Cain and Abel

Open Your Bible

Genesis 4:1-26, Genesis 5:1-32, Hebrews 12:22-24

My children are currently in a difficult season of discipline. On a daily basis, usually multiple times a day, I dispense consequences for bad behavior, which are then met with responses of total shock and horror.

“I didn’t do anything!”
“I didn’t know!”
“I didn’t hear you!”
“But his face ran into my fist!”

Like generations of children before them—including myself!—my kids are gifted at playing the martyr. Rather than repent and ask forgiveness, they make excuses. And sometimes, they dig in their heels even deeper.

Here in this story of the very first murder, we see where this blame-shifting began. And it all started very innocently. Two competitive brothers—one a farmer, one a shepherd—bring offerings to God. Cain brings the fruits of his soil, and Abel brings fat portions from the firstborn of his flock (Genesis 4:3–4). At first glance, it would appear that each brother brought what he had, but God does not see it this way. God looks with favor on Abel’s offering, but he withholds favor from Cain.

Why?

In their commentary on this passage, Tremper Longman and Scot McKnight explain the difference in their gifts: “Cain offered the ordinary and Abel the best, and of course the quality of their offering reflects the condition of their hearts. Abel is enthusiastic about worship, while Cain is basically disinterested.”

Cain is caught doing the bare minimum, but rather than humble himself, admit his spiritual apathy, and ask how he can do better, Cain digs in. He becomes angry. He throws a pity party. He nurses his bitterness until it culminates in murder, and even after all that he continues to play the victim: “My punishment is too great to bear” (v.13).

In these early chapters of Genesis, we are learning about the ways of God, but we are also learning about the ways of sin, and here we observe a major hallmark. Human sin is so utterly broken that it will even deny its brokenness. It will run, hide, make excuses, and lash out before taking responsibility and repenting, and this is an important thing to know about ourselves. When accountability comes our way, even if it comes harshly or imperfectly, our response determines the course of our lives. How we respond to sin sets our feet on one of two paths: back to God, or further away from Him.

But here is what else this story reminds us, and I hope this sets you free: sometimes we are the ones being confronted, but sometimes we are the ones doing the confronting. Sometimes, we bring truth to light and then, just like God does in this story, have to watch as a loved one hardens their heart all the more. This, we must remember, is not about us or our shortcomings or how we could have said it better. It’s about sin, and what it does to the human heart.

Thankfully, we have something that Cain didn’t have: the Holy Spirit. Through the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, we have a helper and an advocate who is ready to work when repentance feels too hard. That is how good God is—even as He asks us to be faithful, He helps us to do it.

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89 thoughts on "Cain and Abel"

  1. Bridgette Franco says:

    The story of Cain and Abel has always intrigued me, especially considering how sibling rivalry is common in many households today. The extremity of Cain taking Abel’s life has always been disturbing to me. Through this story, I’ve come to understand that God truly wants us to love our parents, neighbors, and each other. I thank God every day that I don’t harbor a spirit like Cain. While I sometimes struggle with resentment and bitterness, I am generally forgiving and able to forgive. Thankfully, I am far from rebellion.

  2. Isela Montanez says:

    So simple and profound, Cain immediately looked at God and was upset for not receiving the blessing when God said if you would do it right, maybe the right heart, right attitude, just fair, or truthfully we can never deceive God.

  3. Zoe Hillyer says:

    I love how this connects sin to our relationship with God. If we own up and repent we’ll be closer to God or if we play the victim we’ll grow farther apart from God

  4. Erin Maine says:

    “Even as He asks us to be faithful-He helps us to do it”

    What a loving God we serve!

  5. Erin Maine says:

    “Even as He asks us to be faithful-He helps us to do it”

  6. Kay Ley says:

    I was discussing Cain and Abel with my mom the other day we had a good discussion

  7. Amelia Hughes says:

    Great point!

  8. Alicia Dyer says:

    This one got me today!! I have had a few months of bad news after bad news and I find myself angry at God and withholding myself and the things He’s blessed me with to share with others. I have allowed my heart to grow cold and this study and devotion today helped me see that. God didn’t do these things to me and He will help me through all of this if I let Him in. I repent of my sin and my pride. In Jesus Name

  9. Erin Jarboe says:

    A solid reminder that we need to do all things with enthusiasm for the Lord.

