Genesis 4 Commentary

If chapter 3, the fall, marks the start of phase two, then chapter 4 is that first step in phase two. We are introduced to Adam’s family. Abel is killed by his brother Cain Reason? Abel’s sacrifice is accepted by God – the only reason. Chapter 4 is showing us a movie after things have gone wrong. It sets for us a pattern that the rest of the Bible follows. Man in a fallen state is weak. He fails to rule over sin. Remember the blessing of dominion or rulership in Genesis 1/28. The man was made to rule but here we find sin ruling over man.

Abel’s one and only mistake was to be accepted by the LORD. It was enough crime for a death sentence! The pattern is set, to be repeated again, and again. Jesus’ one and only mistake was to call himself God’s son. A relationship with the God of the universe, with one’s Creator is all you need to have trouble.

Of course this murder case deserves attention! The LORD does show up. We have a repeat of chapter 3 here. God tells Cain that he was under a curse. The ground that received Abel’s blood would not produce for him. He would live a life of wandering – away from God’s presence. Sin does separate man from his Creator. The Creator is holy and tolerates no sin.

We have a hint from verse 10. Abel’s blood cries out from the ground. You would expect that death marks the end of one’s story. No. Abel still influences events even after his death. And it’s not just about him having existed but because of his active role in events that follow. His blood cries out to God. The tenses are important. The Bible hasn’t used the word ‘cried’ but the word ‘cries’.

I also find it interesting that the Bible hasn’t said anything about Adam and Eve having a funeral situation. It would be a first in the Bible and the first things would be important. No. The only funeral we read about is that held by the LORD! This murder case, like countless cases after this one, affects God more than it affects man. The real Father feels the pain of loss.

Then we have a real downer. We expect ‘life for life’ over Abel’s murder. The punishment is downsized. Again we read this chapter with a bigger picture and we see more at play. We see Grace in anticipation. We see the cross. From an observer’s standpoint, we see the LORD with a dilemma. The LORD God is looking at Cain with mixed feelings. Throw and keep. Keep and throw. Throw and then keep. In these pages, we see a God of justice but also a God of mercy. How these two combine in one and at the same time is the mystery of God!

Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Verse 13.

Indeed who can bear God’s punishment? The picture of Jesus comes to mind – the only one capable of bearing the punishment. Until then Cain must be content with a life of wandering. What looked like a downer begins to look like a real opportunity for the rest of humanity. If I put myself in the story, I’m no longer upset that the LORD has protected a criminal by putting a mark of “Don’t touch”.

The story of Lamech is yet another sad script. He boasts of murder and he thinks his great-great…grandfather was a hero. Verse 24 explains it very well. God has said “anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over”. But here is Lamech thinking God isn’t doing a good job. Lamech would avenge himself (and by himself) not seven times but seventy-seven times. He is directly referencing God’s word to Cain in verse 15. In his fallen state man is vengeful all by himself and for himself. Lamech thinks he should do the job himself. Chapter 3 is repeating itself again. Man elects to replace God. He becomes a rule unto himself.

We don’t hear much about Cain’s line again. Probably Cain may represent the other peoples who wandered everywhere and were everywhere else, beyond the known world of the time. What is important though is for us to understand that Cain represents disobedience in the extreme – a world completely out of touch with godliness. But it’s just the beginning.

We also note this is the last we are seeing of Cain’s line. The Bible would take this formula throughout. Support stories are brought up and discussed either at length or in brief and quickly dropped to focus on the important storyline. The focus is Seth who is introduced at the end of chapter 4. The support stories are very important also.

Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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