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STUDIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
—INTERNATIONAL S.S. LESSONS—
SUGGESTIVE THOUGHTS DESIGNED TO ASSIST THOSE OF OUR READERS WHO ATTEND BIBLE CLASSES WHERE THESE LESSONS ARE USED; THAT THEY MAY BE ENABLED TO LEAD OTHERS INTO THE FULNESS OF THE GOSPEL
THE MURDER OF ABEL
I. QUAR., LESSON III., JAN. 21, GEN. 4:3-13
Golden Text—”By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.”—Heb. 11:4
VERSES 3-5. Coupled with the first promise of deliverance from sin and death through the seed of the woman, was the typical foreshadowing of the great sacrifice of “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” when God substituted the garments of skin, which required the sacrifice of life, for the fig-leaf garments of Adam and Eve. Whether more plainly told them or not, we know that the idea of typical sacrifices for sin was received, and offerings were made at certain intervals of time—probably yearly, as subsequently commanded under the Jewish dispensation, and also as indicated by the sacrifices of Cain and
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Abel—Cain’s offering being of the fruit of the ground, a part of his harvest, and Abel’s a firstling or yearling of his flock.
The offering of Abel was, according to the divine institution, a sacrifice of life, and therefore a true type of the promised redemptive sacrifice, while Cain’s offering was not. Hence the offering of Abel was acceptable to God, while that of Cain was rejected.
VERSES 6,7. “And Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou angry? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin croucheth at the door, and unto thee is its desire; but thou canst rule over it.”
VERSE 8 shows that Cain disregarded the counsel received and allowed his anger to burn unchecked. He failed to resist the enemy Sin, here figuratively represented as a devouring beast, and it gained control of him, and drove him, first to unkind words, and finally to murder.
VERSE 9. One sin leads to another unless promptly acknowledged. Here the sin of murder was followed by those of lying and insolence—”I know not. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
VERSES 10-12. The blood of Abel cried for vengeance upon the murderer. That is, Justice insists that he who takes the life of another thereby forfeits his own right to live.
VERSE 13. When Cain began to realize the deep remorse of a guilty conscience, in his agony of mind he cried out, “My punishment is greater than I can bear;” and in connection with the unbearable load he mentions regretfully the hiding from him of Jehovah’s face, showing thus an appreciation of God’s favor to which he would fain return. This evidence of penitence was quickly responded to by the Lord, who graciously set a mark upon Cain, that no one finding him should slay him, declaring that any such transgressor should receive sevenfold punishment. Thus the Lord guards the penitent. A bruised reed he will not break, and smoking flax he will not quench. (Isa. 42:3.) If there be even a slight disposition to penitence, he fosters and cherishes it. This merciful course with Cain foreshadowed God’s similar course with the whole guilty world: when his chastisements shall have brought them to repentance, then his arm will be extended for their recovery.
The Golden Text shows that it was not by custom nor by accident that Abel chose his sacrifice, but by faith. Evidently he had been seeking the mind of the Lord, and had found it; and thus was enabled to offer acceptably. So with God’s children now: it is to those who exercise faith, and who seek and knock, that the mind of the Lord is revealed, and they can see that nothing short of the great sacrifice, our Redeemer’s life, could be acceptable before God.
The Apostle in speaking of Christ institutes a comparison (Heb. 12:24) which seems to imply that Abel was in some degree a type of Christ;—in that he offered an acceptable sacrifice, and was slain therefor. But while Abel’s death called for vengeance, Christ’s life was sacrificed for us and calls instead for mercy, not only upon those who slew him (Luke 23:34), but also upon the whole world. Not only was he slain by men, but he was slain for men; and by his stripes all may be healed who will penitently come unto the Father by him.
— January 15, 1894 —