Scripture Reference: Genesis 4:1-16, 25
Suggested Emphasis or Theme: God wants us to always do our best when we serve Him just like Abel did.
Two of Adam and Eve’s sons were Cain (a farmer) and Abel (a shepherd). Abel was faithful and offered the best meat from his best lamb in his flock to God as a sacrifice. Cain offered some produce from his crops as his offering to God. God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice but not with Cain’s. This made Cain so angry that he killed his own brother, Abel. In punishment God banished Cain from the area he knew as home.
Adam and Eve followed God’s instructions to multiply and fill the earth when first Cain, and then Abel were born. Cain became a farmer and Abel became a shepherd. The name “Cain” comes from a Hebrew word meaning make or get. Here that word is translated “Brought forth”. To put it into English, Eve said, “With the help of the Lord I have gotten a man, so I will call him Gotten.”
The name “Abel” means a breath, a sigh, or a trifle—almost nothing. We are not told why Eve chose that name. When they were grown, Abel was in the profession of raising sheep; Cain worked the soil.
We don’t know if God instructed Adam’s family to bring Him specific animal sacrifices, even though later (in Leviticus) certain types of sacrifices were specified. Both boys brought sacrifices to the Lord from the fruits of their labour, but Abel brought the best from his flock and the Lord was pleased. It was “a more excellent sacrifice” (Heb. 11:4, KJV). The Genesis account isn’t clear as to why Cain’s faith and attitude displeased God. Cain presented some of the things that grew on his farm. It is not said that he loved God enough to give the first and the best, as Abel did. With Abel, God came first. He gave God the firstborn lambs and the best of his flock. The Lord accepted and welcomed this offering.
Hebrews 11:4 says, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.” Abel believed and trusted God so fully that he was glad to give the best he had. Perhaps Cain brought his offering unwillingly because he thought he had to. Then he was angry and disappointed when he found that God did not want that kind of worship.
Genesis 4:7 indicates that God gave Cain a second chance to obey. But instead of taking God’s advice, Cain became angry and murdered his brother. Cain was now openly rebellious.
When God asked Cain where Abel was, even though He knew the answer, God may have been giving Cain the opportunity to confess and repent. But Cain’s rebellion continued as he denied knowing where Abel was.
God pronounced a curse on Cain and his labours that caused Cain to express great anguish—but not repentance. Cain complained that his punishment was too much. The ground would not favour him with good crops, God would not look on him with favour, and anyone who saw him might kill him because he was a murderer. Apparently Adam and Eve had other children by this time, and perhaps grandchildren. Even then God showed His continuing love by placing a protective mark on Cain before he went out from the presence of the Lord and lived in a land called Nod (the land of wandering). Wandering about and unable to make a living from the ground, Cain would be a warning to others not to commit murder.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Collect pairs of objects of which one is new or in good shape and the other is old or worn (one nice and one faded and torn shirt, one nice apple and one scarred or bruised one, (if you dare!) one clean sock and one dirty one, etc.) Show the first pair to the children. “If you were coming to my house to eat, which one of these apples would you like to eat? The nice one or the rotten one?” (Let the children answer.) “Why wouldn’t you want the rotten apple?” Now use another pair of objects. “If you were going to wear your socks when someone very special walked by, which would you rather wear?” Go through each of the objects. “If we were to give something to God should it be second best or should it be the very best? (Let children answer) In today’s lesson we are going to learn about two brothers who gave God gifts. Only one brother gave his very best.”
After Adam and Eve were told to leave the Garden of Eden they found a place to live where they could grow crops and raise animals. They had children. The name of one son was Cain, and the name of another son was Abel.
Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. God was very pleased with Abel’s offerings, but God was not pleased with Cain’s offering.
Evidently, Cain did not give God the best that he had, and Cain was upset when god did not accept his offering. He may have thought something like this, “why does God like Abel’s offering and not mine? That’s not fair!” How do you think Cain felt toward Abel? (Let children respond) God knew Cain was angry, so He talked to him. “Cain, why are you so angry? If you do right, I’ll accept you. But if you don’t do right, you will sin.” God knew that if Cain did not stop being angry and jealous, he would do something terribly wrong.
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out in the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked Abel and killed him. Cain did not get rid of his jealousy, and he became so angry that all his anger just “boiled up” inside.
God spoke to Cain again. “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” said Cain. “Am I supposed to keep track of my brother all the time?”
But God knew what Cain had done. “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground, Cain. You are under a curse. From now on, it won’t do you any good to be a farmer because nothing you plant will grow. You will just wander around the earth.”
“My punishment is more than I can bear,” said Cain. “I will wander around and whoever finds me will kill me.”
God put a special mark on Cain so that no one would kill him. And Cain went to live in a new land.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- What were the names of Adam and Eve’s first sons that are mentioned in the bible? Cain and Abel
- What were Cain and Abel’s jobs? Cain-farmer and Abel-shepherd
- What does it mean to give God a sacrifice? To give something valuable to God
- What did Abel offer God as a sacrifice? The firstborn of the flock (one of the lambs born first because they were the best ones)
- What did Cain offer to God? Some of the fruit from his crops
- Which brother gave his sacrifice because he had faith in God? Abel
- What did Cain do to Abel when God liked Abel’s sacrifice better? He killed Abel
- What was Cain’s punishment? He had to leave his family and wander around the rest of his life.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Half fill one clear glass with water. Half fill an identical clear glass with white vinegar. Tell the children that these glasses represent Cain and Abel’s hearts. (Point to the glass of water) Abel’s heart was good and he wanted to give his best to God. (Put a drop or two of green food colouring in the vinegar glass and give it a stir.) The green glass represents Cain’s heart. He was jealous of his brother and he didn’t give his best to God. Let’s see what happens to their hearts when they gave gifts to God. Ask one child to put a teaspoon of baking soda in the glass of water (nothing will happen to the water). Abel gave his gift and God was pleased. Abel felt good in his heart because he knew he had given his best. Now let’s see what happened to Cain’s heart. (Have another child put a teaspoon of baking soda in the green vinegar glass). As the water bubbles and boils talk about how jealousy made Cain’s heart upset and angry.
- Bring cleaning supplies and let the children clean the classroom. God gave us a wonderful place to study His word. Let’s do our best to keep it clean to show God that we want to give our best.
- Decide on an item to bring next week to help in God’s work (a tin of food for the benevolence pantry, clothing for the needy, money for a benevolence project, stamps to help send correspondence courses, etc.)
- As a class, make a list of things you can do to be helpful to friends, parents, teachers, etc. Have each child choose a task and give them the challenge to complete it by the next class period.
- Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
- More ideas on the Pinterest Board: Cain and Abel.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring sheet and puzzle pages from http://calvarycurriculum.org
- Craft: Printable pattern for toilet paper roll shepherd from http://www.dltk-bible.com
- Craft: Cain, the farmer, made from an empty toilet paper roll instructions from http://www.dltk-bible.com
- Craft: A variety of sheep crafts for Abel, the shepherd from http://www.daniellesplace.com
- Discussion questions and activities from http://sunday-school-lessons-for-kids.blogspot.co.nz
- Worksheets: There are a number of Old Testament worksheets at squidoo.com.Scroll down to “Cain and Abel”.
- Lesson plan: Good lesson plan, printable visuals and creative, easy to make file folder game from http://kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz