(Verses quoted are from Genesis -- King James' Version -- unless otherwise noted.)

Blood Sacrifice

2.     Cain and Abel

Survival in a world where there was no science... no food tasters... no guidance but from experience and trial-and-error... can only be defined as perilous. These human beings that had been placed in a perfect garden... these innocents... would need all the help that they could get. They needed God's help. It was imperative for them to survive.

From the very beginning, Adam and Eve were told what was good for them to eat. It did not include the killing of animals for food. (Although scripture says that God used animal skins to cover them when they left the garden).

1:29 -- "And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

3:21 -- "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them."

And so, if killing animals was permissable to make coats for Adam and Eve, then there must not be any taboo against killing them for food... right? So, perhaps this verse about what Adam's diet was to be is just a notation of no real importance. We should just assume that early man... including Adam and Eve... were meat eaters.

Such an assumption would not follow the text of the scripture. Most importantly, what God did... does not imply that Adam had permission to do it. The specifics of what Adam and Eve could eat were spoken by God. They were to eat "herbs" or greens, and the fruit and nuts of trees "as their meat." They had not been told that it was permissable or even healthy to eat animals.

And, so, in time... we come to the next stated event in this story:

4:3 -- "And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.
And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.
And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
And the Lord said unto Cain,

Why art thou wroth: and why is thy countenance fallen?
If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.
And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."

Did the author of Genesis forget to tell us about God needing or demanding sacrifices? Or, is this an invention of Cain to offer God a sacrifice... and Abel, following suit... tried to go him one better by killing a "firstling" lamb?
Did they see the people around them offering sacrifices to their own gods... and decide that their God would want it, too?

But... why give something to God... that God himself had created?
Did God have a need that he couldn't fill himself?
How does burning something on an altar... give anything to ANY god...?

Whatever the situation may have been, it appears from the words we read that... God treated these offerings as a time of judgment or approval. We can even look at this event and see that these offerings very much were presented for God's approval.

Did God sit down and prepare to eat?
Did God declare that for these sacrifices they would be rewarded in some way?
Did God say to Cain and Abel... "This blood is due because of your mother's disobedience, but more... much more... is required"...?

Are we reduced to... trying to read the mind of God... and his intentions?

Very simply... this offering was distinctly... one of vegetables... and one of meat. This was a presentation intended to seek the judgment of God... or the opinion of God... about the eating of meat. God had no regard for Cain's offering... but then, Cain was following the directive given to Adam. This was expected... and good. There was no need to comment.

But, Abel's offering was distinctly different. It wasn't fruit of the field. Abel was presenting meat... as food... "with the fat thereof." This butchering of a lamb for food seems to have been a "first of a kind" thing, and was being presented to God for his approval.

And God looked upon it to consider it... giving regard to it. These scriptures do not say that God gave his approval or permission... he merely gave "regard" to this question before him.

God could have been expressing approval... for this asking... upon this "first." He may well have been expressing that this was the way to honor him... by presenting all "firsts" to him to seek his approval... his blessing. Meaning that... before they did anything for the first time... they needed to ask for God's approval... or his "blessing." It was essential to their survival... and to their best development as a people.

Perhaps we can glean from this simple story of these brothers that... God was laying out a design for mankind... step by step... one that would assure their survival...? There would not always be an abundance of food. There would be drought. There would be cold. There would be times when the earth gave forth nothing but thistles.

To survive... to have sureness and life... to have strength... they would need to have a way to stay alive... no matter what. They would need meat. Without health they would be susceptible to disease. Without strength they could not protect themselves when necessary.

We might well assume that this request... this calling upon God for an opinion... was instigated by Cain... who may have been aware of what Abel was intending to do... that he was going to kill and then eat his lambs. Cain may well have expected that God would stop this... and punish Abel for doing such an abhorent thing. And "Cain was wroth and his countenance was fallen" certainly at the sight of this butchery... and at the sight of God's seeming approval and interest in this butchery.

God says to Cain,
"If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him"

This cannot be taken as a rejection of Cain... since "thou shalt rule over him" was part of this lesson. It very well can be taken from this... that God was teaching Cain a premise of righteousness. That premise being... that... knowing for oneself that one is correct in something... gives dignity enough... and that the other person would seek to emulate you.

Alternately... this comment to Cain can be taken as a lesson in survival... and eating well for one's best strength. If a man appears weakly... stronger men will seek to overwhelm him as an easy prey. These words simply... cannot be said to be exclusively about the devil and sin... or about the need for a blood payment to God as protection from damnation.

That God did not respond in a way that would correct Abel's acts... upset Cain. We know this because further in the passage Cain says "Am I my brother's keeper?" Could he not well be expressing his outrage that Abel... the shepherd and keeper of sheep... would dare to kill them, and eat them...?

Cain sounds sarcastic... and it very much sounds as though he killed Abel as punishment for killing the lamb... for Abel's outright violence... and he didn't expect God to care.

God's reaction to Cain's killing of his brother was to cut him off from the land. He could not live off of the fruit of the land.

He would be forced to eat meat to live.

4:11 -- "And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth: and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."

We should note... that... God did not punish Cain with death... God put a mark on him to protect him from others who might call him to account for this. We should understand the reason for this mercy for Cain. We must consider the likelihood that it was because Cain's intent was not murder... it was justice.

Cain could not abide his brother's violence.
If God would not stop this... he would.

In this story... we learn something very important about God.
4:10 -- "And God said,
'What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."

God... knows... when... something... has... died.

Drought fell upon the land.

Chapter 3.   The Killing of Animals


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