12 Cain and Abel

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Please read Gen 4: 1-24.


Adam and Eve obeyed God’s command to multiply in order that the earth would gradually be filled with a multitude of people, and from His side, God kept His promise by making them fertile and blessing them with two sons.


Eve’s pregnancies, as well as the births of her two children, must have been accompanied with hardship as God had said it would be, so that she was compelled to depend on His assistance.  There were of course no medical services or even a midwife available to help her.  On top of that, Cain’s birth was the first human birth ever, so there was no one to consult and she did not know beforehand what to expect. 

This woman who, in Paradise, chose to be independent, now came to realize her need of God.  He did not fail her, but personally assisted her.  She afterwards testified that she brought forth a male boy with His assistance.

The hardships of life which came by man’s fall, now did them some good because it compelled them to live in close fellowship with God. 

Likewise, the Lord often allows hardships and sorrows in a person’s life to achieve His higher purpose in him.


Cain became a grain- and Abel a sheep-farmer. In this they were giving effect to God’s command to cultivate/work the earth. (They added value to it).


They had not been commanded to do this, but it was commendable; an act of acknowledgement that they were dependent on Him and appreciated what He had provided for them.

Cain offered of the harvest of his land and Abel the fat, that is the best part of a firstborn lamb.

They both waited on God and He clearly indicated His reception of the one and rejection of the other.


1. Firstly, He looked at the spiritual state of the givers. When a human being brings an offering to God, the very first thing the Lord observes, is the spiritual attitude of the giver’s heart towards Him as is stated in Ps 51:7. The sacrifice that pleases Him, is a humble spirit that quickly repents of sin; a broken and contrite heart, He will never despise or reject.

In Hebrews 11:4 we read that Abel had, by faith, brought a better offering than Cain and in Matt 23:35, it is recorded that he was righteous, which means that his life was right with God; He was not perfect, but his sin was forgiven.  His faith was genuine.

None of this was true of Cain. He was a self-righteous man that kept himself aloof from God. He had not accepted and did not honour the Lord as his God, but was a god unto himself.  Therefor His offering was an affront, rather than a blessing to God. Prov. 21:27 states that the offering of the godless is an abomination to God. 

So, God, to Whom every person’s heart is an open book, knew what the standing of these two men was: the one’s heart was right with Him and he had real faith in Him and the other not.

2. Secondly it concerns the type of offerings they brought.  If you really want to please someone by giving him a present, you make a point of it to find out what he likes, like phoning a friend or relative of his, enquiring what he would appreciate and not already has. If the one you want to please, also happens to be a person of high standing and who had done much for you, you might invest much time and effort in this research so as not to embarrass, but to please him. So, then what would please God?

When Adam and Eve had sinned, God had to shed the blood of innocent animals and from their hides make tunics to cover their nakedness (their sins) so that they could again come into His presence with boldness.

Cain and Abel must have heard that story many times from their parents.  Abel took to heart God’s desire and obediently shed the blood of the firstborn of his stock to enable him to bring a blood offering (it’s fat), a pleasing offering to God. 

The reason why the shedding of blood was so important to God, was that it pointed forward to His Son’s future offering of His own blood to cover the sins of man. This deeper significance was not yet understood by the people of that age. The principle of the shedding of blood for the remission of sin is confirmed in Heb 9:22 where it is written that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission/ forgiveness of sins.

There where Abel stood before God, his heart was right and his offering was right so that his sins were covered, therefore the Lord openly testified or indicated that He accepted his offering.

Cain on the other hand, stood before God with a heart that was not right with Him and an offering of fruit that did not cover his guilt.  Therefore, God openly indicated that He rejected it. 

3. There is faith from the mind and faith from the heart.

Both of them believed in God (the Lord had probably appeared to them in physical form) but Abel’s faith led him to humble himself for his sin to be forgiven by grace and to be accepted by God as His own. 

Cain’s attitude, as reflected in his offering, was just the opposite; stubborn, self confident, as if the Lord was his equal to whom he had brought a benevolent gift.  In short, He had no regard for God.


Instead of humbling himself and enquiring from God why his offering was unacceptable, his proud heart caused him to sin even more, allowing God to see it. He became very angry, even red in the face, hung his head and his countenance was dark and brooding. 

God took notice of this, then responded as follows: 

1. He afforded him the opportunity to state his case by asking him why he was upset and hung his head.

2. Warned him against the danger of sinning, pointing out that sin was a force that desired to take him captive and if he would even slightly succumb to it, by not doing what was good, it would totally overwhelm him. Yes, God depicted sin as an animal of prey that was spying on its victim from it’s hiding place, waiting on an unguarded moment to pounce, and devour him.

3. God promised to lift him up should he do what is good and encouraged him to reign over sin.


God’s words to Cain, of course also apply to us as the offspring of Adam for which reason God warns us to be vigilant so as not to fall into temptation (Matt 26:41). 

A powerful weapon we have against sin, is the confession thereof.  The moment the Holy Spirit warns us that we have sinned, we should immediately confess it to the Lord.  This is like throwing a burning piece of wood at a stalking lion when it is still at a distance from you, causing it to flee. 

The confession of sin is not only about receiving forgiveness; by confession you confirm that what you did, said or thought, is unacceptable and abominable to you and that you want nothing to do with it. 

It also is a prayer to God for deliverance to which He will immediately respond by empowering you by His Holy Spirit to gain the victory over it.

Just as man received authority from God to reign over creation, He also, in Christ, received authority to reign over sin.  As a Christian, I have the power to reign over sexual lust, smoking, drinking, drugs, a bad temper, anger, jealousy, or whatever sin attacks me.  I can pin it to the ground with my foot and keep it there, but if I don’t do that, and play with it as with a pet snake or embrace it as I would a friend, I must know that I will very soon be the one lying with my face in the dust with sin having it’s foot on my neck. 

