Cain and His Legacy
Lesson #3 for April 16, 2022
The events give an idea of what human life will be like after the Fall; namely, a mingling of life and death. Birth and crime are intertwined. The structure of chapter 4 renders this tension through the form of its chiastic structure, alternating between birth and crime:
B1. Crime: Lamech
A1. Birth from Adam and Eve: Seth.?Adult Teachers Sabbath School
Bible Study Guide* 39.† [Bold type is added except the bold type related to “C” which is in the Bible study guide.]‡
Genesis 4:1-2: Then Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she became pregnant. She bore a son and said, “By the LORD’s help I have acquired a son.” So she named him Cain. 2Later she gave birth to another son, Abel. Abel became a shepherd, but Cain was a farmer.?American Bible Society. (1992). The Holy Bible: The Good News Translation* (2nd ed.,Genesis 4:1-2). New York: American Bible Society [abbreviated as Good News Bible].‡
The Saviour’s coming was foretold in Eden. When Adam and Eve first heard the promise, they looked for its speedy fulfillment. They joyfully welcomed their first-born son, hoping that he might be the Deliverer.—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages* 31.2.†
“ ‘I have acquired a man, indeed, the Lord Himself.’ ” It is rendered by the International Standard Version [sic] as “ ‘I have given birth to a male child–the Lord.’ ”?[as quoted in Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Sunday, April 10].‡
Hebrews 11:4: It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s. Through his faith he won God’s approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.?Good News Bible.*
Without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin; and they [Cain and Abel] were to show their faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice. Besides this, the first fruits of the earth were to be presented before the Lord as a thank offering.—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 71.2.‡
Micah 6:7: Will the LORD be pleased if I bring him thousands of sheep or endless streams of olive oil? Shall I offer him my firstborn child to pay for my sins??Good News Bible.*
Isaiah 1:11: He [the Lord] says, “Do you think I want all these sacrifices you keep offering to me? I have had more than enough of the sheep you burn as sacrifices and of the fat of your fine animals. I am tired of the blood of bulls and sheep and goats.”?Good News Bible.*†‡
Genesis 4:3-8: 3After some time, Cain brought some of his harvest and gave it as an offering to the LORD. 4Then Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The LORD was pleased with Abel and his offering, 5but he rejected Cain and his offering. Cain became furious, and he scowled in anger. 6Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why that scowl on your face? 7If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling; but because you have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it.”
8 Then Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out in the fields.” When they were out in the fields, Cain turned on his brother and killed him.?Good News Bible.*† [What do you think Cain said to his parents when he arrived back at home?]‡
1 John 3:12: We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, but the things his brother did were right.?Good News Bible.* [We will consider1 John 3:12 more later in this lesson.]‡
“Why did he do it? Perhaps he wanted to remain alone: an only child and, after his parents’ death, the only man. Alone like God and perhaps alone in place of God. . . . Cain killed to become God. . . . Any man who takes himself for God ends up assassinating men.”—Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends (New York: Random House, 1976), p. 58.?[as quoted in Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Friday, April 15].‡§
1 Corinthians 10:13: Every test that you have experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out.?Good News Bible.*†
[At the time of Christ’s first coming to this earth:] The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, “with healing in His wings.”Malachi 4:2.?Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages* 22.1.†‡
Genesis 4:9-16: 9The LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I don’t know. Am I supposed to take care of my brother?”
10 Then the LORD said, “Why have you done this terrible thing? Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground, like a voice calling for revenge. 11You are placed under a curse and can no longer farm the soil. It has soaked up your brother’s blood as if it had opened its mouth to receive it when you killed him. 12If you try to grow crops, the soil will not produce anything; you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
13 And Cain said to the LORD, “This punishment is too hard for me to bear. 14You are driving me off the land and away from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth, and anyone who finds me will kill me.”
