"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 12





Chapter 12: The Judgments of Genesis (2)

Cain & Abel / The Flood / Canaan Cursed


Chapter 12 Contents 

12.1 Cain & Abel

12.2 The Flood

12.3 Canaan Cursed

12.4 Summary



Continuing to consider the specific judgments of God recorded in the book of Genesis we now move to next consider Cain and Abe, the two sons of Adam and Eve.l


12.1 Cain & Abel


The Judgment

Gen 4:10-12 Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground. Now (i) you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. (ii) When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you .(iii) You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."

I have divided the above verse to show the threefold nature of this judgment.


The background

Amazingly the judgment on this murderer was simply to make him a wanderer. We need to consider the background.

Gen 4:2-5 “Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”

  •   These are somewhat mystifying verses at first sight and we wonder why the Lord should have looked with favour on Abel's offering but not on Cain's.
  •   But then we notice two important words: ‘some' and ‘firstborn'.
  •   Cain brings ‘some of the fruits of the soil'.
  •   Now why they brought offerings to God in the first place is a slight mystery. The word for ‘offering' means a gift. Whether it is a special occasion or Eve has taught the boys to be thankful to God is unclear but when it says Cain brings ‘some' fruits it has a somewhat casual feeling about it.
  •   Yes, the word ‘some' is also used of Abel but here it is completely different because he is bringing what would have been considered the best portions of meat from more than one of his animals.
  •   ‘Some' of the firstborn indicates more than one, so Abel's gift is both high quality and abundant or generous.
  •   God looks at the heart and is blessed by what He finds in Abel but is distressed by what He finds in Cain. Indeed Cain's heart is revealed in his response which was anger.
  •  Cain becomes synonymous with those with wrong hearts against God (Jude 11) while Abel is named among the people of faith who come to God with good hearts (Heb 11:4).
  •  So Cain's poor heart is revealed in the casual way he brought a gift and then in the way he responds to being, we suggest, rebuked for it.
  •   Now the Lord understands exactly what Cain is feeling and so confronts him with it:


Gen 4:6,7 “Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

  •   He warns Cain to be careful, for his bad attitude can overtake him and cause more wrong, but he needs to overcome it and avoid that.
  •  Note that the Lord is seeking to help him avoid sin.



Cain's heart is set in the wrong direction. That is the starting point and from it flows murder:

Gen 4:8 “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

  •   We have a criminal case on our hands! There is no question about Cain's guilt.
  •   He can make no excuses; the Lord warned him to take hold of himself but instead he gave way to jealousy and killed Abel. An open and shut case!
  •   The only thing to be decided is the judgment. What should happen to Cain? Well, on the basis of what follows later in the Bible – an eye for an eye etc. – we would have expected God to have taken his life. That would have been reasonable, but look again at the verses we started with.
  •   Hold on a moment! A query: was this homicide? Was there premeditation and although he attacked Abel was it an accident that he killed him? There is no certainty in the record.

The Judgment Again

  •   The judgment that God imposes on this murderer is threefold, one thing following the other.
  •   First of all, you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. i.e. you will leave your homeland.
  •   Second, “ When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.” i.e. for whatever practical reason, farming will no longer be a means of providing for him.
  •   From now on he will have to go foraging or relying upon other people so, thirdly, he will be “ a restless wanderer on the earth.”


  •   What should be the effect of this punishment? It should bring him to his senses, it should bring about humility in him, it should bring about a better man.
  •   Do you see this? God's intent is to redeem this man through what happens to him. It's what happened to the prodigal in Jesus' parable (Lk 15) and it is what the Bible hints at a number of times, that a person can be changed by discipline, for that is exactly the purpose of discipline, to bring about a new, better person.
  •   No way is there any indication in this story of a harsh and judgmental God. Twice we have now seen Him speaking or acting for Cain's good.


Ongoing Protection = God's Grace

Cain is blinded by his hard heart:

Gen 4:13,14  “Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

  •   Like so many hard hearted people he turns it and blames God: this is unkind! Well, actually no, Cain, you still have your life and the opportunity to redeem it!
  •   But watch the Lord yet again:

Gen 4:15   “But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.”

