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Genesis Chapter Four


I. Content of the Chapter


The Second Fall of Man

A.  The birth and occupations of Cain and Abel (v.1-2);

B.  Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God respectively but received different effects (v.3-7);

C.  Cain murdered Abel and was punished by God (v.8-16);

D.  The offspring of Cain (v.17-24);

E.  The birth and offspring of Seth (v.25-26);


II. Verse by Verse Commentary


Gen. 4:1 “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD."”

YLT: “And the man knew Eve his wife, and she conceiveth and beareth Cain, and saith, `I have gotten a man by Jehovah;'”

Meaning of Words: “Cain”: obtain, gain;

Literal Meaning: Eve thought she had gained the “Seed of the woman” God promised (Gen. 3:15), so she named the child “Cain” (which means “gain”).


Gen. 4:2 “Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”

YLT: “and she addeth to bear his brother, even Abel. And Abel is feeding a flock, and Cain hath been servant of the ground.”

Meaning of Words: “Abel”: breath, vanity;

Literal Meaning: After Eve had begotten Cain, she had not gained the “Seed of the woman” God promised, so she was disappointed and named the second child “Abel” (which means “vanity”).

  At that time, man ate only vegetables and fruits (Gen. 3:18). The purpose of keeping sheep might be making clothes to cover shame (Gen. 3:21) and offering sin-offering. It was very likely that Adam and Eve received the revelation of God ---- man could not draw near to God unless he came by the sacrifice of the lamb. And they told the revelation to their sins.

We can see from this verse Able lived for God and Cain lived for his own belly.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) It is vanity of vanities of the life without God (Eccl. 1:2).

  2) He who has really realized the vanity of life will definitely regard God as his value of life and live for God.

  3) Let believers not live for bread only, but for serving God.


Gen. 4:3 “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.”

YLT: “And it cometh to pass at the end of days that Cain bringeth from the fruit of the ground a present to Jehovah;”

Meaning of Words: “in the process of time”: in the end of days; extremity; “offering”: sacrifice;

Literal Meaning: Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to God to please God. However, his actions hah showed his indifference to the revelation from his parents. He dared even to touch the divine things by himself. Here we find that man may think of God and hope to have fellowship with God and worship God when they are full. However, the problem is whether such kind of worship is worthy of the will of God. He who does not walk according to the will of God has just gone in “the way of Cain” (Jude v.11).

Spiritual Meaning: the offering of Cain symbolizes human religion, which is characterized by voluntary worship out of man’s will instead of God’s revelation (Col. 2:23) as well as justification by man’s works and labors (Gal. 3:11).


Gen. 4:4 “Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,”

YLT: “and Abel, he hath brought, he also, from the female firstlings of his flock, even from their fat ones; and Jehovah looketh unto Abel and unto his present,”

Meaning of Words: “respect”: gaze at, inspect;

Literal Meaning: the offering offered by Abel was respected by God, because: 1) it was not offered according to his own will, but the will of God received from his parents; 2) he offered to God by faith (Heb. 11:4); 3) what he offered was the sacrifice that was killed with blood.

Spiritual Meaning: firstborn” and “fat” typify Christ. The offering of Abel symbolizes the religion of revelation. Man will be pleased before God by Jesus Christ who was killed with blood only.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) “Firstborn” is the best of the flock. “Fat” is the best part of the body of the sheep. Let us present the best to God.

  2) God not only respects Abel’s offering but also the “person” of Abel. Only those who keep the will of God are pleased by God.

  3) Indeed, Eve respected Cain, but God respected Abel. What is respected by man may not be respected by God. However, what is respected by God may be despised by man (1Sam. 16:1-14).


Gen. 4:5 “but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

YLT: “and unto Cain and unto his present He hath not looked; and it is very displeasing to Cain, and his countenance is fallen.”

Meaning of Words: “not respect”: not look; “angry”: fret self, be kindled; “countenance fell”: face fell;

Literal Meaning: “But He did not respect Cain and his offering”, both the offering of Cain as well as his person are not right, so God does not accept him.

  The anger of Cain showed his motivation of offering was wrong.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Concerning the fellowship with God of men, Not only things but also our person should be right.

  2) Though human religion seeks the pleasure of God, its worship is still in vain because of its wrong source.

  3) Obedience is better than sacrifice (1Sam. 15:22). What God really respects is our obedience to Him.

  4) The first characteristic of religious people is self-righteousness and self-arrogance and easy tendency of anger in any slight dissatisfaction.

  5) Let us not offer “the excessive one”, but “the best one” to God.

  6) Concerning our service of God, 


Gen. 4:6 “So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?”

YLT: “And Jehovah saith unto Cain, `Why hast thou displeasure? and why hath thy countenance fallen?”

