Failure Upon Failure, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #39)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Genesis 4:1-2 which reads: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”

Allow me to share with you some further commentary on this passage from the Reformation Study Bible by Dr. R.C. Sproul:

The Hebrew word for “know” is used to denote the sexual intimacy of the marriage relationship.

Humans, both originally and presently, owe their existence to God. Woman originally came from the man, now man comes forth from the woman. The sexes are dependent on one another, and both are dependent on God.

The name Abel means “breath,” “vapor,” or “nothing” with the connotation of “perishable,” a somber prophecy of what follows.

In spite of Adam’s Fall, humans still carry out the cultural mandate to manage the earth’s resources.

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Thomas Huxley. He said: “The Bible has been the Magna Carta of the poor and oppressed. The human race is not in a position to dispense with it.”

Our topic for today is titled: “Failure Upon Failure (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

We noted earlier that the book of Genesis seems to be divided into three major sections, the first of which runs up to Genesis 11:27 (a verse that introduces the toledot of Terah, the father of Abraham). My suggestion was that this section sets the stage for the original audience at Sinai by showing how the world became the mess we see today. We have seen the first failure of humankind in the Fall. The rest of this section traces at least six other major failures.

As we pick up the account in Genesis 4, we note that Eve bears her first son, Cain. She declares, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man,” a statement that can also be translated, “I have acquired a man, the LORD.” Apparently Eve feels that he is the one promised in Genesis 3:15 (who by the time He comes will be given the title Messiah). Soon, Cain is followed by his brother Abel, although no particular importance is attached to his birth.

We are told very little about the two boys. It is clear that Genesis 4:2 covers a lot of time—from Abel’s birth to the point where both were occupied with their careers. We are told nothing about the rest of the family, although it is apparent from later comments that Adam and Eve had more children. In fact, it would appear that Cain, if not Abel, was married by the time of the incident. The important point is how the family demonstrates the pattern of failure we have already noted.

The two brothers were very different, one choosing to grow crops and the other to tend flocks. This observation makes a very interesting statement about the economic situation. When Adam was driven from the garden, it was to “cultivate the ground.” At this stage, humankind was still on a vegetarian diet (which apparently did not change until after the Flood). The only use of animals mentioned to this point was when God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve to take the place of fig leaves. This information suggests that the primary purpose of keeping the flocks was to provide animals that could be slain for garments; thus animal sacrifice was meant to remind humans of the seriousness of the event that made clothes a necessity. Other subsidiary purposes might include milk and other dairy products, although we have no information on that point.


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