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Understanding Genesis 4: God's Way vs. Our Way

Updated on June 8, 2015

Read the entire chapter 4 of Genesis on your own. When you read the chapter, don’t just read it—study it with questions and try to make sense of it.

Significance of the Sacrifice

After Adam and Eve left the Garden, they learned to build a shelter for themselves. They learned to work the ground and provide food for themselves. They also learned that for their sins, they were to sacrifice an innocent animal to remind them of the sacrifice of Jesus, and the promise of salvation. An innocent animal that reminded them it was their fault that the animal was dying. An innocent animal killed to remind them of Jesus dying for them even though He was their God and innocent of their sins. While they had never known death before the Fall, death was a reminder of what sins cost.

Abel offered the lamb, not because he was a shepherd, but because he understood the significance of the sacrifice and was obedient to God’s instructions.

Cain Hardens His Heart

Unfortunately, Cain wanted to offer what he thought was appropriate and offered the fruits from the ground. Perhaps he wanted to give God what he was proud of: the best fruits of his labor. But in providing the fruits: he was ignoring God’s instructions and saying, “my way is better than your way.”

This is what Lucifer thought when he rebelled against God in Heaven, and this is what Eve thought when she rebelled against God in Eden. They all thought they knew what was best and went their own way. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14

Whether it was simply, “Do not eat the fruit” or “Take the life of an innocent lamb,”—they thought their way was better than God’s way. This is often our mistake also. Our desires supersede God’s will in regards to loving Him and others. “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22 “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, ontheLORD.” Psalm 27:14

God did not need the dead animals, death was never part of creation, but it was reminder for us. Stop sinning, because it causes death and hurts others. Stop being selfish, instead love and serve others. Cain knew what was right, and he heard God’s warning, but his pride and selfishness overcame his willingness to obey God. How we hate to be wrong. We are embarrassed when we’re caught wrong-footed, and our stubbornness leads us to finish the sins we’ve started. The more they direct us toward righteousness, the more we stubbornly harden our hearts. How often we look back and regret some of our choices.

But God provides the solution: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Romans 8:2,9,11

God's Mercy

Did God really not know what Cain had done? God wanted to give Cain a chance to confess and repent of his sins, but Cain denied his brother and denied his crime. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

When God banishes Cain, he still shows no repentance. Instead he accuses God of being harsh. He had taken the life of his brother, but human life was meaningless and instead Cain only thought of himself and what his life would be like alone. He projects his sins on others and fears that his life will be taken. But God loves even the sinners, and He still promises to protect Cain. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

God's Presence

Can you really go away from God? He is everywhere. "The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men." Psalm 33:13 "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Hebrews 4:14

Also, Cain chooses to move east of Eden, where the cherubim with the flaming sword are still present. He and his descendants can still see the forbidden Garden, and he must have related the stories he learned from his parents. But unfortunately, you reap what you sow, and his descendants chooses to follow in Cain’s rebellion.

Cain's Legacy

Five generations after Cain, Lamech also kills, as well as practice polygamy. Humans have become so perverse that God’s instructions are ignored and forgotten. Loving God and loving others are an unknown quantity and selfishness is common.

God's Grace

Not only do Adam and Eve see the results of their sin in the world around them, they also lose both their sons. One son kills the other. Can any parents bear such tragedy? After Abel dies, Eve gives birth to another child and calls him Seth. To them, Seth is another gift from God and fills them with hope. Seth continues to follow God and teaches his descendants to obey God’s teachings. The differences between Seth’s descendants and Cain’s descendants become more obvious.

God’s grace allowed Cain and his descendants opportunities to turn to Him. God was never far from them. They had Eden nearby and Seth’s descendants to remind them of God’s love, but their willfulness was regarded higher than God. But Jesus did not die just for Seth’s descendant, Jesus died for everyone. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16 His grace reaches out to all of us, just like to Cain. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" Ephesians 2:8

To get a deeper understanding of the Bible, read along with Patriarchs and Prophets, written by Ellen G. White. The book is available on and


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