Monthly Archives: April 2013

My Brother’s Keeper

Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.  She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.”  Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.  Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked in the soil.

Genesis 4: 1-2

SUMMARY:  After being turned away from Eden, Adam and Eve began a family.  Cain, the first-born, grew to become a farmer.  Abel became a shepherd, of sorts.  During the time of sacrifice, Cain offered up a portion of what he had harvested.  Abel, however, offered up the best he had to offer.  God was displeased with Cain and showed favor to Abel.  This angered Cain, who then proceeded to take his brother out into the field and murder him.  God arrived, and asked about Abel’s whereabouts.  To which Cain replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Abel’s blood cried out from the dust, telling the tale of his murder.  Angered, God sent Cain from his presence.  Cain was doomed to wander (in the land of Nod, meaning wander) restlessly, as the land would no longer yield crops for him.  Cain, being frightened, worried that he might be killed.  God offered him protection, in the form of a mark, so that he would not be killed.  In fact, Cain was assured that anyone who killed him would suffer vengeance seven times over.

Cain left the Lord’s presence, met and married his wife, and began a family.  His son was called Enoch, the same name as the city Cain founded.  {Subsequently, a genealogy leading to Lamech.  He had killed someone and worried about revenge.  He proclaimed that if Cain would be avenged 7 times, then he would be avenged 77 times.}

Meanwhile, Adam and Eve produced another son.  His name was Seth, and later he had a son named Enosh.  It was during this time, people began to call on the Lord.

cain and abel

THOUGHTS:  This story has always fascinated me.  I believe this is, partly, because there is so much we do not know.  Then again, the Bible is notorious for that.  We do not know what the relationship was between this family and God.  We assume that there must have been some sort of connection.  After all, God remains with them throughout this story.  We don’t know how much older Cain is than Abel.  I am sure siblings will understand that special rivalry with one another.  Did that contribute any to Cain’s animosity?  I am inclined to think so.  We, also, do not know where the idea for that original sacrifice came from.  Was it mandated by God, or did the brothers find their own way to honor Him?  In my estimation, the fact that “blood” became important here, is often overlooked.  Blood became a central issue to the Jews, and much later Christians.  In fact, Christians are healed by the stripes of Jesus.  His sacrificial blood became the salvation of the world.

We are told that Cain was given a mark, of some kind, for protection.  He was also promised that anyone who took his life would pay dearly.  Why?  He had just introduced the world to murder, after doing something that displeased the Lord.  Why was there no eye-for-an-eye?  We are also told that Cain, while wandering, met and married a wife.  Wait.  What?  A wife!  Where did she come from?  Up until this point, we have only heard a few names.  Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel.  There are seemingly only two possibilities.  He either had a child with his mother or a sister (which isn’t mentioned).  Further along, we come to that same question, in regards to Seth.  The mother of Enosh is equally mysterious.

CONCLUSIONS:  The story is supposed to be about a brother murdering a brother.  It is supposed to teach that murder is bad, wrong, evil.  And, it does.  What strikes me as more important is the fact that Cain could not control his anger and jealousy.  Here was a man who was probably used to being the center of his parents’ world.  For the most part, he lived life as he saw fit.  There was no one to measure up to… or fall short of.  There was no competition.  Along comes a younger brother, and all that goes out of the window.  His self-righteousness took a bit of a hit, and in front of God (an authority figure) no less!  He becomes horribly jealous, which makes him furious.  His solution:  eliminate the threat to his way of life.  Why should he become a better person when he could just get rid of the better person?

How many Cains do you know?  I have to tell you, I know quite a few.  The world revolves around them, and if it doesn’t…well, something is wrong with the world.  Rather than become more compassionate or generous, they become more greedy and self-serving.  Rather than tame the anger, they allow anger to control them.  They are jealous of every wonderful thing that happens to someone around them, not realizing what greatness awaits them.  Jealousy makes them feel bitter and unworthy.  So they choose to lash out, often without thinking of the consequences.  And, of course, when called on it…they lie.  Oh, yes, the spirit of Cain lives on.

And even after Cain committed the horrible sin of murder, God watched over him.  He was provided with a mark of protection.  He began a family and attempted to build a life for himself.  {Either one of two explanations fit.  Cain, indeed, married a sister.  Or Cain’s family wasn’t the only family.  In my estimation, the latter is true.  I am convinced that there were sisters who were not mentioned.  Women were, overall, seen as irrelevant in the Bible.  I am also convinced that this one tribe who initiated the creation, as they knew it, had no knowledge of the world around them.  The preferred mode of transportation was..walking.  So, it would have been difficult to understand that things were happening all around them.}

This is the God that I believe in.  The one who forgives, even while angered by our actions.  Fundamentalists would have you believe that God is constantly angry, and vengeful, and fearsome.  While I agree that He can be all those things, I also believe Him to be forgiving and easily saddened when our lives take a wrong turn.  I believe that even as we are forced to accept consequences for our actions, we are given a chance to do better.  Be better.  Jealousy and anger are inescapable emotions.  We will all feel them, if we haven’t already.  But how we manage them is critical.

