This is an old story, and the truth is, it isn’t really mine. It was written long before I walked this earth: the tale of two brothers. The first brothers.
Their names were Cain and Abel.
These two had a lot in common. They had the same parents, the same surroundings, the same stories before bed, the same food. There was no one else on earth to influence them. So how did they turn out so differently? How do two brothers, half of the world’s population, become the first victim and murderer?
Free will. That’s it. God let them choose who they wanted to be.
Sometimes I wish there were no such thing as evil in this world. I wish we were inherently good. But if we didn’t have the choice to do evil, where would the glory be in that? We would be a bunch of robots.
Let me put it this way: if you were able to create life, would you want it to obey your every whim and desire? Probably. But would you want it to obey because it had no choice, or because it wanted to? And how could it want to unless there was something else for it to want?
Another point: wouldn’t you want what’s best for it? You would tell it, “Stay away from fire, that will hurt.” What would you think if it turned around and stuck its hand into the fire because it didn’t want to be hampered by your rules?
Alright, enough with the ______ology. Back to the story.
Cain and Abel were the first sons of Adam and Eve. Daughters aren’t mentioned, but there must have been at least one, because Cain had a wife. Yeah, I know. Incest and all that. Since God created Adam and Eve, their genes were perfect. It was only through several generations that genes became warped and twisted, and then God outlawed marriage between family members.
I’m going to assume that you already know the tale of Adam and Eve, so I won’t recount all the details. Here is their story in short order: God created Adam and Eve in a garden. There was only one rule: not to eat from the one tree in the middle of the garden. God’s enemy, Satan, used a serpent to convince Eve to eat the fruit anyways, she did, she convinced Adam, he did, and God kicked them out of the garden.
They learned how to tend for plants and grow their own food, which Cain excelled at. I can imagine him at a young age, picking up on patterns in the plant life around him. He would have learned which plants do better in the shade or in full sun, which ones needed more water, and when to expect fruit.
Abel took after a different trait: animals. The Bible says he kept sheep. But why? In those days, people were vegetarians. I don’t know how they got their vitamin B12; I suppose before pollution there may have been something in the air or the water. Did they drink the milk? That is a possibility. Or did they use the wool to make clothing?
I know, you’re thinking that weaving might be a little complex for first and second generation humans. But it’s not like they were less intelligent than us; probably more so. There was nowhere to buy food or clothing or services of any kind. They had to do everything themselves, and that sounds like a lot of brainwork. And, come on, what else did they have to do? Food and clothing. Shelter, maybe; it didn’t rain then yet. They had no work to get to, no friends to see, no TV to watch, and no social media to check.
They must have gotten settled into routines, and routines leave room for thought. I wonder which one of the brothers came up with the idea of offering a sacrifice to God. Which one of them thought “I should show God my thanks that He hasn’t killed me yet, even though I’m not fulfilling what He created me to be.”
If you’re still thinking that God was harsh on them, think back to your days with lego. If something didn’t turn out, what did you do? Break it up and build it again. You didn’t have pity on the thing that didn’t work the way it was supposed to. What about baking? If you followed the instructions but the cake still flopped and you don’t know why, you’d throw it out instead of serving it to guests. Alright, those examples weren’t the best, but what about those dandelions growing on your yard? They have every right to be there, and they’ve grown so hard and blossomed so beautifully. But you get out the can of weed spray and kill them. Why? Because you’re the boss. You get to make the rules in your yard. Well, God is kinda like that, only the world is His yard, His cake, His lego.
Based on the outcome of the story, I’m going to say it was Abel who decided he wanted to sacrifice to God. Cain seems to be more of the fellow who thought he had done pretty well but he figured he’d give God a little something anyways.
Cain took the best fruit he had. Vegetables, too, probably. I’ve seen artist’s illustrations, and I’m imagining grapes, peaches, figs, tomatoes, oranges, peppers, lemons, cucumbers, mangos, pears, maybe a couple pumpkins and watermelons. I don’t know if he went that big. But he knew God existed and was to be reverenced; I’m sure his parents convinced him of that much.
Abel took a lamb. A beautiful, healthy lamb. A token of the blood that was shed in his place.
God accepted Abel’s offering. There’s a lot in that word, accepted. He accepted the offering, and He accepted him.
God did not accept Cain’s offering. What was fruit? It was a show of self-sufficiency. It was a parade instead of admission of guilt.
Cain got angry. This was the best he had to offer, and if God didn’t want it, fine! God tried explaining it to him, and offered him another chance. Cain chose to refuse it.
Later on, Cain and Abel were in the fields, talking. They were probably going over how their sacrifices had gone. I can imagine Cain being quiet and sullen, but Abel going on and on about how God had accepted his sacrifice.
Then he snapped.
I don’t know how he did it; if he hit him over the head with a rock, or if he threw him to the ground and throttled him, or if he pushed him over a cliff. I know one thing: Cain killed his brother.
I wonder what his reaction was. Had he seen death before, even of an animal? Did he feel satisfied for a moment, rejoicing that he’d never have to hear his brother’s annoying voice again? When that moment passed, what did he begin to think? What horror, what pain, what guilt must have clawed its way up his throat.
He couldn’t stay where he was. He left the body, probably went back to his fields, maybe did some late weeding, trying to figure out what he would do next. Then the voice came. God asked him where his brother was.
He avoided the question. “My brother? Why should I know where he is?”
God told him plainly that He knew what had happened. “The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.” He cursed him to be a vagabond and a fugitive the rest of his life. Also, nothing would grow well for him anymore.
That last curse would have been tougher for Cain than for anyone else. Not only did he have to leave his family, but plants would not yield their best for him. That impacted survival as well as everything he had learned and cared about his whole life till then.
But God spared his life. He still offered Cain a chance to redeem himself.
Did he? I don’t know. It’s not recorded. But he was offered the choice, just like we are today.
God gave his own son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us. We’ve done wrong and He’d be perfectly justified to wipe us all off planet earth and start over. But He doesn’t. Instead, He offers us a choice. Will you accept His offer?