You will want to have a Bible handy for this study to gain a fuller perspective of the material. I would also suggest reading through Genesis 3:1-4:7 first as well. Although you may find some of the material in this article ‘scholarly’ in nature, please do not be discouraged. The main point is established from the basic doctrine that only God can create a ‘new thing’, and once He has established it only He can ‘change’ it (this is the general theme of Ecclesiastes).
The Revelation of Innocent Blood to Cover Sin – Genesis 3
In the Garden of Eden God gave only one commandment to Adam (Gen. 2:16-17): that he should not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was Adam’s disobedience and his alone that brought death through sin into the world (Rom. 5:12). His wife Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam sinned in full knowledge of his actions (1 Tim. 2:13-15).
The Lord God made it perfectly clear to Adam that his act of disobedience would bring forth his own death (Gen. 2:17). While Adam and Eve did not die ‘immediately’ on that very day in Genesis 3, their own mortality upon the earth was secured—as was the mortality of every living creature created by God.
Furthermore, that day marked the death of their innocence. Before that moment of disobedience there was no shame in standing naked before one another or before the Lord (Gen. 2:25). However, once sin had entered into the world through disobedience, every element and consequence of sin followed immediately after (Gen. 3:14-19). Now Adam and Eve were exposed in their naked shame before God and before each other both physically and spiritually (for before sin there had been no shame upon the earth).
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:17
God in His infinite wisdom and grace would not take away the consequences of their transgression. They now knew the shame and disgrace of sin and would soon learn the nearly unbearable pain of separation from their beloved Lord. However, the knowledge of their disgrace would guide them in adding to their wisdom in the future. As for their present nakedness, God slaughtered two innocent animals and used their skins to cover their bodies Himself (Gen. 3:21). This act prophetically illustrated several elements of the then future Atonement of believers through Christ Jesus:
- The shedding of innocent blood is required for the remission of sin (Heb. 9:22).
- God Himself provides a covering of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).
- God Himself provides the Sacrifice (Gen. 22:7-8).
Another truth that is found here is that anything that man has to offer to God in exchange for sin is woefully inadequate. This is illustrated in Adam and Eve’s feeble attempt to cover their nakedness with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7).
In this first occurrence of sin God immediately provides the sacrifice and the revelation of the same to Adam and Eve. In the next instance we will examine, God ‘offers’ His sacrifice to a sinner who has the choice to repent or to reject God’s offer.
The Offering of God to Atone for Sin – Genesis 4:1-7
In Gen. 4:3-4 we learn that while Cain brought ‘of the fruit’ of the ground (for he was a ‘tiller of the ground – v2), Able brought ‘of the firstlings’ of his flock (for he was a ‘keeper of sheep’ – v2) and the ‘fat thereof’.
You may have encountered some who teach that Cain and Able offered ‘sin sacrifices’ because the word ‘sacrifice’ (Gk. THU‑SEE-UH) appears in Heb. 11:4 with regard to this event. However, not all sacrifices in the O.T. were offered for sin, and some were voluntary. Such is the case with the offering presented by the two brothers in Genesis 4. The Hebrew word translated as ‘offering’ in verses 3-5 is the noun MIN-CHAW, which refers to a ‘voluntary, bloodless sacrifice’ – that is – it was not required to be offered with blood.
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof…” -Genesis 4:3-4a
In this instance, the offering made by Cain and Able falls more closely under the context of the ‘first‑fruits’ offering that would be later established under the Law (see: Ex. 23:16-19; 34:22-26). Furthermore, when the Feast of the Harvest was established under the Law, both blood sacrifices (Heb. ZAW-BAKH meaning ‘to kill’ or ‘to slay’) and first-fruits (Heb. BIK-KUR) were accepted. However, neither was a ‘sin’ offering.
Both verses 5 & 6 of Genesis 4 reveal that Cain is both angry and dejected. The Lord addresses this in verse 6 and offers the means of reconciliation in verse 7. The word translated as ‘sin’ in this same verse is the Hebrew word CHAT-TAW-AW, which has numerous meaning related to sin depending upon the context. In this instance the meaning of a ‘sin offering’ is best suited because it is ‘lying at his [Cain’s] door’, it is awaiting ‘his desire’ (i.e. it will yield to him), and he [Cain] may ‘rule over him’ (do with him what is meet – i.e. offer it as a sacrifice for sin).
Verse 7 illustrates the efficacy of the Blood Atonement offered for sin for it is:
- Arranged by God (1 Jn. 4:10)
- Made Accessible by God (Heb. 9:11-12)
- Accepted by God (Heb. 9:13-18)
It has the power to:
- Lead the sinner to Repentance (1 Jn. 1:9)
- Remit payment in place of the penalty for sin (Rom. 3:23-26)
- Reconcile fellowship between the sinner and God (Eph. 2:12-13)
Repentance is a change of heart, mind, and will. When we repent at the moment of our Salvation in Christ Jesus we make a conscious choice to stop living for ourselves and to begin living for the Lord. Abel’s heart was toward the Lord because He offered Him the ‘first’ of his flock before taking anything for himself. Conversely, Cain offered ‘somewhat’ of the fruit of the ground which he had sown. His pride later became even more evident when he refused God’s offering for his sin, and acted out in jealousy against his own brother.
As we have seen from this brief study, it is very easy to mistakenly identify an action or intent in the Scriptures by assuming that a translated word has the same meaning everywhere that it appears. We must always be careful to maintain context when we study the Bible, especially when we look at a subjects as important as the Blood Atonement and Salvation.
In Christ’s Love,
(1) New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, King James Version. James Strong, LLD., S.T.D. Nelson. ©2005.
(2) Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. W.E. Vine. Nelson. ©1996.
- All Bible quotes in this article are taken from the KJV.
- Bible passages in double quotes (“) appear exactly as found in the KJV.
- Bible passages in single quotes (‘) have been modified for emphasis or ease of reading only (such as capitalization of pronouns referring to God, bolded text, or modernized punctuation, etc.) without altering the actual wording of the text.