The story of creation and the fall has 4 chapters, not 3. So many people want to stop when they get to the end of Genesis 3, but chapter 4 concludes the story giving evidence to the first generation fulfillment of the Seed Promise. I have titled this post “The blood of righteous Abel” which is a NT term. But I want to stick to the OT context. When this story occurred, there was a certain set of circumstances and we need to read the story in context. So I will attempt to NOT read the New Testament back into the Old Testament even though it is tempting.
As Adam and Eve raised their first family, they contemplated who would be this destroyer of the adversary, or fulfillment of the Seed Promise. When Eve had her first son, her exclamation was apparent. “It’s a man from the LORD!” Perhaps she was thinking that God will keep His word through this son she just had. As Cain grew, Adam and Eve had expectations of him which were never fulfilled. Another son, not necessarily their second, was named Abel. We must remember that only the pertinent details are given in the story. Most likely, by the time Cain and Abel grew into adults, there were many who were a part of the first civilization founded by Adam and Eve. There is language in chapter 4 which shows that it was a sizable plurality of people which were all living together in one community. Cain and Abel were the second generation, but there is nothing in the text to prevent there from being many others in the second generation and perhaps many third generation grandchildren and possibly fourth generation great-grandchildren of Adam and Eve.
The offerings to the LORD are not expounded upon. We can only assume that God still communicated to Adam and Eve in some way as to let them know what was expected in order to maintain a relationship with Him. We don’t know exactly how they presented their offerings. We don’t know how the fruit of the ground was presented to the LORD. We don’t know if the animal offering was a burnt offering, or if it was even killed; although I personally believe they did kill the sheep when they presented the offerings. At this point mankind does not yet eat animal meat so the only reasons someone would keep sheep would be for sacrifice or possibly for the wool.
Cain played a part within the societal framework of being a tiller of the ground. He most likely worked very close with his father, Adam, since Adam had been required by God to till the ground, Genesis 3:23. Abel played the role of keeping the sheep. There may have been many others who performed a variety of roles which are not listed in scripture such as making clothes, building houses, and gathering water.
As a part of this society, offerings were presented to the LORD. The fruit of the ground was presented by Cain while sheep were presented by Abel. Abel’s offering was said to be of the best of what he had. God had respect unto Abel’s offering, but not unto Cain’s. We don’t know how this respect and disrespect was conveyed by the LORD unto Cain and Abel, but it was obvious to all who witnessed the offerings that Abel had a righteous standing in God’s sight while Cain did not. Cain was being publicly humiliated by God.
God loved Cain so much that He initiated a conversation with him about why His offering was not accepted. We don’t know if this conversation was public or private, but since it is included in a narration in which events are laid out as being public, I’m going to lean toward God’s admonition to Cain as occurring within hearing of the rest of the first family. First God asked Cain why he looked angry. Then God states that if Cain had done what was right he would have been accepted. God encouraged Cain to do what was right that he might be accepted. God also gives this cryptic message that sin is like this creature lying at the door waiting for Cain. Yet Cain could and should overcome this creature called sin and have dominion over it.
At this point in the story we should be able to understand what is occurring in light of the Seed Promise. Abel has a righteous standing with God. We don’t know if His offering is accepted because it was a blood offering or simply because he brought his best. All we know is that Abel must have triumphed over His sin since God is encouraging Cain to do the same. Abel is the fulfillment of the Seed Promise while Cain seems to be one of those who will remain on the side of the Adversary. There are others in the family who may be undecided as to who they will follow: Abel or Cain.
Yet the hero of the story who has a righteous standing with God is struck down before He can do anything seemingly significant. Cain thought to remove the source of his frustration. I believe that the animal offerings had been sacrifices that were killed. I believe this is how Cain knew how to kill Abel. He watched the animal sacrifices so many times and applied the principle in how to kill a human. Yet in killing Abel, the source of his frustration only multiplied his woes. For one, the LORD had been watching the entire event. He saw Cain kill Abel and had done nothing to intervene. God let his chosen one who was righteous in His sight die like so many sheep that were killed in sacrifice. Now the LORD proves to be the avenger of righteous Abel.
For another, Abel seems to carry on in some way even after his death. God tells Cain that his brother’s blood is still crying to Him from the ground. Since Cain had spilled the blood of his brother into the earth, that same earth which brought forth fruit for him would no longer bring forth anything. Cain was cursed from the earth which would no longer respond to his tilling of the ground. Abel’s righteous standing continued before God even though Abel was physically dead. Cain, on the other hand, seems more on the side of the Adversary than ever. Since the earth will not bring forth fruit for Cain, there is no way he can continue as a part of the first civilization. He is put out from his livelihood. Cain now becomes banished from the first family resulting in more public humiliation.
Cain departs from the first civilization ever and builds his own city. Since he is building a city, it appears that some may have left along with him. Those who continued to believe in the promises remained with Adam and Eve, bringing offerings before the LORD in the way that Abel had shown. Cain could have none of this. Cain’s civilization was characterized by advances in industry, creativity, and commerce, but not godliness.
Abel’s voice from the earth tells of the resurrection. If someone is to lead them back to paradise and live in fellowship with God, yet God had stated they would die and return to the dust; there must be a way to reconcile the apparent contradiction. The voice of Abel’s blood gave hope that those who are physically dead yet have life in God’s sight. It was as if God was saying to Cain, “Even though you killed your brother, I still hear his voice. He is right here with me and his testimony as the Seed Promise still lives on.” This gave hope that mankind would physically come back into the presence of God one day even though they would physically die. Resurrection is the simplest way to resolve this apparent contradiction. The dead will come to life because of the Seed Promise, which is a logical conclusion of Genesis 3:15. The curse will be reversed and a part of that curse was a future physical death.
Eve’s statement concerning Seth is revelatory concerning Abel’s identity as the fulfillment of the Seed Promise. She said, “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” This tells us that Abel was A fulfillment of the Seed Promise, but not THE fulfillment of the Seed Promise. Eve states that Abel was the Seed (Zera) of Genesis 3:15, but now there is another one to carry on in his place since Cain killed him.
When Abel was killed, it was not clear to the first family how mankind would continue. Were the promises untrue? In Eve’s statement that Seth was there to carry on in Abel’s place, this gave hope to those still continuing in the first civilization with Adam and Eve. Yet what if something awful happened to Seth as well? They had seen an apparent Seed Promise fulfillment murdered without being restored to paradise. When Seth’s son, Enos, was born, here was true hope. Now those who had waited and not left with Cain understood that perhaps it would be a few generations before the true Seed Promise would be born. After Seth begat his son, who became the next generation of the Seed Promise, then men began to call upon the name of the LORD. It was at this point that many of those who stayed publicly expressed their faith in the God who they knew wanted mankind back in His presence. They called on the name of the LORD. Perhaps Enos’ son would be the one to lead them back into the garden of Eden into the very presence of God, where they would find Abel standing at the side of the LORD.
Abel would be the first picture of many who would show us what the Promised One would be like. The picture of Abel tells us that the blood of the Seed Promise had to be shed as the chosen one must die. This is how the Seed Promise would have his heel bruised by the serpent. Yet in this bruising of the heel of the Seed Promise, there is hope as the blood of the Seed Promise cries out to the LORD being yet in his presence. This is how the head of the serpent will be crushed, through the shedding of righteous blood. Abel was the first picture of the Seed Promise, but there would be many more before the One True Seed Promise would finally be born.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman