Genesis 4:4
And Abel, he also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Genesis 4:4. And the Lord God had respect to Abel and to his offering — And showed his acceptance of it, probably by fire from heaven; but to Cain and his offering he had not respect. We are sure there was a good reason for this difference: that the Governor of the world, though an absolute sovereign, doth not act arbitrarily in dispensing his smiles and frowns. 1st, There was a difference in the characters of the persons offering: Cain was a wicked man, but Abel was a righteous man, Matthew 23:35. 2d, There was a difference in the offerings they brought: Abel’s was a more excellent sacrifice than Cain’s; Cain’s was only a sacrifice of acknowledgment offered to the Creator; the meat-offerings of the fruit of the ground were no more: but Abel brought a sacrifice of atonement, the blood whereof was shed in order to remission, thereby owning himself a sinner, deprecating God’s wrath, and imploring his favour in a Mediator: but the great difference was, Abel offered in faith, and Cain did not. Abel offered with an eye to God’s will as his rule, and in dependance upon the promise of a Redeemer: but Cain did not offer in faith, and so it turned into sin to him.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.And Habel brought. - Habel's offering differs from that of his brother in outward form. It consists of the firstlings of his flock. These were slain; for their fat is offered. Blood was therefore shed, and life taken away. To us who are accustomed to partake of animal food, there may appear nothing strange here. We may suppose that each brother offered what came to hand out of the produce of his own industry. But let us ascend to that primeval time when the fruit tree and the herb bearing seed were alone assigned to man for food, and we must feel that there is something new here. Still let us wait for the result.

And the Lord had respect unto Habel and his offering, - but not unto Cain. We have now the simple facts before us. Let us hear the inspired comment: "Πίστελ pistei, 'by faith' Abel offered unto God πλείονα Θυσίαν pleiona thusian, 'a more excellent sacrifice' than Cain" Hebrews 11:4. There was, then, clearly an internal moral distinction in the intention or disposition of the offerers. Habel had faith - that confiding in God which is not bare and cold, but is accompanied with confession of sin, and a sense of gratitude for his mercy, and followed by obedience to his will. Cain had not this faith. He may have had a faith in the existence, power, and bounty of God; but it wanted that penitent returning to God, that humble acceptance of his mercy, and submission to his will, which constitute true faith. It must be admitted the faith of the offerer is essential to the acceptableness of the offering, even though other things were equal.

However, in this case, there is a difference in the things offered. The one is a vegetable offering, the other an animal; the one a presentation of things without life, the other a sacrifice of life. Hence, the latter is called πλείων θυσία pleiōn thusia; there is "more in it" than in the former. The two offerings are therefore expressive of the different kinds of faith in the offerers. They are the excogitation and exhibition in outward symbol of the faith of each. The fruit of the soil offered to God is an acknowledgment that the means of this earthly life are due to him. This expresses the barren faith of Cain, but not the living faith of Habel. The latter has entered deeply into the thought that life itself is forfeited to God by transgression, and that only by an act of mercy can the Author of life restore it to the penitent, trusting, submissive, loving heart. He has pondered on the intimations of relenting mercy and love that have come from the Lord to the fallen race, and cast himself upon them without reserve. He slays the animal of which he is the lawful owner, as a victim, thereby acknowledging that his life is due for sin; he offers the life of the animal, not as though it were of equal value with his own, but in token that another life, equivalent to his own, is due to justice if he is to go free by the as yet inscrutable mercy of God.

Such a thought as this is fairly deducible from the facts on the surface of our record. It seems necessary in order to account for the first slaying of an animal under an economy where vegetable diet was alone permitted. We may go further. It is hard to suppose the slaying of an animal acceptable, if not previously allowed. The coats of skin seem to involve a practical allowance of the killing of animals for certain purposes. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that there was more in the animal than in the vegetable offering, and that more essential to the full expression of a right faith in the mercy of God, without borrowing the light of future revelation. Hence, the nature of Habel's sacrifice was the index of the genuineness of his faith. And the Lord had respect unto him and his offering; thereby intimating that his heart was right, and his offering suitable to the expression of his feelings. This finding is also in keeping with the manner of Scripture, which takes the outward act as the simple and spontaneous exponent of the inward feeling. The mode of testifying his respect to Habel was by consuming his offering with fire, or some other way equally open to observation.

And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. - A feeling of resentment, and a sense of disgrace and condemnation take possession of Cain's breast. There is no spirit of inquiry, self-examination, prayer to God for light, or pardon. This shows that Cain was far from being in a right frame of mind.