  10. Valerie De La Puente says:

    Just like when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God in Eden, Cain tried to hide his heart from God with the offerings he brought as worship. God saw what was lacking in Cain and how it was consuming him. I think it serves as a good reminder that although we can fool those around us we can never fool God. He knows our hearts.

  11. Roisin Judd says:

    What stood out to me was that even after God punished Cain, he made sure that he wouldn’t be killed. He still protected him.

    1. Mari Lang says:

      This stood out to me too. He is a loving God. ❤️

  12. Jamie Weaver says:

    This makes me desire accountability

  13. Ms Amy* says:

    I’ve been struggling with making time for God and how blasé I’ve been about sorting it out. And wow, this passage about the state of our heart as a form of worship hits home. Please help me Lord with my first fruits — heart, time, money and everything else. Use me for your glory, amen.

  14. Amesha Brewies says:

    I’ve always sort of thought that God favored Abel more than Cain for no reason..and that it wasn’t fair to Cain. However, when reading it and now realizing that Cain was not offering his best to God, I now understand why God didn’t accept his offerings.

  15. Anja Etwal-Nielsen says:

    That stood out to me too. I absolutely agree with you and interpretet (might not spell that right, please bear with me, I’m Danish). I will try to remember these words – they will help me in my everyday life. Kind of think they are supportive words from God.

  16. Cassandra Morrison says:

    I am reminded of the person I was years ago when I took extreme offense to any correction. The Sprit has truly done a tremendous work in my heart. I have learned how to quiet my mind and humble my heart and take correction. It is such a blessing, even though I may stumble at times I am so blessed to have learned these lessons.

  17. Kathleen says:

    After I checked Facebook, my email, Amazon, I came to read. Ouch…good heart check to see what I crave the most. I have some soul searching to do.

  18. Sharayah Silva says:

    The comment about human sin being so broken it denies it’s own brokenness is something I’ve never thought about before. That is so true and reveals the frailty of humanity. It shows me just how twisted, deep and dark my sin really is.

  19. Camille English Davis says:

    It too took me a long time before I realized why God was displeased with Cain’s offering. Read the words in the scripture carefully… Abel brought the tithe to God, he brought an offering of the firstborn. Cain brought an offering after awhile…translation, after he ate what he wanted, set aside seed for replanting, paid his bills etc. then he remembered God. Abel made giving to God his #1 priority.

  20. Lindsey Bailey says:

    I am reminded to give my best in offering. My best is my heart. Anything less is simply rule following and God is unimpressed. Offering and worship go hand-in-hand. I can’t give an acceptable offering if it isn’t from an attitude of worship, which comes from my heart desiring to give my Heavenly Father my best, my all. Like a little girl dancing before her daddy with all of her heart, Lord, help me to give you my best, my all.

  21. Shaquasha TaylorHoup says:

    ❤️

  22. Debra Taylor says:

    This was so convicting! I want to remember the lesson well!

  23. Becky says:

    Hebrews 11:4 gives us insight into why God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. It is because Able offered his ‘by faith’. Cain did not.

  24. Tiara Perry says:

    You know, I was so confused about this story. I didn’t see WHY God would refuse Cain. But now, WHOA. Cains sacrifice was ordinary and showed the condition of his heart.

    Convicted . How often are my sacrifices to God ordinary, and not all consuming? My worship, how I live my life as a sacrifice to God is often just “bleh”.
    God is the same God yesterday today and forever. May my sacrifices and life be pleasing to Him

    1. Suzie McRae says:

      ❤️

  25. Hannah Oliver says:

    Wow… all of it is so profound, but today what really hit me was in the alter paragraph where it said sometimes I will be the one confronting, and it can be disheartening to watch a loved one harden there heart. I’ve watched this happening for years and it IS so disheartening. All I want for them is to see the truth and repent and walk in FREEDOM not bondage and slavery to sin. But I can’t make them want it. It’s taken years for me to understand but I’m finally at a place of peace with the fact that I can desire freedom for someone and go so far as to consistently speak TRUTH to them in deep love and compassion. But until THEY CHOOSE to receive it- nothing else can be done. It’s comforting to know that it’s not “Oh I could have said it better..” it’s on them, and it’s the sad and unfortunate effect of sin. It makes me think of all the times I myself have rejected the accountability my friends and husband and the Holy Spirit provides. I am encouraged today to not DECEIVE myself, and allow my heart to be searched and purified and refined♥️ humility is key, And I want to stay in that low place♥️

