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Living Springs Institute
Where Sound Doctrine Endures
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men. After the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:8
Issue #24 May & June 2006

Following the Biblical Stream:
By Philip Busby

We ended last time by talking about the professions of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve. That brought us through Genesis chapter 4 verse 2. So, in this issue, we will start by looking at Genesis chapter 4 verse 3. The stage has been set, and we have all the necessary facts; Cain tills the ground while Abel has chosen to domesticate animals. The Bible uses the word “sheep” for Abel’s animal choice, which most likely consisted of even what we would call goats today. However, since Abel lived so long ago and was at the first of his field, we really only know that Abel started domestication of the kind of animals we would generally classify as sheep today.

To really see this story in context, it’s necessary to take the story in chunks and not strictly verse by verse. So, verses 3 through the first part of verse 4 tell us this, “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” The first part simply tells us that it was “in process of time,” that these events happened. This is a key element to understanding the development of sacrifice to God. It should not escape our understanding, the fact we have no record of God coming down to tell Adam and Eve, nor Cain and Abel, to do such a thing. Some teachers of the Bible, and many commentaries, will tell you there is an assumption that God did instruct man as to the principles of sacrifice. However, this is not the proper view on the Word of God. To assume God did something that important and simply did not record it for us, should be a pretty hard thing to accept. Not until God laid out the specific laws, He gave to Israel, do we see the practice of sacrifice given specific instructions by God in the Word of God. We must remember again, God was and is looking to have a relationship with man. God did not have to give specific instructions to man when it came to worship and offerings, because there was no false religion as yet. God was there to be communed with, and God had not demanded one thing or another out of man when it came to worship. God simply desired to see the choices man would make, and responded to those choices in a way which would teach man how to live. So, if you have no prior knowledge of the Bible and the law - which Cain and Abel did not - the question which arises at this point in the story is, exactly why did Cain and Abel take this action at all?

The answer to this question really is the fact they had a basic understanding of life, which without the Word of God we would have no clue about today. As I just mentioned, there was no false religion in Cain and Abel’s day, but in later times, and especially today, man has been corrupted by a hundred and one false teachings and pagan religions. This fact is why God gave Israel a written law. Through Israel, God would maintain understanding, which would have been lost in the minds of men, over the centuries, of man going his own way. Because false religion, and man’s false beliefs are so powerful, Israel was also given national and historical reasons to continue guarding the laws God gave them. Today, Jews are known as people of the book. This is because those laws God gave them are such an important part of Jewish heritage even today, and even with the unavailability of the temple in Jerusalem, they keep alive much of the law’s symbolism. On top of that, they eagerly await the day when they will once again be able to resume the full activities of the law. Oh what a blessing to the world that will be!

When Christ returns, Jerusalem will once again be a place from which God’s prophecy and righteousness, in action, will flow through the symbolism of the law. The book of Zachariah even tells us, in the fourteenth chapter, that all nations, in that day, will be required to come up and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the feast that represents our ultimate ability to tabernacle with God, in the place Jesus said He went to prepare for us! (John 14:2-3, Rev. 21:1-4) In Isaiah chapter 56, we are told that even non-Jewish people’s sacrifices will be accepted at the temple. This is because Jesus will be here to instruct us in all things, and He can cut through the damage of false religion in the lives of those who desire it. However, in the days of Cain and Abel, things were not so complex. They did not have false religion trying to guide them down the wrong road. They simply knew there was a God in heaven. God had created everything they knew. There was no reason to worship other things, or believe in other gods. Even the wording in these early books, like Genesis, shows us there was far more direct contact with God than exists later on, and that is due to the simple unobstructed knowledge of God’s existence. So, Cain and Abel were simply doing what they did as they walked with the God of the universe. Talking to God was not strange for them, and communing with God was simple!

