2 October 2017

Genesis 4:1-16

"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' He said, 'I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?'" (v. 9)

Psalm: Psalm 93


The explanation of human life and its interaction with the natural world around continues in this passage. It shows how important in the Middle East was the distinction between animal-herders and crop-growers - an importance and, an animosity which continues even into some areas of our contemporary world - this conflict still continues in parts of East and West Africa.

Both Cain and Abel as young men make a thanks offering to God - Abel, the firstborn of his sheep, and Cain, the fruits of ground. God looks favourably on Abel's offering but not on Cain's. This is all very puzzling. How did they know that one offering was happily accepted and the other was not? No explanation is given. All we know is that Cain got very angry about it, so angry that, in a fit of jealousy he killed his brother.

The question for Cain and for us is why, at least from our human perspective and in our human timeframe, God appears to bless some people and not others. And from this story it would appear that God is not interested in the 'why' of it all but only in how Cain or how we cope with the experience.

Two young men left for a walk, only one returns. God asks Cain, "Where is your brother?" Six times in four verses Abel is described as "his brother" or "your brother". This underlines the horrific nature of what Cain had done but reminds us, if we need any reminding in these days of child abuse, that the family is a regular place of violence and abuse.

Cain is unrepentant in his response to God - 'I look after the ground not after my brother, you are the one who is supposed to look after him'. It was a brazen response from Cain. His wrongdoing was far greater than that of his parents. There had been what today we would call a step change in sin.

To Ponder

  • Can you recall times when you have felt marginalised and under-appreciated in contrast with others? What happened? Did you cry out to God about the unfairness of it all? Or did you seethe inwardly?
  • Violence and murder within families is very common. Why do you think this is so? Are we correct to regard this as a more heinous crime/sin because it is within the family?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.