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Sibling Rivalry in the Bible - Cain and Abel

Updated on June 28, 2016

The first siblings, Cain and Abel, are proof that families do not always get along. The testimony of their lives also show that sometimes it does not take two to tango but instead, jealousy can truly cause one to act irrationally and can bring about sin.

Who Were They?

Cain and Abel were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve respectively. One was a farmer and the other one was a shepherd. Both of them knew God and offered sacrifices to Him but one sacrifice was esteemed higher than the other. This is what caused the rift between the brothers and was the reason for the first murder in history.

A statue of Cain in France depicting his state of mind after killing his brother, Abel.

Henri Vidal's statue (1896) entitled -"Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel". Located in Paris, France at the Jardin des Tuileries.
Henri Vidal's statue (1896) entitled -"Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel". Located in Paris, France at the Jardin des Tuileries. | Source

Am I my brother's keeper? - the question asked by Cain and a question that many siblings have thought throughout history.

Charles Spurgeon's sermon on the blood of Jesus which speaks better things than the blood of Abel

When Cain and Abel presented their sacrifices to the Lord, Abel's, which consisted of the firstborn of his flock with all of the fat, was respected by God but Cain's sacrifice, which was the fruit of the ground, was not respected by God. This made Cain angry, according to the Bible, and God warned him about it.

Yet Cain rose up and killed his brother Abel in a field and then lied to God, telling Him that he did not know where his brother was. His well known question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is one that continues to be asked among siblings to this day.

Cain could not hide the truth from God, however, Who told him that Abel's blood had cried out to Him from the ground. The earth, God said, had opened to receive Cain's brother's blood from his hands and so the earth was cursed - it would not yield as abundantly as it did before, and Cain himself would be a "fugitive and a vagabond" (Genesis 4:12)

According to the Bible, while Abel gave of the firstborn of his flock, Cain gave the fruit of the ground.

"And in 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." Genesis 4: 3-5 (K.J.V.)

This is perhaps the reason Cain's offering was not respected by God because they were not the firstfruits.

In the Book of Exodus, the Lord tells the children of Israel, through Moses: Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. (Exodus 22:29)

Although the law was given after Cain's offering, it is reasonable to see that the honour given to God by Abel (he gave the Lord the best and the first) was not the same as what Cain gave (which amounted to a remainder of what he had).

Very little was said of Abel after his death but what was said showed that he was a man of good character. He is described by Jesus as a righteous man in both the book of Matthew and the book of Luke. His righteousness is also mentioned in the book of Hebrews and his blood is compared to that of Jesus' blood as Abel's blood cried out for vengeance while the blood of Jesus speaks of mercy.

What Happened to Cain?

After the death of his brother, Cain told God that his punishment was more than he could bear and he was afraid that he would be killed because of what he had done to his own brother. The Lord, therefore put a mark on Cain so that it would be a sign to all those he came across not to kill him. The Bible does not say what the mark of Cain was or where it was placed on Cain's body but some speculate that it could have been on the forehead or face since the face is the part of the body most noticed by others upon first acquaintance.

Cain settled in the land of Nod and was married. People often want to know just who was Cain's wife. Some believe that she was a woman who came from a nomadic tribe in the area of Nod because they believe that there were other peoples existing at the time of Adam and Eve and that they were simply examples in the Bible but, if we are to believe the Bible, then the only conclusion that can be made is that he married his sister or very close relative. Generations later, Abraham would marry his half-sister, Sarah and Isaac would marry his cousin, Rebekah. These marriages happened when the earth had been well-populated and so it is not very farfetched to believe that this is what happened with Cain.


In Nod, Cain built a city and named it after his son, Enoch. Cain's son Enoch was not the same Enoch who walked with the Lord and was taken by Him. That Enoch came from the line of Seth. (See Genesis Chapter 5) From the line of Cain, Lamech was born. He was the first man in the Bible recorded as having two wives, Adah and Zillah, making the line of Cain the first to practice polygamy according to the Bible. Lamech killed a man and spoke to his wives telling them that if Cain's death would have been avenged sevenfold then his should have been avenged seventy times seven.

