Genesis 4:1-26 — Faith, not Sacrifice

Read Genesis 4:1-26.


Adam and Eve “knew” each other, and she had two children: Cain and Abel. Cain, the older brother, worked the ground and Adam kept sheep.

Cain’s offering was “fruit” as opposed to Abel’s offering of the “first-born” of his flock. It was not that God didn’t like the substance of Cain’s offering (the Law would later permit grain offerings), but that he did it with an evil and faithless heart. (see 1 John 3:12, Heb. 11:4).

God first warned Cain, knowing what he would soon do. He admonished him to rule over sin, or else sin would rule over him. If he would do well, he would be accepted. All Cain had to do was offer his sacrifice in faith, but by his response to God’s questioning Cain shows a cold heart in complete rebellion to God.

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. [Heb 11:4 NKJV]

Cain committed the first murder, before the 10 commandments had revealed murder to be against God’s law. But there are things, what some call natural law, that are objectively wrong in and of themselves. With the knowledge of good and evil, all people know this. Verse 8 says that “Cain spoke to Abel his brother” before he killed him in the field and implies that Cain may have premeditated this murder (some versions include that he said “lets go out to the field”).

God, knowing full well what Cain had done gave Cain the chance to confess. But Cain refuses to confess. Had he, maybe his punishment might have been less, but either way God cursed Cain and told him that the ground would no longer yield anything to him and that he would forever be a fugitive and a wanderer. The effect of sin is to separate us not only from God, but from people and those that we love as well. Interestingly, the curse which had made it harder for Adam to bear fruit from the land now will bear nothing from Cain. Not only does sin separate you from people, but from your calling and your purpose.

Even still, God showed mercy. But the punishment had to be strong enough to get Cain’s cold heart to realize what he had done. Sometimes God must do this with us. If we are cold-hearted he must wake us up with strict judgment, but even in that He is merciful.

Interestingly, Cain founded a city. The wanderer and fugitive sought to surround himself with people, but oddly enough the effect of a city does not always bring people closer together. People who live in rural areas talk about community, and how everyone knows everyone. People in the city feel like the multitude of people just get in their way. These may be generalizations, but its an interesting observation. Also, interesting is that Cain may have done this since he could not work the land himself. He might have brought together a community and had others work the land for him, offering them shelter and protection since none could touch him lest they face God’s vengeance. It’s conjecture, but interesting to speculate.

Further, those who lived in this city developed trades not related to working the ground such as livestock (more than just sheep), tent building, music, and bronze and iron work. Perhaps this was because Cain did not work the land, and those in his line did not either.

Lamech’s statement is in sharp contrast to the birth of Seth and the statement that people then began to call upon the Lord. In Lamech we see that when Cain got further from paradise his descendants also got further from God. But verses 25-26 remind us of hope and hearken back to the promise of the “offspring” which would crush the serpent’s head (“God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel”).


A lack of faith in God can bring about heavy and terrible consequences. When we do not put our faith in God we push ourselves further away from obeying Him. And left to our own devises sin will rule over us.

It is by faith that you will conquer sin. Faith in the blood of Jesus who paid for the debt of sin on the cross, and faith in the Word of God and its truth.

But without faith [it is] impossible to please [Him], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. [Heb 11:6 NKJV]

Thankfully, God is merciful. If you are tempted, go to God in faith for help. If you have fallen, confess quickly and ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy. If your heart is hard then do not be surprised when God rebukes you strongly, but look for His mercy even in the midst of it.

And remember that there is always hope. Hope in the “offspring.” In the finished work of Jesus Christ who has crushed the serpent’s head. Who has defeated sin. So call upon His name, and follow Him closely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s