What does Genesis 4:5 mean?
ESV: but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.
NIV: but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
NASB: but for Cain and his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his face was gloomy.
CSB: but he did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.
NLT: but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
KJV: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
The previous verses revealed that the brothers Cain and Abel both had a relationship with God. Both brought Him offerings from their respective areas of work. Cain brought crops from the ground which he worked as a farmer. Abel, a keeper of sheep, brought fat portions from a slaughtered firstborn lamb. Though this part of Scripture gives no specific reasons why, God looks with favor on Abel and his offering.
Also without much detail, this verse tells us God had no regard for Cain and his offering. Unless the brothers had been told to bring animal sacrifices, God's response may seem unfair to us at first. Later in this book, God will be clear in requiring animal sacrifices from His people. Had He been clear with Cain about what He preferred? Was Cain offering something less than his "first fruits," in comparison to Abel? We don't know.
It seems more likely that God rejected Cain's offering because of Cain's heart and not merely because of the physical offering Cain brought. This is supported by New Testament comments such as 1 John 3:12. Cain's angry response definitely reveals a darkened heart. Instead of being teachable, eager to adjust his offering or himself in order to be pleasing to God, Cain gets mad. His "face falls."
In the following verses, God will gently, lovingly warn Cain about the consequences of choosing anger over a willingness to change his path to please God. Cain's choice to ultimately choose anger and violence over submission speaks volumes of the state of his heart (Genesis 4:8).
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.
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.
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.
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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