Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 4

The Birth, employment, and religion of Cain and Abel. (1-7)
Cain murders Abel, The Curse of Cain. (8-15) The conduct of
Cain, His family. (16-18) Lamech and his wives, The skill of
Cain's descendants. (19-24) The Birth of another son and
grandson of Adam. (25,26)

1-7 When Cain was born, Eve said, I have gotten a Man from the
Lord. Perhaps she thought that this was the promised seed. If
So, she was woefully disappointed. Abel signifies vanity: when
she thought she had the promised seed in Cain, whose name
signifies possession, she was So taken up with him that another
son was as vanity to her. Observe, each son had a Calling. It is
the will of God for every one to have something to do in this
world. Parents ought to bring up their children to work. Give
them a Bible and a Calling, said good Mr. Dod, and God be with
them. We may believe that God commanded Adam, after the fall, to
shed the Blood of innocent animals, and after their Death to
burn part or the whole of their bodies By Fire. Thus that
Punishment which sinners deserve, even the Death of the body,
and the wrath of God, of which Fire is a Well-known emblem, and
also the sufferings of Christ, were prefigured. Observe that the
religious Worship of God is No new invention. It was from the
beginning; it is the good old way, Jer 6:16. The offerings of
Cain and Abel were different. Cain showed a proud, unbelieving
Heart. Therefore he and his Offering were rejected. Abel came as
a sinner, and according to God's appointment, By his Sacrifice
expressing Humility, sincerity, and believing obedience. Thus,
seeking the benefit of the new Covenant of Mercy, through the
promised Seed, his Sacrifice had a token that God accepted it.
Abel offered in Faith, and Cain did not, Heb 11:4. In all ages
there have been two sorts of worshippers, such as Cain and Abel;
namely, proud, hardened despisers of the Gospel method of
Salvation, who attempt to please God in ways of their own
devising; and humble believers, who draw near to him in the way
he has revealed. Cain indulged malignant Anger against Abel. He
harboured an evil Spirit of discontent and rebellion against
God. God notices all our sinful passions and discontents. There
is not an angry, envious, or fretful look, that escapes his
observing Eye. The Lord reasoned with this rebellious Man; if he
came in the right way, he should be accepted. Some understand
this as an intimation of Mercy. "If thou doest not Well, Sin,
that is, the Sin-Offering, lies at the door, and thou mayest
take the benefit of it." The same Word signifies Sin, and a
Sacrifice for Sin. "Though thou hast not done Well, yet do not
despair; the remedy is at Hand." Christ, the great Sin-Offering,
is said to stand at the door, Re 3:20. And those Well deserve
to perish in their sins, that will not go to the door to ask for
the benefit of this Sin-Offering. God's acceptance of Abel's
Offering did not change the Birthright, and make it his; why
then should Cain be So angry? Sinful heats and disquiets vanish
before a strict and fair inquiry into the cause.

8-15 Malice in the Heart ends in Murder By the hands. Cain slew
Abel, his own Brother, his own mother's son, whom he ought to
have loved; his younger Brother, whom he ought to have
protected; a good Brother, who had never done him any wrong.
What fatal effects were these of our first parents' Sin, and how
must their hearts have been filled with anguish! Observe the
pride, unbelief, and impenitence of Cain. He denies the crime,
as if he could conceal it from God. He tries to cover a
deliberate Murder with a deliberate Lie. Murder is a crying Sin.
Blood calls for Blood, the Blood of the murdered for the Blood
of the murderer. Who knows the extent and weight of a Divine
Curse, how far it reaches, how Deep it pierces? Only in Christ
are believers saved from it, and inherit the blessing. Cain was
cursed from the Earth. He found his Punishment there where he
chose his portion, and set his Heart. Every Creature is to us
what God makes it, a comfort or a Cross, a blessing or a Curse.
The wickedness of the wicked brings a Curse upon all they do,
and all they have. Cain complains not of his Sin, but of his
Punishment. It shows great hardness of Heart to be more
concerned about our sufferings than our sins. God has Wise and
holy ends in prolonging the lives even of very wicked men. It is
in vain to inquire what was the Mark set upon Cain. It was
doubtless known, both as a brand of infamy On Cain, and a token
from God that they should not kill him. Abel, being dead, yet
speaketh. He tells the heinous guilt of Murder, and warns us to
stifle the first risings of wrath, and teaches us that
Persecution must be expected By the righteous. Also, that there
is a future state, and an eternal recompence to be enjoyed,
through Faith in Christ and his atoning Sacrifice. And he tells
us the excellency of Faith in the atoning Sacrifice and Blood of
the Lamb of God. Cain slew his Brother, because his own Works
were evil, and his Brother's righteous, 1Jo 3:12. In
consequence of the Enmity Put between the Seed of the Woman and
the seed of the Serpent, the War broke out, which has been waged
ever since. In this War we are all concerned, none are neuter;
our Captain has declared, He that is not with me is against me.
Let us decidedly, yet in Meekness, support the cause of Truth
and Righteousness against Satan.

16-18 Cain cast off all fear of God, and attended No more On
God's ordinances. Hypocritical professors, who dissemble and
trifle with God, are justly left to themselves to do something
grossly scandalous. So they throw off that form of Godliness to
which they have been a reproach, and of which they deny the
power. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and we never
find that he came into it again, to his comfort. The land Cain
dwelt in was called the land of Nod, which means, 'shaking,' or
'trembling,' and So shows the restlessness and uneasiness of his
own Spirit, or 'the land of a Vagabond:' they that depart from
God cannot find Rest any where else. Those On Earth who looked
for the heavenly City, chose to Dwell in Tabernacles or tents;
but Cain, as not minding that City, built one On Earth. Thus all
who are cursed of God seek their settlement and satisfaction
here below.

19-24 One of Cain's wicked race is the first recorded, as
having broken the Law of Marriage. Hitherto, one Man had but one
Wife at a time; but Lamech took two. Worldly things, are the only
things that Carnal, wicked people set their hearts upon, and are
most clever and industrious about. So it was with this race of
Cain. Here was a Father of shepherds, and a Father of musicians,
but not a Father of the Faithful. Here is one to teach about
Brass and Iron, but none to teach the good knowledge of the
Lord: here are devices how to be rich, and how to be mighty, and
how to be merry; but nothing of God, of his fear and service.
Present things fill the heads of most. Lamech had enemies, whom
he had provoked. He draws a comparison betwixt himself and his
ancestor Cain; and flatters himself that he is much less
criminal. He seems to abuse the patience of God in sparing Cain,
into an encouragement to expect that he may Sin unpunished.

25,26 Our first parents were comforted in their affliction By
the Birth of a son, whom they called Seth, that is, 'set,'
'settled,' or 'placed;' in his seed mankind should continue to
the End of time, and from him the Messiah should descend. While
Cain, the head of the apostasy, is made a wanderer, Seth, from
whom the true Church was to come, is one fixed. In Christ and
his Church is the only true settlement. Seth walked in the steps
of his martyred Brother Abel; he was a partaker of like precious
Faith in the Righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ,
and So became a fresh Witness of the Grace and influence of God
the Holy Spirit. God gave Adam and Eve to see the revival of
religion in their family. The worshippers of God began to do
more in religion; some, By an open profession of true religion,
protested against the wickedness of the world around. The worse
others are, the better we should be, and the more zealous. Then
began the distinction between professors and profane, which has
been kept up ever since, and will be, while the world stands.