Genesis 4:4
while Abel brought the best portions of the firstborn of his flock. And the LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
The Kingdom of GodR.A. Redford Genesis 4:1-8
Antiquity of HusbandryBishop Babington.Genesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelG. R. Leavitt.Genesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelGenesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelEssex RemembrancerGenesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelM. Dods, D. D.Genesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelI. Williams, B. D.Genesis 4:1-16
Cain and AbelA. Jukes.Genesis 4:1-16
Domestic LifeJ. S. Exell, M. A.Genesis 4:1-16
Formal Worship an Immense CurseHomilistGenesis 4:1-16
Lessons from the History of CainG. Gilfillan.Genesis 4:1-16
Naming of ChildrenBishop Babington.Genesis 4:1-16
The Best OfferingGenesis 4:1-16
The First Age of the ConflictJ. M. Gibson.Genesis 4:1-16
The First Patriarchal Form of the New DispensationR. S. Candlish, D. D.Genesis 4:1-16
The Religion of Nature, and the Religion of the GospelD. Evans.Genesis 4:1-16
The Story of Cain and AbelD. Rhys Jenkins.Genesis 4:1-16
The True and False Worshipper of GodJ. S. Exell, M. A.Genesis 4:1-16
The Two OfferingsH. Bonar, D. D.Genesis 4:1-16
The Two SacrificesF. D. Maurice, M. A.Genesis 4:1-16
Two Kinds of OfferingsBishop Babington.Genesis 4:1-16
Abel; Or, the Language of SacrificeJ. R. Brown, M. A.Genesis 4:4-5
Abel's SacrificeT. Grantham, B. D.Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and AbelR. Jackson.Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and AbelD. C. Hughes, M. A.Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and AbelJ. C. Gray.Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and AbelJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
Cain and Abel At Their WorshipC. Bradley, M. A.Genesis 4:4-5
God's Expostulation with CainSketches of SermonsGenesis 4:4-5
Natural and Revealed ReligionHomilistGenesis 4:4-5
Of the Deep Hatred Some have Conceived Against Their Own BrethrenN. Wanley.Genesis 4:4-5
One Sin Leads to AnotherEliza Cook.Genesis 4:4-5
Sin Lying At the DoorA. Maclaren, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
Sin Ready to EnterOld Testament AnecdotesGenesis 4:4-5
Sin, Guilt, and RetributionA. Phelps.Genesis 4:4-5
The Croucher At the DoorS. Cox, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
The Man Makes the SacrificeGurnall, WilliamGenesis 4:4-5
The Origin of SacrificeW. L. Alexander, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
The Personal Causes of Human MiseryC. Stovel.Genesis 4:4-5
The Principles of the Divine GovernmentW. D. Horwood.Genesis 4:4-5
The Rejected Offering and the Accepted SacrificeJ. R. Brown, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
The Superiority of Abel's SacrificeW. Brooks.Genesis 4:4-5
The True Temper of an Accepted OfferingW. Adamson.Genesis 4:4-5
The Two OfferingsR. Jones, B. A.Genesis 4:4-5
Three Experiments and Three FailuresJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
To Those Who are Angry with Their Godly FriendsSpurgeon, Charles HaddonGenesis 4:4-5
Unacceptable OfferingsJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 4:4-5
Another "genesis" is now described, that of sinful society, which prepares the way for the description of the rising kingdom of God.

I. THE DEVELOPMENT OF MORAL EVIL IS CONTEMPORANEOUS WITH HUMAN SOCIETY. We must still bear in mind that the aim of the narrative is not scientific, but religious and didactic. The sketch of the first family in vers. 1 and 2 is plainly an outline to be filled in. The keeper of sheep and the tiller of the ground are out in the broad world. We are not told that there were no other human beings when they were grown up. Probably from their employment it is meant to be inferred that the human family had already grown into something like a community, when there could be a division of labor. The production of animal and vegetable food in quantities can only be explained on the presupposition that man had increased on the earth. Then, in ver. 3, we are led on still further by "the process of time."

II. THE COMMUNITY OF MEN, THUS EARLY, HAS SOME PROVISION FOR RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. The two men, Cain and Abel, "brought" their offerings apparently to one place. The difference was not the mere difference of their occupations. Abel brought not only "the firstlings of the flock," but "the fat thereof," an evident allusion to the appointment of some sacrificial rites. The Lord's respect to Abel's offering was not merely a recognition of Abel's state of mind, though that is implied in the reference to the person, as distinct from the offering, but it was approval of Abel's obedience to the religious prescription which is in the background. The Lord remonstrates with Cain when his countenance fell and he was wroth. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (croucheth like a beast of prey ready to be upon thee). This may be taken either

(1) retrospectively or

(2) prospectively - sin as guilt, or sin as temptation; in either case it is at the door - not necessarily a welcome guest, but ready to take possession. Sin forgiven, temptation resisted, are placed in apposition to acceptance. "Unto thee shall be his desire," - i.e. Abel's, as the younger, - "and thou shalt rule over him," i.e. the natural order shall be preserved. Notice - 50. Divine love providing acceptance in the Divine order, in which religion is preserved, and natural life, with its appointments.

2. Divine mercy rescuing a fallen creature from the results of his own blind disobedience.

3. The righteousness of God maintained in the disorder and passion which spring out of human error and corruption. Sin is at the door; judgment close upon it. Yet God is justified though man is condemned. There is no great sin committed but it has been seen at the door first.

4. Doing not well precedes the direct presumptuous sin. "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Cain was warned by God himself before his fallen countenance darkened his heart with crime and stained his hand with a brother's blood. What a picture of the gradual degradation of the conscience. Notice -

(1) The disobedience of a Divine commandment in some minor point.

(2) Sense of estrangement from God - loss of his "respect unto us."

(3) Sullen, brooding enmity against God and man.

(4) All these culminating in the violent outbreak of self-assertion, his own works evil, his brother's righteous, therefore he bated him. Ver. 8 is again an epitome. The talk of the two men with one another may represent a long period of angry debate. "It came to pass," on some occasion, in the field, the angry thoughts found their vent in angry words. "Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." The first blood shed had a religious occasion for its origin. The proto-martyr was slain as a testimony to the truth. Mark the significant omen for the subsequent human history. Marvel not if the world hate those to whom God shows special respect. The type is here of all religious wars. The Cain spirit is not mere bloody-mindedness, but all defiance of God, and self-assertion, as against his will and word. Infidelity has been as bloody as superstition. Both meet in the same perverted worship of self. - R.

The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.
I. THE CAUSE OF CAIN'S REJECTION. His total want of the true spirit of faith. Too inflated with pride to see and confess himself a grievous sinner. Could not bring himself to believe the plan God had formed for the salvation of mankind. Preferred his own kind of offering to that ordained by God.

II. THE CAUSE OF ABEL'S ACCEPTANCE. Abel believed the word of his God, and presented not a thank offering alone, but a sin offering. He cast away all idea of self-justification, and acknowledged the truth of his extreme sinfulness by nature. He came before God with deep convictions of the need of a crucified Redeemer, to save him from the wrath to come. Lessons:

1. The great necessity of using only the means appointed in the Word of God.

2. The value of a right faith.

3. The duty of considering well the motives which lead us to come before God.

(R. Jones, B. A.)


1. They both worship the same God.

2. They both bring an offering with them.

3. They both desire that themselves and their worship should find acceptance with God.


1. They differed in their offerings.

2. They differed in the principle which actuated them.

3. They differed in the reception they and their offerings met with from God.


1. Not sorrow or shame — envy takes possession of Cain's mind; anger and hatred soon follow envy; and though God comes and mercifully expostulates with him, this man, but lately so devout and grateful in appearance before God's altar, ends with defying God, lifting up his arm, and becoming his brother's murderer.

