Brothers Who Developed Different Attitudes
DECISIONS made by parents inevitably affect their children. That is as true today as it was back in the garden of Eden. The rebellious course of Adam and Eve had a profound impact on all mankind. (Genesis 2:15, 16; 3:1-6; Romans 5:12) Yet, each of us has the opportunity to build a good relationship with our Creator if we choose to do so. This is illustrated by the account of Cain and Abel, the first brothers in human history.
There is no Scriptural record that God spoke to Adam and Eve after their expulsion from Eden. Still, Jehovah did not conceal himself from their sons. From their parents, Cain and Abel no doubt learned what had occurred. They could see “the cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword that was turning itself continually to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24) These men also witnessed the truthfulness of God’s declaration that sweat and pain would become the realities of life.—Genesis 3:16, 19.
Cain and Abel must have been aware of Jehovah’s words to the serpent: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) What Cain and Abel knew about Jehovah would enable them to develop an approved relationship with him.
Reflecting upon Jehovah’s prophecy and his qualities as a loving Benefactor must have generated in Cain and Abel a desire for divine approval. But to what extent would they cultivate that desire? Would they respond to their innate desire to worship God and develop their spirituality to the point of exercising faith in him?—Matthew 5:3.
The Brothers Bring Offerings
In due course, Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. Cain presented fruits of the ground, and Abel offered firstlings of his flock. (Genesis 4:3, 4) These men may then have been about 100 years old, for Adam was 130 when he became father to his son, Seth.—Genesis 4:25; 5:3.
Their offerings indicated that Cain and Abel recognized their sinful state and desired God’s favor. They must have given at least some thought to Jehovah’s promise concerning the serpent and the Seed of the woman. Just how much time and effort Cain and Abel devoted to developing an approved relationship with Jehovah is not stated. But God’s reaction to their offerings provides insight into each one’s inmost thoughts.
Some scholars suggest that Eve viewed Cain as the “seed” that would destroy the serpent, for at Cain’s birth she said: “I have produced a man with the aid of Jehovah.” (Genesis 4:1) If Cain shared this belief, he was totally wrong. On the other hand, faith accompanied Abel’s sacrifice. Thus, “by faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain.”—Hebrews 11:4.
Abel’s spiritual insight and Cain’s lack of it was not the only difference between these brothers. There was a difference in attitudes as well. Therefore, “while Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering.” It is likely that Cain gave little more than superficial thought to his offering and merely went through the motions of presenting it. But God did not approve of mere formal worship. Cain had developed a bad heart, and Jehovah discerned that he had wrong motives. Cain’s reaction to the rejection of his sacrifice reflected his true spirit. Rather than seeking to set matters straight, “Cain grew hot with great anger, and his countenance began to fall.” (Genesis 4:5) His bearing betrayed wicked ideas and intentions.
Warning and Reaction
Knowing Cain’s attitude, God counseled him, saying: “Why are you hot with anger and why has your countenance fallen? If you turn to doing good, will there not be an exaltation? But if you do not turn to doing good, there is sin crouching at the entrance, and for you is its craving; and will you, for your part, get the mastery over it?”—Genesis 4:6, 7.
There is a lesson in this for us. In effect, sin lurks at the door ready to devour us. Yet, God has given us free will, and we can choose to do what is right. Jehovah invited Cain to “turn to doing good,” but He did not force him to change. Cain chose his own way.
The inspired account continues: “After that Cain said to Abel his brother: ‘Let us go over into the field.’ So it came about that while they were in the field Cain proceeded to assault Abel his brother and kill him.” (Genesis 4:8) Cain thus became a disobedient, cold-blooded murderer. He showed not even an inkling of remorse when Jehovah asked: “Where is Abel your brother?” Rather, in a callous and insolent manner, Cain retorted: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4:9) That outright lie and denial of responsibility exposed Cain’s heartlessness.
Jehovah cursed Cain and banished him from the environs of Eden. The curse already pronounced on the ground apparently would be more pronounced in Cain’s case, and the earth would not respond to his cultivating of it. He was to be a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth. Cain’s complaint at the severity of his sentence expressed anxiety that his brother’s murder would be avenged upon him, but he manifested no sincere repentance. Jehovah set up “a sign” for Cain—likely a solemn decree known and observed by others and intended to prevent his being killed out of revenge.—Genesis 4:10-15.
Cain then “went away from the face of Jehovah and took up residence in the land of Fugitiveness to the east of Eden.” (Genesis 4:16) Having taken a wife from among his sisters or nieces, he built a city that he named after Enoch, his firstborn son. Cain’s descendant Lamech turned out to be as violently inclined as his ungodly forebear. But the family line of Cain was wiped out in the Flood of Noah’s day.—Genesis 4:17-24.
Lessons for Us
We can learn from the accounts of Cain and Abel. The apostle John exhorts Christians to love one another, “not like Cain, who originated with the wicked one and slaughtered his brother.” Cain’s “works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous.” John also states: “Everyone who hates his brother is a manslayer, and you know that no manslayer has everlasting life remaining in him.” Yes, the way we treat our fellow Christians has a bearing on our relationship with God and our life prospects. We cannot be hating any of our fellow believers and yet enjoy God’s approval.—1 John 3:11-15; 4:20.
Cain and Abel must have had a similar upbringing, but Cain lacked faith in God. In fact, he manifested the spirit of the Devil, the original ‘manslayer and father of the lie.’ (John 8:44) Cain’s course shows that we all have a choice, that those who choose to sin separate themselves from God, and that Jehovah executes his judgments upon the unrepentant.
Abel, on the other hand, exercised faith in Jehovah. Indeed, “by faith Abel offered God a sacrifice of greater worth than Cain, through which faith he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness respecting his gifts.” Although the Scriptures do not contain one word uttered by Abel, by means of his exemplary faith, he “yet speaks.”—Hebrews 11:4.
Abel was the first in a long line of integrity keepers. His blood, which ‘cried out to Jehovah from the ground,’ has not been forgotten. (Genesis 4:10; Luke 11:48-51) If we exercise faith as Abel did, we too can enjoy a precious and lasting relationship with Jehovah.
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THE FARMER AND THE SHEPHERD
Cultivating the earth and caring for the animals were some of Adam’s original God-given responsibilities. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15; 3:23) His son Cain took up farming, and Abel became a shepherd. (Genesis 4:2) Since mankind’s food consisted exclusively of fruits and vegetables until after the Flood, however, why raise sheep?—Genesis 1:29; 9:3, 4.
In order to thrive, sheep need human care. Abel’s occupation testifies that man raised these domestic animals from the outset of mankind’s history. The Scriptures do not say whether the earliest humans used animal milk as a source of food, but even those with a vegetarian diet can use sheep’s wool. And when sheep die, their hides serve useful purposes. To clothe Adam and Eve, for instance, Jehovah provided “long garments of skin.”—Genesis 3:21.
In any case, it seems reasonable to assume that Cain and Abel originally cooperated with each other. They produced something that others in the family needed in order to keep clothed and well fed.
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Cain’s “works were wicked, but those of his brother were righteous”