15 But the LORD answered, “No. If anyone kills you, seven lives will be taken in revenge.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who met him not to kill him. 16And Cain went away from the LORD’s presence and lived in a land called “Wandering”, [sic] which is east of Eden.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Genesis 3:19: “You will have to work hard and sweat to make the soil produce anything, until you go back to the soil from which you were formed. You were made from soil, and you will become soil again.”?Good News Bible.*
Genesis 4:14,16: “You [God] are driving me off the land and away from your presence. I will be a homeless wanderer on the earth, and anyone who finds me will kill me.” … 16And Cain went away from the LORD’s presence.?Good News Bible.*†‡
When the faithful dead shall be resurrected, and the king of glory shall open before them the gates of the city of God, and the nations who have kept the truth enter in, what beauty and glory will meet the astonished sight of those who have seen no greater beauties in the earth than that which they beheld in decaying nature after the threefold curse was upon the earth.?Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts,* vol. 3, 88.2.†
Genesis 4:17-24: 17Cain and his wife had a son and named him Enoch. Then Cain built a city and named it after his son. 18Enoch had a son named Irad, who was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael had a son named Methushael, who was the father of Lamech. 19Lamech had two wives, Adah and Zillah. 20Adah gave birth to Jabal, who was the ancestor of those who raise livestock and live in tents. 21His brother was Jubal, the ancestor of all musicians who play the harp and the flute. 22Zillah gave birth to Tubal Cain, who made all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal Cain was Naamah.
23Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me: I have killed a young man because he struck me.
24 If seven lives are taken to pay for killing Cain,
77 will be taken if anyone kills me.”?Good News Bible.*†
… Refers to Cain’s crime in the context of his own. While Cain keeps silent about his only recorded crime, Lamech seems to be boasting about his, expressing it in a song (Gen. 4:23, 24). While Cain asks for God’s mercy, Lamech is not recorded as asking for it. While Cain is avenged seven times by God, Lamech believes that he will be avenged seventy-seven times (seeGen. 4:24), a hint that he’s very much aware of his guilt.?Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* for Thursday, April 14.‡§
Genesis 4:25: Adam and his wife had another son. She said, “God has given me a son to replace Abel, whom Cain killed.” So she named him Seth. [Footnote: Seth: This name sounds like the Hebrew for “has given”.] [sic] 26Seth had a son whom he named Enosh. It was then that people began using the LORD’s holy name in worship.?Good News Bible.*†‡§
Genesis 6:2: That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.?King James Version.* (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version.,Genesis 6:2) [abbreviated as King James Version].†‡
Genesis 6:2: Some of the heavenly beings [sons of God] saw that these young women [daughters of men] were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked.?Good News Bible.*†‡ [In Greek and Roman mythology, there are many legends of male “gods” and female “gods” or human women having children after mating with male “gods.”]‡
All heaven took a deep and joyful interest in the creation of the world and of man. Human beings were a new and distinct order. They were made “in the image of God,” and it was the Creator’s design that they should populate the earth. They were to live in close communion with heaven, receiving power from the Source of all power. Upheld by God, they were to live sinless lives.?Ellen G. White, Review and Herald,* February 11, 1902, par. 1.† Compare SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1081.3.
Luke 3:38: [In describing the ancestry of Jesus, Luke concluded with these significant words:] The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.?Good News Bible.*‡ [Human beings were created to be children of God.]‡
The descendants of Seth were called the sons of GodSthe descendants of Cain, the sons of men. As the sons of God mingled with the sons of men, they became corrupt, and by intermarriage with them, lost, through the influence of their wives, their peculiar, holy character, and united with the sons of Cain in their idolatry. Many cast aside the fear of God, and trampled upon his commandments. But there were a few that did righteousness, who feared and honored their Creator. Noah and his family were among the righteous few.?Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 66.1.†
Genesis 6:4: There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.?King James Version.*†
Those who honored and feared to offend God, at first felt the curse but lightly; while those who turned from God and trampled upon his authority, felt the effects of the curse more heavily, especially in stature and nobleness of form.?Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy,* vol. 1, 66.1.†
Genesis 6:1-8: 1 When the human race had spread all over the world, and daughters were being born, 2some of the heavenly beings [sons of God in the line of Seth] saw that these young women [daughters of men in the line of Cain] were beautiful, so they took the ones they liked. 3Then the LORD said, “I will not allow people to live for ever; [sic] they are mortal. From now on they will live no longer than a hundred and twenty years.” 4In those days, and even later, there were giants on the earth who were descendants of human women and the heavenly beings [sons of God in the line of Seth]. They were the great heroes and famous men of long ago.
