Up to this point in Genesis we have witnessed the wonderful act of God’s Creation, the joys of the Sabbath, the unfortunate fall of man and woman, and the necessity of God's judgment. Things couldn’t go any worse... or could they? Unfortunately our tale goes from bad to worse and ends in tragedy.
Vs. 1 & 2: Adam and Eve have a son named Cain – which means “I have gotten a son”. The name Cain sounds similar to the Hebrew word meaning "gotten" or “I have acquired”. There is an implied sense of anticipation in naming Cain with Eve in the birth of her son. If you recall God told her that her offspring would crush the head of the serpent and I am certain this picture was in her mind when she gave birth to her little boy. Could it be she thought the Savior had come who would make things right? This is possible, but unfortunately this is not the case.
They also had a son named Abel whose name means "breath, vapor or vanity" and this was certainly a foretelling of his short life.
Both brothers were hard workers… Cain was a worker of the ground and Abel was a shepherd. Both were valid legitimate workers. There is no indication in the text that shepherding was a better trade than farming.
Vs 3 - 5: Over the course of time both brothers brought offerings to the Lord. We are uncertain as to why they gave offerings since the sacrificial system had not yet been established and there is no mention that God required offerings from them. Cain is mentioned first as bringing an offering of fruit from the ground and Abel brings an offering of his flock (animal sacrifice). We are not told why specifically but Abel’s sacrifice had regard (favor) with God and Cain’s offering God had no regard (unacceptable). Some have deduced and probably rightly so that the reason for this was not so much about what was given but how (the attitude) they were given. The issue was with the heart. The text suggests that Abel gave an offering out of worship and Cain gave out of duty. According to 1 John 3:12 Cain’s deeds were evil because Cain became angry with God. He didn't like the fact that God didn’t accept his offering and he acted on his anger as well. Cain was mad at God! He was indignant. The words “very angry” could be translated as Cain “burned with anger.” He harbored bitterness towards God and his brother in his heart. Why?
Vs 6, 7: The Lord asked Cain why he was so angry; not because he didn’t know but he was giving Can the opportunity to openly confess his sin that was lurking in his heart. God was challenging Cain to step back and look at his heart and make the necessary changes to do right. God basically says Cain had a choice to make, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” God mercifully challenges Cain by telling him he does not need to be angry. He can do the right thing and God will accept him. However if, “you do not do well” then sin will overtake him.
“Sin is crouching at the door” – This imagery is vivid and it is of an animal waiting to pounce its prey. If Cain continues to harbor anger in his heart this sin will overtake him and ultimately dominate him. “Its desire is for you…” The word “desire” is the same word used for the woman whose desire shall be for her husband. His sin will control and have power over Cain if he does not subdue it. God has given Cain the opportunity and the ability to take control of his sin.
Vs 8 - 10: Apparently Cain does not heed God’s warning or challenge. Verse 8 tells us that Cain murders Abel. We are not told how the crime was committed but we are told the end result... the death of Abel. Once the deed was done Cain responds similar to his father and tries to hide what he has done (Like father like son).
God comes to Cain and asks where his brother is. Again, God is not asking because he does not know but because he wants Cain to confess his transgression. Cain defiantly responds by telling a lie. “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” He says he has no idea where his brother is (which is a blatant lie) and in irritation lashes out at God. In Cain’s response and action we see that he has been overtaken by sin and he chooses to remain in it.
What are some situations in life that most quickly cause you to become angry? How can you better prepare or anticipate some of these situations?
What action steps can you take today to not allow anger, bitterness, rage, and jealousy consume and control you?