  •   The mark is not a stigma but a mark of safe-conduct. Cain will be protected throughout his life - by God!
  •   But why didn't God kill him, he's a murderer (or was it manslaughter?) and could appear as a hard-hearted individual?
  •   The answer can only be found in the words 'mercy' and 'grace'.
  •   Everything about the story reveals a God who seeks to help the sinner avoid sin, and even when he does sin, give him opportunity to repent and change.
  •   Do you remember earlier we thought about Ex 34:6,7 where the Lord described Himself, and in that description it spoke of Him “forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
  •  Remember also the three references in Ezekiel where the Lord said He took no pleasure in the death of man but would much prefer to see repentance and be able to bring forgiveness.
  •   The Lord WANTS to forgive and so He gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent so that forgiveness may flow, but it cannot until there is the change.
  •   Perhaps there was the leniency in this case because it was the first one and therefore nothing had been laid down previously about it. Once the Law is established it is obvious and disregard for it is blatant rebellion.
  •   Cain is an amazing illustration of the mercy and grace of God.
  •   Three times we see this in respect of Cain
    •   He warns him beforehand of not going down a wrong path
    •   The judgment on Cain's sin is not death but second chance
    •   He sets His mark of protection over Cain as he works out his second chance.


12.2 The Flood


As we move on we come to that terrible event so often referred to as just ‘The Flood'. Whether this flood was in a limited area, in the whole of the Middle East, or covered the entire world only time and eternity will tell. Arguments for each are valid and only the foolish are dogmatic. The scope of it is really not the important issue for us, for there are things within the story that we should take hold of.


We said previously that when we look at the judgments of God we are always looking at the decisions of a Judge (and there are a number of references in Scripture to Him being and doing that), even as in modern courts,

  •   judges and juries weigh the evidence that speaks of what happened, and
  •   then declare a verdict as to guilt or innocence.
  •   It is then for the Judge to pronounce the sentence.


What was happening – the assessment


Gen 6:5,6 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

  •   Look at what this verse starts out revealing: “how great the wickedness on the earth had become”.
  •   Later on in Canaan we understand that child sacrifice, sodomy, bestiality, violence and all manner of breaking of what we would call laws of civilization, took place.
  •   It probably isn't a good exercise to think of a long list of bad things that human beings can do to one another, but when the verses goes on to say that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time,” we should perhaps be careful if we try to play down how bad it was!
  •   This is what happens when there is no restraint. It is why today we have a legislature, a police force and a judicial system. All of these are meant to restrain the sins of men and women.
  •   It would not be going too far to suggest that if that state had been allowed to continue, the abuse of the earth itself and of the people on it would have only got worse and worse in a frenzy of self-destruction.
  •   Remember in an earlier chapter we considered the implied warning that there was in this account – Noah was the warning.

The Judgment


Gen 6:7   So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved that I have made them."

  •   The remedy for all this was the Flood, to wipe out all that existed and start over again.
  •   There is always with God – and it is almost impossible for us with our finite minds to grasp this – a dual experience.
    •   On the one hand the Lord sees all of history (as C.S.Lewis put it), from above, looking down from outside of time to a line which is time-space history below, and
    •   on the other hand He is in it experiencing it as it happens.
  •   Although God must have known that this would have happened, even before He made anything and looked to what would be, He nevertheless ‘lives through it' if we may put it like that, so thus now we find, faced with this terrible decline in the affairs of the earth, we note what He FEELS about it: “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (v.6)
  •   Note the word ‘pain'. It is not anger but anguish that He feels.

Parallel Examples?