This story provides no answer to why bad things happen to good people.  Abel was the “good person”.  He lived and he died.  Likewise, I have no answer.  I can only remember that in order for a “bad” thing to happen, a “bad” person is usually involved.  A person who is jealous or envious or angry can wreak havoc on the lives around him.  A person incapable of seeing his own faults can cause heartache and sorrow.  He is unable, or unwilling, to pull himself up.  Instead, he knocks everyone else down.  Unfortunately, all the good person can do, as evidenced by Abel, is continue to be a good person.  And remember that we all reap what we sow.  Eventually.

Categories: analysis, creation, faith and religion, old testament, personal, the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Creation: What? How? So?

“In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.”   Genesis 1:1

WHAT happened?

The Bible tells us that this was the beginning of everything we know today.  We are told that, for whatever reason, God decided to begin the creation process.  As we read through, we learn that this enormously complicated process was completed in one week.  Well, not even an entire week, because the seventh day was a day of rest.

   Day One:  Light was separated from darkness

   Day Two:  Creation of the sky

   Day Three:  Creation of the seas and vegetation

   Day Four:  Creation of the sun, moon, and stars

   Day Five:  Creation of sea creatures and winged birds

   Day Six:  Creation of livestock, wild animals, and…man.

   Day Seven:  Day of rest.

The second chapter of Genesis goes on to tell of man’s (Adam’s) formation.  We learn that Adam was created of the dust, yet didn’t live until the “breath of life” was breathed into him.  Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, an earthly place where God would dwell with him.  Here, we have God’s first commandment.  Adam is told he should not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He was free to eat all he wished from the Tree of Life, but that other one was absolutely off-limits.  This didn’t seem too much of a challenge for Adam.  He was plenty busy; as he was given the task of naming every plant, tree, and animal.  God realized this was not enough, and that Adam required a mate.  Placing Adam in a deep sleep, God removed one of his ribs, and created woman.

In Chapter three of Genesis, we learn of the terrible fall of man.  The crafty serpent convinced the woman that she would not die if she ate from the forbidden tree.  She and Adam, who was with her, ate.  With the eating, came knowledge.  Specifically, that they were naked.  They covered themselves.  And when they heard God, the two hid.  God, knowing something was amiss, questioned the pair.  The story was told; with Adam blaming the woman, the woman blaming the serpent.  God cursed the serpent to a life on his belly, fearing man.  The woman, who officially becomes Eve, is cursed with painful child-bearing and submission to Adam.  Adam is cursed with a survival based upon hard labor.  The shamed couple was given clothing and sent away.

HOW do we know?

There have always been creation myths about a place from whence God created everything.  Egyptians believed in a primordial mound, or island of creation, rising from the ocean.  This is where a specific God (Ptah/Thoth) created everything, depending upon what the Egyptian deemed the accurate site of the mound to be.  Greeks held that Gaia and Uranus were primordial deities, from whence all things originated.  In these myths, humans are not central to the stories.  In fact, they serve no true importance other than doing the bidding of the Gods.

The biblical recollection of our world’s beginning is widely attributed to Moses; though, technically, it is an anonymous work.  I am not sure he actually authored this book.  Remember, all the events happened prior to his birth.  Also, keep in mind that Moses spent his childhood and a large chunk of his young adulthood believing he was royalty…who did not even believe in the God of the Hebrews.  I don’t want to get ahead of myself here, but things were a little too chaotic after he discovered his true origins.  It is highly doubtful the book would have been written then.  So, when would he have written it?  I believe, if he did pen the book, it would have had to occur during the exodus.  Even then, I am not convinced he had time enough to write this down, while simultaneously leading his people to freedom.  Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that Moses did pen the book.    Once he found out he was a Hebrew, I am sure he emersed himself in his people’s history.  This version of events stems from that; a series of stories orally passed down through the generations.

SO…what do I believe?

The first three chapters are relatively short, given that they describe the beginning of ….Everything!  What made God decide to create and dwell among humans?  The seven-day concept is unclear.  How long was a creative day?  Did God, a figure not bound by time, follow our 24-hour framework?  Where was Adam created?  We are told that he was made and “placed” in the Garden.  Speaking of gardens, where is that?  And, that serpent…what was that about?  Was that Satan?  And, if it was, how did he worm his way into a perfect place created by God?

These are questions I have no answer for, even after reading the book a few times.  I don’t believe there are any answers, only speculation.  In truth, no one alive can know what happened at the beginning.  That is no clever dig at the religious or the scientific explanation.  That is the truth.  I believe in both.  A creator and evolution are not at total odds, as many are led to believe.  The problem we have is that the biblical version seems set in stone, where as science is always revising, changing, morphing.  I can not speak, with any authority, on how it all began.  No one can.

So…if I don’t believe in every word of the creation story, how can I believe in God?  It is my belief that the words in Genesis are meant to offer some explanation to those of us who believe in God.  I don’t believe in God because there is a story attached.  I believe in God, because of things that have happened in my life.  Things I have felt and experienced.  Faith CAN NOT be described in scientific terms.  The two things reside in totally different realms.  One doesn’t corroborate the other.  Neither can discredit the other.

I will probably always question both.  Unlike many of my fellow Christians, I don’t believe doubt is taboo.  Thomas was a doubter, and he was a disciple.  Doubt leads to discoveries.  One either discovers faith is not for him, or he discovers that there is more to the story than what’s on the surface.

I am sooo not a surface dweller.  So feel free to go to the shed, pull out your shovel, and tell me what you think.  Join me next time, as I keep digging.

Categories: analysis, creation, evolution, faith and religion, personal, Satan | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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