After the creation was completed, Adam and Eve had an envious position with all things furnished them in the garden, but sin was not long in coming. For any who possibly are unfamiliar with this account, you may find it in detail in the relatively short chapters of Genesis 1, 2 and 3. Reading all 3 chapters should not take over 15 minutes. But in chapter 4 we have the first recorded murder after the creation. Almost everyone has heard the story of Cain Slaying his brother Abel and certainly, it will take the student only 3 or 4 minutes to read the 4th chapter and the full account of this horrible crime.
Our lesson # 3 is not intended to relate the story itself since it is well known, however, we expect to examine some of the underlying causations of God's respect and non-respect as well as the reasoning of the two brothers which led up to murder. First, let's take a quick analysis of the two brothers...Cain was the first person ever to be born a natural birth and his mother chose the name Cain (which means 'gotten' or 'acquired') and of course, Abel was the second child. Let us examine the circumstances existing during their life time.
Remember there were only two humans on the entire earth before Cain was born. Then when Abel came along, there was a total of 4, at least until Adam and Eve had more children and the record does not reveal whether or not they had anymore right away, however, there is some reason to believe that they did continue to have chidren, perhaps regularly. We do know for certain that they had more after Abel's death. But visualize this situation with one couple and some children having to face the world on their own and survive by "the sweat of their brow". The famed fictional stories of "Robinson Crusoe" or the "Little House on the Prarie" were pikers when compared to the living circumstances of the first humans.
It is very obvious that God gave those first people instructions as to how they should live and obey Him. We have recorded in the first 3 chapters of Genesis, some of the instructions God gave his subjects, but not all. The Bible tells us that Cain was a tiller of the ground which means, of course that he farmed and raised grains and edible vegetables for food. Do not visualize this in any way like the farming of today. All was done by hand and perhaps he may have trained an oxen to pull a makeshift plow. But regardless of how you view it, it was very hard work. It is entirely possible that God had given his instructions to Adam who was head of the family that existed at that time. And for reasons we will examine more closely a little later, He had, without doubt, required of them to offer animal sacrifices. One of the reasons that we can arrive at this conclusion is because of a statement in Hebrews, "And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission." (Hebrews 9: 22)
"Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground." (Genesis 4: 2). There is no way of knowing just what type of circumstances caused one son to raise vegetables and such while the other raised sheep. It may have been a choice of their father in an effort to have someone doing both, or it may have been a personal choice. To modern man, it would seem that this would be a good arrangement so long as there was cooperation within the family. Each could share with the other. Also, it would be sheer conjecture to try and determine why Cain made the choice to bring of his crops to sacrifice to God. We can be assured that God would not require of him something which he would be unable to acquire. Understanding this, then it is evident that Cain would have been able to trade his foodstuffs to Abel, some other family member...his father perhaps, in exchange for some animals.
It may reflect some ideas of the nature of this man, Cain. What little is written about him in the Bible is not good. He appears to have been perhaps an aggressive and overbearing fellow, possibly of a rebellious nature and/or stubborn. If these conjectures are accurate it may well explain, in part, why he brought fruit of the ground for his offerings. Again, we can be sure that he had been informed of God's instructions, whether directly from God or from his father, Adam. And it may have been a little of his rebellious nature to presume that his produce was sufficient for an offering eventhough his instructions were to the contrary. Knowing that he could exchange some of his products for a sacrificial animal may have been a little more than he wanted to do.
But he did this thing, regardless of what motivated him. And we read that Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof for his offering. and we read thus: "Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4: 4, 5)
There are some rich lessons to be derived from this story of the two brothers. First of all, it becomes perfectly clear what is required to please God, and why it is required. We find the explanation in Hebrews 11: 4 "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks."
Now, how do we explain that? Is there any doubt that Cain believed in God? Absolutely not. Is there any doubt that he believed his sacrifice would be acceptable to God? Of course not...if so, why then did his countenance fall upon learning of the rejection by God? Why then can it be said that Abel's faith is what earned the respect from God? Simply because God had instructed them to offer an animal sacrifice and Abel accepted and obeyed His word. While Cain only believed his sacrifice would be acceptable, belief...not faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10: 17) This also proves that the doctrine of "faith only" is so much garbage. "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!" (James 2: 19)
Another lesson we can learn here is that God is intolerant! Intolerant? Absolutely. He is intolerant of disobedience. He is not intolerant of our weaknesses, but we may never use our weaknesses to expect tolerance of willful sin. "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Romans 6: 15) Further, from this episode we learn that God does not hesitate to punish His disobedient children. He banished Cain to a life of hardship, seperated from God, and marked him so none would kill him but left the option for them to shun and disdain him. (Genesis 4: 11-16)