That is why the phrase “in process of time” is used here. This phrase only appears about five times in the English Old Testament, but the word “process” is not even translated from the same Hebrew word in all five cases. In three of the cases, the original word has the indication of “abundance.” Today, we might say something like, “A considerable time later.” In another case the word “process” comes from a Hebrew word which carries the indication of “increase.” For this, we might say, “As time went along.” However, here in Genesis, we see the only example where “process” is translated from a Hebrew word which indicates “extremity.” A better way to put it might be to say it indicates a boarder or the end of something. What this is telling us is Cain and Abel had reached a marker in time. The passage of time between one marker and another had expired. So, we are talking about a calculated time period like an appointment, expiration date, or common cycle which they would have naturally followed.

In all the cases where this phrase “process of time” appears, the statement is telling us that these things happened in the natural course of human events. Nothing extraordinary happened which brought on the event that came after the statement. It might be that someone got tired of waiting for reasons which we might all agree or in the natural course of time an opportunity to accomplish something opened up. In the verses we are studying in Genesis, it refers more to the fact a commonly recognized time period came around once again.

The idea of appointed times is used in other places later in the old Testament, but this “process of time” phrasing, put just the way it is here, is not used again. This likely has to do with the fact that later, after man grew in population, he started making decisions about appointed times within society’s groups. He started observing the moon phases and thus marking off months. Man observed the passage of season, seed time and harvest, and decided where to observed the beginning and end of their year. Further, after the law of Moses had been given to Israel, there were many God mandated appointed seasons. There was Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and others. If a statement this general was made later in the Bible, one might wonder which appointed time we are talking about. We might wonder if it was a God appointed time or if it was a man appointed time.

However, when it comes to the time of Cain and Abel, again, things were not that complicated. God had not laid down a written law, so there were no such mandated times by God, there were simply those things God had created and instructed from the beginning. So, for Cain and Abel, what appointed time existed in the natural course of time? For this, there can only be one obvious answer, which, without being told more information, we could possibly conclude. They were worshiping and communing with God just in the way God designed it. They were spending time with God on the Sabbath day!

At the time of Cain and Abel, the Sabbath was the only division of time which had been given a reason to hold importance. It is no coincidence that they both came before God at the same time. God told us, the lights He put in the heavens were for the dividing of time, but that would be up to man to decide which of these he cared about. These two men, having chosen two different occupations, may have cared about totally different divisions of time as it affected their work. However, the Sabbath was laid out by God Himself during creation, and observing it would be a common thing they naturally did on a regular basis. So, for the most part, there is no need for the Bible to record the exact interactions between man and God on each Sabbath. However, in this particular instance, their common, normal event caused something not so common to happen, and God tells us what it was.

Again, we must remember, God had not ordered man to do anything specific when it came to worshiping Him. God simply wanted to be a part of man’s life and lead him in the ways man should go. So, this story is not about sacrifice to appease God, who has expectations you may or may not be able to fulfill. This is the story of two men who are children in God’s eyes, bringing their accomplishments before God. Thus, verse 3 tells us, “Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.” and verse 4 says, “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” The verse just before these told us the occupations Cain and Abel decided to take on. This should help us have the right perspective going into these verses. Again, God had not prescribed them something. There was no law which said that on the Sabbath they had to bring a certain offering. What we are seeing is Cain bringing the fruits of his labor and Abel bringing the fruits of his labor. Both of these offerings were perfectly acceptable before God. If you doubt that, you should consider that in the Law of Moses, God actually requires there to be certain offerings brought to the temple which consist of plant products. Far too much of the time, we get this story turned around and think the issue was that Cain failed to bring the proper offering. Thus, we believe God was angry with Cain or that in some way Cain was rejected by God. This is, once again, an example of us not understanding the love and mercy of God! This story shows us a great example of how it was, from the very beginning, man’s choice to leave God’s side not God’s choice to leave man. The issue was not God rejecting one offering and accepting the other, the issue is how God dealt with the offerings each man brought. Then the issue became, how Cain responded to the way God responded to the offerings they brought.

So, first we need to look at the wording here in verses 4 and 5. It says, “And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” The key word in this part is the word “respect.” The word “respect” is used many times in the Old Testament, but only about one other time is it translated from the same Hebrew word it comes from here in these verses. When we see the word respect, we tend to think this means God liked Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. This is not the case, even by the English definition. The word respect means deferential or high regard. It means to esteem or place high value on. The Hebrew word respect is translated from here, means much the same. It means to gaze at or about; to consider. So, when it says God had respect to Abel’s offering and not Cain’s, it’s telling us that Abel’s offering really caught God’s attention in a way that Cain’s offering did not. This doesn’t mean God did not look at or accept Cain’s offering. It’s just saying, God did not treat Cain’s offering in the same high regard as He did Abel’s.