2. But look now at Abel. He has been humbly and faithfully worshipping the Lord his God; and what, we may ask, does he get by it? First hatred, and then a cruel death. Hatred, observe, from a fellow worshipper; death from a brother's hand.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. In attempting to assign the true reasons why Cain and his offering were rejected, I would observe, once for all, that that rejection seems to have been attributable entirely to his UNBELIEF, in presenting the fruits of the ground, instead of an animal sacrifice.

II. PRACTICAL INFERENCES. From the rejection of Cain and his offering, it is clear that God will not be served by just what we choose to give Him. There are some, for example, who place their trust in what they call the goodness of their heart, and their unimpeachable integrity in all the transactions of life; there are many also who content themselves with rendering to God the tribute of a sincere, but imperfect, obedience; there are not a few who rely entirely upon the infinitude of the Divine mercy, forgetting, at the same time, the infinitude of the Divine justice; and while several look forward to repentance, as furnishing thereby an adequate price for their absolution, others there are who make it their boast and their hope that, following the light of revelation, only in subordination to the light of reason, they perform only those actions which their moral principles can approve of, and they believe only those doctrines which their understanding can comprehend.

1. Now, while all these are just so many fallacious grounds, upon which men build their hopes of acceptance with God, they are every one of them in direct opposition to the only divinely appointed way. They are "the fruits of the ground," if I may so speak, and not the institution of heaven; which institution most plainly is, that by faith alone in the finished work of the Redeemer can the sinner expect to be saved.

(J. R. Brown, D. D.)


1. They agree in the fact that they are the descendants of a fallen and guilty ancestry.

2. Cain and Abel agree, as they are alike placed under a dispensation of mercy and salvation.

3. They agree also in acknowledging that God had a claim upon them, that He ought to be worshipped, and that stated times ought to be employed for that purpose.


1. They differed in the method of their approach unto God. Cain's offering was eucharistic, Abel's piacular. The one was a thank offering, the other sacrificial. It is of importance that we are thankful for providential blessings; but it is of infinitely greater importance that we form correct views of God's method of justifying the ungodly, and cordially acquiesce in His appointment.

2. They differed in the treatment they met with at the hands of God. — "And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect."

3. They differed also in the influence by which they were actuated. "Cain was of that wicked one." He was led captive by the devil at his will.

(R. Jackson.)

I. THE COMPREHENSIVENESS AND COMPLETENESS OF THE SCHEME OF OUR SALVATION. Abel, the leader of the noble army of martyrs, and the first human being that reached that glory that is to be revealed, was saved through that same atonement, and through the very same faith in the same atonement, as Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, John — as the saint of God who this day winged his triumphant flight to the mercy seat — as the latest human being that shall "wash his robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb."

II. HOW POWERFUL AND HOW PRECIOUS IS THE GRACE AND GIFT OF FAITH! Like the philosopher's stone, like the fabled touch of Midas, it turns into gold all it touches. It is the instrument of our justification, adoption, sanctification; it transforms the inner man, and fits him for communing with God on the heavenly Zion!

III. HOW INDISPENSABLE WAS THE SACRIFICE, THE SHEDDING OF THE BLOOD, THE TAKING OF THE LIFE! His example is an eminent exhortation. He was dutiful to his parents, and in all the relationships of life, he was "diligent in business" — the keeper of sheep — he was "fervent in spirit, serving the Lord," not with mere vain and empty words, but with his substance. Let us "go and do likewise."

(J. R. Brown, M. A.)

1. First, consider the offerings of Cain and Abel, and the way in which they were received by the Almighty. But very different were the feelings with which they brought them. Cain came with feelings not unlike those of the Pharisee, spoken of by our blessed Lord, when he went up into the temple to pray, thinking neither of his hereditary defilement nor of his personal transgressions; whereas Abel gave evident signs of his deep sense of both, by bringing not only the meat offering as an acknowledgment to God of his obligations to Him for temporal benefits, but also the firstlings of his flock, as an atoning sacrifice for his sins.

2. I will now, in the second place, make a few observations upon this Scripture narrative; and, first, I would observe that it is sufficiently clear, from this passage of Scripture, that not all who worship God are acceptable worshippers, Natural conscience, which cannot be pacified without the observance of the outward forms of religion, leads not a few to join in the public worship of Almighty God, and custom induces still more. "They come unto God as His people come, and they sit before Him as His people, and they hear His words; but," as the prophet goes on to say, "they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness" (Ezekiel 33:31). Now, hence arises an important duty to all the professing people of God, namely, that of examining themselves as to the motives which influence them in all their approaches to the Most High, and in all the services of religion. You are accustomed to pray to God in public and in private. Is this mere habit? Is it the pacification of conscience that causes you thus to bow the knee before Him, and to utter words in which your heart has no part? Or does a sense of your manifold daily wants bring you to His footstool, and does the tongue give utterance to the feelings of the heart? The next observation which I would make upon these offerings of Cain and Abel is, that do we desire to serve God acceptably, we must serve Him with our best. It is the especial commendation of good Josiah, King of Judah, that he "turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might"; and for that he is preferred before all the kings who were before or came after him. I would observe, lastly, that our persons must be rendered pleasing unto God, or our offerings will not be accepted by Him. "God had respect to Abel and to his offering"; first to Abel, and then to his offering. The reasoning of Manoah's wife was sound, when she said, in answer to the fears of her husband, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands" (Judges 13:23). She infers the acceptance of the person from the acceptance of the service. It is said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:4), that Abel "obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts." Thus we read in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 9:24), "And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat"; in Chronicles 2 Chronicles 7:1, "When Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house." And the same we know occurred in the case of the prophet Elijah, when he met the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This, indeed, was the great prerogative of Abel and the Old Testament saint; but, though we have not this, we have what all will allow to be far better, that of which this was but the figure; for the believer now has assuredly the fire of God, that is, the Spirit comes down into his heart day by day — not visibly, but spiritually — and burns up in his heart his sins and corruptions, and lights up the light of true faith, never to be extinguished.

3. I must now proceed to point out some of the lessons of instruction derivable from this subject. And, first, we may learn from this narrative that none can stand before God with acceptance except through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. It is no uncommon thing to hear people say that if they diligently follow an honest calling, do no one any harm, and pay everyone his due, it is sure to be well with them; that is to say, that they will certainly find acceptance with God at the last, and be received into His kingdom. Learn, secondly, from this subject, that "the visible Church of God hath ever been a mixed company, consisting of the evil as well as the good." Learn, lastly, from this subject, that a sacrifice has been appointed of God for the sins of the whole world, and that, through it, all who believe shall assuredly be saved.

(T. Grantham, B. D.)


1. The time of worship. "In the process of time"; literally, "from the end of days."

(1)This may denote the end of the week, of the year, or of some longer period.

(2)Probably the end of the week — i.e., on the Sabbath day.

(a)This suggests habits of worship taught by their parents.

(b)Regular periods of worship.

2. Cain's offering.

3. Abel's offering.

4. God's dealings with the worshippers.

(1)Both were observed of God.

(2)Abel's accepted, and Cain's rejected. Why?

(a)Hebrews 11:4 explains. Faith, in Scripture, always signifies to believe and to obey God's Word.

(b)Abel's offering was expressive of both these characteristics of faith.

(c)Cain's offering was expressive of his wilful rejection of both.

(d)But without faith it is impossible to please God. Hence the acceptance of the one and the rejection of the other.

(e)A Divine revelation of the necessity of blood in an acceptable sacrifice for sin is implied in the Divine acceptance of Abel's offering, and that this acceptance was conditioned on his faith.


1. Cain's anger suggests two things:(1) That the Divine acceptance and rejection were manifested in some outward form which humiliated him — probably by fire from heaven, as on Carmel in Elijah's time.(2) That his self-will led him, even in his worship, to insult Him whom he professed to worship.

2. Jehovah's expostulation.(1) It was full of mercy; graciously designed to lead him to reflect, to repent, to accept God's plan.(2) Full of encouragement to the well-doer.(3) ABEL MURDERED BY CAIN HIS BROTHER Full of warning to the evil-doer.


