January 29, 2020 – Wednesday
Genesis 4:3-5 NASV
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord.
4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering,
5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
Also in our Monday night Bible Study concerning verse 14 of Psalm 50 Offer to God thanksgiving, And pay your vows to the Most High the question arose about the first offerings we read about in the Bible. The offerings of Cain and Able above.
There is great debate about the problem with Cain’s offering and why God did not respect it. These are summed up fairly well in the article Why Didn’t God Respect Cain’s Offering? Was it because it was the wrong type (not an animal sacrifice), because of the quality of the offering, because of the heart or attitude of the offerer, or was it a combination of them all or something else?
However if you go to BibleHub.com you will find a mixture of reasons about why Cain’s offering was rejected and most believing it was of the wrong type, not an animal sacrifice as Abel’s offering required. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is somewhat harsh in its opinion of this idea stating The common Christian explanation that Cain’s sacrifice, being “without shedding of blood” (Hebrews 9:22. cf. Leviticus 17:11), could not find acceptance, equally assumes that the right kind of sacrifice had previously been Divinely instituted, and that Cain’s rejection was, therefore, due to the wilful violation of a positive command as well as to the infringement of sacrificial rule. In the silence of the narrative respecting the origin of the institution of sacrifice, these conjectures are merely guess-work, and must be considered more or less fanciful. I believe this to be too harsh as there is good reason to believe Cain’s offering was of the wrong type.
My own opinion is influenced by the definition of offering. Using the NASV Bible edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D, and its Old Testament Dictionary the word minchah for offering, its definition reads as bestow; a donation, tribute, specifically a sacrificial offering (usually bloodless and voluntary):– gift, oblation, (meet) offering, present, sacrifice. While it may usually be bloodless we know Abel’s offering was not bloodless so we have to include a his blood offering as well as Cain’s.
Chuck Smith had the following to say on the subject: [I]t isn’t really one is of a crop nature and the other is a blood sacrifice. In Hebrews, we are told that by faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, so the problem with Cain was that his was not of faith, whereas Abel’s sacrifice was one of faith. That’s the basic difference: one believing God and trusting God, the other not believing. Thus all of the sacrifices you may make without faith are worthless. It is also worth considering what Peter Pett has to say concerning the descriptions of the two offerings: It is noticeable that Cain’s offering is described very blandly in comparison with Abel’s. There is no mention of the first fruits, and it is described as ‘after a passage of time’. Thus there may be a hint that Cain’s offering was somewhat half-hearted. And this gains backing from Genesis 4:7 where it is suggested that Cain has not ‘done well’, and has ‘sin crouching at the door’. Certainly there appears to be the idea of a late and careless offering. Pett offers some additional detail as well: However, his not having ‘done well’ may also indicate a number of other factors. It could indicate his not having been so diligent over his work, which would help to explain a possible meagre level of production, and indeed it may relate to his general behaviour and attitude. What seems sure is that the problem was related to Cain’s overall attitude of mind and heart.
However, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum Th.M., Ph.D., strongly holds another viewpoint. In his commentary on The Book of Genesis (an Exposition from a Messianic Jewish Perspective) he states about the offerings and the time of the offerings: It was a regularly prescribed time. This being so, this means that this was not the first time sacrifices were offered or even the first time that Cain offered a sacrifice. Previously, since Abel was the shepherd and Cain was the farmer, in order to have a blood-sacrifice, Cain would have had to purchase a sheep or a goat from his brother Abel. However, this time, he chose not to do it that way, but Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering. [I]t was bloodless; and because it was bloodless, it was unacceptable. Fruchtenbaum then adds: This is an example of an act of religion, but apart from faith. He was only going through the motions to try to discharge his duty.
Whatever Cain’s offering should have been, there was something clearly wrong with his heart condition towards God. He did not take God’s personal advice and instead gave into his anger, committing the first murder in the Bible. Our lesson from all of these opinions is to do our best to make the right offerings and to make sure they are made in faith and thanksgiving.
We should know there are clearly arguments on both sides (many sides) on this and not one of the positions impacts our salvation through Jesus Christ. Perhaps the best position is what we came up with Monday evening, we agreed to disagree as brothers in Christ.