In this chapter we have both the world and the church in Adam's
family, and a specimen of the character and state of both in all ages.
As all mankind were represented in Adam, so that great distinction
of mankind into the children of God and the children of the wicked one,
was here represented in Cain and Abel; and an early instance of
the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
We have here,
The birth, names, and callings of Cain and Abel, ver. 1, 2.
Their religion, and different success in it, ver. 3, 4,
and part of ver. 5.
Cain's anger at God, and the reproof of him for that anger,
ver. 5, 6, 7.
Cain's murder of his brother, and the process against him for that
The murder committed, ver. 8.
The proceedings against him.
His arraignment, ver. 9, former part.
His plea, ver. 9. latter part.
His conviction, ver. 10.
The sentence passed upon him, ver. 11, 12.
His complaint against the sentence, ver. 13, 14.
The ratification of the sentence, ver. 15.
The execution of the sentence, ver. 15, 16.
The family and posterity of Cain, ver. 17 - 24.
The birth of another son and grandson of Adam, ver. 25, 26.
1: Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters, (Ge 5:4).
But Cain and Abel seem to have been the two eldest. Cain
signifies possession; for Eve when she bare him said with joy and
thankfulness, and great expectation, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
2: Abel signifies vanity. The name given to this son is put
upon the whole race, (Ps 39:5).
Every man is at his best estate vanity; Abel, vanity. He chose that
employment which did most befriend contemplation and devotion, for that hath
been looked upon as the advantage of a pastoral life. Moses and
David kept sheep, and in their solitudes conversed with God.
3: In process of time - At the end of days, either at the end of
the year when they kept their feast of in - gathering, or at the end of
the days of the week, the seventh day; at some set time Cain and
Abel brought to Adam, as the priest of the family, each of them
an offering to the Lord; for which we have reason to think there was a
divine appointment given to Adam, as a token of God's favour
notwithstanding their apostacy.
4: And the Lord God had respect to Abel and to his offering, and
shewed his acceptance of it, probably by fire from heaven but to Cain and
to his offering he had not respect. We are sure there was a good
reason for this difference: that Governor of the world, though an absolute
sovereign, doth not act arbitrarily in dispensing his smiles and frowns.
There was a difference in the characters of the persons offering:
Cain was a wicked man, but Abel was a righteous man, (Mt 23:35).
There was a difference in the offerings they brought. Abel's was a
more excellent sacrifice than Cain's; Cain's was only a sacrifice
of acknowledgment offered to the Creator; the meat - offerings of the
fruit of the ground were no more: but Abel brought a sacrifice of
atonement, the blood whereof was shed in order to remission, thereby
owning himself a sinner, deprecating God's wrath, and imploring his favour
in a Mediator. But the great difference was, Abel offered in faith, and
Cain did not. Abel offered with an eye to God's will as his rule,
and in dependence upon the promise of a Redeemer. But Cain did not offer
in faith, and so it turned into sin to him.
5: And Cain was wroth, and his countenance fell - Not so much out
of grief as malice and rage. His sullen churlish countenance, and
down - look, betrayed his passionate resentment.
7: If thou dost well, shalt thou not be accepted? - Either, 1. If
thou hadst done well, as thy brother did, thou shouldest have been
accepted as he was. God is no respecter of persons; so that if we
come short of acceptance with him, the fault is wholly our own. This will
justify God in the destruction of sinners, and will aggravate their ruin.
There is not a damned sinner in hell, but if he had done well, as he
might have done, had been a glorified saint in heaven. Every mouth will
shortly be stopt with this. Or, 2. If now thou do well: if thou repent
of thy sin, reform thy heart and life, and bring thy sacrifice in a better
manner; thou shalt yet be accepted. See how early the gospel was
preached, and the benefit of it here offered even to one of the chief of
He sets before him death and a curse; but, if not well - Seeing thou
didst not do well, not offer in faith, and in a right manner, sin lieth at
the door - That is, sin only hinders thy acceptance. All this considered,
Cain had no reason to he angry with his brother, but at himself only.
Unto thee shall be his desire - He shall continue in respect to thee as an
elder brother, and thou, as the first - born, shall rule over him as much as
ever. God's acceptance of Abel's offering did not transfer the
birth - right to him, (which Cain was jealous of) nor put upon him that
dignity, and power, which is said to belong to it, (Ge 49:3).
8: And Cain talked with Abel his brother - The Chaldee paraphrast
adds, that Cain, when they were in discourse, maintained there was no
judgment to come, and that when Abel spoke in defence of the truth,
Cain took that occasion to fall upon him. The scripture tells us the
reason wherefore he slew him, because his own works were evil, and his
brother's righteous; so that herein he shewed himself to be a child
of the devil, as being an enemy to all righteousness. Observe, the
first that dies is a saint, the first that went to the grave, went to heaven.
God would secure to himself the first fruits, the first born to the dead,
that first opened the womb into another world.
9: And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? - God knew
him to be guilty; yet he asks him, that he might draw from him a confession
of his crime; for those who would be justified before God, must accuse
And he said, I know not - Thus in Cain the devil was both a murderer, and
a liar from the beginning. Am I my Brother's keeper? - Sure he is old
enough to take care of himself, nor did I ever take charge of him. Art not
thou his keeper? If he be missing, on thee be the blame, and not on me, who
never undertook to keep him.
