Less than a generation after mankind has moved from the Garden of Eden to earth as we know it, something awful has already happened, because we can’t have nice things. But let’s start at the beginning.
Adam and Eve get pregnant and Cain is born. Sometime later (verse 2), Abel is born. As siblings often do, Cain and Abel take up diverging interests – Cain likes to garden and Abel likes animals. God has taught them how to offer sacrifices to Him the correct way – an animal must be killed. You would think that it would be the animal lover who would balk at this, but instead it’s Cain who decides that he just doesn’t feel like doing what God asked and offers up some fruits and veggies instead.
It is a surprise to no one except Cain when God shows favor to Abel for obeying Him and disfavor to Cain for disobeying Him. Cain gets mad at God and jealous of his brother and goes somewhere to pout (verse 5). God gives him a talking to, basically explaining why He didn’t accept Cain’s offering. Cain hears God’s words, absorbs them, but still decides that the best way to handle this situation is to murder his brother. Can you imagine that? We all like to say we’d like to kill our siblings sometimes, hahaha, but Cain actually, literally took his brother’s life. There are no words to describe how awful that is.
God punishes Cain for killing his brother by sending him away, rather than by immediately killing him, which is what I would do. He even puts a mark on Cain so that no one else on the planet (everyone alive at this point is directly related to Cain and is also furious) will kill him. Cain goes on to get married (ostensibly to one of his family members, which is gross, but I guess it had to happen) and have kids.
Cain’s family line continues and one of his descendants is named Lamech. Lamech, taking notes from his great-great-great-great grandfather, also decides to murder someone who makes him mad. He thinks he shouldn’t be punished either, because murder is no biggie, amirite?
At some point, Adam and Eve have a son named Seth, and this turbulent, sin-poisoned race called mankind is fully underway. Hurrah?
The Treasures Within
There might be only one good thing about all the mess in this chapter – there is so much to be learned from it. Let’s dig in.
The Root of All Evil
When it comes to the level of sinfulness, we were at a two and now we’re at sixty-seven. Like, things escalated so quickly from eating some fruit to murdering a family member. But despite the difference in the magnitude of these sins, there is a common thread that runs between them. It’s a ‘you do you’ mentality, a selfishness, a confidence that what I want to do is just what I should do. Just like Eve didn’t want to stop herself from eating that (probably tasty) fruit, Cain decided to offer God whatever the heck he felt like offering Him. Then, even after God told him why that was a bad idea, Cain still decided that he felt angry, he felt violent, thus he was going to do exactly what his body was telling him to do and draw blood.
It seems like the most logical thing to do what we want. After all, Disney always told us to follow our hearts. But when we selfishly act as if our feelings alone are the truth, we end up hurting people, and not just when we kill them.
A Contagious Disease
Cain’s impetuous, selfish behavior did not end with him. Lamech truly was his (great-great-great-great grand-)daddy’s son. He did the exact same thing Cain did. Someone pissed him off (in verse 23 he whines that someone “wounded” him – I bet it was his ego that was wounded) so he took the life of the offender. Then, he had the nerve to go let his wives know and declare that he should get no punishment for committing murder, because wasn’t that what happened to Cain?
Obviously, sin breeds sin. One person sins and seems to be just fine for their effort, so other people decide that they should be able to do what they want as well. We’ll keep seeing this as we move throughout the Bible and we have seen it as we move throughout our lives. It’s a terrible, insidious pattern. Could it have been stopped all those years ago? It seems like the one Person who could have fixed this…well, just didn’t.
Why didn’t God swoop in and fix things? Instead of preventing Cain from doing something horrible, He allowed him to kill Abel. He allowed Lamech to take someone’s life (and also have two wives). I used to get confused when reading Bible stories like this one – was God totally cool with what was happening? I mean, He didn’t stop it!
Now I think that this is a simple example (and one of many) of God giving us free will. God talks to us about sin (like He did to Cain in verse 7) and He teaches us about sin and He warns us from sin. But He won’t force us not to sin. That’s not how He works. That’s one of the things this chapter teaches us. Why does He give us such free will? Well, we’ll just have to get to that as we keep reading, won’t we?
God’s Message To Us
But back to this chapter. God’s message rings loud and clear: “sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (verse 7). Honestly, those words are so touching. They remind me of my mom and my dad, and the many careful lessons they’ve imparted to me. It is almost like God is coming into our room, sitting on our bed, and looking us in the eye as He says these words. “You must rule over it.”
We say perfection is impossible, and it is, but is it impossible to stop giving in to sin? God insists to us that it’s not. We can rule over sin. How? Again, we’ve got to read on. This Man won’t leave us hanging. He loves us too much for that. He’ll teach us how to rule over sin – us and generations of daddy’s sons to come.
There Are Always Questions
- God put a mark on Cain to keep him from getting killed by his angry family members – but why was it physical? He could have just told the others not to kill Cain. Why did God mark him? Did He want Cain to remember what had happened?
- Cain’s decision to sacrifice fruit instead of an animal is an interesting one. God told Cain to give Him one thing, but Cain decided that it would be much better if he could just give God this other thing. How many times have we done this in our lives? What am I refusing to sacrifice? What cheap sacrifices am I offering in the place of what God really wants, all the while hoping He won’t notice?
What do you think? What did this chapter reveal to you? What do you think God is saying to you in this chapter?