4. the Lord had respect unto Abel, not unto Cain, &c.—The words, "had respect to," signify in Hebrew,—"to look at any thing with a keen earnest glance," which has been translated, "kindle into a fire," so that the divine approval of Abel's offering was shown in its being consumed by fire (see Ge 15:17; Jud 13:20). The firstlings; either,

1. The first-born, which God reserved to himself, both at this time, and afterwards by an express law, Exodus 13:2 Numbers 3:13. Or,

2. The choicest and most eminent of the flock; for the best of any kind are oft called first-born, as Job 18:13 Jeremiah 31:19 Hebrews 12:23.

The fat thereof was either,

1. Properly, the fat being properly now required by God, as afterwards was expressed, Exodus 29:13, Exodus 29:22, Leviticus 3:3. Or,

2. The best of them, as the word fat is often used, as Genesis 45:18, Genesis 49:20, Numbers 18:12 Nehemiah 8:10 Psalm 147:14.

The Lord had respect, or, looked to him with a gracious eye, kindly accepted and owned him and his sacrifice, and testified this { Hebrews 11:4} to Cain and all there present, either by express word, or by some visible sign; probably by consuming his sacrifice by fire from heaven, as the fathers generally think; whereby also God did afterwards frequently signify, his acceptance of sacrifices, as Leviticus 9:24, Jdg 6:21, 1 Kings 18:38 1 Chronicles 21:26 2 Chronicles 7:1. Unto Abel’s person, who was a truly good man; and then to his sacrifice, which was offered with faith in God’s mercy and in the promised Mediator, Hebrews 11:4. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock,.... As he was a shepherd, his flock consisted of sheep; and of the firstlings of these, the lambs that were first brought forth, he presented as an offering to the Lord; and which were afterwards frequently used in sacrifice, and were a proper type of Christ, Jehovah's firstborn, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, a Lamb without spot and blemish; fitly signified by one for his innocence, harmlessness, and meekness:

and of the fat thereof; which is to be understood either of the fat properly, which in later time was claimed by the Lord as his own, Leviticus 3:16 or of the fattest of his flock, the best lambs he had; the fattest and plumpest, and which were most free from defects and blemishes; not the torn, nor lame, nor sick, but that which was perfect and without spot; for God is to be served with the best we have. Josephus (f) says it was milk, and the firstlings of his flock; and a word of the same letters, differently pointed, signifies milk; and some learned men, as Grotius and others, have given into this sense, observing it to be a custom with the Egyptians to sacrifice milk to their gods: but the word, as here pointed, is never used for milk; nor were such sacrifices ever used by the people of God; and Abel's sacrifice is called by the apostle a "slain" sacrifice, as Heidegger (g) observes:

and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offering; as being what he had designed and appointed to be used for sacrifice in future time, and as being a suitable type and emblem of the Messiah, and his sacrifice; and especially as being offered up by faith, in a view to the sacrifice of Christ, which is of a sweet smelling savour to God, and by which sin only is atoned and satisfied for, see Hebrews 11:4. God looked at his sacrifice with a smiling countenance, took, and expressed delight, well pleasedness, and satisfaction in it; and he first accepted of his person, as considered in Christ his well beloved Son, and then his offering in virtue of his sacrifice: and this respect and acceptance might be signified by some visible sign or token, and particularly by the descent of fire from heaven upon it, as was the token of acceptance in later times, Leviticus 9:24 and Theodotion here renders it, he "fired" it, or "set" it on "fire"; and Jarchi paraphrases it,"fire descended and licked up his offering;''and Aben Ezra,"and fire descended and reduced the offering of Abel to ashes;''so Abraham Seba (h).

(f) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 2. sect. 1.((g) Hist. Patriarch. Exercit. 5. sect. 20. (h) In Tzeror Hammor, fol. 8. 2.

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. the firstlings] i.e. “the firstborn,” regarded as the best and choicest, cf. Exodus 34:19; Numbers 18:17; Proverbs 3:9.

the fat] i.e. the fatty portions, which were regarded as choicest for the purpose of a banquet (cf. 1 Samuel 2:16), or for burning in sacrifice, Isaiah 1:11, “the fat of fed beasts.”

had respect unto] i.e. looked with favour upon. In the two passages which it is natural to quote in illustration of this expression, Numbers 16:15, “Respect not thou their offering,” and Amos 5:22, “Neither will I regard the peace-offerings,” the Hebrew has a different verb, but the Latin renders, as here, by respicere.