  26. Jennifer Anapol says:

    This is so true! Thank you for this reminder!❤️

  27. Melissa Mcronney says:

    Praise God

  28. Donna Oshaughnessy says:

    The reminder that in some situations. all we can do is speak the truth with love and support and trust that God will take care of the rest. It’s not up to us, it’s up to Him to change hearts.

  29. Latoya Wanser says:

    Thankful for Holy Spirit!

  30. Jackie Mars says:

    I love reading that Enoch was taken by God. I wonder what that would have looked like if someone else were there to see it. And it’s amazing that before they had the Holy Spirit and Jesus he was still able to be righteous enough to be with God! The faith he had to have had…for over 900 years!

  31. JJames says:

    Kathy, I can only pray “the lifestyle choice” you’re referring to is not in regards to sexual orientation. Your son is not choosing to sin in this regard. We are all Gods children and he created us this way. I can attest that he may have not been forthright with you because he knew he would be judged By the most important people in his life.. I pray that you can accept and love your son unconditionally.

  32. Meredith Lengel says:

    I needed that message about how it is not about our shortcomings but how sin hardens the heart. My sister is no longer a Christian and it is something I’ve struggled with. Not even just my sister but with other friends who are non believers.

  33. Tanya B. says:

    Hello, what ministered to me through this reading was the first fruits. I now will be conscious and intentional about separating my tithes first. Yes, I mentally know I will pay my tithe but I will regularly spend, pay bill, etc. without physically removing the tithe first.I will now not only mentally separate the tithe but I will like Able physically present the first fruits to God before I do anything else from here on out. When I read this verse in the message translation It spoke to me, I want God to be pleased with my service unto him this way. :)

  34. Dawn Sullivan says:

    “Human sin is so utterly broken that it will even deny its brokenness.” Very good word.

    1. Charlie Mcfarlane says:

      Yes! I loved this as well

  35. Shuana Michele-Hackworth says:

    So thankful sir the Holy Spirit and what Jesus did for us. Sin is and it’s consequences are so devastating even the ones who didn’t commit the sin.

  36. kim says:

    The juxtapositions shown between Genesis and Revelation are so vibrant!! I found this portion of the study so helpful seeing it side by side!!

  37. Jennifer Anapol says:

    God wants us to bring a worthy sacrifice to him for our sake, not for his.

  38. Ashley White says:

    So good! I loved reading this and learning more in depth about Cain & Abel.

  39. Tracie Nall says:

    What strikes me as I read this passage about Cain and Abel today is how both brought offerings to God, yet when God rejects Cain’s offering by giving favor to Abel’s offering, Cain transfers his focus from the One he was giving to…his anger is focused on his brother, and so competition and comparison began! It wasn’t that God preferred one person over the other, He was teaching about sacrifice, offering and giving.
    How like us, in our humanity and flesh, we sin and receive consequences and rather than look to the One who pronounced judgement on us, we look around and see where we missed the marked or didn’t measure up!
    God sent Jesus for ALL and His will is that None will perish, He doesn’t say He loves one more than another, He loves us each, saves us each and judges us each! We will give a personal account at the Great Throne judgement, we won’t be ranked, rewarded or measured by the works

    1. Tracie Nall says:

      “Of others”. Our only plumb line is Jesus!

  40. Hopeful says:

    Can you all please pray for me and my husband? We are having one of those confronting talks with his parents in a couple of days. Our relationship with his parents got really bad after we were married and once we got pregnant it really blew up. We have been in no contact mode unfortunately as it wasn’t healthy for us to be around them. We’ve done counseling with them too and they have only gotten more hard to us and the Lord. We really desire them to repent so that we can be in relationship and they can be a part of our newborn daughter’s life. There is just so much sin and lack of repenting and we know that God can work wonders but it has been a very discouraging situation.

