Cain and Abel: The Murder
Last week, we saw that Cain’s offering to God was not accepted by God but Abel’s was. We learned from this early occasion that we cannot worship God anyway we please and expect God to be pleased.
Cain was not happy with the fact that his offering was not accepted. It filled him with such rage that his appearance changed. It was evident to everyone that he was distressed.
Cain had an opportunity to make things right. He could have admitted his failure to follow God’s requirements for proper worship, confess his sin, ask for forgiveness, offer the appropriate sacrifice, and then continue to live his life in submission to God’s regulations.
Sadly, this was not to be the case. Sin had entered creation with Adam and Eve and, in this account, we see sin has infected even their children. Sin is a disease we are all born with and the only Cure is the Seed of Eve that God prophesied about in Genesis 3.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)
Cain had let his jealousy completely take over to the point that it was physically affecting him.
God tells Cain that if he would “do well,” he would be exalted. Cain needed to humble himself, confess his sin, repent of his sin, ask God for forgiveness, offer an acceptable sacrifice, and then continue to live in obedience.
“God is here reasoning with Cain, to convince him of the sin and folly of his anger and discontent, and to bring him into a good temper again, that further mischief might be prevented. It is an instance of God’s patience and condescending goodness that he would deal thus tenderly with so bad a man, in so bad an affair.” ~ Matthew Henry
God asks Cain why he is angry. He does not ask Cain because He does not know the answer. However, as God questioned Adam and Eve about their sin, He was giving Cain the opportunity to humble himself, confess his sin, and ask for forgiveness.
In Deuteronomy 30:19, God says to the people of Israel, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.” In this conversation with Cain, God is doing the same thing. The life and blessing is “do well” and “your countenance will be lifted.” The death and curse offered is “do not do well” and sin will consume you.
“See here the effect of a Mediator’s interposal between God and man; we do not stand upon the footing of the first covenant, which left no room for repentance, but God had come upon new terms with us. Though we have offended, if we repent and return, we shall find mercy. See how early the gospel was preached, and the benefit of it here offered even to one of the chief of sinners.” ~ Matthew Henry
Cain is always associated with sin. He, along with Judas, is one of the most recognized as notorious and wicked people in the Bible. Even atheists and Bible haters have heard the name of Cain and immediately recall his sin. Yet, even in this question, God is giving him the opportunity to “do well.” As Matthew Henry said, God is giving one of the “chief of sinners” the opportunity to confess and repent.
God gives us the same opportunity. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we have the opportunity to confess our sins and submit to God.
In this passage, God describes sin as “crouching at the door.” In my mind, I think of a very aggressive cat I use to have. He would attack anything that walked by. You wouldn’t always know where he was. He would crouch behind chairs, around corners, and even at the door. Before you knew what was happening, he would be biting and clawing at your pants leg.
Sin is not a simple house cat, however, it is much more like a lion. It won’t leave little scratches that heal in a few days. This lion will rip to shreds and completely devour.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
As with Cain, sin can come upon us with little provocation. If we do not “do well” and “be on the alert,” sin will overcome us without our notice. We must be vigilant. We must be discerning. We must be on guard at all times. But, most importantly, we need to confess and repent immediately when we do fall into sin so that it does not consume us.
“Those who do not sacrifice well, but are careless and remiss in their devotion to God, expose themselves to the worst temptations; and perhaps the most scandalous sin lies at the door.” ~ Matthew Henry
If he continued to walk in this disobedience, Cain would soon be overcome by sin. This sin would lead to a life of habitual sinfulness and calamity.
This sin that crouches at that door has two possible interpretations by some theologians. The first is that this is the punishment of sin waiting at the door, as if a police officer is waiting at the door for the criminal to walk through. This interpretation is arrived at because the Hebrew word for “sin” and “punishment” are the same word.
Another interpretation comes about due to a similar reason as above. The word for “sin” is also the same word for “sin offering.” So, some see this verse as presenting mercy. If you sin, the sin offering is at the door waiting for you to take hold of.
