Relationships – Cain and Abel

Adam made love to 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 the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
    wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

  • Genesis 4:1-24

A Quote

[regarding Genesis 4:6] Many ungodly people in the world are not happy in the condition in which they find themselves. They have a religion of their own, but it yields them no comfort. They would like to have peace of conscience. They would like to be uplifted beyond all fear of death, and they would like to be as happy as Christian people are, but they do not want to pay the price—namely, obedience to God by faith in Jesus Christ. They play the part of the dog in the manger, who could not eat the hay himself and would not let the horses do so. They will not accept Christ and yet grumble because others have him. Although Cain was in such a bad temper that he was angry and looked despondent, God, the infinitely Gracious One, came and spoke with him and patiently reasoned with him. It is wonderful that God should speak with man at all, considering man’s insignificance. But for the Lord to speak with sinful man is a far greater marvel. And for him to reason with such a man as Cain, a murderer in heart and soon to be a murderer in deed—impenitent, implacable, presumptuous, blasphemous—this is a miracle of mercy.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

Of the two sons, Cain was older than Abel.  Cain grew crops.  He brought some of the fruits of the soil.  He became jealous of Abel after Abel’s offering to the Lord was accepted and his was not.  God spoke to Cain about not letting his anger burn.  After God spoke to Cain, Cain called Abel over and killed him.  His evasion of the question of where his brother was shows contempt for both God and his brother.  Then, as most children are, although far from a child at this point, Cain grumbles about the punishment being too severe.

Abel raised livestock.  He brought a portion of the first fruits of his flock, the fat portion.  His offering to the Lord was accepted.

I added the following verses about Cain’s family.  There must have been unnamed girls born to Adam and Eve for Cain to have a wife.  In the verses that follow, Adam and Eve have Seth.  In Genesis 5, it states that Adam had more boys and girls.  I do not know if you think it curious to mention Cain’s children, and a few following generations, but I have spent time thinking about it.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

We can infer that Cain was married.  Being cursed to roam the earth would not lend itself to obtaining a wife, thus that wife was probably already there.

We might infer that Abel was the first burial of a human.  God tells Cain that Abel’s blood cries out “from the ground.”  Does that mean that when Cain killed Abel blood dripped on the ground or that the body was buried?  There had been animal deaths prior to this.  When God killed the animals to make skins for Adam and Eve, they may have watched Him bury the animal.  In so doing, that practice may have been common.  Now the depth of burial may have been learned by trial and error, digging down six feet is commonly used to ensure wild animals will not dig up the body.  Shallower graves have been dug with stones placed on top to prevent disinterment.

The practice of making a burnt offering before the Lord as a means of worship seems to already be established.  The concept of first fruits is already established.  The shedding of blood for the atonement of sin (Romans 3:25) is established.  Otherwise, what is significant about Abel’s acceptable sacrifice and what is not said about Cain’s unacceptable sacrifice?  Abel’s was the fat portion of the first born of the flock.  We might assume sheep, but it could be any animal that was known to gather in a flock.  Cain’s sacrifice was “some” fruit from the soil.  There was no blood shedding.  There is no written word that it was among the first fruits.

And while we are on the subject of establishing some concept of worship, we must consider that God has given Adam and Eve guidelines that they passed down to their sons.  We might infer that God gave them insight into preparing food, farming techniques, finding shelter, etc.  Tosca Lee, in her novel, Havah, meaning Eve, talks of living in a cave after leaving the Garden of Eden.  It might have been a good assumption.  But with only one man and one woman, experiments in food preparation, when you know nothing about it, could result in death.  Even then, they may not have had a full understanding of edible versus poisonous.  Tomatoes may have been eaten by the Aztecs as early as 700AD, but they were not introduced as a plant in England until 1590 and not listed as edible until 1595.  People thought them to be poisonous.  With that thought, who would be the brave one to take a bite?  Add to this that God must have given them some idea of clean versus unclean animals.  Definitely Noah knew a few generations later.

As for farming techniques, we can assume that they had to know something or being the only humans on earth there would be an ample surplus until the experimental techniques in growing crops yielded a self-sustained crop, able to feed the family and provide seed for the next year’s crop.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

With the experimental aspects of farming in place, could we assume some reason for Cain’s lack of faith.  Although he grew crops from the ground, he probably had animals around.  Shedding of blood could be done.  But if Cain had year after year of a poor harvest because the water was not adequate, or there was a localized flood.  Or was the soil not fertile enough?  Or did weeds choke off the tender shoots of the crop?  With all those variables in play, expressed or assumed in the curse of the land, part of Adam’s curse for eating the forbidden fruit, could Cain have withheld the first fruits to ensure next year’s crop? (very common in later generations, thus expressed in Leviticus as first fruits – a show of faith)

With that experimental crop growing thought in mind, this could have exacerbated Cain’s jealousy because Abel’s flock could eat any old thing and survive while Cain had the curse of the ground to deal with.  Of course, Cain may have not noticed the lion killing part of Abel’s flock and the animals that died because they ate the wrong plant leaves or grass.