This story was likely where the idea of blood sacrifice really became something man latched onto. As we talked about in an earlier issue, God showed man the symbolism of blood sacrifice in making Adam and Eve coats of skin. God could have made anything to cover their nakedness, but He chose to cover it by shedding the blood of animals. This first sacrifice, performed directly by God, was the first symbolic sacrifice of the price Jesus would pay on the cross. As Cain and Abel came before God with the fruits of their labor, God would teach further symbolism in sacrifice and offering. Some, who know and understand Hebrew far better than I, have said that the Hebrew word “respect” comes from here, actually indicates that God did not just look at the offerings as with eyes, but that God actually consumed the offering with fire. This is actually not so hard to understand. When God instructed Moses to build the tabernacle in the wilderness and the work was finally complete, the ceremony to dedicate and purify the things of the tabernacle began. Sacrifices were laid on the altar and the blood used in the dedication of the things which were made. Then as Moses and Aaron blessed the people, “ came out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat:” Lev. 9:24. Then in II Chronicles 7, we see King Solomon dedicating the temple he built in Jerusalem; and as Solomon ended his dedication prayer, “...the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house.”

Another example of this is given in I Kings 18. Elijah challenges the false prophets of Baal and the groves. They as a group, and then Elijah by himself, would each build an alter and place a sacrifice. However, neither would put a fire under it. The consuming with fire part would have to be asked for. The false prophets did everything they could to get their gods to light the fire, but nothing happened. Then it came time for Elijah to try. Just to drive home the point, Elijah soaked his altar and sacrifice with barrels of water from the river. Then after Elijah had prayed to God, for God to show Himself as the one true God, verse 38 tells us, “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

In all three of the examples above, it should not be missed that we see the term “burnt offering” or “burnt sacrifice.” This is because there are those offerings which are to be consumed with fire and there are those offerings which are not. When God gave the law to Israel, it showed us, in writing, the proper form of sacrifice and offering. When the sacrifice involved the killing of an animal which caused the shedding of blood, almost without exception at least a portion of the sacrifice was to be placed on the altar and burned. Some non-blood offerings were also burned on the alter, but in many cases only a small portion, or none at all, would be burned when an offering did not include the shedding of blood. Tithe of all Israel’s increase was to be brought to the temple, but it was stored not burned. In the law, the instructions for sacrifices to be burned were, many times, followed by God saying, “it is an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” So, in the law, we clearly see that not all things brought before the Lord are to be consumed with fire, and many things are simply commanded to be brought into the storehouse of God. (Lev. 27:30-33, Malachi 3:8-12)

This fact was likely the point of irritation for Cain here in the story we are studying. Again, God had not laid down a written law, nor do we have record of God telling them what was and was not a burnt offering. So, in this incident, Cain had not brought a poor or unacceptable offering, Cain had simply brought an offering which would not be a burnt offering. In contrast, Abel had brought a blood sacrifice, and a blood sacrifice would be a burnt offering. So, when the wording tells us that God gazed on Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, it is likely telling us that God consumed Abel’s offering with fire but He did not do so with Cain’s.

Now, even if God did not consume Abel’s offering with fire, there is still the fact that Abel’s offering was of a higher nature. While all the things man accomplished were something to bring before the Lord, the plan of God from the very beginning was always to instruct man. If the project you were working on was not something good, then God would be the one who could tell you that. This is why, even today, we are instructed by the Word of God to do all things as unto the Lord. (Col. 3:17, I Cor. 10:31) We are also told to pray without ceasing. (I Thess. 5:17) This shows us the truth that human culture and “advancements” have formed and changed our world, but God’s plan has never changed! (Heb. 13:8) As Cain offered the fruits of his labor, he was doing exactly what he should be doing. However, because of the symbolism of blood sacrifice, there was more attention given to Abel’s offering; and what this story boils down to is the fact - that made Cain jealous!

