Friday, February 7, 2014

THE MARK OF CAIN: An In-Depth Biblical Study on Genesis 4:1-15

The "Elohim" (God) Tattoo
The "Elohim" (God) Tattoo


An Exegetical Expository Sermon On the Life Of Cain

By Dr. Diego Sausa

My family and I have traveled a little bit around the world, and one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever seen which made an indelible impact on my mind was the Norwegian fjords. As we sailed through the fjords, we could see hundreds of waterfalls cascading down from the mountain top into the very still and very clear waters of the fjords. The majestic beauty was out of this world. When I looked at the surreal scenery, I couldn’t help but think of the perfect world back then when it first came fresh from the hands of the Creator. And it made me realize that the Norwegian fjords were indeed beautiful but they would pale by comparison to our world back then in the beginning before the Fall.

Yes, we lost paradise because our first parents chose to disobey God, and since then, happiness became an elusive commodity. Satan has opened for mankind many highways and avenues that promise happiness, but in reality they all lead to despair and destruction. Death, corruption, sorrow, ugliness, pain,evil, and injustice became the normal givens since the Fall.

After the Fall, God preached to our first parents the good news that at some point in time, God Himself would assume mankind’s guilt and die their eternal death punishment that He might give them eternal life and happiness again like it was in the beginning. Theologians call it the protoevangeliumor the “first gospel.” It is God’s promise of another chance at eternal life and paradise by defeating evil through the Seed of the woman. The promise is found in Genesis 3:15,God says, “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent/Satan] and the woman [Eve], and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (NKJV). This Seed is clearly a singular Person here because of the pronouns “He” and “His” that are used to refer to the Seed.

This is the first promise and the first gospel in the Bible. In fact this was the only eternal life insurance and the only hope of Adam and Eve and of the entire human race. Often we see on TV, commercials that offer us security for our future: buy gold, buy silver, invest in the stock market, or invest in real estate. I am not against investments, in fact the implied message of the Parable of the Talent is we need to invest and expand on our spiritual, physical and material talents. But let us not forget that these things are false assurances of hope and security in life. At any given moment, your life could be snuffed away from you no matter who you think you are, and your gold, your achievements, your dreams, your investments, your nice property cannot do anything about it. You’ll leave them all behind as you go down alone in the grave. Even Steve Jobs’ iPads and iPhones that grossed him billions of dollars could do nothing about the fact that he is now a cold heap of inanimate dust in the grave. Death zeroes out anything and everything that we have achieved and accumulated in life, and unless we have the hope of the promised Seed who conquers death, we have nothing. So every time we hear these false assurances that have bedazzled and mesmerized the lifetimes of billions of people including countless of Christians, let us cut the chase, and see the true reality: the only real hope and security for our lives and for our future is Jesus, everything else the world can offer points south to the grave.

Adam and Eve understood very well that the Promised Seed or Offspring who would save mankind from eternal death and who would restore mankind back to eternal life would be human but would also be divine. This was very evident when the first child of Adam and Eve was born. When Cain was born, Eve exclaimed,“I have acquired a man from the Lord”(Gen. 4:1, NKJV). Eve thought that that Seed promised by God that would bring about the salvation of the human race would come immediately through her first child. When Cain was born, Eve named him Cain [Qain] from the Hebrew verb qanah meaning “to get” or “to acquire.” Eve named her first son Cain because she thought Cain was the promised Seed that she had just gotten from the Lord, thus Eve exclaims, “I have gotten [qanah] a man even the Lord (eth-YHVH)” (My literal translation). Most translations render it, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” but the words “with the help” are added by the translators. The original Hebrew text simply says, qanithi ‘ish ‘eth-YHVH which means that Eve simply declared, “I have gotten a man EVEN THE LORD [‘eth-YHVH]” (Gen. 4:1b).

