1 John 3:12
Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And why slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
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3:11-15 We should love the Lord Jesus, value his love, and therefore love all our brethren in Christ. This love is the special fruit of our faith, and a certain sign of our being born again. But none who rightly know the heart of man, can wonder at the contempt and enmity of ungodly people against the children of God. We know that we are passed from death to life: we may know it by the evidences of our faith in Christ, of which love to our brethren is one. It is not zeal for a party in the common religion, or affection for those who are of the same name and sentiments with ourselves. The life of grace in the heart of a regenerate person, is the beginning and first principle of a life of glory, whereof they must be destitute who hate their brother in their hearts.Not as Cain - Not manifesting the spirit which Cain did. His was a most remarkable and striking instance of a want of love to a brother, and the case was well adapted to illustrate the propriety of the duty which the apostle is enjoining. See Genesis 4:4-8.

Who was of that wicked one - Of the devil; that is, he was under his influence, and acted from his instigation.

And wherefore slew he him? - Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." He acted under the influence of envy. He was dissatisfied that his own offering was not accepted, and that his brother's was. The apostle seems desirous to guard those to whom he wrote against the indulgence of any feelings that were the opposite of love; from anything like envy toward more highly favored brethren, by showing to what this would lead if fairly acted out, as in the case of Cain. A large part of the crimes of the earth have been caused, as in the murder of Abel, by the want of brotherly love. Nothing but love would be necessary to put an end to the crimes, and consequently to a large part of the misery, of the world.

12. who—not in the Greek.

of that wicked one—Translate, "evil one," to accord with "Because his own works were evil." Compare 1Jo 3:8, "of the devil," in contrast to "of God," 1Jo 3:10.

slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous—through envy and hatred of his brother's piety, owing to which God accepted Abel's, but rejected Cain's offering. Enmity from the first existed between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.

And what again, on the other hand, (q.d.) can be more devil-like, than such a temper as Cain’s was, whose hatred of his brother brake out into actual murder, upon no other account but because his brother was better than he? Which showed him to be

of that wicked one, of the serpent’s seed: so early was such seed sown, and so ancient the enmity between seed and seed. Not as Cain,.... That is, let us not be like him, or do as he did, hate the brethren. The apostle illustrates brotherly love by its contrary, in the instance of Cain, who was the first instance and example of hatred of the brethren, and of fratricide, and a very detestable one, by which he would dissuade from so vile and abominable a practice:

who was of that wicked one; Satan, a child of his, an imitator of him, one that appeared to be under his influence, and to belong unto him. So the Jews say of Cain (n), that

"he was of the side of the serpent (the old serpent the devil); and as the way of the serpent is to slay and to kill, so Cain immediately became a murderer.''

And again,

"because Cain came from the side of the angel of death, he slew his brother (o);''

though they say that he afterwards repented, and became worthy of paradise (p).

And slew his brother; see Genesis 4:8. According to the tradition of the Jews (q) he struck a stone into his forehead, and killed him:

and wherefore slew he him? what was the cause and occasion of it? what moved him to it?

because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous; or "his work", as the Ethiopic version reads: the sacrifice which he offered up, which, though it was not evil as to the matter and substance of it, yet was so, being offered with an evil mind, and with an hypocritical heart, and without faith in the sacrifice of Christ, and so was unacceptable to God; whereas, on the other hand, the sacrifice his brother brought was offered up in the faith of Christ, by which he obtained a testimony that he was righteous, and that the work he did was a righteous work, being done in faith, and so was acceptable to God; which Cain perceiving, was filled with envy, and this put him upon killing him. The Jews (r) relate the occasion of it after this manner;

"Cain said to Abel his brother, come, and let us go out into the open field; and when they were both out in the open field, Cain answered and said to Abel his brother, there is no judgment, nor Judge, nor another world; neither will a good reward be given to the righteous, nor vengeance be taken on the wicked; neither was the world created in mercy, nor is it governed in mercy; or why is thy offering kindly accepted, and mine is not kindly accepted? Abel answered and said to Cain, there is judgment, and there is a Judge, and there is another world; and there are gifts of a good reward to the righteous, and vengeance will be taken on the wicked; and the world was created in mercy, and in mercy it is governed, for according to the fruit of good works it is governed; because that my works are better than thine, my offering is kindly accepted, and thine is not kindly accepted; and they both strove together in the field, and Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.''

In the Hebrew text in Genesis 4:8; there is an extraordinary large pause, as if a discourse of this kind, which passeth between the two brothers, was to be inserted. Philo the Jew says (s), that in the contention or dispute between Cain and Abel, Abel attributed all things to God, and Cain ascribed everything to himself; so that the controversy was about grace and works, as now; and as then Cain hated his brother upon this account, so now carnal men hate and persecute the saints, because they will not allow their works to be the cause of justification and salvation: and from hence also it may be observed, that a work may be, as to the matter of it, good, and yet as to its circumstances, and the end and view of it, evil.

