There is perhaps no more infamous name in Holy Writ than that of Cain. He was the first murderer by committing an act of fratricide in killing his own brother, Abel. Aside from this very sad and painful story, some believers and non-believers have instead focused on the so-called "mark" of Cain to perpetuate racial bigotry, and prejudice towards Blacks to justify the institution of chattel slavery in America because of skin color and Anti-Semitism to a lesser degree against Jews throughout the world. Was there some inherent pathology in Cain which drove him to this desperate and regrettable act, or is there a broader lesson for all humanity in this tragic family saga that is only being told from a particular perspective? One can only wonder what Cain would have written about his side of the story if given the opportunity. Now it is time to reread the narrative again without being influenced by the traditional bias as much as it is possible.
Genesis 1: 14
God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate day from night; they shall serve as signs for the set times (Heb. "moed") - the [Feast??] days and years.
Genesis 4: 1-2
Now Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain [Heb. possession, something fixed or permanent], saying, "I have gained [acquired] a man [male child] from the LORD." She then bore his brother Abel [Heb. breath, vapor, transitory]. Abel became a keeper of sheep, but Cain became a tiller of the soil.
NOTE: Several things are worth noting up to this point. Cain had the same occupation as his father Adam (Cp. Genesis 3: 23), and since there was no mention of Eve conceiving between Cain's birth and her begetting his brother Abel, or a given time period between the births, these sons were in all likelihood twins; much like Jacob and Esau (Cp. Genesis 25: 21-27). Jacob and Esau started struggling in the womb as well as throughout life; albeit with their parents playing favorites [Isaac loved Esau and Rachel loved Jacob]. Abel seemed destined to have a short life because his very name refers to that of a temporary and not a lasting nature or existence, whereas his brother Cain has a name that connotes something more enduring or lasting.
Genesis 4: 3-5
And in the course of time [at the set/appointed time] Cain brought an offering to the LORD from the fruit of the ground [First fruits??]; and Abel, for his part, brought the choicest of the firstlings and the fat thereof [Sin offering??] of his flock. The LORD accepted Abel and his offering but to Cain and his offering he paid no heed. Cain was very much distressed (angry) and his countenance fell.
Leviticus 1: 2, 3b
"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When any one of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of livestock-of the herd and of the flock. He shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.
NOTE: Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the First Family could not have face to face communion and fellowship with God like they had in the Garden, and because of God's holiness one can only approach Him through substitutionary blood sacrifices and offerings; which appears to be the case here. It is possible that in Genesis 4: 7b, that what is being talked about of a sin offering lying at the door [of the tent/tabernacle??] is perhaps a primitive tent where sacrifices were offered and the "Shekhinah" [God] descended and talked with these brothers. Since God's nature is like that of a consuming fire, the sin offering would not be for any particular trespass as such but as protection and sanctification to allow Cain or Able to draw near to God [referenced from Mark Blitz, Pastor of ElShaddai Ministries-US]. Technically though, Abel is the first person to shed blood in the Bible because he offered up to God the firstlings of his flock and the fat portions thereof (Cp. Genesis 4: 4: Leviticus 4: 32-37). And how can one determine if this sacrifice was a lamb? (Cp. Revelation 13: 8)
Genesis 4: 8
And Cain had words with Abel his brother, and when they were in the field, Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him.
NOTE: Unlike Esau who wanted to kill his twin brother (Cp. Genesis 27: 41-45), but he later relented, Cain perhaps through some kind of struggle with his brother Abel, kills him. It is not known what precipitated this act and was Cain really angry at his brother Abel or at God? Did Cain even bother to bury his brother or leave his body for the vultures; and most curiously, where was Adam and Eve when all this was about to transpire? Talk about AWOL parents!!
Genesis 4: 12-14a, 15
[God said] "If you till the soil, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. You shall become a ceaseless wandered on earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment [iniquity or guilt??] is too great to bear! Since you have banished me this day from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on earth." Cain left the presence ["Shekhinah"] of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod [Heb. Wandering], east of Eden.
NOTE: God's punishment was that the soil would not produce for Adam either (Cp. Genesis 4: 17-18).
