Posted by: Brad Beaman | August 9, 2011

Cain and Abel: Lessons Learned

This is the story of Cain and Abel. From this story we get the famous expression, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” We also get the lesser known joke, where did Cain get his wife? I can’t tell you because I am not Abel.

The Bible says that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Obviously they had daughters too. Prohibition to marry one’s own family members came later in Leviticus 18:19. At the first of human history marrying a family member was unavoidable because everyone comes from the original couple Adam and Eve.

What Cain and Abel teaches us is that God desires for us to give Him the best we have, our first fruits. By no means is this an isolated lesson in the Bible. This theme of God desiring us to give Him our best runs all throughout Scripture.  The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi tells us what happens when we don’t give our best to God. It is called robbing God.

 We are looking at Genesis the beginning of the Bible to see the first recorded incident of God’s people bringing gifts of worship.

 Genesis 4:1-2

 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.” 2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Cain was a farmer and Abel was a rancher. In the musical Oklahoma the song says the Farmer and the Rancher must be friends.

Cain                                                                Able

Cain was the farmer.                                               Kept flocks

Offering of the fruit of the ground              Brought fat portions of some of the firstborn of his flocks

The Lord did not look on with favor               The Lord looked on with favor.

Became angry, his face was downcast.

Genesis 4: 3-5

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

There is a lesson here for acceptable and un-acceptable gifts. Giving is more than financing God’s work, but it brings us closer to God when our giving is in the right attitude.

Not all gifts are equally pleasing to God. Why does God find some gifts pleasing and other gifts not pleasing? We give our gifts to God, and we want our gifts to please God so we need to know the answer to this question.  

It does not look like it is just a matter of God accepting Able’s offering and rejecting Cain’s. Cain’s was an agricultural offering and Abel’s offering was an animal. Blood was shed in Abel’s offering.  There is a principle that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. However the Bible does speak of a grain offering that pleases God in Leviticus 2:1.

Yes, without the shed blood of Jesus Christ there would be no way for us to know God. But there is something else as work here. Not the nature of what was offered but how it was offered.

Able brought the best vs 4 and Cain merely brought something vs 3. Giving the best indicates total dependence on God. It is representative of our dependence on God for everything. The difference in their gift was their attitude.

Hebrews 11:4

4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.     

The difference was in how these gifts were offered. Able’s gift was offered by faith. Faith pleases God. When we give of our firstfruits it expresses a faith that pleases God.

Cain’s Jealousy toward able vs 6-8

Genesis 4:6-8

6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

In the theory of evolution is a principle called “survival of the fittest.” For the first family of the human race we find something quite different, the survival of the un-fittest and the murder of the fittest.

Let’s see how Cain sunk so low so quickly to murder his own brother just because his brother pleased God and he did not. Cain experienced anger and looked downcast because God rejected his offering and looked favorably on Cain’s offering.   

God’s warning and exhortation is in verse 7. When we are frustrated angry and downcast, or even feel hurt or betrayed by another then take it to God. Expressing that anger toward the person will only deepen the  anger and breed hatred.

God warned Cain, your emotions are going to ruin you if you don’t begin to deal with them properly. Cain blamed Abel. How ridiculous! All Abel did was please God.

Cain murdered his brother and would not own up to it. Cain was so full of resentment toward his brother he killed him.     

Genesis 4:9-12
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11 Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”

When God approached Cain he did not repent, he did not confess, he simply denied his actions. God did not ignore the sin of Adam and Eve and he would not ignore the sin of Cain either. The curse of Genesis 3:17-19 was added on to and now Cain would be a wanderer.

Here are some New Testament reflections on Cain and Abel.

Matthew 23:35
35 so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Luke 11:51
51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’

1 John 3:11-12
11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

Jude 1:11
11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

God extends His grace.

When Adam and Eve sinned God did not overlook it. He pronounced a curse and expelled them from the garden. When Cain sinned God pronounced a curse expelled him from the land to become a wanderer. In the case of Adam and Eve God made the first messianic promise that salvation would come through the seed of the woman.

Where sin abounds grace super abounds. God confronts sin but extends grace. God forced Cain to face his sin.

Genesis 4:13-16
13 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. 16 Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Abel’s faith pleased God. Hebrews 11:4 Abel’s faith still speaks. Let’s give God our best. Let’s give God our lives, everything we are.

God placed a mark on Cain not to mark Cain as a murderer but as a mark of God’s protective care. Cain never repented of his sin and turned to God. Will you turn to God?



  1. Brad, you make some very good observations. This would be good as a study but not as a sermon. All sermons focus on Christ as Savior, Christ as the blood that atones for all sins. Yes, God shows grace to Cain, despite his unrepentant heart; but this is a sign that God would atone for the sins of Cain and the sins of the world by the shedding of Christ’s blood. That is why the generation in the time of Christ would be accountable for the blood of Abel and Zechariah, because it would take the blood of the innocent Son of God.

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