Summary: An important narrative to live more connected and meaningful lives.
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.)