10: And he said, What hast thou done? - Thou thinkest to conceal it,
but the evidence against thee is clear and uncontestable, the voice of
thy brother's blood crieth - He speaks as if the blood itself were both
witness and prosecutor, because God's own knowledge testified against him,
and God's own justice demanded satisfaction. The blood is said to cry from
the ground, the earth, which is said, (Ge 4:11),
to open her mouth to receive his brother's blood from his hand.
The earth did as it were blush to see her own face stained with such blood;
and therefore opened her mouth to hide that which she could not
11: And now art thou cursed from the earth - 1. He is cursed,
separated to all evil, laid under the wrath of God, as it is revealed from
heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. 2. He is
cursed from the earth. Thence the cry came up to God, thence the curse
came up to Cain. God could have taken vengeance by an immediate stroke
from heaven: but he chose to make the earth the avenger of blood; to
continue him upon the earth, and not presently to cut him off; and yet to
make even that his curse. That part of it which fell to his share, and
which he had the occupation of, was made unfruitful, by the blood of
Besides, A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. By
this he was here condemned, to perpetual disgrace and reproach, and to
perpetual disquietment and horror in his own mind. His own guilty
conscience should haunt him where ever he went.
Now to justify his complaint, Observe his descants upon the sentence.
He sees himself excluded by it from the favour of his God; and
concludes, that being cursed, he was hid from God's face, and that
is indeed the true nature of God's curse; damned sinners find it so, to whom
it is said, Depart from me ye cursed. Those are cursed indeed that
are for ever shut out from God's love and care, and from all hopes of his
He sees himself expelled from all the comforts of this life;
and concludes, (Ge 4:14).
Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth - As good have
no place on earth as not have a settled place. Better rest in the
grave than not rest at all. And from thy face shall I be hid - Shut out of
the church, not admitted to come with the sons of God to present himself
before the Lord. And it shall come to pass that every one that finds
me shall slay me - Wherever he wanders he goes in peril of his life.
There were none alive but his near relations, yet even of them he is justly
afraid, who had himself been so barbarous to his own brother.
15: Whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance shall be taken on him seven -
fold - God having said in Cain's case Vengeance is mine, I will
repay; it had been a daring usurpation for any man to take the sword
out of God's hand. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain - To distinguish
him from the rest of mankind. What the mark was, God has not told us:
therefore the conjectures of men are vain.
16: And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt on
the east of Eden - Somewhere distant from the place were Adam and his
religious family resided: distinguishing himself and his accursed
generation from the holy seed; in the land of Nod - That is, of
shaking or trembling, because of the continual restlessness of his
spirit. Those that depart from God cannot find rest any where else. When
Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, he never rested after.
17: And he builded a city - In token of a settled separation from the
church of God. And here is an account of his posterity, at least the heirs
of his family, for seven generations. His son was Enoch, of the same
name, but not of the same character with that holy man that walked with
God. The names of more of his posterity are mentioned, and but just
mentioned, as those of the holy seed, (Ge 5:1-32). They are numbered in
haste, as not valued or delighted in, in comparison with God's children.
19: And Lamech took two wives - It was one of the degenerate race of
Cain who first transgressed that original law of marriage, that two
only should be one flesh.
Jabal was a famous shepherd; he delighted much in keeping
cattle, and was so happy in devising methods of doing it to the best
advantage, and instructing others in them, that the shepherds of those
times, nay, the shepherds of after - times, called him Father; or perhaps
his children after him, being brought up to the same employment: the
family was a family of shepherds.
Jubal was a famous musician, and particularly an organist, and the
first that gave rules for that noble art or science of music. When
Jabal had set them in a way to be rich, Jubal put them in a way to be
merry. From Jubal probably the Jubilee trumpet was so called; for
the best music was that which proclaimed liberty and redemption.
22: From Tubal - Cain, probably the Heathen Vulcan came.
Why Naamah is particularly named, we know not: probably they did,
who lived when Moses wrote.
23: This passage is extremely obscure. We know not whom he slew, or
on what occasion: neither what ground he had to be so confident of the
25: This is the first mention of Adam in the story of this chapter.
No question the murder of Abel, and the impenitency and apostacy of
Cain, were a very great grief to him and Eve, and the more because
their own wickedness did now correct them, and their backsliding did
reprove them. Their folly had given sin and death entrance into the
world, and now they smarted by it, being by means thereof deprived of
both their sons in one day, (Ge 27:45).
When parents are grieved by their children's wickedness, they should take
occasion from thence to lament that corruption of nature which was derived
from them, and which is the root of bitterness. But here we have that which
was a relief to our first parents in their affliction, namely, God gave them
to see the rebuilding of their family which was sorely shaken and
weakened by that sad event. For, they saw their seed, another instead of
Abel. And Adam called his name Seth - That is, Set, settled or
placed, because in his seed mankind should continue to the end of time.
26: And to Seth was born a son called Enos, which is the general
name for all men, and speaks the weakness, frailty, and misery of man's
state. Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord - Doubtless God's
name was called upon before, but now, 1. The worshippers of God began to
stir up themselves to do more in religion than they had done; perhaps not
more than had been done at first, but more than had been done since the
defection of Cain. Now men began to worship God, not only in their
closets and families, but in public and solemn assemblies. 2. The
worshippers of God began to distinguish themselves: so the margin reads
it. Then began men to be called by the name of the Lord, or, to call
themselves by it. Now Cain and those that had deserted religion had
built a city, and begun to declare for irreligion, and called themselves
the sons of men. Those that adhered to God began to declare for him and
his worship, and called themselves the sons of God.