The book of Hebrews chapter 11 verse 4 tells us, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” This scripture verifies what we have been talking about. One of the reasons some do not see this, is because of a fact I have mentioned many times in this study. We have been taught that faith is nothing more than strong belief, when in truth, the word faith is a specific word used to describe a relationship with God. We do not just believe there is a God, but we have a personal walk with Him. God is not an unseen force to the one who has faith; God is an ever present help in the time of trouble. (Psa. 46:1) That is why the start of the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We have not entered that place where we will ever be, in a very physical sense, with Jesus. (John 17:24) However, we still have a direct relationship with God, if we want it. That is just what Cain and Abel had. God talking directly to them was not odd, it was everyday life, and because of their relationship with God, Cain and Abel brought their offerings before God. Abel brought a more excellent sacrifice, or a more meaningful sacrifice than Cain. Cain did nothing wrong, but Abel’s sacrifice was a sacrifice which had symbolism beyond that of a standard offering. Sin requires the shedding of blood. Abel’s offering was a blood offering; thus, it would be consumed by fire to symbolize the fact these corruptible forms must pass. This corruptible must take on incorruption. (I Cor. 15:53) God’s reaction to Abel’s offering was further teaching for man that this was true. This is why Abel’s offering was more than an offering, it was a sweet savor before the Lord! (Gen. 8:21, Ex. 29:18, 25, 41)

Through this, the book of Hebrews tells us Abel testified of his rightness. Through this, God heightened Abel’s understanding. Receiving higher understanding from God was a precious gift to Abel but only a point of jealousy for Cain. We should all have a desire to know and follow the ways of God in our lives. If others bring a more excellent sacrifice, we can all learn from it, and we can all grow closer to God. That was the opportunity Cain had. The chance to learn a deeper lesson in the ways of life. It did not matter which one of them had brought the sacrifice. Neither one had come empty handed. Each one had brought their accomplishments before God. They were both there in the presence of God, worshiping God. This moment was something they could both benefit from. If we look again into the written laws God gave Israel, we can see many sacrifices which were offered for the people. This means they were not personally offered by each individual but they were offered for the nation as a whole, (Lev. 9:17, Num. 28:1-6) and no where is this more prominent than in the required ceremony of the Day of Atonement. This was the one day a year that any, person, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies! That person, would be the high priest and only the high priest. On this day, the priest would enter what can only be described as the earthly throne room of God! Physically coming this close to the presence of God could only be done with all the proper ceremony as instructed by God, and the serious putting away of sin in the life of the priest. (Lev. 16) In fact, the high priest’s garment had bells built into it. On the Day of Atonement, they would tie a rope around the ankle of the priest before he went into the Holy of Holies. If those waiting for him stopped hearing the bells tinkle, after a while they would know the priest had not survived and they would use the rope to pull his body out. This perfection in cleanliness was needed on the part of the high priest, because the priest represented the Messiah, who would go before the Father and make intercession for us in the true throne room of God in heaven. (Heb. 9:1-12) This would be necessary, because as hard as it was for the high priest to enter the earthy symbolism, it was impossible for any man, besides the Messiah, to accomplish the same task in heaven! (Acts 4:12)

The story of Cain and Abel shows us just how much man was still living in innocence. Due to the lack of worldly corruption, Cain and Abel had not needed such complicated law. Just the simple opportunity to stand in the presence of God and gain the understanding that while sin required their physical death, God would not allow death to be the end of their ability to commune with Him. In everything they did, God was there. If they lacked understanding, God was already teaching them, and their understanding would only grow deeper and deeper if they would stay in the presence of God! However, on this day, Cain was angered by the fact Abel was the one who had brought the offering which received more recognition, and not only did he miss out on the blessing, he ultimately fell to sin!

The end of verse 5, in Genesis chapter 4 says, “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” This wording gives us a great description even in the English. Cain was angry! This was not a rage which caused him to lash out immediately, this was the kind of anger which really becomes a part of a person’s makeup. When we consider the fact God made humans, some people are disturbed by the fact humans are capable of such horrible things. They want to know how a God who is perfect could have made a being capable of such things, but we should realize that this story of Cain and Abel is not just a story of the first murder, it is the story of how we really are to blame for our own actions.

