Week 3 – Genesis 4:1-16 Cain & Abel and WHO?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

In the beginning God created the heavens and earth and everything in them.  Birds and fish and animals and then it was time to create His masterpiece. 

 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. …God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day” Genesis 1:27-31 (NIV).

You and I were created from very good stock!  In God’s own image.  What on earth went wrong?   I know Gen. 3 right?

But if the scholars are right…for about the next 65 – 100 or so years of our forebears lives things were still pretty much paradise on earth.  The work was toilsome but food was plentiful, clothing was provided, and fellowship with God was strained but still awesome!


Having babies?  Well it was awesome too but maybe not as awesome during the delivery as it could have been.  God did say to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” Genesis 3:16 (NIV)

The punitive effect of sin had already begun by the time we get to chapter 4 of Genesis.     But this threat didn’t seem to stop Adam and Eve.  And they got right down to business.  The business of being fruitful and multiplying! (cf. Gen. 1:27)  Soon children were born to this happy couple.

On that front, what was the name of the person first born to Adam and Eve?

Watch out! It’s a trick question.  You need to really examine HIStory in Gen. 4:1-16 to figure this question out.

If you are anything like me you have read the Bible with what I would describe as blinders of finite time and what appears to be infinite space.  And because of the finite time aspect you may have come up with what seems a logical answer to that question.  But trust me you need to know this next story in our 52 week challenge through the Bible.

So let’s read through it again and see if we can actually find an answer to the name question.

(Gen. 4:1-16 (NIV))

Slide6Ok so do you have the answer to my first question?  What is the name of Adam and Eve’s first child? 


Trust me I didn’t see what was in front of my eyes either.  But let’s go through this tragic story again a little slower and examine the evidence.

First things first: Who is it that we have in this story.  Who are the main characters?  Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able?  Is there not someone else present?  Physically present?

Here’s a hint:


Look at verses Gen. 4:6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 (NIV).  Who is talking to whom?  You can circle in or underline in your Bibles verses 6, 9, and 10. “The Lord said”.

Where was the LORD when He said these things?  Was He invisible? Or perhaps just an audible voice from out of heaven like when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan? (cf. Mat. 3:17).  Or is another explanation?

Slide9In verse Gen. 4:3 we see that, “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD”.   Where did he do that?  Was it done in person or simply symbolically?  If it was simply symbolically or perhaps a better word might be religiously, after all the word used there is “offering”.  Which by the way is the very first offering mentioned in the Bible.  But was this offering in HIS presence?  Or only symbolically in HIS presence?

If symbolically then how does Cain know that the LORD looked on Abel’s offering with favour but Cain’s without favour as it says in verse 4?   Slide10And not only that but why on earth would Cain lament as he did, “I will be hidden from your presence” in Genesis 4:13, if God’s presence wasn’t right there with him?

And if God truly wasn’t present then what really happened when as verse 16 tells us, “Cain went out from the LORD’s presence?

Slide11I think it is very safe to say that the main characters of Genesis 4:1-16 are: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel and GOD or perhaps a Theophany of HIM as it appears from this passage.  But wait if these are the main characters of this story who are the others?  And just what was the name of Adam and Eve’s first born?

Now I know you can point to verse 1 and say its right there Pastor.  “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Genesis 4:1 (NIV).   There is your first born!  His name is Cain.  To which I would have to say are you sure?  Yes it does say that the two did what husband and wives do and  the result of it was a male child named Cain.  There is no denying that from this passage but how do we know that Cain was the first born?

Well some say, since it is the first verse that seems to imply sexual intimacy between Adam and Eve we may be jumping to the conclusion that this male child was their first offspring.   This seems reasonable to conclude this until you reach verses  Gen. 4:13-16.

Slide12When “Cain said to the LORD”“whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14 (NIV)…  Just who was he worried about?   He had already killed his only known brother by then. And mom and dad are so naive they actually listened to a snake and ate forbidden fruit when the snake said it was ok.  So they likely hadn’t noticed that Abel was missing yet.  So just who was Cain worried about?

