Bob Seger has a song called Night
Moves. You can guess what it’s
about. In the song, there is one line
that goes like this.
Working on Mysteries without any clues. Working on our night moves.
What’s a Bob Seger song got to do with
Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden?
These first two people that we learn about, learned how to work on
mysteries without any clues. These two
people made another person.
Eve noted it was with God’s help. They
named the kid Cain. I wonder if they
knew they were having a baby or if Adam just thought that Eve was putting on a few
pounds and knew not to say anything.
Did they even know to start picking out
names before the kid was born? Adam had
some naming experience. He named all the
animals and even gave his wife a name.
In any case, the kid was named Cain.
Sometime later, Eve gave birth to a
second son and they named him Abel.
We don’t get to see the terrible twos,
losing teeth, or even the preteen antics of these two boys. We see them as
men—likely young men. Cain was a farmer
and Abel worked the flocks.
Cain brought an offering—a minchah (מִנְחָה)—of
the fruits of the field. Abel brought
fatty portions from his flocks. Why Abel
butchered animals when it seemed that Adam and Eve were vegetarians goes
unanswered. Perhaps that prohibition was
only for life in the garden.
In any case, God was pleased with
Abel’s offering but not with Cain’s. Why?
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they
had been told, “Don’t eat from that tree.”
They had a specific prohibition.
They had a Thou Shat Not!
We don’t see anything that precedes
the offerings of the two brothers. These
were offerings, likely not sacrifices to atone for sins. They were gifts, tributes, and presents.
One was acceptable. One was not.
And so, begins the course of theological discourse.
Some say that Cain’s gift was too
small. That it was a token
offering. That’s possible but not
Some say that for an offering to be
acceptable, there must be the shedding of blood. We are told that there is no
forgiveness without the shedding of blood, but the text does not say the
offering—sacrifice if you will—was for atonement. Anyway, we will later see
grain offerings prescribed when we get to the Law that came through Moses.
Some say that Cain’s attitude was not
right. We see his reaction to God not
finding favor in his gift, but we do not see what preceded the gift. If we give someone something that we think is
wonderful and they don’t like it, we don’t always have the best attitude when
our gift is rejected.
No one can argue that Cain’s reaction
was contrary to the ways of God, but we don’t really know why his gift was not
If we search our full biblical
witness, we find a single verse in Hebrews that offers some light. This epistle tells us that Abel’s offering
in faith. We are not told that Cain’s
gift was bad, just that Abel’s was better. We had to venture a long way to find
this answer and would have loved to have received this explanation or at least
some explanation in the text of Genesis, but we are told in Hebrews that Abel
acted in faith.
So, what prompted Cain to make an
offering? Did he feel that he had to make one?
Was this an obligation or duty that Cain perceived? Was Cain not giving cheerfully?
The Lord loves a cheerful
not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. Let each person give
as he has decided
in his heart.
We don’t see the reason that Cain’s
offering was not acceptable to the Lord in the text of Genesis. Perhaps the story of why it was not was
passed on orally for centuries only to be recorded in the New Testament Letter
to the Hebrews.
What we do see is Cain’s reaction to
not finding favor with God through his offering. It wasn’t pretty. Cain killed his brother. The term murder seems appropriate but the
word used in Genesis is not the same word used in the Commandments. It seems that this action was planned, but
that is our presumption—our inference; however, we don’t see scriptural
evidence of malice aforethought—mens rea in legal terms.
Before the killing or murder of Abel,
God asked Cain, why are you angry? Why
are you down and out? If you just do
what is right, everything will be good.
Adam and Eve had a single prohibitive
command. Don’t eat from that tree.
They disobeyed and there were consequences.
We don’t see any instructions for Cain
or Abel about making offerings. How did
they know what would please God and what would not?
What if they didn’t know? What if they just brought what they thought
they should bring?
One offering was acceptable and one
was not. The Lord looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not on Cain's. The scripture does not say that the Lord was
angry with Cain. His offering just fell
short of what God expected.
