Genesis (Part 21)

Genesis 4:1-7

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”


Now we will look at the verses again with some focus on translation:

In verse 1, Adam “knew” his wife. Alternatively, this is translated that Adam “had relations” with his wife. The Hebrew word being translated here is yada`: יָדַע yâdaʻ, yaw-dah’; a primitive root; to know (properly, to ascertain by seeing); used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially (including observation, care, recognition; and causatively, instruction, designation, punishment, etc.):—acknowledge, acquaintance(-ted with), advise, answer, appoint, assuredly, be aware, (un-) awares, can(-not), certainly, comprehend, consider, × could they, cunning, declare, be diligent, (can, cause to) discern, discover, endued with, familiar friend, famous, feel, can have, be (ig-) norant, instruct, kinsfolk, kinsman, (cause to let, make) know, (come to give, have, take) knowledge, have (knowledge), (be, make, make to be, make self) known, be learned, lie by man, mark, perceive, privy to, × prognosticator, regard, have respect, skilful, shew, can (man of) skill, be sure, of a surety, teach, (can) tell, understand, have (understanding), × will be, wist, wit, wot.

Maybe this word is the source for the Seinfeld “yada yada yada” joke.

Near the end of verse 1, she credits Yahweh specifically with helping her to conceive a man-child.

In verse 3, Cain brought his offering. The word for offering here is מִנְחָה minchâh, min-khaw’; from an unused root meaning to apportion, i.e. bestow; a donation; euphemistically, tribute; specifically a sacrificial offering (usually bloodless and voluntary):—gift, oblation, (meat) offering, present, sacrifice.

In verse 4, Abel brought his firstlings: בְּכוֹר bᵉkôwr, bek-ore’; from H1069; first-born; hence, chief:—eldest (son), firstborn(-ling). He also brought “the fat portions”: חֶלֶב cheleb, kheh’-leb; or חֵלֶב chêleb; from an unused root meaning to be fat; fat, whether literally or figuratively; hence, the richest or choice part:—× best, fat(-ness), × finest, grease, marrow.

The Lord (translated from Yahweh) had regard for Abel’s offering but no regard for Cain’s offering. The word for regard is שָׁעָה shâʻâh, shaw-aw’; a primitive root; to gaze at or about (properly, for help); by implication, to inspect, consider, compassionate, be nonplussed (as looking around in amazement) or bewildered:—depart, be dim, be dismayed, look (away), regard, have respect, spare, turn.

Cain then becomes angry: Angry = חָרָה chârâh, khaw-raw’; a primitive root (compare H2787); to glow or grow warm; figuratively (usually) to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy:—be angry, burn, be displeased, × earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, × very, be wroth. See H8474.

We are told his “countenance fell.” Countenance = פָּנִים pânîym, paw-neem’; plural (but always as singular) of an unused noun פָּנֶה pâneh; from H6437); the face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before, etc.):— accept, a-(be-) fore(-time), against, anger, × as (long as), at, battle, because (of), beseech, countenance, edge, employ, endure, enquire, face, favour, fear of, for, forefront(-part), form(-er time, -ward), from, front, heaviness, × him(-self), honourable, impudent, in, it, look(-eth) (-s), × me, meet, × more than, mouth, of, off, (of) old (time), × on, open, out of, over against, the partial, person, please, presence, prospect, was purposed, by reason of, regard, right forth, serve, × shewbread, sight, state, straight, street, × thee, × them(-selves), through ( -out), till, time(-s) past, (un-) to(-ward), upon, upside ( down), with(-in, -stand), × ye, × you.

Fell = נָפַל nâphal, naw-fal’; a primitive root; to fall, in a great variety of applications (intransitive or causative, literal or figurative):—be accepted, cast (down, self, (lots), out), cease, die, divide (by lot), (let) fail, (cause to, let, make, ready to) fall (away, down, -en, -ing), fell(-ing), fugitive, have (inheritance), inferior, be judged (by mistake for 6419), lay (along), (cause to) lie down, light (down), be (× hast) lost, lying, overthrow, overwhelm, perish, present(-ed, -ing), (make to) rot, slay, smite out, × surely, throw down.

Yahweh sees Cain and asks him why he is angry. He says that if Cain can “do well”…

יָטַב yâṭab, yaw-tab’; a primitive root; to be (causative) make well, literally (sound, beautiful) or figuratively (happy, successful, right):—be accepted, amend, use aright, benefit, be (make) better, seem best, make cheerful, be comely, be content, diligent(-ly), dress, earnestly, find favour, give, be glad, do (be, make) good(-ness), be (make) merry, please ( well), shew more (kindness), skilfully, × very small, surely, make sweet, thoroughly, tire, trim, very, be (can, deal, entreat, go, have) well (said, seen).

… then his face will be lifted up.

