When God chose Abel’s offering in Genesis 4:4 ESV, the Bible told us in verse 5 that Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Then we know what happened next, verse 8, when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. But why didn’t God choose Cain and his offerings? Why did He choose Abel, the secondborn, not Cain, the firstborn?
Was it because Abel’s offering was a lamb with its good fat while Cain only gave the produce of the land? Sounds like God is a father who likes to eat meat and fat, and like most men, doesn’t like vegetables! What was wrong with Cain’s offering?
In the Old Testament, the act of offering animal sacrifice on the altar, especially lamb, always speaks of forgiveness and penance. The book of Leviticus has much to say about this. But also what Hebrews 10:4 and 11 said in the New Testament is, for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Yes, all these sacrifices were only temporary coverings for sin, that’s why all these sacrifices were continually offered, Hebrews 10:1-3. And also the animal sacrifice speaks of the hope of the coming Messiah who would be the Redeemer of the Hebrews. But of course in the Christian faith, it is Jesus.
So when Abel in Genesis 4:4, brought of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering. Abel’s offering shows that he understood this matter, that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, Hebrews 9:22. He knew this, to have access to the throne of God his sins must be covered first, so God would accept him. Beyond that, through this sacrifice, Abel also showed that he had hope for the Promised Messiah that will come, as taught by his parents, Adam and Eve.
As parents, Adam and Eve must have told their children (Deuteronomy 6:7) about Genesis 3 when they sinned against God in verse 6. The sin that caused them to be expelled from God’s Presence and the Garden of Eden in verse 24. However, God who came looking for them in verses 8 & 9, in the end, pardoned their sin through animal sacrifice which He himself offered. The skin of the sacrificed animal was put on Adam and Eve in verse 21, as a cloth that covered their nakedness, just as the sacrifice itself had covered their sin. Jewish tradition believes that the fabric of the animal’s skin was still bleeding when applied to Adam and Eve. The blood touched the skin of Adam and Eve showing that their sins had been forgiven, and now their nakedness had been covered. And by the blood of the sacrifice, they were protected by God from evil’s counterattack.
When God’s hand slaughtered the animal to become a sacrifice and then the skin was used as clothing for them, most likely God also spoke verbally about the Messiah who would come to finish what was merely a symbol through the sacrifice. Genesis 3:15. Of course, later this story was retold by Adam and Eve to their children, as teaching that when they came to God, they had to offer animal sacrifice as He Himself had done to reconcile themselves back to Him. Also because the sacrifice shows that the one who offered it believed and had faith in the hope of the coming Messiah.
That is why Hebrews 11:4 told us that by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. Isn’t it impossible without faith to please God, Hebrews 11:6. Abel’s offering showed he had real faith through his actions as in James 2:26, faith apart from works is dead. It also showed that he obeyed what his parents told him from the story of Genesis 3. No wonder, the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, Genesis 4:4. God was pleased with Abel.
Compare it with Cain’s offering. And Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time, Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground. Genesis 4:2-3. It is not wrong to offer something from our own hard work to God, and of course, we only offer the fruit of our own hard work. It is not the fruit of others that we offer as our sacrifice. Abel offered up the fruit of his labor, his lamb because he was a shepherd. But Cain should have obeyed his parents when “approaching God”. Of course, he and Abel would have known the story of Genesis 3, but he did not obey. After all, he could exchange the fruit of his garden, traded it with Abel’s lamb so that he too would offer an altar of sacrifice just like Abel. If he would have done that, he could also show that he had faith to come to God. But what he did actually showed that he was a stubborn person, and thought by his own efforts and righteousness he could come to God, without having to obey what had become the rules God had set for this first family.
Many think that Jesus is not the only way to God the Father in Heaven, John 14:6. Moreover, because we humans have this proverb, there are many roads leading to Rome. But what if we as a homeowner, have to deal with people who decide to enter our homes without going through the door “which is the entrance” to our house. A man would enter our house through the window. Or making a breakthrough on the roof or through the walls. Shall we accept him as a guest? Or as a thief and destroyer, intruder? Why then do we force God to accept us to come to Him, accept us in His own place in Heaven if we don’t want to come through that door, Jesus Himself. John 10:9. It may be true that Heaven is for humans, but why, like Cain, do we force our way into it without going through that Door, Jesus? Don’t let the Owner of the House think of us as thieves when He finds us trying to enter without going through the Door.
