Genesis: In the beginning...

A Bible Study on Genesis 1-11

From Bad to Worse LESSON 4

For Devotions:

bulletRead Psalm 4.
bulletIn your opening prayer, pray for the strengthening of and healing in family relationships.

For Openers:

bulletWhen I was a child, the funniest thing that ever happened to my brother/sister/cousin and me was...
bulletThe angriest I’ve ever been was when...
bulletI have a scar that I got when...

For Your Information:

bulletSkim through Genesis 4.1-6.4 and fill in this outline:
bullet4.1-16 - The story of ________ and ________
bullet4.17-24 - The descendants of ________ and the beginnings of civilization
bullet5.3-32 - A list of ___________ descendants including:
Verses 21-24: _____________
Verse 25-27: _______________________
bullet6.1-4 - The sons of ______ and the daughters of ___________ (verse 4)
bullet4.1 - Note that Adam and Eve fulfill God’s command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1.28).
bullet4.1-2 - In Hebrew, the word "I produced/created" is qaniythi ; the word for "Cain" is qayin which means "Production, Acquisition." "Abel" means "Emptiness, Futility." Incidentally, though it does not occur in this story, the Hebrew word for "jealous" is qan.
bullet4.3-5 - It is not clear why Cain’s offering is not acceptable. It is emphasized that Abel’s offering is of the "firstlings of his flock, their fat portions" which indicates the very best.
bullet4.5-7 - Cain’s "countenance fell": This is a literal rendering of the Hebrew. We might use words like "downcast, downhearted, feeling down, etc." In v. 7, what is translated as "will you not be accepted" literally is "there is a lifting up."
bullet4.9 - "... Am I my brother’s keeper?" The implied answer here would seem to be "No." A human can "keep" a garden (Gen 2.15) or a flock (Gen 30.32) or an ox (Exod 21.29) but not another human. God, however, does "keep" (in the sense of "guard, watch over") humans (Ps 16.1, 17.8, 91.11), much in the way that God keeps Cain in Genesis 4.15.
bullet4.14-16 - We do not know where the land of Nod is, but in Hebrew, the word nod is different only by the placement of the smallest dot from the word nud which means “wander.” In 4.12 and 14, Cain is identified as a “wanderer.”
bulletCain and Abel in the New Testament: The following passages yield insight into how some people were interpreting this story. Matthew 23.35=Luke 11.51, Hebrews 11.4, 12.24, 1 John 3.12, Jude 11.
bulletSome notes on 4.17-6.4. In 4.17-24, we are given some information about Cain's descendants. Most notably we are given a description of the advancements of civilization: a city in verse 17, nomadic herding culture in verse 20, musicians in verse 21, and metalsmiths in verse 22. The song in verses 23-24, though, is an indication that not all human advancements were good, for now Cain's descendant brags about unlimited violent revenge. Starting with 4.25 we return to the story of Adam and Eve and their other descendants. 4.26 notes the formal beginnings of ‘religion.’ 5.1-2 plays upon the ambiguity of the Hebrew word adam being both a reference to “humankind” as well as to an individual person, Adam. In 5.3 we learn that the divine “image” and “likeness” in which adam was created is continued in their children. Among the people listed in the genealogy, note Enoch in 5.21-24 who “walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him.” Methuselah is mentioned in 5.25-27. He became the oldest person mentioned in the Biblical record, living to the ripe old age of 969! 5.32 brings us down to Noah and prepares us for his story in 6.9 and following. In 6.1-4 we read about the increase of sin which now even draws down heavenly beings (the “sons of God”) into its power when they fall for the beauty of human women and have intercourse with them. Because the earthly/heavenly boundary has now been transgressed, God must create a new boundary. Humans, being flesh, shall now live no more than 120 years.

The voice of your brother’s blood cries unto Me (Genesis 4.10): though he shed the blood of one, it is said damim ("bloods") in the plural. Which teaches that the blood of Abel’s children and children’s children and all his descendants to the end of all generations destined to come forth from him—all of them stood crying out before the Holy One, blessed be He... [The story reminds us, then, that] he who sustains one soul is accounted by Scripture as though he had sustained a whole world...

The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan 31

For Discussion:

  1. 4.1 - How does Eve describe the birth of Cain?
  2. 4.3-5 - Why did the Lord not "have regard" for Cain's offering?
  3. 4.6-7 - What hope is there for Cain? What danger is there for him as well?
  4. 4.8 - Did Cain anticipate the consequence of his action when he "rose up against" his brother? (Remember, this is the first instance of death.) Did Cain realize that what he was doing would be considered wrong? (Remember, there are no laws given yet.)
  5. 4.9 - Does God not know where Abel is? Compare 4.9 with 3.9. Why does God open these conversations with questions?
  6. 4.9 - How do you interpret Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Is the answer yes or no?
  7. 4.10-14 - How does God punish Cain? What does Cain claim is so terrible about his punishment? Does Cain show any remorse?
  8. 4.14-15 - What does God do for Cain?
  9. If this story was all we knew about God, how would you describe God? Limited? Neglectful? Arbitrary? Judgmental? Merciful?
  10. Was God just and righteous in dealing with Cain?
  11. In your small group, put Cain on trial. Have people play the roles of judge, jurors, prosecution and defense attorneys, Cain, Adam and Eve. Consider what other information you would want to know. What verdict will you reach? What punishment will you assign?
  12. Is it significant that Cain and Able are brothers ? That they are males ?
  13. Think of other sets of brothers or sisters in the Bible. (Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, Joseph and his brothers, Mary and Martha, the story of the prodigal son and his older brother) Is there any significance to the Biblical pattern of disharmony in family relationships?
  14. How can we rightly be our brothers' or sisters' "keeper"? How do you want to be "kept"?
  15. Cain and Abel’s initial dispute was related to religious practice. In what ways do religious practices today divide us? How do we resolve such disputes?
  16. What bearing does the story of Cain and Abel have on arguments about whether or not we should practice capital punishment in our country?
  17. In 4.17-24, Cain and his descendants are described as the founders of city life, music, and technological advances. Is there some relationship between Cain’s destructiveness and his subsequent creativeness?
  18. What is the point of story as it develops from Cain to Noah? How does it fit into the big picture of the Biblical story?
  19. Read and relate 1 John 3.7-18 and/or Matthew 23.29-35 to the story of Cain and Abel.
  20. Internet Extras:
bulletRead the article "Farmers, Founders, and Fratricide: The Story of Cain and Abel " by Leon R. Kass (First Things 62 [April 1996]: 19-26 available at
bulletNote the observations (from a Jewish perspective) on the personalities of Cain and Abel at
bulletRead the article "Jealousy and the Jews -- What does the Torah teach?" by Teresa Strasser HERE 
bulletJohn Steinbeck's novel East of Eden was based on the story of Cain and Abel. For an outline and background on the novel, go to

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

Psalm 133.1

For Later:

bulletRead Psalm 133.
bulletRead Hebrews 11.1-7. What are some things for which you, by faith, are hoping?
bulletRead Matthew 5.21-24. Learn from Jesus and seek to be reconciled with your brother or sister. Do it today.


Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman

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