Cain had no good reason to feel ill toward his brother. However, Cain found that this situation brought up “negative emotions.” We must understand that the ability to feel these kinds of emotions are part of our free will. We talk about the fact God did not build us to be robots, programmed to do only what God wants, but many times we make the mistake of thinking God created us with evil in us. This is untrue! The truth is that for us to have a genuine free will, we must have the ability to feel emotions. Even those which we call “negative emotions.” In truth, freedom of emotion is more important to our free will than the physical freedom of motion. However, we should understand, “negative” emotions are only referred to by humans as “negative” because of the way we use these emotions. Before we blame God for making us the way He did, we need to recognize many emotions are really only part of one base emotion which we have subcategorized. We subcategorize our basic emotions because we actually understand the reasons we feel the way we do in certain kinds of circumstances. For example, is there really an emotion of jealousy? What Cain was feeling was something we would likely call “jealousy,” but the Bible tells us, Cain was simply “wroth.” This word in the Hebrew is “charah,” it means “to glow or grow warm.” So even though we may say a specific feeling is “jealousy,” many times it is only this growing feeling of warmth which we call “jealously.” Most of the time, we would call this feeling anger. However, sometimes when we are very happy about something, we can also say it brings a warm feeling inside. Emotions can be a tricky thing to describe! So, how do we classify emotions as good and bad? How do we separate the emotion we call jealousy and the emotion we simply know as anger? The answer is - we already know the answer to the first question God asked Cain, which is, “Why are you wroth?”

Jesus showed us there is a reason to feel this glow. Jesus went into the temple and drove out the money changers who were buying and selling sacrifices as if they were a convenience store commodity. Jesus told them they were wrong for doing this, because God’s house was a house to commune with God in, and they were robbing people of that by bringing the things which belonged to the world inside it! (John 2:13-17) This was what we might call a righteous anger on Jesus’ part. Jesus felt the growth of warmth inside of Him because of man’s unrighteous actions in His Father’s temple. The gospel of John tells us this incident reminded the disciples of a prophecy about the Messiah. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” John 2:17 In the case of Jesus and His reasons for driving out the money changers, His emotion is described as “zeal!”

Think about it. If Eve had loved God and His Word in the way she should have, Eve would have been angry at the serpent for even suggesting they defy God’s Word! If this is how Eve would have felt, anger would be the reason for her to walk away from temptation, not fall to sin. This is why Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.” If there is anger, or any range of what we might call a “negative emotion,” then try to understand what the real reasons are for feeling that way. We can’t let emotions simply lead our actions. God gave us a mind, and we must consider why we are feeling the way we do. Is it for the right reasons or the wrong reasons? Proverbs 16:32 states, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” The idea of being slow to anger, is about us taking the time to understand and consider what is actually right and what is wrong. We need to apply the understanding that the second rule of God is for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. This rule comes only second to the commandment which tells us to love God with everything we have! (Mark 12:29-31) The understanding of right and wrong - what is just and unjust - should guide what we are angry about and what we are happy about. Even what we call “positive emotions” can just as easily guide us down the path of sin as any negative ones. So, we may feel sad, we may feel mad, we may feel happy and we may feel glad, but we should try our best to shape our actions in a way which is right before God - in a way which will edify others in the ways of God, not tear them down! We can only do this in truth when we base our decisions on a complete and total love for God!