Literal Meaning: “angry” and “have your countenance fallen” are external expression. The question of God was to remind Cain of the hidden of his anger and falling countenance and the real condition of his heart.


Gen. 4:7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."”

YLT: “Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.'”

Meaning of Words: “do well”: become good; “be accepted”: rise up self, highness; “sin”: miss the mark; “lie”: fall down;

Literal Meaning: this verse describes “sin” as a personified living thing (Rom. 7:17), which is the incarnated Satan, crouching at the door and throwing itself at any moment.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Sin is always waiting for chances to hurt men and gain men to be its tools (Rom. 6:13). It is vain for man to try to rule over it.

  2) Though religion exhorts to do well, it is unable to give power to man to do well (Rom. 7:18).


Gen. 4:8 “Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.”

YLT: “And Cain saith unto Abel his brother, and it cometh to pass in their being in the field, that Cain riseth up against Abel his brother, and slayeth him.”

Spiritual Meaning: “Cain” typifies those who are of the flesh; “Abel” typifies those who are of the spirit. He who walks according to the flesh always persecutes him who walks according to the Spirit (Gal. 4:29).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) “Murder” is one of the characteristics of religion. Religionists, including even some zealous ones, kill one another.

  2) The devil is the father of all the religions of the world, for it was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).

  3) Religionists (including Christians) who kill will think to render service to God (John 16:2).

  4) He who hates his brothers is a murderer (1John 3:15).


Gen. 4:9 “Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"”

YLT: “And Jehovah saith unto Cain, `Where Abel thy brother?' and he saith, `I have not known; my brother's keeper -- I?'”

Literal Meaning: He said, "I do not know” ---- This is a lie. “Am I my brother's keeper?” ---- This is being against God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Believers are responsible to look after and help one another (Rom. 14:7; Phil. 2:4; 1Tim. 5:8).

  2) Religionists worship false gods but do not know the true God, so they are not ashamed of lying.


Gen. 4:10 “And He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground.”

YLT: “And He saith, `What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood is crying unto Me from the ground;”

Literal Meaning: the blood can speak (Heb. 12:24), which means that the blood bears witness before God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) It seems that there is a voice of man’s sins reaching the ears of God (Gen. 18:20; 19:13; Ex. 2:23; 3:9; James 5:4).

  2) God will avenge all those who are murdered for the sake of bearing witness (Rev. 6:9-10; 19:2).

  3) The blood of the Lord Jesus speaks better than that of Abel (Heb. 12:24). Therefore, believers come to God with boldness by His blood (Heb. 10:19).


Gen. 4:11 “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand.”

YLT: “and now, cursed thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive the blood of thy brother from thy hand;”

Literal Meaning: you are cursed from the earth”, it means: 1) the earth will not yield its strength to you; 2) the earth will not accept you (see v.12).

Enlightenment in the Word: the religious life without God has not blessing of God and even lives under curse.


Gen. 4:12 “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth."”

YLT: “when thou tillest the ground, it doth not add to give its strength to thee -- a wanderer, even a trembling one, thou art in the earth.'”

Meaning of Words: “fugitive”: waver, wander; “vagabond”: stagger, wag, shake;

Literal Meaning: “a fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth”, Cain became a fugitive and vagabond on the earth; “fugitive” emphasizes the external wandering; “vagabond” emphasizes the internal drifting state.

Enlightenment in the Word: if one lives a life without God, he does not know where he comes nor where to go and has no hope (Eph. 2:12) nor meaning.


Gen. 4:13 “And Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear!”

YLT: “And Cain saith unto Jehovah, `Greater is my punishment than to be borne;”

Meaning of Words: “punishment”: perversity, sin; “bear”: stand;

Literal Meaning: “my punishment is greater than I can bear!” The word of Cain is not repentance, but a self pitying groan.

Enlightenment in the Word: the worse punishment for man is not be rejected by God, which is more than that man can bear. 


Gen. 4:14 “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."”

YLT: “lo, Thou hast driven me to-day from off the face of the ground, and from Thy face I am hid; and I have been a wanderer, even a trembling one, in the earth, and it hath been -- every one finding me doth slay me.'”

Meaning of Words: “find”: seek;

Literal Meaning: the face of the ground”, lose the attendance and protection of God;

  “Anyone who finds me”, other children begotten by Adam and Eve;

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) The worse pain for man is to losing the presence of God.

  2) Man could see God after the first fall (referring to Adam). However, man was driven out from the face of the ground (referring to Cain). The more man has fallen, the farther he is away from God.

  3) He who rejects God will be rejected by God. Religionists without God are not preserved by God.

  4) The murderer always fears to be murdered.


Gen. 4:15 “And the LORD said to him, "Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.”

YLT: “And Jehovah saith to him, `Therefore -- of any slayer of Cain sevenfold it is required;' and Jehovah setteth to Cain a token that none finding him doth slay him.”

