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Bible Study

Genesis 4 – Cain & Abel

February 27, 2019

The first page of Genesis from the Bible“Father, open my heart to hear your corrections of my actions and attitudes. And please, don’t let me pass on my disobedience to those who call me mom. I know they will learn more by what I do than what I say. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

Now, please read Genesis Chapter 4.

In time, Adam and Eve began having children. Genesis Chapter 4 tells us about two of their grown sons. Abel is a shepherd, and a follower of God. Cain is a farmer who doesn’t like rules. Adam and Eve’s struggle with obeying God continues in their son.

When the time came for them to make an offering to the Lord, Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock, and Cain brought some of the fruits of his labor in the soil. Genesis 4:4-5 tells us God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but not with Cain’s. Although it is not specified in these verses the specific reason why, we can get several clues from other verses of Scripture.

The Bible explains itself the more you read it.

Most scholars believe Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis. Thousands of years after Adam, he compiled the oral and written history of the Israelites for us, including the laws God had taught the people.  In one of Moses’ books, Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

In the New Testament, Hebrews 9:22 clearly says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Adam and Eve witnessed this when God killed an animal to provide the skins for their clothing following their sin in Genesis 3. God taught them what He required. Their offering for forgiveness was to include the shedding of an animal’s blood. It wasn’t a mystery to Cain what God wanted.

Although he knew what to do, it only made him angry, not repentant (feeling sorry for what he did). God asked him why he was angry: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7).

With all of his heart, Cain wanted his own way. He did not want to follow God’s rules. That left him with only two choices. He could walk away from God in his anger, or he could admit his sin, and do what was right. He could choose to bring the sacrifice for forgiveness of sin by trading his brother some of his produce for a lamb.

Anger or repentance, what would he choose?

When sin gives birth to anger, it becomes your ruler. It controls your thoughts. That’s what God was trying to tell Cain. He needed to be in control, to master the sin, not let it master him. Cain did not heed the warning. Instead, he chose to kill Abel. “Why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.” (I John 3:12).

Disobedience led to anger; anger led to murder; it all led to punishment. Cain was separated from God’s presence, just as his mother and father had been. Yet, even then, God made a way for repentance. He did not kill Cain, nor allow others to kill him.

God always allows a way back, if we are willing to take it.

That thread of hope continues to weave through the pages of this story, as Eve gives birth to yet another son, Seth. Seth’s family bloodline will lead us to Jesus (Luke 3:38 and Matthew 1).

Questions for thought:
1) For discussion: What’s the best way to teach a child about repentance (admitting they are wrong)? Why is it so hard for us to repent?
2) For contemplation: Check your anger. Are you angry with someone because they are right and you are wrong?


I do not yet know this first answer. I practice this with my toddler currently. Teaching my daughter Rebecca to admit when she is wrong is very tricky. My husband and I both get her to apologize for things she has done but is she understanding I don’t know. Is this because of her age or because for anyone it is tough to repent. I know for a fact that I have a huge challenge myself with repentance. I have a huge pride wall up almost all of the time if I’m not thinking about it. That’s my biggest sin that gets me into trouble. How then am I supposed to teach my child to repent when I haven’t mastered it? I think I know. We all sin and therefore we all have pride and selfishness inside of us so we all also have the ability to forgive ourselves and in return have God besides us doing the same. It’s beautiful really, but I have to remember that God can and will do that if I am truly sorry for my actions/words/thoughts.
As I’m contemplating I will still answer the second question. I get angry with others often for thinking they are wrong and I am right particular my husband. I have been working on not focusing on that because as you’ve stated in last week’s discussion Lora blaming others is just another way to put off a sin basically.
Dear lord help me to become better with repentance and being truthful to myself when doing things in your honor and not out of selfish guidance.

I think the best way to teach our children about repentance is to practice it, in front of them. I remember the first time I had to ask our oldest daughter to forgive me for being dishonest with her. It was really hard. Maybe I wanted her to think I didn’t make mistakes? She was quick to forgive, just like God is. She taught me way more than I taught her that day. I think it’s good to be honest about our imperfections, our sin, and allow our children to see us go to God in repentance. Praise the Lord, He forgives me, every time.

I think Cain shows us a picture of ourselves thinking we know what’s best, better than God. Abel acted out of love and Cain acted out of his belief that he was right (an attitude referred to by James as “Faith without deeds [actions done from love] is dead,” (James 2:17) Cain thought being right beats down compassion for another.

Another Old Testament story shows the same thing. With Saul we find our ego. God very specifically told Saul to eradicate all the Ammonites and everything they had. But Saul (our ego) saved the king and the best sheep for an offering because it was the “best stuff”. Not the stuff God asked for and Saul was called out by the prophet.

Teaching children to repent, I believe, is best done by example. My parents apologized if they’d wronged me. (As awkward as I found that as a kid lol) and that was very important to see.

To be right we must realize we’re wrong.

Our beliefs shouldn’t ever trump our love for neighbor. Orthodoxy (right belief) should not seek to stamp out orthopraxy (right action).

Timmy MC,
I love the way you put “To be right, we must realize we’re wrong.” That’s such a paradox, but it is so true. To be right with God, and even to know what is right, we have to realize and recognize how wrong we really are! It seems like the closer I get to God, the more I see how much I fail, and the further away I get, the better I think I am! God helps me see the truth more clearly.

Thank you for the explanation about Cain. I read that last night when I couldn’t sleep and wondered why his offering did not please the Lord.
Your insights are such a blessing. Thank you for living your walk out loud. Hope to see you again someday.
Mary Lou Oregon Sherwood Crossridge

Lora, you know much about my struggles in this area, and how I now struggle to navigate this with my daughter. I could probably write a book on this subject but not today. I truly believe that one reason God blessed us with our daughter has been to teach the lesson of patience, obedience, and humility. If only I had been better in this area in her early years, perhaps the struggle would have been lesser. Even so, I can say I have learned much and through my efforts and a lot of help from God, have improved in these areas. My daughter is gradually learning that perfection is not possible, that it is okay to be wrong, and its okay (and necessary) to forgive yourself. If God can do it, who are we to hold out on ourselves?

I can say I am mostly good about admitting when I am wrong. That is partly because I have had much practice in learning not to be a perfectionist. I think we can be our harshest critics, as well as to those close to us, even unintentionally.

I pray every day for God to lead my actions, especially how they influence those around me.

Shawna, thank you for trusting us with your story and your own personal struggles. I’ve learned a lot from you in this Bible study. I love how you put it – “perfection is not possible.” Like you said last week – that should make it easier to ask for forgiveness. I don’t know why it’s so hard to do. This is a life struggle for me. I’m a perfectionist too – and it’s so hard for me to admit when I’m wrong. But that’s just silly. We all know it’s impossible to be perfect, so why not admit it?! Ugh.

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