Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
The First Family
Adam and Eve start to fulfill their commission to be fruitful and fill the earth, yet the affect of sin grows even as the family of Adam and Eve grows. Humans struggle to understand their relationship with God and how that is to shape their lives.
The First Worship (4:1-7):
Cain = sounds like the words for acquire or to get/produce.
Abel = sounds like breath or puff of air.
o What does Eve mean when she says, in verse 1, “I have acquired someone with Yahweh”? What does it say about her relationship with God?
o Eve comments on the birth of her first son, Cain (vs.1), and again on the birth of her third son (vs.25). Is it significant that Eve makes no comment on her second son, Abel?
o Why do Cain and Abel bring gifts to God? What reasons do we have for gift-giving?
o What are the differences between the gifts of Cain and of Abel?
o How does Cain react to his perception of a difference in God’s treatment of him and his brother? Does Cain respond to God’s questions?
o God is the first to use the word ‘sin’, in 4:7. ‘Sin’ implies falling short of a target or willful failure that is without excuse. What is God’s message to Cain in verse 7?
John Goldingay reflects on verse 7: The words parallel God’s words to Eve after her disobedience, though they have quite a different significance. By implication, the snake had a desire for Eve and Adam, a strange, perverse desire to want to trip them up. Even there in the garden, they had to face temptation, and they failed. What chance does Cain have outside the garden? Yet God implies that being outside the garden makes little difference. It doesn’t mean being out of touch with God; God is there, relating to Cain, encouraging Cain. “Come on,” he says to Cain. “You can do it. You must do it.” But Cain is no more listening than his mother and father were.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4:8-16):
o How is the pattern of sin and its consequences replayed in the next generation? What are the similarities and the difference?
o How many times is the word ‘brother’ used in verses 8-11? What is the significance of that?
o What does it mean that Abel’s “blood cries out to me from the ground”? Can you think of other instances in the Bible when this will be true?
o Read Hebrews 12:24. What is the comparison between Abel’s blood and Jesus’ blood?
o Adam and Eve respond to sin by trying to hide from God; Cain says, “I will be hidden from your presence.” Have you ever wanted to hide from God?
o What does the mark of Cain signify?
Another start (4:17-26):
Seth = sounds like the word to grant or to provide.
Enosh = means man or humankind, like the name Adam.
o How does is the distortion of God’s intended relationship between man and woman further illustrated in this passage?
o Cain and Abel represent those who serve the ground in farming and those who serve animals in tending flocks. How do Lamech’s children represent other vocations?
o What is Lamech’s song about? How does he twist God’s words to Cain? How does he try to “be like God”? (see 3:5)
Seven generations from Adam and Eve… the Genesis story reaches a low point. Then it backtracks to the birth of another baby to Adam and Eve. A pattern in Genesis thus makes its first appearance. Genesis will focus on the line of descent through which God’s purpose for the world is fulfilled, but it often first outlines what happens to the line through which God is not working in this vital way. It tells of the line of Noah’s sons Ham and Japhet before focusing on Shem’s line, of Ishmael’s line before focusing on Isaac’s, and of Esau’s line before focusing on Jacob’s. There is nothing wrong with not being the line through which God’s ultimate purpose is being fulfilled, because God is just as much involved with those other lines.
While the lines that are not “chosen” or “elect” are not thereby rejected, the story concentrates on the line through which God is bringing blessing to the whole world. In this process, God characteristically works through the line you would not expect. Specifically, God does not work through the line of the eldest son. It is a sign of how God overturns what we anticipate, overturns the patterns society sets up. Cain, Ishmael, and Esau were the eldest sons; in each case, God works through the little brother.
o What is the sign of hope in the line of Seth and Enosh? What is their relationship to God?
o What does Genesis 4 reveal about us as human beings?
o What does Genesis 4 reveal about God?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997