who rejected who

Have you ever read Genesis chapter 4, the narrative of Cain and Abel, from the perspective of the relationship between man and God. For many of us the headline of Cain's offering being rejected and thus the subsequent murder from the pent up anger and aggression speak louder than any other concern. I truly do understand that. It was only the second generation to live on the earth and the first to be born of a woman. Yet the aggression often seen in young men is explored and expressed by this dark chapter.


However if you approach the bible as a whole, or just the Old testament, as a series of stories to give moral instruction, then the human side and analysis will seem silly. If you don't believe that these are real people then why would you study them as real people problems. It is nothing more than an anecdote about keeping your temper because you don't know where it could lead to. You could even say it shows sin has a punishment. then you can fold that away into your memory bank, say i will surely make sure I don't angry and especially kill anyone, and never come back to it.


That is not how we should study the word. Although carefully crafted by the Holy Spirit so that every word, jot and title is there to teach us it is still the real life of real human beings. As such if we look at this well known and often sidelined 'for Sunday school only' text in the light of the personal struggles of another human. Looking at it in the light of humanity means it can become very personal to us. Although i wouldn't advocate studying out if the context of it's meaning, empathising with the narrative and characters is a deeply important way of understanding the word of God as a truly living book


So when i use these eyes to Look at Genesis 4 I see an all to familiar picture. A young man who has allowed his temper to rise to aggression. Our news broadcasts are full of this picture and one which science can attribute to the testosterone of men. OF course it then goes on to wrongly suggest this is a part of our DNA from when we were wild things. Yet the truth is testosterone is the hormone which develops the muscle mass making males physically bigger not because we were once wild beasts but because the role of men was to protect. Yet there was nothing to need to protect from in the garden because the lion laid down with the lamb. Rather as we are a reflection of our creator, created in His image, the male projecting the image of God our refuge. Now due to the fall of man and sinful self nature, the tools to project protection are corrupted to project control. Hence why scientists often make the wrong assumption that these aggressive patterns are of our wild days when we protected territory. It may look like that but as Cain shows, all the world was his, there was no territory which needed protecting. What therefore set him into such a rage?


The text gives us quite a clear answer to that question it would seem it is Cain's rejection over Abel's praise. Any parent of more than one child will have experienced a scenario where the jealousy of siblings leads to some form of violent outburst. If we were to look at our own experiences, be that of your own children or grand children, as an observer of other peoples children or grand children, maybe your own experience as a sibling, then what we might say is it is often due to a fight for the parental attention. Again if we look at Genesis 4 with the eyes of a normal human interaction then we could actually look at this terrible outcomes own personal beginning as being that of two siblings fighting for a parents recognition and love. If you concur with that view then the parent in question is not Adam or Eve but the Lord. As such we can look at Genesis 4 and ask if the Lord had not rejected Cain's offering would Abel still be alive. If we looked at it from a parent issue then many of us experience the need to be even handed knowing a smidge more ice cream given to one over another can cause world war 3. That may humanise the Lord a little bit to much for you but i want to put it into terms which may seem realistic to us.


inner city violence, gang culture and the constant stream of news about aggressive young men are more complicated than this simple theory but it is true that either the search for, or lack of patriarchal relationship is a root. It is certainly the root here in Genesis 4. Yet can we really attribute the failing of patriarchal relationship to the Lord as to heavy handed a disciplinarian? Well lets also look at Cain in this matter.


Why was Cain's gift rejected? the answer has been varied over the years, from that sacrifices should be from livestock and that the Lord had said in the previous chapter that the ground was cursed and thus inferring that so would any produce from it. Of course the problem with that theory is that the sacrificial system that would be later set up contained both livestock and produce. The Lord doesnt change His mind if it was going to be good enough then it would be now. No this is not the answer the answer is found in the text in the different descriptions. Cain brought the first fruits of the ground but Abel brought the firstlings of the flock. Well there is no difference there. Yet Abel's offering wasn't just the firstling but it says in Genesis 4:4 he also gave the fat. We read in Leviticus 3:16


And the priest shall burn them on the altar, bread of the fire offering for a sweet savor. All the fat is Jehovah's. Leviticus 3:16


the fat belongs to the Lord. The fat, as any meat lover knows, is where the flavour and taste is, and in a time before over eating and cholesterol time bombs, it was the best and a luxury. Now there is no fat on a vegetable (my doctor keeps telling me) so how could Cain offer an equivalent. Well you see the difference between Cain and Abel's offering was not the quality but the attitude and that is what the author is trying to show us. Cain gave his offering of his own free will but when the Lord addresses him about the offering in verse 7 He says if you do well then you will be accepted. the Hebrew word here is yatab and it means to bring with joy. The Lord literally says if you had brought your offering with joy it would have been accepted. We can think of the scripture the Lord loves a cheerful giver it is from 2 corinthians 9:7 and in full it says,


Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 corinthians 9:7


Paul is talking about a gift being raised for the persecuted church in Jerusalem. The Corinthians had set themselves a target and had not met it, they felt they had failed as the gift wasn't enough. Paul's teaching is it isnt the amount it is the attitude.


Cain did what so many people do in this day and age and something Jesus predicted of the last days when He said 'the love of many will grow cold'. That is they come freely to church but they do not come to the Lord with a cheerful gift of praise and dedication. It is as if there is an obligation to do so but the obligation is not made by the Lord. This obligation comes into our head as being the way we make God happy. This was the same impulse of Adam and Eve when they covered there nakedness with fig leaves. We can call this man's attempt to appease or please a Holy God or in laymen's terms being religious.


Now the impulse to want to please God is the right one but the reason for has to also be the right one. If it is to appease God then your wrong on two counts and Genesis 4 shows us this. The first is assuming God has this kind of ego that needs worship to feel loved. The second is assuming any gift we can bring would actually appease God from the sin within. The Lord gives us the answer by giving it to Cain.


If you do well, shall you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door; and its desire is for you, and you shall rule over it. Genesis 4:7


do it because you want to and it will be accepted do it begrudgingly then the old man within will rise and the corruption of creation will tighten like a boa constrictor around your heart and the self serving evil intent will rise.


So the question I entitled this blog with comes into light. Who actually rejected who?


The Lord never rejected Cain, He rejected an offering that was brought as a form of man's work to appease God. The Lord also gave the solution to Cain and us all, He desires a relationship with us. That is of course the drum that thelittlescroll exists to beat but that teaching cant be divorced from how this chapter ends.


Cain kills his brother. The jealousy within brings the hatred which turns into the aggression which can be seen in Jesus statement about saying i hate you in Mathew chapter 5. Jesus says it is as if you have killed them. The reason is seen here. To say you hate is the opposite of the new commandment of Jesus which is the summing up of all the law and prophets. Love one another as Christ loved us. Yet to love everyone, even when they wrong us or are a source of distress is impossible. The answer is found in loving people because your being obedient to the Lord because you love Him, you have a relationship with Him. I write these bible studies for the edification of strangers whom i cant love for i don't know them. Yet i show my love because i am being obedient to Christ.


And thus we must learn the real lesson of Genesis chapter 4. A relationship with Christ isnt an optional extra of Christianity, it is a life and death matter. The difference between being consumed by self or able to love on another as Christ loves us.


seek that relationship friends by getting to know His word.

34 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All