Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Cain

Cain is a very interesting character in the Bible and one of the best known as well. He has the distinction of being the first son of Adam and Eve and also the first murderer.
The conception and birth of Cain happens after the fall into sin and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. God has just promised to send a savior into the world but he has not given Adam and Eve a timeframe so if you read between the lines, it's apparent that Eve thinks that the infant Cain is the savior.
The Bible doesn't record any of Cain's childhood. All we know is that he has a younger brother Abel. There may be other brothers and/or sisters at this point, but we're not told. Cain becomes a farmer, while his brother Abel tends sheep.
Then one fateful day, Cain and Abel decide to offer sacrifices to God. At this point there are no ceremonial laws or any recorded command from God to offer sacrifices (now he may have ordered sacrifices and it wasn't recorded in Genesis, but we'll never know), so it appears that both were doing this out of their hearts. Genesis 4:3-5 tells us:
"In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought 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."
We are not specifically told here why Cain's offering was rejected. I highly doubt that Cain offered God moldy veggies. I picture Cain trudging to the altar and half heartedly tossing the bowl of produce onto it like the little child who is told he has to say sorry but doesn't feel sorry. Then again, that's just my speculation. 
After this little incident, God comes to Cain to ask him what's up.
Genesis 4: 6-7 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.”
Cain doesn't respond to God after this.  It seems he doesn't want to take responsibility for his actions just like his father Adam (remember Adam, blaming God for putting a woman with him who sinned?).  He broods for awhile, decides that Abel is the source of his problem so he kills Abel.  Just like with Adam, God gives Cain a chance to come clean with what he'd done.
Genesis 4:9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
And just like his earlier blunder, Cain refuses to take responsibility.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?
God isn't going to take that for an answer
Genesis 4:10-12 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.

Then, Cain has the gall to whine about his punishment.  In re-reading this section, I really get the sense of Cain as the whiner of the family.  God could have just struck him down and killed him.  He gives him chances to come clean and Cain feels it necessary to play the blame game.  But even with the whining, God protects Cain from any family vengeance. 

Genesis 4:13-15 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.

There's been a lot of speculation over the centuries as to what the "mark of Cain" really was. I have no idea.  It's not really important.  But we do know that Cain was not killed by any of his family members and lived on to build a city.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure it's a visible mark, so much as an instinctual recognition -- i.e., Hitler, and other murderers --. We don't actually kill them, so much as they take their own lives. Great post. Come visit when you can.


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