Genesis 4

1 After being separated from God and from their home, Adam and Eve pursue their intimate and sexual relationship with each other.

Eve gave birth and named her son Cain, which probably means, "to get." She acknowledged that God was still the originator of life and that her son was a gift from Him.

2 Some insist that ancient people were hunters and gatherers and only later acquired the skills needed for "sedentary" life. However, the Bible is clear that the first occupations were farming and shepherding.

Cain followed in his father's footsteps and tilled the ground. Animal hides were needed for clothing, so Able decided to raise sheep.

3 We are not given the details, but it was apparently known that God required sacrifices to atone for whatever sins people had committed.

Cain chose to bring fruit that he had grown.

4 Abel killed a lamb and offered it as a sacrifice. The firstborn was considered the most important. In addition, the fat was considered the best part of the sacrifice (the fat generally holds the flavor). It is unknown if God had specifically prescribed this kind of sacrifice. However, it is later revealed through the Mosaic Law that Abel gave a proper blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin.
5 God did not accept Cain's offering of fruit. This made Cain so angry that his face twisted up in a frown and he sulked like a spoiled child. This response makes it clear that Cain was not interested in pleasing God or acting faithfully as his brother had. Cain could not handle rejection, and later we will find that he would not respond to correction either.
6 God confronts Cain about his anger. Cain has no reason to remain angry and become bitter.
7 Cain had apparently known that God required a blood sacrifice, but had decided to make up his own rules. In our own works, we should consider whether what we are doing is pleasing to God or just our own egos. Just because we work hard in God's name does not mean that we are working to please God.

God gives Cain a chance to repent, but Cain decides to be hard headed and effectively says, "my way or no way." God knew that Cain's anger would fester into bitterness and would result in something worse.

God says that Cain can overcome sin, but Cain decides not to try. God will help us overcome sin if we let Him. God does not force us to rely on Him or to do what is right.

God gave people dominion over the earth, so he relates the struggle against sin like the struggle one would have taming a wild animal. On the day they were created, God distinguished between the livestock and the wild beasts. Wild beasts are difficult to tame, but God indicates it can be done. In the same way, sin can be controlled, but it is difficult to do.

8 In an act of deception, Cain asks Able to go for a walk (probably so they could "talk things out") and then murders him in broad daylight. This sounds similar to Judas' betrayal of Jesus (Luke 22:48).

This is the first murder. It is also the first human death.

Cain was obviously focusing his anger on the wrong subject. Cain had been angry with himself and God. Jealousy and humiliation also added to the mix. Instead of repenting of his sin and trying to do what was right, Cain reacted in a destructive way.

Cain's love for his brother was obviously lacking. Perhaps he also irrationally thought that if Able had not been there, God would have had to show favor to him (i.e., eliminate the competition). If Cain thought that removing Able would force God to accept him, he was badly mistaken.

9 Cain lies and is indifferent about his brother's death. As brothers and sisters, we are to look out for each other. Since every human is related to every other human, we should care for one another.

It is frightening to think that such cold-blooded indifference could happen so soon in human history. Today we often blame such personalities on bad genes, bad parenting, or a bad environment. Cain had perfect genes, was the firstborn to parents who considered him a gift from God, and lived in an environment that was nearly perfect. The problem, then, did not arise from Cain's external environment, but from his own sinfulness, poor choices, and pride. The same is still true today.

10 Since Cain would not admit it, God confronted him with his sin. How often we are like this. We will try to pass the blame or deflect attention from ourselves. God is not fooled, even if we do manage to fool others.

People are God's most treasured creation. It is foolish to think that God would not notice one missing.

Some might ask, "If God cares so much, and if He is so powerful, why did He not prevent this?" This question is asked repeatedly whenever innocent (and even godly) people are attacked or suffer from no fault of their own. It seems to stand in contrast to the events where we know God did intervene to prevent such tragedies. Undeniably, this is a profound mystery. God grants and removes protection for reasons known only to Him. We can only have faith that all things will eventually be for the good, as He has promised (Rom 8:28).

Another response to this is the idea of "free will." God allows people to make choices and decisions for themselves. Some decisions are good and others are bad. A bad decision usually hurts someone else, and the victim may be otherwise uninvolved until the decision is executed.

God allows us to police others and ourselves to prevent the unbridled violence that anarchy (no government) would cause. See the commentary on Rom 13:1 for further discussion on governments.

11 The ground "opening its mouth" may be a euphemism for burial.
12 This curse is different than God's earlier curse on the ground (Gen 3:17-19) in that it appears to be directed at Cain (and perhaps his descendents), and not the ground. Cain was a farmer, but God revoked his privilege to this form of livelihood. Cain was to become nomadic. The nomadic lifestyle would be more difficult and isolated than his farming lifestyle had been. Cain would also have a bad reputation; others would always see him as a murderer. He would be a feared outcast of society.

