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

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