Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for December 31

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for Dec. 31, written by Douglas K. Wilson, Ph. D., Executive Director of the Center for Christian Calling, University of Mobile.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for December 31

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By Douglas K. Wilson, Ph. D.
Executive Director of the Center for Christian Calling, University of Mobile


Genesis 4:1–15

Adam’s sin broke the world. He hid from God. He blamed his wife. He blamed God. Then God established blood sacrifice as the symbol of atonement, with the promise that the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head.

They were banished from paradise on earth. Adam and Eve were experiencing pain in the labors of providing for the family and of pregnancy, respectively. But God blessed them with sons.

Rivalry (1-7)

Cain was entrusted to care for the flora, and Abel was given responsibility to steward the fauna. They were following the pattern of their dad, who cared for both in the garden.

Evidently, Adam also taught his boys that God is worthy of offerings from the land and from the livestock.

So Abel offered a sacrifice from among the flocks, and Cain brought an offering from the crops. God accepted (“had regard for”) Abel’s sacrifice, but not Cain’s.

With siblings comes sibling rivalry. Cain took offense with God and his face reflected his displeasure. God warned Cain about imminent sin in his life, and his need to rule over it.

Why did God accept Abel’s offering but not Cain’s? Some point to the blood sacrifice, but grain offerings were also acceptable to God (see Lev. 1–7).

Others suggest that Abel brought first fruits, while Cain just brought “some of the land’s produce.”

The writer of Hebrews explains the difference was Abel’s faith: “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts” (Heb. 11:4).

Like Cain, one can make offerings to God without truly trusting God or being surrendered to Him.

Sentenced (8-12)

Whether or not Cain invited him, Abel met Cain in the field, where Cain murdered his brother.

The Hebrew foundation of our English Bible does not contain Cain’s invitation to Abel to accompany him to the field, but several early Jewish and Christian versions include the phrase, “Let’s go out to the field,” as noted in the footnotes of the Christian Standard Bible.

While this may not be significant for a children’s Bible storybook, these textual footnotes help the Bible student understand the reason why English Bible translations read differently.

God asks Cain a question, offering an opportunity for Cain to confess. Cain does not hide or blame like his father did. He lies to God — “Where is your brother? … I don’t know.”

Adam was ashamed when confronted with his sin. No such shame is evident with Cain. He gets angry with God, ignores God’s warning, kills his brother and then lies to God. Even when sentenced for his crime, he expresses no faith and no remorse.

So what was Cain’s sentence? He is to become a nomad, never again to enjoy the fruits of the agrarian life he previously knew.

Plea (13-15)

Even a lost man pleads with God. Cain characterizes his sentence as leaving the face of the earth and the presence of God. And who is he afraid will kill him? His father? His mother? Sisters who are not named in the text?

God grants him a measure of grace by placing a nondescript mark on Cain indicating that he was not to be murdered. Even though God extends grace to him, Cain ceases to acknowledge God as God. “Cain went out from the Lord’s presence” (v. 16).