Genesis 4: 1-26 – A Tale of Two Brothers


Bible Text: Gen 4:1-26 |


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Some years ago Jeffery archer wrote a famous book called Cain and Abel. But in the bible account in Genesis Ch 4, after Cain kills his brother Abel the story keeps going. What then follows in that chapter is also a tale of two brothers Cain and Seth. These two men are important because they set the tone for the human race. It's not too much to say that all of us are like one of those two brothers.

In the introduction to this chapter (Gen 4: 1-2) it says Adam had marital relationships with Eve and she conceived and had a child named Cain. Then in verse 2 it says she has another son whose name was Abel. The plot thickens in verse 3 (Gen: 4: 3-14). The brothers are both the occupied with producing fruit and edible plants and caring for animals. When it comes time to sacrifice, we are told that they both brought sacrifices. Cain brought the fruit of the ground, Abel it says brought the first born of the flock and the fattest which could be translated as he brought the best that he had.

We are told in the middle of verse four that the Lord respected Abel and his offering but in the next verse it says, “Cain and his offering he did not look with favour”. They both brought a sacrifice and it's usually said that Cain brought a bloodless sacrifice and Abel brought a blood sacrifice and that that's the difference. That view I believe is correct, but I think there is something else going on here also. I think in the book of Hebrews helps to explain this for us. (Heb 11:4) In order to exercise faith, you have to believe what you are told and then act on it. God spoke and Abel trusted God, and believed what God said, and he bought the appropriate sacrifice and Hebrews tells us because of this he was declared righteous. Cain decided to do it his way and thought I'm not going to do this God's way I'm going to do give up the sacrifice I want to give up. What's fascinating about that to me is that he was doing something religious. However, Cain said I'm going to worship God, but my way, not God's way.

The text continues; (Gen 4: 6-7). The Lord asks him why he is angry, and warns him that, sin lies at your door. Everybody gets angry but God is saying that you are always responsible for controlling your anger. It’s interesting to note that anger is often spontaneous. I believe God gives us enough wiggle room in that he understands we might not be able to control the immediate anger reaction. This tells me we are still responsible for our subsequent actions when anger raises its ugly head. When it says sin is laying at the door, which suggests to me you have the choice of opening the door are closing the door on anger. (Gen 4: 8)

Hebrew experts will tell you this verse is worded in such a way to indicate that this was premeditated murder. Sin entered the human race through eating of one piece of forbidden fruit, had within one generation escalated into violence, death and murder. Somebody once said the first murder was the outcome of the first church worship service, because these events were kicked off by the bringing of offerings before the Lord.

When God approached Adam and Eve about their sin (Gen 4:9), they tried to rationalize and blame shift, but they ultimately did not deny what they've done, but Cain blatantly lies, insisting that he did not know where his brother was. Furthermore, he was defiant before God asking God if he his brother's keeper. In other words, his response challenges God's right to even question him God then says God then says, I know where Abel is, and so do you, and you are guilty, (Gen 4: 10-12). I think the way we would put this is Cain has been sentenced to life with hard labor. Furthermore, he is going to be a restless wanderer, meaning he will be destined to wander around looking for a more fruitful place to grow crops. Notice he does show remorse over his sin, only sorrow because he is being punished so severely. He hates the consequences of his actions and he sinks into despair because he recognizes that he'll be driven from the blessings of living under God's favor. He is also scared people will want to kill him if they know who he is. However, God protects Cain by issuing a decreed that if anyone kills him, they would suffer seven times the punishment. As a warning to others and as a promise to Cain the Lord set a mark on him. God did not approve of vengeance, so although he judges Cain, He protected him also. What happens in these opening versus is see God traces the offspring of Cain in order to show us what will happened to the line of Cain.

