THE BIBLICAL ANALYSIS OF THE STORY OF CAIN AND ABEL 6
When Adam and Eve choose to disobey God, they were chased out of theeverlasting Garden of Eden. Through their choice to do the wrongthing instead of the right thing, sin entered the world. The bibledemonstrates the consequences of their disobedience through thepunishments and curse that they received from God. The passage ofGenesis 4: 1-16 shows the continuation of the sin of disobedience andits consequences through the choices that Cain makes to offer asacrifice that was less pleasing to God murder his brother and lieabout the murder.
Genesis was written by Moses as the first book of the Pentateuch inthe Old Testament Bible. Just like the other books of the Pentateuch,its authorship is anonymous. The events presented in the book ofGenesis range from the time of the creation to the universe untilJoseph’s death. The historical perspective of the writing ofGenesis is not mentioned but to understand the book better, we focuson the historical circumstances that are mentioned in the book (Kim,2001). The word ‘genesis’ means origin or ‘beginning’ and thefundamental arguments of this book are the creation and subsequentfall of man through sin (Kim, 2001).
The biblical story of Cain and Abel centers on the two brothersbringing a sacrifice before God. We are told, “And in the processof time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the groundan offering unto the Lord. Consequently, Abel, his younger brotheralso does the same. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings ofhis flock and the fat thereof. In the end, God is pleased with Abel’ssacrifice and he demonstrates this by showing his approval of Abel’ssacrifice. We are told, “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and tohis offering” (Genesis 4: 3-4, KJV).
This account presents us with the two brothers, Cain and Abel who area farmer and a shepherd respectively, each haven chosen sacrifices tobring before God by picking from the produce of their respectiveoccupations. However, we know that the choice of their sacrifices isnot the same. Whereas Cain simply chooses to bring to the Lord thefruit from the ground, Abel’s choice of a sacrifice is given moredetail. We are told he chose his sacrifice from the first produce ofhis flock and made sure it was fat. This detailed description of thetwo sacrifices before God give us further insight on why God ispleased with Abel’s sacrifice. However, when he is presented withCain’s sacrifice, he disapproves. Abel’s sacrifice can beunderstood as having been offered with deep gratitude from his heart.In ancient cultures, the sacrifices that were offered to God had tobe the best of the produce and the first fruits of the harvest(Wolde, 1991). We can evidently see from the story that Abel met therequirements of offering a pleasing sacrifice before God. He chosethe firstling of his flock that was also the best.
Because God acknowledges the sacrifice from Abel and rejects theCain’s sacrifice, the result is the inevitable Cain became veryangry and jealous of Abel and this is demonstrated in his feelings,“And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis,4:5). This is the beginning of Cain’s disintegration into a sinner.However, when God addresses Cain after he displays his anger, wenotice that He does not mention the sacrifice that Cain offered whichmay be an indicator that the sacrifice was not so important afterall. God centers on the choice to do right or wrong and theimplications of sinning (Elliot, 2006). He says, “If thou doestwell, shall thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sinlieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shaltrule over him.” (Genesis 4:7). This can be seen as a call to humanbeings to be masters of their choices whether good or bad and to beaware of the repercussion of the choices they make. Making the rightchoice leads to approval and acceptance whereas disobedience resultsin sin, and this has negative consequences (Gillespie &Quinones,2002).
Due to his evil feelings of anger and jealousy against his brotherAbel, Cain goes on to disobey the warning that God has given himabout having the choice to master his feelings or surrendering tothem if he chooses to do wrong. He ends up murdering his own brotherthus spilling Abel’s blood on the ground. However, Cain did notplan to murder Abel, but we can assume he did so because he could notaccept the fact that God chose Abel’s sacrifice over his (Dehart,2008). After murdering Abel, God inquires of Cain about thewhereabouts of his younger brother. The result is another wrongchoice from Cain he lies that he does not know where Abel is.
Cain clearly does not seem to have understood the warning that Godgave him about disobeying Him through making wrong choices and Cain’sability to master his choices. He answers God with the question of,“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis, 4:9). This could indicatethe fact that Cain was blaming God for not equally being responsiblefor Abel by allowing him (Cain) to murder Abel. He has definitelymissed understanding God’s words to him informing him that he wasthe master of his choices and their consequences (Wolde, 1991). Thatadvice by God given to Abel is a testament of the central theme ofthis story. The free will to make choices that God has given us humanbeings and the consequences of the choices we arrive at, whether goodor bad. When we make the right choices, God is pleased with us andrewards us well, but when we make the wrong options, we have to facethe consequences of our wrongdoing.
Cain is left to face the repercussions of disobeying the voice of Godby making the choice to do what is not right and pleasing before God.To begin with, God curses him from the earth because through his actof murder, and he has spilled his brother’s blood on the ground.Furthermore, Cain is condemned to be a vagabond on the earth, whilethe earth is also cursed not to be fruitful by not yielding to Cain’slabor. “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath openedher mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand when thoutillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee herstrength a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth”(Genesis, 4:11-12). However, Cain appeals to God about the severity ofhis punishment. In response, God promises to protect Cain from beingkilled by other people by putting a mark on him. This demonstratesthe mercifulness of God towards sinners.
The biblical story of Cain and Abel, therefore, demonstrates to usthe consequences of sin through disobeying God by making wrongchoices. The story illustrates the importance that the free will thatGod has given us to choose to do right or wrong shapes our lives.When we comply with God, he is contented with us but when we disobey,we face the consequences of our actions. Therefore, as human beings,we have to realize the implications of freedom of choice and itsimpacts on our daily lives.
Dehart, G. (2008). Apparently, it`s still all about Cain and Abel.PsycCRITIQUES. Vol53(1),
Elliot, M. (2006). Cain and Abel: A study of the societal dynamics ofethnic conflict. Psychotherapy and Politics International,1-16.
Gillespie, G., & Quinones, R. (2002). The Changes of Cain:Violence and the Lost Brother in Cain and Abel Literature. WorldLiterature Today, 245-245.
Kim, A. (2001). Cain and Abel in the Light of Envy: A Study in theHistory of the Interpretation of Envy in Genesis 4.1-16. Journalfor the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 65-84.
Wolde, E. (1991) “The Story of Cain and Abel: A Narrative Study.”Journal of the Studyof the Old Testament 52, 25-41.