“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous…” Hebrews 11:4a
Objective Of The Lesson
Your kids will see the effects of sin, death and suffering, playing out in the world through the danger of allowing anger to lead them into sin. They will also learn that God alone sets the rules for how we can come before His presence.
The context of this chapter suggests that God had explained to Adam and his family how to enter His presence with proper sacrifice. God Himself made the first animal sacrifice in the Garden of Eden, setting the example for Adam’s family of what was required; the life of an innocent animal.
“Adam and Eve had a son. Then Eve said, “I’ll name him Cain because I got him with the help of the Lord.” Later she had another son and named him Abel.” Genesis 4:1-2a
Adam and Eve had children. Now it is possible that they had more children, but this narrative focuses on their two firstborn sons.
They named their firstborn Cain, meaning “possession”, because she got him with the help of the Lord.
Children are blessings. They are given to us by God. And as we saw in the previous lesson, we are all made by God in His image and likeness.
They called their second son Abel, meaning “weakness or grief”. This was a reminder of the misery that she had brought her children into.
“Abel became a sheep farmer, but Cain farmed the land. One day, Cain gave part of his harvest to the Lord, and Abel also gave an offering to the Lord. He killed the first-born lamb from one of his sheep and gave the Lord the best parts of it. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but not with Cain and his offering.” Genesis 4:2b-5a
Both sons had responsibilities. Abel became a sheepherder. Cain was a farmer; the two oldest professions.
One day both men brought an offering to God. Cain brought what he had grown, “an offering… of the fruit of the ground.” At first glance, this seems like a legitimate act of worship on Cain’s part. It would seem only natural for Cain to bring an offering of the fruit of the ground, but as we will see Cain evidently knew better.
There was a great distinction between Cain and Abel’s sacrifices.
Cain did not bring the sacrifice that the Lord required. He brought the sacrifice that he felt was adequate. He wanted to have his own way. Cain knew what God wanted, but he ignored God’s command and brought what he wanted instead. He was about to learn that he didn’t get to set the rules.
Abel on the other hand was obedient and generous.
He brought the sacrifice that was required by God, a sheep from his flock (Hebrews 9:22), but not just any sheep. Abel brought the first-born lamb from his flock. He prepared it and gave the best parts to the Lord. This suggests an attitude of generosity on Abel’s part.
Abel also had a correct attitude. Hebrews 11 tells us that Abel brought his offering in faith. Because of his faith Abel was accounted as righteous by God (Hebrews 11:4-8).
Because of this God accepted Abel’s offering, but He rejected Cain’s offering.
God’s acceptance of Abel was based on his offering, not on anything that he had said or done. God’s rejection of Cain was also based on his offering, not on some preference for one brother over the other.
“This made Cain so angry that he could not hide his feelings.” Genesis 4:5b
Cain became angry that God had rejected his offering. He couldn’t believe that God had accepted his brothers offering and not his own.
He was not just angry, he was furious. The verse says that he could not hide his anger, “he could not hide his feelings.” It was clearly visible on his face.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6-7
God lovingly exhorts Cain. He called his attention to the underlying problem in his attitude, his stubbornness. Cain wanted to decide for himself what offering was acceptable.
God made it clear that his offering would have been accepted if Cain would have been obedient, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?”
God goes from exhorting Cain to warning Him. He warned Cain about the destructive power of anger. He needed to master his emotions (Ephesians 4:26).
“Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go for a walk.” And when they were out in a field, Cain killed him.” Genesis 4:8
Cain completely ignored Gods warning. He gave into his anger and into sin.
Cain convinced His brother to go with Him on a walk to the fields, the whole time knowing his evil intentions. There in the fields he murdered his brother. He literally slayed his brother. Cain had no regard for the life of his brother.
Cain killed his brother because he hated Abel (1 John 3:12). Abel’s righteous life only helped to show the depravity and rebellion in Cain’s life.
