Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Eve said, I have gotten a man from the Lord--that is, "by the
help of the Lord"--an expression of pious gratitude--and she called him
Cain, that is, "a possession," as if valued above everything else;
while the arrival of another son reminding Eve of the misery she had
entailed on her offspring, led to the name Abel, that is, either
or grief, lamentation. Cain and Abel were probably twins; and it is
thought that, at this early period, children were born in pairs
2. Abel was a keeper of sheep--literally, "a feeder of a flock,"
which, in Oriental countries, always includes goats as well as sheep.
Abel, though the younger, is mentioned first, probably on account of
the pre-eminence of his religious character.
3. in process of time--Hebrew, "at the end of days,"
probably on the Sabbath.
brought . . . an offering unto the Lord--Both
manifested, by the very act of offering, their faith in the being of
God and in His claims to their reverence and worship; and had the kind
of offering been left to themselves, what more natural than that the
one should bring "of the fruits of the ground," and that the other
should bring "of the firstlings of his flock and the fat thereof"
4. the Lord had respect unto Abel, not unto Cain, &c.--The
words, "had respect to," signify in Hebrew,--"to look at any
thing with a keen earnest glance," which has been translated, "kindle
into a fire," so that the divine approval of Abel's offering was shown
in its being consumed by fire (see
7. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?--A better
rendering is, "Shalt thou not have the excellency"? which is the true
sense of the words referring to the high privileges and authority
belonging to the first-born in patriarchal times.
sin lieth at the door--sin, that is, a sin offering--a common
meaning of the word in Scripture (as in
The purport of the divine rebuke to Cain was this, "Why art thou angry,
as if unjustly treated? If thou doest well (that is, wert innocent and
sinless) a thank offering would have been accepted as a token of thy
dependence as a creature. But as thou doest not well (that is, art a
sinner), a sin offering is necessary, by bringing which thou wouldest
have met with acceptance and retained the honors of thy birthright."
This language implies that previous instructions had been given as to
the mode of worship; Abel offered through faith
unto thee shall be his desire--The high distinction conferred by
priority of birth is described
and it was Cain's conviction, that this honor had been withdrawn from
him, by the rejection of his sacrifice, and conferred on his younger
brother--hence the secret flame of jealousy, which kindled into a
settled hatred and fell revenge.
8. And Cain talked with Abel his brother--Under the guise of
brotherly familiarity, he concealed his premeditated purpose till a
convenient time and place occurred for the murder
9. I know not--a falsehood. One sin leads to another.
10. the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me--Cain, to
lull suspicion, had probably been engaging in the solemnities of
religion when he was challenged directly from the Shekinah itself.
11, 12. now art thou cursed from the earth--a curse superadded
to the general one denounced on the ground for Adam's sin.
12. a fugitive--condemned to perpetual exile; a degraded
outcast; the miserable victim of an accusing conscience.
13, 14. And Cain said . . . My punishment is greater than
I can bear--What an overwhelming sense of misery; but no sign of
penitence, nor cry for pardon.
14. every one that findeth me shall slay me--This shows that the
population of the world was now considerably increased.
15. whosoever slayeth Cain--By a special act of divine
forbearance, the life of Cain was to be spared in the then small
state of the human race.
set a mark--not any visible mark or brand on his forehead, but
some sign or token of assurance that his life would be
preserved. This sign is thought by the best writers to have been a wild
ferocity of aspect that rendered him an object of universal horror and
16. presence of the Lord--the appointed place of worship at
Eden. Leaving it, he not only severed himself from his relatives but
forsook the ordinances of religion, probably casting off all fear of
God from his eyes so that the last end of this man is worse than the
land of Nod--of flight or exile--thought by many to have been
Arabia-Petræa--which was cursed to sterility on his account.
17-22. builded a city--It has been in cities that the human race
has ever made the greatest social progress; and several of Cain's
descendants distinguished themselves by their inventive genius in the
19. Lamech took unto him two wives--This is the first
transgression of the law of marriage on record, and the practice of
polygamy, like all other breaches of God's institutions, has been a
fruitful source of corruption and misery.
23, 24. Lamech said unto his wives--This speech is in a poetical
form, probably the fragment of an old poem, transmitted to the time of
Moses. It seems to indicate that Lamech had slain a man in
self-defense, and its drift is to assure his wives, by the preservation
of Cain, that an unintentional homicide, as he was, could be in
26. men began to call upon the name of the Lord--rather, by the
name of the Lord. God's people, a name probably applied to them in
contempt by the world.