Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bible Study: Genesis 4

Commentary

Scripture Questions
  1. How does Cain's response to God (Genesis 4:9) compare to his father's response (Genesis 3:10,12)? How is Cain like his father? How is he different?
  2. When God asks Adam where he is, Adam doesn't really answer the question, but explains the circumstances. Then when God asks Adam how he knew he was naked, Adam replies by shifting the blame to Eve. When God asks Cain where Abel is, Cain lies (saying he doesn't know) and avoids the question by asking his own question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain's response is like Adam's in that he tries to avoid taking blame. His response is different from Adam's because Cain lies.
  3. Reread Genesis 3:21 and Genesis 4:15. What do they suggest about God's relationship with sinners?
  4. Despite Adam and Eve's transgression, God provides them with clothing from animal skins -- if they were leather skins, the animals were killed for man's sake. When Cain fears that he shall be slain for his transgression, God gives him a mark meant to protect Cain from retribution. Thus we see God caring for Adam, Eve, and Cain, even in their sinfulness.
  5. Cain does not express repentence. Neither do Adam and Eve. Why?
  6. Perhaps they felt their actions were justified. They fail to see how what they did was "wrong".
  7. Compare Genesis 3:2-6 and Genesis 4:6-8. How does the narrator show that Adam and Eve and Cain were responsible for their actions?
  8. The serpent did not tell Eve to eat the fruit or even force her to; it merely placed the idea in her mind. She was tempted to eat the fruit and succombed to the temptation. Adam likewise ate freely. God told Cain that even though "sin is crouching at the door [and] its desire is for [him]", he "must master it". Cain, whose sacrifice was rejected, did not heed these words and succombed to the misplaced anger he felt towards Abel, whose sacrifice was accepted. What these two incidents show is that sin is not the only outcome of a temptation: the other outcome is mastery over the temptation by obedience to God's will.
  9. What do Jesus's words in Matthew 18:21-22 suggest about his view of Lamech's words in Genesis 4:23-24?
  10. Lamech boasts of his murder of a young man: "If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold." Jesus says that we must forgive not just seven times, but "seventy-seven times" (RSV-CE). The allusion to Lamech is clear. The number seventy-seven implies innumerability. As Lamech threatens abounding vengeance, Jesus demands abounding mercy and forgiveness.
Personal Reflection Questions
  1. Considering the differences in abilities and resources and circumstances between people, is God fair? Is He just?
  2. God does not ask of us more than we can do, and with God there is nothing we cannot do. Considering the sinful nature of humanity, the fact that we are offered redemption through Jesus is more than fair.
  3. Whom do you envy? What is wrong with envy? From your own experience, what are the results of envy?
  4. I envy people with more money (or rather, less debt!), less frantic and hectic schedules, and people in better shape than me (my fiancée included). Envy produces an unhealthy desire to please yourself rather than your neighbor, to meet your own private standards rather than God's. Envy can lead to worse sins, as the example of David shows (2 Samuel 11-12).
  5. Are there both healthy and unhealthy kinds of anger among family members? How can you tell the difference?
  6. Yes, there is healthy anger and unhealthy anger. Unhealthy anger is brought about through jealously, impatience, selfishness, injustice, etc. Healthy anger is often brought about by recognition of those traits. Unhealthy anger in general seeks to appease itself through vengeance, through "setting the other person straight". Healthy anger seeks to appease itself through righting wrongs and discipline.
  7. What are the effects of vengefulness or other kinds of bitterness? How might you express forgiveness and love when you are tempted to feel vengeful?
  8. When I would prefer to exact some sort of revenge for a hurt against me, I try to consider the environment that led to the action I was hurt by. It takes a lot of willpower to avoid the temptation to get back at someone (especially if an identical scenario appears in your favor).

1 comment:

The Prophet said...

Very Good Post. There is a lot to be learned from the situation between Cain & Abel.

One of the most interesting things I've found in the passage is that God heard Abel's blood.

I believe it was a foreshadowing of God hearing Christ's blood for us when He died on the cross (Hebrews 12:24)