Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, were very unlike in character. Abel feared God. Cain cherished rebellious feelings and murmured against God because of the curse pronounced upon Adam and because the ground was cursed for his sin. These brothers had been instructed in regard to the provision made for the salvation of the human race. They were required to carry out a system of humble obedience, showing their reverence for God and their faith and dependence upon the promised Redeemer, by slaying the firstlings of the flock and solemnly presenting them with the blood as a burnt offering to God. This sacrifice would lead them to continually keep in mind their sin and the Redeemer to come, who was to be the great sacrifice for man.
Cain brought his offering unto the Lord with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised Sacrifice. He was unwilling to strictly follow the plan of obedience and procure a lamb and offer it with the fruit of the ground. He merely took of the ground and disregarded the requirement of God. God had made known to Adam that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin. Cain was not particular to bring even the best of the fruits. Abel advised his brother not to come before the Lord without the blood of sacrifice. Cain, being the eldest, would not listen to his brother. He despised his counsel, and with doubt and murmuring in regard to the necessity of the ceremonial offerings, he presented his offering. But God did not accept it.
Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat, as God had commanded; and in full faith of the Messiah to come, and with humble reverence, he presented the offering. God had respect unto his offering. A light flashes from heaven and consumes the offering of Abel. Cain sees no manifestation that his is accepted. He is angry with the Lord and with his brother. God condescends to send an angel to Cain to converse with him.
The angel inquires of him the reason of his anger, and informs him that if he does well and follows the directions God has given, He will accept him and respect his offering. But if he will not humbly submit to God’s arrangements, and believe and obey Him, He cannot accept his offering. The angel tells Cain that it was no injustice on the part of God, or partiality shown to Abel, but that it was on account of his own sin and disobedience of God’s express command that He could not respect his offering—and if he would do well he would be accepted of God, and his brother should listen to him, and he should take the lead, because he was the eldest.
But even after being thus faithfully instructed, Cain did not repent. Instead of censuring and abhorring himself for his unbelief, he still complains of the injustice and partiality of God. And in his jealousy and hatred he contends with Abel and reproaches him. Abel meekly points out his brother’s error and shows him that the wrong is in himself. But Cain hates his brother from the moment that God manifests to him the tokens of His acceptance. His brother Abel seeks to appease his wrath by contending for the compassion of God in saving the lives of their parents when He might have brought upon them immediate death. He tells Cain that God loves them, or He would not have given His Son, innocent and holy, to suffer the wrath which man, by his disobedience, deserves to suffer.
The Beginnings of Death
While Abel justifies the plan of God, Cain becomes enraged, and his anger increases and burns against Abel until in his rage he slays him. God inquires of Cain for his brother, and Cain utters a guilty falsehood: “I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?”Genesis 4:9. God informs Cain that He knew in regard to his sin—that He was acquainted with his every act, and even the thoughts of his heart, and says to him, “Thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”Genesis 4:10~12.
The curse upon the ground at first had been felt but lightly; but now a double curse rested upon it. Cain and Abel represent the two classes, the righteous and the wicked, the believers and unbelievers, which should exist from the fall of man to the second coming of Christ. Cain’s slaying his brother Abel represents the wicked who will be envious of the righteous and will hate them because they are better than themselves. They will be jealous of the righteous and will persecute and put them to death because their right-doing condemns their sinful course.
Adam’s life was one of sorrow, humility, and continual repentance. As he taught his children and grandchildren the fear of the Lord, he was often bitterly reproached for his sin which resulted in so much misery upon his posterity. When he left the beautiful Eden, the thought that he must die thrilled him with horror. He looked upon death as a dreadful calamity. He was first made acquainted with the dreadful reality of death in the human family by his own son Cain slaying his brother Abel. Filled with the bitterest remorse for his own transgression, and deprived of his son Abel, and looking upon Cain as his murderer, and knowing the curse God pronounced upon him, bowed down Adam’s heart with grief. Most bitterly did he reproach himself for his first great transgression. He entreated pardon from God through the promised Sacrifice. Deeply had he felt the wrath of God for his crime committed in Paradise. He witnessed the general corruption which afterward finally provoked God to destroy the inhabitants of the earth by a flood. The sentence of death pronounced upon him by his Maker, which at first appeared so terrible to him, after he had lived some hundreds of years, looked just and merciful in God, to bring to an end a miserable life.
As Adam witnessed the first signs of decaying nature in the falling leaf and in the drooping flowers, he mourned more deeply than men now mourn over their dead. The drooping flowers were not so deep a cause of grief, because more tender and delicate; but the tall, noble, sturdy trees to cast off their leaves, to decay, presented before him the general dissolution of beautiful nature, which God had created for the special benefit of man.
To his children and to their children, to the ninth generation, he delineated the perfections of his Eden home, and also his fall and its dreadful results, and the load of grief brought upon him on account of the rupture in his family which ended in the death of Abel. He related to them the sufferings God had brought him through to teach him the necessity of strictly adhering to His law. He declared to them that sin would be punished in whatever form it existed. He entreated them to obey God, who would deal mercifully with them if they should love and fear Him.
Angels held communication with Adam after his fall, and informed him of the plan of salvation, and that the human race was not beyond redemption. Although fearful separation had taken place between God and man, yet provision had been made through the offering of His beloved Son by which man might be saved. But their only hope was through a life of humble repentance and faith in the provision made. All those who could thus accept Christ as their only Saviour, should be again brought into favor with God through the merits of His Son.