Some Thoughts on the Story of Cain and Abel…

(From Genesis 4:1-15)

  • The story is written in the all-knowing, first voice narrative form. Never in the story does the voice of God say that Cain’s offering was unaccepted. I think the Narrator reveals Cain’s perception that Abel and his offering were “regarded” by God, but for Cain and his offering; God “had no regard.” The response of Cain to this perceived disparity of value between himself and his brother was anger. The suggestion is that Abel was accepted and blessed, while Cain was not.

Questions: How do we know when someone is “blessed” by God? How do we perceive that to look? If a brother is “blessed” and “regarded” by God, does that mean that we are not? Do we tend to believe we are NOT blessed if our life doesn’t fit the same pattern of our brother?

Question: Who are the narrators in our lives that prescribe values to life and to God which may not be true and generative for us?

  • Cain believes God has chosen Abel and his offering over his own. Cain’s response is anger, but his anger is directed towards Abel, while his argument is with God… Arguing with God is a good thing, as the story of Job points out. Jacob also wrestled with God, begging to be blessed and received a lifelong limp as a result. When we argue with God, we interact emotionally with God and our perceptions of God, reality, and our selves are changed. This is the process of redemption. Anger, when acted upon with violence, is displaced, because we treat the Creation with disrespect in retaliation for the disrespect we feel from our own perceptions of an unfair and unstable god.
  • Cain manifests the human disease process in all its fury:
    • Distrust of God
    • Devalued Self- “I’m not enough…” (4:5 & 7)
  • Jesus has been called the “second Adam.” (Romans 5:12-21) He could also rightly be called the “second Abel.” Jesus became the shock absorb-er of human anger and violence. Jesus’ resurrection absorbs the violence,and turns death into a means of creating new life.
  • As to the consequences for Cain due to his actions, the story repeats the Edenic theme of leaving a garden and plunging into wilderness, where the earth wars against our best efforts of self-sufficiency.
  • In contrast to the narrative assumption of the intentions of God regarding both brothers, the voice of God in verse 15 promises protection even for the murderer Cain, and earlier states that God hears, and is moved by the shedding of innocent blood. God can be on both sides of a dysfunctional act, all-the-while working to bring resurrection from the ashes.