In the work situation, a director flirting lightly with his secretary, may suddenly find them falling in love with one another, causing their marriages to break up or the business they conduct, getting ruined.


Cain just could not get over the humiliation he had suffered in the presence of his younger brother. He brooded over it, day and night, possibly planning how he could take revenge. He could of course not vent his anger on God; but what about beating up Able? That would give him great satisfaction.

He also spoke to his brother about the matter. This probably happened when the two of them were alone in the veldt. During this conversation, Abel might innocently have testified of his love for God. What Abel did not know, was that Cain’s anger was fermenting in him like yeast, daily increasing in intensity.

The next moment Cain unexpectedly attacked his brother and beat him to death.


One is astounded at the power of sin. It is like a tsunami that knows no boundaries but just rushes inland, killing and wrecking everything in its way.

The indwelling sin of the parents had consequences for both of their children: the firstborn son becoming a murderer and the second born a martyr. What a heart-breaking story. The first parents lost both of their first two children; one died and the other was banned from their home (like being jailed, see later).

Jealousy especially, is a very heinous sin. As early in the Word, as chapter four already, we see the havoc it can wreak. Jealousy, if not forcibly eradicated, turns into hatred which becomes an uncontrollable monster that overpowers your self-control and turns you into a murderer.

The Lord Jesus too, was murdered because the religious leaders were jealous of Him because of His powerful ministry and his favour with God the Father.


As said, the second human being to be born became the first martyr. Abel had to pay with his life for serving God (Luk 11:51; Heb 11:4).

God had said that there would be enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the snake (Gen 3:15) and here we see it coming true as Cain allowed himself to be part of the seed of the snake.

This affects you and me some 6000 years later for whoever walks in the fear of the Lord will in some or other way be persecuted by those that walk in obedience to the snake (2 Tim 3:12).

But here is the bright side of the story: Abel was the first human being to enter the glory of heaven! Can you imagine the shouts and songs of praise as this relatively young man, was escorted by an angel into the throne room of God? And can you imagine his utter amazement when, after suffering the pain of being clubbed to death, he suddenly came to himself in this land of breath-taking glory. Wow, God always has surprises stored away for His children!


While Abel was enjoying heaven above, Cain was facing a court trial for murder, wherein God was both witness, prosecutor, and judge.

Just like in the garden, when Adam and Eve sinned, it was God that took the initiative to resolve the matter, not man approaching God with his sin, and what an arrogant reply He got. When God asked him where his brother Abel was, Cain replied that he did not know and that he was not his brother’s keeper.

We may argue that if God was to appear and speak to us in person, our hearts would melt.  But here we see how stubborn we are.  If we do not regard His written Word, and the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit, we will not give heed even if some-one would rise from the grave or an angel would appear to us or if God would speak to us in an audible voice.  Once a person allows his heart to be hardened by the committing of sin, it eventually becomes as hard as a rock.

God responded by asking him what he had now done and informing him that his crime had made headline news in heaven. 

Then the Lord sentenced him: he was banned from his country for life, would have to flee forever and would find it very hard to make a living wherever he went. A life sentence!

Cain had despised the privilege of family life and now he would be deprived of it and be removed from his parents’ home so that he would not contaminate with sin, the children that were still to be born.

Cain was shocked and pleaded for at least some mercy for personal protection.  

This was not true grief for sin; he was just feeling sorry for himself. It was only now, after having been discovered and sentenced, that he suddenly started pleading for mercy. 

Sometimes a person would weep during his trial in a court of law, but this could well be just to impress the judge to lessen his punishment or because of the shame and punishment he will have to bear.

God upheld Cain’s plea. The mercy of God extended even further: Cain is not immediately sentenced to death, but is given protection to live for many more years during which he would have the opportunity of turning to God. 

The Lord has no joy in the death of a sinner but rather in that he may repent and receive life. (Eze 18:23).


He departed from the face of the Lord and settled himself east of Eden in the land of Nod.

The person who continues to despise God’s outstretched hand of forgiveness by not repenting, getting born-again, and persevering in fellowship with the Lord, will loose that opportunity forever.


Where did he get a wife?  At that time people became very old, some more than 900 years.  In the course of his lifespan of 930 years, Adam fathered many more children.  Some of them surely were daughters from amongst which Cain could find a wife, even though many years might have elapsed before that would happen.  It would have been quite normal for him for instance to have married at the age of 100 years, because Adam’s third son, Seth, fathered his first son only at the age of 105 years.


Cain did well for himself: he raised such a large family that he had to build a city for them. They excelled in many spheres of life, becoming livestock farmers, copper– and iron smiths, musicians and designers of musical instruments like harps and flutes.

They undoubtedly made a great contribution to the development of mankind (farming, industries, culture).


Cain’s descendants unfortunately also were people that were more inclined to evil, like Lamech who was a violent man and issued a warning that he would revenge himself 77 times and would not hesitate even to kill a boy that would dare to wound him.

Compare Lamech’s attitude with that of Christ Who told Peter to forgive his brother 70 x 7 (Matt 18:21, 22). By this time, sin had sunk its bitter roots deep into the heart of mankind.

It is significant to note that, as apposed to the more God-fearing lineage of Seth, very limited particulars are disclosed regarding the lineage of Cain and that the dates they were born and died, are not mentioned. The people that are most important to God, are those that fear Him, those that are his own, his precious ones.


This division of mankind into a God-fearing and a Godless group, continues through the ages. Two robbers were crucified and died, the one proceeded to the heavenly paradise while the other found himself cast into Hades (Luk 23:42, 43).