(n) Midrash Ruth in Zohar in Gen. fol. 42. 4. (o) Zohar in ib. fol. 43. 1.((p) Ib. fol. 41. 1, 2.((q) Targum Jon. in Gen. iv. 8. Pirke Eliezer, c. 21. (r) Targum Hieros. & Jon. in Gen. iv. 8. (s) Quod Det. Potior. p. 161.

{12} Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. {13} And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.

(12) An amplification taken from the contrary example of Cain who slew his brother.

(13) A short digression: Let us not marvel that we are hated by the world for doing our duty, for such was the condition of Abel who was a just person: and who would not rather be like him than Cain?

1 John 3:12. The converse of Christian brotherly love is the hatred of the world, which has its example in Cain.

οὐ καθὼς Κάϊν κ.τ.λ.] Contrary to the opinion of Grotius, with which Lücke agrees, that before καθώς we must supply “οὐκ ᾦμεν ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ” dependent on ἵνα, de Wette has shown the clumsiness of speech that would result with this construction; it is unjustifiable, however, on the side of the thought also, for it is impossible that John would say that to Christians the commandment has been given from the beginning, not to be ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῖ. Most commentators supply after οὐ the thought “we should be disposed,” and after Κάϊν the relative ὅς. Thus there certainly results a good sense; but if the apostle had thought thus, he would also have expressed himself thus; at least he would not have left out the ὅς. De Wette rightly finds here “an inexact comparison of contrast, as John 6:58, only still more difficult to supply, and just on that account not to be supplied,” i.e. by a definitely formulated sentence (so also Braune). Christians are (and therefore should also show themselves as) the opposite of Cain; they are ἐκ τοῦ Θεοῦ, Cain was ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ; τοῦ πονηροῦ is not neuter, but masculine; ὁ πονηρός = ὁ διάβολος; comp. especially Matthew 13:38.[220]

ΚΑῚ ἜΣΦΑΞΕΝ ΤῸΝ ἈΔΕΛΦῸΝ ΑὐΤΟῖ] This murder of his brother is the evidence that Cain was ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΠΟΝΗΡΟῦ. The verb ΣΦΆΖΕΙΝ (besides here, only in the Apocalypse), strictly used of slaughter, indicates the violence of the action;[221] the diabolical character of it is brought out by the following: καὶ χάριν τίνος κ.τ.λ.; the form of the sentence in question and answer serves to bring out emphatically the thought contained in it, that the hatred of Cain towards his brother was founded in his hatred towards the good, i.e. that which is of God, for it is just in this that the hatred of the world towards believing Christians is also founded.[222] The correspondence between ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ and τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ πονηρά, which J. Lange and Düsterdieck have already noticed, is to be observed.

[220] The strange Rabbinical view of the devilish nature of Cain in Zohar on Genesis 4:1 : Rabbi Eleazar dixit: Cum projecisset serpens ille immunditiem suam in Evam eaque illam suscepisset, remque cum Adam habuisset, peperit duos filios, unum ex latere illo immundo et unum ex latere Adami; fuitque Cain similis imagine superiorum h. e. Angelorum et Abel imagine inferiorum h. e. hominum, ac propterea diverse fuerunt viae istius ab illius viis. Equidem Cain fuit filius spiritus innnundi, qui est serpens malus; Abel vero fuit Alius Adami; et propterea quod Cain venit de parte Angeli mortis, ideo interfecit fratrem suum.

[221] From the fact that σφάζειν is used in the Revelation of “slaying in a holy service, as the martyrs are slain, even though by the godless” (which is never quite appropriate, comp. Revelation 6:4), it cannot be concluded that John here used the expresssion in order “to mark the death of Abel as a martyrdom by the hand of a godless man, or as a sacrifice which Cain offered to his god, the devil.”

[222] That Cain slew his brother because his own works were evil and his brother’s righteous, does not seem to correspond to the Mosaic narrative, for τὰ ἔργα are not the offering, but the works in general (Spener: “the whole manner of life”); but there is no real contradiction, for the narrative in Genesis does not exclude the idea that the piety of Abel had already excited in Cain hatred towards his brother, and that, when God despised his offering, but had respect unto his brother’s, this hatred went so far that he became guilty of murder. Cain with this hatred, and Abel in his suffering on account of his δικαιοσύνη, serve the apostle as prototypes of the world and of the children of God. On the similar view in Philo and in the Clementine Homilies, see Lücke on this passage.1 John 3:12. οὐ καθὼς, κ.τ.λ., a loose, almost ungrammatical expression, analogous to John 6:58. Were there no οὐ, 1 John 3:11 might be regarded as a parenthesis: “he that loveth not his brother, even as Cain was, etc.”. The phrase is elliptical: “We must not hate our brethren, even as Cain was, etc.”. τοῦ πον., see note on 1 John 2:18. ἔσφαξεν, a strong word, “slaughtered,” “butchered,” properly by cutting the throat (jugulare), like an ox in the shambles.12. A brother’s love suggests its opposite, a brother’s hate, and that in the typical instance of it, the fratricide Cain.

Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one] Better, as R.V., Not as Cain was of the evil one: there is no ‘who’ in the Greek, nor any pronoun before ‘the evil one.’ Here as in John 1:21; John 1:25; John 6:14; John 6:48; John 6:69; John 7:40, the definite article has been turned into a demonstrative pronoun in A. V. See on 1 John 1:2. In ‘from the beginning’ (1 John 3:8) S. John has gone back to the earliest point in the history of sin. The instance of Cain shewed how very soon sin took the form of hate, and fratricidal hate. It is better not to supply any verb with ‘not’: although the sentence is grammatically incomplete, it is quite intelligible. ‘We are not, and ought not to be, of the evil one, as Cain was.’ Commentators quote the “strange Rabbinical view” that while Abel was the son of Adam, Cain was the son of the tempter. Of course S. John is not thinking of such wild imaginations: Cain is only morally ‘of the evil one’. Here, as elsewhere in the Epistle (1 John 2:13-14, 1 John 5:18-19), S. John uses ‘the evil one’ as a term with which his readers are quite familiar. He gives no explanation.

and slew his brother] This was evidence of his devilish nature. The word for ‘slay’ (σφάζειν) is a link between this Epistle and Revelation (Revelation 6:4, &c.; see below), occurring nowhere else in N. T. Its original meaning was ‘to cut the throat’ (σφαγή), especially of a victim for sacrifice. In later Greek it means simply to slay, especially with violence. But perhaps something of the notion of slaying a victim clings to it here, as in most passages in Revelation (Revelation 5:6; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 5:12, Revelation 6:9, Revelation 13:3; Revelation 13:8, Revelation 18:24).

And wherefore slew he him?] S. John puts this question to bring out still more strongly the diabolical nature of the act and the agent. Was Abel at all to blame? On the contrary, it was his righteousness which excited the murderous hate of Cain. Cain was jealous of the acceptance which Abel’s righteous offering found, and which his own evil offering did not find: and ‘who is able to stand before envy?’ (Proverbs 27:4). Cain’s offering was evil, (1) because it ‘cost him nothing’ (2 Samuel 24:24); (2) because of the spirit in which it was offered.

and his brother’s righteous] The last mention of the subject of righteousness with which this section opened (1 John 2:29; comp. 1 John 3:7; 1 John 3:10). Neither ‘righteousness’ nor ‘righteous’ occur again in the Epistle; righteousness being merged in the warmer and more definite aspect of it, love. This is a reason for including from 1 John 2:29 to 1 John 3:12 in one section, treating of the righteousness of the children of God. Comp. ‘By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous’ (Hebrews 11:4).1 John 3:12. Οὐ καθὼς) not as. An ellipsis. See ch. 1 John 2:27, note.—Κάϊν, Cain) The Scripture speaks more mildly respecting Adam himself, than respecting Cain and persons like him.—ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, from the Evil One) Afterwards πονηρὰ, evil. It is antithetical to, of God, 1 John 3:10.Verse 12. - The sentence is of an elliptical form, common in language. The full sense is, "Not that we should do even as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother." Cain's conduct typifies the attitude of the world towards Christians. Σφάζειν in the New Testament occurs only here and in Revelation. In the LXX and the New Testament it seems to mean "slay" without necessarily implying the cutting the throat of a victim. That Cain's works were evil is not stated in Genesis, but is inferred from God's rejection of him. Compare carefully the remarkably parallel passage, Hebrews 11:4. The wicked envy the good the blessedness of their goodness, and try to destroy what they cannot share. The war between good and evil is one of extermination; but the wicked would destroy the righteous, while the righteous would destroy wickedness by converting the wicked. Cain who was (Κάΐ́ν ἧν)

Who is not in the Greek. The construction is irregular. Lit., as Rev., not as Cain was of the evil one.

Slew (ἔσφαξεν)

The verb occurs only in John, and only here outside of Revelation. Originally, to slay by cutting the throat; so in Homer, of cattle:

"the suitor train who slay (σφάζουσι)

His flocks and slow-paced beeves with crooked horns."

"Odyssey," i., 92.

To slaughter victims for sacrifice:

"Backward they turned the necks of the fat beeves,

And cut their throats (ἕσφαζαν), and flayed the carcasses."

"Iliad," i., 459.

Thence, generally, to slay or kill.

Wherefore (χάριν τίνος)

Lit., on account of what. Χάριν for the sake of, on account of, is elsewhere placed after the genitive. See Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 3:14; 1 Timothy 5:14; Galatians 3:19.

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