Read Genesis 4:1-26 at Bible Gateway.
I study the Torah every year using the teaching tools of Scripture. (Why?)
The Hebrew paragraph divisions are as follows:
Gen 4:1-26 s Exile from family is the consequence of sin
This parashah forms a chiastic structure:
Gen 4:1-26 s
1a) Gen 4:1, Adam knew Eve his wife + she bore Cain (possession): “I have acquired a man from YHVH;”
1b) Gen 4:2-15, The family of Adam + Cain kills Abel + warning re: taking vengeance:
— 1b.1) Gen 4:2, The family of Adam: Abel a shepherd, Cain a farmer;
— 1b.2) Gen 4:3-14, Cain kills his brother Abel;
— 1b.3) Gen 4:15, YHVH: “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold;”
CENTRAL AXIS) Gen 4:16-18, Cain separated from YHVH’s presence + restlessness + built first city + Cain’s unrighteous seed;
2b) Gen 4:19-24, The family of Lamech + Lamech kills a young man + warning re: taking vengeance:
— 2b.1) Gen 4:19-22, The family of Lamech: wives + Jabal a nomad, Jubal a musician, Tubal-Cain a metalsmith + daughter;
— 2b.2) Gen 4:23, Lamech kills a young man for hurting him;
— 2b.3) Gen 4:24, Lamech: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold;”
2a) Gen 4:25-26, Adam knew his wife + she bore Seth (appointed): “Elohiym has appointed me another instead of Abel.”
Notice that God did not do what schools and society do today. God did not praise and accept the unworthy offering. He did not encourage laziness, sloppiness, half-heartedness, just skating by barely fulfilling the letter while the heart was far from it, apathy, or any of the things we encourage today by accepting every poor attempt out of concern for hurt feelings.
Cain’s feelings were hurt. His countenance fell. God did not punish him for “missing the mark,” however. He used Cain’s failure as a teachable moment, as a good father does to teach his children. God gave him a warning, and a chance to do better next time, by bringing an acceptable offering next time. God maintained His high standards, in other words, and encouraged the boys to meet them. So Gen 4 is teaching parents how to foster excellence in their children.
However, Cain chose to be angry and jealous instead of amend his ways. He killed his brother Abel.
Throughout the exchange recorded in Scripture, we see that Cain was more concerned with the consequences to himself from his punishment, than he was for the fact that his brother was dead. He did not exhibit true remorse. When a family member becomes so wicked and unrepentant, that they do not have care any longer for the welfare of the family, both corporately and individually, then to preserve the life of the family, that family member must be separated from them. This is the precedent set in Scripture from the wisdom of God. It does not show love to placate a bully or endanger the family to “show love” to a such a person in an attempt to rehabilitate them. That is false love, not true love.
I just have to add, that in both instances of Cain’s murder of Abel, and Lamech’s murder of the young man, that the warning not to take vengeance is repeated. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord,” (Rom 12:19). This is not an admonition to disregard justice. But I think that before the covenants and the Torah were given, man did not have the wisdom to discern justice. The statutes and judgments of the Torah teach justice (Neh 9:13). Before that, there was only vengeance, and God was saying, Leave it to Me.
The God of the Old Testament is often characterized as vengeful and wrathful. God said, Leave vengeance to Me, but then He did not enact vengeance on Cain. He did not enact vengeance on Lamech. He left room for the work of the Holy Spirit to convict men concerning sin and righteousness. He left room for mercy, repentance, and the changed life. In His wisdom, He knew when mercy no longer had an effect. When that time was reached, He brought judgment which repaid the wicked for their wickedness (Noah’s Flood). But only He is wise enough to know when that tipping point is. Therefore we are to enact justice, but not vengeance.
Josephus says of Cain:
“And when Cain had traveled over many countries, he, with his wife, built a city, named Nod, which is a place so called, and there he settled his abode; where also he had children. However, he did not accept of his punishment in order to amendment, but to increase his wickedness; for he only aimed to procure every thing that was for his own bodily pleasure, though it obliged him to be injurious to his neighbors. He augmented his household substance with much wealth, by rapine and violence; he excited his acquaintance to procure pleasures and spoils by robbery, and became a great leader of men into wicked courses. He also introduced a change in that way of simplicity wherein men lived before; and was the author of measures and weights. And whereas they lived innocently and generously while they knew nothing of such arts, he changed the world into cunning craftiness. He first of all set boundaries about lands: he built a city, and fortified it with walls, and he compelled his family to come together to it; and called that city Enoch, after the name of his eldest son Enoch. Now Jared was the son of Enoch; whose son was Malaliel; whose son was Mathusela; whose son was Lamech; who had seventy-seven children by two wives, Silla and Ada. Of those children by Ada, one was Jabal: he erected tents, and loved the life of a shepherd. But Jubal, who was born of the same mother with him, exercised himself in music; and invented the psaltery and the harp. But Tubal, one of his children by the other wife, exceeded all men in strength, and was very expert and famous in martial performances. He procured what tended to the pleasures of the body by that method; and first of all invented the art of making brass. Lamech was also the father of a daughter, whose name was Naamah. And because he was so skillful in matters of divine revelation, that he knew he was to be punished for Cain’s murder of his brother, he made that known to his wives. Nay, even while Adam was alive, it came to pass that the posterity of Cain became exceeding wicked, every one successively dying, one after another, more wicked than the former. They were intolerable in war, and vehement in robberies; and if any one were slow to murder people, yet was he bold in his profligate behavior, in acting unjustly, and doing injuries for gain.”
Falvius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book I, Chapter 2, translated by William Whitson