And now for a bit of inference regarding the generations following Cain.  If all but the inhabitants of the ark are killed, and the Bible says so.  Then what does it matter that a few generations after Cain was Lamech.  Lamech had to “women.”  One produced two sons, a nomad (at least someone living in tents) that had livestock and a musician (stringed instruments).  The other woman had a son that worked with bronze and iron.  If these people died, what difference would it make?

We have the genealogy of Noah, who had three sons.  We have no information at all about the four wives.  Sure, the concept of making musical instruments and bronze and copper devices could be relearned, but in that case why mention these people.  Lamech was the fifth generation after Cain.  The Lamech in the line of Noah was the seventh generation after Seth, and this Lamech had a son, Noah.  Thus, with fairly equal generation lengths, the musical and metals skills from Cain’s offspring could filter into Noah’s family through education or through the wives picking up those skills.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

Having had two boys, I understand this relationship, but what the path forward might be escapes me.  Our older son, when he was three, told his mother, when asked where babies come from, “I know where.  Mommies go to the hospital, and they come back with the baby. … And you got the wrong one!!”  Now that they are both in their forties, I am unsure if their relationship has improved.

God gives great advice to Cain.  If you let one sin fester, it will grow into even more sin.  God does not tell Cain what Cain had done wrong to have an unacceptable sacrifice.  Cain knew what was required.  As a Safety Manager for about twenty years, while working as the Training Manager, there was a direct correlation between taking short cuts and people getting injured at work.  Cain used part of the harvest of the plants he had grown and not a blood sacrifice, and although not specifically mentioned, it was probably not among the first fruits even then.  But the key was Cain’s attitude.  If God had only thought Cain was lazy, he might have accepted the short cuts, but Cain first did not believe God could read his mind and second Cain was only going through the motions of worship and not truly worshipping the Lord of Lords.  But God knew what was in Cain’s heart.

I know from bad experiences; you never tell an angry person that they are angry.  The anger will shift from whomever their anger is focused onto you.  And it will not be pretty.  God gave Cain things to think about.  If Cain had, he would have calmed on his own.

There is one weakness in reading stories like this in the Bible and in short stories and novels.  If the text does not say “immediately” or “a week later,” you read it as if the events are consecutive.  What we do not know is whether this was a lifetime of “one-up-man-ship,” or if this was an isolated incident.  Had the two boys fought since their toddler days?  But if the timing was immediate, it does not matter about the “brewing” time.  Give a hothead time to cool and they usually cool unless this has been brewing a long time.  That is when plotting mayhem starts.  If this murder happened after a sufficient cool down period, there was probably other incidents leading up to this one, or Cain was extremely cold blooded.

The point is that if you, as a parent, see the warning signs, you can take steps to calm them down.  You might reason with them that they could become good friends in the long run, or they might need the help that a brother can provide at some future stage of life.

When one child chooses Jesus and the other chooses any other path, it may be necessary to, in their adult life, to let that spiritual distance turn into a physical distance and sadly, an emotional distance.  It is one thing to be together and set an example, but when there is open animosity, it may be best to create distance.  Retaliating is the wrong thing to do, and as a parent, who had retaliating parents, I made a number of those mistakes.  Remember, if they have rejected the other nine commandments, they will not honor you as a parent, thus being a parent that sets the rules does not work with adult children who are being rebellious.

But one thing that you need to be is consistent.  Consistent in your following Jesus and consistent in what you stand for.  If they turn away, you are not to blame.  They chose a different path.  But if you are inconsistent, then they have no idea where you are coming from.  They might choose attributes from column A and other attributes from column B, looking at your actions as opposed to your beliefs or your standards.

As far as our relationship with Jesus and how this story relates?  If God speaks to us, no matter how quietly the whispers may be, we should listen.  Our response should never be that we will get back to God after we get this one thing done first.  If Cain had cooled off, the first few chapters of the Bible might be a lot different.

A Closing Prayer

We have lashed out in anger in the past.  We have been jealous of siblings that got all the praise while we worked harder and got rejected.  We need to examine ourselves and our own motivations.  Help us in doing that.  Thank You for those times You remind us of the temporal nature of this life and how that other person is important to us.  Coming to blows is never a good response and You help us calm our temper.  To show love, we must be love.  We cannot be love without You in our hearts.  Lord, we rely on You to give us the strength and wisdom to deal with the animosities of life.  We praise You, Lord, the Prince of Peace.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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