Verses of Genesis 4


Genesis 4:8 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)


Gen 4:8-10. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And He said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

IT is scarcely to be conceived how much iniquity there is in the heart of fallen man. That we have passions which incline us occasionally to deviate from the path of duty, is nothing more than what all feel and confess: but that we are ready to perpetrate all manner of evil, not excepting even murder itself, few are sufficiently candid or intelligent to acknowledge. This seems an excess of wickedness, of which human nature, unless in very extraordinary circumstances, is not capable. To such a charge most men would be ready to reply, “Is thy servant a dog, that I should do this thing?” But we may behold in Cain a just picture of ourselves. What he was by nature, that are we also. The first-born of Adam, begotten after his own fallen image, shews what all are, till renewed by grace: “they live in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another:” and their contempt of God is equal to all the other odious qualities that defile their souls. We cannot but be struck with this in the history of Cain, who having murdered his brother Abel, presumed even to insult his God. His conduct will come properly under our review, if we consider,


The Murder—

In this awful transaction, there are two things to be inquired into:


The manner in which it was perpetrated—

[Satan, in his assaults on man, can exert himself only by wiles and stratagems, not being permitted to exercise his power against us in any other way. But when he employs human agents in his service, he stirs them up to combine in their attacks “deceit and violence.” Such were the weapons with which the blood-thirsty Cain sought the destruction of his brother Abel. “He talked with Abel his brother.” What the subject of the conversation was, it would be foolish to conjecture: but that it was of a friendly nature, there can be no doubt. It was evidently with a design to allure him into a place of solitude, where he might effect his murderous purpose without difficulty or detection. Had he disclosed the sentiments of his heart, he would have put his brother on his guard: whereas by feigning affection towards him, he would remove all fear or suspicion from his brother’s mind, and facilitate the accomplishment of the fatal deed [Note: Psa 55:21.]. To similar means assassins have had recourse in all ages. It was thus that Joab slew both Abner and Amasa: “he sent messengers after Abner, and took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly [Note: 2Sa 3:26-27.]:” “to Amasa he said, Art thou in health, my brother? and took him by the beard to kiss him [Note: 2Sa 20:9-10.]:” but his pretences to friendship were only to secure access to them, that he might strike with effect the dagger to their heart. It was thus that Absalom also contrived to murder his brother Amnon: he made a feast for all his family, and expressed particular solicitude to have the company of Amnon: but the whole was a cover, to effect the destruction of his brother in the midst of his convivial mirth [Note: 2Sa 13:26-28.].

The murder of a brother is such an atrocious act, that it scarcely admits of being aggravated by any circumstances: but if any thing can aggravate it, surely the treachery of Cain must awfully enhance its guilt. Had it been the effect of sudden wrath, it had even then been criminal beyond the power of language to express: but being the result of premeditation and contrivance, of deceit and treachery, its enormity is increased an hundred-fold.]


The motive to the commission of it—

[Gladly would we, if possible, find somewhat to extenuate the guilt of this transaction: but the more minutely we examine it, the more heinous it appears. The Scripture informs us, that Cain, in the commission of this act, was impelled only by envy and hatred. God had been pleased to testify his acceptance of Abel and of his sacrifice, while no such token of approbation was vouchsafed to Cain. The effect of this should have been, to lead Cain into a close examination of his spirit and conduct, and to make him earnest in prayer, that he might know wherefore this preference had been given to Abel, and how he also might obtain the favour of his God. But, alas! his heart was filled with envy and wrath, insomuch that his whole countenance was changed. In vain did God expostulate with him on the unreasonableness of his behaviour [Note:, 7.]. “The spirit that dwelt in him lusted to envy [Note: Jam 4:5.]:” this malignant passion “was as rottenness in his bones [Note: Pro 14:30.],” so thoroughly had it corroded his very inmost soul. The excellence of Abel’s character served only to add fuel to the flame. His virtues were his faults; so “impossible is it to stand before envy [Note: Pro 27:4.].” Cain hated in him the divine image, as much as he envied him the divine favour. The light of his brother’s example was offensive to his eyes; and on this account he sought to extinguish it. St. John, having told us that Cain slew his brother, asks, “And wherefore slew he him?” he then answers, “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous [Note: 1Jn 3:12.].”