How the favourable regard was expressed we are not told. See note on the next verse.Verse 4. - And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. Either the firstborn, which God afterwards demanded (Exodus 13:12), or the choicest and best (Job 18:13; Jeremiah 31:19; Hebrews 12:23). And the fat thereof. Literally, the fatness of them, i.e. the fattest of the firstlings, "the best he had, and the best of those best" (Inglis; cf. Genesis 45:18; Numbers 18:2; Psalm 167:14); a proof that flesh was eaten before the Flood, since "it had been no praise to Abel to offer the fatlings if he used not to eat of them" (Willet), and "si anteposuit Abel utilitate" suae Deum, non dubium quid solitus sit ex labore suo utilitatem percipere" (Justin). And the Lord had respect. Literally, looked upon; ἐπεῖδεν, LXX. (cf. Numbers 16:15); probably consuming it by fire from heaven, or from the flaming sword (cf. Leviticus 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2 Chronicles 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38; Jerome, Chrysostom, Cyril). Theodotion renders ἐνεπύρισεν, inflammant; and Hebrews 11:4, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις, is supposed to lend considerable weight to the opinion. Unto Abel and his offering. Accepting first his person and then his gift (cf. Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 15:8; 2 Corinthians 8:12). "The sacrifice was accepted for the man, and not the man for the sacrifice" (Ainsworth); but still "without a doubt the words of Moses imply that the matter of Abel's offering was more excellent and suitable than that of Cain's," and one can hardly entertain a doubt that this was the idea of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews" (Prof. Lindsay, 'Lectures on Hebrews,' Edin. 1867). Abel's sacrifice was πλείονα, fuller than Cain's; it had more in it; it had faith, which was wanting in the other. It was also offered in obedience to Divine prescription. The universal prevalence of sacrifice rather points to Divine prescription than to man's invention as its proper source. Had Divine worship been of purely human origin, it is almost certain that greater diversity would have prevailed in its forms. Besides, the fact that the mode of worship was not left to human ingenuity under the law, and that will-worship is specifically condemned under the Christian dispensation (Colossians 2:23), favors the presumption that it was Divinely appointed from the first. But her joy was soon overcome by the discovery of the vanity of this earthly life. This is expressed in the name Abel, which was given to the second son (הבל, in pause הבל, i.e., nothingness, vanity), whether it indicated generally a feeling of sorrow on account of his weakness, or was a prophetic presentiment of his untimely death. The occupation of the sons is noticed on account of what follows. "Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground." Adam had, no doubt, already commenced both occupations, and the sons selected each a different department. God Himself had pointed out both to Adam-the tilling of the ground by the employment assigned him in Eden, which had to be changed into agriculture after his expulsion; and the keeping of cattle in the clothing that He gave him (Genesis 3:21). Moreover, agriculture can never be entirely separated from the rearing of cattle; for a man not only requires food, but clothing, which is procured directly from the hides and wool of tame animals. In addition to this, sheep do not thrive without human protection and care, and therefore were probably associated with man from the very first. The different occupations of the brothers, therefore, are not to be regarded as a proof of the difference in their dispositions. This comes out first in the sacrifice, which they offered after a time to God, each one from the produce of his vocation. - "In process of time" (lit., at the end of days, i.e., after a considerable lapse of time: for this use of ימים cf. Genesis 40:4; Numbers 9:2) Cain brought of the fruit of the ground a gift (מנחה) to the Lord; and Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and indeed (vav in an explanatory sense, vid., Ges. 155, 1) of their fat," i.e., the fattest of the firstlings, and not merely the first good one that came to hand. חלבים are not the fat portions of the animals, as in the Levitical law of sacrifice. This is evident from the fact, that the sacrifice was not connected with a sacrificial meal, and animal food was not eaten at this time. That the usage of the Mosaic law cannot determine the meaning of this passage, is evident from the word minchah, which is applied in Leviticus to bloodless sacrifices only, whereas it is used here in connection with Abel's sacrifice. "And Jehovah looked upon Abel and his gift; and upon Cain and his gift He did not look." The look of Jehovah was in any case a visible sign of satisfaction. It is a common and ancient opinion that fire consumed Abel's sacrifice, and thus showed that it was graciously accepted. Theodotion explains the words by καὶ ἐνεπύρισεν ὁ Θεός. But whilst this explanation has the analogy of Leviticus 9:24 and Judges 6:21 in its favour, it does not suit the words, "upon Abel and his gift." The reason for the different reception of the two offerings was the state of mind towards God with which they were brought, and which manifested itself in the selection of the gifts. Not, indeed, in the fact that Abel brought a bleeding sacrifice and Cain a bloodless one; for this difference arose from the difference in their callings, and each necessarily took his gift from the produce of his own occupation. It was rather in the fact that Abel offered the fattest firstlings of his flock, the best that he could bring; whilst Cain only brought a portion of the fruit of the ground, but not the first-fruits. By this choice Abel brought πλείονα θυσίαν παρὰ Κάΐν, and manifested that disposition which is designated faith (πίστις) in Hebrews 11:4. The nature of this disposition, however, can only be determined from the meaning of the offering itself.

