What does Genesis 4:3 mean?
ESV: In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground,
NIV: In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.
NASB: So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the ground.
CSB: In the course of time Cain presented some of the land's produce as an offering to the Lord.
NLT: When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.
KJV: And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
Verse Commentary:
This verse begins a sentence concluded in verse 4. The first thing we notice is that Cain has a relationship, of some kind, with God. He brings God an offering, the product of his work as a farmer of the fruit of the ground. Even living under the curse and apart from the garden, this second generation of humans continue to see themselves in relationship to God and responsible to Him. God did not completely abandon mankind, and mankind did not turn their backs on God. While the fall ruined our relationship with God, it did not erase it.

Again, there are very few details in this part of the Bible. We have no specific knowledge of what Cain's offering was. We have no way to know if God has asked for something in particular, or what kind of attitude Cain had when he brought his gift. What we do know, based on verse 5, is that God is not pleased with what Cain brings. First John 3:12 suggests that Cain was evil, and this had something to do with this incident.

Perhaps Cain was only going through the motions, while Abel was sincerely and humbly honoring God. The fact that Cain responds to God's loving correction in verse 7, makes this a very likely interpretation. Rather than changing his actions to make things right, Cain will respond to God's rejection of his offering with anger and violence.
Verse Context:
Genesis 4:1–16 tells the beginning of human history in the wake of Adam's and Eve's sin and separation from God. This passage details the murder of Abel by his older brother Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel work the ground and tend sheep. They worship God, but Cain kills Abel in a fit of envy over God's rejection of Cain and his offering. The first human born on earth becomes the first murderer. God forces Cain to leave his family and wander the earth, but God also marks Cain with a promise of great vengeance on anyone who would kill him.
Chapter Summary:
The consequences of sin become apparent in chapter 4: envy, arrogance, rebellion, murder, punishment, separation from family, and separation from God. Adam and Eve's firstborn son, Cain, jealously murders his brother Abel and loses everything. Adam and Eve lose them both. Cain's descendants amplify his sinfulness. Still, God provides help for Eve in childbirth and even provides protection for Cain in his wandering. Eve remains a woman of faith, even in her loss. And the sons of Seth, born after the murder of Abel, become a people who proclaim the name of the Lord.
Chapter Context:
The first three chapters of Genesis explain the creation and loss of paradise, as Adam and Eve are separated from God both physically and spiritually. Their relationship with Him does not end, however. Eve recognizes His help in bearing her son Cain and later Seth. Cain and Abel both worship God until Cain kills Abel. God provides protection for Cain, whose descendants become innovative, artful, arrogant, and violent. The descendants of Seth, however, begin to call on the Lord's name. This chapter bridges the story of Genesis from our ultimate origins to the story of Noah, introduced in the next chapter.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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