English: Cain kill Abel; the Deluge (from Dvakrat 52 Bibliszke Historie, 1847) in prekmurian language (prekmurščina) Magyar: Káin megöli Ábelt; az Özönvíz (a Dvakrat 52 Bibliszke Historie könyvből, 1847) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
KJV Bible (Photo credit: knowhimonline)
As the Lord Said to Cain when He chose Abel’s Offering: Get that look off your face. Same today was said by Victor Newman, Senior to Victor Newman, Junior.
Young and the Restless – family-company-business box score – February 1, 2013
“And the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why is your face downcast?
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin crouches at
the door. Its desire is to have you, but you must rule over it.’”
Although the Septuagint’s reading is probably based on a Hebrew text of Genesis that is older than both the Masoretic and the Dead Sea Scrolls, in this case the Masoretic and Dead Sea Scrolls seem to have the better reading. The meaning of the Septuagint’s admonition, “Be still — to you shall be his submission, and you shall rule over him,” is not at all obvious. Who shall submit to Cain? Over whom shall Cain rule? Perhaps we should understand “him” as a reference to Abel. Was God saying that if Cain controlled his anger and repented, God would favor him above Abel? That interpretation is possible, even if the meaning of the text is unclear. In comparison, the Masoretic/Dead Sea Scrolls reading presents no such interpretive difficulties, and in fact shows a sublime moral theology, exhibiting the drama of the inner struggle against temptation and the inclination toward sin that we all experience, and portraying sin as a deadly beast lying in wait to pounce on us and devour us.
In any case, whatever reading of Gen. 4:6-7 is the correct one, we may conclude that this scripture passage indicates that Cain’s offering was displeasing to God because his heart was not right with God. As St. John said, “his own works were evil.”
Cain’s offering in Jewish legend
The stories of Cain and his family were embellished and interpreted in the various ancient Jewish legends that are recorded in such sources as the pre-Christian apocryphal Book of Jubilees (circa 100 B.C.), the so-called books of Adam and Eve (three pre-Christian apocryphal works that were redacted and rewritten by Christian editors), the historical writings of Flavius Josephus (circa 90 A.D.), and the medieval collection of Jewish midrash known as the Sepher ha-Yashar (Book of Jasher, circa 1200 A.D.).
Of these legendary sources, the Book of Jubilees has the least to say about Cain and his family, with the books of Adam and Eve and the Book of Jasher offering the most embellishments. Regarding Cain’s offering, the Book of Jubilees says only that “in the first (year) of the third jubilee, Cain slew Abel because (God) accepted the sacrifice of Abel, and did not accept the offering of Cain.” (Jubilees 4:2) Thus, the author of Jubilees mentions the fact that God did not accept Cain’s offering, but does not venture to explain why Cain’s offering was displeasing to God — unless, that is, there is any significance to the use of the word “sacrifice” for Abel’s gifts as opposed to the use of the word “offering” for Cain’s gifts.
Two of the three books of Adam and Eve, the Life of Adam and Eve and the erroneously-named Apocalypse of Moses, are very similar to each other, because the Apocalypse is in fact an embellished and redacted version of the Life. Neither of those books mentions the episode of Cain and Abel‘s offerings, nor do they provide an explanation for Cain’s murder of Abel. However, the third book of Adam and Eve – traditionally divided into ”First” and “Second” Adam and Eve, and sometimes known as The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan — not only tells the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings with much added detail that is neither found in nor would be suspected from the biblical narrative, but it goes so far as to introduce an entirely different motive for Cain’s murder of Abel. In The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan, God’s disapproval of Cain’s offering plays a comparatively minor role in the events leading up to Abel’s murder. Instead, this legend says that Cain, who from an early age began to display a character that was proud, hard-hearted, impious, and violent (I Adam and Eve 76:1-2), was moved to do away with pious and godly Abel because Cain wanted to marry his sister Luluwa, whom Adam and Eve intended Abel to marry (I Adam and Eve 76:10-12; 78:1-12). Upon learning from Satan about his parents’ plans for Luluwa and Abel, Cain confronted his mother in anger:
“. . . he went to Eve, his mother, and beat her, and cursed her, and said to her,
‘Why are you planning to take my sister to wed her to my brother? Am I dead?’
His mother, however, quieted him, and sent him to the field where he had been.
Then when Adam came, she told him of what Cain had done. But Adam grieved
and held his peace, and said not a word. Then on the next morning Adam said to
Cain his son, ‘Take of your sheep, young and good, and offer them up to your
God; and I will speak to your brother, to make to his God an offering of corn.’
