Yom Shishi, 27 Tammuz 5777 — יוֹם שִׁשִּׁי כז תַּמּוּז ה' תשעז Friday, 21 July 2017
Genesis 4:1-8
Cain and Abel
(Part 1)

INTRODUCTION

I heard a joke, do you know why Episcopals can't play chess?

They don't know the difference between a bishop and a queen.

But what is happening in the Episcopal church unfortunately is no joke. Sin has worked it's way in, and is doing it's destructive pleasure. That is one of the things we are going to talk about tonight in our study. Sin and its desire for us.


Once again we come to a historic story from the beginning of Genesis. The story of Cain and Abel. It is so much a part of our culture, so many stories and movies based loosely on the type of two brothers in conflict. I remember reading the book East of Eden in High School, about two brothers based on Cain and Abel, but placed in the early 20th Century

Sometimes the familiarity of this passage makes us lose the horror of it. Cain rose up and killed his own brother, his own flesh and blood. In the bigger context of our continuing study through the book of Genesis. This now our 8th study.

This marks the continuing Fall from Paradise. The Increasing Rebellion with God, accelerating decline from blessing. This a bit of a transition that takes us to the flood.

Think of the acceleration from Gen 3. There the sin was disobeying God in taking fruit from a tree. And now a chapter later we see the true fruit of that action, in a man's killing of his own brother. The acceleration now even the response to being confronted by God. Where in Gen 3, Adam and Eve perhaps sought to evade God and blame shift, we can see here, Cain almost spitefully spitting back at God, "am I my brother's keeper!"

Cain and Abel are used as types in the Bible of two humanities, one of godlessness and evil, and one of godly and spiritual. In Jude, he warns the readers don't go the way of Cain, meaning into evil. And in the Book of Hebrews, Abel is listed in Chapter 11 as a Hero of Faith for having offered a better sacrifice. So here we have two humanties pictured for us in this passage.

Gen 4 marks the beginning of the spread of evil from an individual to a society. By the end of this chapter, evil has spread through whole civilizations, and we are heading to its climax in the flood. The judgement against the evil.

We are going to look for the next 2 weeks at this story of Cain and Abel, then I am gone for a couple of weeks, and then we will come back and finish Chapter 4 and 5, as we see the bringing of sin into society, and the establishing of the two seeds, the Godly seed and the ungodly seed.

This is really a story about Cain that involves Abel. The two main pieces of this narrative are God's 2 dialogues with Cain. The first before he killed Abel, and the second one after.

In these next two weeks we are going to split this up in that way. Tonight we will go through the first 8 chapters, and God's confrontation and warning to Cain of the sin crouching at his door. Then next week we will finish the narrative dealing with Cain's murder trial with God.

That was a long introduction to the passage, but I wanted to set our plan well.

Now we are going to look first at the Narrative itself.Then we are going to look at some fun observations about the text and see how it relates to the rest of the Torah.Then we will finish by asking ourselves, "So What?" Basically, nice study, but does this really apply to my life.

Narrative

So first our narrative.

NAMING

The Hebrew is Adam knew his wife, and she concieved and gave birth to a son. She named him Cain, for I have gotten or aquired a man with the help of the Lord. Cain or Kayin sounds like the word, for I have gotten or created, Caniti.

JOBS

Then it says she bore his brother Abel, or Hevel. Then it says Abel is a keeper or shepherd of the flocks, and cain a tiller or worker of the ground. This appears to be a direct connection to the last verses of Gen 3, and the result of the Fall.

Gen. 3:23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Here Cain is working the ground. Abel has an interesting Job. He is a keeper of the flocks. I find that a very interesting job, for the type of the Godly person.Later Moses was a shepherd, and he was shepherding the sheep in Exodus 3, when God met him, in fact it the exact same hebrew words, Roeh Zoan.

The same words again are used to describe King David as well, when God took him and separated him from his brothers.

The Lord is known as our Shepherd, and in Ezekiel, God rebukes the evil shepherds saying I will shepherd you and raise up a Good Shepherd over my flock Israel.

Does all this biblical imagery link to the Godly type of Abel and his job here. I don't know. But interesting, no?