This is the brink Cain was standing on. He was angry, and he had already allowed this anger to affect his actions. This is why we are told, “...and his countenance fell.” He had started down that path which leads to sin. That very path which is explained to us in James chapter 1. Verses 14-15 says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Cain was drawn away by the lust to be the first in every situation. Again, it was not that his offering was not received by God, it was that Abel had brought a more excellent sacrifice. Cain already had the lust to be the first, and that is the problem in our lives so much of the time. Because we do not take the time to really seek God and allow Him to convict us of our deepest feelings and thoughts, we can find ourselves diving down into the pit of sin before we realize we already had a problem. We don’t know if Cain had considered, or ever before realized, that he wanted to be first in all things. Even if he did, we don’t know if he had any idea of just how bad this desire could affect his thoughts and actions. Our thoughts, like our emotions, can be good, but when unchecked instead of being the thing which drives us to accomplish something good with our lives, they many times take us to very wrong places. This is why Jesus told us on many different items we had “heard of old,” but he told us to take another step back from actions which are potentially sinful or simply not edifying. (Matt. 5:19-24) We are not animals who can run on pure instinct. We have to make choices at every moment, and everywhere throughout the Word of God, we are given instructions as to how we can combat these problems. (Phil. 4:8)

So, it was apparent that Cain had propagated a very bad kind of anger. Again, not a sudden destroying anger, but the kind that leads to the premeditation of sinfulness. His countenance had fallen and his mind was already at work as to what he wanted to do. Thus, God came to Cain in verse 6 and asked, “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?” In this, is the beauty of God, wanting to lead us. God was not saying this is what I demand of you. That was not the free willed path God made for man. God asked Cain questions Cain should have been asking himself already! God was teaching righteous reasoning.

We should realize that even when we turn our lives over to God in the greatest ways possible, God still does not control us. If we want God to lead our actions, it’s up to us at every moment to be yielded to God. However, even then, God wants us to learn to make the right choices on our own. We should realize that when we allow ourselves to use our mind to wallow in wrong things our lusts have drawn us to think, we are creating fertile ground for sin to grow. We are also in the most unlikely place to hear the Words of God we need so badly. However, this is not God being unwilling to teach us, it’s us who are not hearing. Here in these first verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis, we see God talking to Cain, but we see no response on Cain’s part. Cain refused to hear and went right on with the actions he was thinking up.

Cain needed to stop and think about why he was angry in the first place. As we talked about earlier, we, many times, already know the answer to this question. In fact, we have even divided these feelings into multiple subcategories of emotion and related many of them to colors. We say things like green with envy or red with anger. People are, many times, not considered just sad, if it’s more long lasting, we say they have the blues. In many cases, we do not have to take a great deal of time considering in its simple form why we are feeling an emotion. What we really need is a deeper thought like God was asking Cain, why are YOU wroth? It’s one thing to feel an emotion, it’s another to become it, and this is why God asks these two questions together. “Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?” God was pointing out to Cain that he was not just feeling an emotion, he was allowing it to take over his thought process. Cain was not using his mind to think this through and come to the proper conclusion; Cain was using his mind to devise plans his emotions were driving him to. This is where humans act like animals, but at the same time become far more dangerous than an animal could ever be.

So, in verse 7, God continues asking Cain to stop and consider the facts. Of these, there are three very important ones. First, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” This is God reminding Cain that he was free to come unto God at any point. The fact Abel had brought a sacrifice which, at that time, had received greater attention, had no bearing on Cain’s ability to come before God. This was not a popularity contest, where the winner got the prize of being able to continue to go before God and the loser had to go away. God was not going to change or distort the symbolism of sacrifice. If Cain wanted to bring fruits of the ground, that was fine, but it would never receive the kind of attention a blood sacrifice would receive. Cain may not have liked this fact, because he had chosen to be a tiller of the ground and Abel had chosen to raise sheep, but this incident had nothing to do with the professions they had chosen. The fact Abel was a keeper of sheep and had brought a blood sacrifice, was an opportunity to teach them, but God loved them both the same. What they had seen was the simple fact that blood sacrifice received different attention than non-blood offerings did! Cain, as well as anyone else, could learn from this experience. They were learning what the symbolism of a sin offering consisted of. If there was a need to bring a sin offering, then it would need to be a blood sacrifice. If there was no reason for Cain to bring a sin offering, then he could bring the fruits from his field if he wanted.

