|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-7 When Cain was born, Eve said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. Perhaps she thought that this was the promised seed. If so, she was wofully disappointed. Abel signifies vanity: when she thought she had the promised seed in Cain, whose name signifies possession, she was so taken up with him that another son was as vanity to her. Observe, each son had a calling. It is the will of God for every one to have something to do in this world. Parents ought to bring up their children to work. Give them a Bible and a calling, said good Mr. Dod, and God be with them. We may believe that God commanded Adam, after the fall, to shed the blood of innocent animals, and after their death to burn part or the whole of their bodies by fire. Thus that punishment which sinners deserve, even the death of the body, and the wrath of God, of which fire is a well-known emblem, and also the sufferings of Christ, were prefigured. Observe that the religious worship of God is no new invention. It was from the beginning; it is the good old way, Jer 6:16. The offerings of Cain and Abel were different. Cain showed a proud, unbelieving heart. Therefore he and his offering were rejected. Abel came as a sinner, and according to God's appointment, by his sacrifice expressing humility, sincerity, and believing obedience. Thus, seeking the benefit of the new covenant of mercy, through the promised Seed, his sacrifice had a token that God accepted it. Abel offered in faith, and Cain did not, Heb 11:4. In all ages there have been two sorts of worshippers, such as Cain and Abel; namely, proud, hardened despisers of the gospel method of salvation, who attempt to please God in ways of their own devising; and humble believers, who draw near to him in the way he has revealed. Cain indulged malignant anger against Abel. He harboured an evil spirit of discontent and rebellion against God. God notices all our sinful passions and discontents. There is not an angry, envious, or fretful look, that escapes his observing eye. The Lord reasoned with this rebellious man; if he came in the right way, he should be accepted. Some understand this as an intimation of mercy. If thou doest not well, sin, that is, the sin-offering, lies at the door, and thou mayest take the benefit of it. The same word signifies sin, and a sacrifice for sin. Though thou hast not done well, yet do not despair; the remedy is at hand. Christ, the great sin-offering, is said to stand at the door, Re 3:20. And those well deserve to perish in their sins, that will not go to the door to ask for the benefit of this sin-offering. God's acceptance of Abel's offering did not change the birthright, and make it his; why then should Cain be so angry? Sinful heats and disquiets vanish before a strict and fair inquiry into the cause.
Verses 6, 7 - And the Lord (Jehovah) said unto Cain. Speaking either mediately by Adam (Luther), or more probably directly by his own voice from between the cherubim where the flaming sword, the visible symbol of the Divine presence, had been established (cf. Exodus 20:24). Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? The ensuing verse is a veritable crux interpretum, concerning which the greatest diversity of sentiment exists. Passing by the manifest mistranslation of the LXX., "If thou hast offered rightly, but hast not divided rightly, hast thou not sinned? Rest quiet; toward thee is his (or its) resort, and thou shalt rule over him (or it)," which Augustine, Ambrose, and Chrysostom followed, at the same time "wearying themselves with many interpretations, and being divided among themselves as to how Cain divided not rightly" (Wilier), the different opinions that have been entertained as to the meaning of its several clauses, their connection, and precise import when united, may be thus exhibited. If thou doest well. Either
(1) if thou wert innocent and sinless (Candlish, Jamieson), or
(2) if thou, like Abel, presentest a right offering in a right spirit (Vulgate, Luther, Calvin), or
(3) if thou retrace thy steps and amend thine offering and intention (Willet, Murphy). Shalt thou not be accepted? Literally, Is there not lifting up? (sedth, from nasa, to raise up). Either -
1. Of the countenance (Gesenius, Furst, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Knobel, Lange, Delitzsch).
2. Of the sacrifice, viz., by acceptance of it (Calvin); akin to which are the interpretations - Is there not a lifting up of the burden of guilt? Is there not forgiveness? (Luther); Is there not acceptance with God. (Speaker s Commentary); Is there not a bearing away of blessing? (Ainsworth). Vulgate, Shalt thou not receive (sc. the Divine favor). "Verum quamvis נָשָׂא עַון reccatum condonare significet, nusquam tamen שְׂאֵת veniam sonat" (Rosen.).
