The Story of Cain and Abel is NOT about first death, first murder, jealousy, etc.; rather surrounds the concept of
4 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[a] a man with the help of the Lord.”
- In Hebrew, names were not simply an identifier but more of a title to speak to one’s character
- God always changes names (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, etc.) because He is redefining their character
- Hebrew word for name is “shem” more appropriately defined by character
- When the covenant name of God “YHVH” is used in scripture, English translations write “Lord.” In Hebrew texts, they use “HaShem” meaning “The Name.”
- Cain (Kay’in) means “to acquire, abundance”
- This suggests Cain is one of possession and of “substantive character” and/or possesses a “quality of acquisition”
- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.” –Genesis 3:15
2 And again, she bore his brother Abel.
- “And again” suggests Cain and Abel were twins. Typically, when twins are involved the Torah states there are two conceptions and two births. Here, There is one conception but two births
- Abel (Hav’el) means “vanity, empty, meaningless, fleeting, or breath (as in the natural state of breath, not functional like “Ruach” in Hebrew meaning “breath (life bringing) or Spirit”
- Few ways to view this:
- Abel is of vain character (chasing meaning in meaningless things) and/or has an “empty character” [Unlike Cain who could have substantive character]
- Abel’s life is defined as fleeting (and he was surely murdered)
- Abel was insignificant/meaningless in his contribution
- Abel was given a title/name as “Meaningless,” therefore he found his only meaning in his worship/intimacy with God (My view)
- It’s a hybrid or combination of all of these
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.
- Important Context:
- Who was Adam and what is Eden?
- Many miss what Eden was in its Jewish context
- Eden was the first temple (or more appropriately, the tabernacle and temples were replicas of Eden)
- Garden of Eden was the Holy Place
- Tree of Knowledge in the Holy of Holies
- Land of Eden where Tree of life would be was the outer courts
- 6 illustrations that the Garden of Eden was a temple
The same Hebrew verbal form (hithpael) used for God’s “walking back and forth” in the Garden (Genesis 3:8), also describes God’s presence in the tabernacle (Leviticus 26:12; Deuteronomy 23:14, 2 Samuel 7:6-7; Ezekiel 28:14)
In the temple, God’s presence resided in the Holy of Holies
Genesis 2:15 says God placed Adam in the Garden “to cultivate it and to keep it.” The two Hebrew words for “cultivate and keep” ʿāḇaḏ and šāmar) are usually translated “serve and guard.” When these two words occur together later in the OT without exception they have this meaning and refer either to Israelites “serving and guarding/ obeying” God’s word (about 10 times) or, more often to priests who “serve” God in the temple and “guard” the temple from unclean things entering it (Numbers 3:7-8; Numbers 8:25-26; Numbers 18:5-6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14).
Satan OR Adam’s attire in the garden described in Ezekiel 28:13 reflects the same attire for priests; particularly the jewels of the breastplate. If speaking of Adam, then it describes Adam as a priest. If of Satan, then it explains how Eve was deceived.
After Adam and Eve sin and God exiles them from the garden, God places Cherubim to now guard the entrance to the temple i.e. “take over” Adams role (Genesis 3:24). Adam’s sin was that he failed to guard the Holy of Holies from unclean things that led to Eve’s deception.
- Tree of Life and Menorah lamp
The Menorah lamp that stood outside the Holy of Holies represented the tree of life. In Revelation 21-22, the Tree of Life is re-established in the New city/temple
1 Kings 6: 18-35
Pillars were cedar with carved gourds and flowers
On the inside of the temple carvings of Palm Trees, flowers, and cherubim
1 Kings 7:18-20
Beneath the heads of the two pillars at the entrance were carved pomegranates
Garden’s entrance faced east and located on a mountain (Genesis 3:24, Ezekiel 28:14-16)
First temple in Jerusalem was to face east atop Mount Zion (Exodus 15:17)
End-time temple of Ezekiel was to face east on top a mountain (Ezekiel 40: 2-6, Ezekiel 43:12)
- Tree of Knowledge and the ark of the covenant
Tree of Knowledge contained wisdom and knowledge and was in the garden (Holy of holies)
God’s law is called the source of “wisdom and knowledge” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6). The Law was kept in the ark within the Holy of Holies
In touching the ark of the covenant you would die (2 Samuel 6:6-7) and in eating the fruit (or touching it according to Eve) you died (Genesis 3:1-5)
- Within this contextual view, what are Cain and Abel’s occupation?