The sacrifices offered by Adam's sons, and that not in consequence of a divine command, but from the free impulse of their nature as determined by God, were the first sacrifices of the human race. The origin of sacrifice, therefore, is neither to be traced to a positive command, nor to be regarded as a human invention. To form an accurate conception of the idea which lies at the foundation of all sacrificial worship, we must bear in mind that the first sacrifices were offered after the fall, and therefore presupposed the spiritual separation of man from God, and were designed to satisfy the need of the heart for fellowship with God. This need existed in the case of Cain, as well as in that of Abel; otherwise he would have offered no sacrifice at all, since there was no command to render it compulsory. Yet it was not the wish for forgiveness of sin which led Adam's sons to offer sacrifice; for there is no mention of expiation, and the notion that Abel, by slaughtering the animal, confessed that he deserved death on account of sin, is transferred to this passage from the expiatory sacrifices of the Mosaic law. The offerings were expressive of gratitude to God, to whom they owed all that they had; and were associated also with the desire to secure the divine favour and blessing, so that they are to be regarded not merely as thank-offerings, but as supplicatory sacrifices, and as propitiatory also, in the wider sense of the word. In this the two offerings are alike. The reason why they were not equally acceptable to God is not to be sought, as Hoffmann thinks, in the fact that Cain merely offered thanks "for the preservation of this present life," whereas Abel offered thanks "for the forgiveness of sins," or "for the sin-forgiving clothing received by man from the hand of God." To take the nourishment of the body literally and the clothing symbolically in this manner, is an arbitrary procedure, by which the Scriptures might be made to mean anything we chose. The reason is to be found rather in the fact, that Abel's thanks came from the depth of his heart, whilst Cain merely offered his to keep on good terms with God-a difference that was manifested in the choice of the gifts, which each one brought from the produce of his occupation. This choice shows clearly "that it was the pious feeling, through which the worshiper put his heart as it were into the gift, which made the offering acceptable to God" (Oehler); that the essence of the sacrifice was not the presentation of a gift to God, but that the offering was intended to shadow forth the dedication of the heart to God. At the same time, the desire of the worshipper, by the dedication of the best of his possessions to secure afresh the favour of God, contained the germ of that substitutionary meaning of sacrifice, which was afterwards expanded in connection with the deepening and heightening of the feeling of sin into a desire for forgiveness, and led to the development of the idea of expiatory sacrifice. - On account of the preference shown to Abel, "it burned Cain sore (the subject, 'wrath,' is wanting, as it frequently is in the case of חרה, cf. Genesis 18:30, Genesis 18:32; Genesis 31:36, etc.), and his countenance fell" (an indication of his discontent and anger: cf. Jeremiah 3:12; Job 29:24). God warned him of giving way to this, and directed his attention to the cause and consequences of his wrath.

"Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen?" The answer to this is given in the further question, "Is there not, if thou art good, a lifting up" (sc., of the countenance)? It is evident from the context, and the antithesis of falling and lifting up (נפל and נשׂא), that פּנים must be supplied after שׂאת. By this God gave him to understand that his look was indicative of evil thoughts and intentions; for the lifting up of the countenance, i.e., a free, open look, is the mark of a good conscience (Job 11:15). "But if thou art not good, sin lieth before the door, and its desire is to thee (directed towards thee); but thou shouldst rule over it." The fem. חטּאת is construed as a masculine, because, with evident allusion to the serpent, sin is personified as a wild beast, lurking at the door of the human heart, and eagerly desiring to devour his soul (1 Peter 5:8). היטיב, to make good, signifies here not good action, the performance of good in work and deed, but making the disposition good, i.e., directing the heart to what is good. Cain is to rule over the sin which is greedily desiring him, by giving up his wrath, not indeed that sin may cease to lurk for him, but that the lurking evil foe may obtain no entrance into his heart. There is no need to regard the sentence as interrogative, "Wilt thou, indeed, be able to rule over it?" (Ewald), nor to deny the allusion in בּו to the lurking sin, as Delitzsch does. The words do not command the suppression of an inward temptation, but resistance to the power of evil as pressing from without, by hearkening to the word which God addressed to Cain in person, and addresses to us through the Scriptures. There is nothing said here about God appearing visibly; but this does not warrant us in interpreting either this or the following conversation as a simple process that took place in the heart and conscience of Cain. It is evident from Genesis 4:14 and Genesis 4:16 that God did not withdraw His personal presence and visible intercourse from men, as soon as He had expelled them from the garden of Eden. "God talks to Cain as to a wilful child, and draws out of him what is sleeping in his heart, and lurking like a wild beast before his door. And what He did to Cain He does to every one who will but observe his own heart, and listen to the voice of God" (Herder). But Cain paid no need to the divine warning.

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