The Early Chapters of Genesis: Chapter 4:1-4

Genesis 4:1‑4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Man was now, as he is still, an outcast from Paradise, where Jehovah Elohim had placed him in original innocence; he was an outcast, because he had sinned knowingly, deliberately, and without excuse. It was sin against God; and death the consequence, with its bitter accompaniment for all the creation subjected to man as its head, no less than expulsion from the garden of Eden. Yet man was not driven out before the revelation of the woman's Seed (oh what grace) a Conqueror of the enemy, Himself to be bruised though the Bruiser of the serpent's head. And withal Jehovah Elohim clothed both Adam and Eve, guilty and vainly covered as they were, with coats of skins: a clothing which could only be through death, and death inflicted on the victim for the covering of those guilty.
Now those who truly feel their fallen condition, yet believe in the true God of light and love, never forget but ponder in their hearts both His words and His ways. This is faith; as indifference to them is unbelief. The inspired record that follows brings both before us solemnly; for so it ever is from that day to this in a world and a nature under sin and death. Some believe the things spoken, and some disbelieve. Faith and unbelief have everlasting results: good works, and evil, now respectively; by-and-by life eternal on one side, as on the other wrath and indignation. Thus early does scripture present the principles, and in facts which the simplest may take in and the conscience is bound to heed: how evidently of God and for man
“And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bore Cain, and said, I have acquired a man from (with) Jehovah. And again she bore (she added to bear) his brother Abel. And Abel was a feeder of sheep, and Cain was a tiller of the ground. And it came to pass in process of time (at the end of days) that Cain brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” (vers. 1-4).
The “first man” Adam was now a father, but only when fallen; as the “Second man” became head of the new family of God, when attested as righteous in resurrection, obeying God and having borne our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Cor. 15:45, 4645And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. (1 Corinthians 15:45‑46)).
Further, Eve takes the initiative and expresses her thought religiously, but according to nature, which never rises to God's mind as to either man's sin or God's grace. Hence it is wholly unavailing to bring man out of evil to God: only God's word judging sin can give the truth which faith receives. “I have acquired,” said she, “a man (Ish) from (or, with the help of) Jehovah.” How fatal is the haste of nature! “He that believeth (or trusteth) shall not make haste.” But so it ever is with man or woman, One only excepted Who was absolutely what He said, and waited patiently for Jehovah. Not so Eve who yielded to her own thoughts and saw in her first-born the man gotten from Jehovah, the woman's Seed that should crush the enemy. But the fit time or person was not yet.
Eve knew not that first is that which is natural, not what is spiritual. Yet no truth is more certain, none plainer, throughout scripture, which we ought to know to our blessing. In each dispensation man is first tried in responsibility and fails. As with Adam, so with Noah; so with Israel and in detail, people, priests, kings; so with the Gentiles to whom imperial power was entrusted, while Israel is Lo-ammi; so last and not least with Christendom. Not so Christ, Who as He glorified His Father in obedience all His life, glorified God as such in death and for sin; wherefore also God highly exalted Him And as Christ at His first advent was the Faithful Witness, though outwardly all seemed to fail in the death of the cross, so at His second coming everything which failed in man's hand will stand and shine in Christ—mankind, government, Israel, priesthood, royalty, Gentile, power and the marriage of the Lamb with His bride on high, when God hats judged Babylon the great harlot, “and her smoke goeth up forever and ever.”
It is no wonder that Eve could not forecast that the coming Vanquisher was to be the woman's Seed, still more true and exclusive and glorious than her firstborn, because He, He alone, was to be Immanuel, El Gibbor, as the prophet testified, the true God and Eternal Life, as says the apostle. Yet her language shows that she did hope for a min of worth from, or with the help of, Jehovah, though in the way of nature fallen and so coming to naught.
The same plague-spot reappears in Cain, only darker far, when in process of time the two sons approach God in worship. Nor does any other act on earth so fully decide the state of the heart. So it was here. “The way of Cain” abides to this day, as Jude lets us know in a verse which condenses volumes of truth. For the difference between the brothers did not lie in the presence or the absence of religion; but Cain was in nature, Abel in faith. Now nature ignores sin, and God's judgment of it, as well as the grace that revealed a future deliverer, God giving meanwhile a covering for the naked founded on the death of victims.
Of all this, though presented day by day to Cain at least as much as to Abel, the religion of nature took no account. There was total indifference about God's nature and will, and total insensibility about man's moral state. Cain no less than Abel had heard of their parents' transgression, of a lost Paradise, and of the woman's Seed, a sure Avenger to come and smite the enemy. But Cain had ears and heard not, as untouched in conscience about sin in himself and ruin around him, as he was careless of divine grace and truth. “Cain brought of the fruits of the ground an offering to Jehovah.” He never laid to heart “Cursed be the ground for thy sake.” He had tilled it in the sweat of his face; and this in his judgment added value to his offering of its fruit. The sin of man was no more to him than the curse of God. Why should He not accept the fruit of the ground, the offering of his own toil and pains? Cain knew not that it was but “the sacrifice of fools,” the proof of an unrepentant, unbelieving, heart.
Not so Abel who did not presume to approach Jehovah save by bringing “the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” It was “by faith” he “offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Faith is by a report or hearing, as the report is by the divine word. The revelation of the woman's Seed had entered not his ears only but his heart, and purified it by faith. He looked for the Person that was coming, the hope of his soul; and the skin, given to his parents when convicted of sin, spoke of an efficacious covering on God's part which could only be by a victim's death. Thus did his faith prompt a sacrifice which acknowledged sin and found rest in the death of another between himself and God. The sacrifice was presented by one that trembled at Jehovah's word; and its character expressed not nature but the resource of grace revealed by God. It testified to expiation, the sole efficacious ground of acceptance for sinful man, confiding, not in himself or the fruit of his work, but in God Himself and the coming Deliverer. For as impenitent unbelief goes back to what might have been well enough, if man were not a sinner, faith looks onward to a Substitute, Man yet infinitely more than man, and to the abolishing of sin and its consequences by a slain but worthy Victim.
It is remarkable too that “the fat” is especially noticed as offered to God in this, the first recorded sacrifice. We know how God loves to guide those who believe, and far beyond their measure of knowledge. For, more than two thousand years after, Jehovah reserved the fat as well as the blood, notably in the sacrifices of peace offerings, where communion was the point more expressly than in any other institution of the Levitical economy. The fat typified inward energy presented to God, and not only what propitiated. How full is the believer's acceptance in Christ! Here alone is truth, here alone righteousness unfailing and perfect; yet all is of God's grace; and man, confessing his sinfulness, blesses Him for Christ, the Savior of the lost. It was a new and supernatural standing which man, though fallen, found from and with God by faith. The ground of nature in such a case denies sin, dishonors Christ, resists the Holy Spirit, and defies God the Father.