Cain and Abel’s offerings and Yahweh’s response
3. Cain and Abel’s offerings
Cain was a farmer, and Abel was a shepherd. Did Adam train and assign them these duties in their youth, or did they choose their own professions?
Abel offered meat and fat from the firstborn of his flock—an offering that required bloodshed. (v. 4).
Cain brought the Lord the fruit of his labor—a produce offering.
“Yahweh respected Abel and his offering, but he didn’t respect Cain and his offering.”
So, Cain was furious, and it showed on his face.
God lovingly confronted him about it and warned him what will happen if he chooses sin. “Without God as our master, we will be slaves to sin.” 1
The epidemic of sin quickly became worse. Cain now committed the relatively sophisticated sins of spiritual pride and hypocrisy.1
My observations and questions
I find it amazing that God communicated with Cain in such a conversational way. Even after the fall, God still engaged with man in a more direct way than most of us experience today.
Did God appear to Adam and Eve and to Cain and Abel face to face in bodily form? Through an audible voice or a still small voice?
And where did they take the offerings, or did God still come in the “cool of the day” to walk with man just as He did in Eden?
Yahweh said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has the expression of your face fallen? If you do well, won’t it be lifted up?”
So Cain knew his produce was not an appropriate offering.
He didn’t make it right, nor did he repent.
But how did they know God disapproved?
There are Biblical examples of having an acceptable sacrifice consumed by fire from God (Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1). Perhaps an acceptable sacrifice, brought to the cherubim at the tree of life, was consumed by fire from heaven or from the flaming swords of the cherubim (Genesis 3:24). 1
4. The Lord accepted Abel’s offering but not Cain’s
Years ago when I read this story, I wondered why God rejected it. I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that their offerings were free will and not an established requirement.
This incident between Cain and Abel occurred long before God established the First Fruits produce offering (Leviticus 23:10-13).
But since it appears they both brought their offerings to the Lord at the same time, it may have been a designated time and specific type of offering required.
Did God explain atonement to Adam and Eve?
God sacrificed innocent animals whose spilled blood atoned for Adam and Eve’s sins, and the skins covered their guilt. (See Hebrews 9:22) What a gruesome scene that must have been!
Since Abel tended the sheep, it’s likely he heard the story of how, why, and when they dressed in animal skins. We don’t know for sure, but the following quote is a supposition among some Bible scholars:*
. . . Adam and Eve told Cain and Abel what God expected, but Abel alone believed, and worked toward it. That is why Abel did it just right (Gen 4:4). Cain surely was told, but just did not accept. He wanted to do it his own way. Hermeneutics.stackexchange
By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God testifying with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks. Hebrews 14:2
God knew their hearts.
But you shall not redeem the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat. They are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a pleasant aroma to Yahweh. Numbers 18:17
5. a. Why was Cain so angry at Abel?
Both brothers brought an offering of their daily labor. God accepted Cain’s younger brother’s offering, but not his.
- Greed (?) Jude 11 connects Cain to Balaam who agreed to prophesy for hire.
Woe to them! For they went in the way of Cain, and ran riotously in the error of Balaam for hire, and perished in Korah’s rebellion. Jude 11
For Cain to present a proper offering to God, wouldn’t he need to barter with Abel for a lamb? (Abel already presented the firstborn of his flock as his own offering, though, so his offering would still be inferior.)
Cain also needed to give cheerfully. “Let each man give according as he has determined in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
b. My reactions when confronted about my behavior
Motivation: Pride, fear of angry outburst or punishment, or fear of rejection
My go-to response as a child was to rationalize and justify my behavior instead of just saying, “That’s true, and I was wrong.” I was a compliant child and tried to please my parents, but I wasn’t perfect. Unfortunately, I took pride in being better than my brother.
As an adult, my first husband had a fierce temper. Trivial, unintentional things triggered him, so I developed a huge fear of confrontation.
I still feel defensive when confronted by others, but I’ve learned to control the initial panic response, listen, and work my way through it to resolve the situation.
Holy Spirit sometimes convicts me about something I said, did, or didn’t do and prompts me to humble myself to apologize—usually to my husband. It’s helped me to keep a better check on the words I allow to slip out.
I’m working toward prompt obedience. I want to hear Him clearly, and I believe this is a key.
6. God knows our hearts.
Yahweh wasn’t angry at Cain. Instead, He asked Cain, “Why are you angry and depressed?”
God didn’t condemn him for the offering. He tried to convict Cain of his wrong attitude and gave him an opportunity to confess, repent, and do the right thing. He also warned Cain what happens if you allow the anger seed to take root.
“Be angry, and don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath,”
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from public domain WEB translation.
My answers, research, and notes for BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions
Genesis Lesson 4 day 2
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