The First Brothers: Cain and Abel

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“Last week, Adam and Eve learned right from wrong by eating a magical fruit that they’d been told not to eat. God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden. Now, they use their newfound knowledge to reproduce!”

“But Shirlee,” Mark asked, “If they only learned right from wrong, what does that have to do with sex?”

Reproduction, Mark. Not everyone in this class is as . . . advanced as you.” Shirlee glanced about the room, seeing understanding on Mark, John, and Ginny’s faces, and the usual blank stares from everyone else. She really didn’t want to be answering questions about sex for the Dullards.

“OK, so how did they learn about reproduction?”

“Reproduction, in the context of a God-sanctioned marriage, is a good thing. So that’s how they came to know of it as a result of eating the fruit.”

“But there’s nothing about them being married in the Bible, Shirlee!” Ginny looked distressed. “Were Cain and Abel bas- . . . Um, illegitimate?”

“That’s true. God hadn’t invented marriage yet. But God had told them to multiply, and since whatever God says to do is by definition ‘right’, it was obviously right for them to consider themselves married and to reproduce.”

First, Adam and Eve had Cain. Then another son, Abel.

The children grew quickly, being born and catapulted into adulthood in the space of the first two verses of Genesis 4. Abel established himself as a shepherd, while Cain went into farming. (Genesis 4:1-2)

God Says: Meat Good, Grain Bad!

One year, each brother brought to the Lord an offering of his labors. Cain brought “of the fruit of the ground”, and Abel brought the firstborn of his flock to slaughter.

The Lord was pleased with Abel’s offering, but turned up His nose at Cain’s “fruity” sacrifice. This made Cain angry, and he had a long face.

God asked Cain why he was upset . . . after all, “if you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, [it shows that] sin is at your door!”

“That’s kinda rude, Shirlee.”

“What do you mean, John? God likes animal sacrifices, not grain and fruit. Cain was rude, not asking God what sort of sacrifices He wanted!”

“But Cain worked really hard. My parents have a garden, and I know how much work it is. God should have been polite and said thank you.”

“Yeah,” Ginny agreed. “My mother says I have to say thank you when I get a gift, even if I don’t like it. So why shouldn’t God do the same?”

Shirlee peered over her reading glasses and down her long nose at Ginny. “God makes the rules, Ginny. He doesn’t have to follow them! Surely you don’t think people should tell God what to do, right?”

“Well, no, but . . .”

“So there you go. If God doesn’t like an offering, He doesn’t have to send a thank-you note. And He didn’t, and He let Cain know.”

Mark wasn’t accepting that response. “But Shirlee, think back when you were a girl. How would you feel if you and your brother or sister worked equally hard at the things you did to make presents for your mommy, and she really loved your sister’s macaroni-and-glitter portrait of her, but ignored the reproduction Ming Dynasty vase you’d so carefully crafted?”

“Again, Mark, we’re talking about God, not . . . my mother.” Shirlee sighed, remembering the popsicle-stick Nativity scene her mother had used for kindling one Christmas Eve.

Jerking herself back to the present, Shirlee snapped, “Now, if God doesn’t like what you do, He will resurrect you from the dead and burn you alive in His Lake of Fire forever! So I think His not giving Cain a big hug and a kiss for a basket of fruit is pretty mild punishment for displeasing our Creator, don’t you?”

Mark, surprised at Shirlee’s outburst, was speechless.


“What is it now, John? No, God has never sent me a thank-you note.”

“Very funny. It’s just that you said in Genesis 1 that God made all the animals vegetarians so there’d be no violence in the world. But here Abel is tending sheep and killing them to burn for God. So does that mean that Adam and Eve were eating meat?”

“And isn’t that violent?” added Ginny.

“It would seem that once they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, they started eating meat. The Bible doesn’t really say. I guess vegetarianism lasted in Adam and Eve about as long as it does in high schoolers!” Shirlee was pleased with her joke, and even more pleased that it got a laugh.

Jealousy Introduced by God's Insensitivity

Cain and Abel were out in the field one day, not long after (or so we assume), and Cain killed Abel. God asked Cain where his brother was. (Maybe He wanted some more burning fat? The Bible is silent on the matter.) Cain replied, “I don’t know . . . What am I, my brother’s keeper?”

