Genesis 4: Cain and Abel

1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

-The Hebrew word translated as “know” is “yada” which really does mean “to know, gain knowledge”. In Hebrew, they describe sexual relations in this way. When you are intimate with someone, you really know them in ways you know no one else. The name Cain means “spear” or “possession” in Hebrew.

2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.

-Why did God like Abel’s offering but not Cain’s? There are 3 reasons I can discern:

1) Abel gave the “first-fruits” or the best of what he had while it just says Cain gave an offering, period, perhaps not the first-fruits, maybe just the leftovers.

2) Cain gave an offering from the ground while Abel’s offering was a blood sacrifice of animals. Abel’s offering was the shedding of blood which we just learned last chapter is necessary for the covering of sin. We as man have absolutely no standing before God and have no “right” to come before Him nor does He have any obligation to answer to us. Who are we that God should answer us? The reason being because of our sin. But if we have covered over our sin, then God may be more inclined to answer us. This is why He paid Cain no regard, working the fields and producing a harvest does nothing for his sin problem. This is why in prayer, we must ask for our sins to be forgiven. God does not regard simply doing tasks even if its for the church or for the poor. We can do all the best deeds in the world and live a life of toil for His sake but if we do nothing about our sin problem, then we still deserve hell. God cares that we turn to Him, not that we impress Him with our good deeds.

3) Going by Cain’s reaction after the fact, it would seem Cain did not have the right heart motivation in coming to God. Cain was looking for acceptance and perhaps even reward for what he offered yet he received nothing and he became angry. This means in his heart, he felt that he deserved something from God. This is never the right attitude to have when coming before God yet we so often do this. I myself have come before God essentially saying “look what I have done, can you reward me now with something I want?”. Small wonder I have not received it. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel was considered righteous because of his faith. So Abel must have had the right heart-motivation when coming before God which is why God showed favor on him. Perhaps he did not expect a reward but saw his sacrifice as payment which is exactly what a sacrifice is. Later in Israel, it is established that all first-fruits belong to God. In actuality, all belongs to God yet He graciously allows us to keep the rest. It is the same with tithing, God owns 100% of what we have yet He only asks of Israel that they give 10%. It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

-God seems to be telling Cain that if he tries hard enough he will be accepted. That the reason his offering was not received well was because he did not harvest enough food and put in as much work. But that is not what God is saying. We as man define doing well in this way in terms of financial and worldly success. This is never how God defines doing well. He tells us in the next sentence that sin crouches at our door when we are not doing well. “Doing well” to God is having faith and turning to Him. God is telling Cain that if he has faith and turns to Him, he will be accepted no matter what. But Cain sees it as God being unfair because of how much physical work he did. Because Cain is dwelling on physical things, sin is crouching at the door. He is not doing well. We see the horrible results of what that sin does in a few verses.

8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”

-What attitude! Cain is displaying a defensiveness for what he’s done. He is definitely not doing well because he has let sin in and completely take control of him. How could Cain not know that God would find out? His anger must have been so great that he killed Abel without even thinking. I can picture Cain after the fact crossing his fingers, hoping that somehow God doesn’t find out what he did.

10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

-Abel is not only the first man to ever die or be murdered, he was also the first martyr. Abel was killed because he was a faithful follower of God and God showed favor on him. Cain persecuted him. We see throughout the bible that God seems to give special regard for martyrs. There is an interesting parallel in the Book of Revelation where those who were martyred during the tribulation cry out for vengeance and ask when the time will come and they are told to wait just a little longer. These martyrs are rewarded by getting to be resurrected and repopulate the Earth during the millennium along with the 144,000 Jews.

11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”

-Didn’t God already curse the ground? God seems to be literally stripping Cain’s passion of farming away from him as opposed to just making it harder like he did with Adam and all mankind. Since Cain is no longer a farmer, there is no reason for him to settle anywhere and he becomes a wonderer. It has been proposed that because he was somehow unable to farm, this is where the idea of cities eventually came from.

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

-Who would kill him? Is he talking about his parents? It seems reasonable to assume that by this time Adam and Eve have had other sons and daughters that are younger but maybe even fully grown by now. It stands to reason they would all hate Cain because he killed their brother and want to take vengeance themselves.

15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.

-Here is yet another example of God’s grace. Cain certainly deserves to die on the spot for what he did. Instead, God gives him a promise of protection ensuring he won’t be killed. Why would God do this? Why not let him fend for himself? This is God’s loving nature, the same nature we saw in the life of Jesus being seen out of the Father now.

16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

-Didn’t Cain just get done lamenting that he would be a wanderer and a fugitive? Now it says he settled in some placed called “Nod”. In Hebrew the word “Nowd” actually means wander. So this verse is saying he went East and wandered. The phrase “settled in Nod” actually has come to mean a person who wanders around and doesn’t actually settle. In English, “the land of nod” has a double meaning as being wandering and nodding off as in going to sleep. So if someone tells you they are “going off to the land of nod” then that means they are going to sleep.

