Today we read of life beyond Eden. Sin entered the world through their actions but God had not forgotten them. Today is Cain’s story.
I have several questions and observations about today’s reading. Most of them will have to wait to be answered until I see God face to face. But that doesn’t stop me from pondering them and sharing them for you to ponder too.
My first question takes us back into the Garden of Eden. I’m curious to know if Adam and Eve had any offspring before leaving the garden. We are not told how long they were there but when God spoke His judgement on Eve He said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16). You usually have to have something first to be able to “multiply it.” So had Eve experienced childbirth already? Was there pain in the Garden? Or was this promise a forward looking promise only? I’m glad she wanted children enough to be willing to endure the pain promise.
IF Adam and Eve had children prior to leaving the Garden, what became of them? What became of their “spirits?” Did their spirits die when their parents’ sinned or did they become the “Nephilim” spoken of in Noah’s time?
Another question or observation I have is about the daughters Eve bore. There HAD to be daughters born to her for her to be so grateful for a son. “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (verse 1b). There also had to be daughters in order for Cain to have a wife later on.
Still another question; who taught the people the practice of bringing an offering? Did God begin this practice in the Garden with the animal He killed to make clothing for Adam and Eve or did it predate this and include all of the works of their hands while in the garden?
Which brings me to the first half of my biggest question; who taught Cain and Abel to bring sacrifices to God? Was this something instituted in the Garden or once sin caused Adam and Eve to be cast out? Were there several types of offerings instituted? One of thanks, one of repentance, and one of worship? These are all part of God’s Law later on. Did God speak with Adam and show him this practice to pass on to his children? Were Cain and Abel’s attitudes and actions towards God “taught” or “caught” and by observing whom?
The second part of my biggest question is, why wasn’t Cain’s offering acceptable and Abel’s was? God is not a “blood thirsty” meat eater who only accepts a gift if it gives up its life’s blood. Later in His Law we see Him commanding the grain offering and the oils. So what was it about Cain’s offering of “the fruit of the ground” that displeased God? I’m going to say that it MUST have had something to do with the heart condition in which both offerings were given.
Cain brought some of what he had cultivated. He worked hard to bring crops from the ground. It appears he was very good at it too. It yielded to him plentiful harvests and he got pleasure from working the ground. He reminds me of a typical farmer who loves to work his fields. But we aren’t told that Cain brought the “first fruits” of his harvest. Also I’m wondering at Cain’s motivation for bringing an offering in the first place. Was it to say “thank You” to God or to make a request?
Abel brought the “firstborn of his flock and their fat portions” (verse 4a). Abel brought the first and best parts to God. I’m curious as to where the “fat portions” came from. God told man earlier that he would “eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:18b). When did man start eating meat? Were Adam and Eve given some to eat when God killed the animal to make their clothing? That was the first death recorded in scripture. If they didn’t eat the meat of the animals, how did Abel get the “fat portions” and what became of the rest of the animal who gave up this portion? I would say that Abel’s offering was one of thanks giving from the fact that he brought the best that came from his labors.
Is THAT the major difference between the two offerings? Cain brought “some” of the works of his hands and Abel brought the “best” from his labors. Was Cain’s gift the leftovers or what was not usable? That would certainly make a difference in attitude. Cain brought a “white elephant” gift while Able brought a “secret pals” gift. (To those who don’t understand these terms a “white elephant” gift is when you bring something from your home that you really don’t want or have no need of, while a “secret pals” gift is a gift given to someone that is to honor who they are and thought is put into the gift to make it fit the receiver with the expectation of blessing them without requiring expressions of appreciation in return.)
I want to move beyond the offering and look at the results and reactions. HOW did God show that He accepted Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? Did they present them in person to Him? Did He consume them with fire like He did with Elijah’s? SOMETHING happened to alert Cain to the fact that his offering was not “regarded” by God.