OFFERING

Now comes the big event the offering.

It says in the course of time, Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought an offering of the fat portions of the first born of his flock

The Lord regarded or showed favor to the offering of Abel, but the Lord did not look with favor on Cain's.

Here is the first use of the term Lord, rather than God from chapter 1 and Lord God from 2 and 3. Not sure of the significance of that, but the Lord generally speaks of his more personal relational covenant nature. Which makes sense here, as he interacts with Cain and Abel.

So the big question everyone asks, why did the Lord like Abel's and not Cain's?

Why is God showing favoritism?

There is no reason to believe God is showing favoritism. And we get a behind the scenes look at what is really in Cain's heart by how he reacts to God after it. So God is right not to regard his offering.

But the text does not really tell us why God liked one and not the other. I think we are to accept it at face value. Abel's was a good offering, and Cain's was not.

God is not being arbitary, and I don't think this speaks of God preferring bloody sacrifices to vegies. Both are described as offerings, minha, like the levitical offerings, not sacrifices. They are offerings.First fruits is a good offering, a farmer from his soil, a shepherd from his flock. Not sacrifices but offerings.

The difference is in the vocabulary. Heb 11, by faith , abel offered to God a better sacrifice. One exhibits faith, one doesn'tCain brought SOME of the offering of the ground. Just someAbel brought took FAT PORTIONS FROM FIRST BORN of the flock.

From the Elaborate construction of Abel offering, we are to see he went out of his way to please God.

The author again, now let's us see what is really in Cain's heart by his reaction. It says Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Cain's interrogationNow we come to God's first conversation with Cain.

In verse 6, it says the Lord said to Cain. Why are you angry, why has your contenance, literally your face your Panim, why has it fallen. If you do well will you not be accepted?

Essentially, Cain, what is the problem. No point in doing angry, just do right, and you will be fine accepted.

Again, God doesn't say what is wrong with Cain's offering, and Cain doesn't ask. It seems assumed, that God knows Cain understands that he has done wrong. God seems to also assume as well, that Cain knows what is required to do right.

God seems to be holding out two alternatives to Cain, he says he can turn and do right, or he can choose to not do right, and remain angry.

But then God warns him if he chooses the later.

"if you do not do well, sin is crouching at your door, and it's desire is for you, you must master it."

One of the scariest verses in the Bible. Sin is crouching at your door, the word picture is of an animal, crouching down, ready to spring upon it's prey. Sin is ready to spring upon you, it's desire is for you, but you must master it or rule over it.

Again, this is the same Hebrew Structure as chapter 3, with the woman's curse, your desire will be for your husband, but he will master you. Speaking of the formerly harmonic relationship between man and wife, now turned into a battle and a war because of sin.

Now it is Man's battle with sin. God warns Cain, sin is right there, at your door, and it wants to take you.

The next verse, Cain is in the field with Abel, and he rises up and kills him. Exactly as God warned him.

Cain did not repent. Do you think, why kill Abel? What did he do to Cain? All Abel did is have God be pleased with his offering. He did well.

Cain's problem was with God. Cain was in rebellion with God, and angry at God, and it resulted in the killing of his brother.

And to talk again about the picture of the acceleration of Sin from Chapter 3. There Eve got talked into her sin by the serpent, but here Cain will not even be talked out of sin by the Lord himself.

So we have our 2 part response of Cain:Anger against GodThen Anger against his brother.

Then we have God's second conversation with Cain, essentially his trial which we will look at next week.

Interesting Things

There are some very obvious so what application points from that narrative, but before we go there, I want to take a look at some of the interesting things also happening in this text. Especially in how it relates to the rest of the Torah.

Again, as I have said previously, I think of the keys to understanding these early chapters in Genesis is in seeing their connection to the rest of the Torah, and particularily the instructions given to the Israelites coming out of Egypt. How would they have seen this story? What connections would they have made?

Offerings

I think they would have seen here the two archetypes of the kinds of people in a setting of worship. What kind of offerings were you to make.

The offerings and Sacrifices were to be the first and best of one's possessions like Abel.