  •   Imagine a Gardeners World TV celebrity who is commissioned to create a beautiful garden for the Chelsea Flower Show, early in the year.
  •   He spends months planning it and even more months growing and preparing all the plants and shrubs and bushes and trees and a small fortune is spent on it.
  •   With a large band of men and lots of heavy plant and equipment it is all taken into place and every effort is made to ensure the right plants are in the right place, the right colours offsetting each other, every leaf in place and not a dead leaf in sight.
  •   The night before the judging is to take place a final check is made and, as far as is humanly possible, a last check is made and it is perfect.
  •   But overnight some vandals break in and totally trash the garden. It is devastated.
  •   Now compare that to the wonderful world God created where “it was very good,” (Gen 1:31) and now see it now with sin unchecked and evil running amok.
  •   If this was me I would be flaming angry but God was simply grieved and filled with pain.
  •   The idea to wipe out everything and start again is not focused on any individual or even group of sinners for everyone (except one man, Noah) is in this together.
  •   This idea to wipe out everything and start again is merely common sense.
  •   These human beings have so degenerated that they are acting like wild animals.
  •   They can hardly be called human beings any longer. Did it have to work this way? Does a 'Lord of the Flies' situation have to follow?
  •   Noah says no. One man did not go down that path, revealing that it is possible to remain a civilized human being conforming to God's original design in some measure at least, even in the face of everyone else going the opposite way.


  •   Now in the first chapters we said God was perfect and said that meant ‘cannot be improved upon' and that included anything and everything He did.
  •   So let's ask the question here: if this was you and you have supreme power and your wonderful world is being devastated and is in a self-destructive downward spiral, what would you do?
  •   Only criticize if you can come up with a better solution. (Taking away man's free will is not an option if we are to leave them as human beings.)
  •   The best you might do is destroy and start off again.
  •   God took one family and started again and yet even in that, He regretted the course of action that had to be taken and we find, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Gen 9:11)
  •   The enormity of this judgment is only matched by the terribleness of what was happening on the earth. From now on the Lord will move to hedge off such downward spirals.
  •   Yet, perhaps, He had to allow this one to happen so that it could never again be said of the human race, “Surely we would never get this bad!” Yes, we did!
  •   And a grieving, anguishing God nearly had His heart broken.
  •   From now on judgments will come in stages or with warnings and when we come to the last book of the Bible we will find that in all that time, mankind has learnt little. It will take Jesus' return to bring to an end of ongoing godless folly of mankind.
  •   If you have never seen it and still struggle to understand what it means when it speaks about “ how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time,” then pray and ask for the revelation and when you get it, the last thing on earth you will do is criticise God. (And please don't blame me for your nightmares!)

Addendum: There are those who would suggest that the area of the flood was limited to the Middle East. If this is so, and it is a possibility, then it would be yet a further sign to the rest of the world of God's standards, intentions and grace.


12.3 Canaan Cursed


The Curse – a Judgment

In the fourth judgment within Genesis, we find a curse being declared – which works out and is fulfilled – which is tantamount to a judgment declared by God's representative on earth, Noah. It is a strange thing so we need to look at it carefully.


Gen 9:25,26  When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, "Cursed be Canaan ! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers." He also said, "Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem ! May Canaan be the slave of Shem


To clarify the details:

  •   Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Gen 9:18,19)
  •   Noah, rather foolishly got himself drunk (Gen 9:21) and ended up falling across his bed naked (we would assume) where he is seen by Ham (v.22) who told his brothers in what, we must assume, was a disrespectful way.
  •   Shem and Japheth remedy the situation by covering up their father in such a way that they did not look on him (v.23). In the morning (somehow?) Noah found out what had happened and placed this curse on Ham for his disrespect.
  •   Canaan, the younger son of Ham was the one placed under the curse, whose name eventually became synonymous with the land eventually taken over by Israel. How? 
    •   The descendants of Seth eventually included Abram and subsequently Israel  
    •   Thus Canaan (from Ham) will become subject to Israel (from Shem)


But why this judgment?

The initial answer has got to be for disrespect. Whatever Ham may have thought about his father's behaviour and state, he still had a duty to respect him. The Law would eventually declare, “Honour your father and mother” (Ex 20:12) and it is clear from Scripture that family order and respect is important to God's design for family life.


Now the question arises in a situation like this, did God MAKE Ham submit to Shem or was this simply a prophetic foreseeing of what would come about because of the nature of Ham which would be conveyed down through his descendants. The answer has got to be somewhere between the two.


