5. cain & abel—the triumph of faith

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As a result of disobedience, Adam and Eve were sent from the Garden of Eden to lead a life of hardship and suffering until they died. God had told Adam "cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee. . . in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return to the ground, for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return (Gen. 3:17-19). When they were condemned to death, all their descendants became mortal or dying creatures. In their first two sons are seen the attitudes of the "seed of the woman " and the "seed of the serpent". We shall see as a lesson for ourselves, God's reaction to these two characters and attitudes.
Genesis 4
CAIN AND ABEL (Gen. 4:1-2)

In the course of time, Eve's first child was born and she called him "Cain", meaning "gotten" or "acquired". As it turned out, Cain's name fitted his character revealing a mind that was more interested in material things than the things of God. Eve bore another son, whom she called "Abel", meaning "vanity". Abel showed an attitude that viewed the material things of life as being vanity, or without value. His was an attitude of faith respecting God's will in all things.

Cain became a tiller of the ground, growing grain and other products of the soil, and Abel became a shepherd.

Both the sons of Adam and Eve were worshippers of God, and when the time came for sacrifices to be made, Cain brought "of the fruit of the ground" and Abel brought "of the firstlings of his flock" — a lamb or kid.

It is recorded that, "God had respect to Abel's offering", but not to Cain's: that is, Abel's offering was accepted and Cain's was not. Why?
It is quite plain that Abel's offering was what God required, while the other offering was what Cain thought fit to bring. Both brothers would have known what God required. Adam would no doubt have told them of that first sacrifice made to provide a sin covering for himself and Eve. By this they had been taught that the shedding of blood was necessary for sin to be forgiven. Consider the following points.
Abel showed his understanding of sacrifice for remission of sins by of­fering a firstling of his flock in sacrifice (Heb. 11:4). Cain, on the other hand, brought of the fruit of his labours without regard to God's re­quirements in the matter of worship. He acted in a way which was "right in his own eyes", and this was the "thinking of the flesh." Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel acted by faith in making his offering. Since "faith com-eth by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17) we can assume that the requirements of worship were given by God to both Abel and Cain. In his respect for God's Word Abel showed that he was like the "seed of the woman" while Cain's lack of respect showed a "seed of the serpent" likeness.
JEALOUS CAIN (Gen. 4:5-7)

Instead of admitting that God must be approached in the proper way, Cain became very angry and jealous of his brother. God told him he would be accepted if he brought the correct offering. He would then, as the elder brother, continue to have the first place before Abel. Thus God showed mercy to Cain and gave him the chance to repent.

THE FIRST MURDER (Gen. 4:8-10).

Cain was a true "seed of the serpent". He was guided by selfish think­ing. God wanted Cain to humble himself and accept that God is right and just in asking him to put his own desires aside and to do God's will. However Cain became more angry and resentful. His hate and jealousy grew against Abel and pushed God's word out of his mind. With wicked rage he slew Abel in the field. "And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" (1 Jn. 3:12).

Cain thought he had hidden his crime, and when asked by God "Where is Abel thy brother?" in a defiant manner he said, "I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?" But God knows all, and He told Cain "thy brother's blood crieth to me from the ground."
CAIN'S PUNISHMENT (Gen. 4:11-16).

As a result of his wicked act Cain was cursed by God. The ground would give poor crops in return for his labour, and he would be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth. In other words, he would spend his life flee­ing from justice and going from place to place, always afraid that someone would find him and kill him in revenge for his brother's murder.

Cain realised that he was being driven from the face (or presence) of God and that his life would be in constant danger. He complained, "My punishment is greater than I can bear". God's answer was that anyone slaying Cain would be punished, and He set a mark on Cain "lest any fin­ding him should kill him".
So Cain was sent away to the Land of "Nod", which means "exile" or "wandering". The dreadful end result of defying God's will, bitter jealousy and murder was that Cain no longer enjoyed fellowship with God.


The enmity between Cain and Abel arose when one worshipped God correctly and the other did not. In John 4:24, Jesus said, "God is spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." It is not enough that a person should desire to worship God; Christ is telling us that he must seek out the right way. Cain did not do this. He thought God would be pleased with his choice of offering, and did not recognise the need to approach God in the proper way. Abel showed the humble at­titude of one who worships "in spirit and in truth"; that is, in the way God will accept.

Because of his faith and obedience, Abel became a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, the "seed of the woman" (Heb. 12:24). Cain was "of that wicked one, and slew his brother" (1 Jn. 3:12). He showed himself to be a "seed of the serpent".
Those who follow God's ways and those who please themselves can never be at peace with each other. There is "enmity" between the two. Cain went his own way, because of his fleshly mind, and this led to punishment and death without hope. Abel died a violent death at the hand of his jealous brother. He was a man of faith and obedience, so he will be raised from the dead at Christ's coming. He will be rewarded together with all the faithful ones such as are mentioned in Hebrews 11. The lesson for us is that if we wish to worship God acceptably and have hope of eternal life, we must go to the Bible to find out what God re­quires of us, and follow His commandments. Like Cain, the people in the world completely disregard God's appointed way of worship. Let us be like faithful Abel and humbly seek to worship God with others of the same true faith.

God gave to Eve another son to replace the righteous Abel, and she called him "Seth", meaning "appointed". "For God", said she, "hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew."

Seth worshipped God in truth, and his descendants, who also worship­ped faithfully, were called "sons of God". The descendants of Cain were wicked, and they were called "the sons of men" (Gen. 6:1-2). In this way, two "seeds" or kinds of people were developed. There were the true wor­shippers of God, who represent the "seed of the woman" and the false worshippers who do as they please, who represent the "seed of the ser­pent".
The descendants of Seth are listed in Genesis chapter 5 and show us how the "seed of the woman" developed into a large community of people (see Gen. 4 for the community developed from Cain).
The last of the "seed of the woman" before the flood was Noah and his three sons.

"Elpis Israel" (J. Thomas)—Pages 115-120

"The Story Of The Bible" (H. P. Mansfield)—Chapter 5

1. Why did God accept Abel's worship?

2. Describe how Cain felt towards his brother, and how this led to Cain's downfall.

  1. What was God's punishment on Cain?


1. Why did God accept Abel's sacrifice and reject the offering of Cain?

  1. How can we worship God so that He will accept us?

  2. Explain how two "seeds" or classes of people developed in Cain and Abel and their descendants. What words are used in Genesis 6 to describe the two 'seeds' or classes?

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