God told Cain that the voice of Abel’s blood cried to Him from the ground — proving God knew the answer to the question before posing it, being all-knowing — and laid a curse on Cain.

Cain would no longer be able to grow plants as he had; rather, the soil would not give him its strength, and Cain would be a fugitive for ever.

Cain was very scared. He said he couldn’t take that punishment, and that others would hunt him down and kill him!

“What others?” asked Ginny. “His parents? There was only Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, and Cain had killed Abel.”

“Ginny, you’re forgetting our key point about Adam and Eve being the first Jews. God made all sorts of people in Genesis 1, but Adam and Eve He made in Genesis 2. They were special.”

Mark piped up. “Shirlee, I seem to remember Adam being the only one special. Didn’t God set him off trying to mate with all the other animals before making him a rib-woman?”

“Mark! The Bible says nothing about Adam trying to mate with sheep or wolves or bonobos! It says he needed an assistant!”

“And what did Eve assist him with? Having children.”

Shirlee was enraged at the suggestion that Adam had turned the Garden of Eden into a bestiality sex club. “Do you need a time out?” Shirlee strode across the room and snatched open the door . . . to the supply closet. “Do you need some time to reflect and consider God’s glory in private, Mark? Without distractions?”

Mark had to think about it for a moment. Stand in a dark closet, or keep listening to this story. Hmmm.


“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” Mark rubbed his chin. “Well, it’s probably even colder in that closet, and I’m pretty sure I saw something moving in there, so I’ll pass on the time out and listen to the story.”

Shirlee glanced into the open closet door, catching a flicker of movement from the corner of her eye and hearing a faint rustle. What was that?

“It was probably just a mouse,” Shirlee said, sounding a bit uncertain as she closed the closet door. “You know how these old buildings are.” About to walk away, she turned back and gave the knob a tug to be sure it latched. Really should put a lock on that door, she thought. Don’t want anyone getting . . . in.

“It’d probably crawl up your pants, Mark,” whispered John.

“Very funny,” Mark replied, turning pale at the thought of being locked in the closet with what he didn’t think was a mouse. “Stop interrupting Shirlee, she has a story to tell us.”

God, not willing to undo His curse, added another curse atop the first. God decreed that anyone who would slay Cain would receive vengeance sevenfold upon himself. He marked Cain so everybody would know not to kill him.

“Does that mean that someone killing Cain would be killed seven times? I mean, how do you multiply ‘slaying’ by seven?” Ginny looked genuinely confused.

“Maybe God meant it’d be a much worse death,” offered Mark.

Shirlee paused, waiting for the punchline. When none was forthcoming, she spoke. “Thank you, Mark. That was very insightful.”

Mark must be terrified of mice, or maybe the dark, thought Shirlee. Good to know.

So, Cain left the presence of God and went to the land of Nod, east of Eden. He married and had a son named Enoch.

“Wait, land of Nod? Married who?”

“Ginny, we just talked about this. All those other people that God created in Genesis 1.”

“Oh, right.” Ginny looked embarrassed. “I guess I got thinking about the mouse. It’s probably cold and hungry.”

“Like Cain,” added John.

Mark and Shirlee exchanged an uncomfortable glance. “Yes,” Shirlee said, “Probably cold and hungry. So, speaking of hunger, we have a few minutes left before services end so here’s a question for you: How does God feel about vegans? Does He respect them? Does He prefer a nice tossed salad, or some fresh sheep fat?”

John raised his hand. “God made everyone vegetarian at first, but only while they were in Eden. After that, He even wanted them to kill animals for Him. And He was rude to Cain for bringing him grains and fruits. So He must hate vegans.”

“Excellent, John! Maybe ‘hate’ is a strong word, but they sure aren’t His favorite! And we all want to be favorites of God, right? So we don’t go to Hell!”

“Or to the closet,” added John, laughing.

“Shut up,” warned Mark.

CLANG! The cracked bell sounded the end of service. Shirlee looked out the window as the local adults began to shuffle out of the sanctuary. “All right, I’ll see you next week!”

Shirlee would have to talk to Pastor about putting a lock on that closet door. The overhead projector was in there, yes, that’d be a good reason. Someone could come in and steal it during the week.

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