3. Of the person, i.e. by establishing Cain's pre-eminency as the elder brother, to which reference is clearly made in the concluding clause of the verse (Bush). And if thou doest not well, sin - chattath, from chard, to miss the mark like an archer, properly signifies a sin (Exodus 28:9; Isaiah 6:27; cf. Greek, ἄτη); also a sin offering (Leviticus 6:18, 23); also penalty (Zechariah 14:19), though this is doubtful. Hence it has been taken to mean in this place -
1. Sin (Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Wordsworth, Speaker's Commentary, Murphy).
2. The punishment of sin (Onkelos, Grotius, Cornelius a Lapide, Ainsworth), the guilt of sin, the sense of unpardoned transgression; "interius conscientiae judicium, quod hominem convictum sui peccati undique obsessum premit" (Calvin).
3. A sin offering (Lightfoot, Peele, Magee, Candlish, Exell) - lieth (literally, lying; robets, from rabats, to couch as a beast of prey; cf. Genesis 29:2; Genesis 49:9) at the door. Literally, at the opening = at the door of the conscience, expressive of the nearness and severity of the Divine retribution (Calvin); of the soul, indicating the close contiguity of the devouring monster sin to the evil-doer (Kalisch); of paradise (Bonar); of Abel's fold (Exell), suggesting the locality where a sacrificial victim might be obtained; of the house, conveying the ideas of publicity and certainty of detection for the transgressor whose sin, though lying asleep, was only sleeping at the door, i.e. "in a place where it will surely be disturbed; and, therefore, it is impossible but that it must be awoke and roused up, when as a furious beast it will lay hold on thee ' (Luther); i.e. "statim se prodet, peccatum tuum non magis,celari potest, quam id quod pro foribus jacet ' (Rosenmüller). And unto thee shall be his - i.e.
(1) Abel's (LXX. (?), Chrysostom, Ambrose, Grotius, Calvin, Ainsworth, Bush, Speaker's, Bonar, Exell); or
(2) sin's (Vulgate (?), Luther, Rosenmüller, Yon Bohlen, Kalisch, Keil, Delitzsch, Murphy); or
(3) the sin offering s (Faber, Candlish) - desire (vide Genesis 3:16), and thou shalt rule over him. I.e., according to the interpretation adopted of the preceding words -
(1) thou shalt maintain thy rights of primogeniture over Abel, who, as younger son, shall be obsequious and deferential towards thee; or,
(2) "the entire submission and service of sin will be yielded to thee, and thou shalt make thyself master of it," sc. by yielding to it and being hurried on to greater wickedness - a warning against the downward course of sin (Murphy); or, while sin lurks for thee like a beast of prey, and "the demon of allurement" thirsts for thee to gratify thy passion, thou shalt (or mayst) rule over it, sc. by giving up thy wrath and restraining thine evil propensities - a word of hopeful encouragement to draw the sinner back to holy paths (Keil); or, "peccatum tanquam muller impudica sistitur, quae hominem ad libidinem suam explendam tentet, cut igitur resistere debeat" (Rosenmüller); or,
(3) the sacrificial victim is not far to seek, it is already courting thine acceptance, and thou mayst at once avail thyself of it (Candlish). Of the various solutions of this "difiicillimus locus," all of which are plausible, and none of which are entirely destitute of support, that appears the most entitled to acceptance which, excluding any reference either to Abel or to a sin offering, regards the language as warning Cain against the dangers of yielding to sin.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the Lord said unto Cain, why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?.... Which was said not as being ignorant of his wrath and resentment, but to bring him to a conviction of his sin or sins, which were the cause of God's rejecting his sacrifice, and to repentance and amendment; and to show him that he had no cause to be displeased, either with him or his brother, for the different treatment of him and his offering; since the fault lay in himself, and he had none to blame but his own conduct, which for the future he should take care to regulate according to the divine will, and things would take a different turn.
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