Bible Stories: Cain and Abel

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I was trying to remember what I remember about this story. This is one of those very weird stories that they definitely teach you all the way up through Sunday school, which is… well, it’s weird. That will come up a lot with these stories. The Bible is a really violent book to teach kids. Anyway. But I don’t remember thinking that. Like many other things, it was sort-of shrugged off. This is a thing that happened. Adam and Eve had children. They killed each other. It was important because it was about how God knew your heart? So there was a lot of explaining that no, God didn’t hate fruit, it was that he didn’t give him his best stuff.

I know that there was a big question about who did Cain marry  but I didn’t specifically ask that in the sense that most people do. I wanted to know who he married but not what city he wandered off to. Anyway. It was explained to us that in those days genetics were perfect, God created genetics perfect and everyone lived a very long time so they could… marry their sisters that were like a hundred years younger than them? Anyway. Also there was the Lamech thing, which just seemed like someone had a weird afterthought about an annoying guy. This is not one of the stories I have as many memories about talking about but those are a few things.

Cain and Abel

Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] 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.”[d] 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?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 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.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so[e]; 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. 16 So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod,[f] east of Eden.

17 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. 18 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.

19 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of[g] bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.

23 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.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

25 Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth,[h] saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” 26 Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.

At that time people began to call on[i] the name of the Lord.

Response – This is another one of those weird things, isn’t it? Because it never actually says that God was upset with Cain because he brought the wrong thing but that’s always what we were taught. It does say that Abel brought the firstfruits of his flock but it doesn’t say really what part of his crops Cain brought. How did they  know to bring an offering? How could they know what to bring? What did “looking with favor on” actually look like?

So God comes and is supremely not empathetic. “What’s wrong with you? If you do the right thing, I will totally be happy with you. But if you keep encouraging this sin then… well, you know.” We were always taught this meant God knew Cain’s heart and perhaps. But I can’t help but notice how at no point in this story does God tell Cain what the right thing is. Based purely on a strictly literal reading of this story, they both guessed that God might want an offering and one of them happened to guess right what it would be. God picked a favorite kid and then seems super angry when that doesn’t turn out well.

Look, Cain is not exactly awesome here. He murders his brother, he seems to have probably planned it (although technically it just says he invited him into the field…. it doesn’t say it was to kill him. I suppose he could have been overtaken in the moment. But it seems likely it was to kill him). We don’t know anything about Abel. Maybe he was awesome, maybe he was not. We’re supposed to assume he is because he was the Lord’s chosen, but honestly we are going to meet more of the Lord’s favorite kids through this book and they are not always so splendid.

God tries to trick Cain into telling the truth, which is a trick my parents always used on me and which absolutely never worked. I was not going to tell them any more information than I had to. After all, if they didn’t know, I wasn’t going to give up the info. It’s a bit of an interesting tact for Cain to take though, seeing as he’s talking to God… but honestly how much do they actually know about God? Does Cain know he’s omniscient? Is he taking a chance here? Who knows. But he’s wrong.

And the Lord “banishes him from his presence” which is curious, considering that God is also omnipresent. So that’s weird. And he puts a mark on Cain’s forehead to make sure no one kills him, which is also weird because there shouldn’t be anyone around who he isn’t related to so where exactly is it that he wanders off to get married and make the babies? I was told the other day about a White Supremacist legend that Satan had made his own race of people, they were imperfect but they were made in his own image and that Cain went and intermarried with them and that’s how we got… black people! So that’s gross but I thought I would share.

And then Cain and his wife make babies and we take the time in the text to talk about one of his children who is basically a pompous jackass who talks a lot to his daughters about how awesome he is. One of the lines that makes this seem particularly out of place to me is the line about how “if Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech is avenged seventy times.” So this seems like one of two things to me. Either he is referring to that unfortunate incident where he murdered his brother because of how he won the God lottery. Which I guess you could see as vengeance. Or there’s a whole bunch of other Cain stories that dropped off the map.

Eve gets to have another baby to replace her murdered child… which is kind-of screwy but okay? I feel like real people and real parents don’t think that way but I’ll acknowledge it’s possible I’m speaking from some kind of bias. I mean, technically she lost two sons. Cain may not have been killed but she certainly lost him. It seems like a terrible situation and it is weird to be like “I’m so pleased that God gave me a replacement kid!” but whatever makes you happy, honey.

And people began to call on the name of the Lord. Was it by chance because they were kind-of freaked out about this unpredictable, powerful being that they knew nothing about and who apparently had a code he definitely expected them to follow? Because I’m just saying. If that’s the system you’re in, you might want to think about at least trying to see if he’ll give you a hint on the rules.

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2 thoughts on “Bible Stories: Cain and Abel

  1. It seems very shocking and edgy to refer to the bible like ‘just another book’ to me even now! Haha. Like, ‘we’ll meet more of these characters later on in the book…’ I’m like, ahhhh! I’m going to hell!

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