5 When the LORD saw how wicked everyone on earth was and how evil their thoughts were all the time, 6he was sorry that he had ever made them and put them on the earth. He was so filled with regret 7that he said, “I will wipe out these people I have created, and also the animals and the birds, because I am sorry that I made any of them.” 8But the LORD was pleased with Noah.?Good News Bible.*†‡
Enoch became a preacher of righteousness, making known to the people what God had revealed to him. Those who feared the Lord sought out this holy man, to share his instruction and his prayers. He labored publicly also, bearing God’s messages to all who would hear the words of warning. His labors were not restricted to the Sethites. In the land where Cain had sought to flee from the divine Presence, the prophet of God made known the wonderful scenes that had passed before his vision. “Behold,” he declared, “the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds.” Jude 14, 15.—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 86.1.†
Genesis 5:22-24: 22After that, Enoch lived in fellowship with God for 300 years and had other children. 23He lived to be 365 years old. 24He spent his life in fellowship with God, and then he disappeared, because God took him away.?Good News Bible.*
Genesis 5:22-24: 22And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.?King James Version.* [What do you think happened to Enoch’s other children? Why weren’t there other faithful children who were ready to get on the boat?]‡
He [Enoch] was a fearless reprover of sin. While he preached the love of God in Christ to the people of his time, and pleaded with them to forsake their evil ways, he rebuked the prevailing iniquity and warned the men of his generation that judgment would surely be visited upon the transgressor. It was the Spirit of Christ that spoke through Enoch; that Spirit is manifested, not alone in utterances of love, compassion, and entreaty; it is not smooth things only that are spoken by holy men. God puts into the heart and lips of His messengers truths to utter that are keen and cutting as a two-edged sword.?Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets* 86.2.‡
Genesis 5:1-32: 1 This is the list of the descendants of Adam. (When God created human beings, he made them like himself. 2He created them male and female, blessed them, and named them “Humanity”.) [sic] 3When Adam was 130 years old, he had a son who was like him, and he named him Seth. 4After that, Adam lived another 800 years. He had other children 5and died at the age of 930.
6 When Seth was 105, he had a son, Enosh, 7and then lived another 807 years. He had other children 8and died at the age of 912.
9 When Enosh was ninety, he had a son, Kenan, 10and then lived another 815 years. He had other children 11and died at the age of 905.
12 When Kenan was seventy, he had a son, Mahalalel, 13and then lived another 840 years. He had other children 14and died at the age of 910.
15 When Mahalalel was 65, he had a son, Jared, 16and then lived another 830 years. He had other children 17and died at the age of 895.
18 When Jared was 162, he had a son, Enoch, 19and then lived another 800 years. He had other children 20and died at the age of 962.
21 When Enoch was 65, he had a son, Methuselah. 22After that, Enoch lived in fellowship with God for 300 years and had other children. 23He lived to be 365 years old. 24He spent his life in fellowship with God, and then he disappeared, because God took him away.
25 When Methuselah was 187, he had a son, Lamech, 26and then lived another 782 years. He had other children 27and died at the age of 969.
