The determinetruth’s Podcast

Understanding Genesis #9: Cain and Abel

June 15, 2022

In this study, Rob leads through a discussion of Gen 4 and the Cain and Abel story. We will note how sin is increasing and getting worse. Adam and Eve are deceived and so is Cain (1 John 3:11-12). As we move through Genesis 4 we note Cain kills his brother and hides--just like Adam and Even hid. Then as the story continues we learn that within 7 generations one of Cain's descendants (Lamech) kills 2 kids and boasts about it! Sin is getting increasingly worse! 


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It is not uncommon for readers of the Bible to assume that the narrative of the “Fall”—i.e., humanity’s fall from grace and into sin—is depicted in Gen 3, the narrative Genesis suggests that we should read all of Gen 3-11 as one account of humanity’s “fall.”[1] What happens next is that humanity gets what it wished for. They wanted the ability to make decisions for themselves. Now, Gen 4 describes over the course of the next seven generations what happens when humanity makes the decisions. One way of describing it is that in Gen 3 the vertical relationship with God was broken, now in Gen 4, the horizontal relationships follow. 

As a result of Adam and Eve’s decision to determine good and bad for themselves, conflict entered into human relations. Instead of ruling together as one, they now are distinct from one another and vying for power against one another.

The story of Cain and Abel demonstrates what happens when deception is allowed to be a part of humanity. Not only does sin continue, but it also intensifies (see 1 John 3:7-12). In fact, sin becomes murderous (Gen 4:1-15). Then, humanity begins to relish in their murderous ways (4:23). Thus, the sin of Adam and Eve worsens in the account of Cain and Abel.

NB: Note the parallels between Gen 3 and Gen 4: Adam and Eve knew they were naked (3:7); Adam knew his wife (4:1): in both accounts, God says, ‘where are you’ (3:9); ‘where is your brother’ (4:9); in both accounts, God asks “what have you done?” (Gen 3:13; 4:10): in both accounts, the earth is cursed (3:17; 4:11); and both Adam and Cain are banished from the presence of God (3:24; 4:14); to the east (3:24; 4:16).

In Gen 4, God announces that Cain’s punishment will be an intensification of the punishment brought on Adam and Eve. They were expelled from the garden of Eden, but now Cain will be a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:12).

God told Adam that his labors would be a struggle, but, though the land would produce thorns and thistles, “you will eat of the plants of the field” (3:19). When Cain works the ground, “it will no longer yield its crops for you” (4:12).

The story of Cain and Abel demonstrates how when unchecked sin continues to worsen. Eventually, sin will increase to the point that God becomes grieved (Gen 6:6) and decides to start over (Gen 6:7).

The Cain and Abel narrative also affirms that humanity is failing to heed God’s desire to “fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). Instead, they build cities (Gen 4:17).

The account ends with a note of hope. Adam and Eve have another son who will replace Abel. That this son appears to be the hope of mankind is evident from his name: “Seth” lit. “seed” (see Gen 3:15). 


4:1-7 Cain and Abel

  1. Adam knew his wife and Cain is born (1; cf 3:7)
  2. Abel kept the flocks; Cain tilled the soil (2)
  1. Cain’s no adjectives: therefore, just plain old vegetables?
  2. Abel’s ‘the firstlings’ and of their ‘fat portions’ (4:4): reflects gratitude (Exod 23:19; 34:26; Num 15:17-21; 18:12-13; Deut 26:1-11)

God addresses Cain (6)

  1. Sin is crouching at your door
  2. Its desire is for you (cp 3:16)
  3. You must master it (cp 3:16)

4:8-16 Cain is Judged

  1. Cain told Abel (8): told him what?
  2. Cain finds Abel and kills him
  3. Blood cries out from the ground (pl): (10)
  4. God addresses Cain (9): Where is Abel your brother?
  5. Cain’s response
    1. First, he lies: “I don’t know”
    2. Then he suggests that God’s question is inappropriate: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (cf Ps 121:4-8; 2:15; 3:24)
  6. God becomes the interrogator (10-12)
    1. What have you done! (accusation not a question)
    2. Blood cries out (cf Heb 11:4)
  7. Punishment: cursed: the ground (11)
    1. He will be a wanderer
  8. Cain protests (13)
    1. Punishment is too great 
  9. God promises to protect Cain (15)
    1. Cain receives a mark
  10. Cain settles in Nod (16): East of Eden

Although Yahweh condemns Cain to wandering, Cain finds a place to settle down and builds a city.

    1. ‘Nod’ is related to the verb ‘nud’ (14) which means “wanderer”

4:17-24 Genealogies of Cain

Cain has a son Enoch (17)

  1. Cain builds a city and names it after his son Enoch

Lamech has 2 wives (19)

  1. Lamech’s sons are associated with cultural accomplishments (21-22)
  2. Lamech’s song (23-24)
  3. Killed a young man for injuring him
  4. Moves well beyond an eye for an eye

4:25-26 The Birth of Seth

  1. Seth: zera; ‘seed’; ‘offspring’ (25)
  2. Seth fathers Enosh (26); another Hebrew word for ‘man’; includes ‘weak, frail’
  3. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord

Moving to the NT:

Why Cain’s offering was not accepted (1 John 3:11-12)

Abel is a type of Christ (Heb 12:24)


[1] I am not sure that “fall” is the proper term. They are excluded from the Garden and cas


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