Cain was Eve’s firstborn; she declared “by the Lords help I have acquired a son” (v 1) and named him Cain which sounds similar to the Hebrew word for acquire.
Eve was acknowledging that God is the ultimate provider of life. Paul in Acts 17 v 25 tells the Athenians that it is God who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone.
The name Abel is thought to mean “breath” or temporary – perhaps an indication of his short life.
Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to God but why was Abel’s deemed acceptable whereas Cain’s was not?
If we look more closely, it seems that it was not entirely the offering in itself that was unacceptable, but the attitude and thought which was behind it.
Now Abel was a shepherd while Cain worked the soil. Cain brought an offering from some of his harvest while Abel chose the best parts of the first lamb born to one of his sheep. Abel it appears thought carefully about his offering and tried to bring the best that he could but it seems that Cain was a little more casual, the offering did not really mean much to him – it was just part of the harvest. If it had been the first part of the harvest and he had prepared it carefully, perhaps God would have looked more favourably on it.
As God was obviously looking at the heart behind these offerings he looked in favour on Abel’s offering, but on Cain’s he did not. It was Abel’s faith that caused him to offer a better sacrifice and win God’s approval as a righteous man (Hebrews 11 v4). Jesus referred to Abel as being righteous in Matthew 23 v 35, Luke 11 v 51
It was faith that made Abel offer to God a better sacrifice than Cain’s. Through his faith he won God’s approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. By means of his faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead (Hebrews 11 v4)
The grain offering would have been acceptable if Cain had presented it carefully and with the right attitude. There are mentions of acceptable grain offerings; in Leviticus 2 v 1-2 and Numbers 18 v 12; we see that it must be the best and finest quality, carefully prepared. The first fruit of the harvest.
Cain then became angry and “sulked” God then asked him why he was so angry and had such a scowl on his face. God had a similar conversation with Jonah in Jonah 4 where Jonah was angry. God asked him what right did he have to be angry. Jonah secretly wanted God to destroy the Ninevites and was not happy that God had spared them, but God rebuked him saying that he should have compassion for them. Similarly Cain did not have any right to be angry; God told Cain that if he had done the right thing, he would have looked in favour on him and he would have been happy, as it was it seems that Cains true character was being brought to light and God warned him;
Sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it (v7)
Cain was already plotting evil, he could chose to be obedient to God but he was already allowing the thoughts of revenge and anger to take over what he knew to be the right thing.
We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, but the things his brother did were right (1 John 3 v 12)
Cain rejected God’s discipline and went on to commit even greater sin;
My child, pay attention when the Lord corrects you, and do not be discouraged when he rebukes you. Because the Lord corrects everyone he loves and punishes everyone he accepts as his child (Hebrews 12 v 5-6)
If we accept and learn from God’s discipline, we are promised great reward
When we are punished it seems to us at the time something to make us sad, not glad. Later, however, those who have been disciplined by such punishment reap the peaceful reward of a righteous life (Hebrews 12 v 11)
If Cain had accepted God’s discipline with sorrow and repentance rather than anger, he would have had a very different story and would have enjoyed God’s favour. Instead he allowed his anger to dictate his actions with terrible results.