Eve’s expectation of the divine-human Savior-Seed was correct, the Seed was indeed a God-Man, but her timing was way off too early. It would take a few thousand years more before the promised Seed of the woman would actually come to vanquish the enemy(Satan) and his seed (followers) through the woman’s descendant named Mary. And when this Seed finally came, Paul declared in Galatians (3:16), “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your Seed,’meaning one Person, who is Christ.” The patriarchs then knew that the Seed was human and divine. And they were all looking forward to His coming. But in our time, the promised Seed who brings true happiness and hope, who has conquered death and who brings the human race back to eternal life and paradise has already come! When you have Jesus, you already have everything that you need! Do not trade Jesus for anything else in this world.

The realization that Cain was not the promised Seed would soon dawn on Adam and Eve. Another son would soon be born to our first parents and they would call him Abel. Cain and Abel had very different interests. Cain liked to grow crops while Abel liked to raise cattle. Adam and Eve certainly taught both their boys to have faith in the promised divine-human Seed who would save mankind and restore paradise and eternal life back to the human family. Moses records in Genesis 4:3-5, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (NKJV). Moses' introductory phrase in Genesis 4:3 in Hebrew interpreted by most translators as“In the process of time,” or “In the course of time,” is interesting because the translators do not know exactly how to make sense of Moses’ original Hebrew words if taken literally. Moses narrates, “Vayehiy miqqets yamim,” that is, literally, “And at the end [qets] of days” or “And at the climax [qets] of days,” Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord.

At this point in time, the only cycle of time determined by days and not by the movement of any heavenly body was the weekly cycle which was climaxed by the Sabbath day. In other words, what Moses was saying was, “At the climax of the cycle of days, or “At the end of the week,” that is, “On the Sabbath day,” Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord. Not a few scholars have recognized this fact that Moses’ words “and at the end of days,” referred to the Sabbath day (e.g., Jo Ann Davidson, “The Decalogue Before Mt. Sinai,” Perspective Digest,vol. 15:1, p.10). In other words, Genesis 4:3 is the first account of Sabbath worship outside of Eden. Moses tells us that in the beginning, the first brothers of the human race worshiped God on the Sabbath day through their offerings, but one’s worship was accepted by God while the other one’s worship was rejected.

Genesis 4:3-6 says, “And on the climactic day of the week, it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord looked favorably [sha’ah] on Abel and his offering, but He did not look favorably [sha’ah] on Cain and his offering. And Cain excessively [me’od] burned with anger [charah], and his face dropped down [napal]. So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you burning with anger [charah]? And why has your face dropped down [napal]? If you gladly do right [yatab], will you not be accepted? And if you do not gladly do right [yatab], sin is crouching [rabas] at the door and it wants to consume you, but you should rule over it” (My translation).

It’s been commonly advanced that Cain’s offering was not accepted because he did not offer the right offering, namely, the animal sacrifice, but instead he offered grain or food offering before the Lord, whereas Abel did the right thing by offering an animal sacrifice. This idea however, is not correct because in the Old Testament times, God allowed both the firstfruits of the ground and the firstborn of the cattle as offerings (see Neh. 10:35-36; Ex.23:19), and even the fruits of all kinds of trees that were not “firstfruits” were also allowed as offerings (Neh. 10:37). These grain offerings or food offerings were offered during Sabbath days and during other special festivals in Old Testament times which accomplished atonement for God’s people (see Neh. 10:33; Ezek. 45:17; also Numbers chapters 28 and 29). Cain and Abel, therefore, offered the right offerings on the right day of worship, but why is it that God looked favorably on Abel and his offering while He did not look favorably on Cain and Cain’s offering when they both offered the right offerings on the right day of worship?

