The Hebrew paragraph divisions are as follows:
Gen 4:1-26 s Exile from family is the consequence of sin
This parashah forms a chiastic structure:
Gen 4:1-26 s
1a) Gen 4:1, Adam knew Eve his wife + she bore Cain (possession): “I have acquired a man from YHVH;”
1b) Gen 4:2-15, The family of Adam + Cain kills Abel + warning re: taking vengeance:
— 1b.1) Gen 4:2, The family of Adam: Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer;
— 1b.2) Gen 4:3-14, Cain kills his brother Abel;
— 1b.3) Gen 4:15, YHVH: “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold;”
CENTRAL AXIS) Gen 4:16-18, Cain separated from YHVH’s presence + restlessness + built first city + Cain’s unrighteous seed;
2b) Gen 4:19-24, The family of Lamech + Lamech kills a young man + warning re: taking vengeance:
— 2b.1) Gen 4:19-22, The family of Lamech: wives + Jabal a nomad, Jubal a musician, Tubal-Cain a metalsmith + daughter;
— 2b.2) Gen 4:23, Lamech kills a young man for hurting him;
— 2b.3) Gen 4:24, Lamech: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold;”
2a) Gen 4:25-26, Adam knew his wife + she bore Seth (appointed): “Elohiym has appointed me another instead of Abel.”
Notice that God did not do what schools and society do today. God did not praise and accept the unworthy offering. He did not encourage laziness, sloppiness, half-heartedness, just skating by barely fulfilling the letter while the heart was far from it, apathy, or any of the things we encourage today by accepting every poor attempt out of concern for hurt feelings.
Cain’s feelings were hurt. His countenance fell. God did not punish him for “missing the mark,” however. He used Cain’s failure as a teachable moment, as a good father does to teach his children. God gave him a warning, and a chance to do better next time, by bringing an acceptable offering next time. God maintained His high standards, in other words, and encouraged the boys to meet them. So Gen 4 is teaching parents how to foster excellence in their children.
However, Cain chose to be angry and jealous instead of amend his ways. He killed his brother Abel.
Throughout the exchange recorded in Scripture, we see that Cain was more concerned with the consequences to himself from his punishment, than he was for the fact that his brother was dead. He did not exhibit true remorse. When a family member becomes so wicked and unrepentant, that they do not have care any longer for the welfare of the family, both corporately and individually, then to preserve the life of the family, that family member must be separated from them. This is the precedent set in Scripture from the wisdom of God. It does not show love to placate a bully or endanger the family to “show love” to a such a person in an attempt to rehabilitate them. That is false love, not true love.
I just have to add, that in both instances of Cain’s murder of Abel, and Lamech’s murder of the young man, that the warning not to take vengeance is repeated. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” (Rom 12:19). This is not an admonition to disregard justice. But I think that before the covenants and the Torah were given, man did not have the wisdom to discern justice. The statutes and judgments of the Torah teach justice (Neh 9:13). Before that, there was only vengeance, and God was saying, Leave it to Me.
The God of the Old Testament is often characterized as vengeful and wrathful. God said, Leave vengeance to Me, but then He did not enact vengeance on Cain. He did not enact vengeance on Lamech. He left room for the work of the Holy Spirit to convict men concerning sin and righteousness. He left room for mercy, repentance, and the changed life. In His wisdom, He knew when mercy no longer had an effect. When that time was reached, He brought judgment which repaid the wicked for their wickedness (Noah’s Flood). But only He is wise enough to know when that tipping point is. Therefore we are to enact justice, but not vengeance.
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