  •   First of all God does foreknow the future, so He would have known how things were going to work out between these peoples and therefore we might consider that He inspired Noah to prophesy this future.
  •   Second, there do tend to be certain propensities that run through families, so when in Ex 20:5 the Lord speaks of Himself as “punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” it is more likely that He is referring to the ungodly rebellion being passed on from one generation to another, until there comes a generation who comes to its senses and turns to God. We see it a number of times in the kings of Israel and Judah. The crucial words in that verse above are “of those who hate me”. God does not punish the godly but rebellion against God can be passed from one generation to another. So, yes, there is this element to be taken into account.
  •   Third, there is the fact that God acts into His world and the Bible is the testimony to how He chose a man called Abram to reveal Him, a man descended from Seth, and a man who had a grandson named Jacob who was renamed Israel. This Israel had a family who grew into a nation who the Lord used to bring judgment on the peoples of Canaan because they, as the world we observed earlier in our considerations of the Flood, had degenerated so far that the only hope was to bring them to an end as a nation or people grouping – as we'll see in a later study.


The Outworking of the Judgment

When Abram first arrived in the land we find, “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land.” (Gen 12:7) and a little later he reiterated that: “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” (Gen 13:15)


It wasn't until we find Abram making his big act of faith – “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” (Gen 15:6) that the Lord reiterates it a third time: “He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” (Gen 15:7)


It was only as they entered into a solemn covenant (see Gen 15:9-12) that He reveals to him that the land will be taken by his returning people and part of the plan is to deal with the sin of the people of the land when they return: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen 15:16) Left to themselves, the sin of this family of Ham will grow and grow and grow until it is intolerable.


When it comes to that judgment on Canaan through Israel, as we'll see in a later chapter, the Lord said He would drive out the peoples of the land and failing that, Israel would drive them out. The options for the Canaanites were:


1. They could leave the land peaceably – it is quite clear from the way Israel came up from the south and the way that they approached the kings of the south, that death was not high on their agenda. Who wants to risk death if there is a peaceful way through?

2. They could join Israel – this is clear from the stories of Rahab and of the Gibeonites, which would have given them a much more stable and secure life than they had previously experienced under superstitious paganism.


3. They could resist and fight and either win or lose. Some lost and some won and stayed in the land despite the Lord's instructions to Israel. In fact when they failed to clear them out, the Lord said He would allow them to stay to act as a constant provocation to Israel (to encourage them to constantly rely on Him!).


  So to return to our original verses, the curse on Canaan was a combination of:

  •   prophecy,
  •   the family propensity to rebel against God, and
  •   the Lord's intent to choose and bless the family of Seth, because He would choose Abram who would become known as the father of faith. Was that because He foresaw what He could achieve through Abram?


It IS a judgment but more a declaration of what will be because of the ongoing nature of these peoples.



12.4 Summary


To ensure we take in the gist of the things considered in this chapter we note the following conclusions by way of a summary of the chapter


The Judgment on Cain

  •   Instead of condemning Cain to death for murdering his brother we see the Lord
    •   First, trying to warn him against letting the situation deteriorate
    •   Second, condemning him to a life of wandering for having killed his brother, but
    •   Third, putting a protection over him for the rest of his life.
  •   Cain is thus an amazing illustration of the mercy and grace of God.

The Judgment of the Flood

  •   The cause of the judgment was the absolutely appalling moral decline and state of mankind which was constantly in a downward spiral towards self-destruction.
  •   The warning about the flood was obvious – through Noah – and therefore people had plenty of time to repent and turn from their evil.
  •   There appears no other way that this catastrophic state of affairs could have been dealt with, and God's approach at least provided for the continuation of mankind.

The Judgment on Canaan

  •   The cause of the judgment was disrespect for the father and the family.
  •   The judgment was a curse on the youngest son of the offender so that through his later generations there would be submission by the grandsons of the offender to the grandsons of one of the other sons.
  •   Effectively there was no immediate discipline or judgment on the offender, but the curse came more as a prophetic statement of what his later family would be like.
  •   It came, if you like, as a declaration of shame on the offender.

In each of the three judgments considered in this chapter, sin is obviously the cause – murder, rampant unrighteousness, and dishonouring of parent – but the Lord is seen as remarkably reticent to impose a violent sentence on the offenders. In the worse case, that of the Flood, the Lord must have held back for many years while the situation deteriorated and when He did eventually bring the flood, it was only after what must have been some considerable period while Noah built the ark, a visible challenge to everyone else about what was coming.


In the next chapter we will see more of the judgments of Genesis.


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