Genesis 4: 17-22
Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch [Heb. dedicated]. And he (Cain) founded a city, and named the city after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad [Heb. fleet], and Irad begot Mehujael [Heb. smitten by God], and Mehujael begot Methusael [Heb. man of God], and Methusael begot Lamech [Heb. powerful]. Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah [Heb. ornament, beauty], and the name of the other was Zillah [Heb. shade]. Adah bore Jabal [Heb. stream]; he was the ancestor of those who dwell in tents and amidst herds. And the name of his brother was Jubal [Heb. music]; he was the ancestor of all who play the lyre and pipe (flute). As for Zillah, she bore Tubal-cain, who forged all implements of copper [brass] and iron. And the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah [Heb. loveliness].
COMMENTARY: An alternative reading of this part of the Genesis story is that mysterious 'mark' of Cain just might be the precursor to the beginning of civilization and cultural advancement, and it is this painful bit of primordial pre-history that we would like to erase from our collective consciousness. It is that bitter acceptance in which human technological progress is all attributable to the legacy of Cain; of which we are the benefactors and inheritors. Thankfully, the author of Genesis left this part in as a reminder that addresses the dilemma of our seemingly instinctive "Darwinian" struggle of self-preservation to adapt and survive at all costs, as opposed to merely becoming extinct. It is savage, primal, ruthless, amoral, unapologetic, and yet within all of us there is also that 'spark' of the divine. However, it may be more palatable to extricate Cain from us in favor of the Abel/Seth genealogy, but to do so would deny that part of us that makes us completely whole.
Remember, in-spite of the terrible price that Cain paid in killing his brother and being cursed by God, yet he is the ultimate survivor. He is banished from his homeland, his parents are nowhere to be found, and he enters a strange and likely inhospitable country where he is unknown and has to struggle and find another way to make a living and take care of himself; but that's not the end of the story but rather, just a new beginning. Whatever Cain might have been in the past, he gets married and starts a family. Not only that, but instead of simply tilling the ground as formerly, he does something even greater, such as building a city. From his descendants in the Mesopotamian basin or Mediterranean region, the world progresses from a more primitive development to some of its more advanced stages. Moreover, this is much earlier than the post-Apocalyptic world of the "Flood" in which Nimrod brings about another civilizing campaign through empire building (Cp. Genesis 10: 8-12).
Curiously, Seth's descendants, as listed in Genesis 5: 1-28, in which the names of Enosh [Enos], Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared [Yared], Enoch, Methusaleh, and Lamech are mentioned, seems borrowed from or derivative of the 5 names of Cain's line (Cp. Genesis 4: 17-22), such as: Enoch, Irad [Jared/Irad], Methujael [Mahalalel??], Methusael [Methusaleh], and Lamech. There is no mention of how long Cain's descendants lived or if they had sons and daughters; which in all likelihood they undoubtedly did as well as Cain, too. This fragment may very well be all that remains of Cain's side of the Genesis account and it is unfortunate because one can only wonder what else might have been written; Talk about revisionist history! Not only that, but the entire story could be an allegory just like when the Apostle Paul (Rav Shaul) wrote about the covenants, Sarah and Hagar and Mount Sinai; as in the following:
Galatians 4: 22-26:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are an allegory (symbolic; i.e.-not real or it literally means something else). For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar- for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children- but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Whatever the case may be, figuratively or literally, Cain's "mark" is stamped upon all of the 6 billion or so of us living at the present time on planet Earth (Cp. Ecclesiastes 7: 20; Romans 3: 23), and it is written upon our very DNA, like it or not. The record of Human history on planet Earth is mostly one of violence, bloodshed, cruelty, warfare, and in some cases, unspeakable atrocities; yet, in spite of this sad chapter, we must decide whether or not we are going to be our "brother's keeper" and to accept the [sin/peace??] offering of grace that has been provided by God at the door to our heart, "That it may be well with us [Humanity]," or will we instead, rise up and [continue to] kill our brother [family member, neighbor, stranger, etc.]? The choice is ours, and ours alone to make; which will it be?
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March 28, 2010
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