Genesis 4:6-16 Cain And A Prohibition Against Private Vengeance.
In echoes of the interrogation of our first parents, the LORD cross examines Cain, questioning his anger, which Cain no doubt felt was justified (v. 6). His countenance was fallen because his sacrifice was not accepted. Cain knew what was required but he rejected the LORD’s demands. Cain sinned with his false worship, and ultimately in his failure to acknowledge his sinful condition and the need for redemption (v. 7). Therefore out of envy and hate he plotted against Abel (v. 8). The LORD asks Cain about Abel and Cain acts like he doesn’t know that he murdered him (v. 9). Many assume that Cain’s question should be answered in the affirmative. However, the issue wasn’t as Cain suggests, that he should not let his eyes off Abel. They were both grown men. The LORD wasn’t expecting Cain to “babysit” Abel forever. Cain was both denying that he knew what happened to Abel, and that the LORD was somehow asking too much of him. All the LORD was asking of Cain and all men was to love his neighbour as himself and not murder him.
Abel’s blood was crying out from the ground to the LORD (v. 10). The judgment on Cain is an interesting one. Where previously the earth was cursed (2:17), now the LORD says that Cain is “cursed from the earth” (v. 11). He would be a fugitive and vagabond (v. 12). Surely the LORD could have killed Cain. Later the LORD would mandate that any man who would take another man’s life would have his life taken. However, this was to take place at the hands of other men, ultimately at the mouth of two or three witnesses (9:6 Cf. Dt. 17:6). From the very beginning we see that the LORD will not normally execute the judgment due directly, but it has always been His intention that humanity govern themselves according to His law. Cain’s fear was that someone might engage in vigilante justice and execute him (v. 14). It is an expression of the LORD’s common grace that at this stage in human history the LORD upholds due process, even of one He knew was guilty (v. 15). However, the rest of Cain’s punishment would remain (v. 13).
Some argue that the issue was not ultimately that of a proper sacrifice, but Cain was judged for the sacrifice which he brought. Cain and Abel both knew that their parents were covered by the LORD through the shedding of innocent blood (3:21). The writer to the Hebrews says that it was the blood shed in Abel’s sacrifice which is what spoke (12:24). Christ’s sacrifice is better than that first offering by Abel, because that bloody sacrifice and all that would follow, were meant to point to the promised Seed of Genesis 3:15. The apostle John affirmed the testimony in Genesis, that Cain murdered his brother because his works were evil and Abel’s were righteous (I Jn. 3:12). Abel offered the sacrifice God required-the offering of the firstborn of his flock (Gen. 4:4). Cain suffered a covenantal curse, seen now with his going out from the presence of the LORD (v. 16 Cf. v. 11; Ps. 51:11). This departure was more than physical, it was ultimately spiritual and covenantal (Cf. II Kgs. 13:23; Jer. 23:39). The establishment of the warring seeds had begun through the first son of the Evil One.