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Tuesday, May 28th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 4

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-16

Seeing Christ in Cain and Abel

Genesis 4:1-16


1. Cain and Abel came by natural generation. The only human beings God ever created were Adam and Eve. They were created with the power to propagate their race. Every human being upon the earth came forth from the first created pair.

2. Cain and Abel received from their parents a sinful nature. The one was not good and the other bad. They were both alike evil. A bitter fountain cannot give forth sweet water, and both were sons of Adam and Eve,

3. Cain and Abel were children of death and not of life. We read in the Scripture, "As in Adam all die." Again it is written, "As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin."

Death passed upon all men both physically and spiritually. Every son of Adam and Eve has a dying body. Only two of the human race have, thus far, ever escaped physical dissolution. These two were Enoch and Elijah. Of every one else it is written, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."

4. Cain and Abel had distinctive occupations. Abel was a keeper of the sheep. Cain was a tiller of the ground. Both occupations were honorable, and so remain unto this day. We have just come across Idaho and Oregon, and we have seen multiplied thousands of sheep. One drove alone had about three thousand. On the same journey we have seen. many farmers plowing the ground. They were preparing to sow their seed. All of this goes to prove what the wise man said: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh." "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun."

5. Cain and Abel so far as the record goes were not different morally. Both were sinners, and perhaps both were equally sinners. The one was not better than the other so far as inherent goodness is concerned.

There may have been a difference in Cain and Abel, but in one thing there was then no difference, and there is now no difference. That one thing is the fact of sin.

6. Cain and Abel were children of the same parents and of the same surroundings. You might think that one inherited a stronger tendency to sin than the other. You might think that one lived in a different environment than the other. This certainly is true today among sinners, but it was not true then.

7. Cain and Abel were children of the same father and mother. They received the same training. They were brought up in the same home, lived during the same period of time, and had the same illumination relative to things material and spiritual.


1. Living solitary lives. Can we imagine ourselves dwelling on some lone isle apart from all others of our race. Can we think of the possibility of living uninfluenced and unaffected by the words and deeds of others? Just ourselves, and no one to bother us.

Cain and Abel needed no bills of sale to secure their property. They needed no courthouse to file their claim, The physical earth belonged to Adam and Eve and to their two sons.

2. Living lives of great possibility. There were two chief occupations where great advancement was possible. The one was in the realm of a fruit-bearing ground. This was a realm which would multiply rapidly. The land was very kind in increasing the seed sown. From a small beginning it would take but a few years to have an unembarrassed, acreage, covered with waving grain.

The second possibility of growth and rapid development lay in the flocks of the field. Here, once more, nature was kind. Flocks multiply rapidly, and Abel found that from a small beginning, he soon had large herds roaming the fields.

3. Living lives with spiritual visions. These sons both were brought up to know the wonders of Jehovah. As "little ones," they heard from their parents the marvelous story of God the Creator. They heard the story of the Garden of Eden, of its beauty and of its glory. They learned how Satan had entered in, and how, as a result of sin, their parents, Adam and Eve, had been driven from the Garden. They perhaps knew of the angel with the flaming sword, which stood guard over Eden and the tree of life.

These two sons received from their father and mother the same story of redemption. They heard of the coming Seed who was to bruise the serpent's head and give them deliverance.


1. The offering of the fruit of the ground. This offering was beautiful beyond the venture of a doubt. It was imposing as it was placed upon the altar. It sent forth a fragrance pleasant to the nostrils.

2. The offering of the firstling of the flock. This offering at once spoke of death and slaughter. There were the strugglings of the dying lamb, the rolling of the eyes, the last gasp for breath. There was nothing in Abel's sacrifice of the esthetic, nothing that appealed to the finer things of life.

3. What are you offering? Does the faith which you hold put aside the dying Lamb? Would you rob your song book of the story of the Blood? Would you leave yourself without a sacrifice, without the dying of the Son of God?

Does your religion gather around a beautiful, and yet a crossless Christ? Do you come before the Lord with the offering of the fruit of the ground? If so, you know nothing of confession of sin. You recognize no corrupted heart which is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. There is no place for repentance and faith. You come wholly in what you are, and in what you do.