This is the first time we begin to see that there had to be other people around along with those main characters.  And this is confirmed when God said, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.” Genesis 4:15 (NIV)   Who are the “anyone” and “no one” that God was referring to?  Could one of them have been Adam and Eve’s first born?  And could she have been not mentioned because of the Patriarchal bent of Moses to whom this written account is attributed to? –  This would be only speculation on my part because Genesis is silent on this matter.

According to Dr. Adam Clark, let it be observed that the death of Abel took place in the one hundred and twenty-eighth or one hundred and twenty-ninth year of the world” (ACC:Gen4:15, see also Gen. 5:3-5).

And since Gen. 4:17 says that “Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch”
Genesis 4:17 (NIV). 

We can rest assured that there had to be more people around then the five we have already identified.  In fact you don’t build a city unless you have workers and a need for shelter do you? Slide13

Dodd speculates that “421,164” people were conceivably the offspring of Adam and Eve and their children by the time Abel was murdered.  But Adam Clark says a more reasonable conservative estimate is “1219” (Adam Clark Commentary:Gen. 4:15).

You see in HIStory some clues are left at times to help us understand that we don’t have the whole story.  We shouldn’t be dogmatic about things that are not clearly defined in HIStory.

Somethings are very clearly defined.  Sin, the effects of sin and the way of salvation for example.  I have no issue with being dogmatic about those things.  But as importantly we should always ask and concentrate on what the author was attempting to convey when this passage was written.

What is clear from verse one is that Cain was the first male child born to Adam and Eve.  What also is clear is that this was very important to Eve.  But can we assume that she was so thankful because of the promise we read about in Gen. 3:15?    

That would be a stretch.  However, it is reasonable to think that Eve wanted the promised “he child” that would “crush the head of the snake” (cf. Gen. 3:15).  Who wouldn’t?  Birthing was a pain!   So I think it is reasonable to assume that Eve hoped God would soon crush Satan so that everything could get back to normal. 

What we do see for sure is that Eve gave God thanksgiving for the man she had conceived in verse 1.  She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” Genesis 4:1 (NIV).    But soon it would become evident that this was not to be the man she or Adam had hoped for.

I really feel for the ‘mothers of Cain’ today.  They went through the pain of child birth only to find out later that they brought the devil’s helper into the world.  It has to be a terrible burden to carry through life.  God have mercy on you if your son or daughter has done such evil.   But was Cain actually born evil?  Cain we’re told in 1Jn 3:12,  “…belonged to the evil one…Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous”  1 John 3:12 (NIV).   Does that mean he had no other choice but to be evil all his days?

We aren’t told about the growing years for Cain.  Was he the strong willed child?  Can’t say.  Nor are we told why he decided to make an offering to God on that fateful day. Flip Wilson theology would say “the devil made him do it”.   But Genesis has no record of God asking for or demanding sacrifices or offerings.  So we really can’t speak to his motive.  But we are told that he knew right from wrong.  God said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

Other than the fact that he knew right from wrong what else does the passage tell us about Cain?

Cain was a hard worker.  He was a farmer.  His crop came from the land.  So it makes logical sense that Cain would give a thank offering from that which he toiled to produce.   “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD” Genesis 4:3 (NIV).  There is nothing wrong with giving God an offering of grain or other crops according to Leviticus 2.  Especially a thank offering.  Cain brought some of his work product.  We’re not told what it was but apparently from Gen. 4:11 we find out that God had been blessing that crop.  And then were told that blessing came to an immediate and abrupt end as the events unfolded that day.


Artists often depict these two brothers as being about ten and twelve when all this was taking place.  I suspect they were much older than that.

We’re told that “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil”. Genesis 4:2 (NIV).    We’re also told that Abel did things in faith whereas Cain was the pragmatic one.   Hebrews 11:4 says, By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead”.

And that offering is the centrality of this passage.  Abel brought the best portions, the fat portions.  He was out to please God.

Cain…he was shall we say more pragmatic.  He knew God wasn’t going to eat it so …you know…what would it matter if it was a bit bruised, slightly rotting not necessarily fit for human consumption?  It’s not like God needs it….right?