We may not know exactly where east of Eden exactly is, but we do know Cain didn’t seek God's forgiveness nor did he seek God's favor, rather he pursued his own desires and his own sense of direction. The other thing interesting about these verses is that it tells us he built a walled city and named it after his son. Remember, God had just said he was going to be a wanderer and a fugitive, and he goes and builds a city, and in doing so immediately goes out and defies the command of God? He clearly didn’t believe that God would protect him, because he built a walled city, enclosed for protection. In the verses that follow there are a whole bunch of his relatives and the author mentions them deliberately to clarify the family line but passes over them in order to quickly get to: (Gen 4: 19).

Please note we have the first bigamist in the Bible. If we go back to chapter 2:4 God said was “therefore a man shall leave his father and mother to be joined to his wife [singular] and they should become one flesh. But now Lemech in open defiance and disobedience to God goes out and marries two wives. Again, the point is, he is in open rebellion against God.

This list of names in (Gen 4: 20-21) gives us some interesting insights about the very beginnings of the human race. Here we see the originator of nomadic farmers. Then there is Tubal Cain who is the first to forge in bronze and iron and his sister who is named as a leader of the female musicians. Cain’s descendants are seen to be gifted but godless. Then (Gen 4: 23-24) Violence is seen again when vengeance is taken. The grace God showed Cain’s family line is ignored by his ancestors. All this violence springing from the single act of disobedience by Cain and worsening within a supposedly cultured civilization. Remember there is now music, the work of artisans and various artists, musicians and craftsman. This is a culture where art increases, whilst at the same time the society degenerates and falls further and further away from God. This is a picture of artistic and technical success, alongside moral failure. Material progression does not mean moral advancement, and that's the lesson of Cain.

The end of chapter tells us about Seth, (Gen 4: 25-26) In stark contrast to the line of Cain the line of Seth is a godly line and that line called upon the name of the Lord. One family-line ended up ungodly and the other ended up calling on the name of the Lord. This tale of two brothers is the history of all humanity in that humanity may develop materially building cities and creating new things Even making beautiful art and music whilst at the same time morally degenerating even to the point of committing all kind of acts of violence and murder.

I want to conclude by making two very quick. Firstly, I want to put this story in the context of the book of Genesis. The phrase, “this is the history/generation of” appeared 11 times in the book of Genesis. Well just arrived at one of those points. Way back to chapter 2 it said this is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the days the Lord God. In other words, these early chapters tell us God created the heavens and the earth and now Genesis says that’s what subsequently happened to that creation. So, Firstly, mankind disobeyed God and the result of that leads to disobedience, violence and murder but a faithful remnant still called upon the name of the Lord. Immorality increased in open defiance of God whilst at the same time mankind was producing a technically progressive, artistically expressive, but ultimately self-gratifying society.

Secondly, Cain’s family line materially prospered even though they rebelled against God. Cain’s descendants took the lead in building cities, developing music advancing agriculture, spreading civilization but at the same time fell into sin and violence. However, the descendants of Seth made an even a more important advance because they called on the name of the Lord. The reality is that society can advance materially whilst still getting further and further away from God. However, whilst living in the midst of a disobedient, defiant, depraved society believers should still call of the name of the Lord. So, which line will you join? You may make progress in your life, become better educated, gain more material possessions even achieve positions of power and influence but if you do that, do it all to the glory of God and include the Lord in everything you do. Some people obtain incredible heights, make incredible achievements but still leave God out.

In 1969 man landed on the moon. NASA made a plaque to put on the lunar Lander and that plaque said something about the fact that we've landed there for all mankind. The template was to be signed by all the astronauts and president Richard Nixon. It was taken to the White House for his approval there was a debate among the staff. One of the staff looked at the plaque and added under God. Another staff member complained and said what's this Under God about. They sent those two options to Richard Nixon and he initialed page that included Under God. The problem was that NASA had already made the plaque so there is as I speak on the moon a plaque commemorating one of the greatest achievements of human history. We landed on the moon and what a great achievement that was but apparently, we did it without God

That's the picture of the line of Cain. A line of great achievements, people who built great cities, originated music and art, initiated the work of skilled Craftsman, but without God. I submit to you that's a waste of a life, so don't go the way of Cain…. Let’s Pray.