Author Topic: The story of Cain and Abel  (Read 1629 times)

Pointing2

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The story of Cain and Abel
« on: November 01, 2012, 10:49:26 PM »
The Story of Cain and Abel

This is the version of the story as found in the Saint Joseph Edition of THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
I have added a few commentaries and my questions, as well as my answers below. I find this story extremely interesting, worth much in depth study and analysis. I've tried to keep it as short as possible and still make my points. I hope you'll be able to follow and enjoy it. These are just one man's observations.

Genesis, Chapter 4
Quote:

The man (Adam = Man) had relations with his wife Eve (Eve = life, living), and she conceived and bore Cain (Cain = “I have produced”), saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” Next she bore his brother Abel. Abel became the keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil. In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge it toward you, yet you can be his master.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark (mark = probably a tattoo which had always been common among the nomads of the Near Eastern deserts) on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. Cain then left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod (Nod = land of nomads), east of Eden.
End of Quote

Commentary:
We must always keep in mind that we are dealing with primitive people in this story. These people were very simple. The stories of the Bible were orally transmitted from generation to generation. Only stories with a real message survived for such a long time. Therefore, there must be very deep meaning in all the stories of the Bible. Deep, but simple.

Question:
Did both brothers bring their offerings at the same time? What was the occasion? Was it a sort of Thanksgiving? Did God ask for these offerings? Why would the early people even bring offerings to the LORD who had thrown them out of Eden? Were they trying to show God that they were capable of survival even outside of Eden? Were they trying to please God so he let them back into the Garden of Eden? What was the reason for these offerings?
Was this the first time they brought an offering? Apparently God still stayed in touch with the first family as is shown by the conversation God has with Cain after he slew his brother.

Answer:
Perhaps Cain and Abel considered God to be like their grandfather. They brought whatever they had produced and showed it to him. He was not pleased with Cain’s produce, but was pleased with Abel’s work. Why not Cain’s? Perhaps he felt that the older brother should do superior work, and he felt that Cain’s produce fell short of being a superior effort.

Question:
Why did Cain kill his brother Abel?

Answer:
Perhaps Cain became competitive and tried to outperform his brother Abel. Perhaps Abel was highly skillful in his chores and produced superior livestock. There is often a certain competiveness between brothers. That is quite natural.
But, this competiveness does not have to lead to the killing of one’s brother. In fact, the rivalry and resentment one feels towards one’s sibling must be overcome for the good of the family. Family members are there to support each other in times of need, not to make life harder for each other.
Some writers suggest that the argument was over a woman. I see no evidence in the Bible to support that. The argument started with something that Abel did and that infuriated Cain. As the older brother, he should have been the one to be closer to God, because he had a longer relationship with God. When God rejected his (Cain’s) sacrifice, he could not accept that. The resentment he felt was too great to bear. There was also an element of humiliation, because he as the older brother was expected to be the leader in all things. Having Abel become a favorite of God’s was not something he could accept. When the younger sibling is more successful than the older sibling, the older sibling feels greatly diminished.

Question:
What does Cain’s question to God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” mean?

Answer:
As the older brother, he was his brother’s keeper, from the day Abel was born. He needed to protect Abel from harm.

Question:
What did the process of offering to God look like? Some suggest that it was a fire sacrifice.

Answer:
I do not see any evidence that the offerings came in the form of a fire sacrifice.
[The story simply reads “In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not. Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen. So the LORD said to Cain: “Why are you so resentful and crestfallen? If you do well, you can hold up your head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door: his urge it toward you, yet you can be his master.”]
If God was really with the early humans, then Cain and Abel could have simply brought their offerings to the person LORD and placed them before him. He may have liked the looks of Abel’s sacrifice better than Cain’s. Or perhaps, God felt like eating meat on that day and not produce, so he had little interest in Cain’s offerings.

Question:
What was the mark of Cain?
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark (mark = probably a tattoo which had always been common among the nomads of the Near Eastern deserts) on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

Answer:
Some commentators say the mark of Cain is a sign of peace. I read it differently. God put a sign on Cain so that anyone who was even tempted of killing Cain would know what someone would come after him and his family and avenge the death of Cain sevenfold, meaning not only an eye for an eye, but seven eyes for one eye.
Whomever Cain encountered in the land of Nod would not know immediately of Cain’s act of fratricide, therefore, why would anyone want to kill Cain at sight? A better explanation would be that Cain had to leave the protection of his family, his clan, and was now alone and unprotected. The mark of Cain would have been the mark of a powerful tribe that anyone who encountered Cain knew about and respected or feared.
In essence, God said, if you do harm to Cain, you will be very sorry you did. This only makes sense, because Cain had to leave his clan and wander by himself into the territory of other clans.
Another point: Was the potential killing of Cain over the killing of his brother? No, I believe Cain may have been harmed by others not because he killed Abel, but because he had left the protection of his clan. The mark offered him protection even when away from his tribe. It showed his association with that tribe, meaning he was not alone in this world. Someone would come after anyone who would do him harm.

Question:
Some suggest that Abel died the first Martyr, that he did not offer resistance to the aggression of his brother. I do not read that into the text. Abel could have resisted the attack. There could have been a struggle with Cain coming out on top. There definitely was bloodshed.

The text reads:
[Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.” When they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He answered, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!]

Question:
[The LORD then said: “What have you done! Listen: Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil! Therefore you shall be banned from the soil that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.”]
Why did Cain have to leave his home and wander forth alone?
Why did Cain think that he had to avoid God’s presence?

Answer:
Cain had committed an act of violence against his own people. Therefore he was banished from them.
God only banned Cain from the soil that previously had given its produce to Cain, the tiller of the soil. He told him that the soil would no longer provide produce to Cain. Therefore, Cain had no choice but to find another livelihood.
There is nothing in the story that reads that God banned Cain from his presence. Perhaps Cain felt that since God did not look favorably upon his offerings and because he killed Abel out of resentment over Abel’s offering to God having been received favorably, that God really did not want to see him anymore. Therefore he felt he was also banished from the sight of God, which was not true, of course.


 

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