A casual reading of Genesis chapter four will no doubt prompt one to wonder where all the people came from. As the chapter moves along it becomes clear that there are many more people than Adam, Eve and their two sons Cain and Abel. But we must remember that this is a record of life before the cataclysmic flood which forever changed the world and its human inhabitants. Prior to that, the Bible is clear that human lifespans were significantly longer. The inspired writer does not give us details or dates. But the events described happened at a time when the descendants of Adam and Eve had been multiplying for perhaps hundreds of years. There had been significant growth in the human population. Even after the fall, Adam and Eve and their descendants remained committed to the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
The centerpiece of the passage is Cain’s murder of Abel. Though his birth prompted praise and hope in the hearts of his parents, Cain proved not to be the seed who would crush the serpent (Genesis 3:15). In one stunning act of hatred, Cain snuffed out the life of his brother – the man of faith – Abel (Hebrews 11:4). On that evidence alone, one might assume that Satan had prevailed in thwarting the promise of God to send a deliverer through the seed of the woman. But as the passage suggests, Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters who themselves had sons and daughters and so forth. And so it went for hundreds of years.
Ultimately, Cain’s crime was prompted by hatred not so much of his brother but of God who accepts the worship of the faithful rather than the arrogant. And for his wickedness Cain was cursed by God. And yet once again we see that it pleased God to mix justice with mercy. He promised to preserve Cain’s life from the very end he meted out to his brother. Sadly, there is nothing in the passage which suggests that Cain ever repented. But the fact that God pitied Cain is reason enough for hope for all of us whose hearts can be and often are deceived by our own lusts. The Righteous Judge of all the earth is also the Merciful Redeemer who saves all who believe.