Biblical People

Biblical People: Cain

After Adam and Eve leave the garden of Eden, they have Cain. The Bible doesn’t specifically say he’s their firstborn, but he is the first of their offspring we read about in Scripture. Eve praises God for his role in this, the miracle of birth. 

Later, Eve gives birth to Cain’s younger brother, Abel. The boys grow up and begin to work: Cain as a farmer, Abel as a shepherd.

Cain and Abel both give the results of their labors as an offering to God. We don’t know why they do this because the Almighty hadn’t asked them to. This is well before Moses commands the people to give God offerings and sacrifices. Nevertheless, the boys desire to give back to God.

 Perhaps Cain decides to go first, and Abel simply follows his older brother’s example.

God accepts Abel’s gift but not Cain’s. We don’t know why.

One thought is that while Cain offered some of his crops to God, Abel offered the firstborn from his flock, the best.

Another idea is that this foreshadows the law of Moses and ultimately the sacrifice of Jesus, which requires the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Abel’s offering could accomplish this; Cain’s could not. Or there may be another explanation we’re unaware of.

Regardless, God affirms Abel but not Cain. Imagine giving something to God and having him reject it. We can understand why Cain was angry and upset.

Still, God speaks to Cain and encourages him to do what is right. Sin knocks on Cain’s door. It desires to control him. God tells Cain to rule over the temptation.

As you may know, Cain doesn’t. 

He invites his brother out into the field. There he attacks his younger sibling and kills him. We don’t know if Cain intended to murder his brother, but the story does read as though Cain premeditated the attack. The outcome of death may have been deliberate or accidental.

Either way, Abel dies. And Cain is the world’s first murderer.

God punishes Cain for his sin and drives him away.

Two brothers. One dead and the other exiled. What a sad outcome for creation’s first family.

What can we do to get along better with our brothers and sisters? When we face the temptation to sin, what must we do to control it and not give in to it?

[Read Cain’s story in Genesis 4:1–24. Discover more in Hebrews 11:4 and 1 John 3:12.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at