1. The dreadful crime and its preliminaries.

2. The retribution.

3. God's reply to the despairing man.Lessons:

1. All forms of worship, however sincere, are not equally acceptable.

2. No form of worship is acceptable which does not recognize the guilt of sin and the need of blood for its expiation.

3. The spiritual effect of the religion of faith and the religion of reason upon the moral character is exemplified in Cain and Abel.

4. How vain is the sinner's hope to escape either the eye or the hand of a just and holy God.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. THE FIRST RECORDED SACRIFICE. The need of sacrifice felt, and the nature of it revealed. Without doubt Adam had offered sacrifices in the presence of his children. From him they learned what to select, and how to offer it, and the sign of acceptance. Plain from Hebrews 11:4 that both a right feeling and a right thing are needed to constitute an acceptable sacrifice. The right sacrifice without faith, or faith without the right sacrifice, would have failed. The presence of both made the sacrifice of Abel more acceptable than Cain's. Cain a daring innovator. He chose what God had not appointed, and offered it in a wrong spirit.


1. A violent death. Death in any form the occasion of deep sorrow. Such a death most appalling. The more so that it was now unprecedented. A serious subtraction from the world's population at that time.

2. Probably unintentional. Cain evidently meditated violence, but not death. Hence a lesson to us on the consequences of ungoverned rage. What has passion done since this event!


1. Could not undo the deed.

2. His dreadful remorse and despair.

3. The criminality of the act may be judged by the curse pronounced.

4. Cain himself felt that, though his life was spared, he must leave the society of men.

5. At last has a son, Enoch ( = dedication). May we not indulge the hope that this was indicative of his true repentance?

6. Ceased to be a wanderer; built a city, also called Enoch.

(J. C. Gray.)

Cain was not without a kind of religiousness, remember. He did go to the unroofed church sometimes; but he went so unwillingly, so slouchingly, so coldly, that it was no church to him. He begrudged the few roots and fruits that he took, just as we begrudge the weekly offering, and therefore God let him take them home, just as we would do if we could get secretly at the box. God takes nothing from our unwilling hand. He loves a cheerful giver! He will take two mites, He will take a cup of cold water, He will take a box of ointment if given gladly; but none of your grudging, none of your dropping a penny as if it were a half-crown, none of your grunting, none of your porcupinishness: all must be free, glad, honest, open, and joyous; then the fire will come down and take back to heaven the gift of your love. Abel was religious in the right way. He gave the best he had with an open heart, and the Lord said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Now, observe, if you please, for it will help you through your whole life, that brothers are not necessarily akin. The greatest contrasts I have perhaps ever known have been between brothers. Yes, and they have been utter strangers to one another, have been these very brothers. And if you think of it, the thing is reasonable enough: the human family in all its bearings is one; human nature is not incoherent, but consolidated. We live in flats, and think that one flat has no connection with another; that is our foolish and ruinous mistake. Your brother may be on the next continent; your mate heart may be a stranger you have never seen. Cain and Abel were not akin. Cain did things with his hand; Abel did them with his heart. Cain flung his gifts at you, and if you did not catch them so much the more pleased was he; Abel gave them with a hearty love, and was sorry he had not more to give. So Cain killed Abel, and will kill him to the end of the world, spite of all preachers and moralists, but now in a cunning enough way to escape the gaoler and the gibbet. But he will kill him! The man who lost the prize for which his essay was written will kill the man whose essay was accepted; he will sneer at him, and a sneer may be murder. The man who lost the election, being "defeated, not disgraced," will kill the man who got in; he will shrug a shoulder when his name is up, and a shrug may be homicide! You and I may have killed a good many people, and a good many people may have tried to kill us; they will take away our trade, they will say unkind things of us, they will close an eye or pucker a lip villainously, and then dry their mouths as those who have been drinking in secret. It is very horrible; it smells sulphurously; hell cannot be far away, and we are not to windward.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

1. Some have said that the superiority of Abel's sacrifice consisted in this: that he brought the best to God. He brought the "firstlings of his flock," while, it is said, Cain did not bring the best products of the soil, it being simply stated that "Cain brought of the fruit of the ground," making no selection of the best. Abel was careful out of his flock to select the firstlings, while Cain was careless, and in the spirit of "anything will do," "brought of the fruit of the ground." Now, this looks very much like the invention of an explanation, and is far from satisfactory, for there is no statement to indicate that Cain did not bring as superior a production as the ground afforded, and there is nothing either in the narrative or elsewhere, which shows that the virtue of Abel's offering consisted in the fact that he brought "the firstlings of his flock." But while we must reject this as the true explanation, the view here brought before us is deeply suggestive of important practical lessons. We, doubtless, whether Cain did or not, frequently fail to offer God our best. The man of business immerses himself for six whole days out of every seven in exclusively worldly cares, and then on the Sabbath boasts that he gives to God its sacred hours, whereas prudential considerations render it advisable, and physical laws determine it necessary, that he should take one day's rest in seven. So in reality he gives to God the time that he cannot spare for the world. In the disposal of wealth, too, we sadly fail to think first of God. Men are prodigal of their wealth in providing splendid mansions for themselves, and fruitful fortunes for their families, and only think of giving God what is to spare after these selfish distributions are made.

2. Others affirm that the difficulty is to be solved by referring it to the difference of material used in the sacrifices offered. Abel's was flesh, and Cain's was fruit. In this view, Cain's was merely a eucharistic, while Abel's was an expiatory sacrifice: the former only a thank offering, the latter an offering for sin. We have failed to find scriptural support for this opinion. It seems to us that the advocates of this theory must, to make it tenable, prove at least three things. First, that there was that in a thank offering which was necessarily offensive to God. Secondly, it must be shown that Cain's employment was a dishonourable one, for if the fruit of the ground could not be acceptably offered, it must be because to till the ground was an illegitimate occupation. But this cannot be shown, for it was an employment to which God had Himself committed man only in the previous chapter, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." Thirdly, in order to make it believable that the bloodshedding of Abel's sacrifice was the ground of his acceptance, it must be shown that Abel had been made acquainted with the Divine regulation, "Without shedding of blood is no remission," whereas there is nothing either stated or implied to show that he had this knowledge, and it is not likely that God would accept Abel's sacrifice on the grounds of which Abel himself could know nothing.

3. The reason of Cain's defective and unacceptable sacrifice was to be found in Cain's defective and unacceptable character, and the cause of Abel's acceptable and pleasing offering was to be found in Abel's acceptable and pleasing person. It was his goodness that made his sacrifice "more excellent" than Cain's. This view seems adequate to account for the difference in Divine estimation, and it only remains to derive arguments in its support from the sources which are available for the purpose, and which, in their cumulative character, will be considered sufficiently conclusive. These are three in number.(1) The general tendency of Scripture teaching shows that sacrifice is only acceptable to God when the person of the sacrificer is acceptable; that the offering is valueless unless the offerer be in true religious accord.(2) Let us turn to the narrative itself, and we shall find its testimony to be to the same effect. And the record preserved in Genesis

4. supplies us with two sorts of evidence.(a) The terms of the statement which sets forth Abel's acceptance and Cain's rejection, are proof. From these it appears that their persons as well as their offerings are regarded, nay, that their persons are first regarded. "Unto Abel and to his offering He had respect." "Unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect." Obviously Abel's sacrifice pleased because Abel pleased; Cain's offering was unacceptable, because Cain's person was unacceptable.(b) The explanation offered to Cain is further proof. "And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Here Cain's rejection is fully accounted for by God. Had he, like his brother, been a good man, his offering, like his brother's, would have been accepted. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" What is this but a declaration that well-doing is the condition of acceptance? "If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door."(3) It remains to adduce confirmatory evidence from New Testament writers. —(a) The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews abundantly testifies in support of the view now presented. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh" (Genesis 11:4). The conclusion can be no other than that Abel's sacrifice was more excellent, because Abel was himself more excellent. He was righteous, and in sacrificing obtained witness of his righteousness. Cain was unrighteous, and therefore by his sacrifice could obtain no such witness as, on account of the rectitude of his character, was awarded to his brother.(b) The testimony of St. John may finally be quoted in confirmation of the view that the different moral character of the parties was the reason of the different estimation in which their sacrifices were respectively held. "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother, and wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." On the plan adopted in this particular instance, God ever proceeds. He is pleased to accept the offerings of righteousness: He refuses to recognize the sacrifices of sin. Let us first realize that rectitude of heart and life, without which all outward efforts at pleasing will be of no avail. And realizing this, we shall be prepared to offer our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. And this reasonable service of sacrifice is the old institution Christianized.