Both concepts are Biblical and teach us a great deal. When we sin, there are two options: God’s mercy or punishment. When you sin, you must choose. Will you confess your sin, repent of it, implore the Lord for forgiveness, and pursue holiness? Or will you reject the Lord’s mercy and endure the punishment that waits?
Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. (Genesis 4:8)
Cain let his jealousy, bitterness, and hatred consume him. He did not heed God’s warning and master the sin that was waiting to consume him. His sin escalated and eventually ended in him taking the life of his brother.
“See what a root of bitterness the corrupt nature is, which bears this gall and wormwood. Adam’s eating forbidden fruit seemed but a little sin, but it opened the door to the greatest.” ~ Matthew Henry
Imagine how Adam & Eve must have felt in this situation knowing that their sin led to this tragedy. They knew that their sin ushered death into creation but I doubt they could have ever imagined such an outcome of their sin.
Imagine the horror that your oldest son, the first revelation of God’s promise to you to extend your bloodline, the first hint at the One who would one day cover the sins you committed that caused the whole earth to be cursed and would crush your enemy, this son, this light of your eye, would become so corrupt that he would kill his younger brother, a kind and gentle man. He didn’t kill his brother by accident or in self-defense but out of hatred and jealousy. Adam and Eve’s first real experience with death of a human doesn’t come from their own death but from the death of a child at the hands of another child.
In Genesis 3, we see that God prophesies that enmity will arise between the seed of Satan and the seed of Eve. While this prophecy is ultimately about the enmity between Christ and Satan, it also was a prophecy of the enmity between children of God and the children of Satan. This constant tension between the two people reveals itself in this first generation. Abel is mentioned among the saints, the martyrs (Matthew 23:35), but Cain is listed among the wicked, the haters of the light (Jude 11).
“The first that dies is a saint, one that was accepted and beloved of God, to show that, though the promised seed was so far to destroy him that had the power of death as to save believers from its sting, yet still they should be exposed to its stroke.” ~ Matthew Henry
Ultimately, Cain’s killing of Abel was him striking at God. Cain hated Abel, not because Abel had wronged him, but because God loved him. God accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s.
Cain, in order to “get back at God,” decided to kill the one whom God loved. When we think this out logically, his actions do not make sense, however, sin blinds and corrupts us all the way to our reasoning abilities. Cain had left his senses and could not see straight. He saw Abel as the object of God’s love and in order to “teach God a lesson,” decided to remove the object of His love.
“The first that went to the grave went to heaven. God would secure to himself the first-fruits, the first-born to the dead, that first opened the womb into another world. Let this take off the terror of death, that it was betimes the lot of God’s chosen, which alters the property of it.” ~ Matthew Henry
The death of Abel was a tragedy but not a surprise, something unexpected, or not preordained by God. God was not taken off guard by this murder. God was prepared. He already had a paradise for Abel to dwell in after this horrendous crime. Abel was a child of God and, in his death, he went to his true home.
This should encourage us. God knows the moment we will die and, if you are one of His adopted children, you have a place in Paradise ready for you just as Abel did. Death is nothing to fear for the Christian; it is our true homecoming.
“The first that dies is a martyr, and dies for his religion; and of such it may more truly be said than of soldiers that they die on the bed of honour. Abel’s death has not only no curse in it, but it has a crown in it; so admirably well is the property of death altered that it is not only rendered innocent and inoffensive to those that die in Christ, but honourable and glorious to those that die for him. Let us not think it strange concerning the fiery trial, nor shrink if we be called to resist unto blood; for we know there is a crown of life for all that are faithful unto death.” ~ Matthew Henry
Sin is always waiting to pounce on us, especially when we least expect it. Hatred and jealousy are two sins that will make us more susceptible to fall into even more vile sins.
We have two choices. We can either chose walk through the door where the punishment is waiting or we can chose to walk through the door where Christ’s offering is waiting.
As Joshua 24:14-15 states, “choose this day whom you will serve.”
Matthew, Henry. 2017. “Chapter 4 – Matthew Henry’s Commentary – Bible Gateway”. Biblegateway.Com. Accessed September 6. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/matthew-henry/Gen.4.1-Gen.4.26.