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Cain's anger

Query for the Month


April 2005

Next up-date: May 1st 2005 (God willing).

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“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.” Genesis 4:3.

Why did Cain present such an offering when he knew that God wanted a lamb?


Let’s look at the situation in detail as I see it.


Genesis 4:

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, “I have gotten a man from the LORD.” 2 And she again bare his brother Abel [and many other boys and girls.  Jewish tradition says 97 in total!]

And Abel [when he grew up] was a keeper of sheep, but Cain [the elder] was a tiller of the ground [they had freedom to choose their occupations].

3 And in process of time [when they had children of their own] it came to pass [as priests of their families], that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the LORD. 4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. [They were following the system of worship Adam had taught them, and which he in turn had learned from God.  There was a Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world” and they each needed to make public recognition of that for their family’s sakes, as well as show personal acceptance. Revelation 13:8.]

And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering [He obviously accepted it in a way that could be seen. Consider 2 Chronicles 7:1]: 5 but to Cain and to his offering He had not respect [and Cain knew that].

And Cain was very wroth [angry], and his countenance fell [his face dropped].

6 And the LORD said to Cain [there was a personal connection in those days], “Why are you wroth? And why is your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well [right], shall you not be accepted?  And if you do not well, sin lies at the door [of your heart]. And to [control] you shall be his [its] desire, and [yet] you shall [can] rule over him.


Why was Cain angry, and why didn’t God accept his offering?

Cain was angry because he thought he had done right!!!  Cain thought himself righteous, and he came to God with a bloodless “thank offering” only. He made no confession of sin, and acknowledged no need, or gift of mercy, during his ritual.

Yet the sense of need, the recognition of our spiritual poverty and sin, is the very first condition of acceptance with God.  Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3. And, “Come to Me, all you that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

This sounds simple but it requires a great deal of agony on the part of God and we need to recognise this.

So when Abel came with the blood that pointed to the sacrifice that the Lamb of God had made for him, he came as a sinful Christian, confessing himself lost except for the grace of God; his only hope was the unmerited love of God.  He did not rely on his works, therefore the LORD had respect to his offering, but to Cain and his offering He had not respect.

It is not our occupation which should govern our offering, but the word of God, for we live by every word of His.

This principle was repeated by Jesus in a story one day.


Luke 18:

9 “And He spoke this parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican [tax gatherer].

11 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess [I’m a regular church member].’

13   “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’

14 “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.”


The Pharisee and the publican represent the two great classes into which those who come to worship God are divided. Their first two representatives are found in the first two children that were born into the world.

So why did God refuse Cain’s offering?

Why didn’t He just tell Cain what He wanted? 

Because Cain already knew what was necessary.  If he had brought two offerings, one with the blood and fat of a lamb and the other with the fruit of the ground, he could have been accepted.  This is not an arbitrary decision on God’s part, but is made necessary by the science of redemption.  To be able to be saved requires a knowledge of our condition, and a total reliance upon the Son of God’s sacrifice as our Saviour, and Cain needed to show that he believed this.  But he rebelled and did his own thing.

Allied with rebellion is presumption.

This means that one who has a rebellious spirit will always believe that another wants the same, or has the same motive, as he does.  Therefore they “presume” that their choice is always right.  So Cain came to God’s altar in what he called “righteousness” and presented a legitimate offering – a first fruit offering. 

But that was not what was needed in those circumstances. 

Either Cain was deliberately disobeying God’s request for a blood offering, or he had something against his brother and wouldn’t buy or beg a lamb from him!! (The latter is more likely in those early days of the world, and he did kill his brother in an argument later.)  Because of his self-righteousness Cain expected the LORD to accept his best and was surprised when He wouldn’t/couldn’t go along with his plan. (It all depends on your understanding how you see God’s action.)

Jesus explained this principle to His disciples one day.

“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you [or you against him]; leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24.  And, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  Matthew 6:14-15.

Why does the Bible use the term “him” and “his” for the controlling power of sin in the heart of the unconverted?  (It’s called “the old man” in Romans 6:6. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”)

That’s because behind this situation is Satan the adversary of God.  It was he who brought this factor into the universe by querying God’s way and then denying it when he was shown the love of the Creator towards His creatures.  When he did this he twisted God’s original creation and made it bad – freedom became rebellion, love became lust, etc.  He was able to persuade one third of his companions to join him in his rebellion and they all left heaven after the showdown.  Then he came to this earth and repeated the process with Adam and Eve!  They in their turn have passed that rebellious spirit and misunderstanding on to all of their descendants, and so we need a “new man” when we are “born again.” 

God desires “That you put off concerning the former conversation [conduct] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which after [by] God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24.

So Cain’s presentation and anger showed his real nature, and, like many to whom the gospel is presented, he was showing that nature when he rejected God’s way and killed his brother.


Cain presented the bloodless offering because, like a typical Laodicean, he thought he was “rich and increased with goods” of a spiritual nature (Revelation 3:17).  In other words, he thought he was righteous and would not believe the Spirit’s warning that what he was about to do was of no use.  When he realised that God could not accept his offering he got angry.


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.
Next query. To be discussed from May 1st 2005.


John 13:

5 After that He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded. 6 Then comes He to Simon Peter: and Peter says to Him, “LORD, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you know not now; but you shall know hereafter.” 8 Peter says to Him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I wash you not, you have no part with Me.”

9 Simon Peter says to Him, “LORD, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus says to him, “He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and you are clean, but not all.” 11 For He knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, “You are not all clean.”

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