4. Wherein the difference lies. Cain and Abel were both guilty. They were alike sinners. Cain rejected the message concerning the Seed of the woman, who, through the bruising of His Heel, would bruise the serpent's head. He was a sinner, but he knew it not; at least, he confessed it not. He was lost, but he acted as though he were found.

Abel, on the other hand, came as a suppliant pleading mercy and seeking grace. He recognized not only his own sin, but God's salvation.

III. THE TWO METHODS OF GOD'S DEALINGS (Genesis 4:4 , l.c., 5)

1. Why God made a difference. Our God is a righteous God making possible the redemption of both Adam and of Eve and of every son and daughter born to them during the ages. There was a reason, therefore, that God rejected the offering of Cain, and had respect unto the offering of Abel. That reason was based not in the character of the two men making the offerings, but in the kinds of offerings which the two men made.

In Exodus 11:1-10 , we read that God made a difference between the Egyptians and the Children of Israel. That difference was the same as the difference here. Both the Egyptians and the Israelites were sinners. The one group, however, were sinners apart from any Calvary connection. The others were sinners resting beneath the token of a True Sacrifice the blood sprinkled upon the two side posts and on the upper door; post.

2. Can anyone be saved without the Blood? There are plenty of Cains come to town again. There are innumerable multitudes who are seeking life eternal apart from the Cross of Christ. Can these be saved? We answer, No. It is written, "Without shedding of Blood is no remission."

In Revelation 7:1-17 we have the story of a great multitude, who washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb. Then we read, "Therefore, are they before the Throne of God."

As we journeyed on the train from Chicago to Milwaukee we heard the conductor cry, "This train does not stop at Calvary on Sunday." How many pulpits are there, which never stop at Calvary. The only salvation they know is a salvation obtained by self-effort.


1. There is the death of Abel which is physical death. Genesis 4:8 tells us that "Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

We have before us the first murder. The Bible tells us in the Epistle of John that Satan was a murderer from the beginning. Certainly this was the beginning of the human race, and certainly the devil entered into Cain. Thus, we find here, in our key text, a proof of that Scripture which says: "Fear not them which kill the body," that is, "Fear not the devil." He it is who has the power, when God so permits, to destroy the body. Satan demonstrated that power when he caused Eve to sin. There is where death first passed upon all men.

2. There is the death of Cain which is spiritual. Physically Cain still lived, while spiritually he was dead. Physically Abel was dead, but spiritually he gloriously lived. You can think of Abel in death, but you can also think of Cain in death. The sinner is dead, while he liveth. The Christian is living, though he be dead.

In Ephesians we read: Ye were dead, "wherein, in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air." Cain walked according to that prince. He was energized by the devil, and he was dead.

The marks of Cain's death are disclosed in his wrath, as well as in his slaughter of his brother. When sin is in the heart, it will come out in the deeds of the heart.


1. Cain, himself, gave proof of his need of a sacrifice. In his anger, when his offering was not accepted, as well as in his wrath and in his rising up against his brother, he gave abundant proof of his need of a sacrifice. He was a sinner, as we are sinners. Apart from blood there was no remission for his sins, any more than there is a remission for our sins, apart from the shedding of blood.

2. God showed Cain how he might be accepted. If he, the unaccepted, the sinner, would acknowledge his sin, set aside the offering of the fruit of the ground, and bring the sacrifice of the slain lamb, he too would be received.

Let the sinner beware lest, today, he also should seek an entrance into God's presence by virtue of his own deeds and life, and apart from the Blood of Christ. There is no approach to the Father, excepting through the blood.

3. Wherein God. shows us that a sin offering is at the door. This is shown unto us by a statement in Romans: "But what saith it? The Word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the Word of Faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

Christ is even at the door. His sacrifice is made ready. Any poor sinner can be saved without taking difficult and impossible journeyings in search of the Blood.

VI. A CONTRAST IN TWO BLOODS (Genesis 4:10 ; Hebrews 12:24 )

Our verse in Genesis says: "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto Me from the ground." The verse in Hebrews says: "The Blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."

1. What was the voice of Abel's blood saying? It was the voice that cried for vengeance. "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by him shall his blood be shed." "He that killeth with the sword, must be killed with the sword." Capital punishment is the irrevocable Law of God.