17a Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.

-Wait, what wife? You mean he married a sister? Ewwww… There was nothing wrong in fact it was the way God designed us. One of the greatest physical proofs of the biblical account of one original man and woman we all descend from is the fact that over time we have witnessed a genetic degradation. Over time, we must be less and less related to each other or else there are diseases and complications due to a lack of genetic diversity. Or, we cannot conceive at all. This is true even amongst the animals. When Adam and Eve were created they were created as perfect humans with all the variations of human beings within their genetic makeup which eventually lead to the great diversity we see all over the world today. Different skin tones, facial features, metabolisms, body types, all of that was in the genetic code of our early ancestors but over time has degraded with every new generation. Brothers and sisters cannot have kids at least not with severe complications and even first cousins is a great risk.

17b When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.

-We aren’t given the information but there are a lot of reasonable conclusions we can draw from this. There would be no need of a city if not for the fact that there would have needed to be a lot of people living in an area and interacting for there to be a need of one. We don’t know how long Cain lived but its stands to reason he lived hundreds and hundreds of years like his contemporaries did. He may have had hundreds of descendants in this time and others from his brother Seth’s line may have joined his society. If the ground was truly cursed and Cain could not work the land, building a city was actually an ingenious idea to have others farm the land for him and he can specialize in another area and trade. It’s important to remember that God was not the one who said Cain will wander forever, that was not the curse. Cain is the one who said he would wander and be a fugitive. At some point, it appears Cain did eventually settle and build this city and an entire society that he was the patriarch of. This Enoch is not the same Enoch that was a descendant of Seth who walked with God but had the same name. The name “Enoch” in Hebrew means “dedicated”.

18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech.

-The name Irad means “to sequester or fugitive” in Hebrew, the name Mehujael means “smitten by God” in Hebrew, the name Methushael means “who is of God” in Hebrew, and the name Lamech means “powerful” in Hebrew.

19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.

-The first instance of polygamy in the bible. Adah means “ornament” and Zillah means “shade” in Hebrew. Jabal means “steam of water” and Jubal means “stream” in Hebrew.

22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

-Tubal-cain means “offspring of Cain” and Naamah means “loveliness” in Hebrew.

23 Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

-We can see in Lamech’s declaration and decision to take more than one wife that Cain’s descendants became more and more decadent. Lamech decides that he needs two wives when no one else did and then he decides he will declare a curse 11 times stronger than the one God had placed on Cain. Not only that but he was the one who killed the younger man for “wounding him”. It doesn’t even sound like an attack, it sounds like it might have even been an accident on the young man’s part. What gives Lamech the idea that he can declare this even if he was attacked unfairly? It is as if Lamech sees himself as God. We are not told but it may be reasonably concluded that God chose not to have direct interaction with Cain’s descendants and so Lamech and others probably never got to “meet” God in the same way Cain had had interaction before his wandering. Since it is not in scripture, God placing the mark on Cain may have been the last interaction by God to Cain or any of his descendants. Lamech obviously did not know God to be living the life that he did.

25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”

-Even though this verse is after Cain’s line this likely did not happen after multiple generations of Cain’s line but some time shortly after Cain began his wandering. The name Seth means “compensation” or “substitution” in Hebrew.

26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

-The name Enosh means “man” in Hebrew. As stated last chapter, there are 4 different words in Hebrew that mean “man” in English: adam, ish, enosh, and geber. Adam refers to the origin of man, ish refers to a “male” in gender, enosh is a man in the mortal sense, and geber is a man in the masculine, strong sense. When it says that men began to call upon the name of the Lord it means that men of Seth’s line sought after God. To “call” the name of the Lord doesn’t just mean to say His name but to actively seek him. Romans 10:13 says “whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” but this doesn’t just mean whoever asks to be saved will, but rather those who seek Him actively will. This verse is saying that while Cain’s line turned away from God and became decadent, many of Seth’s line were actively pursuing God.

Spanish words:

oveja = sheep
acontecer = to happen, occur
primogénito = firstborn
agrado = pleasure, liking, agreeable
ensañar = to enrage
decaer = to decline, wane
semblante = countenance, demeanor, face
enaltecer = to praise
pecado = sin
voz = voice
sangre = blood
boca = mouth
errante = wandering
extranjero = stranger, foreigner
soportar = to stand
haller = to find
castigar = to punish, castigate


1) Some of the meanings of names are not entirely clear but there are many who believe there is a code hidden in the meaning of names. For Cain’s line, the names could be translated into the following: “Man brought forth a teacher of the fugitive. The one smitten by God is a mighty man of God. A river flows forth, O’ descendants of Cain.” Whether this has any meaning is open to interpretation.

2) For an excellent sermon by one of the greatest preachers in the last two centuries click here: