Preaching Christ from the Cain and Abel Narrative -- By: Sidney Greidanus

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 161:644 (Oct 2004)
Article: Preaching Christ from the Cain and Abel Narrative
Author: Sidney Greidanus


Preaching Christ from
the Cain and Abel Narrativea

Sidney Greidanus

Sidney Greidanus is Professor of Preaching, Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Genesis 4 completes the account of what happened to God’s good creation. The first human pair had fallen for the temptation to be like God, knowing good and evil (chap. 3). That is, they wished to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. They wished to be autonomous, a law to themselves. Genesis 4 then sketches what became of this rebellion in the next seven generations.

Narrative Features

Literary Art

This chapter has a complex plot. The first plot concerns Cain and Abel, and the second plot concerns Cain’s descendants, especially ruthless Lamech. The outcome of the narrative is that God makes a new start with Adam through Seth and his descendants. The literary unit is also signaled by a double inclusio.

A. “Adam lay with his wife” (4:1).

B. Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord (vv. 3–4).

A´. “Adam lay with his wife again” (v. 25).

B´. People “began to call on the name of the Lord” (v. 26).

The careful literary crafting is highlighted by the use of the number seven or its multiples.1 For example the author underscores

the significance of people calling “on the name of the Lord” (v. 26) by making this the seventieth time he uses a name for God. The name אַוֹּהִים occurs thirty-five times in Genesis 1:1–2:3, and thirty-five times various names for God are used in 2:4–4:26. The name “Abel” occurs seven times, and the fact that Abel is Cain’s brother is underscored by seven uses of “brother.” Lamech is in the seventh generation from Adam.2 In Genesis 5 Lamech is contrasted with Enoch, who is in the seventh generation in the line of Seth.

Textual Theme And Goal

The narrative sketches th...

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