2. The voice of Abel's blood could not be stilled. Cain evidently thought that he might cover his crime. He did not, however, take into consideration the Scripture, "Your sin will find you out."

Many a man, today, imagines vainly that he can Achan-like cover his sin. Alas, he will some day awake to the realization, that sin will out. It has a voice that is vibrant. Death itself cannot quiet the voice of blood. The blood still cries on, and on it will cry, even throughout eternity, "Where is Abel thy brother?"

That voice is the voice that reaches the ear of God. God said, "It crieth unto Me."

3. What is the voice of the Blood of Christ saying? The Bible says it "speaketh better things than that of Abel." The blood of Abel cried out; the Blood of Christ speaketh out. The blood of Abel cried for vengeance; the Blood of Christ spoke in tones gentle and yet powerful, saying, "Salvation."

When Christ hung upon the Cross He was covered from head to feet with His own Blood. That Blood still cries to every sinner who comes as a suppliant for grace, saying, He that "believeth on. the Son hath everlasting life."


1. Cain trembled as he heard the curse of God falling upon him. God said: "Now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." This curse staggered Cain. Sin never pays. The very earth itself has fallen under its woe. Limited crops, famines, and pestilences, all verify the truth that the curse of God is still upon a sinning race. The restless wandering populace, rushing hither and thither over the face of the land seeking peace, likewise tells that men are sinners under judgment.

Cain said unto the Lord: "My punishment is greater than I can bear." Unto this hour men bend their backs under the punishment of sin which they themselves brought upon themselves.

2. Cain said: "Thou hast driven me out * * from Thy face shall I be hid." The saddest result of sin, after all, is the loss of the presence of God. Sin always separates from God. It loses His smile, His favor, and the joy of His countenance.

The sinner is a fugitive and a vagabond. He is ever seeking something to alleviate his pain, and to quiet his sense of sin. To do this he gives himself over to the pursuit of sinful pleasure. He dives deep into the ocean of lustful carnalities, trying to drown out the voice of his conscience. His sin is ever before him.

Perhaps saddest of all is the note in Genesis 4:16 , "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord."

"Oh, to have no Christ, no Saviour,

How dark this world must be;

Like a steamer lost and driven

On a wild and shoreless sea;

Oh, to have no Christ, no Saviour,

No rock, no refuge nigh thee

When the powers of darkness gather;

How sad thy lot must be!"



"If you go into Wanamaker's great store in Philadelphia you find in one of the upper stories a special room set apart for the exhibition of Munkaczy's two great paintings, 'Christ before Pilate,' and 'The Crucifixion.' They are both done on a colossal scale. Seldom if ever has the dramatic and moving power of these two master-productions been equalled; certainly it has never been excelled.

There is a story told of how a riotous mob, bent on a mission of destruction, burst into one of the great Art Galleries in Paris and rushed headlong into a large room where Munkaczy's 'Crucifixion' at the time was hanging. For a few seconds only the rioters paused, and then, awed and over-powered by the look of the dying Christ, began to retreat; closing the door behind them they left the picture, with its silent eloquence, alone and undisturbed.

Truly it is a marvelous masterpiece of Art. There is the personification of heartless brutality in the Roman soldiery; of self-forgetful devotion, as the mother of Jesus with Mary Magdalene and the other women bowed herself in unrestrained grief; of consummate selfishness as some 'parted His garments, casting lots upon them'; of sluggish indifference, as others 'sitting down watched Him there'; of the most fiendish hatred, as the infamous and unholy members of the Jewish priesthood railed at Christ with their distorted lips and spat their venom at Him as they passed.

But look at the Christ!

'See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and love flow mingled down;

Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?'

Why is He dying there? Just because He came into this world for that one particular purpose, that He might die to redeem it. I wish Munkaczy might have made conspicuous upon his great canvas one other character Barabbas, the robber. I would have had him standing so close to the central Cross that he could have reached out his hands and touched the bleeding feet of the dying Saviour, and I would have painted an expression upon his face by reason of which one might almost hear him say, 'I don't know who you are; I don't know what you have done; I don't know why they have nailed you here; but I do know that this Cross was made for me and that you are hanging here in my place.'"

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Genesis 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/genesis-4.html.
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