Genesis 4:8 MEANING

Genesis 4:8
(8) And Cain talked with Abel his brother.--Heb., And Cain said unto Abel his brother. To this the Samaritan Pentateuch, the LXX., the Syriac, and the Vulg. add, "Let us go out into the field;" but neither the Targum of Onkelos nor any Hebrew MS. or authority, except the Jerusalem Targum, give this addition any support. The authority of the versions is, however, very great: first, because Hebrew MSS. are all comparatively modern; and secondly, because all at present known represent only the Recension of the Masorites. Sooner or later some manuscript may be found which will enable scholars to form a critical judgment upon those places where the versions represent a different text. If we could, with the Authorised Version, translate "Cain talked with Abel," this would imply that Cain triumphed for a time over his angry feelings, and resumed friendly intercourse with his brother. But such a rendering is impossible, as also is one that has been suggested, "Cain told it unto Abel his brother" that is, told all that had passed between him and Jehovah. Either, therefore, we must accept the addition of the versions, or regard the passage as at present beyond our powers.

It came to pass, when they were in the field.--The open, uncultivated land, where Abel's flocks would find pasture. We cannot suppose that this murder was premeditated. Cain did not even know what a human death was. But, as Philippson remarks, there was a perpetual struggle between the husbandmen who cultivated fixed plots of ground and the wandering shepherds whose flocks were too prone to stray upon the tilled fields. Possibly Abel's flocks had trespassed on Cain's land, and when he went to remonstrate, his envy was stirred at the sight of his brother's affluence. A quarrel ensued, and Cain, in that fierce anger, to fits of which he was liable (Genesis 4:5), tried to enforce his mastery by blows, and before he well knew what he was doing, he had shed his brother's blood, and stood in terror before the first human corpse.

Verse 8. - And Cain talked with (literally, said to) his brother. Διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πεδίον (LXX.); egrediamur foras (Vulgate). The Samaritan and Syriac versions interpolate to the same effect. The Jerusalem Targum explains - "Cainum cure Abele contendisse de vita aetcrna, de extremo judicio, et providentia divina," inserting a long conversation commencing, "Veni, egrediamur ad superficiem agri;" but the obvious supplement is to be found in the subject matter of the previous verse (Hieronynms, Aben Ezra, Gesenius). It is not against this that it argues too much moral goodness in Cain to suppose that he would tell his younger brother of Jehovah's admonition (Knobel); and it certainly relieves us from the necessity of adding to the moral turpitude of the unhappy fratricide by depicting him as deliberately planning his favored brother's murder, carrying the fell purpose within his guilty bosom, watching his opportunity (Bottcher and Knobel, who substitute שָׁמַר he watched, for אָמַר, he said), and at last accomplishing his unhallowed purpose by means of treachery. Beyond all question the historian designs to describe not an act of culpable homicide, but a deed of red-handed murder; yet the impression which his language conveys is that of a crime rather suddenly conceived and hurriedly performed than deliberately planned and treacherously executed. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

4:8-15 Malice in the heart ends in murder by the hands. Cain slew Abel, his own brother, his own mother's son, whom he ought to have loved; his younger brother, whom he ought to have protected; a good brother, who had never done him any wrong. What fatal effects were these of our first parents' sin, and how must their hearts have been filled with anguish! Observe the pride, unbelief, and impenitence of Cain. He denies the crime, as if he could conceal it from God. He tries to cover a deliberate murder with a deliberate lie. Murder is a crying sin. Blood calls for blood, the blood of the murdered for the blood of the murderer. Who knows the extent and weight of a Divine curse, how far it reaches, how deep it pierces? Only in Christ are believers saved from it, and inherit the blessing. Cain was cursed from the earth. He found his punishment there where he chose his portion, and set his heart. Every creature is to us what God makes it, a comfort or a cross, a blessing or a curse. The wickedness of the wicked brings a curse upon all they do, and all they have. Cain complains not of his sin, but of his punishment. It shows great hardness of heart to be more concerned about our sufferings than our sins. God has wise and holy ends in prolonging the lives even of very wicked men. It is in vain to inquire what was the mark set upon Cain. It was doubtless known, both as a brand of infamy on Cain, and a token from God that they should not kill him. Abel, being dead, yet speaketh. He tells the heinous guilt of murder, and warns us to stifle the first risings of wrath, and teaches us that persecution must be expected by the righteous. Also, that there is a future state, and an eternal recompence to be enjoyed, through faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice. And he tells us the excellency of faith in the atoning sacrifice and blood of the Lamb of God. Cain slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous, 1Jo 3:12. In consequence of the enmity put between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the war broke out, which has been waged ever since. In this war we are all concerned, none are neuter; our Captain has declared, He that is not with me is against me. Let us decidedly, yet in meekness, support the cause of truth and righteousness against Satan.And Cain talked with Abel,.... Or "said", or "spoke unto" him (l); either what the Lord God said to him in the foregoing verses, as Aben Ezra; or he spoke to him in a kind and friendly manner, and thereby got him to take a walk in the field with him. The Vulgate Latin version adds, "let us go abroad"; and the Septuagint and Samaritan versions, "let us go into the field"; not to fight a duel, which Abel doubtless would have declined, had that been declared, but to have some friendly conversation; and there being a large pause here in the Hebrew text, the Jerusalem Targum gives us an account of what passed between them when in the field;"Cain said to Abel his brother, there is no judgment, nor Judge, nor will a good reward be given to the righteous; nor will vengeance be taken of the wicked; neither is the world created in mercy nor governed in mercy; otherwise, why is thine offering received with good will, and mine not?''Abel answered and said to Cain,"there is a judgment,'' &c.and so goes on to assert everything Cain denied, and to give a reason why the offering of the one was accepted, and the other rejected: and to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan:

and it came to pass, when they were in the field; alone and at a distance from their parents, or from any town or city, if any were now built, as some think there were, and out of the sight of any person that might come and interpose and rescue: about a mile from Damascus, in a valley, yet on the side of a hill, are now shown the place, or the house on it, where Cain slew Abel (m); and so Mr. Maundrel (n) speaks of a high hill near Damascus, reported to be the same they offered their sacrifice on, and Cain slew his brother, and also of another hill at some distance from Damascus, and an ancient structure on it, supposed to be the tomb of Abel:

that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him; in a furious manner assaulted him, without any just provocation, and took away his life, by some instrument or other, perhaps that was used in husbandry, which might be in the field where they were. The Targum of Jonathan is,"he fixed a stone in his forehead, and slew him;''and so the Jews say (o) elsewhere: our poet (p) says, he smote him in the breast with a stone, into the midriff or diaphragm: it must be by some means or other, by which his blood was shed; but it is not material to inquire what the instrument was, as Aben Ezra observes; since though there might be swords, yet there were stones and clubs enough, as he takes notice; and there must be even instruments for agriculture, one of which might be taken up, as being at hand, with which the execution might be made. The Jewish writers (q) say Abel was an hundred years old when he was slain; and some of them (r) make Abel to be the first aggressor: they say, that Abel rose up against him, and threw him to the ground, and afterwards Cain rose up and slew him; however this was not likely the case.

(l) "et dixit", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Fagius, Vatablus, Drusis. (m) Lud. Vartoman, Navigat. l. 1. c. 6. (n) Journey from Aleppo, &c. l. 1. p. 131, 133, 134. (o) Pirke Eliezer, c. 21. (p) -----And, as they talk'd, Smote him into the midriff with a stone, That beat out life.----- Milton's Paradise Lost, B. 11. l. 444, &c. (q) Josippon apud Abendana in Miclol. Yophi in loc. (r) Tikkune Zohar, correct. 69. fol. 112. l. 2.

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