For the longest time, I read this chapter and couldn’t understand why Cain’s offering didn’t please God, and Abel’s did. Was it because Abel’s offering was a blood sacrifice? Was it, similar to Esau and Jacob, that God favored one even from birth?
One word finally helped me understand the distinction. First. Abel brought the first and the best, Cain simply brought some of his produce. That tiny difference is essential because it represents our attitude toward God.
Is he simply worthy of “tipping” with some of our leftovers or is he worthy of the very best we have to offer?
God’s warning to Cain is a powerful word to us as well, because sin continues to crouch waiting to pounce on each of us. It desires to destroy, and we must overcome it.
As God pronounces His judgment on Cain, Cain demonstrates the same error Eve made — he adds to the word of God. When God says he will be a restless wanderer and the earth won’t yield crops for him anymore, Cain mistranslates that to say that God is banishing him from the earth and that he will have to hide from the Lord’s presence.
It seems like a small tweak, but what a huge revelation of Cain’s misunderstanding of God! God desires reconciliation, not alienation. His judgment on Cain was intended to help Cain recognize who God is and who, in comparison, he is. Sadly, it didn’t work. The implication, based on the brief description of Cain’s family line, is that he continued to hide from God and his family grew more and more distant. Five generations later, we see Lamech be the first to defy God’s design for marriage by taking two wives and arrogantly declare his power and vengeance.
When we come under conviction, we have two options. We can acknowledge who God is and repent and submit ourselves to His authority. Or we can stiffen our necks, refuse to yield and acknowledge His rightful authority as our Creator, and continue to pursue sin. The second course has grim results not only for us, but for future generations.
But God does not ignore Cain’s plea, even if his misrepresentation maligns God’s character. God still protects Cain, placing a mark upon him so that others would know he was under God’s protection. We don’t know what that mark was, and we have no reason to believe it was passed down to his descendants. It was a demonstration of God’s continued love and desire for Cain to come to repentance.