A new spin on an old tale: Cain and Abel

Posted: July 16, 2011 in Christian
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve been familiar with the story of Cain and Abel all my life but until I really started re-exploring the Holy Word of our Creator and Savior, I never actually noticed or really paid close attention to what I was reading or what I was being taught. In the past, I would read the scriptures much as one would read a required novel in school for credit; without a lot of enthusiasm or joy, but simply reading the words to get a bare-bones grasp of it in case I was tested. Now when I read the tragic tale of these two brothers, I see a lot more than I ever did before, somewhat similar to looking at an old familiar picture you have glanced at all your life but suddenly noticing the background scenery in that old picture for the first time.

Before we delve into the story of Cain and Abel, I want to mention that Genesis covers a huge chunk of time, especially in the early chapters and I want to point out a few things that show there are a lot of small items not covered but implied that are easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. For instance, the scripture doesn’t explicitly mention that Adam and Eve had a lot of kids. In fact Genesis 4 opens with the statement in verses 1 and 2 that Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel, but Genesis chapter 4 implies in verse 14 when Cain mentions there will be a price on his head for murdering Abel that there at least a few other siblings. Also as a side note, we find in chapter 4 verse 2 the first mention of sheep in the bible. The fact that Abel was a keeper of sheep, implies God had created sheep to be domesticated and kept, watched after and protected from the beginning of our existence after the fall. I believe we as students of the Most Holy Tome ever written need to be sensitive to these hidden constructs.

To get back to our story, as we read Genesis chapter 4 we see what seems to be a test for the boys from their version of a Grandfather…The Lord. It’s as he is seeing what they have learned from his lessons He has been teaching them. An example of one of these lessons is a subtle lesson in Genesis 3:21 that God shed innocent blood to provide covering and protection for them by clothing their parents with animal skins that replaced the paltry, unacceptable cover of leaves from the plants of the ground, and that The Lord expects an offering in kind to remind of what he has, and will do for us to protect us (the first instance of shedding of blood for our protection and salvation). It is revealed to us in verse 4 and 5 that Abel offers a fat firstborn lamb and Cain offers the fruits of his toiling the ground. Verse 5 also tells us that The Lord accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. Afterward, Cain got angry and his mood darkened but God called him off to the side and explained to him why he had accepted Abel’s offering in the manner of a life lesson. When I first read this, I was of the mind that Cain had probably accepted God’s chastisement and explanation and then maybe Abel started goading him and Cain’s anger got the better of him…but…what if his mood stayed dark and he brooded and he didn’t actually accept God’s chastisement and decided to get even with his pure, sweet, innocent brother? (this is basically the version I was raised with; the evil, malevolent Cain…) The jury is still out on his motive and I’m not sure the latter one works for me. Some reading this may think…”what does it matter why he did it?”, but bear with me. ( I feel like Perry Mason, here) I think his attitude matters because of the Lord’s reaction to the murder of his brother. The Lord could have struck him down and told Adam and Eve to produce even more offspring, but he didn’t. Instead, he punished Cain by cursing the fruits of his labor, forcing him to have to work harder and banished him from his family. When Cain in verse 14 complained that his siblings would hunt him down like a dog and exact revenge (another inference…the eye-for-an-eye rule that the Israelites would practice later on), the Lord could have said, “well Bub, you should have thought of that before you started going around committing murder!”…but he didn’t. He made sure no harm would befall Cain from his apparent siblings and he made sure he was protected by placing a mark of protection on him for all to see..does that sound like a reaction the Lord would have if it were a malevolent, premeditated, cold-blooded murder? Also, Chuck Missler mentioned in Learn The Bible in 24 Hours that Cain’s descendants later went on to serve the Lord. It sounds like the lessons the Lord was impressing on Cain stuck and was passed down by Cain to his offsprings.

So this is the way I think this may have played out…verse 8 tells us Cain and Abel were talking about the whole sacrifice thing out in the fields and (knowing brothers) Abel probably started bragging about his sacrifice and goading Cain, and then Cain, most likely in a fit of rage, killed him. Seeing what he had done, he buried Abel trying to hide the evidence. Of course when you kill a major percentage of the Earth’s population in one fell swoop1, it would be hard not to notice the loss even if you weren’t God. Obviously, since God happens to be the omnipresent creator of the universe, He noticed. So God caught him, questioned him, punished him and banished him. There are multiple lessons to be learned here, but let’s just concentrate on a couple of major ones.

The first lesson to be learned is the acceptable sacrifice to the Lord. God explained to Cain that the spilling of blood of the healthy firstborn sheep is what is required to defeat sin. Genesis 4:7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (KJV) Even more than that he also reminded him that Satan, the author of sin, wasn’t satisfied with deceiving Eve (which I’m sure Cain knew all about), but he was swirling all around them at all times like an evil wind, looking for an opening to blow their barriers away, exposing their weaknesses and frailties much like predators stalking the sheep in his brother’s fold. This is the second inference in the scriptures of the pattern, or model, of the need for the shedding of innocent blood to protect us and to help keep sin away from the door of our soul. Because Cain wasn’t protected by the offering of the acceptable sacrifice, he as was vulnerable to the evils of Satan as a sheep outside the fold is vulnerable to wolves, and regardless of motive or intent, he ended up committing sin by murdering his brother.

A second lesson to be learned from this chapter is the Lord’s reaction to the sin. We are told that Cain murdered his brother. In many societies this is punishable by death, but the Lord has a peculiar reaction to this apparent heinous crime. He shows compassion and grace to Cain. In this way, Cain is a model of us humans that blow it on a daily basis, but are saved through the Lord’s compassion and grace.

Thirdly, I believe Cain is a model or type of Israel. Much the same way Cain caused the death of Abel and was shown mercy and was given protection from those who would do him harm even while exiled. Israel, even though they were responsible for plotting the death of the Son of God, God punished them in an odd way for this heinous act, he blinded them but is also protecting them from those wanting to eradicate them until he brings them back into the fold.

God Bless, Jim

2-12-11

for Koinonia Institute

1 Think about it…(to throw a number out there) if there were 10 kids and Adam and Eve, that’s a population density of 12 people. You knock off one of them, you have just decimated 8% of the population of the world…

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