In all this, there was at least one more aspect, and that was the fact that if bringing a sacrifice which would receive the same kind of acknowledgment as Abel’s is what would please Cain, there was no reason he couldn’t do just that! What makes this point interesting to consider is, from then on, almost all we see is blood sacrifice until the law God gave to Israel. Even Noah, who had survived a flood which had claimed all but eight human lives, along with most plant and animal life outside the ark, brought a blood sacrifice after he left the ark. The fact Noah was given the instructions necessary to survive this flood was because he was righteous. Noah’s offering was a worship offering, not a sin offering, but he chose to give a blood sacrifice. Some may argue this was for a lot of reasons, but the Bible - as a whole - shows us that after the incident with Cain and Abel, very little of man’s food production or other elements of man’s increase, were brought before God. However, when God gave the law to Israel, God made it a commandment that Israel bring not just blood sacrifices but things like wheat, bread and oil. Certain events, like Firstfruits, were primarily about the plant material! (Lev. 23:10-11) The point is, all increase should be credited to God. Thus, we should bring our tithe as well as our offerings!

The second fact God wanted Cain to consider was brought out by telling Cain, “and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” This was another statement confirming that Cain had not done anything wrong as yet. If Cain had been wrong, God would not have said “sin lieth at the door.” So, the “..doest not well...” part is not talking about sin, it’s talking about the process of conceiving sin. God would not have simply given more attention to Abel’s offering than Cain’s if Cain was living in sin at that moment. God would have instructed Cain that he had done wrong! This is shown in James 4:17 which says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” God can not ignore sin. The shedding of our blood - so to speak - or more simply put, the death of these physical forms is what sin ultimately means for all of us. The problem is the fact that it’s also the end of our ability to exist in a whole fashion. This fact, is why the Messiah had to provide a way out of the prison of death for our lives to continue. (Rom. 8:2) The fact we have all sinned by falling short of the glory of God, (Rom. 3:23) means we will all die, but because of the work of the Messiah, death does not have to mean the end. Through Jesus, death can be our release from sin and our return to walking with God in the cool of the evening. This is why in the representation of a burnt offering, we, many times, see the wording that God smelled a sweet savor. Burning with fire, hastens the return of the sacrificed flesh to dust. This is the symbol of death and the shedding of these corruptible forms, (Gen. 3:19) so we are free to follow the Messiah to that place He went to prepare for us! (John 14:2-3) God wants us to choose that place, so He can be with us always!

James 4:17 says, “ him who knoweth to do good...” There is that ultimate sin which resides in us all that will require the shedding of this corruptible flesh someday. The Messiah has made a way for that to be turned into victory, but then there is the way we choose to walk everyday. Those who truly desire a walk with God will turn from sin, in the choices they make, and that is a learning and growing process in each life. As we gain understanding of things not pleasing to God in our lives, we must cease to take those actions. As we know to do good and we do not do it, we are straying from the path of righteousness. We should all be striving to know the truth and the truth can set us free. (John 8:31-32) How do we know the truth? By God’s Word!

So many preachers, and commentaries, will tell you there is an assumption of instruction at a prior time on the issue of how to bring an offering, and as I said at the beginning, this is wrong! God had covered Adam and Eve by killing animals, and this was the beginning of understanding the issue laid out in Hebrews chapter 9 verse 22. It says, in regard to sin, “...without shedding of blood is no remission.” If Cain had not committed a sin, which I believe the words in Genesis tell us he had not, then Cain was not required to bring a sin offering which would have included the shedding of blood. Therefore, Cain was free to bring his offering to God out of his increase, and that is what Cain did. Again, this incident is about God showing them that a blood sacrifice would receive different attention than a normal offering. It was about demonstrating to them the concepts of a sin offering, not being mad Cain had not brought one! If Cain had truly been in the wrong in bringing the wrong offering, or needing a blood offering on top of the fruits he brought, we would see God explaining to Cain his error. We would see instructions for Cain, telling him, he needed to bring a sin offering, and exactly how to do that. (Job 42:7-9) However, we do not see this. God was telling Cain, if he remained clean from sinful actions he could always come before God; Abel’s better sacrifice had not changed that. If Cain allowed his thoughts to dwell on sinful actions, which was the state Cain was in at that very moment, then sin was being brought closer to home. If Cain was going to be jealous for God’s attention and high recognition, surely it made no sense to take the actions his emotions were telling him to take, for sinful actions would bring separation between himself and God! Cain needed to overcome his emotions and realize there was no problem as yet, but if he continued in the way he was going, there would be!