Such were the motives by which Cain was instigated to this infernal deed. The murder was first committed in his heart; and then completed with his hand; according to that saying of the Apostle, “He that hateth his brother is a murderer [Note: 1Jn 3:15.].” Indeed there is such a connexion between “envy, debate, deceit, and murder [Note: Rom 1:29.].” that wherever the first is harboured, the rest would follow of course, if God in his infinite mercy did not interpose to limit the operation of our sinful propensities.]

God, who “maketh inquisition for blood,” would not suffer the murder to be concealed: he therefore sought out the offender, and commenced,


The Inquest—

It is said, that “Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation [Note: Pro 26:26.]:” and where that hatred has proceeded to murder, God in his providence has generally fulfilled this saying. On this occasion, the Governor of the Universe proceeded exactly as he had done upon the first transgression: He summoned the criminal, and made inquiry at his hands. In the trial we notice,


Cain’s denial of the fact—

[Being interrogated, “Where his brother Abel was,” he answered with consummate effrontery, “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Alas! how inseparable the connexion between guilt and falsehood! But what blindness had sin induced upon his mind, and what obduracy upon his heart! What could he imagine, when he thus flatly denied any knowledge of his brother? Did he suppose that he could deceive his God? Had he forgotten, that omniscience was an attribute essential to the Deity? Yes: such is the atheism which sin produces: he said in his heart, “Tush, God hath not seen: Can he see through the thick clouds [Note: Job 22:14.] ?” Not contented with uttering this impious falsehood, he added an insult, which we should scarcely have thought he would have dared to offer to his earthly parent, much less to his Maker and his God. Behold this murderous wretch presuming to criminate his Judge, and to reprove him as unreasonable and unjust! “Am I my brother’s keeper?” that is, ‘What right hast thou to interrogate me respecting him?’ We stand amazed at this effort of impiety: but, in truth, it is no other than what is daily exemplified before our eyes. If we question men respecting the performance of any of their duties, they will not hesitate to condemn our expectations as unreasonable, and the laws on which they are founded, as absurd: and when the authority of God is urged in support of his law, they will not scruple to arraign the wisdom and equity of the Lawgiver himself. The very manner in which Cain attempted to conceal his crime was of itself a strong presumption against his innocence. What need had he to be offended with an inquiry after his brother, if he really knew not where he was? What occasion was there for all this petulance and profaneness? But it was in vain to deny a fact which the all-seeing God was ready to attest [Note: Psa 94:7-10.].]


His conviction before God—

[He had effectually silenced his brother’s voice; so that no testimony could be borne by him. But the blood which he had shed, had a voice, which cried aloud; a voice which reached the throne of Almighty God, and brought him down to plead the cause of injured innocence. Indeed, every sin has a voice, which speaks powerfully in the ears of God, and calls for vengeance on the head of him who has committed it. It was in vain to dispute the testimony of Jehovah. The criminal stands confounded, and waits the sentence awarded by his Judge. Surely now then at least we shall behold him softened: his obdurate heart must now relent; and he will accept with resignation the punishment of his iniquity. Not so indeed: he expresses no contrition: he asks not once for mercy: he complains indeed, but not of himself, not of the guilt he has contracted, not of the deed he has perpetrated, but of the punishment he has incurred; “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” But let not this be wondered at: It is the effect of sin to sear the conscience, and to harden the heart: and the more heinous our transgressions are, the more shall we be disposed to criminate the authority that calls us into judgment for them. Even in hell itself this disposition is exercised, yea, it rages with uncontrolled and incessant fury: the damned spirits “gnaw their tongues for pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven because of their pains, and repent not of their deeds [Note: Rev 16:10-11.].”]

Hence then we may observe,

How soon did “the enmity which God has put between the Serpent’s and the Woman’s seed [Note: Gen 3:15.] begin to shew itself!