Meaning of Words: “vengeance”: avenge;

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Religionists who commit murder think they act for God. However, it is not the original will of God.

  2) Whoever desires to kill those who keep different views with him have to ponder over the meaning of this verse. 


Gen. 4:16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden.”

YLT: “And Cain goeth out from before Jehovah, and dwelleth in the land, moving about east of Eden;”

Meaning of Words: “Nod”: exile, wandering;

Spiritual Meaning: religion and civilization are two inventions of human beings. Man invented religion to draw near God and worship God. However, such voluntary worship did not please God and was against God, making man farther from God. Once man has lost God, he has lost the provision and joy and protection of God. Therefore, man invented civilization to replace God. 

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Cain brought the offering to God to serve Him, but finally he murdered because of the offering and went out from the presence of God. It will be the end of all those who have voluntary worship.

  2) Man was sent forth from the garden of Eden after the first fall (Gen. 3:23), but went out of the presence of Jehovah after the second fall (referring to Cain).

  3) All those who go out of the presence of God will “dwell” on the earth. 


Gen. 4:17 “And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son--Enoch.”

YLT: “and Cain knoweth his wife, and she conceiveth, and beareth Enoch; and he is building a city, and he calleth the name of the city, according to the name of his son -- Enoch.”

Meaning of Words: “Enoch”: initiated to learn;

Literal Meaning: most Bible expositors think the wife of Cain was the daughter of Adam and Eve. In the Bible marriage of a brother and his sister was prohibited after the Mosaic law. In the beginning, passive elements might not be inherited by those who married close relatives.

  “City”, it is a kind of social unit, big or small, that men can dwell in.

Spiritual Meaning: once men went out of the presence of God, they “were initiated to learn” (the meaning of the word “Enoch”) skills for life to supply and entertain and guard themselves, and thus civilization appeared.

  “City”, it is the center of man’s gatherings and life on the earth (Gen. 11:1-4), which is build with earthly materials, whose builder is man. City symbolizes a comprehensive expression of human civilization.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Believers lead a life of tent on the earth. What we look for is not the earthly city built by men, but the city which has foundation, whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:9-10).

  2) Cain called the city he built by his son’s name. What those who are far off have contemplated are often for their own children. 


Gen. 4:18 “To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech.”

YLT: “And born to Enoch is Irad; and Irad hath begotten Mehujael; and Mehujael hath begotten Methusael; and Methusael hath begotten Lamech.”

Meaning of Words: Irad”: a city of testimony; “Mehujael”: smitten of God; “Methushael”: he is of God; “Lamech”: strong, powerful;

Literal Meaning: God did not record the days of those who were in Cain’s genealogy, which indicated that their days on the earth were not remembered before God (read Gen. chap. 5).

Spiritual Meaning: man “began to learn” (“Enoch”) to lead an atheistic life, and gradually he developed a civilized atheistic system and took it as his “testimony” (“Irad”) and boast. In the process of men’s building the atheistic civilization, though they knew God was against and would “smite” (“Mehujael”) it and knew man was “of God” (“Methushael”), they still went their own ways and “strengthened” themselves (“Lamech”) to promote the civilization construction. Therefore, God just gave them up (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).


Gen. 4:19 “Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah.”

YLT: “And Lamech taketh to himself two wives, the name of the one Adah, and the name of the second Zillah.”

Meaning of Words: Adah”: adorn, entertainment; “Zillah”: shade, defence;

Literal Meaning: this was the source of the evil custom of polygamy.

Spiritual Meaning: Lamech, the central character of the atheistic culture, represents all those who intoxicated with culture, who emphasizes “adornment” and “entertainment” (“Adah”) and boasts of “keeping” (“Zillah”) physical and mental health. However, such man actually indulges themselves in the flesh (polygamy).

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Once man goes out from God, he will indulge himself in the flesh to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. Therefore, polygamy arose thereafter and destroyed the commandment of God ---- “the man and the woman shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

  2) To those who are intoxicated with the atheistic culture, male will indulge in the sultriness of lusts and female will be infatuated with dressing.


Gen. 4:20 “And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.”

YLT: “And Adah beareth Jabal, he hath been father of those inhabiting tents and purchased possessions;”

Meaning of Words: Jabal”: leader, flowing; “dwell”: live;

Literal Meaning: at that time, according to the word of God, man had to live by tilling the ground (Gen. 3:17). However, man invented the culture of “nomadism” (“Jabal”).


Gen. 4:21 “His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute.”

YLT: “and the name of his brother Jubal, he hath been father of every one handling harp and organ.”

Meaning of Words: Jubal”: joyful sound, music; “play”: seize, overlay;

Literal Meaning: man invented “music” (“Jubal”), which was the beginning of human artistic civilization.

