It is a mistake to view Genesis 4 as somehow different to the first three chapters of the Bible, especially with regard to the procreative motif. The birth of Cain and Abel is the first fulfilment of the command given back in Genesis 1, not just in the provision of offspring but in their life tasks.
And God said to them, â€œBe fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.â€Â And God said, â€œBehold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit.Â You shall have them for food.
Compare this to what Cain and Abel do.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
Cain works the ground, indicating subjugation of the earth, owning the plants yielding seed, Abel tends sheep, indicating dominion over the rest of the animal kingdom. The union of man and woman produced the fruit that fulfils the command of God.
Eve’s words are curious – literally she says “I have gotten a man – from YHWH”. Does this mean that YHWH has given her a son, or does it mean that the son himself is somehow from YHWH? What would it mean for a child to be specifically “from YHWH”? Does Eve believe that Cain is the fulfilment of the promise in Gen 3:15? If she does she is going to be bitterly disappointed.
When Cain delivers an offering that God has no regard for, he becomes angry and his face falls, indicating that Cain is no longer indicating a loving relationship with him, that Cain does not have his gaze upon God. The comparison is with Adam and Eve in verse 1, who in knowing each other are clinched in that embrace where their faces are not fallen or looking away, but rather focussed in each other. This relational union of husband and wife as they create new life is in stark contrast to the man Cain, consumed by sin and stepping out of relationship with God.