Before Cain murdered Abel no human had ever died or been killed, but Cain knew how animals were killed for sacrifice. He extinguished Abel’s life in the same way.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9
“Where is Abel your brother?” God knew the answer to this question. He asked Cain because He wanted to give him the opportunity to confess his sin and start to do right after doing wrong.
But does Cain repent of his sins, no.
His famous response is filled with audacity and rebellion. He was being a little smart mouth. Even making an impertinent reference to his brother’s profession.
In his response to God, Cain revealed whom he truly served.
“Then the Lord said: Why have you done this terrible thing? You killed your own brother, and his blood flowed onto the ground. Now his blood is calling out for me to punish you. And so, I’ll put you under a curse. Because you killed Abel and made his blood run out on the ground, you will never be able to farm the land again. If you try to farm the land, it won’t produce anything for you. From now on, you’ll be without a home, and you’ll spend the rest of your life wandering from place to place.” Genesis 4:10-12
Cain was foolish in believing that he could hide his sin from God. As we have seen before God knows everything and He sees everything. In this case He had seen Cain murder his brother.
The blood of Abel spoke, metaphorically of course, and it spoke of judgment. The blood of Jesus also speaks, but of better things, of grace and of sin having been forgiven (Hebrews 12:24).
Just like his parents had been punished for their disobedience, he would now be punished for his sin.
Ask your kids what was Adam’s punishment. The ground would be cursed because of him. He would have to labor to feed himself and his family.
The curse placed on Cain would make it impossible for him to farm again. Even if he tried nothing would grow. He would also have to wander all the days of his life. He would never have a home.
“This punishment is too hard!” Cain said. “You’re making me leave my home and live far from you. I will have to wander about without a home, and just anyone could kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14
Cain never sought forgiveness for his sin.
He was not sorry that he had killed his brother. Instead he whines over the punishment that God placed over him.
Cain was worried about someone taking revenge for Abel’s murder.
“No!” the Lord answered. “Anyone who kills you will be punished seven times worse than I am punishing you.” So the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn everyone not to kill him. But Cain had to go far from the Lord and live in the Land of Wandering, which is east of Eden.” Genesis 4:15-16
Even though God had just cursed Cain, He still had mercy on him. God placed on Cain a mark of protection. What the mark was or where it was on his body we don’t know. This mark would act both as a sign of God’s protection and a reminder of his lifelong shame and guilt.
Cain ultimately had to leave the presence of God. He was forced to move far away from the Garden of Eden. .
“Adam and his wife had another son. They named him Seth, because they said, “God has given us a son to take the place of Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain.” Genesis 4:25
Ask your kids what was promised to Eve in the garden. What was prophesied?
Abel is dead and Cain has been banished. How would God keep His promise? Does God keep His promises? God always keeps His promises!
God gave Adam and Eve another son. They called him Seth, meaning “appointed”. He replaced Abel and was the one to whom the promise of a deliverer from the seed of the woman would be passed (Genesis 3:15).
A Better Sacrifice
As we’ve already stated, the difference between Cain and Abel was not in their personalities or talents but in the sacrifice which each brought.
Able found favor in God’s eyes for the simple reason that his sacrifice was acceptable to God. He brought a suitable offering for his sin, and God accepted that offering.
By his faith-filled obedience Abel became an example for us today; we must be like him, acting in faith that God’s final sacrifice shall indeed save us from our sins.
In today’s world, it is important that people understand this basic concept of the Gospel. There are not “many paths” to God-there is only one way, and that is through the blood of Christ. There are no exceptions (John 14:6).
- What were the names of Adam and Eve’s children?
- What were their jobs?
- Whose offering was accepted? Whose was rejected?
- Why was Abel’s offering accepted?
- What did God warn Cain about?
- Did Cain listen to God’s warning? What did he do instead?
- Did Cain repent from his sins? What was he sorry about?
- How did God punish Cain? How was He merciful with Cain?
- How was God going to keep His promise to Eve?
- Are there many ways to get to God?
- Who is the only acceptable sacrifice?
Take some time to memorize the memory verse at the end of the lesson.