Understanding the Old Testament

Cain and Abel

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Genesis 4 presents us with the first murder in the Bible, when Cain kills his brother Abel. The source of Cain’s animosity was apparently jealousy over the Lord’s acceptance of Abel’s offering and His rejection of Cain’s offering. Abel, who was a shepherd, offered a sacrifice from “the firstlings of his flock,” whereas Cain, a farmer, gave an offering “from the fruit of the ground.” (Genesis 4:3-4)

Genesis doesn’t tell us the reason Cain’s offering was rejected. Perhaps Abel gave the best he had and Cain did not. Or maybe the key is found in Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22, which tell us that the shedding of blood is necessary for atonement and forgiveness. Perhaps both are true.

But I believe the real difference was the respective attitudes of Abel and Cain. Hebrews 11:4 tells us: “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous. . . .” Abel made his offering with faith and humility. Cain did not.

Cain’s attitude becomes apparent in what happened next. When God rejected his offering, Cain became “very angry and his countenance fell.” (Genesis 4:5) Although the Lord warned him not to cultivate this anger, for “sin is crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7), Cain apparently did not listen. Then after the murder, instead of repenting, Cain lied when God confronted him. (Genesis 4:9) And when God punished him, Cain had a pity party for himself. (Genesis 4:13-14)

When Cain made his offering, God could see the evil lurking in his heart. As 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

A gift given with the wrong attitude cannot please God. Paul tells us that in 1 Corinthians 13:3: “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor . . . but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” And Micah 6:7-8 says that God values justice, kindness, and humility far more than “thousands of rams.”

Cain’s heart was not right with God, and I believe that is why his offering was rejected. That evil lurking in his heart led to murder—and punishment.

Question to ponder or discuss: What attitude should we have when we give to God? (For starters, see 2 Corinthians 9:7.)

Copyright 2017 by Don Davidson

My book, Beyond Blind Faith: Reasons for the Hope We Have (1 Peter 3:15), is available on Amazon.com as either a print book or a Kindle e-book. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074MVHVHP Read Chapter 1 (pdf format)



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