Quick side question here. Was this the first time these two men had brought offerings to God? Was this a perpetual problem that finally came to a head this time or was it a new experience for Cain to have his offering rejected?
Back to the current offering. Cain visibly showed how God’s displeasure with his offering hurt him. “Cain was very angry, and his face fell” (verse 5b). GOD TOOK NOTICE IMMEDIATELY! God notices more than just his sad face; He knew the emotions behind it. He saw Cain’s anger. God addressed the root reason Cain’s offering was not accepted; “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door” (verse 7a).
God told Cain that the problem lay with him and nowhere else. But Cain wouldn’t accept that. He laid his heartache at the feet of his brother. He blamed Abel for his own rejection. “If my goody-goody brother hadn’t tried to show me up, everything would have been fine. He spoiled my offering and got between me and my blessing.” This thought took root and grew until Cain was consumed with hatred for “what Abel had done to him.” Sin WAS crouching at his door and he didn’t rule over it, he let it rule over him. The first murder takes place. Out of the fruits of jealousy and bitterness Abel’s life was taken.
Cain thought what he did would go unnoticed. I wonder how he planned to explain Abel’s absence to his parents. Would he blame a “wild beast” as Joseph’s brothers did? But God sees ALL! There is no hiding from Him.
In Cain’s interaction with God, from beginning to end, he doesn’t once apologize or say he is sorry for what he has done. His whole focus in on himself. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (verse 9b). “My punishment is greater that I can bear. Behold, YOU have driven me today away from the ground, and from Your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (verse 14, emphasis added). No remorse, just poor pitiful me.
God only responded to the last part of Cain’s lament. He had passed the sentence Cain was complaining about but His judgement was NOT going to be a death sentence. We are not told what kind of “mark” God put upon Cain but whatever it was, everyone else understood its meaning. “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” Deuteronomy 32:35). I believe the greatest punishment was Cain being told he had to leave the presence of the Lord. Was God still coming down to spend time with Adam? Apparently “His presence” was still in the area where Adam lived with his family.
We get into the genealogy of Cain now. One thing I noticed is how names were so close to the same. Cain’s first son’s name is Enoch while Seth’s first son’s name was Enosh. That gets a bit confusing for me. Then there is Methuselah, Seth’s descendant and Methushael, Cain’s descendant. My nephews Braydon, Brogan and Brennan have NOTHING on this group.
One of the most surprising parts of our reading for me is Cain’s descendant Lamech’s attitude. Apparently Cain had shared the story of his “revenge” against his brother and that story had been passed down throughout the generations. I don’t know if this story was share as a warning or as bragging rights. Maybe it was shared as both depending on the teller and the situation. Lamech took it as the latter. I wonder if he was striving to outdo Cain or if he was trying to make himself feel better about his behavior. “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (verse 23b-24). NOT something I would be bragging about.
I wonder how much “parenting” had to do with Cain’s family’s path and how much had to do with being removed from the presence of God. Cain’s was the supreme influence on his family. Seth’s family had Adam and God as their ultimate influence. We have to remember though that Cain had both these influences in the beginning and still chose to throw it away. I wonder if any of his children ignored his example and sought after God. It is still an individual choice. Parenting and examples can only go so far, either way.
Father God, I sure have a LOT of questions to ask when we finally meet face to face. Please don’t let these questions ever become doubt. I LOVE thinking about the behind the scenes story. Not because I don’t believe it could happen but because I want to know more! I trust Your word. Period. But I have a hard time waiting until we meet to You in person.
I am SO glad that I had a godly example in my parents. I wish that having godly parents was a guarantee that the child would follow You. But then that would also guarantee that those who didn’t have godly parents would not follow You. Maybe my term “godly” and my interpretation and ability to live up to Your definition played a BIG part in the final outcome. But we can see where generational bitterness can get you. PLEASE don’t let me EVER go there! Maybe I should be saying thank You for bringing me back instead and also please root out any that is left in my heart instead. YES Lord! PLEASE DO!