The answer lies on what YHVH told Cain, “Why are you burning with anger [charah]? And why has your face dropped down [napal]? If you gladly do right [yatab], will you not be accepted?” (Gen. 4:6-7, margin). The Hebrew verb yatab for “to do right” also means “to pleasantly do what is right”or “to gladly do what is right.” In other words, Abel offered his offering with the right and genuine worshipful loving and joyful attitude while Cain offered his offering with the wrong attitude. It was the attitude in the heart as they worshiped God that made the big difference. Abel was joyfully worshiping in the spirit of faith in the grace of God,while Cain was worshiping in form but without the spirit of faith. Cain believed that he deserved to earn salvation because he was doing the right rituals of worship, while Abel believed that he was saved because of God’s grace through the Seed and not because of anything that he did. In other words, Cain’s worship was based on salvation by his own works while Abel’s worship was based on salvation by faith in God’s grace. No wonder the author of Hebrews, who most likely is Paul says, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts” (Heb. 11:4,ESV).

You know, many people say, “It doesn’t matter how or when we worship God, as long as we worship Him, it’s alright.” Wrong. God is very particular about the rightness of our worship. We may be worshiping God on the right day, and may be doing the the right rituals of worship, but I submit that we should ask ourselves this question: Does God look favorably upon my worship of Him like He looked favorably at the worship of Abel, or does He look at my worship unfavorably the way He looked at Cain’s worship?

Man looks at the outside appearance, but God sees both the outside and the inside of the heart. When the people of Judah were in the depths of evil, injustice,disregard and oppression of the poor and the needy, God through Isaiah declared,“The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to me?...I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats….Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your…Sabbaths and convocations– I cannot bear your evil assemblies….When you spread your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood;wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the case of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isa. 1:11-17, ESV,margin).

My friends, we have just read the formula for acceptable worship. In other words, what God is saying through Isaiah is, our Sabbath worship and our offerings are useless unless our hearts truly love God and our fellowmen. In other words, a pleasant, loving and charitable heart, is better than the external rituals of church worship and offerings.

A poem by R. Tagore of India sums up the right attitude in worship, he says,

Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God,
First fill your own house with the fragrance of love.
Go not to the temple to light lamps before the altar of God,
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart.
Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer,
First learn to bow humbly before your fellowmen.
Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees,
First bend down to lift someone who is down.
Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins,
First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you.

This was the main difference between Cain’s and Abel’s worship. Abel worshiped God with the right loving,joyful and faithful heart, Cain worshiped God with a selfish heart.

When Cain saw that his offering was not accepted while his brother Abel’s offering was accepted by God, Cain became extremely angry. Moses uses two Hebrew superlative words to emphasize the extreme intensity of Cain’s anger. Moses narrates in Genesis 4:5, “And Cain excessively [me’od] burned with anger [charah], and his face dropped down [napal].” The adverbial Hebrew word me’od for “excessively,” means “to a great degree,” “utterly,” or “excessively” and the Hebrew verb charah means “to excessively burn with anger.” The picture of Cain’s anger was so graphic that Moses describes that Cain’s face dropped down. Have you ever seen a dog that’s growling in vicious intense anger and his facial expression turns very ugly because another dog tried to take away his food? It’s very easy to tell when a person is very angry because the face turns like burning red and ugly and he growls like a dog. When that happens, stay away, don’t add heat to the already intensely burning heat, because he or she might bite you. Christ says (in Matt. 5:21) that murder does not just consist of the actual killing of another person but being angry with another person is liable of murder. When Christ said this, He was echoing what God said to Cain about his anger. God told Cain, “when you are angry sin crouches at the door and is ready to consume you therefore rule over your anger.” The sin of anger is being personified here like a crouching predator that is on the verge of devouring its prey. God says that if we don’t overrule our anger, it will devour us. Unfortunately, Cain did not listen to God, he did not rule over his anger but instead indulged in it and surely his anger consumed him that he ended up killing his own brother in cold blood.

By all means, rule over that anger. Take a shower, take a break, run into the woods and scream at the top of your voice to get rid of that anger, go fishing, by God’s grace, rule over that anger and hate because if we don’t we would end up like Cain doing heinous acts that we could not reverse. Anger or hatred for another does not only lead to the possibility of harming another person, it kills our own spiritual life. That’s why God said do not be angry with your fellowmen, because anger or hatred eats you up inside.

