Genesis 4: 1-10 – The World of the Text

Last week in our Rooted readings we looked at that wonderful chapter in Hebrews, chapter 11. That is a such a wonderful passage of scripture, giving examples of so many saints in the Old Testament.  The next few weeks we’ll look at many of the saints that are mentioned in this chapter.  This week we are going to look deeper at Genesis 4:1-10, the story of Cain and Able:

1 Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

I mentioned this yesterday, but I want to say it again.  We are going to be more focused on Able than upon Cain. Able is who is mentioned in Hebrews 11, he is one of the icons of faith. Much time is spent looking at Cain, but we want to focus on the one who is our example of faith – Able.

As we look at what is actually on the paper and what the text is saying to us, a couple of things that were really interesting as we look deeper.  First, we see that at the right time, an offering was brought to God by both Cain and Able.  Was interesting to me was that the word “offering” here is one used across the Old Testament and is one, typically, that denotes a “grain” offering. so, within the context of Old Testament, Cain’s offering was actually the more typical offering that was given.

But what happens with you contrast the two.  In some translations, it says “but, Able” brought…  In Hebrew, there is a definite distinction made in the text between the two offerings.  It is very clear to the readers that there is a difference here.  Cain did his duty and brought to God what was required.

But Able brought the firstlings, and brought their best parts.  The word firstling here is actually the same as the “birthright.”  In other words, this was the best of the best of the best. Fat portions of the firstlings. This was the absolute very best that anyone could have given.

Able was giving to God the absolute best of all that he had.  Cain discharges his duty, Able goes above and beyond to please God.  That is why Able is commended.  He goes as far as one can go in faith to please God.  He gives God everything that he could possibly give.  He is offering God the best of His possessions, the best of His worship.

He withholds nothing from God.  That pleases God. But, his act of worship draws the anger and jealousy from Cain. He suffers because of His faithfulness, as happens to many throughout Hebrews 11. When we know that this word is not our home, our possessions and sufferings are not eternal, they are temporary.  Keep your eye on the eternal.

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