Yahweh also warns that if Cain does not do well that sin is crouching at the door and its desire is for you but you must master it.

sin = חַטָּאָה chaṭṭâʼâh, khat-taw-aw’; or חַטָּאת chaṭṭâʼth; from H2398; an offence (sometimes habitual sinfulness), and its penalty, occasion, sacrifice, or expiation; also (concretely) an offender:—punishment (of sin), purifying(-fication for sin), sin(-ner, offering).

crouching = רָבַץ râbats, raw-bats’; a primitive root; to crouch (on all four legs folded, like a recumbent animal); by implication, to recline, repose, brood, lurk, imbed:—crouch (down), fall down, make a fold, lay, (cause to, make to) lie (down), make to rest, sit.

at the door = פֶּתַח pethach, peh’-thakh; from H6605; an opening (literally), i.e. door (gate) or entrance way:—door, entering (in), entrance (-ry), gate, opening, place.

and its desire = תְּשׁוּקָה tᵉshûwqâh, tesh-oo-kaw’; from H7783 in the original sense of stretching out after; a longing:—desire.

is for you, but you must master it = מָשַׁל mâshal, maw-shal’; a primitive root; to rule:—(have, make to have) dominion, governor, × indeed, reign, (bear, cause to, have) rule(-ing, -r), have power.


From the Pulpit Commentary:

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.Verse 1. – Exiled from Eden, o’er, canopied by grace, animated by hope, assured of the Divine forgiveness, and filled with a sweet peace, the first pair enter on their life experience of labor and sorrow, and the human race begins its onward course of development in sight of the mystic cherubim and flaming sword. And Adam knew Eve, his wife. I.e. “recognized her nature and uses” (Alford; cf. Numbers 31:17). The act here mentioned is recorded not to indicate that paradise was “non nuptiis, sed virginitate destinatum” (Jerome), but to show that while Adam was formed from the soil, and Eve from a rib taken from his side, the other members of the race were to be produced “neque ex terra neque quovis alio mode, sed ex conjunctione maris et foeminse” (Rungius). And she conceived. The Divine blessing (Genesis 1:28), which in its operation had been suspended during the period of innocence, while yet it was undetermined whether the race should develop as a holy or a fallen seed, now begins to take effect (cf. Genesis 18:14Ruth 4:13Hebrews 11:11). And bare Cain. Acquisition or Possessionfrom kanah, to acquire (Gesenius). Cf. Eve’s exclamation. Kalisch, connecting it with kun or kin, to strike, sees an allusion to his character and subsequent history as a murderer, and supposes it was not given to him at birth, but at a later period. Tayler Lewis falls back upon the primitive idea of the root, to create, to procreate, generate, of which he cites as examples Genesis 14:19, 22Deuteronomy 32:6, and takes the derivative to signify the seed, explaining Eve’s exclamation kanithi kain as equivalent to τετοκα τοκον, genui genitum or generationemAnd said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. The popular interpretation, regarding kani-thi as the emphatic word in the sentence, understands Eve to say that her child was a thing achieved, an acquisition gained, either from the Lord (Onkelos, Calvin) or by means of, with the help of, the Lord (LXX., Vulgate, Jerome, Dathe, Keil), or for the Lord (Syriac). If, however, the emphatic term is Jehovah, then eth with Makkeph following will be the sign of the accusative, and the sense will be, “I have gotten a man – Jehovah” (Jonathon, Luther, Baumgarten, Lewis); to which, perhaps, the chief objections are

(1) that it appears to anticipate the development of the Messianic idea, and credits Eve with too mature Christological conceptions (Lange), though if Enoch in the seventh generation recognized Jehovah as the coming One, why might not Eve have done so in the first? (Bonar),

(2) that if the thoughts of Eve had been running so closely on the identity of the coming Deliverer with Jehovah, the child would have been called Jehovah, or at least some compound of Jehovah, such as Ishiah – אישׁ and יהוה – or Coniah – קין and יהוה (Murphy);

(3) si scivit Messiam esse debet Jovam, quomodo existimare potuit Cainam ease Messiam, quem sciebat esse ab Adamo genitum? (Dathe); and

(4) that, while it might not be difficult to account for the mistake of a joyful mother in supposing that the fruit of her womb was the promised seed, though, “if she did believe so, it is a caution to interpreters of prophecy” (Inglis), it is not so easy to explain her belief that the promised seed was to be Jehovah, since no such announcement was made in the Prot-evangel. But whichever view be adopted of the construction of the language, it is obvious that Eve’s utterance was the dictate of faith. In Cain’s birth she recognized the earnest and guarantee of the promised seed, and in token of her faith gave her child a name (cf. Genesis 3:20), which may also explain her use of the Divine name Jehovah instead of Elohim, which she employed when conversing with the serpent. That Eve denominates her infant a man has been thought to indicate that she had previously borne daughters who had grown to womanhood, and that she expected her young and tender babe to reach maturity. Murphy thinks this opinion probable; but the impression conveyed, by the narrative is that Cain was the first-born of the human family.

This is something I have never previously considered. Did Eve believe that her offspring would immediately fulfill Yahweh’s words regarding crushing the serpent under his heel? It would be more than understandable if that was the hope. They appear to still be within sight of the Garden and of the cherubin still guarding the Garden.

Alternatively, perhaps Eve viewed procreation as a way to defeat death. An individual might perish but the race will live on through its offspring.