A theme picked Give best to God - Ex 13:2,12 lev 22:17-25 - SLIDE 1

Giving God Your First and Best

Ex. 13:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal."

Lev. 22:17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 "Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: 'If any of you - either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel - presents a gift for a burnt offering to the LORD, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. 21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 22 Do not offer to the LORD the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the LORD by fire.

Lev. 22:31 "Keep my commands and follow them. I am the LORD. 32 Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who makes you holy 33 and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD."

God who redeemed us out of Egypt was to receive our first and out best. And they were to be offered from a heart of faith.

Why is this? It's not because God needed the offerings. He said are the all the cattle on all the hills his?

Giving God the first and best was for the people's own good, so they remembered that everything was God's, that he was creator of all the world, all powerful, and the one who has called them to be in relationship with him.

All worship is to honor God, and as we worship, our own hearts are transformed and changed. When we don't worship, that which is worthy of worship, it hurts us, in the same way when we worship things unworthy of praise.

In the words of Bob Dylan, "we all gotta serve somebody"

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord

Doing well

This relates also to the idea of doing well, of doing rightly. God offers blessing and cursing to Israel, he encourages to do rightly, and experience blessing and the pleasure of God. It is available to them.

Another interesting feature is the way this text compares to Genesis 25.

As we look at the text with the births of Jacob and Esau we see a number of parallels

• Gen. 25:24 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.

• Gen. 25:25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau.

• Gen. 25:26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

• Gen. 25:27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.

• Birth of Two sons

• Naming of Offspring

• Occupation of both sons

• God's blessing is on the younger

• Eventual conflict

• Jacob fears Esau will kill him

This pattern of the younger received favor over the older is very important. Cain, the elder was unfaithful and disqualified. Pattern throughout Genesis. Jacob over Esau, Ephraim over Manasseh. The younger sons like Joseph, Isaac receive the favor. Reuben, Levi and Simeon all squander their inherited places.

So What?

Good question. This has been a nice academic study, but can I take any of this into my real life.

Absolutely.

As I looked at this text, I saw something scary, then something, comforting, then something scary again, and then something very scary.

So that is the order we will look at out so what.ScaryComfortingScaryVery scary

First Scary.

Cain made an offering to the Lord. It was a bad offering, but he still made it.

That is scary to me.

We know we are give God our first and our best. He is Lord of all creation. If your country had a great and powerful King, you would be afraid to offer him a second rate gift.

But somehow with God, we can offer him second rate things.

We can be standing before him, on the outside doing all that is necessary to serve God, but on the inside there can be something very wrong. God sees and God knows it.

Often times our hearts are not right, our actions are not right. God knows it and we know it. And why is cain angry? He has been caught, but rather then humbly admiting and turning back. He gets mad about it.

This is a very real reaction. Have you ever felt it. I have many times. I am caught doing something wrong or I bear the consequences for something I know I should not have done, and I get mad. I get mad at everyone and everything. I remember before the big stock crash.

I let myself get caught in all the stock buying, as the stocks raced up, I had made a lot of money, and I found myself checking my stocks everyday. Many times, I had felt conviction over it. That it was like gambling, that I was becoming greedy, and I would make pacts with God to stop, but I kept going back.

Then the crash, I got wiped out. Many times I was so angry, but I could not blame God for that. I had done wrong, I knew I had done wrong, I finally had to humble myself and submit to him, and confess it.

But now the comforting thought

Yes, God saw it, and did he meet Cain with immediate Judgement. No.

He didn't receive his offering. God knew it was tainted.

Then Cain sinned again, and became angry about it.

But then God went to him. He had a conversation with him. Come let us reason together as he would say to the nation of Israel so many years later. He said, just do well, and I will accept you.

That is incredibly comforting. True we sin, but God seeks to correct us, to set us on the right path. God is there to correct us, and to provide a way to change and turn back, or repent.

God is not sitting there, waiting for us to mess up, or taking pleasures in our failures. He is not sitting there as a Judge, looking down over our nose, trying to catch us in an error.

No, he longs to help us do right. He doesn't ignore sin, Cain's offering was bad, and it was not accepted or looked on with favor. Period. But then God went to him, and sought to turn him from his ways, to turn him to righteousness and blessing.

