4:1 Adam lay [means “know” (a common idiom for sexual relations)] with his wife Eve [name means “living” or “life”; cf. Gen. 3:20], and she became pregnant and gave birth [from Heb. qanah] to Cain [Heb. qayin (sounds like Heb. word for birth)]. She said, “With the help of [together with] the LORD [acknowledgment that God is the ultimate source of life; cf. Acts 17:12] I have brought forth [Heb. qaniti] a man.”
4:2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel [means “breath” or “temporary”; a name that foreshadowed this child’s fate]. Now Abel [a shepherd] kept flocks, and Cain [a farmer] worked the soil.
4:3 In the course of time [phrase suggests Cain and Abel established in their respective vocations] Cain brought some of the fruits [does not say that he brought “first fruits” or first results of his harvest (which could only be offered at certain times of the year), a practice later commanded of Israel (Ex. 23:16,19; Neh. 10:35)] of the soil [possibly a grain offering; cf. Ex. 22:29-30] as an offering [general term for a present or tribute to God; similar to first fruits Israelites presented to God (Deut. 26:2-4)] to the LORD.
Note: The Scripture is silent concerning…
• when and why this first act of worship occurred.
• whether this act of worship was commanded by God or spontaneous.
• whether Adam had made similar offerings.
• the exact purpose of the offerings (e.g. to atone for sins or to accomplish some other purpose).
4:4 But Abel brought [cf. Heb. 11:4; Matt. 23:35] fat portions [the choicest portions] from some of the firstborn [the choicest animals; this was consistent with laws later given to Israel (Ex. 13:12; 34:19)] of his flock. The LORD looked [to look and give approval] with favor on Abel and his offering,
4:5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain [cf. 1 Jn. 3:12] was very angry [to burn; Cain became very hot; improper reaction to Lord’s judgment], and his face was downcast [outward expression of inward attitude].
Note: What does Cain’s reaction show us about his heart? How do you respond when your sins are exposed? What makes you angry? What are some appropriate and productive ways of expressing anger?
4:6 Then the LORD [initiated conversation and expressed loving concern for Cain] said to Cain [Cain had opportunity to make things right with God], “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin [first use of “sin” in the Bible] is crouching [sin personified as ravenous beast waiting to pounce on its prey; cf. 1 Pet. 5:8] at your door [signifies that sin was very close by]; it desires to have you, but you [indicates that Cain had a choice concerning the beast waiting to pounce on him] must master it.”
Note: What steps can we take to master sin?
4:8 Now Cain said to his brother [from a Heb. root meaning to surround and to protect] Abel, “Let’s go out [words imply premeditated murder] to the field [a solitary place].” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked [from Heb. qum meaning “rise up”] his brother Abel [the first victim of violence] and killed him.
Note: What statements imply this murder was a premeditated event?
4:9 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel [not a request for knowledge; God knew where Abel was as per 4:10; intent of question to elicit confession]?” “I don’t know [a lie],” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper [word derived from a verb with basic idea of exercising great care over someone or something; no indication that Cain was remorseful for his terrible deed]?”
Note: What does Cain’s response to the Lord’s question reveal about his heart? When God had confronted Adam about his sin, Adam tried to shift the blame, refusing to accept responsibility for his own actions. How did Cain try to dodge personal responsibility for his actions?
4:10 The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out [Abel’s blood cried out on behalf of justice and legal rights] to me from the ground [a reminder that God sees and knows all (cf. Ps. 139:1-12)].
4:11 Now [sin always has consequences; cf. Col. 3:25] you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
4:12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you [Cain would no longer be able to sustain himself as a farmer]. You will be a restless wanderer [a fugitive and a vagabond] on the earth [indicates a larger area than the word “ground”; Cain would be unable to escape the impact of this curse; cf. Col. 3:25].”
Note: What did Cain lose by committing murder? Is it easier to remove the consequences of some sins more than others? Why or why not?
4:13 Cain said [notice that Cain showed no remorse for his crime nor did he cry out for forgiveness] to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear [Cain was more concerned about his punishment than about his sin].
Note: What is missing from Cain’s response?
4:14 Today [indicates that Cain immediately began to experience consequences of his sin] you are driving me from the land [note: sin may give you what you want but it will always take what you have], and I will be hidden from your presence [sin separates us from God]; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever [Cain was most fearful of people just like him] finds me will kill me [better to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God than to be a sinner in the hands of an angry sinner].”
Note: What would it be like to be hidden from God’s presence?
4:15 But the LORD said to him, “Not so [implication is that God continued to give Cain every opportunity to repent of his sin; also indicates that every sinner has the potential to experience God’s grace]; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over [to the fullest measure].” Then the LORD put a mark [a visible sign; we do not know what the mark was] on [“for” or “for the sake of”] Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
4:16 So Cain went out from the LORD’S presence and lived in the land of Nod [makes a pun on the verb “to wander” (Heb. nud)], east of Eden.