(W. Brooks.)

Sins are like circles formed in the water when a stone is thrown into it; one produces another. When anger was in Cain's breast, murder was not far off.

(Eliza Cook.)

Respecting the origin of sacrifice, it has been made a point by some to contend strenuously for its being of human device. The argument on which reliance is chiefly placed by those who advocate this view is that no mention is made in Scripture of the Divine institution of sacrifice — an omission which, it is contended, would not have occurred had such been the case. To this it may be replied, That the whole of this argument rests on an unsound assumption, viz., that nothing can be held to be of Divine institution which is not expressly announced as being so in Scripture. Now to this assumed premise we can by no means assent. God has in various ways conveyed to us the intimation of His will in His Word; and whilst in some cases he has explicitly enacted what He would have us believe and practise, He has in other cases left us to gather His will by induction and inference from various statements of His Word. But shall we say that in cases of the latter sort we have less His will than in cases of the former sort? May not the very fact that an institution is of such a kind that, if God had not appointed it, it never would have existed at all, be reason sufficient for omitting all formal announcement of its Divine origin? It may be remarked, further, that if Scripture nowhere expressly asserts the Divine origin of sacrifice, it as little asserts the human origin of it. The question, then, fairly rises before us, Have we any good grounds for the inference that animal sacrifice is of Divine origin? In reply to this the following things deserve to be carefully pondered. —

1. Reason constrains us to exclude all other possible sources of such a practice. It will occur to you as a safe and guiding principle that no such universally prevalent usage can be accounted for except on one of two suppositions: either that it has been dictated by some conviction or necessity common to all mankind, or that it has been presented by some authority to which all mankind in common have felt themselves bound to defer.(1) Now, with regard to the former hypothesis, it is to be observed that a universal conviction must be founded in the reason of things, and a universal necessity must arise from some of the original appetites or desires of the human mind. We inquire then, first, whether there is anything in the reason of the thing to induce a universal conviction among mankind that sacrifice is a proper method of approaching and worshipping the Deity. Suppose the earliest tribes of men believed God to be altogether such an one as themselves, does this furnish any grounds for supposing that they would naturally think of seeking His favour by the offering of sacrifice? Would men naturally think of acting so to their fellow men? Would a son seek the favour of his father, a subject the protection of his sovereign, by taking an innocent creature, and killing it and burning it before the party he sought to make propitious to him? Would not men rather naturally recoil from the suggestion of such a thing as more likely to prove offensive to the object of their homage than agreeable? And if so, does not the very supposition that mankind, in the early ages of the world, were under the influence of anthropomorphic notions render improbable the position that they were led by the reason and propriety of the thing to offer sacrifices to the Deity? If they thought God altogether such an one as themselves, how comes it to pass that they were led to seek His favour by methods which they would have recoiled from using in regard to one of themselves? In reply to this question various suggestions have been offered as hypotheses by way of rationally accounting for the human origin of sacrifices.(a) It has been suggested that sacrifice might have originally been presented as a gift or present to the Deity, and it has been asked whether it might not very naturally occur to man to present of his flocks and herds to God, as a token of acknowledgment of His bounty? To this it may be replied, in the first place, that this is altogether irrelevant, inasmuch as the question relates, not to the offering of gifts, but to the slaying of sacrifices, between which there is no sort of analogy, nor any affinity that might lead to the one growing out of the other; and then, secondly, this is an attempt to remove one difficulty by suggesting another equally great; for it is just as far Item probability that a man should, from the reason of the thing, conclude that the great Being to whom he acknowledged he owed everything would be pleased by his destroying part of what he had received, by laying it on the altar as a present, as it is that He would be pleased by its being destroyed as a sacrifice. It may also be observed that there is reason to doubt whether the idea of sacrifice is not historically anterior to that of a gift. Gifts can come into existence, and the idea of them into men's minds, only when property is possessed. In the Adamic family there might be differences of occupation, and each might contribute his share to the common fund; but there is no probability that anything of the nature of property was claimed by any of them in what he produced. We cannot conceive of Abel appropriating his sheep, and Cain his fruits, and the one bartering with the other, or bestowing a portion on the other as a gift. At this early period, then, men could have no experience of gifts or of their effects on men, and hence could not have the idea suggested to them from such experience of procuring the Divine favour by a gift. But as sacrifice already was known and practised, the idea of it must have preceded the idea of a gift.(b) Not less valueless is a second suggestion, viz., that sacrifice arose out of the idea of a friendly meal shared by the Deity and His worshippers. For not only is there nothing in the reason of things to suggest such an idea to the mind, but it seems excluded by the very form in which sacrifice, in its most ancient as well as most solemn and highest form, was presented, viz., in that of a holocaust or whole burnt offering. Where the whole animal was consumed on the altar, it is obvious that the idea of a partition of it between the offerer and his God is excluded. Apart from this, however, this idea seems so little natural that it would be absurd to trace to it the spontaneous origin of this universal usage. The idea is undoubtedly a true one, and we find it to a certain extent recognized in the Mosaic offerings, where the priest, in certain cases, as the mediator between God and the offerer, and who had appeared for the latter, partook of the sacrifice in token of the reconciliation having been effected between God and the worshipper; but the idea, though true, is wholly artificial; it is learned by education and from the sacrificial institute, and can never be regarded as a natural conviction of reason giving spontaneously birth to that act. It may be added, that it leaves wholly unexplained the practice of human sacrifices — a practice which prevailed most in the earliest periods, and extended through nations the most widely separated from each other; as well as the fact that among some nations the highest of all sacrifices were of animals which either are or were never used as food, such as the horse, which among the Brahmanical worshippers is called the King of Sacrifice, and that some of the most important sacrifices were of the same kind, as that of the wolf to Mars, the ass to Priapus, and the dog to Hecate. The considerations are conclusive against the hypothesis that sacrifice arose out of the idea of a friendly feast between God and the worshipper. When the oldest, the most sacred, and the most solemn sacrifices were such as were either wholly consumed or were of animals which never were eaten, it is absurd to say that the practice could have originated in the idea of a feast.(c) The only other suggestion worth noticing, which has been offered an accounting on grounds of natural reason for the practice of sacrifice, is that of Abraham Sykes, who in an essay on Sacrifice explains sacrifices as "federal rites," "implying the entering into friendship with God, or the renewal of that friendship when broken by the violation of former stipulations" (p. 59). In accordance with this he suggests that sacrifices had their origin in the fact that eating and drinking together were common and accredited modes of contracting covenants or cementing alliances among the ancients (p. 73). This theory of the origin of sacrifice rests on the assumption of the theory last considered, viz., that the sacrifice was of the nature of a friendly meal shared between God and the worshippers, and is consequently liable to all the objections which may be urged against that. Sykes's theory is thus inconsistent with itself. It makes sacrifice at once the procuring cause of the feast of reconciliation; and it makes the feast of reconciliation the source and origin of the sacrifice. If there bad been no reconciliation there would have been no feast; and there would have been no reconciliation had there been no sacrifice. How was it possible in such circumstances for the feast to originate the sacrifice — the effect to give birth to the cause? The futility of these hypotheses shows how untenable is the attempt to find the origin of sacrifice in the reason of the thing itself. As little can it be sought for in any natural and universal conviction or felt necessity of the human mind; for there is nothing in the common natural workings or passions of the mind which would of itself suggest such a mode of serving and worshipping God. On the contrary, to the natural reason and heart of man it is rather repugnant than otherwise.(2) Having thus disposed of the one side of the alternative formerly proposed, we now come to the other. If sacrifices have not their origin in their inherent reasonableness or in any common affection of the human mind, they must have had their origin in some other authoritative appointment to which all men in common felt constrained to yield.(a) We cannot assume such an authority to have resided in any priestly body so as to resolve sacrifices into an invention of priestcraft, because(b) sacrifices were known and practised long before the priesthood became a separate profession; they were practised when each individual acted as his own priest, or when at the utmost each father acted as the priest of his own household; so that there was no room for the operation of any priestcraft in the case.(3) Any benefit accruing to the priest from the sacrifices brought by the worshippers is so small that we cannot suppose a sufficient inducement to have been found in that to lead to their inventing and inculcating such a usage. And(a) supposing some one priest or body of priests had fallen on this invention, that will not account for the universality of the practice; it is as difficult to account for all the priests in the world adopting it as it is to account for all the people in the world following it.(b) But if we exclude the supposition of priestcraft, we are shut up to the supposition of some common father of the race, such as Adam or Noah, by whom the rite was practised, and from whom it was handed down to all mankind. But as the rite was practised in the family of Adam, and as Noah himself derived it from him, we must go back to the very cradle of the human race for the commencement of this practice. From whom, then, did Adam derive it? Only from Him from whom Adam derived everything — from God Himself.