28 When Lamech was 182, he had a son, 29and said, “From the very ground on which the LORD put a curse, this child will bring us relief from all our hard work”; so he named him Noah. 30Lamech lived another 595 years. He had other children 31and died at the age of 777.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.?Good News Bible.*†‡
The Sacrifice of Cain (Genesis 4:3, 4)
While Cain chose to take his offering only from “the fruit of the ground” (Gen. 4:3), Abel “also brought” his offering (Gen. 4:4, NKJV). Thus, in contrast to Cain’s offering, Abel’s offering included a sacrificial animal as God commanded. Yet, while Abel complied with the divine instructions, Cain chose to ignore them. Also, a comparison of the two acts of offering reveals a slight nuance between them. While Cain offers “to God,” Abel just offers. The mention “to God” is absent from the description of Abel’s sacrifice.
This little difference is of profound significance, as it reflects two fundamentally different views of worship. While Cain thinks of his offering as his gift to God, Abel understands his sacrifice as a reminder of God’s gift to him. While Cain views his religion as an upward movement to God, Abel experiences it as a downward movement from God. This contrasting mentality also may explain another difference regarding how the offerings have been chosen. Abel’s offering was not, per se, [sic] a better offering than Cain’s. In fact, Cain’s fruit may even have been a better product than the sheep provided by Abel. The difference, however, was that Abel chose from the bekorot, the “first fruits,” the most precious product of the season, something that would be justified later by the Mosaic legislation (Exod. 23:19), whereas Cain took any fruit from the land. Against the background of the preceding chapters, each of the two offerings evokes something different. The fruit offering from the ground (‘adamah) points toGenesis 3:19, which is associated with human effort and the perspective of death. The animal offering, on the other hand, points toGenesis 3:21 and gives the promise of the divine protection and the perspective of life. Cain’s offering was the expression of human work to reach God; Abel’s offering was the expression of humanity’s need for God’s salvation. Furthermore, Abel’s offering was related to the promise of the Messianic Lamb ofGenesis 3:15, who would be sacrificed to save the world, whereas Cain’s offering was an empty ritual. Note the same contrast between the human clothing (Gen. 3:7), which uses the vegetal fig leaf, and the divine clothing, which uses the animal skin and implies the sacrifice of blood (Gen. 3:21).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 40-41.†‡§
The use of the phrase wayyo’mer qayin, “And Cain said,” echoing the phrase wayyo’mer YHWH ‘el qayin, “the Lord said to Cain” (Gen. 4:6, NKJV), indicates that Cain was supposed to respond to God. Yet, instead of responding to God by faith, Cain turns to his brother and kills him (Gen. 4:8). It is significant that Cain’s crime immediately follows this shift in dialogue from the failed vertical to the horizontal. The mechanism of the first religious crime is thus suggested. The crimes of the zealous ones are not committed because they feel they are right; the crimes of fanaticism and religious intolerance derive, on the contrary, from the failure to respond to God’s Word. When faith is replaced by human work and control, crime will follow. Cain killed his brother, not because Cain felt he was right and his brother was wrong but, on the contrary, because Cain was evil and his brother was righteous (see1 John 3:12).?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 41.§
1 John 3:12: We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, but the things his brother did were right.?Good News Bible.*†
There also is a contrast between the crime of Cain and the crime of Lamech. Unlike Cain, Lamech took murder one step further. Lamech presented his killing as a positive and valuable act and literally boasted about it. While Cain chose to remain silent, Lamech, in contrast, wrote a song. Whereas Cain asks God for mercy (Gen. 4:13, 14), Lamech ignores God and instead subjects his wives to a litany of his prowess and his homicidal feat as a feat worthy of approbation [praise].?Adult Teachers Sabbath School Bible Study Guide* 40-41.‡§
©2022, Kenneth Hart, MD, MA, MPH. Permission is hereby granted for any noncommercial use of these materials. Free distribution of all or of a portion of this material such as to a Bible study class is encouraged. *Electronic version. †Bold type is added. ‡Text in brackets is added. §Italic type is in the source. ¶Compared with the first source, this source has punctuation and/or capitalization differences only. [email protected]
Last Modified: March 19, 2022
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