Now think about this. What if, Cain had a
teachable spirit? What if, Cain decided
to make his offering more like his brother’s? What if, Cain had tried again to
Look at your life as a child, including as a young man or woman. Did
your parents prescribe everything that you were to do or not to do?
It might have seemed like it at the
time, but it is more likely than not that you learned much from
experience. Trial and error has been a
learning tool for a long, long time.
The story is that Thomas Edison had
1000-3000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the lightbulb. This probably wasn’t even to invent the
lightbulb but to find a filament that would not burn out too quickly. Regardless of where you stand on Edison’s
invention or refinement of the lightbulb, and who got proper credit, there was
a lot of trial and error.
What if Cain, instead of deciding to
be angry at God or angry at his brother, decided to try once again to please
God with an offering? What if he gave it, one more try? Or two or three or a
What if Cain’s heart was set on
pleasing God and he kept on trying? But that is not the story we find in this
Cain invited his brother to go for a
walk. It would be Abel’s last walk. Cain killed his brother. We like to say he
used a rock but that does not come from scripture.
Hamlet might suggest Cain used a jawbone or this could just be a literary
analogy of the first murder citing it was Cain’s jawbone.
We don’t really know what weapon Cain
used. We do get a glimpse of his heart. When God questioned Cain, the world’s first killer
or murderer seemed to have no remorse.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is
your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
First Cain lied and then he gave God a
little attitude. “Am I my brother’s
The term murder implies that Cain
invited his brother on a walk for the purpose of killing him. We infer from the rest of the story that might
be the case.
In any case, Cain got booted out of
his home and went to a land called Nod.
That begs the question: “Who named this place?”
Cain took a wife and had kids. Again, it begs the question: “Where did his
wife come from?” Did Adam have a sister
wife or a side chick in Nod and had some kids over there? Where would she have come from?
Cain is destined to be a wanderer, but
he finds a place to settle down and a wife.
This brings us to the question of how
much we take literally in the creation accounts. We are told that God
created humankind, male and female alike, but we are not told that he created
two and only two humans.
Are Adam and Eve representative of the
entire creation? God put a whole bunch
of stars into the universe at the same time.
Perhaps, he populated the earth with many humans at the same time and
the story of humanity is told through Adam and Eve.
If you believe that Adam and Eve were
the only two humans that God created, then Cain’s wife becomes a source of cognitive
dissonance. Remember that the creation
accounts are faith statements. God
created. God created everything
good. God created life according to its
kind. God gave commands to multiply.
Genesis—especially the creation
accounts—are not science books and not a complete genealogy of every human. We
do get some genealogy, but it is of those through whom the story of God’s
relationship with humankind will be told.
Through this initial genealogy, we see
humankind introduced to tents, tools, and music. Ranchers join the farmers in this new world.
We also see Adam and Eve becoming
great, great grandparents. One of their offspring—Lamech took two wives. God commanded all creatures to multiply, but
he told humankind to fill the earth. Perhaps,
Lamech thought he could speed up the process.
I think that I might be getting a
Nobel prize for brilliance this year. It
takes one woman nine months to have a baby, but if you took nine women and got
them pregnant, on average, they would have one baby a month. I have not yet heard from the committee
concerning my Nobel Prize, but the year is not over.
In any case, Lamech doubled his
efforts to populate the world.
Next, we have a confession by Lamech
that he killed someone who
wounded him. The term is not murder. It’s the same term as when Cain killed
Abel and not the term used in
the prohibitive command used in Exodus
20. We don’t know who he killed.
The whole account is presented as a
short poem. It’s one that seems to mix
a confession with a boast. Lamech could
have killed this young man in combat or it could have been a misunderstanding
It would be almost three thousand
years before the Law given through Moses would establish sanctuary cities for
those in Lamech’s situation, but Lamech seemed unconcerned about needing a
place of refuge before the matter could be adjudged. He had confessed but thought
if God would avenge the murderer Cain, he would surely stand up for
Lamech even more.
