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ESV Genesis 4:

1Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gottena a man with the help of the LORD.” 2And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, 5but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7If you do well, will you not be accepted?b And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary toc you, but you must rule over it.”

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  • Cain fulfilled one of God's determinations, while Abel fled from the curse of the fruits of the earth: Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread...
    – Betho's
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 22:51

3 Answers 3

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The key here is in the difference between their offerings. Abel offering a fattened, firstborn calf is essentially him giving Yahweh his best in faith while Cain offered him something that wasn't necessarily a loss to him. Hebrews 11:4 puts it:

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.

Knowing this and how the story plays out, I believe it can be deduced that Cain is angry at both God and Abel. God, because of the disgrace put on him at the end of verse 5. And Abel, knowing that God favored him.

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Whom or what was Cain angry at.

Able was Cain's younger brother and for him to find favor in the Lord sight by his offering must of really upset Cain. Jealousy and distain for someone younger than him must of so filled his heart that he may not of even been able able to even hear what the Lord was saying to him. After all Cain had worked so hard on his offering from the ground, that had been cursed and was proud of his work. Surely the Lord would accept that.

We also can see who Cain was so angry with that he killed his own brother.

The verse in 1 John confirms his anger was towards Able.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. 1 John 3:12

Later on we see Cain and the Lord talking and Cain did not want to leave the presence of the Lord's face. He still had some respect for who He was.

Look, you have driven me out this day from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face. Genesis 4:14

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See my answer to Why does blood have to be shed for purification and forgiveness of sins? for reasons why God preferred Abel's offering.

That preference is enough to make one angry, but consider the two individuals:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten[fn] a man with the help of the LORD.
And again, she bore his brother Abel.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground.
— Genesis 4:1–2 ESV

The footnote says: Cain sounds like the Hebrew for "gotten".

Similarly the name Abel comes from a Hebrew word that can mean "vanity".

If those names match their personalities, it's easy to imagine that Cain knew that as first-born he was the preferred son in terms of inheritance and posessions. "Getting" and greed could have been his primary motive for life.

Similarly, Abel could have been very "vain".

Look at what happened next:

Cain spoke to Abel his brother.[fn]
And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
— Genesis 4:8 ESV

Here the footnote says "Hebrew; Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate add Let us go out to the field"

After taking Abel into the field to get away from their parents, they could easily have gotten into an argument about the situation. Abel might have taunted Cain and bragged about how wonderful he is, because even God thinks so. This would have hurt Cain, as he believed himself to to be the more important child. A fight and death were the inevitable result of this conflict.

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