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).
Cain’s birth is the first indication that God’s beneficent word would come to pass (3:15–16) and that Adam’s faith was not misplaced (3:20). Divine superintendence assured for humanity what it could not achieve by itself. Eve acknowledges this when she attributes to the Lord’s involvement her giving birth to Cain. The narrator reinforces this indirectly in referring to Adam’s wife by the seldom-used “Eve,” not found again in the subsequent Old Testament,(that the "mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20), would give bear offspring of life).
Usually the name given to a child in Hebrew narrative conveys an interpretive significance, either explicitly stated in the narrative or by suggestion (R. S. Hess, “A Comparison of the Onomastica in Genealogical and Narrative Texts of Genesis 1–11,” in Proceedings, Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies, 1990), 67–74.). By a play on the sound of the verb “bore/brought forth” (qānîtî), Eve names her eldest “Cain” (qayin). The verb has two different meanings that are reflected in the English versions: (1) the more common meaning of obtain, as “acquired” (NJB), “gotten” (KJV, NASB), or “gained” (NJPS); and (2) the infrequent sense of create, as “brought forth” (NIV, REB0, or “produced” (NAB, NRSV). Eve is given the childbearing function (3:16, 20) in subduing the earth while Adam is ordained to work the “ground” whence he came (2:7, 15; 3:17). As the “ground” (ʾădāmâ) (by) the Lord had produced “man” (ʾādām), so Eve the woman (ʾîššâ, 2:23) (by the Lord) produced the “man” (ʾîš), Cain. She sees in creating Cain the realization of her divinely assigned role.
Her commentary on the birth of the child reflects her renewed dependence on the Lord. Eve had a rekindled faith in the goodness of God and the veracity of his word promised in 3:15. Her exclamation acknowledges that this achievement came only by the assistance of the Lord. This first birth recorded in the Bible is consonant with all of remaining Scripture, which invariably attributes conception and life to the unique work of God and as evidence of his blessing (e.g., Pss 127:3–5; 139:13). From the outset of God’s plan for the human family, procreation is the divine-human means whereby the man and woman might achieve the dominion that God has envisioned for them (1:28). This motif of children (“seed”) dominates Genesis and was critical to later Israel’s understanding of its own destiny as it interpreted the life of the patriarchs (e.g., 12:7).