  41. Diana Fleenor says:

    Kathy, I pray with you and your husband for your estranged son. I can only imagine your heartache! Yet, I am glad to see how you are encouraged by the Lord in today’s devotion and I pray he will continue to lift up your weary souls as you walk on this painful path.

  42. Diana Fleenor says:

    Like many of you have already expressed, I, too, feel the conviction of seeking to bring my best to the Lord as a living sacrifice because of the great mercy he has given us through Christ. I long to be fully devoted to the Lord, knowing that in my flesh there is nothing good. Yet, as Paul says in Romans 7, “Wretched [woman] I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    And, like some of you have share, I also have a friend who is repetitively falling into a particular addiction and she is telling me of how her desire to be with the Lord is waning. Please pray with me to speak grace and love filled truth into her ears, while understanding that it is not within my power to change her. I commit her to the Lord to move in her life, believing he has the power to soften a hardening heart. May she be willing!

  43. Deja Gibson says:

    I must reflect on what my giving says about my heart. Lord I want to give my best to you. Thank you for still asking me questions and being in relationship with me, helping me be accountable. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in me.

  44. Emilee Mots says:

    “Sin is crouching at the door: It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:7.
    For some reason this verse stuck out to me today. Cain obviously did not rule over his sin even though God warned him to do so. Sin causes so much hurt, and it effects everyone and everything around us.
    I’m thankful for “Jesus’ sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Hebrews 12:24.
    Through Jesus we have a mediator for our sin, and the Holy Spirit who helps us rule over sin! Thank you Lord for knowing our weaknesses and providing a way to be in your presence!

    1. Kayla Brown says:

      Amen!!!

    2. Kylie Siebert says:

      This verse stuck out to me too. We have a duty! We need to be strong in that we don’t let sin rule us but we rule over it.

    3. Ericka Eller says:

      That stood out to me too this morning as I read. I feel convicted about the sin I justify (anger, bitterness, revenge, gossip) instead of ruling over it by asking God to help me remove it. We are meant to rule over sin in the name of Jesus.

  45. Sue says:

    Well said! I often find myself fitting the Lord into my life instead of fitting myself into his. I need to give him my “first fruits”.

  46. Mari V says:

    As a parent we want what’s best for our children. As Sharon shares this morning: Sometimes we are the ones being confronted but sometimes we are the ones doing the confronting. As a mom this is hard to stand back and watch. As a codependent I want to come along and fix it or ease the load so their consequence is not so harsh. But I’m learning to take a step back and take a deep breath, PRAY and let God do the work. It’s not about me. It’s ALL about GOD. I have 2 siblings who no longer walk with Jesus and it’s SO hard to watch as one of them faces one hardship after the other.

  47. K D says:

    I was convicted this morning of how I so often live my life in such a way that I do not bring my best offering to God. Binging tv instead of doing the work put in front of me is not my best. Choosing to ignore a phone call from a loved one because I just don’t “feel” like taking it is not my best. May conviction lead me to action today.

  48. Maura says:

    Our God sees the intent of the heart. Lord help my heart to always give you it’s best. Thank you for giving your life to save us from sin. Thank you for your incredible grace, forgiveness and love. Fill me with your Holy Spirit Lord God that these mercies could be seen in me to your glory. In the name of Jesus I pray.

  49. Andrea Bolaños says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughts and your word of freedom. They were for me. We cannot control how someone responds to a accountability. Your words were confirmation of a hard decision my husband and I made just yesterday. Thank you.

  50. Kathy says:

    “Sometimes, we bring truth to light and then, just like God does in this story, have to watch as a loved one hardens their heart all the more. This, we must remember, is not about us or our shortcomings or how we could have said it better. It’s about sin, and what it does to the human heart.”
    I am thankful for this reminder! My husband and I are going through a very painful season as we are reeling from the effects of a lifestyle choice our adult son has made.W E have extended love and grace repeatedly ( albeit imperfectly) but he has lied to us multiple times and recently announced his choice on social media ( which we are not on) his preferred lifestyle. A friend gently shared it with us.
    We cling to ALL of God’s Word of Truth. He is the perfect parent and only He can work upon the human heart. At this time we are estranged from our beloved son- not something we chose just as God never wanted for Cain. It’s a comfort to know that God is at work – we pray and He works! He always knows what to do.

