Summary: Why would Cain kill Abel, and what can we learn from his failure?

Years ago when I was at Purdue I decided to read the Bible for myself. So, I bought myself a Bible Commentary, and a Bible Dictionary, and I made a deal with God: I told Him I’d read everything but the poetry, the prophecy, and the “who-begat-whos.” I set my Bible and study books out where I would remember to read them, and I decided that I’d read ONLY if I felt like it. But when I read I’d read as often and as long as I felt like it. And, as I read, I’d put marks in the margins along the side of the page. If I had a question, I’d put a question mark (?) with the hope that sooner or later a teacher or preacher would help me understand what the verses said. But if something impressed me, I’d put a star (*)

It was in the 4th chapter of Genesis that I put the 1st star in my Bible. It was the story of Cain and Abel, and the verse I put a star beside was this one: “The LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’” Genesis 4:6-7

Now obviously, the fact that Cain murdered his brother got my attention - but it had never occurred to me that God might expect us to rule over our emotions and sins. Yes I know, that would seem like a gimmee (it seems obvious) but for some reason, I’d never thought about that before, and the very idea caught me by surprise.

Now, let’s back up a little and think about what’s happened in this passage. Cain and his brother Abel offered sacrifices to God, but God accepts Abel and his sacrifice, but rejects Cain and his sacrifice. Cain gets mad at Abel, and he kills him. And that’s pretty much the story.

The question (of course) is why did Cain get mad at Abel? Abel didn’t do anything, so why kill him!? Well the following is my THEORY of what might have been going on (I admit could be wrong). In Genesis 3 we’re told God pronounced a curse on Adam & Eve… and Satan. Among other things, Adam and Eve lost their home in the Garden. But then, when God speaks to Satan, He says: “I will put hatred between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

Essentially, God was declaring that the offspring of a woman (a boy child) would defeat Satan.

Now, fast-forward to Genesis 4:1. “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.’”

Cain means: “I have gotten or acquired”. So Eve had acquired a boy child… a man. And I think she thinks that she has given birth to the boy that will defeat Satan and get her back into the Garden. But her next child is Abel – and Abel means “meaningless”, “emptiness”, “worthless.” ( Essentially, she was saying “I have Cain… what do I need Abel for?”

Now… if I’m right – Cain is the Golden Child; he is the fulfillment of the prophecy; he’s the boy she wants and she treats him that way. He can’t do anything wrong. Everything Cain does is praised. But Abel is a distant 2nd. He has to work twice as hard to get half the attention. So, when the time came to offer sacrifices to God, Cain did what he’d always done - he gave a half-hearted effort. By contrast, Abel did what he’d always done… he gave it ALL that he had. And so God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s, and God tells Cain “Next time do better and it will be alright.” But Cain gets ticked. He’d never been rejected before, and he sees it as all Abel’s fault. Abel got what Cain deserved - AND IT WASN’T RIGHT!

Cain was furious, and at this point, God does an intervention. He goes and has a little talk with Cain and explains: “Boy YOU’VE got a problem. Sin is crouching at your door – and you better master it or it’s going to destroy you."

Now, the anger we’re dealing with in Genesis 4 is anger towards others. According to one source, research shows that “angry people tend to SEEK someone to blame.” (

So here we have Cain being angry at Abel, probably because Abel got the praise that Cain felt he should have had. As one preacher noted: “Instead of asking for God’s forgiveness – Cain began to invent a plan where he could get back at his brother. It was a plan of murder. And not just murder… but premeditated murder. He planned the place. He planned the time. And it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d already dug the grave (Edward Hardee)

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