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Genesis 4:3-5

Context

4:3 At the designated time 1  Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering 2  to the Lord. 4:4 But Abel brought 3  some of the firstborn of his flock – even the fattest 4  of them. And the Lord was pleased with 5  Abel and his offering, 4:5 but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. 6  So Cain became very angry, 7  and his expression was downcast. 8 

1 tn Heb “And it happened at the end of days.” The clause indicates the passing of a set period of time leading up to offering sacrifices.

2 tn The Hebrew term מִנְחָה (minkhah, “offering”) is a general word for tribute, a gift, or an offering. It is the main word used in Lev 2 for the dedication offering. This type of offering could be comprised of vegetables. The content of the offering (vegetables, as opposed to animals) was not the critical issue, but rather the attitude of the offerer.

3 tn Heb “But Abel brought, also he….” The disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + verb) stresses the contrast between Cain’s offering and Abel’s.

4 tn Two prepositional phrases are used to qualify the kind of sacrifice that Abel brought: “from the firstborn” and “from the fattest of them.” These also could be interpreted as a hendiadys: “from the fattest of the firstborn of the flock.” Another option is to understand the second prepositional phrase as referring to the fat portions of the sacrificial sheep. In this case one may translate, “some of the firstborn of his flock, even some of their fat portions” (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV).

sn Here are two types of worshipers – one (Cain) merely discharges a duty at the proper time, while the other (Abel) goes out of his way to please God with the first and the best.

5 tn The Hebrew verb שָׁעָה (shaah) simply means “to gaze at, to have regard for, to look on with favor [or “with devotion”].” The text does not indicate how this was communicated, but it indicates that Cain and Abel knew immediately. Either there was some manifestation of divine pleasure given to Abel and withheld from Cain (fire consuming the sacrifice?), or there was an inner awareness of divine response.

6 sn The Letter to the Hebrews explains the difference between the brothers as one of faith – Abel by faith offered a better sacrifice. Cain’s offering as well as his reaction to God’s displeasure did not reflect faith. See further B. K. Waltke, “Cain and His Offering,” WTJ 48 (1986): 363-72.

7 tn Heb “and it was hot to Cain.” This Hebrew idiom means that Cain “burned” with anger.

8 tn Heb “And his face fell.” The idiom means that the inner anger is reflected in Cain’s facial expression. The fallen or downcast face expresses anger, dejection, or depression. Conversely, in Num 6 the high priestly blessing speaks of the Lord lifting up his face and giving peace.



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