Genesis 4-5 follows up the famous bit about Adam and Eve with the story of their sons Cain and Abel. And it’s clear that messed up families aren’t a modern invention.
My first thought on reading these chapters was to be reminded that there’s a lot of stuff coming up in the Old Testament that I’m not comfortable with, and it starts here. Why didn’t God ‘have any regard’ for Cain’s offering? It doesn’t seem fair or right. Maybe verse 4:7 is a hint that there’s something going on in the way that Cain brings his offering that isn’t right.
In fact, it strikes me that the next bit of the story might give us a hint of what the problem was. It doesn’t seem that Cain is angry with God so much as he is angry with his brother for bringing the favoured offering. Was he perhaps trying to outdo his brother in the whole action of making an offering to God? It’s just speculation, but it seems to make sense, as his anger afterwards is all towards Abel, leading to the first murder in the Bible.
The story then speaks to the human habit of looking sideways rather than upward, even when we’re trying to serve God. We get distracted from living the best life we can, or serving God as well as we can, by trying to keep track of how our life or our service compares to that of the person standing next to us. That isn’t the way to peace of mind or fulness of life. Even if it doesn’t lead to murder, at some point it’ll kill a bit of our self.
Maybe the temptation to sin that God warns Cain about is envy – and maybe we need to take the warning to heart too.
May God give us the grace to focus on our own life and discipleship, not on measuring ourselves against each other.
A begat B…
Then comes the first of many long lists of names, which mean a lot less to us than they did to people reading these words in ancient times. I’m not going to get hung up on the incredible lifespans of these children of Abraham, but I can’t help wondering what we’re meant to make of Enoch in verses 5:21-24. He walked with God then ‘God took him’, unlike everyone else who just died. I know he became a big figure in some later Jewish wirtings, but I’d love to know what the writer meant us to think this meant!
So, after the glories of yesterday’s reading, this was a bit more of an effort – but I think that as I’ve mulled it over through the day I’ve found a way to make some useful sense of it, which is more than I’ve been able to do before! I suspect I’d have given up if I hadn’t known I needed to write something about it before the end of the day…