They both obeyed their father Adam, and they took their offerings, and offered
them up on the mountain by the altar.” (I Adam and Eve 78:12-17)
It is remarkable that in this legend the offerings of Cain and Abel have been reversed. Contrary to what the Scriptures say, in this tale it is Cain who offers animal sacrifices and Abel who offers grains and vegetables. It is possible that this alteration reflects a bowdlerisation of the biblical narrative by an Encratic Christian heretic who rejected the killing and eating of animals, perhaps due to a “Manichaean” rejection of created matter. The introduction of the motive of Cain’s jealousy over his sister Luluwa also seems to be suggestive of Encratism.
Continuing with this greatly embellished account of Cain and Abel’s sacrifice, The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan says:
“But Cain behaved haughtily towards his brother, and shoved him from the altar,
and would not let him offer up his gift on the altar; but he offered his own on it,
with a proud heart, full of guile, and fraud. But as for Abel, he set up stones that
were near at hand, and on that, he offered up his gift with a heart humble and free
from guile. Cain was then standing by the altar on which he had offered up his
gift; and he cried to God to accept his offering; but God did not accept it from him;
neither did a divine fire come down to consume his offering. But he remained
standing over against the altar, out of humor and meanness, looking towards his
brother Abel, to see if God would accept his offering or not. And Abel prayed
to God to accept his offering. Then a divine fire came down and consumed his
offering. And God smelled the sweet savor of his offering; because Abel loved
Him and rejoiced in Him. And because God was well pleased with him, He sent
him an angel of light in the figure of a man who had partaken of his offering,
because He had smelled the sweet savor of his offering, and they comforted Abel
and strengthened his heart. But Cain was looking on all that took place at his
brother’s offering, and was angry because of it. Then he opened his mouth and
blasphemed God, because He had not accepted his offering. But God said to
Cain, ‘Why do you look sad? Be righteous, that I may accept your offering. Not
against Me have you murmured, but against yourself.’ And God said this to Cain
in rebuke, and because He abhorred him and his offering. And Cain came down
from the altar, his color changed and with a sad face, and came to his father and
mother and told them all that had befallen him. And Adam grieved much because
God had not accepted Cain’s offering.” (I Adam and Eve 78:18-28)
In this retelling of the story of the offerings of Cain and Abel, there can be no doubt about the reason God did not accept Cain’s offering. In fact, the drama of this episode almost seems anticlimactic, since the author had already gone to such lengths to establish Cain’s wickedness and impiety. Even prior to this episode, the author had explained that Cain never liked offering sacrifices, and that God therefore did not accept Cain’s sacrifices (I Adam and Eve 77:7-8). The way the author told this story, there could be no question that God could never accept such a sacrifice as Cain offered.
As mentioned above, the legends found in the books of Adam and Eve were Jewish in origin (several of the same legends that appear in these books are also mentioned in ancient Jewish rabbinical writings), but the books themselves are Christian writings. When it comes to specifically Jewish interpretations or embellishments of the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings, it is the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria and the Jewish priest and historian Josephus who provide us with the earliest known Jewish interpretations of this episode. To Philo, Cain is the type of covetousness, folly, and impiety, and in a treatise on the sacrifices of Abel and Cain, Philo identifies Cain as the type of self-love (cf. “the way of Cain” in Jude 10-13). Josephus presents Cain as suffering from those same moral flaws:
“Adam and Eve had two sons. The elder of them was named Cain, which name,
when it is interpreted, signifies a possession; the younger was Abel, which signifies
sorrow. They had also daughters. Now, the two brethren were pleased with
different courses of life; for Abel, the younger, was a lover of righteousness, and,
believing that God was present at all his actions, he excelled in virtue, and his
employment was that of a shepherd. But Cain was not only very wicked in other
respects, but was wholly intent upon getting, and he first contrived to plough the
ground. He slew his brother on the occasion following: — They had resolved to
sacrifice to God. Now Cain brought the fruits of the earth, and of his husbandry;
but Abel brought milk, and the first-fruits of his flocks; but God was more delighted
with the latter oblation, when he was honoured with what grew naturally of its own
accord, than he was with what was the invention of a covetous man, and gotten
by forcing the ground; whence it was that Cain was very angry that Abel was
preferred by God before him; . . . .” (Antiquities of the Jews, I, II, 1)
In this account, Josephus examines the occupations of Cain and Abel to find clues to their respective characters. According to Josephus, Cain’s decision to become a farmer is associated with a covetous, domineering and controlling nature, while Abel’s decision to become a shepherd is linked to his righteousness and virtue. Because Abel believed that God is omnipresent, he chose an occupation in which he tended and guarded God’s creation, but because Cain did not believe as his brother, but was a covetous man, he exploited the earth and “forced” the ground. For that reason — not because farming is a sinful line of work, nor because God does not accept vegetable offerings, but because of Cain’s wicked motives in becoming a farmer — God did not accept Cain’s offering of vegetables and grain.