If you watch enough Law and Order,
you know that the detectives seldom get the full story on the first go-round. Motives
and circumstances change after every commercial. If you made it this far in the
chapter, you probably have more questions than answers.
There is one more aspect that I mentioned
only briefly. This part of the story was
presented poetically. I doubt the
scribes in Babylon thought that they would spice up the reading with some
literary flair. They likely recorded a
poem that had been passed down for centuries.
Why is this of any significance? Adam and Eve and their descendants were not
cavemen. They didn’t grunt and wave
clubs to communicate. They had tents and
tools and practiced animal husbandry.
Add to that, they had a dose of poetry.
Language and literature tell us that there was an element of
intelligence, maturity, and even sophistication in early humankind.
The story shifts abruptly back to Adam
and Eve and we are told they had another kid.
These two are great, great, great, great, great grandparents but they
are having another kid. Imagine being 50
or 100 years old and finding out that this newborn kid is your uncle.
OBTW, the kid’s name was Seth. There
will be more about Seth’s children and their children in the next
The chapter ends with the statement
that people began to call on the name of the Lord. If everyone had remained in
the garden, that would have been a no-brainer. But there were people to the
east of the garden—in the land of Nod and surely in places all around, but they
began to call upon the name of the Lord.
The story is told through a specific
genealogy, but people at large began to call upon the name of the Lord.
Where have we come in this chapter?
Cain killed his brother.
Cain is exiled but not destroyed.
Cain takes a wife and has children.
His children have children.
Those children have children.
We see tents and herds and tools and
music introduced to the world.
We see plural marriage.
We see the man with two wives killing
a younger man. Draw your own
We see people calling upon the name of
We see many aspects of the beginning
of this story of God’s creation. We
probably have more questions than answers. People have multiplied, killed each
other, and called upon the name of the Lord. Humankind continued to sin and some
of it began to seek the Lord. For those
of you who have been through Genesis a few times, you know that there will be
more sinning than seeking in what is to come.
In the next chapter, you will get a lot
of names and years and then more names and more years and then more names and
more years and finally, we will get to Noah.
While you are making your charts and family trees in next week’s
reading, think on this from chapter 4.
What if we had a teachable spirit?
What if we had a teachable
spirit? What if when we fell short, we
tried to do better?
What if we didn’t get angry with God
or with our brother or our sister? What
if we just tried again to please God?
Do you remember the counsel from
should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry because
human anger can not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
What if we really did have a teachable
spirit? Could we avoid so much sin by
just taking the yoke
of our Master and learning from him?
Before Cain killed his brother, God
gave him counsel.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are
you angry? Why is your face downcast? If
you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is
right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule
If you don’t give up, if you don’t let
get a foothold, if you will just do what is right, everything will be just
right in your relationship with God. But
if you don’t, sin is ready to take control of your heart.
What if we took God’s counsel and just
learned from him instead of getting angry at God or the situation or our
brothers and sisters? What if we just
tried one more time to please God? What
if it took two times or two thousand times before we gave into our frustration and anger, and surrendered to sin?
Why must we give in so quickly?
Imagine coaching a team and every time
someone didn’t get something right, they became angry at you or other
players. They tried to get back at you
or they hurt those players who did the drill correctly.
We expect players to be
coachable. Why are we as Christians not
Yes, there is killing, probably murder,
in this chapter, but God encouraged Cain to make another effort. God did not disqualify Cain from anything
because of his offering. God essentially
said, “Why don’t you give it another try?”
Why don’t we give it another try when
we choose to be angry at God or at each other?
Why not take one more shot at
pleasing God? Maybe it will take a
dozen or a hundred or a thousand tries to get it right, but why choose to be
angry at God and each other instead of continuing to do our best to please God.
Read the next chapter, but think about being
slow to anger and quick to trying again to please God.