Genesis 4:3-5

Genesis 4:3-5

June 10, 2020 – Wednesday

Genesis 4:3-5   NIV 

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 

And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 

but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Genesis 4:3-5   NKJV 

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.


It is a point of great disagreement as to why God respected/looked with favor on Abel’s offering, but did not respect/look with favor on Cain’s offering. Many have come to believe over time the cause of God looking with disfavor on Cain’s offering was due to it not being an animal sacrifice. Others believe it was because Cain did nothing special with his offering and simply went through the motions of making an offering.

Let’s look at what the two versions show us without considering either position. Looking at the NIV Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil with no special effort noted there. Abel took fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock and in choosing from the firstborn and fat portions thereof an extra effort seems to be implied.  It is the same with the NKJV, Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground while Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.

To me it appears Cain did not make the effort Abel made, but it is still not convincing in my opinion. Then looking for a translation that would offer more detail, but also be older, without any modern bias, I found the Wycliffe and Geneva Bibles. Looking first at the Wycliffe Bible written in the 1300’s and the first translation of the entire Bible into English we find the verses read as follows

Soothly it was done after many days, that Cain offered gifts to the Lord of the fruits of the earth; and Abel offered of the first engendered of his flock, and of the fatness of those. And the Lord beheld to Abel and to the gifts of him; soothly he beheld not to Cain and to his gifts. And Cain was wroth greatly, and his cheer felled down (And Cain was greatly angered, and his face fell).

(with the verse numbers added later as noted below) the Wycliffe Bible had the following note about Cain’s offering Not the first fruits, or the best, or it would have been so stated.  Well that’s a pretty clear position.                                                      

Then there is the Geneva Bible originally translated in 1560 with the latest version in 1599, updated in 2006 with modern spellings. It is the very first English Bible translated entirely from the original languages and the first English Bible to use chapters and verse numbers (two centuries after the Wycliffe Bible). It was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries and one of the Bibles taken on the Mayflower to America. Now we shall see how the Geneva Bible treats these verses.

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought an oblation unto the Lord of the fruit of the ground. And Abel also himself brought of the firstfruits of his sheep, and of the fat of them, and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering, But unto Cain and to his offering he had no regard: wherefore Cain was exceedingly wroth and his countenance fell down.

The notes in the Geneva Bible are more extensive than in the Wycliffe, first in 4:3 concerning salvation: This declareth that the father instructed his children in the knowledge of God, and also how God gave them sacrifices to signify their salvation, albeit they were destitute of the sacrament of the tree of life.  Then about 4:5 and why God was not pleased with Cain’s offering: Because he was an hypocrite, and offered only for an outward show without sincerity of heart.

Thus I take the position Cain’s offering was not accepted because of the condition of his heart, not because it did not include an animal sacrifice. Still, many Bible scholars disagree. And I hope you enjoyed the discussion.

RileyD, nwJ
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayto

Sources for the Bible versions and background may be found herehere, and here.