Skip to main content

Genesis 4: What makes an acceptable offering?

Almost everyone knows at least the basics of the story of Cain and Abel.

Two brothers each made an offering to God.
God accepted one brother's offering, but rejected the other's.
The brother whose offering was not accepted became jealous of the  praise his brother received and killed him in a jealous rage.

What do you think is the point of this story?
Murder is wrong? No that's too obvious
Don't be bitter, but learn your lesson? Better, but no.
I believe the point of the story is to teach us the difference between an acceptable offering and an unacceptable one. In a previous post I contrasted the God of Israel with the false god's of the ancient world. In the false religions of the ancient world, human beings were created to be slaves to the the god's. The gods had needs, and the worship of humanity was supposed to literally be food to them. The God who reveals himself to Israel however, is the source of everything. The true God is all powerful. He doesn't need servants. And so we find that because of the fullness of His nature, He is inherently charitable and loving. The God who needs nothing, overflows with goodness for his creatures. What can you possibly give to such a God? The only thing we can possibly give back is our gratitude.

This is the main difference between Cain's offering and Abel's. Abel's offering showed that he knew God's true nature. Cain's offering displayed signs that the knowledge of God's true nature had been lost.

Look at the text, it says:

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. - Genesis 4:3-4

You see, Cain gave a portion of his harvest. That means, from his perspective, his labor had generated a certain amount of produce, and by his offering, he was attempting to give God a portion of what he had produced.

Abel's offering however, was from the fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. Because he gave from the best and first of what he had, his offering was like an acknowledgement that everything he had, truly belonged to God. It was his only by God's grace. His offering was not simply a cut of the profits, but an expression of his gratitude.

The significance of this distinction carries through to our theology today. Abel's gift looks forward to the cross. It acknowledges that God has given us everything necessary for our salvation in Jesus, while Cain's gift does not recognize God's gift, but, attempts to earn God's favor through his work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Colossians 1:1-14 - Complete

1 Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus, by God's will, and Timothy our brother. 2 To the holy and faithful brothers (and sisters,) in Christ at Colossae,.Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father.
3 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying for you, 4 having heard about your faith in Christ Jesus, and the love you have for all the Holy Ones.5 We give thanks, because of the hope that you have, stored up in the heavens, which you'd heard about in the True Word. – the Gospel 6 which came to you.
This is the Gospel that is bearing fruit and increasing in the whole world, just as it is among you, ever since you've heard it and have come to truly know God's grace. 7 As you learned from our beloved, fellow servant, Epaphras, a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8. who has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9 That's why, ever since we heard of it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking that you might be filled with the knowl…

Colossians 1:15-20 Complete

15.Jesus, who is the image of the unseen God, firstborn of all creation, 16. since all things were created by him: in the heavens and on the earth, the seen and the unseen, whether thrones or dominions, whether rulers or authorities, All things were created by him and for him. 17. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, Firstborn from among the dead, so that he might hold preeminence in all things. 19. because in him, God was pleased in all His fullness to dwell. 20. and by him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace by the blood of his cross - both on earth and in the heavens.

Vocabulary Words from Colossians 1:15-20

15 ἀοράτου (ἀόρατος, ον: adjective = invisible, unseen) genitive masculine singular.16 ἐκτίσθη (κτίζω v. "I create, form, shape, make.") Aorist active indicative, 3rd person singular. "He Created"θρόνοι (θρόνος, ου, ὁ  = a (king's) throne, seat; meton: power, dominion; a potentate.) Noun, Nominative Masculine Pluralκυριότητες (κυριότης, τητος, ἡ = (a) abstr: lordship, (b) concr: divine or angelic lordship, domination, dignity, usually with reference to a celestial hierarchy.) Noun, Nominative Feminine Pluralἀρχαὶ (ἀρχή, ῆς, ἡ =  (a) rule (kingly or magisterial), (b) plur: in a quasi-personal sense, almost: rulers, magistrates, (c) beginning.) Noun, Nominative Feminine Plural.ἐξουσίαι (ἐξουσία, ας, ἡ = (a) power, authority, weight, especially: moral authority, influence, (b) in a quasi-personal sense, derived from later Judaism, of a spiritual power, and hence of an earthly power.) Noun, Nominative Feminine Plural."18 
πρωτότοκος, ον -prōtótokos (from prṓtos, …