In the well-known story of Cain and Abel, the first man born on the earth also becomes the first murderer. A few points in this account are significant:
- Cain killed Abel after a quarrel over a sacrifice to God. Cain brought a sacrifice, but God would not accept it because it did not meet His standards. While Abel's offering showed his complete submission to God, Cain's hints at grudging worship of God - and that done in his own way.
- Becoming angry and sullen over his rejection, he quarreled with and killed his brother. Then, he lied to God's face! He had no fear of God or the consequences of sin.
- Cain's retort to God's inquiry as to Abel's whereabouts is also significant: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain's attitude of indifference toward his fellow man greatly influenced later generations.
- Coupled with his entirely selfish attitude, Cain tried to take advantage even of God's curse upon him. Using a "woe is me" ploy, he "convinced" God to guard his life from anyone avenging Abel's murder.
The way of Cain - idolatry, murder, deceit, selfishness, hypocrisy - saturated Pre-Flood society to the point that God, seeing the wickedness of man, regretted He had even created humanity (Genesis 6:5-7).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'As It Was In the Days of Noah'
We can interpret this two ways. First, from the beginning of God's dealings with mankind, He shows a major objective for man is to be accomplished by overcoming, mastering sin's desire to control and manipulate. Sin's desire is always lurking within man's moral and ethical choices, and he needs to be aware of it and have the drive to conquer it.
Second, it is a warning contained in a prophecy to all but given specifically to Cain. God perceived in him a strong proclivity to sin, so much that he would become a master of it. In today's parlance, Cain would become a real "pro" at sinning. The warning is not to allow oneself to follow Cain's example, which gives the impression that he nurtured sin dwelling in him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment
Because God had not accepted his offering or because He had accepted Abel's, Cain was angry and depressed. God tells him that if he changes his ways, he will indeed be accepted. But if he does not change, sin—pictured as a slave crouched just outside the door of his heart, awaiting the bidding of its master—would spring to action. God is describing sin's persistent nearness; it is always ready to extend its dominance by increasing iniquity. Sin strives to pile iniquity upon iniquity, even as one lie usually produces another to keep a façade of deception from crumbling.
God's warning is clear. Repent of sin at once, or it has a powerful tendency to grow and thoroughly dominate one who does nothing to stop it. This thought is reinforced in the final sentence of verse 7, "And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."
In paraphrasing God's words, James G. Murphy in Barnes' Notes, gives an insightful comment:
Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do [sic] not instantly retreat. ("Genesis," p. 151)
In modern terms, God is saying, "Practice makes perfect." Sin's desire is so persistent and its appeal so subtle that, if it is not consciously stopped, one will become a master, a "pro," as we would say today, at sinning. It becomes a way of life. Jeremiah 4:22 makes this principle even clearer. "For My people are foolish; they have not known Me. They are silly children and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge."
Did not God's warning prove true in Cain's life? We cannot afford to ignore sin's pervasive influence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does