Cain got real jealous over God’s appreciation of Abel’s gift. And he really let it get to him instead of accepting God’s rebuke and heeding the loving correction. Cain let it fester in his heart until anger got the best of him.  And I can say without a doubt he had help with that festering.

I’m sure the devil reminded him again and again of the events that day, playing each moment over in his mind.  The devil loves to do that wouldn’t you agree?

Slide17So Cain took his little brother out for a walk in his field. And that jealousy exploded into rage and the rest is HIStory.  God knew the power of sin to corrupt human lives but He also knows that with freewill man could choose.   Cain was warned that sin was at his door.  He was told to master it, control that anger, or sin would win out.  He was without excuse. And so are you and I when we let sin master us.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

Was it in Cain’s mind that with Abel out of the way God would have to accept His offerings?  We don’t know.  But anger turned into rage and that was consummated with Abel’s blood being poured out on the ground.

And then just like Adam, Cain tried in vain to cover-up his sin.

Yup the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Cain buried Abel in the ground and went about his business like nothing had happened.  Sin seems to embolden those whose conscience it has been hardened. But all it takes is one word from God…just one little question that is all it took to crack that hardened heart.

“The LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”(9)   As if God hadn’t witnessed all that just happened.  But God gave Cain opportunity to fess up.  Cain couldn’t undo what he did to Abel but he could have manned up for having done it and accepted the consequences of his sin.  Even fall on the mercy of God and ask for forgiveness of his sin.   But as Proverbs so aptly points out “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

“I don’t know,” Cain replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9 (NIV).   God showed great restraint in not sending a lightning bolt out of heaven after that first recorded sarcastic remark in HIStory.

Sin had won a battle but not the victory. God could have wiped Cain from the face of the earth.  But God is just.   He had not yet told anyone not to murder their brother.  That would come later in Gen. 9:6 and there He would demand blood for the blood that was shed.  So God cursed Cain and did you notice that the curse took away Cain’s ability to offer another sacrifice?

It’s there in verses 11-12.  “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:11-12 (NIV).  Cain was the first person ever fired!

He immediately felt the sting of sin.  And he immediately tried to get out of the way of God’s wrath.  “Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear” Genesis 4:13 (NIV).

He could have said, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”.  Or even, “I’m real sorry for what I have done”.  But Cain was only worried about His own sorry self and what the other sons and daughters of Adam might do to him.  There was no repentance.

But there was still mercy to be found in God’s presence!

God himself chose to protect Cain!  “The LORD said to him, “… if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” Genesis 4:15 (NIV).

Peter would later write, “The Lord is …patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).  God had graciously protected the first murderer and prevented the sin of retaliation from permeating Adam’s family for the time being.    God already had a plan in motion for the salvation of even the sons and daughters of Cain!  Because HE knew the pervasiveness of sin and just how much grace it takes to bring redemption.

John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)

Read Genesis 4:1-17

  1. Who are the main characters of this story?
  2. Was Cain actually born evil?  (see 1Jn. 3:12)
  3. Does that mean he had no other choice but to be evil all his days? (Gen. 4:7)
  4. What else does the passage tell us about Cain?
  5. Was there something wrong with offering produce instead of animals as an offering to God? (Lev. 2)
  6. Where was the LORD when He said these things?  Was He invisible? (Gen. 4:4,6, 9)
  7. Who are the“anyone” and “no one” that God was referring to?  Could one of them have been Adam and Eve’s first born? Genesis 4:15 (NIV)  
  8. Why didn’t God take Cain’s life? 
  9. How many people were on the earth when this story took place?
  10. When“Cain said to the LORD” … “whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14 (NIV)…  Just who was he worried about?  
  11. What stubbornness do we see in verses Gen. 4:13-14?
  12. What do we learn about the pervasiveness of sin from this story?
  13. Why is this story included so soon after Gen 3? How does it fulfill Gen. 2:17? 
  14. What do we learn about God’s grace from this story?
  15. How can you learn from this story and not go the way of Cain? (1 Jn. 1:8-10)
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