    1. Janee Chanet says:

      Just like God pursues is he will pursue our children! He restlessly pursues us. But ultimately we all have to make a choice and that is dependent on an individual and God. God is more than capable of handling it.

  51. Erin Conley Barth says:

    Yes. So much to think about here, but isn’t that where it all started in this story? The sacrifice, the mode and disposition of worship— I too want to be more mindful to bring my best and give my full attention and energy. This is hard, but good.

  52. Kara says:

    So good! It’s easy for me to agonize over the ways I could have “made things right” when in fact I’ve shined light on a sin that makes someone lash out.

    “Sometimes, we bring truth to light and then, just like God does in this story, have to watch as a loved one hardens their heart all the more. This, we must remember, is not about us or our shortcomings or how we could have said it better. It’s about sin, and what it does to the human heart.“

  53. Doris says:

    One consequence of the first sin. Another choice, another consequence. Sin not only affect me but others around me. I often say it’s like flour. Can’t use flour in kitchen without it getting on something else. We have the remedy for sin, the blood of Jesus. Thank God for the precious blood of Jesus.

    1. Elise Cooper says:

      Love this analogy!

  54. Angie says:

    Yesterday it dawned on me…Sin is a verb – It is something I choose to do or not, whether in act or attitude.
    Death is a noun, the result of my choice to sin.
    I’ve always looked at it the other way…with sin being a noun…a thing and death the action that takes place as a result of sin.
    I’m thinking both thought processes can be true…and haven’t looked up the actual “rules” in grammar – but somehow, yesterday, thinking of sin as a verb and death its noun was profound for me.

    Today’s readings, Cain’s sin against God and Abel hit me again (parts from today’s He Reads Truth-some “their words”…intertwined with my thoughts):
    “Sin is complicated
    Sin is a force, an enemy lying in wait. It’s not neutral, and it’s all around us.
    We must be on our guard…we must master it.”
    But, that does not let us off the hook. We are responsible for our sin.

    Sin hurts everyone. “when we break God’s laws and act in ways contrary to His heart, we lose something. Every. Single. Time. That truth ought to be enough to stop us in our tracks when we are tempted, and it ought to fill us with compassion for those who are overcome by the sin crouched at their doors.”

    And from today’s She Reads Truth: “sometimes we are the ones being confronted, but sometimes we are the ones doing the confronting. Sometimes, we bring truth to light and then, just like God does in this story, have to watch as a loved one hardens their heart all the more. This, we must remember, is not about us or our shortcomings or how we could have said it better. It’s about sin, and what it does to the human heart.”

    This took me back to the thought that sin is complicated – and what it does to the human heart.
    “The heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked, who can know it.” Jeremiah 17:9

    God, your holiness will not tolerate sin. Your great love will not tolerate sin. And yet, we have a bent towards it both in thought and action, everyone of us. But your sacrifice Lord Jesus covers me with your purity, because You are my Lord and Savior. Because I am forgiven and redeemed. Work in me Lord. Make me more like You. And, just as You are not easily offended by me, help me not to be easily offended by others and be a vessel of your mercy and love. In the times where your truth needs to come to light, may either my words, or my acceptance of someone else’s words, fall upon a soft heart, and when spoken may we/they rest in obedience.
    Amen.

  55. Chris Conti says:

    Lord forgive me for not always bringing my best before you when I come to worship you. Lord thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit to dwell in me and help me to follow the correct path and repent when needed. I am in awe and so grateful for your grace and mercy

    1. Nancy Singleton says:

      Amen!

    2. Annie Bartley says:

      Amen.

  56. Amber says:

    I was hesitant to do the Genesis study because I often think it’s the same stories I heard growing up in Sunday school. But this time I am loving the perspective of it in my adult years. The concept of putting your sin in the light and repenting, even when it’s difficult and seems like others will turn against you for it, but God has your back and will bring you freedom.

    1. Bethana Rosa says:

      I am seeing things I never noticed before! I’ve never thought to pay attention and study Genesis but this is so great. We always focus on the end of Jesus journey and here we are learning the beginning! God says “Us” a couple times in these past couple chapters. Already Jesus was ready and waiting!