Is God – stated in the text as Yahweh – still talking with them directly? The answer from the text is yes. It sounds as though the early humans were taking offerings to the Garden – or the edge of the Garden – directly to Yahweh. How many years after God drove them out of the Garden has He remained there? Is it fair to assume that Cain and Abel are at least teenagers for this story?

From Ellicott’s Commentary:

(3, 4) In process of time.—Heb., at the end of days: not at the end of a week, or a year, or of harvest-time, but of a long indefinite period, shown by the age of Adam at the birth of Seth to have been something less than 130 years.

An offering.—Heb., a thank-offering, a present. We must be careful not to introduce here any of the later Levitical ideas about sacrifice. All that we know about this offering is that it was an act of worship, and apparently something usual. Now, each brought of his own produce, and one was accepted and one rejected. Why? Much ingenuity has been wasted on this question, as though Cain erred on technical grounds; whereas we are expressly told in Hebrews 11:4 that Abel’s was the more excellent sacrifice, because offered “in faith.” It was the state of their hearts that made the difference; though, as the result of unbelief, Cain’s may have been a scanty present of common produce, and not of first-fruits, while Abel brought “firstlings, and of the fat thereof,” the choicest portion. Abel may also have shown a deeper faith in the promised Deliverer by offering an animal sacrifice: and certainly the acceptance of his sacrifice quickened among men the belief that the proper way of approaching God was by the death of a victim. But Cain’s unbloody sacrifice had also a great future before it. It became the minchah of the Levitical law, and under the Christian dispensation is the offering of prayer and praise, and especially the Eucharistic thanksgiving. We have already noticed that Abel’s sacrifice shows that flesh was probably eaten on solemn occasions. Had animals been killed only for their skins for clothing, repulsive ideas would have been connected with the carcases cast aside to decay; nor would Abel have attached any value to firstlings. But as soon as the rich abundance of Paradise was over, man would quickly learn to eke out the scanty produce of the soil by killing wild animals and the young of his own flocks.

The Lord had respect.—Heb., looked upon, showed that He had seen it. It has been supposed that some visible sign of God’s favour was given, and the current idea among the fathers was that fire fell from heaven, and consumed the sacrifice. (Comp. Leviticus 9:24.) But there is real irreverence in thus filling up the narrative; and it is enough to know that the brothers were aware that God was pleased with the one and displeased with the other. More important is it to notice, first, that God’s familiar presence was not withdrawn from man after the fall. He talked with Cain as kindly as with Adam of old. And secondly, in these, the earliest, records of mankind religion is built upon love, and the Deity appears as man’s personal friend. This negatives the scientific theory that religion grew out of dim fears and terror at natural phenomena, ending gradually in the evolution of the idea of a destructive and dangerous power outside of man, which man must propitiate as best he could.

It seems evident from the text – to me at least – that Yahweh’s preference for Abel’s offering was related to the praise-worthy description of it. Abel’s offering was young and fatty (i.e. it was the best of what he had to give.) Cain’s offering – by contrast – is not described with any positive traits.

The notes above makes a point to differentiate between offerings given here and subsequent Levitical offerings later in the Bibe. The text here describes an offering and no more

The notes also point out – correctly I think – that we can infer that early humans were already eating animals. The nature of Abel’s offering makes that implication. (If animals were only killed for their skin, it is not much of an offering to give Yahweh a portion of a carcass that he might otherwise have thrown away. However, if Abel would have otherwise eaten the carcass, then it is a much more valuable offering.)

From David Guzik’s Study Guide for Genesis 4:

f. Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell: Cain’s anger was undoubtedly rooted in pride. He couldn’t bear that his brother was accepted before God and he was not. It is even possible that this was public knowledge, if God consuming the sacrifice with fire indicated acceptance.

i. The epidemic of sin quickly became worse. Cain now committed the relatively sophisticated sins of spiritual pride and hypocrisy.

3. (Gen 4:6-7) God’s warning to Cain.

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 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.”

a. Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? God dealt with Cain in terms of loving confrontation instead of automatic affirmation. God made it clear that Cain would be accepted if he did well.

i. Of course, God knew the answers to the questions He asked, but He wanted Cain to know and to resist the pull toward violence and anger within.

b. If you do not do well, sin lies at the door: God warned Cain about the destructive power of sin. Cain could resist sin and find blessing, or he could give in to sin and be devoured.

c. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it: We prevent sin from ruling over us by allowing God to master us first. Without God as our master, we will be slaves to sin.

We see in Yahweh’s words to Cain a desire for Cain to improve. We also see a warning about the destructive nature of sin.

One final thought on these verses. I have mentioned in prior posts, regarding Cain, that a theory exists which states he (Cain) is the literal offspring of Eve and the serpent. Let’s look at 4:1 again. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

Is there room in this procreation story verse for anyone other than Adam, Eve, or Yahweh? No. It is fair to say then that the “Serpent Seed Theory” does not hold up to scrutiny under the text. However, we are not done with the idea of angelic beings mating with earthly women. We will in fact be seeing that in the text very soon.