Enlightenment in the Word: men in the world needs all kinds of entertainment to get rid of depress, for they have no God to be their joy. 


Gen. 4:22 “And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.”

YLT: “And Zillah she also bare Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron; and a sister of Tubal-Cain Naamah.”

Meaning of Words: Tubal-Cain”: enlargement of Cain, offspring of Cain; “Naamah”: pleasantness;

Literal Meaning: Cain is the first murder of human beings (v.8). Human murder “developed” into (“Tubal-Cain”) sharp weapons to defend themselves. This was the source of human martial civilization.

Spiritual Meaning: since human beings had lost God to be their provision and joy and protection, they developed the atheistic culture to keep and entertain and defend themselves, and finally they became so cruel and violent that they even murdered to “seek pleasantness” (“Naamah”).


Gen. 4:23 “Then Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me.”

YLT: “And Lamech saith to his wives: -- `Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, give ear my saying: For a man I have slain for my wound, Even a young man for my hurt;”

Meaning of Words: “listen to”: give ear to;

Literal Meaning: Lanech was the key figure of the atheistic culture, which made man indulge in lusts (v.19) and become ferocious and cruel. He who murders is not willing to be murdered. 


Gen. 4:24 “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."”

YLT: “For sevenfold is required for Cain, And for Lamech seventy and sevenfold.'”

Literal Meaning: here it means that if anyone hurts Lamech, he will be avenged tenfold than the vengeance taken upon him who kills Cain. In other words, Lamech was so arrogant that he thought he could protect him tenfold better than God’s protection on Cain.


Gen. 4:25 “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, "For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed."”

YLT: “And Adam again knoweth his wife, and she beareth a son, and calleth his name Seth, `for God hath appointed for me another seed instead of Abel:' for Cain had slain him.”

Meaning of Words: “Seth”: new seed, appoint, replace;

Spiritual Meaning: Cain and his offspring typify the race of old creature, and here Seth and his offspring typify the race of new creature, who have been baptized unto Christ Jesus and walked in newness of life and been delivered from the corruption of the old creature (see Rom. 6:3-7) through the election and salvation of God.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) If man is unwilling to keep the same mind with God and be used by God, God will stir up another group of people elsewhere to fulfill His purpose.

  2) The witnesses of God will never come to an end. If one is murdered, another one will be raised by God.


Gen. 4:26 “And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.”

YLT: “And to Seth, to him also a son hath been born, and he calleth his name Enos; then a beginning was made of preaching in the name of Jehovah.”

Meaning of Words: Enosh”: fragile, mortal;

Spiritual Meaning: only when man knows his “infirmity” and expects nothing from the “mortal” body (“Enosh”), will he turn to call upon God and rely on Him.

Enlightenment in the Word:

  1) Many times, we may become so weak that we have to call upon the name of the Lord, for the Lord is rich to all that call upon Him (Rom. 10:12-13).

  2) There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).


III. Outlines of the Spiritual Lessons


The Process of the Fall of Cain

A.  Disobedience to the revelation of God (v.3);

B.  Anger because of not being pleased by God (v.5);

C.  Murder because of jealousy (v.8);

D.  Lie to God (v.9);

E.  Seek one’s own profit (v.13);

F.   Utter isolation from God in the end (v.14, 16);


Things Learnt From the Meanings of the Names in This Chapter

A.  Those who have refused God:

After they have fallen and gone out from the presence of God, they “began to learn” to lead an atheistic life ---- “Enoch” (v.17), and gradually developed a system of atheistic culture and took it as their “testimony” and glory ---- “Irad” (v.18). In the process of men’s building the atheistic culture, though they knew God was against and would “destroy” ---- “Mehujael” (v.18) and knew man was “of God” ---- “Methushael” (v.18), they still went their own way and strengthened themselves to promote their cultural construction ---- “Lamech” (v.18). They emphasized “adornment” and “entertainment” ---- “Adah” (v.19), and boasted of “keep” physical and mental health, but actually they just indulged themselves in the lusts of the flesh (polygamy) ---- “Zillah” (v.19). Afterwards, they maintained their existence by “nomadism” ---- “Jabal” (v.20), and invented “music” to release themselves ---- “Jubal” (v.21). Moreover, they “developed” bronze and iron to defend them ---- “Tubal ---- Cain” (v.22), and became ferocious and cruel and even “sought fun” by murder ---- “Naamah” (v.22).

B.  Those who have received God:

They knew the “vanity” of life ---- “Abel” (v.2) and that they “were weak and mortal” ---- “Enosh” (v.26). Therefore, they turned to call upon “that I AM” ---- “Jehovah” (v.26) and let the divine life “replace” the old life ---- “Seth” (v.25).


── Caleb HuangChristian Digest Bible Commentary Series

Translated by Mary Zhou