This was God's pattern throughout the Old Testament. Israel sins, first there are the immediate consequences of their actions, then a prophet sent to turn then back, again and again, judgement only after repeated attempts to turn them back.

Here is something we can take enormous comfort in. Yes we may feel prone to sin, prone to wander, but God wants to enable us to live rightly and in a pleasing way to him. I believe if we are doing wrong, God will seek to intervene and give us a chance to turn back.

How does this happen. I don't think the text is that clear. In the bible he will send prophets.

In my own experience, I have found God will send correctives in a number of ways. When I am off in my thinking, I find God will often send someone to me with a word of correction. Many times it is my wife, and I am glad for it.

Sometimes it something that happens, and I see it is from the Lord, and I cease from what I was trying to do.

EXAMPLE

A good rule of thumb I learned somewhere. If someone rebukes for something, that you think they are wrong about. The first time, listen, don't get mad, but you don't have to act on it.

If another person comes and offers the same correction. Even if you don't agree, you have stop and really consider and pray, whether this is true.

If a third person comes and corrects, "thou art the man"

If you want to ignore all three, you can, but God has a scary warning for you.

ScarySin is crouching at your door, and it's desire is for you.

That is scary. We have a ceaseless war with sin. It will never end, until we lose these broken bodies.

We will perpetually be tempted and desiring to do those things, which we know in our hearts are wrong. That is our condition. Almost at war with ourselves.

But God does say victory is possible, we can master it. But we are in a war, and sin is crouching, looking to devour us.

1Pet. 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith

Here Peter pictures the devil as a roaring lion seeking to devour, perhaps a reference to this passage. The flesh, the world, and the devil all battling against us under the banner of sin. Sin, our true rebellion against God, our missing the mark.

I have known many people that sin has devoured.

Ken - College example

Sin devoured him.

Many times we seriously underestimate our sin, the little things we play with, the little things we allow to come into our life, which we know are wrong, which we know are displeasing to God. We think we can keep control of them, keep them in their place.

But it's sin's nature to grow and to take over and destroy.

James illustrates this as well.

Here, what began as a bad offering by Cain, grew to anger towards God, which became killing of his own brother, even though his brother had not done anything.

And now for the Very Scary.

God let him do it. God is all sovereign, surely He could have stopped Cain from slaying Abel, but he didn't it. He did not intervene. God seeks to transform our wills, but he will not subjugate our wills.

If we really have set our mind on sin, and will not turn back from it, God will let it run it's course. That too can be seen in the history of Israel. Israel was so evil, He eventually let them be destroyed by the Babylonians and taken into Exile. God did all he could make them change their ways, but when they wouldn't, he let them eat the fruit of their rebellion.

We can count on God giving us the opportunity to repent, and for his guiding and correcting hand, but if we refuse it, we cannot count on him forcing us out of the path of destruction we have chosen. And we certainly cannot blame him for it, once it happens to us.

When I was in Venezuela a few years ago, I was in the Orionoco Delta. We were staying in these huts over the river. The owners had a young Jaguar that gotten as a cub. The local Indians had killed the mother, I am not sure why, but then sold the cub to the owner. The jaguar had been handled all it's life. It was on a chain but you could pet it and play with it. It was 8 months old by then, which is pretty big, I loved playing with it. But it was kind of scary, it would get your whole foot in its mouth, and it kind of hurt, and there was no way I could get it out, unless it wanted to let me.

The experience reminded me of an illustration I heard about sin a number of years ago. It was the story of a man who managed to get a hold of a real lion cub, a little baby. And he took it into his home. He kept in a room where no one knew about it. He would go in there and pet it and play with it, feed it. Slowly it grew, and became bigger and bigger. Still the man would sneak into the room just to play with his lion, which no one knew about. Then one day, when the Lion had grown, the man went into the room to play with it, and the Lion rose up and killed him.

Such is the nature of Sin. You just can't play with it, it seeks to devour you.

Let us remember well this first. Sin crouches at our door, and it's desire is for us, but we must master it.