- Abel was a “keeper of sheep” i.e. a Shepherd
- Cain was a “worker of the ground” i.e. a grounds priest in Torah language
- Genesis 2:5, Genesis 3:23, Genesis 4:2, Genesis 4:12
- Remember first week about birth of Christ: Grounds priests and priestly shepherds
- Abel gives a “Peace/Fellowship Offering”
- Only offering In Leviticus 1-6 (Chapter 3) that specifies the fat portion and was the only offering the giver could eat
- Cain gives a Grain Offering
*NOTE: Both these offerings were “worship” offerings i.e. Love offerings. We view sacrifice from the view of “it costs something,” but Jews viewed sacrifices as a way to draw closer to God
- The nature of your offering represented the desire for your intimacy with God!
- Notice it states Abel’s offering was the “First born” and “fat portion” BUT Cain’s was stated simply “fruits of the ground” but not the FIRST fruits.
- My personal opinion is God rejected Cain’s offering because the demonstration of Cain’s priority. God favored Abel’s offering not because it was a blood offering like many suggest, rather because it was out of a deeper worship and desire for intimacy. Cain wanted a relationship, but his relationship with God was not his priority. Acquiring abundance was Cain’s priority.
- Hebrew word for worship is “ShaCh’Ha” [shin = passion, consumption, fire Chet = Intimacy like a bridal chamber Hey = Spirit, life giving breath ]
- Only two times of year that both offerings are given at same time: Spring Biblical feasts and Day of Atonement
- Spring Feasts
- Passover- Christ crucified
- Feast of First Fruits (Grain Offering) – Christ’s resurrection
- Day of Atonement
- Given together and then high priest would enter into the Holy of Holies in hopes God had a word for Israel
*Note: Its not about the sacrifice itself. God made clear there is only one sacrifice that will suffice and His name is Jesus. Abel offered the best of the first born just as Jesus was. Feast of First fruits also pointed to the Jesus as the First fruits of the resurrection, but Cain didn’t offer the first fruits.
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?[b] And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to[c] you, but you must rule over it.”
- Hebrew word for Sin is “H’hatah” (Genesis 4:7) – Feminine noun
- Pronouns used for “Its” in Genesis 4:8 is masculine
- Who is the “masculine” subject in Genesis 4:8 who’s “desire is for you?”
- I think only plausible noun is Abel
- The term “his desire is for you, but you will rule over him” is the exact same term used in Genes 3:16 when God says to Eve, “your desire will be for your husband, but he shall rule over you”
*This is a term of intimacy. Abel has a desire for relationship with Cain.
- “If you do well, will you not be accepted?”
- As is all relationships. Previous failures don’t define current givings in relationship. Don’t wallow in failure, but simply do better next time
- Cain did not want to do better, but tear down to his level.
- Led to removing Abel from Cain’s presence and Cain being removed from God’s presence
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[d] 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?”
- “in the field”
- Why in the field? Abel went to Cain. What do shepherds do? They shepherd
- God offered Cain an opportunity to confess just like God did with Adam in Genesis 3. Unlike Adam, Cain lies. He thinks his sin is hidden from God.
- “Am I my brother’s keeper”
- Word “keeper” is same word for Shepherd i.e. “Am I my shepherd brother’s shepherd?”
10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 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.”
- “Am I the shepherd’s shepherd? No! You are a servant of the ground and your brother’s blood cries out to me from it!”
- Just as Adam was to guard the garden and failed, here Cain failed to serve the ground. Seemingly, Abel honored his stewardship as shepherd to be a shepherd to lamb and man alike.
NOTE: Cain’s punishment, like Adam and Eve was banishment. In Exodus 21:13-14 and Numbers 35:20-23 lays out the punishment for passion murder and pre-meditated murder. Pre-meditated resulted in beheading, murder of passion was exile. This suggests Cain’s was a murder of passion.
13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.[e] 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.” 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. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.
