Why did Cain murder Abel?

RublevRublev Shipmate
edited March 23 in Kerygmania
genesis4:1-8

Cain and Abel were the participants in the first murder in the Bible.

But why did God reject Cain's offering in the first place?

And why did Cain murder Abel?

Comments

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Territory.
  • It's a funny story. Like Adam thinking he can hide from God (who for some reason has to call out to him to find him, perhaps for dramatic effect) Cain thinks he can lie to God.
    It seems that Cain murdered his brother out of anger at God's response to their offerings.

    Perhaps it's an early story with a theme that is repeated in the Oklahoma musical song The Farmer and The Cowman.

    What is more significant to me is that the punishment by God is less than we might imagine and that to kill (execute) Cain will return sevenfold vengeance, whatever that might be. And we may see an allusion to this in Peter's suggestion that we forgive someone who sins seven times.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    I have now got Oklahoma on the brain. That song would be a really creative way to discuss this text in a sermon. And afterwards the congregation could all join in with the chorus.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Exactly it LatchKeyKid: "The author Daniel Quinn, first in his book "Ishmael" and later in "The Story of B", proposes that the story of Cain and Abel is an account of early Semitic herdsmen observing the beginnings of what he calls totalitarian agriculture, with Cain representing the first 'modern' agriculturists and Abel the pastoralists.".
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    The account in Genesis says that Abel brought the best of the proceeds of his work. Cain brought some of the proceeds of his work. God was pleased with the best, but not with "some".
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Moo wrote: »
    The account in Genesis says that Abel brought the best of the proceeds of his work. Cain brought some of the proceeds of his work. God was pleased with the best, but not with "some".
    AIUI, the text said that Abel brought the first of the proceeds of his work. It is not clear to me at least that that is equivalent to the best. We like the idea that we can reduce God's responses to a formula (indeed, much of religion is built on that rock), but it is not clear to me that God is that predictable.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Do you think this story is an example of the mystery of God's election - 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy' ?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    tclune wrote: »
    Moo wrote: »
    The account in Genesis says that Abel brought the best of the proceeds of his work. Cain brought some of the proceeds of his work. God was pleased with the best, but not with "some".
    AIUI, the text said that Abel brought the first of the proceeds of his work. It is not clear to me at least that that is equivalent to the best. We like the idea that we can reduce God's responses to a formula (indeed, much of religion is built on that rock), but it is not clear to me that God is that predictable.

    But 'He' is. That is consistent throughout the Bible. 'He' claims all firstborn one way or the other. Refuse Him and He kills them. One way or another. The parenthesis is not about maleness, it's about the fact that this is how we make Him up.
  • tclunetclune Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    Do you think this story is an example of the mystery of God's election - 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy' ?
    While I am personally an Arminian, this passage -- like a depressingly large number of passages of scripture -- reads most naturally as something very much along those lines, at least to my ears.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    Do you think this story is an example of the mystery of God's election - 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy' ?

    No.

    It's about having no restraint in worshipping, honouring, sacrificing for God.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    They are both very good answers to the question. Can they both be theologically reconciled?

    I have read interpretations of the sacrifices of Cain and Abel which suggest that Abel gave of his best indicating his passion in worship whereas Cain gave an ordinary gift reflecting his indifference to worship. That's one side of the coin.

    The other is the rather horrible doctrine of election which does seem to crop up in the Bible. There is also the parallel story of Esau and Jacob. But there is also the indication that Esau had contempt for the true value of his birthright.

    Perhaps Cain and Esau were both lacking in a sense of true spiritual priorities and that explains why they forfeited their favoured position as the firstborn to their younger brothers who showed a greater sense of understanding about what it is that the Lord truly values.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    There is no need for theological reconciliation.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    You can embrace the meaning of theological paradox? Then you are far advanced in the mysteries of faith. I am just working out my salvation one question at a time. And trying to scoop up the ocean with a spoon.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    Giving the first proceeds is a lot riskier than giving some of your proceeds. Imagine if you go to a new job and you gave your first paycheck to the Lord. Basically, in giving your first proceeds you acknowledge the whole harvest is God's; when you give some of your proceeds then it means you see God as your landlord to whom you owe rent.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Yes, I think that God is attracted to those who radically risk themselves in faith. Abel's wholehearted sacrifice is like the declaration of Ruth. God cannot resist it.

    The early church saw the sacrifices of Abel and Melchizedek as being the OT precursors of Holy Communion. In the C6th Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna you see both scenes in mosaics on the wall of the chancel.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Exactly it LatchKeyKid: "The author Daniel Quinn, first in his book "Ishmael" and later in "The Story of B", proposes that the story of Cain and Abel is an account of early Semitic herdsmen observing the beginnings of what he calls totalitarian agriculture, with Cain representing the first 'modern' agriculturists and Abel the pastoralists.".

