Cain and Abel: Part 1 of 6 (series: Lessons of Genesis)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

September 10, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe

Lesson I.C.1: Cain and Abel.

Gen. 4.1-8 (KJV)
1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.


1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

Adam and Eve have been exiled from Eden, but God in mercy has covered them with His grace; therefore, they are animated by hope, assured of the Divine forgiveness, and filled with a sweet peace. The first pair has entered their new life, in which they must experience hard work and sorrow, and the human race begins its headlong progression of development, perhaps in sight of the mystic cherubim and flaming sword.

And Adam knew Eve his wife;
In this verse the first husband and wife become father and mother. This new relationship must be very fascinating to both, but especially to the mother. This is the first fulfillment of all the intimations she had received with reference to her seed. God said pain and sorrow in childbearing would be multiplied, but she was to be the mother of all living, and her seed was to bruise the serpent's head. Her remembrance of what He said must have added greatly to her natural interest in becoming a mother. Her feelings concerning this child are revealed in the name she gives to her son and the reason she gave it. She "bare Cain and said, I have gained a man from Yahweh." “Cain” occurs only once as a common noun, and is rendered by the Septuagint as "spear-shaft." The original meaning of the root word is “to set up, or to erect, as a cane;” therefore, it means “to create, and make one's own,” and is applied to the Creator in Genesis 14:19—“and he blessed Abram, saying, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth”; and the parent in Deuteronomy 32:6—“Is this the way you repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” Therefore, the word here seems to denote a thing gained or achieved, a figurative expression for the birth of a child. The gaining or bearing of the child is evidently the foremost thought in Eve's mind, as she names the child. Knowing the reason behind Eve naming her child Cain helps to explain the sentence, and therefore the sentence is to be rendered "I have gained (borne) a man (with the assistance) of Yahweh."

“And Adam knew Eve his wife” is the first specific mention of sex in the Bible. It is a euphemism, or modest expression of the sexual relations between a husband and wife. The term “knew” or “to know” is a polite way of saying they had sexual relations and the term is used often in the Bible in this sense (Genesis 4:17, 4:25, 38:26, Judges 11:39, 1 Samuel 1:19). There is power in this way of referring to sex. It shows the high, interpersonal terms in which the Bible sees the sexual relationship. Most terms and phrases people use for sex today are either coarse or violent, but the Bible sees sex as a means of knowing one another in a committed relationship. “Knew” indicates an act that contributes to the bond of unity and the building up of a one-flesh relationship. There is one opinion that interprets it, "had known", instead of “known.” It says they had relations even before he sinned, and was drove out of the garden; but if Adam had fathered children while he was in a state of innocence, they would have been free from sin, and their nature would not have been tainted with the corruption it contracted afterwards. But others think it was a considerable time after they were driven out of paradise; as long as thirty years. However, we have no reason to believe Adam and Eve did not have sex before this. Adam and Eve were certainly capable of sexual relations before the fall, because there is nothing inherently impure or unclean in sex.

and she conceived,
The Divine blessing—“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground’" (Gen. 1.28)—which our first parents received during the week of creation was suspended during the period of their innocence, while it was determined whether the race of men would develop as a holy or fallen seed, but now it begins to take effect.

and bare Cain,
“And she conceived and bare Cain” in the ordinary way women have given birth ever since, after carrying her baby for nine months. Whether this name was given to her first born by her, or by her husband, or both, is not said; but it seems to have been given by her, for the reason given above.

Some Jewish writers have expressed the opinion that along with Cain and Abel were born twin sisters, which became their wives (Although I am unaware of any scriptural basis for this.).

and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
The word "man" probably indicates that Eve fully expected her son to grow and mature into manhood, and become very much like her husband. If she had given birth to daughters before this, and saw them grow up to maturity, this would explain her anticipation and enthusiasm, and at the same time give a new significance and emphasis to her exclamation, "I have gotten a man (Up to this time I had only women) from the LORD (Yahweh)." It would intensify her delight even more if she expected this to be the very seed that would bruise the serpent's head.

Eve is under the influence of pious feelings. She has faith in God, and acknowledges him to be the person behind the precious gift she has received. She is motivated by feelings of gratitude to confess her faith in Him, and she also uses a new name to designate her maker. In the dialogue with the serpent she had used the word “Elohim” to denote God. But now she adopts “Yahweh.” In this one word there is a treasure chest of comfort. "He is true to his promise. He has not forgotten me. He is with me now. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He will give me the victory." So who can blame her if she really believed her son this would be the promised deliverer who would bruise the serpent's head?—“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel" (Gen. 3.15).

“I have gotten a man from the Lord” suggests she considered her son a gift and blessing from Him, as children always are; or by him, by his favor and good will; and through his blessing upon her, causing her to conceive and bear and bring forth a son. Some render it, "I have gotten a man, the Lord;” that promised seed that would break the serpents head. This way of thinking would indicate that she thought that seed would be a divine person, the true God, even Jehovah, that would become man; though she must have been ignorant of the mystery of Christ’s incarnation, or of his being born of a virgin, since she conceived and bare Cain through her husband's knowledge of her: however, if she did have this notion, she was sadly mistaken, since he proved not only to be a mere man, but to be a very bad man—“Not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous” (1 John 3.12).

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