Tales about Cain

How Cain died is anyone's guess but since he was protected by the mark I do not think that he suffered the fate of his brother, Abel. Cain's life and what he did caused many different tales to surface some of which are fully believed while others are scoffed at.

There is the belief that Cain's mark was a horn that protruded out of his forehead, that it was the stain of his brother's blood on his hands is another theory about the mark that was forever upon Cain.

Some people believe that Cain was not the son of Adam and Eve but rather the son of Eve and Satan. This myth came about because of the forbidden fruit and the serpent. It does not stand against reason because Adam ate of the forbidden fruit as well. The Book of Genesis also says that Adam knew his wife Eve and she conceived and bore him a son and named him Cain (Genesis 4:1). This sentence alone shatters this false belief.

From this false tale comes the other belief that Cain was the father of the Nephilim in the Bible, but again the Bible does not state this at all and Cain's offspring are noted as regular members of mankind.

Finally, there is the belief that Cain was killed by Lamech, his descendant, who mistook him for an animal because he was blind. Lamech's son Tubalcain guides his father when hunting and he mistakes Cain for an animal because of the horn in his forehead.Lamech kills Cain and in his grief he also strikes his son, this according to the Midrash.

Adam and Eve mourn the death of their son, Abel.

"The First Mourning" by William- Adolphe Bouguereau (1888)
"The First Mourning" by William- Adolphe Bouguereau (1888) | Source

Lessons We Can Learn from Cain and Abel

1. Be aware that failure can lead to sin if you are not careful.

Although there are some unanswered questions concerning Cain and Abel, the first lesson we can learn is given by God Himself when He told Cain that if 'thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door' (Genesis 4:7). There is always the chance to sin and we have the choice whether we want sin to enter into our lives and wreak havoc or whether we shut the door to sin. Cain let his anger and jealousy take over and the result was the death of his brother. His sin caused not only great harm for himself (for he could not bear his own punishment) but harm to someone who was innocent of that sin, his brother, Abel.

2. Sibling rivalry starts with jealousy and once one side gives in to it it is very easy to be blinded to one's own actions.

Another lesson we can learn from Cain and Abel is that sibling rivalry, when unchecked, can become fierce. There have been siblings who do not get a long from that time until this time and there will always be. Sometimes a sister or a brother seems to have an intense hatred for another and it cannot seem to be erased. This is often a great grief for the parents of the children in question. The only way that a parent can try to prevent hate or jealousy between children is to start resolving their quarrels while they are very young. Teach them about forgiveness and try to reinforce good values of patience and generosity. The Bible does say, 'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.' (Proverbs 22:6)

3. We must give the best to God and not what is leftover.

Finally, we also learn that what we offer to God must be of good quality. God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and therefore He deserves the best of what we have. Offering Him of our remainder and keeping the best for us does not reflect the fact that He is the Creator and we are the Creation. Whether we offer our time or anything else to Him we would do well to remember to give Him the best of it.



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    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi Caleb,

      It has been a long time!

      Cain should have answered 'yes'. I believe that one of the best relationships you can ever have with another person is with a sibling, if you make that sibling your best friend. If you do not get along (which is sometimes not the fault of both people) then it could be one of the worst and hurtful things in your life.

      I am very glad to 'see' you again. Take care and God bless you.

    • Caleb DRC profile image

      Caleb DRC 

      4 years ago

      Very informative, North Wind. I was not aware of some of the myths associated with this narration in Scripture. "Yes" would be the answer to Cain's question to God, but as you mentioned, the way it is still used today is the way Cain intended it.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      Hi LS, thanks for reading. God's mercy has always been from the beginning. Hope you have a blessed new year.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      4 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      That was fascinating. That Cain was a scoundrel, but you can see God's continued love and grace on him because he put the mark of protection on him. Nice work NW.

    • North Wind profile imageAUTHOR

      North Wind 

      4 years ago from The World (for now)

      Thank you for reading, Ericdierker, and for the compliments. They are my first for the new year! You always have something encouraging to say.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting, well written and educational. Thank you


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