Cain and Abel

Cain

His work: As the first child of Adam and Eve, Cain chose farming as his profession. His character: He failed to be generous and was quick to be defensive and outright violent. His sorrow: Like his father, Adam, Cain discovered God’s severe punishment for his sin. His triumph: In spite of God’s curse on Cain’s livelihood, God also promised to protect the man from his enemies. Key Scriptures: Genesis 4

Abel

His work: Cain’s younger brother, Abel, was the keeper of flocks.
His character: He was willing to offer the best he had to the Lord.
His sorrow: Brutally murdered at the hand of his brother, Cain.
His triumph: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Key Scriptures: Genesis 4

A Look at the Men

How could two brothers turn out so different?

Adam and Eve’s first two children were boys. And, as siblings often do when they grow up, they chose different vocations.

Cain became an agriculturist. Working the soil, planting, and caring for his crops were his greatest delights. Cain’s brother, Abel, became a herdsman. Tending, feeding, and protecting livestock became his occupation. Two good choices.

Both of these men knew God, introduced by parents who must have told them many stories of their own encounters with the Creator. Some of these accounts would have been painful recollections of Adam and Eve’s sin and corresponding punishment. And others would have included God’s mercy and grace—his loving pursuit of his wayward children, their remorse, their sacrifice and restoration to fellowship. The boys must have known these stories very well.

And so Adam and Eve’s sons offered the results of their vocations to the Lord. Cain brought fruits, and his younger brother, Abel, brought animals to offer to God.

When one of Abel’s flocks or herds delivered her firstborn, that animal was earmarked. This one belongs to the Lord, he thought to himself. It’s the most prized and perfect.

But like a man reaching into his pocket for a little loose change to toss into the passing offering plate, Cain only brought “some of the fruits of the soil.” This will have to be good enough, he reasoned. The premier crops he wanted to reserve for himself.

The offering might have been good enough for Cain, but his brother had done better. So like the laggard in school who resented the one who prepared for the test and spoiled the curve, Cain became “very angry.” This was compounded, of course, because the “teacher”—the Lord himself—looked with favor on Abel’s offering but with disfavor on Cain’s.

Cain plotted against his faithful and obedient brother. “Let’s go out to the field,” he told his younger sibling. And there he killed him.

In the moments that followed, Cain heard God pronounce a lifelong sentence on his life. But God also promised his protection on the man. For the remainder of his life, Cain must have wondered why God had not killed him after what he had done to Abel. Instead, his life sentence was to live with the memory of his sin, while never forgetting the mystery—and the bounty—of God’s grace and mercy.

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