In contrast, the Book of Jasher tells the story of the birth of Cain and Abel and their offerings in this way:
“And the Lord God drove them that day from the garden of Eden, to till the
ground from which they were taken, and they went and dwelt at the east of
the garden of Eden; and Adam knew his wife Eve and she bore two sons and
three daughters. And she called the name of the first born Cain, saying, ‘I have
obtained a man from the Lord,’ and the name of the other she called Abel, for
she said, ‘In vanity we came into the earth, and in vanity we shall be taken from
it.’ And the boys grew up and their father gave them a possession in the land;
and Cain was a tiller of the ground, and Abel a keeper of sheep. And it was at
the expiration of a few years, that they brought an approximating offering to the
Lord, and Cain brought from the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought from the
firstlings of his flock from the fat thereof, and God turned and inclined to Abel
and his offering, and a fire came down from the Lord from heaven and consumed
it. And unto Cain and his offering the Lord did not turn, and he did not incline to
it, for he had brought from the inferior fruit of the ground before the Lord, and
Cain was jealous against his brother Abel on account of this, and he sought a
pretext to slay him.” (Jasher 1:12-16)
In accordance with the speculation of other writers, this midrash says that God made known His acceptance of Abel’s offering by sending fire from heaven to consume it. However, Cain’s offering was not accepted by God, because it was “the inferior fruit of the ground.” Apparently that means not that God likes animal sacrifices better than vegetable offerings, but that, as the Septuagint says and even the Masoretic text suggests, Cain was not careful to bring God the best of the harvest. The consensus of ancient Jewish and Christian tradition, then, is that Cain’s offering was unacceptable either because it was not the best of the harvest, or because Cain had a selfish and covetous heart, or both. God was not first in Cain’s life, and that became evident in the way he offered his sacrifice.
Chapter II: The murder of Abel
Despite God’s admonition, Cain did not repent. Rather, he nursed his anger and jealousy, and sought an opportunity to “get even” with his brother.
“Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ It came to pass while
they were in the field that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.
The LORD God said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not
know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The LORD said, ‘What have you done?
The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me out of the ground.’” (Gen. 4:8-10)
It should be mentioned that both the Masoretic text and the Dead Sea Scrolls have a defective reading in Gen. 4:8. In agreement with the ancient Targumim, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Aramaic Peshitta, the Greek Septuagint says, “And Cain said to Abel his brother, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And it came to pass while they were in the field . . . .” But the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Hebrew scrolls from Qumran say, “And Cain said to Abel his brother. And it came to pass while they were in the field . . . .” Perhaps while an ancient scribe was copying this text, his eyes strayed from the first “field” to the second “field,” causing the accidental deletion of what Cain said to Abel. Because the Hebrew texts are lacking the words “Let us go out to the field,” English translations usually render the Hebrew words for “Cain said to Abel his brother” as, “Cain spoke to Abel his brother” or “Cain told Abel his brother.”
Notwithstanding that mistake in the Masoretic and the Qumran texts, all manuscripts agree that, given a chance to resist temptation, Cain chose to indulge his basest desires. As it says in the Book of Wisdom in reference to Cain’s murder of Abel, “But when the unjust man withdrew from [wisdom] in his anger, he perished through his fratricidal wrath” (Wisdom 10:3). Then, having committed murder, God gave him a chance to confess his sin, but Cain lied to God and pretended not to know where Abel was or what had become of him. Cain’s attempt to mislead or misdirect the omniscient and omnipresent God is a further indication of his lack of faith. As Josephus suggested, Cain apparently did not believe that God was present at all his actions — and so the first baby ever born became the world’s first murderer.
The enormity of the crime of murder is expressed in God’s declaration that Abel’s blood was crying to God — but not crying for mercy and forgiveness for Cain, but for justice, for vengeance (Heb. 12:24). Beginning with the story of Abel’s murder, the Scriptures continually teach the need for severe justice and reparations to atone for the shedding of the blood of the innocent. In the Gospels, Jesus identified Abel’s murder as the first in a long, bloody roll of martyrdoms, the wicked rising up against the righteous and shedding their blood. After issuing a sharp and stinging indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus pronounced a dire threat of punishment on them:
“Therefore, behold, I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, and some of
them you shall kill and crucify, and some of them you shall beat in your synagogues,
and persecute them from city to city, so that all the righteous blood shed upon the
earth may come upon you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of
Zechariah son of Berechiah, whom you slew between the Temple and the altar.
Amen, I say to you, all these things shall come upon this people.” (Matt. 23:34-36)
The ancient Jewish sages taught that taking a life is like destroying a whole world, and that saving a life is like saving a whole world. But Christ’s teaching goes much further than that, for He showed that persecuting and killing the righteous effectively makes one a participant in the persecution and martyrdom of all the innocents and saints who have ever suffered and died at the hands of the unrighteous.
Ian Andrew Schneider
Family, Company Business