn what really was behind this act of violence. 1 John 3:12 says that Cain “…was of the evil one.” He didn’t just suddenly become this way. As we emphasized yesterday, he made choices – first, a choice between loving and obeying God and disobeying – then between loving and honoring his brother and hating and murdering him. And he made these choices because of what he was character-wise. His evil attitude was what was behind God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice. He did what he did in sacrifice and in murdering his brother because he was what he was.
Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount emphasizes God’s requirement that a person who approaches Him to offer sacrifices (or, by inference, in worship or in prayer or in any service for that matter) must have the right attitude toward his fellow man.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Why do we not hear people use Cain and Abel to warn people of the danger of assuming that God will accept them even though they have serious unresolved issues between themselves and other people? Yet, that is at least a part of what made Cain’s sacrifice unacceptable. Can one really have faith in God and not be loving and forgiving toward his brother? Can one really offer acceptable worship to God and not be right with a brother who is also God’s creation?
God placed a curse on Cain, telling him that he was “cursed from the ground” and that it would no longer yield its strength to him. This “tiller of the soil,” this farmer could not longer depend on the soil for his livelihood. As a fugitive and wanderer on the earth, he would have to find his sustenance from some other source. Isn’t it interesting that the only kind of agriculture nomadic people can engage in is animal husbandry. Flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle are “portable.” Cain’s former occupation of farming is not. Was this God’s idea of poetic justice?
It is also interesting that Cain, after being told by God what was going to happen to him, expressed fear of being murdered by someone else. God assures him that should anyone do that, His vengeance would be visited upon his murderer “sevenfold.”
God told him he would be a fugitive and a wanderer, drifting from place to place. It would seem that Cain attempted to avoid this and “went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16). He further builds a city and instead of honoring God, named it after his son, Enoch. In doing this he showed his contempt for God.
Cain’s descendants began developing the elements of civilization such as animal husbandry, arts (music) and the rudimentary science of metallurgy in the making of tools from bronze and iron. Given enough time from these first steps would have come trade and industry. But this civilization was flawed – it was civilization without God. Any civilization that leaves God out of its thoughts and plans is destined to fail.
The pride and arrogance of the descendants of Cain are seen in his great, great, great grandson, Lamech. Aside from being the first polygamist, Lamech killed a man who struck and wounded him and boasted to his wives that “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24). Things such as these show a pattern of human thought as mankind was going further and further away from God. Paul details the evidence of man departing from God in Romans 1:29-31…
They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
How many of these evils are evident in Cain and his descendants as recorded in Genesis 4?
The family of Cain did not seek after God as did the later offspring of Adam and Eve, the descendants of Seth. It is said of these, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). These were probably the ones who were called “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2. But even these sons of God were not to remain faithful to God for very long. In a few generations they would contribute to the destruction of man when God brought the flood upon the face of the earth on account of the sin of the people of that day.
More about that tomorrow…