The third fact is one which gets mistranslated far too many times. This part of verse seven is another prime example, in many English “translations” of the Bible, of just how much they are not translations at all. Far too many popular English versions of the Bible are, in fact, rewrites to a great degree. They say what popular teaching would tell us instead of what is actually said. The King James says, “And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” The popular way this last part of verse 7 is interpreted is to say that it’s talking about sin. Thus, versions like the New English Bible go into the last part using the word “it” for sin and say, “It shall be eager for you, and you will be mastered by it.” The Living Bible, which is at least an admitted paraphrasing, says, “Sin is waiting to attack you, longing to destroy you. But you can conquer it!” You can see in these two examples that there is even some disagreement as to what is being said, and as you go version to version you will see this same fact. The problem is, they are misinterpreting this part as a whole, so they don’t know whether to agree with the original language to some degree, or tell us something different altogether. The King James being the right translation says, “...and thou shalt rule over him” In the Living Bible, the wording tries to stay this course by saying at the end, “But you can conquer it!” However, the New English Bible turns the statement around and says, “...and you will be mastered by it.” In misinterpreting the basics of this third item in verse 7 to mean “sin,” people can’t decide if God was telling Cain sin would rule him or he could overcome it.

The truth of the matter is this last part of verse 7 means just what you would expect it to mean, if you take the story as a whole, instead of trying to fractionalize this last part and teach some doctrine simply on it. We are told, “...unto thee shall be his desire..” and the verse ends with the word “him.” Sin is not being referred to as “his” and “him” here. This is a reference to Abel, Cain’s younger brother. Remember what this situation is all about, Cain is jealous that Abel’s offering received more attention than his. Here, in verse 7, God is asking Cain to consider the fact that he can bring a blood offering anytime he wishes. God tells Cain to consider that if he allows his emotions to drive him, then he would fall into sin. Added to these points, God was giving Cain a glimpse into the future choices of men. We clearly see in the Bible that the tradition of men, from almost the beginning, has been for the eldest son to rule over the younger. As a family group grew, the rulership of the family would pass from the father to his oldest son. We still see this tradition in families today, and many times when it is not followed, it can cause strife! Now, it’s unlikely that this tradition had been set at the time of Cain and Abel, and it is important that we understand God did not tell man to do things that way. The older receiving the blessing was part of man’s choices. God was telling Cain, he may not see it now, but it was coming.

Cain may have not received the higher attention from God that Abel did, but Cain would receive the blessing and rulership of the family. In the mind of man, it would be Cain’s birthright to have the higher position of leadership. This would likely develop in their lifetime. So, God was not just telling Cain that future older brothers would rule over younger ones, but that would be his family’s tradition as well. Remember, man lived not tens but hundreds of years in the time before the flood. The Bible records Adam lived 930 years. These first men, if not killed by unnatural causes, lived long enough to be a part of a great deal of development in human thought.

I believe in this third section of God’s statement is also the aspect that God was telling Cain his brother Abel would, in humility, accept the idea that the older would rule the younger. God said “And unto thee shall be his desire...” Abel would look up to Cain and respect Cain as the leader of the Family. Now, as we have talked about before, there is a difference between rulership and leadership. God made the man to lead his family. After the fall, God told Eve the new circumstances of sin would mean she would look for her husband’s leadership, but her husband would rule over her. (Gen 3:16) The same kind of thing is told to Cain here. God told Cain that Abel’s desire would be unto Cain. Abel would look to Cain for leadership. In the end, the older would use his leadership role to rule over the younger. In this, Cain was being instructed to set the good example. Cain should have been proud of his younger brother for bringing such a meaningful offering. He should have been proud of Abel’s love for God, and Cain should have encouraged Abel, as well as those who came after. How Cain decided to handle this situation was going to have lasting implications. His choice was clear. Would he be overcome with evil or would he overcome the evil thoughts developing in his mind with the good which was expedient of him to show? (Rom. 12:21) Sadly, as we go into verse 8 of Genesis chapter 4, we see he chose poorly!

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