2. In support of the conclusion at which we have arrived we may appeal to the authority of Scripture. It is true that nowhere there is the origin of sacrifice ascribed to God, but there are certain principles laid down and certain facts recorded which lead to the conclusion that this rite was not of human invention, but was one enjoined on man by God. Of these the following may be mentioned: —(1) There can be no doubt that God approved of this mode of worshipping Him (Genesis 4:4, 5; Genesis 8:21). Is it not a principle of true religion distinctly recognized in the Bible that it is God who alone has the right to prescribe how He is to be worshipped, and that, consequently, spontaneous contrivances on the part of man to do Him honour are rather presumptuous invasions of His prerogative than grateful acts of homage to Him? The inference from this is, that had sacrifice been a mere human contrivance it would not have been acceptable to God. The Divine acceptance, therefore, is a demonstration of a Divine institution.(2) It has been suggested, and there is great probability in the suggestion, that sacrifice was instituted by God on the occasion when, after His first interview with man after he had sinned, He took off the skins of animals and converted them into clothing for Adam and his wife. Assuming the propitiatory and typical character of sacrifice, it cannot be denied that the occasion was a fit one for inculcating the practice of it on man, inasmuch as God had just given to him the promise of that great Deliverer of whose work on behalf of man animal sacrifices were designed to be the memorial, symbol, and foreshadow.(3) It is worthy of notice that in the Mosaic institute, whilst there are many injunctions concerning sacrifices, all these relate to the mode and occasion of the sacrifice, not one to the ordinance itself as something then newly appointed. In every case the law proceeds on the assumption that sacrifice was already known and practised among the Hebrews; and that all that was needed was discretion as to the proper occasions for the offering of sacrifices, the sacrifices proper for each occasion, and the fitting manner in which the rite was to be observed.(4) If we assume the Divine origin of the sacrificial rite, and suppose that it was made known to Adam by God as soon as that great event which it was designed to commemorate and prefigure was announced, we can at once see how it would become a rite the observance of which should be co-extensive with the race. Adam would enjoin it upon his posterity, and all who did not assume the position of actual apostasy and infidelity, of which Cain set the example, would religiously observe it. The rite would thus be handed down to Noah, from whom again, as the second father of the race, it would be propagated through the world. In the first place, it is not correct to state that the prohibition to shed human blood formed part, still less an important part, of the covenant made by God with Noah; it was simply a moral injunction rendered peculiarly necessary in consequence of the permission now granted to man to slay animals for food, and formed no condition or part of the covenant at all. What makes this certain is, that it is not until after the injunction had been given that we find mention made of God's entering into a covenant with Noah; this forms a distinct part of the narrative, and the language employed in it is such as to show that it was with reference to totally different matters that that transaction took place. Now, it is quite conceivable that the nations might remember the covenant and the rites connected with it, whilst they forgot or did not choose to observe the moral prohibitions given by God to their ancestor. Secondly, it is fallacious to argue that because God forbade the shedding of man's blood, it is impossible to conceive that the nations should come to think they might please and satisfy Him by offering human victims, because the prohibition was not a special prohibition in the case of sacrifices, but a prohibition in general of the taking of human life — a prohibition therefore which, as it admitted of exceptions in the case of war and judicial executions, might be reasonably held to admit of exception in the case of sacrifice. Certain it is that we find the two beliefs harmoniously coexisting in the minds of men; for among those nations which practised human sacrifices there were none who did not at the same time believe that the gods had forbidden the shedding of man's blood; a fact which could not have occurred had the position assumed been sound. Nay, we may go farther, and say that this very prohibition, instead of deterring men from human sacrifices, was probably the reason which mainly suggested it to them, inasmuch as it was the fence thus placed around human life which made it so precious, and hereby rendered it so valuable as an offering to the gods. Thirdly, it may be admitted that human sacrifices were "of high antiquity," and yet it may also be maintained that this was "a late abuse" of the primitive tradition; for "high" and "late" are relative terms, and as it is quite possible for the same object to be in space high relatively to one standard and low relatively to another, so in time the same event may be both early and late according as we measure it from one point or another. In fine, it is competent to ask, if human sacrifices were not an abuse of the rite of sacrifice as practised by Noah, to what is their early existence to be attributed? There can be no doubt that Noah would hand down to his posterity the tradition of what he himself religiously practised. Now, of this traditional usage human sacrifice is either an abuse or it is a rite totally distinct in its nature from ordinary animal sacrifice, and having another meaning. But it is not a rite differing in nature and insignification from ordinary animal sacrifice; all history and testimony assure us that it was intended to express in the highest degree the ideas embodied in and adumbrated by that usage. It follows that it must be regarded as a corruption of this usage; for we cannot believe that it is both in nature and signification identical with the usage of animal sacrifice handed down to the descendants of Noah by tradition, and an original independent invention of the nation by whom it was practised. If we suppose the tradition to have existed we render unnecessary the hypothesis of an independent and a simultaneous invention of the rite; if we suppose such an invention, we have to account for the non-preservation by the family of Noah of the most solemn rite of their ancestral worship. It seems impossible to doubt which of these two hypotheses should be adopted as the most probable.

(W. L. Alexander, D. D.)

Sir Henry Blunt, in his voyage to the Levant, tells us that at Belgrade, in Hungary, where Danubius and Sava meet, their waters mingle no more than water and oil; and though they run sixty miles together, yet they no way incorporate, but the Danube is clear and pure as a well, while the Sava, that runs along with it, is as troubled as a street channel. After the manner of these rivers it is with some brethren; though bred up together, and near enough each other in respect of their bodies, yet their minds have been as distant from each other as the poles are; which, when opportunity hath served, they have shewn in the effects of an implacable hatred. On the death of the Emperor Severus, his two sons, Bassianus and Geta, could not agree about the parting of the empire, nor did they omit any means whereby they might supplant each other; they endeavoured to bribe each other's cooks and butlers to poison their masters; but when both were too watchful to be thus circumvented, at last Bassianus grew impatient, and burning with ambition to enjoy the rule alone, he set upon his brother, gave him a deadly wound, and shed his blood in the lap of Julia, their mother; and having executed this villainy, threw himself amongst the soldiers, and told them that he had with difficulty saved his life from the malice of his brother. Having parted amongst them all that Severus, his father, had been eighteen years heaping up, he was by them confirmed in the empire.

