The Gospel Herald -- Promoting the fundamentals of the 1888 message.


The following questions are intended to increase our awareness of the depth of Godís word as He speaks to us. Use them as guides to increase your Bible study potential. As you read through the Bible text, your questions may not be the same as the ones suggested here. Tools for this study will include any comprehensive Bible concordance (Strongís, Youngís, Crudenís, etc.), and/or theological word books and Bible dictionaries (Brown/Driver/Briggs/Gesenius; Harris/Archer; etc.), and Bible commentaries that give definitions of original language words.

The fundamental issue of how we study the Bible gives rise to varying interpretations of what the Bible means, which leads to varying positions on such things as abortion, womenís ordination, homosexuality, polygamy, divorce, war, racism, cultural mores, etc. All Bible study should be approached by searching for what the verse Ė in context Ė is saying. The technical term for this method of study is called "exegesis." The converse of this method is called "eisegesis," which is reading into the verse oneís own opinions, interpretations, ideas, and assumptions.

As you study the Bible watch for repeated words or phrases, subtle meanings (irony), and Godís personal intervention in peopleís lives. Keep in mind the four concepts God is trying to teach His people : (1) knowledge of God; (2) the meaning of community / relationship / fellowship; (3) blessing; and (4) rest (consider "blessing" and "rest" in their literal [now] context and also their spiritual and eternal aspects).


  1. In verse 1, what does the word "knew" mean in the context in which it is used here? Find other uses of the same Hebrew word and read them in context (for example cf. Genesis 42:8). What does this word tell us about Godís character, if anything? Is the meaning different from what you have always believed it meant?

  2. How can we be sure there were no children born to Adam and Eve before the Fall?

  3. What does the name "Cain" mean? And what does "Abel" mean? Do the meanings of the names give any insight into what the story is about, or about the two menís characters?

  4. Does Eveís comment ("now I have gotten a man") indicate that Adam and Eve previously had female children but NOW this one is a "man"?

  5. Were Cain and Abel twins? (cf. Genesis 25:21, 24-26; 38:18, 29, 30). What does the word "bare" mean?

  6. Was there much difference in being a shepherd and being a crop farmer? Does the choice of vocations tell us something about the personalities of Cain and Abel? Find other persons in the Bible who had similar vocations (crop farming and sheep herding). Does the "but" in verse 2 have any significance?

  7. Why dies Jesus call Abel a prophet (Luke 11:50, 51)? What does the word "prophet" mean? Does Abelís "status" as a "prophet" lend any insights as to why Cain may have felt the way he did toward his brother? (cf. Genesis 37:5-20).

  8. Why did Cain and Abel bring sacrifices to God? (cf. Numbers 18:12, 17; Leviticus 3:16, Revelation 13:8, and any other verses that apply).

  9. Why was Abelís sacrifice" more acceptable"? Was Cainís sacrifice a "wrong" sacrifice? ("illegal" or offensive to God).

  10. What does the word "respect" mean in verse 5 as God used it?

  11. Why was Able called "righteous" (Hebrews 11:4)? What did he do that was so "good"?

  12. Based on verse 7, was Cainís sacrifice a sin or did it just open the door to sin? Why or why not? (cf. Psalm 32:5; 38:18; 1 Samuel 15:23).

  13. To whom was God talking in the last sentence of verse 7? Cain or Satan? Think about who wanted what, and about who would/should "rule"?

  14. What does the word "wroth" mean in verses 5 and 6? What about "countenance" and "fallen"? (cf. 1 Samuel 1:18; 17:42; Proverbs 27:17; Isaiah 3:90.

  15. Would you consider Cain a "pious" man? (remember he did bring a sacrifice to God). Did his "religion" prevent him from being depressed, jealous, murderous? Why not?

  16. Based on verses 10 and 11, what do you think Cain did with Abelís body?

  17. Why does God approach Cain asking where Abel was? (cf. Genesis 3:9). Does God not know, or does God have another purpose in asking Cain about his brother? (cf. 1 Samuel 15:12-25).

  18. Why does Cain say "my punishment is greater than I can bear"? What does "punishment" mean in this context? Does Cainís comment indicate a repentance or remorse for his sin?

  19. Compare and contrast the "mark" placed on Cain with other "marks" found in the Bible. What was Godís purpose in putting this mark on Cain? Is the "mark" punitive, destructive, or protective?

  20. Where was the "Land of Nod"? For an answer, look up the meaning of the name "Nod," and cross reference your findings to verses 12 and 14.

  21. Where did Cainís wife come from? (are you an evolutionist or creationist? do you use the historical-critical method, the historical-grammatical method, or the proof-text method of Bible study?).*

  22. Cain was the founder of citiesódoes this give us any clues about how God wants His people to live? Based on verses 12 and 14 and your definition for question 18, was the building of a city contrary to Godís will for Cain?

    1. Was a life of wandering bad for Cain? What was Godís purpose in commanding a wandering lifestyle for Cain (punitive or instructive)?

    2. Would Cain have been safer if he had stayed as a wanderer?

    3. Does urban life tend to limit our comprehension of God and His will for us? why or why not?

    4. Does urban living increase opportunities for evil? why or why not?

  23. Using your Bible dictionaries, define all the names found in this narrative. Do the definitions give insight into the characters of the individual people?

  24. What is the meaning of the final phrase of the last verse in this chapter?


*Historical-critical method = sees the Bible as a "casebook" to study to gain insight for application of principles to our own lives. It approaches the Bible as a dynamic (as opposed to "static" or fixed) literary volume which guides us in knowing the "spirit" of what God wants for His people, and which must be read in a changing format based on the prevailing customs. It generally denies the full inspiration, reliability and authority of the Bible as Godís word.

Historical-grammatical method = views the Bible as a "codebook" to study to learn Godís literal intentions for His people in all times and places. It approaches the Bible as a static, literal (unchangeable) "letter" from God to His people which reveals Godís will and unchangeable character. It accepts the Bible as the fully inspired, reliable, and accurate word of God which has authority for all people in all times and places.

Proof-text method = generally uses an isolated text for supporting oneís point, taking passages out of context in order to apply them to the individualís preconceptions. This method emphasizes the practical, devotional application of Scripture to the readerís own personal needs. It is inadequate because it fails to take into account the historical and literal context of each passage of Scripture, thus engaging in a superficial interpretation which can lead to misguided conclusions. Proof-texting can lead to "spiritualizing" of Bible verses and assumptions of true meaning due to the tendency of the individual reader to "add to" the interpretation. (For example: read the following consecutively Ė Matthew 27:5; Luke 10:37; John 13:27). [return to study]

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