  57. Lynn Ondrovic says:

    I love how Jesus God’s perfect firstborn sacrifice over comes Cain’s (firstborn) rebellion. I also love how God asked Cain questions and still wants to communicate and be in a relationship by giving him the opportunity to be remorseful and ask for forgiveness even though God already knew what would happen and how Cain would react.

  58. Lynn Ondrovic says:

    I love how God Ask’s

  59. Lynn Ondrovic says:

    Hebrews 12:24 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

  60. Bunny says:

    Wow, what surprises me every time I read Genesis 5 is how long everyone lived! Jared was 162 when he fathered Enoch. Wow, just wow.

    1. Emily Sproul says:

      It’s amazing isn’t it? I was just wondering how it was possible. What was different about their physical makeup then compared to now? So interesting.

    2. Ashley Lewis says:

      Right?! I can’t even fathom living to be 932 years old!

    3. Bethana Rosa says:

      I’m so glad that we do not live that long! I’m 40 and every day down is a day closer to being with my father!!

    4. Nora Gomez says:

      I’ve always thought that DNA was closer to perfect because they were closer to creation.

    5. Alexis Todd says:

      Nora, that makes perfect sense and i love that reasoning!

  61. April MacDicken says:

    Now I’m wondering how many times I’ve worshipped believing it was enough just to show up without really thinking about what I, and specifically my heart, had brought to the moment. Does God ever want us to just show up?

  62. Churchmouse says:

    What am I bringing as my offering in corporate worship? I enter the church on Sunday morning but am I prepared for the gathering there? Sometimes I am eager and enthusiastic to worship. Sometimes I am distracted and indifferent. I can be Abel one Sunday and Cain the next. Forgive me, Lord for my inconsistency and my ambivalence. And for my selfishness and my rebellion. And for my excuses. You are worthy of my undivided attention. You are so generous and I know that anything I bring is meager. But let me at least bring it with the gratitude and praise You deserve. I won’t wait til Sunday. I’ll turn up the praise music today. I’ll lift my hands today. And thus I will be well prepared when I gather with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    1. Makenzie N says:

      This is exactly what I felt reading this. I lately have been asking God to tell me “break my heart of what breaks yours”. And while reading this I realized… I can be Cain on many days. Loved reading your prayer. Thank you so much for sharing.

    2. Melissa Graves says:

      Amen

    3. Beach Momma says:

      Thanks Churchmouse. I too am pondering about my offering to the Lord. Some days I bring the fat of the lamb but more often it’s dried fruit. Lord, I need you. Oh, how I need you.

    4. Erika Estrada says:

      ❤️❤️

    5. Brooke Parker says:

      Amen !!

    6. Traci Gendron says:

      ❤️

    7. Terésa Timmons says:

      ❤️

    8. Ashley Lewis says:

      Amen.

    9. Mary Pitner says:

      I never read the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings and connected them to worship and praise until today. Your comments gave me even more to think about, Churchmouse.

  63. Tina says:

    Yesterday ,my friend called me from another room and my immediate response was…” it wasn’t me..” this made the others around chuckle, because all he had done was call my name!!!

    Seriously though, I dont know about you, but i have found myself, once or twice, and I think its through fear of what might happen, if I spoke the truth of an action that was being questioned… I have tried to bend the truth, speak half truths, in hope that that is convincing enough… but here’s the thing… a lie is a lie, is a lie is a lie… because no matter how long it takes the truth will out, whether its through your own mouth, because you forgot what you said originally, or, it will be revealed..
    I have learnt from my experiences that It is best ‘to speak the truth and shame the devil’ as my old ma used to say!

    The conviction of the Holy Spirit is always very welcome.. and I am thankful for it!

    Thank you Lord God for the gift of the Helper in my walk with you, Thank you for the help that leads me to the right path and your ways for my life, Thank you Lord God for forgiveness when I trip up, Thank you Lord God for your mercy, grace and ever forgiving heart.. Thank you Lord, Thank you..

    Happy Wednesday Sisters, Be blessed and know that you are loved by the One who came to save.. Amen!