- Hebrew word for “punishment” used is “Avon,” which is more commonly interpreted as “iniquity” or “guilt.”
- Here, I think Cain expresses remorse and “Avon” i.e. guilt that he lost intimacy with his brother and God
- “Eden” means “Good Place.” “Nod” means “wandering.” God removed Cain from His presence; hence from a good place to a wandering place.
- God shows grace in the end of this
- God gives a promise that intimacy will be re-established
- “Put a mark on Cain”
- Different views
- A horn
- A dog
- A reputation
- Cain was the sign to all others (Intriguing)
- Skin color changed (So appalled, its what motivated me to teach this study)
- A “Tav”
NOTE: Jewish Standard Bible has probably most accurate that “God gave a sign FOR Cain”. What was the sign? Literally, Hebrew for sign is “Ot” or “Tav.” The letter Tav was pictographically depicted as crossed sticks i.e. a CROSS!
POINT 1: We are all
- “He’vel” is more than just a name for Cain’s brother
- “He’vel” used 38 times in the book of Ecclesiastes
- ““Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” -Ecclesiastes 1:2
- In literal English, “Abel! Abel! Says the teacher. Utterly Abel! Everything is Abel.”
“13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
- God does not need us! We need Him. God does not depend on us! We depend on Him. God is the definition and meaning of all things! Apart from Him, we lack definition, meaning, and are “wanderers” in the land of Nod
- We chase meaning in all the meaningless, perishable, and fleeting things
- In some ways, Abel was more in the character of Cain in that he acquired the only thing that mattered: Intimacy with God. Similarly, Cain was more in character of Abel in that he was Havel: chasing meaning in meaningless things but ultimately empty of the thing that mattered.
- NOTE: “God will bring every deed into judgment, including every HIDDEN thing” just as God brought out the hidden blood of Abel from the ground to Cain
POINT 2: We are all
- We all have not put God first or given our best, but only what was left.
- We all have chased meaning in meaningless things and probably still do
- We all have stopped trying to “do better” and settled with “good enough”
- We all were wanderers and citizens of Nod
- Now, we are citizens of Eden
- We ALL have been restored to God’s presence through the Sacrifice that is Jesus
- We all, in recognition of being Abel can live in secure acquisition as Cain…but only by “drawing near” to God through the sacrifice that Christ Jesus our Lord
Guided Questions for Discussion
- In Hebrew, names are a window into the character and soul of an individual. Does your character reflect the name to which you’re called by God: redeemed, Disciple, Christian?
- King Solomon names the “character of life” as Abel (He’vel). What elements in your life do you place meaning that our empty, meaningless, futile, or fleeting to eternity?
- The Jewish sacrificial system was anchored not on what it costs you, but what it gave you: Intimacy with God. As Cain and Abel’s sacrifices were an expression of desire for intimacy with God, do your offerings and givings reflect the same? Do you give your time, money, focus, energy, and priority to the same desire of intimacy? If not, then why do you give it? Do you give it at all?
- Cain’s offering found no favor with God because Cain didn’t offer the first or best of what he had. Do you currently make God first in every aspect of your life? Do you give Him your best? Or do you simply give him what’s left over?
- Abel’s desire for intimacy with God overflowed as a desire for intimacy with others; particularly his brother. Can you have a deep desire for intimacy with God but lack a desire for intimacy with others?
- Often like Cain, we do not want to “do better” to gain intimacy with God or others. Instead, we try to tear down people, theology, and God to our level of desired intimacy. Does your bible study and prayer life reflect a desire for intimacy and to “do better,” or is it to justify current behavior?
- God says to Cain, “why is your face down? If you do better will you not be accepted?” Do you wallow in your failures, or fight to do better? Do you fight sin? Fight for intimacy? Or do you surrender yourself over to the failure, past, and sin?
- The story of Cain and Abel ends with God’s promise and mark of grace. God says Abel’s blood cried out to him from the ground. Later, Cain seems repentant suggesting Abel’s blood cried to Cain as well. Often, our guilt can consume us but Christ frees us from that guilt. Christ’s sacrifice drew us back into intimate relationship with God. Do you focus on the intimacy now offered to you, or the guilt that condemned you?