The Spiral Begins
Yesterday we say the consequences of the first humans misplaced worship and their loss of the perfect worship setting. After this initial fall, the evil continues to spiral out of control as we see in the immediate story following the fall narrative.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” 8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Remember Genesis was originally written by Moses for the people of Israel while journeying through the desert. This text is an obvious connection to the temple worship practices of the Israelites. The Law had provisions for both grain offerings and animal sacrifices to be given as worship to God. This text certainly seems to demonstrate that animal sacrifices were favorable but it seems to be suggesting something more as well. So why did God not look with favor upon Cain’s offering? The text doesn’t tell us directly but it gives us some clues. First, Abel’s offering is taken from the firstborn of his flock. This was the requirement in the law—to dedicate to God the first and best of your flocks and your harvest. Cain’s offering on the other hand is just “some of the fruits of the soil”. The text makes no indication that it was his first or best.
Then there is also Cain’s response. He immediately becomes angry with jealousy and hate instead of humbly inquiring of God why his offering was not accepted but Abel’s was. God’s words to Cain express this idea as well. He says, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted.” Note God says you not your offering. What is at stake here is not only what Cain brings it is also Cain himself. He was not doing what was right, whether it was because he didn’t give from the first and best of his harvest or because his heart was full of anger. His worship was polluted. Therefore God rejected not only his offering but Cain himself as the one who gave the offering. This again emphasizes the twofold aspect of worship—obedience and reverence. One is an act, something that we do or don’t do. The other is a condition of our heart, how we view God as greater than us. These 2 we will explore further next week.
Verse 8 is a vivid depiction of sin and evil. It is “crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” God knows that Cain’s anger is boiling over and it is soon to erupt if he does not rule over it. His jealousy and hate for his brother will soon overtake him. Cain does not and ends up murdering his brother. The seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15) would not be Cain or Abel. This was the second domino to fall as humanity spirals into evil and chaos.