God and Cain: A Caring Father?
Cain and Abel
Cain and Abel
The Cain and Abel story has to be one of the most popular stories in the Old Testament. It is not only the story of two boys whose parents were created by God, but also the first case of murder in human history, at least from the Bible. While presenting their offering to God, God looked with favor on Abel's offering but no regard for Cain's. As a result, Cain grew increasingly envious towards his brother and thus plotted to kill him. A good number of people, some of whom I knew back in College, have a soft spot for Cain, citing that he is a good example of a child who did not receive enough care and attention from his father (God). Given that he, like his brother, brought an offering to God, they do not understand why he is not shown the same favor as his brother, which has led some people to argue that his anger towards his brother was justified. However, having looked at the passage several times, it becomes evident that God loved and cared for Cain as much as he did Abel. This becomes even more evident when looking at what God says to Cain the few times that are documented.
God talks to Cain
Apart from showing favor to Abel, I was not able to find any other passage where God talks to Abel, the younger brother of Cain. However, there are a few times where God actually talks to Cain as if to guide him. This reminds of me the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15: 11-32 and the words of Jesus, that he came to save those who were lost (lost sheep). Like the prodigal son and the lost that Jesus came to find and save, Cain needed a lot of God's attention, and he received it. Just because he had grown angry and envious, God would not simply leave him to his elements. Rather, he came to him and talked to him as a loving father would.
Before going into detail about what God said to Cain, it is worth looking at what offerings that the two brought before God. Whereas Cain worked the soil (crops etc) Abel kept flocks. When it came time to present their offerings, Genesis 4:3 (NIV) says that Cin brought some of the fruits of the soil while Abel brought fat portions of some of the firstborn of his flock. When comparing the two, it becomes clear that Abel was not holding back and brought the best of what he had to God (like the widow who gave two mites in Mark 12:41-44). Abel may, therefore, be looked at as a cheerful giver who gave with a pure heart. Cain, on the other hand, does not appear to be as thrilled. By comparing what lies in the heart of the two, God is more pleased with Abel and shows him (and his offering) favor. Again, as with the widow, God looks at the heart of the giver and not necessarily what they give. For this reason, he is more pleased with Abel.
Cain and Abel
God talks to Cain
Knowing what was in Cain's heart and what he was plotting (to kill his brother), God said to Cain "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?". I find this to be a very important passage through which God not only shows concern by asking why Cain is angry but also what he can do in order to be accepted and shown the same favor as his brother. I can imagine a son who is angry and upset and runs to his room to be by himself. His caring father, noticing this, follows him to his room and inquires why the son is angry and what he may have done wrong. Here, the father does not simply leave the son to be alone in his room but rather shows care by talking with him and guiding him. This is how God is with Cain. Knowing what is in Cain's heart, he goes to him and talks to him as a caring father would his son.
Knowing what is about to happen, God also warns Cain and tells him what he must do. In Genesis 4:7, God says to Cain "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Here, God does not want Cain to actually do what he is plotting in his heart. He warns him that his anger and current feelings are likely to give birth to sin and must master his emotions. In this particular scenario, God is acting like a caring parent who sees his child going down the wrong path. Although the parent may not be able to physically control the child, he/she can try and talk and warn the child of where the path will lead and what they can do to change their direction. At this point, Cain has not yet sinned despite being angry and plotting against his brother. God talking to him is, therefore, an attempt to try and lead him away from the path he has taken before he commits the actual sin.
The 1st Corinthians 10: 13 says that"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." Knowing this, God tells Cain that though sin is waiting to take over him, he can and must master it in order to avoid the consequences of the path he has taken. Having talked to him and given him the attention he needed as was the case with the prodigal son, the decision on how to proceed was now all his and no one else. As was the case with his parents, Adam and Eve, his decision was his own and no one else. God had been with him, talked to him when he was sad and angry and even warned him of what coming. Despite all these, he made his own decision and had to be held responsible for the same.
Do what is right and it will be accepted
© 2018 Patrick