CAIN AND ABEL

Created: Wednesday, 15 December 2010 Last Updated: Friday, 07 June 2013

CAIN AND ABEL
The crime against the brother  

 

atlas1. - In the Bible, the world coming out of God´s hands is good (Gn 1 – 2), but from the original God´s project to our own experience a rupture is found: the presence of the evil. It is a constant in human history, which is reflected by the initial chapters of the Genesis (from 3 to 11): the pretension of being “like gods”, the crime against the brother, the corruption of Noe´s contemporary, and the tower of Babel. In principle, these chapters are independent stories, diverse oral and written traditions. Among them it is the story of Cain and Abel (4, 1 – 16). Written in its present draft about century X  b. C., the story presents some problems: Which are they? is it a forgotten story?, is it convenient to recall it?, what do we listen?
2. - “The man had intercourse with Eve his wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a child. She named him Cain and she said: I have got a man with the help from Yahweh. She later gave birth to Abel his brother”. Cain means “lance”, missile. Abel means “blow”, breath; it also evokes the perishable of the existence (Psalm 103). Their jobs are different: “Abel was a shepherd and Cain tilled the soil”. Nothing is mentioned about any conflict among them, for instance, due to the water.
3. - “Some time went by, and Cain brought fruits of the soil as an offering to Yahweh. Abel on his part brought the first born of his flock and some fat as well. Now Yahweh was well pleased with Abel and his offering, but towards Cain and his offering he showed no pleasure. This made Cain very angry and downcast.” Two sacrifices, two cults, two reactions from God. It is said in the Psalm 24: “Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in his holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain, and never swear to a lie”
4. - The problem is to act right or not. It is noted in the face. That who acts right, can go with his face up. That who does not act well, can be dominated by the evil. He is like a beast waiting his chance. The Lord asks Cain: “Why are you angry and downcast? If you do right, why don’t you look up? But if you are not doing what is right, sin is lurking at the door. It is striving to get you, but you must control it”. John Steinbeck’s play, At the East of Eden (1952), contains this crucial message, summed up in the Hebrew word with which it ends, Timshel, “you can control evil”
5. – Cain tells his brother Abel: “Let us go to the field”, and when they were in the field, Cain Turned on his brother and killed him. It is not said how he does it. The Lord goes to him and asks him: “Where is your brother Abel?” He answers: “I don’t know, am I my brother´s keeper? The Lord asks him: “What have you done? Your brother´s blood cries out to me from the ground.” Cain tries to deceive God himself, but Abel’s blood claims to heaven. Human life is sacred. It belongs to God. Jesus says that “the present generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets”, “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” (Lk 11, 51).
6. – It is the judgment of the Lord: “Now be cursed and driven from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother´s blood. When you till the soil, it will no longer yield you its produce. You will be a fugitive wandering on the earth”. The relationship of the criminal with the ground changes deeply. The earth will be inhospitable. He will live like a restless wanderer. The ground is a God´s blessing. To be expulsed from it is a malediction. As it is often said, “he suffered like Cain” (he went through hell)
7. - Then Cain said to the Lord: “My punishment is greater then I can bear. See, you drive me from this land, and I must hide from you and be a wanderer and a fugitive on the earth, and whoever meets me will kill me”. The Lord answered him: “No! Whoever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times”. The Lord put a mark on Cain to prevent anyone who met him from killing him. Cain’s life also belongs to God That who kill him will pay seven times. Here the law of the dessert appears the vengeance of the blood. Nevertheless, the question is obvious: if it is supposed that Adam an Eve have only two children and Abel is dead, who can kill Cain? To begin with, the story is independent and, afterwards, is placed (with some incoherence) in the frame of the first chapters of the Genesis. The universal declaration of human rights (1948) is the signal acknowledged by the church like action of the spirit of God in our time. Nevertheless, when in many nations death penalty is being suppressed, Catholic Church Catechism admits it, “if it is the only possible way to effectively defend human lives from the unjust aggressor” (Num. 2226). Death penalty is a “definitive, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, which violates the right to life” (International Amnesty, 1977). The Church must correct her position.
8. - “Cain then went from Yahweh´s presence and settled in the land of Nod, to the East of Eden” This country is no known, but its name means “fugitive”. Cain can be the remote antecessor of the Kainites (Num 24, 21), a nomad people who lives in the limit of the fertile fields in the Judges times (centuries XI-XII b. C.) For the Israelites the Kainites constituted a mysterious enigma: they had the same God, but they did not belong to the people of the Alliance; they joined the Israelites in the crossing of the dessert (Num 10, 29 foll.), but they failed to adopt a sedentary type of life. They were nomads; they wander by the fields neighboring the cultivated land, resorting to looting. They had a tribal distinctive, a kind of tattoo (1 K 20, 41). On the other side, Eden means “garden”. It is not easy to locate it: it can refer to the fertile land watered by great rivers (Gn 2, 10 – 14).
9. –“Cain had intercourse with his wife; she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. As he was building a town, he called it by the name of his son Enoch” (Gn 4, 17). In its present shape, the narration talks about Cain´s wife, but the question is raised: if it is supposed that Adam and Eve only have two sons, where does Cain´s wife come from? It is another inconsistency. The story presents an eight generations genealogy, Cain´s descent. There in a cultural advancement: towns are being built (see 1Sm 30, 29) and, together with those who raise cattle, appear those who play musical instruments, and the iron and copper smiths. More than 2.000 years before Christ, bronze metallurgy and urbanism are developed (in the map the cities of Canaan, atlas of the Bible)
10. – Among Cain´s descendents violence grows up. For Lamech, the protection given to Cain is not enough. On his own account, he launches into a savage revenge and, besides, he boasts it: “I killed a man for wounding me and a boy for striking me. If Cain will be avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy seven times” (Gn 4, 23 – 24). In this context, the law of Talion means a progress (Ex 21, 24). Nevertheless, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said: eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right check, turn and offer him the other” (Mt 5, 38 – 39). And also: Not only you shall not kill, but you shall love your enemy (5, 21. 43). The brother will be forgiven “seventy times seven” (18, 22), “that who hates his brother is an murderer” (1 Jn 3, 15).
11. – “”Adam had again intercourse with his wife and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, for she said: Yahweh has given me another child in place of Abel since Cain killed him. To Seth also a son was born and he called him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of Yahweh” (Gn 4, 25 – 26). In Seth descendents a new human type appears who invokes the name of the Lord and who ends in the figure of Noah (6, 9). Later on, appears Abraham (12, 1 – 3), father of all the believers, “our father in the eyes of Him who gives life to the dead, and calls the non-existent as if already existing” (Rm 4, 17).
vallecaidos1lw copia12. – For various reasons, every 20- N Civil War is recalled, a fratricide war. This year, like it is usual, a franquist group went to the Valley of the Fallen to pray for the dictator. Another group, the Memory Forums Federation, also went to claim the blasting of the large cross of the mausoleum, like a relief to the franquism´s victims. “These want to gain the Civil War now. We are going to be oblige to take the arms again out to the street”, says one of the first group. On his part, the president of the Federation tries to restrain his people: “Don’t provoke them; that is what they want. We have come to request justice, truth and reparation for the victims of the franquism”. 
In the transition to the democracy, the official renounce to revenge was essential for the politic change.
• Dialogue:
- Which problems do Cain and Abel passage present?
- Is it a forgotten passage?, is it convenient to recall it?
- The human rights declaration is a sin signal of our time?
- Is the death penalty a definitive, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, which violates the right to life?, should the church change its position?
- Civil War, was a crusade or a madness?, should the church revise its position during the Civil War and the dictatorship?
- What do we listen?