I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15 ESV)
In this tale of two brothers, one might see that the conflict between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman already plays itself out almost as soon as the prophecy has been told.
They both offer sacrifices to the LORD where Cain gives an offering of the fruit of the ground, while Abel gives of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. However the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.
Instead of taking responsibility for the results of his offering and accepting the LORD’s advice for him to do well and rule over his sin, Cain lets himself be mastered by sin and in jealousy kills his own brother.
Cain’s failure to rule over sin is similar to how his parents Adam and Eve failed to rule over the serpent and so introduced sin, pain, suffering, disease, and death into the world.
The apostle John, son of Zebedee, has this to say about the episode:
“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12 ESV)
Of course, what John says in his first epistle, he says similarly in his Gospel:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” (John 3:19-20 ESV)
Abel was a type of Christ, as his deeds were righteous and so exposed his brother’s deeds as evil. Instead of repenting of his evil and turning to God, Cain loved his sin and so murdered his brother so his works would no longer be exposed.
Likewise, when Jesus Christ comes into the world, He exposes the world’s deeds as evil and loving the darkness rather than the light, the world crucified the Lord Jesus.
It is said that “by faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4 ESV)
Abel is the first righteous man recorded to shed his blood, and he anticipated the day when the Lord Jesus would become “the mediator of a new covenant, and to [His] sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24 ESV)
Abel’s and Christ’s death at the hands of wicked sinners demonstrates how followers of Christ will too suffer persecution and mistreatment at the hands of those who loved their sins more than righteousness. But we have hope that because Christ lives again, we know that our faith in Christ will outlive the wickedness of sin. In other words, the supremacy of Christ will have the last word, not sin and death.
I also find it interesting to note that where Abel’s blood caused the ground to be cursed for Cain, the blood of Christ brings blessing to the whole world. Another way to look at it is that where Abel’s blood alienates man from nature, Christ’s blood brings reconciliation. Here are some relevant verses for comparison.
And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. (Genesis 4:11-12)
Through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:20)
Even though Cain callously murders his own brother, the LORD still shows grace towards him, making him an example of how our God displays his perfect patience towards sinners in the hope that they would be reconciled to Him.
Nevertheless, Cain and his descendants fall deeper and deeper into sin, (especially since they go away from the presence of the LORD), where one named Lamech demonstrates no regard for the lives of others or respect for the principle of monogamy. Lamech kills a young man just for striking him and takes two wives for himself.
Yet an interesting connection to make is when one examines the words of Lamech and the words of Christ.
Lamech says: “If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24 ESV)
Christ says when answering how often one should forgive a brother: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22 ESV)
It is hard to miss the connection being made here, especially with the heightened contrasts of revenge versus forgiveness. It is as if when the Lord Jesus made the response that He did, He was giving a redemptive transformation of the revenge formula that Lamech articulated.
From Genesis chapter 4 then, some of the following observations can be made:
-when people live according to God’s ways, they will invite negative responses from those who do not, whether it ranges from being shunned to being murdered.
-God’s people ought to be characterized by love, not hate
-we seek to preserve people’s life by pointing them to Christ, not allowing them to perish.
-recognize that where our sins bring alienation, the cross of Christ can bring reconciliation.
-forsake revenge and pursue forgiveness.