Bible Readings for January 4th
Isn’t it shocking to find a story of murder only one chapter after Adam and Eve are expelled from the perfections of the Garden of Eden? This act of fratricide in Genesis 4 demonstrates that the curse of sin already has a vice-grip on humanity, and in today’s meditation, we’ll look at several implications of this new, grim reality in God’s creation.
First, we shouldn’t miss the fact that sacrifice has already become a necessary part of how human beings interact with God. Although Cain brings an unacceptable sacrifice before Yahweh, he nevertheless understands that he is supposed to bring the sacrifice.
What’s more, it even seems that Cain and Abel already know some of the rules and principles that would eventually regulate the kind and quality of sacrifice that God would later demand from Israel. Yahweh’s question for Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:7), only makes sense if Cain has some kind of an idea of what “doing well” would mean. Abel understands, since he brings the animal sacrifices from the firstborn of the flock as well as the fattest of his flock, and God is pleased with his offering (Gen. 4:4). Even at this early stage in human history, the sacrificial principle of offering another’s life (an animal) in exchange for your own life is in place.
Second, we see Yahweh’s grace even in the curse he places on Cain. Cain’s sin deserved swift, severe, and total judgment, and while Yahweh’s judgment was swift and severe, it was not total. Yahweh graciously placed a mark on Cain so that anyone who took vengeance on him by trying to kill him would face a more severe punishment (Gen. 4:15). This will be a constant theme throughout the Bible: how can a righteous God punish sin appropriately but stop short of condemning the whole world to hell? Ultimately, this question will only be resolved at the cross of Jesus.
Third, we should pay careful attention to the way that Eve describes Seth, the son who replaced Abel. She describes him as “offspring” (Gen. 4:25), because this is the word from the promise Yahweh made in Genesis 3:15 to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” It sounds as though Eve expected this salvation—where God would crush the head of the serpent who had tempted Adam and Eve to sin—to come immediately. The loss of Abel was devastating, but she seems to expect Seth to take Abel’s place to fulfill God’s promise.
And Seth would fulfill God’s promise, but not directly, and not immediately. Instead, God’s promise would be fulfilled through the offspring of Seth’s offspring, several generations down the line.
We will continue looking at this theme of offspring tomorrow.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.