[It is an undeniable fact, that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus do suffer persecution [Note: 2Ti 3:12.]:” and the world, yea sometimes Christians themselves also, are ready to think that the opposition made to them is discreditable to their cause. But our Lord and his Apostles taught us to expect precisely the same treatment which they themselves received [Note: Joh 15:18-20.]. They inform us also how all the Prophets were used by those among whom they sojourned [Note: Act 7:52.]: they declare that, in all ages, even from the beginning of the world, “they who have been born after the flesh have persecuted those who were born after the Spirit [Note: Gal 4:29.] ;” and that all “the blood shed from the time of righteous Abel” to the time that Christ himself was nailed upon the cross [Note: Mat 23:35.], served to illustrate “the enmity of the carnal mind against God,” and the path in which all must walk who would finally attain to glory. Hence persecutors are emphatically said to “go in the way of Cain [Note: Judges 11.].” Let none then think it strange that they are called to endure a fiery trial, as though some strange thing happened unto them [Note: l Pet. 4:12.] ;” but “let them rejoice and glorify God on this behalf [Note: 1Pe 4:13-14; 1Pe 4:16.] ;” knowing that myriads who are now in heaven “came thither out of great tribulation [Note: Rev 7:14.] ;” and that, “if they also suffer with Christ, they shall in due time be glorified together with him [Note: Rom 8:17.].”]


How vain is it to cultivate the friendship of the world!

[If, in any situation, fellowship could have been maintained between a carnal and a spiritual man, we may well suppose that it should subsist between the two first men who were born into the world, educated as they must have been with the strictest care, and necessitated as they were to cultivate a friendly intercourse on account of the contracted state of society in the world: yet not even these could enjoy spiritual communion with each other. It is true, that all natural men do not give themselves up, like Cain, to the dominion of their lusts: but it is equally true, that all men have in their hearts the same envious and malignant passions [Note: Jam 4:5.], and that, till they are renewed by divine grace, they are enemies to true religion [Note: Rom 8:7.]. Hence we are told to come out from the world and be separate, because there can be no more true communion between believers and unbelievers, than between light and darkness, or Christ and Belial [Note: 2Co 6:14-15; 2Co 6:17.]. And they who, in opposition to this direction, choose the unregenerate for their associates, or form still more intimate connexions with them, are sure to “suffer loss” in their souls; and, if saved at all, they are “saved only so as by fire [Note: 1Co 3:15.].”]


How certainly “will sin find us out” at last!

[We may conceal our iniquities from man; but we can never hide them from God: “There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.” God does not often interfere to make known our guilt, as in the case before us; (though the interpositions of His providence in the discovery of murder are sometimes extremely marked and visible;) but in the day of judgment “he will make manifest the very counsels of our hearts.” It will be in vain then to deny our guilt, or to raise those captious, not to say impious, objections, which now appear to us of so much weight: Every thing will be substantiated by the fullest evidence, and be recompensed according to its desert. O that “in that day we may be found without spot, and blameless!” This may be the state of all, not excepting even murderers themselves, provided they wash in the fountain of Christ’s blood, and be renewed by his Holy Spirit. Let us then seek his pardoning and renewing grace. Then shall we be enabled to “stand before our God with boldness,” and “give up our account to him with joy, and not with grief.”]

Verses of Genesis 4


Consult other comments:

Genesis 4:8 - Joseph Benson’s Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 4:8 - Calvin's Complete Commentary

Genesis 4:8 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Genesis 4:8 - Adam Clarke's Commentary and Critical Notes on the Bible

Genesis 4:8 - Companion Bible Notes, Appendices and Graphics

Genesis 4:8 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 4:8 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Genesis 4:8 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Genesis 4:8 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 4:8 - Biblical Illustrator Edited by Joseph S. Exell

Genesis 4:8 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Genesis 4:8 - Expositions Of Holy Scripture by Alexander MacLaren

Genesis 4:8 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Genesis 4:8 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Genesis 4:8 - John Trapp's Complete Commentary (Old and New Testaments)

Genesis 4:8 - The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Genesis 4:8 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)