    Bertrand Russell in one of his books says more or less the same thing, ie. the story is supposed to exemplify the superiority of pastoralism over agriculture. Though as usual with Russell's commentary on anything besides technical philosophy, I suspect he just popularizing someone else's theory.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Superiority in what evolutionary or any other regard?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    The ancient Israelites were first and foremost herdsmen. That God prefers herdsmen to farmers is perhaps a little bit of chauvinism -- we're better than they are, and here's our story about God to prove it.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    edited March 23
    mousethief wrote: »
    The ancient Israelites were first and foremost herdsmen. That God prefers herdsmen to farmers is perhaps a little bit of chauvinism -- we're better than they are, and here's our story about God to prove it.

    That's probably about it. And to set the stage for the sacrificial system which is high in lambs and doves and low in kale and leeks.

    Of course it also illustrates that one is meant to love one's brother but Cain wasn't Abel...

    It's OK, I can see which coat's mine...
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    KarlLB wrote: »
    That's probably about it. And to set the stage for the sacrificial system which is high in lambs and doves and low in kale and leeks.

    Well there are offerings of wheat, and oil, and I think wine. The "shewbread" wasn't sweetbreads.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    You can embrace the meaning of theological paradox? Then you are far advanced in the mysteries of faith. I am just working out my salvation one question at a time. And trying to scoop up the ocean with a spoon.

    There's no theology going on. Well there is. Purely human constructs. The ways of God are another matter entirely.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    edited March 24
    For what it's worth, you might consider that it was the ground and its fruit that was cursed after the fall, and that from that point on, agriculture plays a role symbolizing human effort (unlike the birth of young lambs, goats, etc. which we can observe and shepherd, but have a much less active role in).

    In a system that is emphasizing God's grace over human works, an offering that symbolizes human work is going to get much shorter shrift than one that symbolizes God's gracious provision.

    I say this as a gardener, so you know I don't have a down on agriculturalists!
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Interesting, Lamb Chopped. The perspective I was thinking of is that killing animals for food is something that came after the Fall; it is not even mentioned until the Noahic Covenant. We're told that in the Paradise to come, the animals will be vegans, and because of that it's likely we will too. They shall not hurt or harm in all my holy mountain, etc.

    It seems like eating animals is a temporary provision that is not what is best in God's eyes.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    The ancient Israelites were first and foremost herdsmen. That God prefers herdsmen to farmers is perhaps a little bit of chauvinism -- we're better than they are, and here's our story about God to prove it.

    Indeed, here it's still an insult to call someone who has a sheep or cattle property a farmer rather than a grazier.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Superiority in what evolutionary or any other regard?

    I'm tempted to reply that the writer's worldview was in no way influenced by the idea of evolution as we commonly use the term today, but then I suspect you'll come back with some other gnomic utterance meant to imply a question like "But what does evolution really mean?", or some such, and I'll be no further ahead in my explanation.

    Anyway, as to what other "regard" it could mean, I'm not an anthropologist, and I have no special insight into why why Old Testament pastoralists would have regarded sheep-herding as superior to farming. I'd guess probably just for the same reasons that people often prefer their own way-of-life over an upstart rival eg. old-school corporate types think that being a lifelong company man is preferable to being a member of the millenials' "gig economy", and vice versa.

    Other than that, some enlightenment may possibly be found in the posts following the one of yours that I am replying to.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    It would seem that Russell, like the Israelites, was harking back to a mythical golden age of pastoralism as other moderns do to yet prior hunter gathering. I would submit that agriculture is more evolved than nomad transhumance.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    It would seem that Russell, like the Israelites, was harking back to a mythical golden age of pastoralism as other moderns do to yet prior hunter gathering. I would submit that agriculture is more evolved than nomad transhumance.

    Russell, as far as I recall, was not expressing his own views on pastoralism vs. agriculture. He was explicating the worldview of the author of Genesis.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Thank you. Then my apologies to Russell and I'm sure he was right.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    John Steinbeck's, "East of Eden," is based on Cain and Abel. I think it's a wonderful novel grappling with several theological questions. In it the two sons of a big successful farmer compete for their (step) father's love and Caleb always feels that the Aron is the favorite. The father, Adam Trask, does see Aron as his good son (which he is) and finds Caleb harder to love, or at least harder to understand.

    During WWI Caleb thinks he's found the way to earn his father's approval, by growing lots of beans to feed the army and making a huge amount of money. He brings this to his father who is furious because to honorable Mr. Adam Trask, this is taking advantage of the country at war and a despicable thing to do. Caleb runs off ashamed and heartbroken.

    ( Just one writer's interpretation.)
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    They don't give Nobels fer nuthin.
  • TwilightTwilight Shipmate
    Oh, I didn't know it won that, Martin! It's been at least 30 years since I read it and now I want to read it again. It would make a good Ship of Fools discussion, I'll bet.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    ^ Just for the record, but "it" didn't win anything, since Nobel Prizes for Literature are given to people, not to any particular work per se. Though obviously certain works of a writer are going to be more influential than others in determining if he gets the prize.

    I think Churchill did get it basically just for that one series of history books he wrote, but the prize was still given in his name, not that of the books.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    One of the meanings of qayin is smith, or metalworker - no doubt peripatetic workers whose craft was seen as semi-magical and who lived and worked outside the tribal system.

    No wonder there was a taboo on molesting them, which is presumably what the mark of Cain is really about.
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