Raising Cain

Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD.
Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Genesis 4:1, 2

Not much is told about this First Family. Cain is Eve’s first child. Parents have such high hopes for their first born, and Cain turned out to be a major disappointment. We are left to our imagination to fill in the gaps of his upbringing, but we do know the kind of person he was.

Cain murdered his younger brother Abel. I’ve not thought much about why. The description in Genesis chapter 4 depicts two offerings to the Lord from their respective occupations. God accepted Abel’s, Cain’s is rejected. It might be perceived that the difference was in the offerings themselves. But a careful reading of the verses shows otherwise. I don’t necessarily mean when Cain got angry, though that is certainly telling. But in Cain’s response to God when asked his brother’s whereabouts we find a disturbing attitude.

God asked Cain where Abel was. And his reply “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” reveals all the disdain, disrespect and contempt that Cain held for God. If you were asked by the President of the United States where your brother was would you respond so rudely? In the old days of cast society as in olde England, if a servant was asked something of the lord of the manor he would address him as “your Lordship.” If a king asked his subject a question the reply would include “your majesty,” or there could be quite an unpleasant repercussion. But to reply to God when asked the location of Cain’s brother in a most uncivil, contemptuous manner such as “how should I know” belies the low level of Cain’s relationship to God. It seems a relationship that could not have been more strained.

We aren’t told just why Cain had come to this point in his walk with God. Was it in the genes, or family upbringing? Heredity or environment? Or was it the pressures of society? Surely after the Curse life was difficult at best. We can imagine that with such a disposition to be able to kill one’s own brother that Cain might not have been a cheerful presence around the house. But we aren’t told how he got to this state of grace. We are told that God tried to help Cain understand the danger he was in. “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain chose to reject His advice and continue in his descent to disgrace. Even his response to God’s final judgement of banishment Cain was still wallowing in his self-centered ways, crying that his “punishment is too great to bear!” No remorse, no prayer for forgiveness, no appeal for restoration. And in his choice he accepts the worst that can happen. Complete isolation from God.

Why wouldn’t he let God help him? How he get to the point of such hatred for God I can’t comprehend. But its good to know God’s grace was still offered even in the face of this animosity, just as it has been continually offered from that time even to this day. And I’m glad that some are still finding it and are accepting it and that God never gives up on us.

[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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