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Ge 4:1-26. BIRTH OF CAIN AND ABEL.
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 weakness, vanity (Ps 39:5), or grief, lamentation. Cain and Abel were probably twins; and it is thought that, at this early period, children were born in pairs (Ge 5:4) [CALVIN].
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.
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 Ge 15:17; Jud 13:20).
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.
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.
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.
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
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 arts.
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 no danger.