My Brother’s Keeper?

~~ a devotional ~~

by tkbrown

Genesis 4:1-17:

  • 1 — “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain and said, ‘I have gotten a man from the Lord.'”
  • 2 — “And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.”
  • 3 — “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.”
  • 4 — “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering.”
  • 5 — “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
  • 6 — “And the Lord said unto Cain, ‘Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen?'”
  • 7 — “‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.'”
  • 8 — “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”
  • 9 — “And the Lord said unto Cain, ‘Where is Abel thy brother?’ And he said, ‘I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?'”
  • 10 — “And He said, ‘What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.‘”
  • 11 — “‘And now art thou cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;'”
  • 12 — “‘When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.'”
  • 13 — “And Cain said unto the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.'”
  • 14 — “‘Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that everyone that findeth me shall slay me.'”
  • 15 — “And the Lord said unto him, ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.”
  • 16 — “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”
  • 17 — “And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.”


Genesis 4:1-17 — Notes

God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because they defied His command in choosing to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Thus, their eyes were opened and they understood the difference between good and evil. Fearing they might also partake from the fruit of the Tree of Life, God found it necessary to send them out of the Garden.

Setting up a household out in the great big world, Adam and Eve began to live the life of a hunting and gathering family–hunting for meat and tilling the soil to grow fruits and vegetables for the family. Soon Eve was expecting their first child. When he was born, Adam and Eve named the child Cain. A short time later, Eve bore a second son whom they named Abel. Cain and Abel grew strong and capable in their worldly home as their individual areas of interest and expertise diverged. Cain was good at tilling the soil and growing a bountiful harvest from it. Abel, on the other hand, preferred to tend the sheep and expand his flock.

Cain was thankful and appreciative of the bountiful, abundant harvest he reaped from his tilling of the ground. He proceeded to gather some and present it in beautiful form to the Lord as a sacrifice. Abel, seeing Cain sacrifice to the Lord a portion of his harvest, offered to the Lord some of the firstlings from his flock and the fat thereof.

The Lord had much respect for the sacrifice Abel presented, but He was not pleased with the produce presented as Cain’s sacrifice. This upset Cain very much. The more he thought on it, the angrier he became. His attitude became downcast and sulky. God asked him why he was being so belligerent and told him if he presented a satisfactory sacrifice, it too would be accepted. He further explained the consequences of continued unacceptable behavior and not doing well in His sight would be to have sin lying at the entrance to his home. Sin would ensnare his every desire and present it to Cain until he ruled over sinful desires and cared not about pleasing God.

Henceforth, when the two brothers were toiling in the field, Cain talked to Abel. However, he was not pleased with Abel’s responses. As his attitude became increasingly sullen, he became extremely opposed to Abel’s beliefs. Finally, his ire was roused to such a point, he rose up and killed Abel–spilling Abel’s blood into the soil.

When God came to talk to Cain, He asked about Abel. Cain said he did not know the whereabouts of Abel. He said to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God was angry and chastised Cain. He said, “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; when thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.”

Cain bowed his head, shook it and said, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me.”

God said, “Not so, Cain! Whoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall reap upon him sevenfold.” Then the Lord placed a mark upon Cain so all would know who he was. Knowing the curse set upon anyone who killed Cain, they would be deterred, go on their way, and leave Cain alive.

Then, Cain went out to the land of Nod on the east of Eden and dwelt there with his wife. When she bore him a son, they named the boy Enoch. Cain built a city in his son’s honor and named it Enoch–after his son.



So, the moral of this story in Genesis 4 is fourfold:

1.) One of the ten commandments later given to Moses for governing the Israeli people as they wandered in the wilderness forty years was: Thou shalt not kill. Here, Cain killed Abel. Then, he denied this fact to God. God knew he had killed Abel, and He tried to give him a chance to tell the truth–come clean about his sin, but Cain denied any knowledge regarding Abel’s whereabouts.

2.) We are our brothers’ keepers to some degree. We should always try to have some knowledge of our brothers’ whereabouts and status–even when they do not communicate with us. We should try to acquaint ourselves with information about them, whether they are biological or other familial brothers. This also applies to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

3.) Anger, uncontrolled and unbridled leads us to action with unacceptable consequences. Cain’s anger led to despondent mood, self-pity, and finger-pointing. These “sins,” in turn, led to Cain killing Abel and trying to hide that fact. He did not consider the magnanimous nature of his offense. Maybe we can equate this as the reason humans today consider small, minor, “more acceptable” offenses to be less important–and to the human belief of God viewing them the same.

4.) God makes no difference in “degree of sin.” Sin is sin, and if not forgiven via cleansing by Christ’s blood, it is punishable by an eternity in hell just as Cain was eternally banished from God’s presence.

It is our choice where we spend eternity. God drove Cain from his homeland–even out of His presence–meaning Cain then had no chance of ever redeeming himself with God. This shows us, in like manner, how sins continually committed today–without atonement–can cause our hearts to harden to the point we do not care what we do to self or others. When this level of hardness develops, we have no chance of ever heeding the message of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. As a result, we choose to spend eternity in hell with other sinners–eternally apart from God in heaven. All sin has consequences. Therefore, when we choose to enact any sin, we choose those consequences along with “it.”



Eds. King James Bible Online. (November 2007). Genesis 4. “Holy Bible: Old Testament, King James Version” (KJV). U.S. Congress. (14 November 2021).


Photo above: Ugo Mendes Donelli