12: The Judgments of Genesis (2)
& Abel / The Flood / Canaan Cursed
Cain & Abel
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
Cain & Abel
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
the judgment on this murderer was simply to make him a wanderer. We
need to consider the background.
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.
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).
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
Now the Lord understands exactly what
Cain is feeling and so confronts him with it:
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.”
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.
heart is set in the wrong direction. That is the starting point and
from it flows murder:
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
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 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,
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.
Protection = God's Grace
is blinded by his hard heart:
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
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:
“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
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.”
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.
is an amazing illustration of the mercy and grace of God.
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.
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.
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.
was happening – the assessment
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.
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
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
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)
the word ‘pain'. It is not anger but anguish that He feels.
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.
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
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
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!)
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.
Curse – a Judgment
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.
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
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.
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
Thus Canaan (from Ham) will
become subject to Israel (from Shem)
why this judgment?
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.
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
Outworking of the Judgment
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
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.”
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.
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:
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?
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
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!).
to return to our original verses, the curse on Canaan was a combination
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?
IS a judgment but more a declaration of what will be because of the
ongoing nature of these peoples.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
the next chapter we will see more of the judgments of Genesis.
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