If someone commits a crime today, they are often forced to leave their current employment and seek a new job somewhere else. Exile is another punishment that is still imposed on those who commit crimes (prison is the most common form of exile used today).

13 It is ironic that Cain cared so little for the welfare of his brother, but suddenly becomes very concerned about his own punishment. God could have justly executed Cain for murder, but He chose not to. Exile is a less severe punishment, but the implications are profound. Cain felt he would rather die than have to endure exile for the rest of his life.

Every evil has a consequence. When we know we are wrong, we should not complain about the consequences. Neither should we be surprised when we are punished. Fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes. The purpose of punishment to give us physical reasons to behave when we ignore the spiritual reasons.

14 Although there might have only been a handful of people alive at this point, Cain was afraid that someone (maybe Adam) would seek to avenge the death of Abel by killing him. It does not seem that Cain was worried about leaving God's presence for spiritual reasons, but because he felt people would be more reluctant to kill him there than elsewhere (although that had not stopped Cain in the first place).

Cain also suffered from the mistaken notion that God was confined to a certain region of the earth.

Note that Cain neither confesses nor shows remorse for killing his brother. He only shows remorse over his punishment. Cain is so self-centered that he only cares about his own life and feelings. He did not care about his brother, or how this murder would affect his parents and his relationship with God. Punishment is a way to make the victim's tragedy become the criminal's tragedy.

15 Later in the Bible, capital punishment was accepted and even commanded, but God forbid it in this instance. There may have only been three or four people on earth at this time, and it would be hard to "multiply" if they killed each other off.

God set a special mark on Cain. Some people have mistakenly said that this mark was dark colored skin (they do this to justify slavery or "racism"). However, the Bible only indicates that it is a mark, and it was only given to Cain.

16 "Nod" means, "land of wandering" or "flight" (Wycliffe). Some have indicated that this was a barren wasteland or a desert. However, there is nothing in the text that explicitly says this (depending on how one interprets Gen 4:12). Of course, whatever we describe in the pre-Flood world is speculation, but it is likely that the whole continent was lush. God created a perfect world, and the fossil record testifies to the variety and quantity of plants and animals that lived everywhere before the Flood. The soil of Nod may have been clay-like or otherwise unsuitable for farming, but it apparently produced enough food to support a city (next verse).
17 The curse did not nullify the previous command to multiply. At this time, the only people on the planet were Adam, Eve, and their children (and possibly grandchildren). Thus, Cain likely took one of his sisters as a wife. Incest was not forbidden until the time of Moses.

Cain's city started out small, but he would eventually have a large extended family to fill it.

19 This is the first recorded act of polygamy. This was a violation of God's intended order (in Gen 2:24 wife is singular). Cain was one to defy God, and his offspring were no better.
20 While Cain himself eventually settled in a city, some of his descendents became nomadic in keeping with the curse in Gen 4:12.
21 Music was an early development in the history of man. Singing may have been common before this, but Jubal developed instrumentation. Two classes of instrumentation are mentioned: reed and stringed instruments. It is likely that percussion instruments were already in use. Although people were contaminated with sin, they were still image-bearers of God and displayed creative inclinations.
22 With the development of cities, and the need to develop equipment to aid work, metalworking provided new materials that could be easily made into useful and beautiful objects.

Secular scientists scoff at the idea that people could have developed metalworking at such an early stage in human history. However, we must remember that God made perfect people that were intelligent, observant, and creative.

The Biblical record starts with perfect people that eventually degrade because of sin. The secular worldview starts with "lower" life forms that will eventually evolve into perfection. Ironically, we can scientifically observe the degradation of the genome, as is predicted in the former theory, but secular scientists still insist that the second, yet unobserved, one is correct.

23 Among his other sinful characteristics, Lamech was a violent man.
24 Lamech presumptuously and arrogantly provides amnesty for himself, and even more than God granted to Cain. Of course, this pronouncement was not sanctioned by God. Although this might be though of as self-defense, the description and comparison to Cain's murderous act indicates it was premeditated revenge. Apparently, there was no legal system to prevent crime, compensate victims, or penalize criminals. Lamech took this as a license to commit any crime he wanted.
25 Adam and Eve continued to have children after Abel died.

"Seth" is similar to the word that means "appointed."

26 Seth was apparently a suitable replacement for Abel. Either Seth or his son Enosh felt reverence for God as Abel had.

It this stage in human history people began to see that they needed God's help. Self-reliance would not solve the problem of sin. Adam and Eve probably told their children and grandchildren about their walk with God before sin, and the listeners began to long for that kind of relationship with Him. This verse may also indicate the beginning of a systematic form of worship.