An important narrative to live more connected and meaningful lives.
The Genesis Narratives are most important constructs of first mention: The original Sin, the first Murder. The destruction of our relationship with God, then the destruction of the brotherhood of man. In the same way we understand sin, throughout the rest of the Bible, because of the Gen 3 narrative, in the same way the Cain & Abel narrative provide us with vital clues to what is at the root of the destruction of all relationships between human beings.
The word Cain means to acquire or possess something which is why Eve said “I have gotten/acquired a man” (Gen 4:1). The word Abel means to be empty, often translated as vain or vanity in the sense of being empty of substance. The Hebrew word for “name” is shem and literally means breath or character. In Hebrew thought, someone’s name is reflective of one’s character and the Hebraic meanings of the names of “Cain and Abel” are windows into their characters. Cain is a possessor, one who has substance while Abel is empty of substance. Cain is what we would call “a man of character,” but Abel is “vain.”
“Tiller of the ground” A verb meaning to work, to serve. This labor may be focused on things, other people, or God. When it is used in reference to things, that item is usually expressed: to till the ground (Gen. 2:5; 3:23; 4:2); to work in a garden (Gen. 2:15); or to dress a vineyard (Deut. 28:39). Similarly, this term is also applied to artisans and craftsmen. And Cain knew — his wife; and she conceived, and bore — Enoch: and he built a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born — Irad: and Irad begot — Mehujael: and Mehujael begot — Methusael: and Methusael begot — Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. And Adah bore — Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bore — Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. (Gen 4:17-21) Cain and his descendants thus represents all the accomplishments of man, an industrious person, works and the arm of the flesh, and self-righteousness. Whereas Abel stand for the simple life, faith and righteousness.
Why was Abel’s sacrifice favoured?
(Heb. 11:1-3). By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.It is possible that Cain brought his sacrifice in penance, having nothing to give, only faith in God. While Cain brought his gift to show his self-importance, to boast, his self-righteousness. Like A Pharisee and a Tax Collector (Luk 18:9-14)
(For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.(1 Jn 3:12) Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain (Jude 1:11).
One can confidently assume from these scriptures that God who knew their hearts, was not only looking at the sacrifice they brought, but at the faith, righteousness, of their hearts and deeds that preceded the sacrifice. The sacrifice of Cain & Abel was the first form of religion recorded in the Bible: The one conducted in faith and obedience the other to impress, to compete, to elevate self.
This explanation centres upon the difference in spirit manifested by the two men. Because Abel was a man of faith, he came in the right spirit and presented worship that pleased God. We have reason to believe that Abel had some realisation of his need for substitutionary atonement. To all appearances both offerings expressed gratitude, thanksgiving, and devotion to God. But the man who lacked genuine faith in his heart could not please God even though the material gift was spotless. God did not look upon Cain’s sacrifice because He had already looked at him and seen what was in his heart. Abel came to God in the right attitude of heart for worship and in the only way sinful men can approach a holy God. Cain did not.
Cain’s unbridled anger, furious wrath revealed what was hidden in his heart all the time. Cain became an enemy of God and hostile to his brother. Thus, wounded pride produced envy and a spirit of revenge. And these brought forth the burning hatred and violence that made murder possible (Pfeiffer, C. F. (1962). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary: Old Testament (Ge 4:5). Chicago: Moody Press.)
It is possible also that they already knew what kind of sacrifice God preferred. Heb 9:22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Cain heart’s attitude wat not only wrong, but he also disobeyed.
These conclusion is evident when his gifts was not consumed: Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.(First recorded offence) If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”v7 “Why are you so angry?”the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” New Living Translation (Ge 4:6–7). It was out of these sinful motives that gave rise to act of murder. “rose up against” How many of us have not also experienced the ego arise in our hearts? Feelings of rebellion, pride, arrogance, self-righteous, greed, selfish, self-preservation, egoist.
What is even more revealing is the deceptive way he did it. And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.v8 Oh, have we not all have done this: making conversation, but not dealing with the offense in our hearts? Having court cases against someone in our heads, without any direct confrontation. In our minds we want to kill the person, see them disappear.
“I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”stand in direct contrast to the second command “Love your neighbour as yourself” This is an example of the first tribal xenophobia, apartheid, segregation, dehumanisation of the other. This justification: “I am not responsible for him, her.” is what makes most people walk away from another’s need, crisis, hunger, disaster. Jesus instructs us to love your neighbour as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27); And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”(Mark 12:33)
Jesus shot to the root of this racial prejudice in the parable of the good Samaritan. “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29-37)
“My punishment is greater than I can bear!”Cain shows no repentance. No change of heart. He was only sad because of the punishment, not for what he has done. Evident self-righteousness. v13
HOWEVER, God shows mercy: “whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” v15
“Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord”v16 Offence, murder in the heart, unrighteousness cannot exist in the presence of God. The presence of this evil in his heart is a sign of the absence of God’s love in his heart.
What can we learn from this portion of scripture:
- God takes notice of the heart, not the sacrifice. “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Sam 15:22-23) There has always been two forms of worship. Mary anointing his feet with oil. (Joh 12:1-7; 26:6-13; Mark. 14:3-9) The Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1–10; Luke 19:29–38; John 12:12–15); Hagar en Sara (Gal 4:21-31) The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luk 18:9-14) One from a pennant heart, full of faith. The other from pride and self-righteousness. You cannot fool God, who sees the heart.
- “do what is right.” Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master. Beware of taking any offense, ever! You do not have the right to for one minute to take any offense. Once taken, it will seek to control you. What is the ultimate “do what is right?” IS it not to love the way God loves? To do as God do? The sentence “Am I my brother’s keeper?” reveals an alienation of the heart. (Col 1:21) Seeming unfairness is at the root of the first arguments between siblings. “My brother got more than I…” it being the truth why not be happy for my brother… BUT JEALOUSY keeps sibling competing, defending, fighting. When they mature and show willingness to serve, love, protect their brother or sister, the bond is deepened. The second great COMMAND is: Love your neighbour as yourself ( 19:18; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27); And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33) The Universe Was Created for Connection. Connecting with other people makes for a better life—this is a law that is inextricable from the natural world. Trying to achieve happiness and fulfilment while remaining isolated from others is as futile as all other attempts to defy nature’s laws. God clearly wants us to connect with one another. He wants us each to be obsessively preoccupied with serving one another. He wants us to provide for one another’s needs and desires. We can never agree with Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I have trained myself no longer to think of my occupation as making a living, but as serving humanity. I ask people, “How do you serve humanity?” This is one of the reasons that the Hebrew word for blessing is the same as the word for knee: berech. Hebrew uses the same word because going down on your knees is a way of serving. It should not be considered a menial or degrading gesture. It is one I take joy in because I know I am serving another one of God’s children.
- It is also very important to notice: “When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.” Cain took offense against God, and turned it against his innocent brother. The result is, that there is no blessing on the one who takes offense. “His countenance fell” is the first biblical evidence of someone who has taken offense. The wrath and anger that he kept in his heart, eventually led to murder. Contempt, resentment, bitterness, wrath, vengeance, criticism curse is “it shall no longer yield its strength to you” You works and contributions will have no fruit.
Jesus is our example, in the fact that He took responsibility to the point of dying for the sins of the World, the brotherhood of man. He redeemed this relationship and unity God purposed for mankind. By showing us, the way the truth and the life. Denying self, saying I am sorry, is the best way to live life. He showed us that by dying we can live! (Mat 16:24-25) Cain decided to save his own life, and killed his brother. This is the root of all murder, self-preservation! Jesus saved mankind, by giving His life. “Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” (Heb 12:24)