Genesis 3-4: “What hast thou done?”

bible old testament commentary

In these two chapters we have two of the most infamous Old Testament stories. Interestingly, they both deal with major disobedience to God that lead to life-altering consequences for the offenders.

In Chapter 3, we learn about Adam and Eve’s transgression that led to their removal from the paradisaical Garden of Eden. Contrary to God’s commandment, they partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam is told he’ll have to earn his sustenance through the sweat of his brow and Eve is to bring forth children in pain, as well as submit to the rule of her husband.

In Chapter 4, Cain slays his brother, Abel. His punishment is to be a “fugitive and a vagabond” and for his labor (Cain is a “tiller of the ground”) to be fruitless.

Today’s insight focuses on the fascinating fact that in both cases God initiates the revelation of guilt by asking what happened. His questioning might suggest that he doesn’t know, although obviously he’s God and sees and knows everything.

Here’s how it goes down with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:

9. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?

10. And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

11. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?

12. And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

13. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

(Genesis 3:9-13)

Now take a look at the account of Cain in the next chapter:

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.

(Genesis 4:9-10)

Coincidentally, the passages both start on verse 9 of their respective chapters. But back to the point.

Again, God knows everything. He know where Adam and Eve were, just like he knew where Abel was. He knew that Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, just as he knew Cain had murdered his brother.

God didn’t ask because he wanted to uncover something he didn’t know. He asked because he was giving them the opportunity to repent.

A huge part of repentance is accepting one’s sin and willing to take responsibility for it. Adam and Eve ultimately manned up and took that responsibility. When God asked where Adam was, he presented himself. When the LORD asked what they had done, each confessed to having partaken of the fruit.

Cain was a different story. Even though he had to have known God has the power to call any bluff, he lied to his maker’s face saying he didn’t know where his brother was. In the moment of truth, Cain tried to evade what he had done. He wasn’t repentant. Even his sorrow was only for the severity of his just punishment, as demonstrated by his exclamation “My punishment is greater than I can bear” (Genesis 4:13).

It’s a lesson we all benefit from learning well. God doesn’t come out and reveal all our misdeeds to the world. He preserves our agency. Often the only ones who know of our sins are us and God. So it’s up to us to take the initiative to recognize our wrong and right them.

It’s then that we demonstrate true repentance and enjoy the peace that it brings.

About the Author

Luis Miguel
Luis Antonio Miguel is a writer, marketer, and family man from South Florida. He started World Light Review as a way of promoting Gospel living in our modern world.

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