Creator of Life. This truth has been repeated numerous times in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis: God is the creator and giver of life. But it’s not just creation ex-nihilo that bears witness of that reality, so does procreation. Yes, there are complementary biological mechanisms that God instituted in men and women, but the creation of human beings transcends the material realm. Only God can see that a living being would have an eternal soul. Eve was right when she conceived, bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD” (4:1b). Adam and Eve did not “bring about for themselves” a son; rather, with the help of the creator of life (per NASB translation), they received a son. Subsequent revelation would bear witness to Eve’s exclamation – God sovereignly superintends the conception and formation of life (Gen. 20:18; 25:21; 30:2; 48:4; Ps. 113:9; 127:3; 139:13; Jer. 1:5).
Worthy of Worthy Worship. Cain and Abel are introduced to the reader as a “tiller of the ground” and “keeper of sheep” respectively (4:2). Immediately following that description, both men are seen bringing offerings to God and we are told that the LORD respected Abel’s offering (4:4b) and that the LORD did not respect Cain and his offering (4:5a). Some will say the quintessential difference between each man’s offering was at the point of sacrifice – meaning, Cain should have brought a blood sacrifice like Abel; while others will say it was at the point of faith – meaning Abel brought his sacrifice with a heart of faith and Cain didn’t. Leaving aside further discussion of the differences between the two offerings, what is clear is that Cain’s offering did not pass the ‘worthiness’ test. Cain went through the motions of worship but, according to the evaluator of all human worship, it was clearly unworthy. The subject of worship will be one that is continuously covered throughout the Pentateuch and beyond. Via the construction of the tabernacle, the giving of the Mosaic Law, the book of Leviticus, and the instruction of the New Testament, it can be unequivocally stated that ‘worthy worship’, not merely in form, but in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24) was, and is, a priority to God.
Avenging. After Cain murdered Abel, God told him, “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (4:10b). The picture being – Abel’s blood was calling for retribution and punishment against the murderer who was, at that point in time, unpunished. In response, God told Cain that the ground would no longer yield to him (vs.12a); meaning, the earth that received Abel’s blood would not respond any further to Cain’s attempts to till it (vs.12a). His farming days were done. And furthermore, he would be a vagabond and fugitive upon the earth (vs.12b). And seeing that subsequent revelation would define Cain as “wicked”, his punishment wouldn’t only be limited to temporal ramifications. The personified cry of Abel’s blood bears witness that God is an avenger of evil. If one needs to be reminded of that reality they can hear similar cries from martyred saints in Revelation 6:10.
Surprisingly Merciful. God’s response to Cain’s lamentation over the severity of his judgment has often surprised me. After Cain complained about his punishment being more than he could bear, he said, “and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (vs.14b). At which point the reader is probably thinking something like, “Exactly. You murdered your brother out of envy and jealousy, and you shouldn’t be surprised if men kill you in a like manner.” But God’s reaction is, to me, surprisingly merciful. He puts a mark on Cain that would warn other men against killing him (vs.15). What mercy – both for Cain and for other men who would be tempted to commit the horrible atrocity of murder!
Faithful to the Promise. Think about it – Adam and Eve sinned against God, then their oldest son murdered their second son, and God did not destroy the human race; rather, following the pattern of the narrative, acknowledging that at some point Adam and Eve bore many sons and daughters (Gen. 5:4b; cf. Gen. 4:17), here we are told that Adam knew his wife again and she bore another son and named him Seth (vs.25a) saying, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (vs.25b). The implication may likely be – Eve thought Seth was the promised Seed who would crush the head of the serpent, especially given the fact that she used the same word from Genesis 3:15. Although Seth was not the promised Seed, One who was his seed would be; namely, Jesus Christ (Lk 3:38). Abel may have been dead, slain by the seed of the serpent, Cain (1 Jn. 3:12), but that wouldn’t deter the fulfillment of God’s Gospel promise.