Did Cain know he was offering an unacceptable sacrifice?

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The Sacrificial System

When Adam and Eve fell, they were sentenced to death (Romans 6:23). But the Lord in His infinite mercy, intervened and introduced the plan of salvation where He Himself would send the Redeemer to pay the penalty of their sins. The Lord said, “I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). But until the coming of the Redeemer, humans were to atone for their sins by the blood of animals which symbolically pointed to the blood of the Savior that would come.

Cain and Abel

Cain and Abel were the first sons of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1,2). The two sons were acquainted with the plans made for the salvation of man, and understood the system of sacrifices which God had commanded. They knew that in these sacrifices they were to show faith in the Redeemer whom the offerings typified, and at the same time to profess their total dependence on Him for pardon.

They knew that by thus obeying the divine plan for their redemption, they were giving evidence of their obedience to the will of God. They fully comprehended that without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). They were to show their faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering the first born of their flock in sacrifice.

Cain’s Unacceptable Sacrifice

Abel presented a sacrifice from the flock, according to the Lord’s instructions. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4). The acceptance may have been through the appearance of heavenly fire to burn the sacrifice, as seen in the Bible times later on (Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38). God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice meant the acceptance of his person.

But Cain, ignored the Lord’s clear command and presented only a fruit offering. And the Lord “did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:5). Cain gave only a partial obedience. He left out the important part – recognition of his need to the Redeemer by offering a plant sacrifice instead of a blood sacrifice.

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain” (Hebrews 11:4). Abel saw himself a sinner, and he saw sin and its penalty, death, standing between his soul and connection with God. He offered the slain victim acknowledging the claims of the law that had been broken by his sins.

Cain Rejects a Second Chance

In mercy and patience, the Lord was ready to give Cain another chance. “So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6,7).

God wanted Cain to understand that if he would change his rebellious ways and obey the divine commands, he would find favor with God. However, if Cain would not change his ways, sin would prevail over him to the point that he will be lost. The Bible tells us that Cain continued in the path of evil. In fact, he “rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Genesis 4:8). The enmity between good and evil was seen for the first time in its most dreadful way.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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