(N. Wanley.)

The heathens had a notion that the gods would not accept the sacrifice of any but those who were like themselves; and therefore none could be admitted to the sacrifices of Hercules who were dwarfs, and none to those of merry Bacchus who were sad and pensive. An excellent truth may be drawn from this folly. He that would please God must be like God.

( W. Gurnall..)

The offering of Cain was like a beautiful present, but there was no sorrow for sin in it — no asking for pardon — and so God would not receive it. "Mother won't take my book," once sobbed out a little boy — holding in his hand a very beautiful little volume prettily bound, with gilt edges to the leaves. It was a pretty present, purchased with the pocket money which he had been for weeks saving for his mother's birthday; and now she would not have it. But she did take the needle book and purse which her little daughter presented to her. Why did she refuse the beautiful gift of her boy? He had been naughty — selfish, passionate, false — and had not at all repented; and so when he brought his offering, she put it gently on one side, saying, "No, Charlie." He turned away sullenly, muttering that he did not care, and beginning to cherish feelings of a bad kind towards his sister. But after a while he came to himself — stole into the room, flung himself on her shoulder, confessed his fault with tears, and found favour with his mother. By-and-by, she tenderly whispered, "You may bring your present." So God acted with Cain, but he would persist in obduracy of heart.

(W. Adamson.)

Some people are very curious to know what these sacrifices were, and grey-headed commentators, who ought to have known better, have spent no end of time in trying to gratify their idle curiosity. Some have thought that the virtue was in the thing taken, as if that could be! No; you must find out what the heart is, what the motive is, what the will is. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." It is forever true that God abhors the sacrifice where not the heart is found. If you want to find out Cain's condition of heart you will find it after the service which he pretended to render; you know a man best out of church; the minister sees the best side of a man, the lawyer the worst, and the physician the real. If you want to know what a man's religious worship is worth, see him out of church. Cain killed his brother when church was over, and that is the exact measure of Cain's piety. And so, when you went home the other day you charged five shillings for a three-shilling article, and told the buyer it was too cheap: and that is exactly the value of your psalm singing and sermon hearing. You said you enjoyed the discourse exceedingly last Thursday; then you filled up the income tax paper falsely: and you will be judged by the schedule, not by the sentiment.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

If thou doest well, shalt thou not he accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.

The key to the interpretation of these words is to remember that they describe what happens after and because of wrong-doing. They are all suspended on, "If thou doest not well." The word translated here "lieth" is employed only to express the crouching of an animal, and frequently of a wild animal: "Unto thee shall be its desire, and thou shalt rule over it." Words like these were spoken to Eve: "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." In horrible parody of the wedded union and love, we have the picture of the sin that was thought of as crouching at the sinner's door like a wild beast, now, as it were, wedded to him.

I. THINK OF THE WILD BEAST WHICH WE TETHER TO OUR DOORS BY OUR WRONG-DOING. Every human deed is immortal; the transitory evil thought, or word, or act, which seems to fleet by like a cloud, has a permanent being, and hereafter haunts the life of the doer as a real presence. This memory has in it everything you ever did. A landscape may be hidden by mists, but a puff of wind will clear them away, and it will all be there, visible to the farthest horizon.

II. The next thought is put into a strong and, to our modern notions, somewhat violent metaphor — THE HORRIBLE LONGING, AS IT WERE, OF SIN TOWARD THE SINNER: "Unto thee shall be its desire." Our sins act towards us as if they desired to draw our love to themselves. When once a man has done a wrong thing it has an awful power of attracting him and making him hunger to do it again. All sin is linked together in a slimy tangle, like a field of seaweed, so that the man once caught in its oozy fingers is almost sure to be drowned.

III. THE COMMAND HERE IS ALSO A PROMISE. "Sin lies at thy door — rule thou over it." The text proclaims only duty, but it has hidden in its very hardness a sweet kernel of promise. For what God commands God enables us to do. The words do really point onwards through all the ages to the great fact that Jesus Christ, God's own Son, came down from heaven, like an athlete descending into the arena, to fight with and overcome the grim wild beasts, our passions, and our sins, and to lead them transformed in the silken leash of His love.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Sin finds in the very constitution of the human mind the enginery of its own retribution.

I. The very consciousness of sin is destructive of a sinner's peace.

II. Sin tends to develop sin.

III. The consciousness of guilt is always more or less painfully attended with the apprehension of its discovery.

IV. A foreboding of judicial and eternal retribution is incident to sin.

V. From all this we see the preciousness of the work of Christ. He becomes a reality to us, only because He is a necessity; He gives Himself to blot out the past.

(A. Phelps.)

Sketches of Sermons.
I. THAT THOSE WHO DO WELL CANNOT FAIL TO SECURE DIVINE ACCEPTANCE. What is it to do well? We must not suffer our judgments to be biased by the opinions of men. To do well, with some, is to succeed in business. "He is doing very well," is a common phrase applied to a successful tradesman. Jonah thought he did well to be angry even unto death. To do well, in the sense in which the expression must be understood here, is — to bring an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, and to offer it in an acceptable manner.


1. Those neglect to do well who offer to God no acceptable sacrifice. Sinners offer to God nothing but insults. Their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eves of His glory; their souls and bodies, time and talents, are all desecrated from their original purpose.

2. Those neglect to do well who offer their sacrifices in an unacceptable manner.Cain did this. in conclusion we observe;

1. God's expostulation with Cain reminds us of His willingness to save sinners. Expostulations, containing similar sentiments, may be found, Ezekiel 18:29, 31; Hosea 11:8; Matthew 23:37.

2. It also serves as a ground of encouragement for those who have been doing ill, but wish to do better; If thou doest well, shalt not thou be accepted? Let not the evil actions of the former part of thy life discourage thee.

3. It leaves sinners without reasonable excuse.

(Sketches of Sermons.)

Cain is here warned that, while he is nursing his angry, jealous thoughts, sin, like a ravening beast, as crafty as it is cruel, is crouching outside the door of his heart, only waiting for the door to be opened by any touch of passion to spring in; and he is admonished to keep the door shut lest he be overcome of evil. He is warned that the "desire" of the sin, which looks so fair and tempting to the eye stained and discoloured by passion, is against him, that his only safety consists in subduing and ruling over it.


1. Craft. Sin is subtle, full of wiles and "all deceivableness."(1) Like a wild beast, beautiful in outward seeming, lithe and graceful in its motions; its feet shod with velvet, its strength robed in a coat of many colours.(2) Like a stealthy crouching beast, lurking in ambush, stealing unheard and unseen from thicket to thicket, or gliding softly through the long tangled grass, availing itself of every inequality of the ground, hiding behind every trunk or bush, approaching its victim like a fate — silent, invisible, unerring.

2. Cruelty, no less than craft, characterizes the croucher at the door. The most crafty beasts are the most cruel. They crouch that they may spring, and rend, and tear. And sin is cruel, and fatal in its cruelty. If it crouch, it is that it may spring; if it spring, it is that it may destroy.

II. THE WARNING. "If thou doest not well, sin is a croucher at the door; and his desire is against thee, but thou shouldest rule over him."

1. The warning points out our danger.(1) He who does not well, is very near to doing ill. A merely negative virtue is in peril of becoming positive vice. He who neglects opportunities of doing good, by his very neglect of them does evil. The holy war admits no neutrals; we must be for God, or against Him.(2) The warning suggests another thought of a much more hopeful cast. For it implies that sin is external to man, not an essential part of his nature, but a foreign, adverse power which has only an usurped authority; it represents evil as a croucher without the door, and capable of being kept out. We need to remember and to emphasize the fact that sin is not of the essence of our nature; for much depends upon it. It makes redemption possible; for how should they be redeemed from evil of whose nature evil is an essential and inseparable quality?