And so Cain ended up killing his own brother and God asked Cain where his brother was. God was asking not because He did not already know, but because it was to let Cain know that God fully investigates his case first and weighs the evidence, before God passes His judgment. God asks Cain, “‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’” And then God presents the evidence of the case, “‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground’” (Gen. 4:9-10). After making a full trial and investigation and after establishing the evidence of Cain’s guilt, God pronounces the verdict on Cain. In Genesis 4:11 God says, “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on earth” (NKJV). So Cain’s judgment was, he could no longer do what he loved to do in his life: grow crops, plant flowers, plant veggies and fruit trees. The earth that received the blood of his brother would no longer enable him to grow anything. He would not be able to stay put in one place because things around him would not bear any fruit. Cain becomes the first gypsy on earth. He would wander from place to place without a permanent home.

When God pronounced Cain’s punishment that he would not be able to grow anything and that he would become a fugitive and a vagabond, Cain did not argue. He accepted the punishment because he knew he was guilty as charged and that he deserved the punishment, but he pleaded, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me” (Gen. 4:14). In the heart of Cain was like a child crying before his heavenly Father. He was saying, “Yes I’m guilty and deserve the punishment, but it’s too much for me to bear.” Throughout the years of Cain’s life before this crime, he always had the assurance of God’s presence in their midst and the privilege of talking to Him face to face. But after committing this heinous crime Cain felt that God would permanently separate from him which would expose him to the threat of death by murder – the very crime that he committed against his own brother.

Then God answers Cain with an answer that is profoundly immersed in divine love, forgiveness and grace. He tells Cain, “‘Therefore,whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold.’ And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Gen. 4:15). What manner of love is this that God protects and defends the condemned sinner! This is exactly opposite to what the world does. The world judges you and condemns you even if you are not guilty of the accusation, but here was Cain, guilty as charged, but God protects him and defends him as a father protects his child no matter what! What God is telling the world is this: “My child Cain is guilty and I’m punishing him alright and letting him suffer the consequences of his sin, but don’t ever make the mistake of touching him because I will severely punish anyone who touches him because he is still My beloved son.” Have you ever punished your child for misbehaving and you as a parent suffers the punishment more than your child does? This is exactly the picture that Moses paints in this passage. In a sense, we are all like Cain, guilty as charged, but God bears our punishment more than we do, and He has put a mark on our forehead, the mark of the Cross,so that the adversary would not make the mistake of touching us because we are still the apple of God’s eye, we are still His children despite our failures.

We don’t know exactly if Cain is saved or not, I would like to think that I will see him in Eden restored. But the visible divine tattoo that God put on him most likely on his arm or forehead, protected him and made him live through his normal lifespan. The mark also assured him that God his Father would never leave him alone despite himself. Cain seems to have been profoundly grateful to God for His grace long after he received God's mark of protection. Cain named his first son Enoch and he also established the first city in the world and likewise named it Enoch (Gen. 4:17).  The Hebrew word hanok for Enoch comes from the root hen meaning grace.  In other words, Cain's acknowledgment of God's grace was profound.

God’s assurance for Cain is the same assurance that we have. Like Cain, we are all guilty as charged, but thanks be to God because despite the fact that we are all guilty as charged, His grace, His love, His protection and His presence do not leave us. He is able to save us and protect us to the uttermost because like what He did to Cain, God our heavenly Father is able to forgive us even from our most grievous sins and put the mark of the cross on our foreheads, the mark of Jesus, the One who bore all our guilt, the One who enables us to get back to that place in the beginning where death and pain were unknown; the One who can give us eternal life.  If you wish to receive God's mark - the mark of the cross that gives us the assurance of eternal life and salvation from eternal death, please pray with me.

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