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Where is your brother?

not willing that any should perish

If you do well, will you not be accepted?
And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.
And its desire is for you,
but you should rule over it.”

Genesis 4:7

Cain was the first recorded son of Adam and Eve. At his birth, Eve received him as a child from God, perhaps thinking he was the promised seed. Later, she bore his brother, Abel (Genesis 4:1-2). He was a shepherd and Cain was a farmer.

As a farmer, Cain performed the commission to till the ground (Genesis 3:23). While Cain faithfully worked the soil, Abel wandered the meadows watching sheep (Genesis 4:2). Perhaps it was Abel’s apparent evasion of hard farm work that led to Cain’s hot anger when God accepted his brother’s sacrifice and not his own (Genesis 4:3-5).  Whatever the case, Cain’s anger prompted a visit from God, who told Cain that he would be accepted if he did what was right (Genesis 4:6-7). Evidently, although Cain faithfully tilled the soil, he did things that were not right and good. Because of his wickedness, God did not accept Cain or his offering. But he could be accepted if he changed his ways.

Word of Warning

Then God gave Cain a warning of what would happen if he didn’t repent. Within this warning was an insight into the nature of fallen man. God said that the sin inside Cain was like a living creature looking for an opportunity to gain control over him and compel him to do evil. This meant that Cain would experience desires from within that would try to overrule his reason and good sense to produce great evil. God warned Cain that he must control these inner, sinful desires (Genesis 4:7). However, Cain disregarded God’s warning and great evil occurred (Genesis 4:8).

God made clear that He expected Cain to resist the pull of his natural, sinful desires. In other words, Cain, a fallen man, was responsible to control the inner urge to do wrong.  This obligation of fallen man to control his sinful heart is not a surprise to us, for human societies around the globe generally embrace this reality. In every formal community, rules and punishments are established to provide incentive for each person to control their sinful desires.  Thus, we understand that being in a fallen state, being spiritually dead, does not exempt a person from self-control. 

Cain and Adam

After Cain sinned, God came to him as He had come to Adam after his sin – not with accusations but with a question. Of Adam, God asked, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9); of Cain, God asked, “Where is your brother?” (Genesis 4:9). Although they were two similar questions, the men’s responses were fundamentally dissimilar. Whereas Adam truthfully answered God’s question (Genesis 3:10), Cain denied any knowledge of Abel’s whereabouts (Genesis 4:9).

Cain’s denial was, by definition, an attempt to obscure the truth. In hiding the truth, he behaved like an offspring of the deceiving serpent. When he was born, his mother had received him as a child from the Lord, and rightly so. But over time, Cain had evidently become a child of the serpent.

For this reason, God’s dealing with Cain was more similar to how He dealt with the serpent than how He dealt with Adam. While God pronounced a curse upon the serpent, He did not do so with Adam but pronounced a curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:14, 17). With Cain, God did not pronounce a curse upon the ground but upon Cain (Genesis 4:11-12). 

The result of Cain’s curse would be separation from Adam and those with Adam – Cain would become a fugitive and wanderer (Genesis 4:12). Indeed, Cain himself saw that he would need to depart from the others out of fear that they would try to kill him (Genesis 4:14). Evidently, he expected that enmity would inevitably arise between himself and the others. His initial response was that the punishment was excessive. But the punishment correlated exactly with what God said he would do – place enmity between the serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15). Since Cain was one who did as the serpent did, God enacted a punishment upon him that produced an enmity between him and the others.

Cain and God

Although the punishment was severe, God’s purpose was not to dismiss Cain forever. Although it would have been fair to allow Cain to suffer the same fate that he imposed on his brother, God protected Cain with a mark (Genesis 4:15). Despite Cain’s wickedness, God was not willing that he should perish but come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Sadly, Cain did not repent but left the presence of the Lord to forge a life apart from God (Genesis 4:16-17). In the temporal sense, Cain and his descendants were successful, building cities (Genesis 4:17) and industries (Genesis 4:18-22). But in the realm of good and evil, Cain’s descendants digressed, culminating with Lamech, who not only murdered but boasted in it (Genesis 4:23-24). Cain’s line reflected the truth of Romans 1. Although Cain knew God, he did not glorify Him as God (Romans 1:21). His descendant, Lamech, was a man who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only did the same but also was unashamed (Romans 1:32).

With Cain having departed, God raised up another seed for Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:25). This man, Seth, was as different from Cain as day is from night. His descendants did not abandon God – they called upon His name (Genesis 4:26). Through Seth would come the Man who would be fully dependent upon God.

Summary

First, we see that God expected Cain to control his sinful desires and not sin. God did not treat Cain as though it were inevitable that he sin. He will hold fallen men accountable for their sin. In order for this to be just, it indicates that fallen man does not sin because he has no other option; he sins because he does not control his desires.

Secondly, under God’s administration, God has placed a separation between those who follow the serpent’s footsteps and those who call upon the Lord. He does not want the serpent’s seed to live freely among His people.

Finally, God does not immediately execute those who follow the serpent’s actions. Instead, He gives them ample opportunity to repent.  This means that their situation is not hopeless, provided they call upon the name of the Lord. He will save all who call upon His name.


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