2. The warning indicates our safety. "His desire is against thee, but thou shouldest rule over him." The croucher cannot be tamed. It must be caged, starved, slain. But how is this wily foe to be caught? how are the strength and fierceness of this cruel foe to be subdued? Truly, if we were called to the task alone, we might well despair. Sin has too firm a hold on us to be readily dislodged. But our comfort is that we are not called to the task alone. He who warned Cain that the croucher was at his door, would have helped Cain to repel him. And He who warns us that sin is our subtle and implacable antagonist, will help us to detect its wiles and to withstand its assaults. It only needs that Christ show Himself on our side, and evil will not court another overthrow.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

Sinners are not all of the laughing sort: Cain's mind was angry, and his heart was heavy. The short life of the vicious is not always a merry one. The present does not content them, and they have no future from which to borrow the light of hope. They have a religion of their own, even as Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground; but it yields them no comfort, for God has no respect to their offering, and therefore they are displeased about it. They would like to have the enjoyments of religion very much, they would like to have peace of conscience, they would like to be uplifted beyond all fear of death, they would like to be as happy as Christian people are; but they do not want to pay the price, namely, obedience to God by faith in Jesus Christ. They are in a bitter state of heart, and it is fair to ask each one of them, "Why art thou wroth?" Alas! they are not angry with themselves, as they ought to be, but angry with God; and often they are angry with God's chosen, and envious of them, even as Cain was malicious and vindictive towards Abel. "Why should my neighbour be saved, and not I? Why should my brother rejoice because he has peace with God, while I cannot get it?" Now, I want to call attention to a very gracious fact connected with this text; and that is, that, although Cain was in such a bad temper that he was very wroth, and his countenance fell, yet God, the infinitely gracious One, came and spoke with him, and reasoned with him patiently. God gives none up until they fatally resolve to give themselves up, and even then His good Spirit strives with them as long as it is possible to do so, consistently with His holiness.

I. I shall take the last sentence of the text first: "Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." In these words God argues with Cain, and answers the charge of favouritism which was lurking in his mind. He tells him, in effect, that NO DIFFERENCE IS MADE IN THE ARRANGEMENT OF SOCIAL LIFE BECAUSE OF THE ARRANGEMENTS OF GRACE. Notice that He says to him, "Unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him" — which I understand to mean just this: "Why are you so angry against Abel? It is true that I have accepted his offering; it is true that he is a righteous man, and you are not; but, for all that, you are his elder brother, and he looks up to you, his desire is toward you, and you shall rule over him. He has not acted otherwise than as a younger brother should act towards an elder brother, but he has admitted your seniority and priority." Observe this, then — that if a man shall be angry with his wife because she is a Christian, we may well argue with him, Why are you thus provoked? Is she not a loving and obedient wife to you in all things, except in this matter touching her God? Is she not all the better for her religion?

1. Now, this is an important thing to note, because first of all it takes away from governments their excuse for persecution. Christianity does not come into a nation to break up its arrangements, or to break down its fabric. All that is good in human society it preserves and establishes. It snaps no ties of the family; it dislocates no bonds of the body politic. Let all who are in authority, whether as kings or petty magistrates, beware of wantonly molesting a people who cause them no trouble, lest they be found in this matter to be fighting against God.

2. That being so in the broad field of national life, it is just the same if you bring it down to the little sphere of home. There is no reason why Cain should be so angry with Abel because God loves him; for the love of God to Abel does not take away from Cain his right as an elder brother. It does not teach Abel to refuse to Cain the rights of his position, nor lead him to act rudely and wrongfully to him. No: Abel's desire is unto Cain, and Cain rules over him as his elder brother. Wily, then, should Cain be wroth, and his countenance fall? I could hope, my angry friend, that God means to give a greater blessing still to you — that He means to entice you to heaven by showing your wife the way; or He means to lead you to Christ by that dear child of yours. I have known parents brought to repentance by the deaths of daughters or of sons who have died in the faith. I hope you will not have to lose those you love that you may be brought to Jesus by their dying words. But it may be so: it may be so. It will be better for you to yield to their gentle example while yet they are spared to you, than for you to be smitten to the heart by their sickness and death.

II. Now let us advance farther into the text. There is no room for being angry, for THOUGH THE DIFFERENCE LIES FIRST WITH THE GRACE OF GOD, YET IT LIES ALSO WITH THE MAN'S OWN SELF. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door."

1. First, then, if you are not accepted, and you are angry because you are not accepted, is there not a just cause for it? If you do not enjoy the comforts of religion, and you grow envious because you do not, you should cool your wrathfulness by considering this question — "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" That is to say, will you not be accepted on the same terms as Abel? You will be accepted in the same way as your brother, your sister, your child. How is it that the one you envy is full of peace? It is because he has come to Jesus and confessed his sin, and trusted his Redeemer. If thou doest this, shalt not thou also be accepted? Has not the Lord said, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out"? Instead of being angry with another, for believing and rejoicing, taste for thyself the joys which faith secures. May infinite grace lead thee to do so now!

2. God's second word with Cain was, however, "If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." That is to say, "If religion does not yield thee joy as it does thy brother, what is the reason? Surely sin stops the entrance, as a stone blocking the doorway. If you cannot gain an entrance to mercy, it is because sin like a huge stone, has been rolled against it, and remains there.(1) Is it unbelief? You will not believe God's word. You reject the testimony of God concerning His Son Jesus, and thus you put away from you eternal life.(2) Is it impenitence? Are you hardened about your sin? Do you refuse to quit it? Is there no sorrow in your heart to think that you have broken the Divine law, and have lived forgetful of your God? A hard heart is a great stone to lie in a man's way; for he who will not own his sin and forsake it is wedded to his own destruction.(3) Or, is it pride? Are you too big a man to become a Christian? Are you too respectable, too wealthy, too polite? Are you too deep a thinker? Do you know too much?(4) Alas! there are some who have another sin, a hidden sin.(5) We have known persons practise dishonesty in business, and this has shut them out from acceptance.(6) Some cannot get peace because they neglect prayer.(7) Not a few harbour enmity their hearts towards their brother or neighbour.(8) Then there are some who keep evil company.

3. I think this word of Divine expostulation bears another meaning. "If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." That is to say, not only as a stone to block your way, but as a lion to pounce upon you. It is true that sin is hindering you from peace, but it is also true that a greater sin is lurking at the door ready to spring upon you. What a warning this word ought to have been to Cain! Perhaps at that moment he had not seriously thought of killing his brother. He was angry, but he was not yet implacable and malicious. But God said, "There is a sin lying at your door that will come upon you to your destruction." May it not be the same with you?

