The story of Qayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) offers practical knowledge about favor and jealousy, but perhaps more importantly, offers a great deal of prophetic revelation.
Perhaps no revelation is more apparent than “many who are first shall be last, and the last first.” (Matt. 19:30) This cornerstone teaching of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) was forecast long ago through the lives of these two brothers – not because Qayin was Hevel’s senior, but because Qayin had pride with an expectation to be “first”, compared to Hevel’s humility and servanthood as the “last”.
However, this is not the end of the “last shall be first” pattern. The Scriptures soon show how Avraham is favored before his father Terah. Then, Itzak (Isaac) is favored before Ishmael, followed by God judging Esau in favor of Ya’akov (Jacob), whose son Joseph is favored over his brothers, and so forth. Through these examples a mystery is revealed to us: God’s favor does not come through entitlement.
The “last shall be first” is not the only prophetic pattern forecast in the Qayin and Hevel story. We also first witness the reoccurring pattern of “wandering”.
During his judgment, Qayin was fearful that he would be “wavering and wandering” over the Earth (cf. Gen 4:14), but that particular word, “wandering” (Heb. nood) – is used elsewhere to denote how God “removes” Yis’rael in highly troubling times:
“ADONAI had told David and Shlomo his son… I will not have the feet of Isra’el wander any longer out of the land which I gave their ancestors — if only they will take heed to obey every order I have given them and live in accordance with all the Torah that my servant Moshe ordered them to obey.” But they did not take heed; and M’nasheh misled them into doing even worse things than the nations ADONAI had destroyed ahead of the people of Isra’el. …Moreover, M’nasheh shed so much innocent blood that he flooded Yerushalayim from one end to the other..”. (2 Kings 21:6-9, 16 CJB)
By the time of King David, YHVH had already caused Yis’rael to “wander out of the Land” at the hands of Philistines, Assyrians, and other nations due to the breaking of her covenant. By the time of M’nasheh, God’s prophets warned of the same fate for similar transgressions, and for the shedding of innocent blood.
Therefore, in the reading of Qayin and Hevel, YHVH shows that the punishment for Qayin’s refusal to listen to YHVH, and the shedding of Hevel’s innocent blood, is a “wandering from the land” – a foreshadowing of what the Prophets call “desolation” (at least, how most Bibles translate various words to be “desolation”). Moshe (Moses) saw and warned of Yis’rael’s future desolation to the nations just a few years after the Exodus (Lev. 26:33). Yeshayahu (Isaiah) also saw that Yis’rael “would become without inhabitant” (Isa. 6:12). There are dozens of other warnings in the Prophets but the highest example may be the desolation foretold by Daniel – due to the fact that Messiah reiterated it (cf. Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11; Matthew 24:15).
The long and short of it is that the desolation of Yis’rael is a common theme reappearing throughout the Scriptures. It’s warned of throughout the Prophets, witnessed in the times of Judges, and fulfilled in both the desolations of Shomron (Samaria) and Yahudah. However, it’s greatest fulfillment came after the appearance of Messiah Yeshua, when Rome utterly destroyed Yerushalayim.
Thus we realize that the banishment of Qayin – who ignored the pleading of God and shed the innocent blood of Hevel – is a prophetic forecast of the desolations witnessed throughout time – occurring due to similar motivations as Qayin’s. Yis’rael would ignore the pleadings of God through his prophets, and shed innocent blood, ultimately executing their own Messiah!
And of course, all this shedding of righteous blood comes with a price:
And so upon you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matt. 23:35)
So there were many desolations of Yis’rael, but one noteworthy point to mention is that even in His wrath, God never made a complete end of Yis’rael. He wouldn’t excuse their guilt, but He also wouldn’t forget His mercy. For these reasons He commanded that the nations whom He chose as the instruments of His wrath would treat Yis’rael well.
This decree of not harming Yis’rael began with Avraham, “by blessing will I bless those who would bless you; and cursing upon those who curse you” (Gen. 12:3), and in spite of God allowing Yis’rael to enter all her desolations, that same expectation of respect for Yis’rael never changed. As the prophet Tzecharyah (Zechariah) declared, ““I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. I am very angry with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, but they added to the calamity”” (Zech. 1:14-15).
Previously I suggested that death was too good for Qayin, and while that may be true to his personal circumstance, I further suggest that Qayin was allowed to live in his isolation because it’s a prophecy of all the future times Yis’rael would be desolated – but not completely destroyed. Hence, Qayin was allowed to live because Yis’rael would always be allowed to live.
In short, “Qayin and Hevel” is one grand prophetic revelation about all the times Yis’rael ignored the pleadings of God for repentance, killed its prophets and shed innocent blood, and entered into desolation, while at the same time, being allowed to live. If we can grasp this concept, the rest of the Word of God will become much more compelling to us as readers as we will understand the prophetic patterns laid out for us to follow. ♦