Reading: Genesis 3:21-4:26
Though Genesis 3 introduces sin-what it is, what it looks like, how it affects us-Genesis 4 really begins to describe the poison humanity had chosen and continues to choose. What we are looking at today is really a study in the consequences of sin.
Gen. 3:21 “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Immediately after Yahweh speaks to what Adam and Eve have really done, how they have cursed themselves and the world around them, animals are killed to cover Adam and Eve. Even with the first sin the sacrificial system is conceived. Why? Why should innocent animals die for the sake of humans? Because the earth and everything in it has been cursed by the actions of mankind. This is not elevated poetic speak or some hyperbolic metaphor; every molecule of creation shifted, was twisted, by humanity’s disobedience. Part of that curse is knowing that our choices lead to the suffering and death of other life on this planet, of plants and ecosystems, and animals that never had any say in the matter.
It’s the nature of…well, nature. We are all in this together, and as we study what the Bible has to say about stewardship and authority, I think it will become abundantly clear that the people and things that are under the authority of those driven by sin are inevitably subjected to suffering. It was unrealistic of Adam and Eve to assume that seeking something for themselves only would have only an effect on themselves. It is that much more ridiculous for us to think there are victimless crimes when we have so much human history to look back on and see that clearly our choices affect all life around us.
As soon as Adam and Eve are clothed, they are sent out of the garden, out of the place where Yahweh walked, never to return. A foundational concept of sin is that any act of disobedience, rebellion or selfishness drives us away from our creator. Yahweh’s desire was not that his people be banished from his presence, His desire was to protect them from gaining eternal life in their current shape. Sin introduced death and decay, sickness and selfishness. Everything that we know that is not good was not present in creation before people chose to not be good. Yahweh has never intended to leave us in this “not good” state. His simple, yet resolute promise as he spoke truth to Adam and Eve and the serpent in Genesis 3 was that from the woman would come a man who would defeat the serpent, crushing his head, and destroying that which had first lead people away from God.
And from the woman we learn there are two children born-Cain and Able. These boys grow up, become their own men and chose their own vocations. Able becomes a shepherd and Cain a farmer. But that is not where their differences end: Cain brings some of his homegrown produce, Able brings the fat from the firstborn of his flock. Both sacrificed profits from their hard work to Yahweh as worship. From what I can tell, neither has been required to, there is no religion in place to make them feel obligated, there is no law established, no request from God that they do this. It seems that the sons of Adam seek a relationship with the God that once walked the garden with their father. It’s a beautiful desire.
“The LORD looked with favor on Able and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.”
Able acted with a generous heart, he gave more, sacrificed that which was more precious. We have all seen an Able at work-they’re astonishing. They seem tireless, martyrs of love.
I am no Able. So when I read this story, my heart cries out like Cain’s did. I get mad because it feels like God plays favorites. Yahweh responds to loving generosity with even more loving generosity. I give little or nothing, and though I have much to be thankful for, I get jealous of those who have been blessed. Just like Cain.
Yahweh warns Cain that he must master sin. And Cain responds with premeditated murder. If ever there was an appropriate use of the “Well that escalated quickly” meme, it would be in reference to this story. Cain, my man, that was definitely not the right choice for the situation!
What did he think God was going to do? Forget that Able ever existed and start blessing Cain by default? Did he really think that the God who had caught his parents out before they even had a chance to lie would overlook the violent and intentional death of Able?
I don’t want to assume what Cain was thinking, but I will say this, when I am angry, murderously angry and jealous to the point where I would seek to harm others, I am not thinking about Yahweh at all. Or using anything close to logic. What I see, when I am like that, is a person who has become nothing more than an object, an obstacle, an enemy. That tunnel vision, formed through a lie that somehow I deserve what that other person has, turns me into someone I do not recognize.
So Cain is a marked man, a banished murderer and Able is dead. Adam and Eve must have been wondering how either of these offspring would crush the head of the serpent. They must have struggled with their belief in Yahweh’s promise. In front of them were the continued effects of their sins: an escalation of rebellion, anger, jealousy, murder, death. Where was Yahweh’s saving grace? Where was the God who, even after they utterly betrayed him, had clothed them, provided for them, aided them in raising their children?
Before Genesis tells us the end for Adam and Eve’s story, it follows the line of Cain for a couple of generations. We see that as good things like cities, musical instruments, and tools sprang from his line, so too did more murder, more justification. And then, as quickly as it was built up, the foreshadowing ends.
Genesis 4 returns to Adam and Eve. They are blessed with a new son. And yet, they and their children remain unredeemed.