4. But there is yet another meaning which I must bring out here, and that is one which is held by many critics, though it is questioned by others. I am content to go with a considerable fallowing, especially of the old divines, who say that the word here used may be rendered, "If thou doest ill, a sin offering lieth at the door." And what a sweet meaning this gives us! God graciously declares to angry Cain, "Thou canst bring a sin offering, as Abel has done, and all will be well. Thou canst present a bleeding sacrifice, typical of the great atonement: a sin offering lies at the door." This should be an encouraging assurance to anyone who is anxious, and at the same time greatly afraid that pardon is not possible. "Where can I find Christ?" says one. He standeth at the door: He waiteth for thee. The offering is not far to seek.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I do not understand the same thing by the words misery and calamity. Calamities may be occasions for sorrow, and they may become ingredients in misery; but they do not become misery until they have taken a certain hold upon the whole constitution of the man. Perhaps I might illustrate this distinction by comparing the character of Cain, referred to in the text, with that of the Apostle Paul. Paul was the subject of numerous afflictions, as here stated; yet we cannot call him a miserable man. But Cain exclaims in the bitterness of his soul, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." His spirit was broken down under the influence of his circumstances; and we call him miserable, whilst we only say that the Apostle Paul was afflicted. It is, then, into the causes of this breaking up of the inward peace of a man's mind in the condition which God has been pleased to assign him, that we have to inquire. But before I name the causes, and describe to you their operation severally, permit me to point out one or two conjectures, by which individuals endeavour to account for their misery, but to which it cannot properly be attributed. There are several mistakes of this kind. And, in the first place, I do not think that human misery can be ascribed to the personal organization of a man's constitution. For the frame of man is most delicately constructed by a wise and benevolent hand, devised by One who was capable of contemplating the end from the beginning of our existence; there is no part in all its original constitution, which seems to have been formed for the purpose of producing misery. In the second place, we cannot ascribe the misery that is found in this world to any order of circumstances connected with an individual's station in life. Some people are almost ever ready to attribute their sorrows and miseries to the position which they occupy. "Raise me," they say, "to another station in society, and I shall be happy enough." But all experience tells us that men are commonly as happy in the lower situations of life as in the higher. In point of fact, happiness and misery are not at all deducible from an individual's position in society. Let me add one other remark to this explanation: I do not think that you can ever trace the misery of this world to any diseases of the human frame. It is true that disease may become very painful; but yet the man in disease is not always a miserable man. He may be a dying man, but yet not a miserable man. That, then, which breaks down the spirit of a man in the midst of this world's affairs, must be bred within him. It is not misfortune, but sin, which, operating in diverse kinds, is like a brood of scorpions nursed within the breast, which spend their first life in devouring the very heart that cherished them. Yes, it is to sin cherished within the heart of man, that you must trace the misery of his present condition. In the first place, observe what is accomplished by the teaching and guidance of a father. So soon, therefore, as a man has broken away from the governance and guidance of his Father in heaven, what is the result? What is it that he throws away? The commandment of God brings down the wisdom of infinity for the direction of human affairs; and the man throws away infinite wisdom, to prefer in its stead his own most futile and childish speculations. They are, in fact, vain wishes; and vain wishes must occupy the mind that has let go the Deity, and ceased to find its happiness in God. But there is a second cause of sorrow, more bitter, which operates in conjunction with this; I mean the indulgence of known sins — or rather the seeking our happiness in known sins. Let me take three examples: first, avarice; secondly, lust; and in the third place, pride. All these are sources of misery which are personal, because they exist and operate in the man's own mind. Consider, then, the other mode by which men pursue their happiness; and suffer man to cultivate his pride. And when pride is gratified perfectly, man becomes a devil. Our great poet has shown this in making it the sin of the master devil. Avarice, then, makes a man a stone; lust makes him a beast; and pride makes him a devil; and thus the whole creation of God becomes blasted by the sinful pursuits of His creature, and misery must be the inevitable result. Let me add, further, the effect which these sins have in provoking the Divine anger. Much of the misery which results to men in this world flows from the effect of their personal guiltiness in the sight of heaven. In conclusion; if human misery thus flow from ourselves, you can see that human happiness must be obtained by the cultivation of our own hearts. It is not in a change of circumstances; it is not in modifying the organization of your bodies; it is not in passing from earth to heaven, for if you were to take with you into heaven the vices which you pursue on earth, they would make even heaven itself a hell. And further, if these views of the personal causes of human misery be just, you may perceive the extreme kindness of Divine chastisement, and even of Divine judgment.

(C. Stovel.)

I. NATURAL RELIGION. This consists in "doing well." Look at the principle on which it is founded. The principle is practical goofiness. This principle is intrinsically excellent. Man was created to do well. It is to be desired that all men should act upon this principle. The world would be different if men were to. No need of police — prison. It is a principle to which none can object. Let us look at the standard by which it is to be tested. The standard is the moral law of creation. In order to do well, man must love God with all his heart, etc. There must be no omission. The act must be perfect. It must be a gem without a flaw. The motive must be good. The rule must be good. It must be done as God directs. Look at the reward, "Shalt thou not be accepted?" Such a religion will command the approval of the Almighty. It will secure immortality for its votaries. Had Adam continued to do well, he would have continued to live. This, then, is the religion of nature — is glorious. Have you performed its requirements? Think of sin — its nature, its effects, its ultimate consequences. How can we escape them? Ask natural religion. Will she suggest repentance? Will repentance replace things as they were — reformation? This cannot alter the past. An offering — man has none to present — the mercy of the Eternal? God is merciful, but how can He show it to the sinner, in harmony with justice? Nature has no reply.

II. REVEALED RELIGION. "A sin offering lieth at thy door."

1. That revealed religion assumes that men are guilty. If there is no sin, there can be no need of a sin offering; and if there is a sin offering, it is presumed that there is sin. Men have not done well. They are sinners. They are liable to punishment.

2. That revealed religion has provided a sin offering. Three kinds of sacrifices were offered by the Jews: eucharistic — peace offerings — atoning. The last the most prominent. Type of Calvary. In the sin offering there was a substitution of person — a substitution of sufferings — the acceptance of the sin offering was accompanied with Divine evidence. This sacrifice is efficient.

3. That this sin offering reposeth at the door. The atonement of Christ is accessible to the sinner — it rests with man to avail himself of it — men neglect it — God exercises great long suffering — sinners cannot go to hell without trampling on the sacrifice of the Cross — they will be deprived of exercise if they neglect it.


I. The FAMILY idea won't keep men right. Cain and Abel were brothers.

II. RELIGIOUS CEREMONIAL won't keep men light. Cain and Abel both offered sacrifice.

III. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION won't keep men right. Cain killed his brother, but a voice cried against him. What will keep men right? The love of God through Jesus Christ.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

The text declared a great and lasting truth to the mind of Cain thousands of years back, as it does to each of us this day. It grounds its appeal upon the immutable principles of right and wrong, and projects its Divine authority through every generation from the birth of man to the very end of time. It speaks to the conscience as well as to the judgment of an intelligent being, and it leaves him to act as a free agent in accordance with its dictates.

I. In the first place we notice the EXTREME CONDESCENSION of the Most High in thus expostulating with Cain, who, it appears from the context, was angered at the reception of his brother's offering and the rejection of his own. Then observe the gentleness of manner with which God is pleased to address Cain. It does not appear that Cain was startled or overwhelmed with terror at the voice of God. There were no thunderings, no earthquakes, no supernatural wonders, but all was gentle and kind on the part of Deity. And it is in this way He continues still to appeal to the hearts and consciences of His people. The plague and the pestilence, the famine and the sword, the blight of earthly hopes and the sadness of the death-chamber, are only the agencies through which He speaks. The voice of God itself heard within us is yet calm and inviting.



IV. The great practical lesson we derive from the text is this: that God, through every period of man's existence, down to the very date of our first creation, HAS EVER DEALT WITH MAN AS A FREE AGENT; as a moral and responsible being, endowed with the power of will, and with faculties which place him above the mere animal world. This is a great and very important truth, and we commend it specially to your consideration. According to the unchangeable laws or principles of moral government, you perceive it is impossible for any man to commit sin with impunity. True, judgment does not always immediately follow crime. The seeds of evil are permitted to grow and develop themselves in their different forms of iniquity, but they are uprooted at last, as the destructive weed is torn up from the earth and cast into the fire.

(W. D. Horwood.)

Old Testament Anecdotes.
A young friend was one day calling upon an old Christian woman, nearly eighty years of age, just waiting for the summons. Said this friend, "Oh, granny, I wish I was as sure of heaven, and as near it, as you are!" With a look of unspeakable emotion, the old woman answered, "And do you really think the devil cannot find his way up an old woman's garret stair? Oh, if He hadn't said, 'None shall pluck them out of My hand.' I would have been away wandering long ago!"

(Old Testament Anecdotes.)

Genesis 4:4 NIV
Genesis 4:4 NLT
Genesis 4:4 ESV
Genesis 4:4 NASB
Genesis 4:4 KJV

Genesis 4:4 Bible Apps
Genesis 4:4 Parallel
Genesis 4:4 Biblia Paralela
Genesis 4:4 Chinese Bible
Genesis 4:4 French Bible
Genesis 4:4 German Bible

Genesis 4:4 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Genesis 4:3
Top of Page
Top of Page