In the biblical Book of Genesis,
Cain[a] and Abel[b]
are the first two sons of Adam and Eve.
Cain, the firstborn, was a farmer, and his brother Abel was a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God, but God favored Abel's sacrifice instead of Cain's. Cain then murdered Abel, whereupon God punished Cain by condemning him to a life of wandering. Cain then dwelt in the land of Nod (נוֹד, 'wandering'), where he built a city and fathered the line of descendants beginning with Enoch.
While filled with tragedy, the story of Cain and Abel teaches us a valuable lesson about living with sincerity. Through their example, we learn how not just our actions, but our attitudes matter to God – and how devastating sin’s consequences can be. It is only through God’s mercy that we can learn to live “with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God,” (2 Corinthians 1:12).
Cain and Abel Present Their "Offerings"
After Adam and Eve were forced to leave the Garden of Eden, they decided to start a family. While the exact number of children they had is unknown, the Bible tells us that their first two were boys named Cain and Abel.
When they grew older, Cain worked in the fields, planting and harvesting crops, and Abel became a shepherd.
Abel depicted in the northeast ambulatory window:
As they began to reap the benefits of their new occupations, they decided to give offerings to God to show their gratitude. For his offering, Abel brought God the “fatty portion” of his flock, which pleased Him.
However, when Cain presented God with some of his harvest, He was not pleased.
Yet God still gave him the chance to redeem himself, telling him how he could remedy the situation.
Genesis 4:6-7 tells us:
“Then the Lord said to Cain: Why are you angry?
Why are you dejected?
If you act rightly, you will be accepted;
but if not, sin lies in wait at the door:
its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it.”
Cain Murders Abel and Is Punished:
Instead of making amends,
Cain took out his anger on his brother.
After he spoke with God, Cain took Abel for a walk in the fields and murdered him. Shortly after, God asked Cain where Abel had gone, and
Cain tried to evade the question.
But God knew the sin he committed against his brother, and punished him.
Genesis 4:10-12 says:
Cain depicted in the northeast ambulatory window“
God then said:
What have you done?
Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!
Now you are banned from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth.”
Cain was even more distressed after hearing what his punishment was to be.
However, he didn’t express remorse for his actions –
he was only concerned that others might want to kill him for what he had done.
In his mercy, the Lord “put a mark on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight,” (Genesis 4:15).
Cain was exiled to Nod, the land east of Eden, where he later started his own family.
What Their Story Teaches Us
The northeast ambulatory window;
Although the Bible does not explicitly state how Cain erred in presenting his sacrifice, we can draw conclusions based on what it does not tell us: the fact that Abel gave God the “fatty portion” of his flock implies that he gave God the best of what he had, while the fact that no distinction is made regarding Cain’s
Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, “in the course of time” brought offerings to the Lord (Genesis 4:3). Without doubt, they were doing this because God had revealed to them the necessity of a sacrifice. Some wonder how Cain and Abel were supposed to know what to sacrifice.
The answer is that God must have instructed them concerning the details of acceptable worship, although those instructions are not included in the Genesis narrative.
Abel was a shepherd,
and his offering to the Lord was “the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock” (Genesis 4:4, NLT).
Cain was a farmer, and his offering was “some of his crops” (Genesis 4:4, NLT). The most evident difference between the two sacrifices is that
Abel’s offering was an animal (blood) sacrifice,
and Cain’s was a vegetable (bloodless) sacrifice.
There may be an additional implication that, while Abel brought “the best portions,” Cain simply brought some of his ordinary crops.
We also know that God looks on the heart
(1 Samuel 16:7).
There was something in Cain’s motivation and heart attitude, and possibly something in his performance, that made his offering unacceptable to God. It was obviously something that he was aware of and could remedy, since God tells him after the fact, “You will be accepted if you do what is right” (Genesis 4:7, NLT).
Abel, on the other hand, had the proper motivation, the proper procedure, and the proper relationship with God.
That relationship was based on faith:
"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did”
Ever since the beginning, people must come to God in faith.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6),
and faith is evidently what Cain lacked.
In Jude 1:11, we read, “They have taken the way of Cain,” a description that refers to lawless men.
This may mean that they, like Cain,
disobediently devised their own ways of worship,
and they did not come to God by faith.
Cain’s offering, while acceptable in his
own eyes, was not acceptable to the Lord.
In some way, Cain had perverted God’s prescribed form of worship, and his heart was not right.
He grew jealous of Abel,
and he selfishly nursed his wounded pride.
Rather than repent at God’s rebuke,
Cain became angry, and later, in the field,
he killed Abel and brought judgment upon himself
The apostle John gives us more insight into Cain’s heart: “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12). Those who belong to the evil one will have evil actions, and those with evil actions will naturally hate those with righteous actions. The evil in Cain’s heart was further revealed when the Lord asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” to which Cain replied, “I don’t know. . . . Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). In this response Cain tells a stone-cold lie and shows an amazing level of insolence.
Both Abel and Christ were slain by wicked men.
The blood of Abel cried for vengeance; that of Christ for remission.”
When Jesus Christ died upon the cross,
He became the substitutionary atonement for our sins.
The blood of Christ “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel”