In this chapter we are introduced to Adam and Eve’s first two children, Cain and Able. Cain is the older of the two. Cain is a “tiller of the ground,” while Able is a “herder of flocks.” It turns out that God doesn’t like Cain’s offering of vegetables, but does like Able’s offering of animal fat. God’s rejection of Cain makes Cain angry, so he kills his brother. For this, God exiles Cain from wherever they live, and Cain heads east. However, Cain now fears that his banishment will allow him to fall victim to anyone who wants to “kill him at sight.” To prevent this, God marks Cain.
Cain then has a wife, and founds a city he names after his son, Enoch. We then get Cain’s lineage. We then learn that Adam and Eve had one more son, Seth, who was to replace Abel. Seth had a son named Enosh.
The footnotes in this chapter state that a reason is not known for why God favors Abel over Cain, but I would hypothesize that the animal fat sacrifice of Abel is more valuable than the vegetable sacrifice that Cain makes. But in truth, no real reason is stated. God does give an interesting little lecture to Cain when he finds out that not looking favorably on Cain’s sacrifice has made Cain angry.
Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it. (Genesis 4:6-7)
There seems to be an implication of some established rules that have yet been revealed to the reader. This is also the first mention of sin. It is unclear, however, which is the wrong behaviour here, Cain not making a proper sacrifice, or Cain feeling angry and dejected because God did not like the sacrifice. The result of this, Cain killing Able, is quite a frightening outcome. The resulting punishment is almost as bizarre. I suppose it could be seen as pushing Cain farther away from God though, a punishment similar to the expelling of Adam and Eve from Eden.
Cain’s fear over others killing him has an interesting implication, that there are other people. Is God responsible for them too, or are they the children of other gods? Either way, God marks Cain so that he will be protected. To further insure his safety, God states that if anyone kills Cain, 7 people will be killed. God is certainly showing some odd compassion here. While he lets one murderer live (good), he will murder 7 people for killing this one man. God must be playing favorites here, or he is really inconsistent with his punishment.
Another question, where did the women who everyone marries come from? This again raises the question of other people. My hope is that there were other people around, lest there be some serious incest going on.
- God prefers meat sacrifice to vegetable.
- Don’t kill your brother just because God likes him more than you.