Abel was accepted by God through his altar of sacrifice. Cain tried to be accepted by going through a path of his own. Cain is a symbol of our own arrogance as humans who do not want to obey, not only to our parents but also to God and His Word. So that even though Cain was the eldest son, who should have received twice as much for his right of the first son, he was expelled from God’s presence forever, Genesis 4:11.
But the story of Cain and Abel is not just a story of whose offerings were received. Their story is the story of the first homicide in the Bible. Cain murdered his brother, Abel. It is a classic story of a sibling feud that dates back to the first family in the Bible. An enmity caused by jealousy, competition with one another. According to Jewish stories, it wasn’t just Cain who was to blame in their story. But Abel too. There are so many different interpretations according to the Jewish Rabbis. Yet many also blame Abel as much as Cain.
Some said when Cain took Abel into the field, they argued about ownership of that field. Cain who couldn’t contain his emotions ended up killing Abel. A feud over a property. Some said that when Abel was born, Abel had a female twin. Cain later considered himself entitled to marry Abel’s twin because he was the eldest son, while Abel insisted not to let go of his twin and felt more entitled to marry her because he was born with her.
Finally Adam and Eve, as their parents, told them to bring their issue to God to judge. That’s why they both then made offerings to God in Genesis 4. But woe to Cain as God was pleased with Abel and his offering. This angered Cain to kill Abel.
Regardless of these interpretations, about which one is right and which one is wrong (the rabbis themselves were confused), in the end the Bible still shows to us that Cain (still) killed Abel. Cain refuses to be a good brother, the eldest brother who should take care of his younger siblings, a brother’s keeper! After all, the story of Cain and Abel told us the first example of a horrible reality of human life: brother against brother. The sin of disobedience that first appears in the Bible in Genesis 3, which seems to be as simple as eating the forbidden fruit, quickly escalated to be the sin of murder. A family drama that ended with a brother who killed his own brother.
Think about the quote below from the link above.
The Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” and he said, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper? (ha-shomer achi anokhi?)” (Genesis 4:9-10) A parable: To what is this similar? To a thief who stole things in the night and was not caught. In the morning the gatekeeper caught him. He said to the thief, “Why did you steal those things?” He said, “I am a thief and I didn’t let down my profession, but you, your profession is to guard the gate, why did you let down your profession? And now you ask me this?” And this is what Cain said (to God): “I killed him [because] you created in me the evil inclination. But You — You are the keeper (haShomer) of all things, why did you allow me to kill him? You are the one who killed him — You who are called I (Anokhi), for if you had accepted my sacrifice as you did his, I wouldn’t have been jealous of him!” (Tanhuma Bereishit). Here, the biblical retort in which Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” has been turned on its head. The word in the text is Anokhi, a somewhat uncommon form of the word meaning ‘I,’ which is, strikingly, also used at the beginning of the 10 commandments, as in, “I am the Lord your God….” The rabbis understand Cain’s use of the word ‘Anokhi’ here not as first person singular, but as another name of God. “Isn’t Anokhi (God) the guardian of my brother?” he retorts in response to God’s question, thereby proving, as it were: “It is God (and not I, Cain) who had the task of watching over my brother Abel, and therefore God who failed him.” Superficially, it sounds like the last-ditch retort of a condemned man, but Cain’s response is actually quite ingenious. The world has scarcely begun, and the first human-on-human attack has just taken place, but does Cain accept the blame for this crime? Not only does he liken God to a guard (a shomer) who failed his duties, but he also reminds God that since God created the inclination to commit evil, then God is ultimately responsible!
Is that so? Didn’t God actually warn Cain in verses 6-7, why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
God’s warning over Cain shows there was a heart that became disloyal and turned into evil!
James 1:12-16 said, blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
Yes, regardless of our own situation and circumstances, WE ALONE must guard our hearts!
Proverbs 4:23, keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Not God! Taking care of our own hearts is the duty of each of us. As it is really easy to turn to Evil ways. Yes, we need to admit that our hearts are EVIL!
Jeremiah 17:9-10, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
Are we still blaming God? Probably we would also say, it’s His fault who created people like me!
The problem here is this; however true we argue against Him, He is still God and we are still human. Can we fight against Him and win?
Lamentation 3:39-40, Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!
1 John 1:8-10, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
2 Chronicles 7:14, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.