Summary: Genesis 4:1-16 gives a picture of faith and how it is only by genuine faith through an approved sacrifice, that we can approach God. The rejection of this means rejection by God Himself.
Canada made international news recently for the Shafia murder trial. What should have been a refuge for the healthy development of family, became an environment for intimidation that eventually lead to murder. A misplaced understanding of honor, resulted in the murder of siblings. Tooba Mohammad Yahya, the Montreal mother convicted in the “honour” killing of her three teenage daughters and her husband’s first wife, filed an appeal . The appeal is based upon similar grounds as those cited by appeals by Yahya’s husband, Mohammad Shafia, and son, Hamed Shafia, who have all been convicted of first-degree murder in the case. The three-month-long trial revealed that Shafia was enraged because he felt his daughters had violated strict cultural rules about sexual modesty, dressed in revealing clothes and were disobedient. (http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/02/09/mother-of-shafia-girls-tooba-mohammad-yahya-appealing-murder-conviction/)
There is a very close connection between Genesis 3 and 4. In the former we see the beginning of sin in man, in the latter we read of its progress and fruits; in the one it was sin in the individual, in the other, sin in the family. Like leprosy, sin contaminates, spreads and issues in death. In Genesis 3 the sin was against God, in Genesis 4 it is against a fellowman. The order here is ever the same; the one who has no fear of God his eyes, has no genuine respect for the rights of his neighbor. Again, in Genesis 4 we see the local fulfillment of Genesis 3:15—the enmity between the two seeds—the wicked and the righteous, Cain and Abel. Further; we are shown, even more clearly than by the coats of skins in the previous chapter, that the guilty sinner can only approach God by means of a sacrifice (Pink, A. W. (2005). Gleanings in Genesis (56). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)
Genesis 4:1-16 gives a picture of faith and how it is only by genuine faith through an approved sacrifice, that we can approach God. The rejection of this means rejection by God Himself. The tragic lesson of this rejection is spelled out in: 1) The Characters (Genesis 4:1–2), 2) The Crime (Genesis 4:3–8), 3) The Consequences (Genesis 4:9–16)
1) The Characters (Genesis 4:1–2)
Genesis 4:1-2 [4:1]Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. (ESV)
In verse one we see that Adam “knew/lay [yādaʿ] with his wife” which was a common idiom for sexual relations in the Old Testament. The act of sexual intercourse was considered only the means by which God Himself gave children. He was acknowledged as the sovereign giver of all life (MacArthur, J. J. (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Ge 4:1). Nashville: Word Pub.).
This recurrence of “knew” in the Cain-Abel narrative probably is an allusion to the “tree of knowledge” and serves as a reminder of Adam’s sin and its consequence (2:9, 17; 3:5, 22), especially the wordplay on the outcome of their eating: “they knew [yādaʿ] that they were naked” (3:7).