Posts Tagged ‘Adam and Eve’
[04JAN2012] Our “Cain”tankerous Attitudes — East of Eden
I mentioned in my last post there were some things I wanted to share about the short narrative account between God and Cain (The son of Adam and Eve and brother to Abel). What follows is the first portion of this narrative to help set the stage for sharing my thoughts:
1 Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife, Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel.
When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. 3 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, 5 but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.
6 ”Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? 7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.” -Genesis 4:1-7
We can only speculate why God accepted the gift of Abel, but not that of Cain; we don’t have enough information, but I assume there might have been something about the nature of the gift and the attitude that it was given to God. My reasoning for this speculation is the wordings in several translations indicate that Cain brought “some” of his harvest and Abel brought the “firstlings” of his flock. The point that seems evident to me is that Cain simply brought “something” to God, but Abel brought his best.
The account continues and tells us that Abel and his gift was accepted, but Cain was not accepted nor was his gift…this put Cain in a mood—”This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.”
Now, one thing I find very interesting and encouraging, Cain is not disregarded by God. God responds to Cain as a Father or so it seems. The first act of God to reject Cain’s offering is akin to an object lesson, similar to an object lesson I might use to illustrate a life discipline to my own children. I might ask my son to sweep the garage and driveway, when he announces he has completed the chore I inspect the job and I find it half done, carelessly, and hurried. I inform him it is unacceptable and I do not acknowledge it has been completed and wait for a response to engage a teachable moment.
I think this might be what was happening with Cain and God in this moment of offering. Maybe this was the first opportunity to bring the “fruits of their labor” and vocation…this might have been the first test of their acknowledgement of God as overseer of all their life. I’m speculating again. In either event, Abel gets it right and Cain does not, but God doesn’t leave Cain hanging. God loves Cain and engages him in conversation; “Why are you angry, Cain? Why do you look so dejected?” I can see Cain in my mind’s eye, pouting with angry eyes…biting his lip and refusing to answer God’s questions. As God sees the bitterness and resentment of Cain’s heart, he continues; “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
Cain turns and storms off, refusing to acknowledge God’s words or receive the instruction as the loving discipline that it was meant to be.
1. Ill-tempered and quarrelsome; disagreeable
2. Difficult to handle
The next portion of our narrative reveals how Cain decided to deal with his dejection; rather than receive God’s counsel to “do what is right…” Cain plots to eliminate what he perceives as the problem. The story continues as follows:
8 One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.
9 Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 10 But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! 11Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. 12 No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
13 Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”
15 The Lord replied, “No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. 16 So Cain left the Lord’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. -Genesis 4:8-16
As I was reading through this brief interaction between God and Cain, my thoughts begin to fill with examples of how similarly our lives parallel the response and actions of Cain. Perhaps we do not all respond with a physical act of violence, but I’m sure that violence has been committed in many of our hearts when we feel as though we have been misunderstood and wronged… For us, it does not matter that we may have been the ones responsible for bringing discipline upon ourselves because of lax or misplaced attitudes; we feel offended and mistreated and want to respond to that, sometimes defensively and other times offensively and aggressively.
So, what I see… Instead of “doing right” Cain plots to eliminate his brother and follows through with an act of murder. I am surprised by the surly and irreverent attitude Cain presents toward God’s questioning. I can’t help but think that Adam and Eve must have recounted details of their own personal relationship with God and his character to their sons. It seems Abel learned something from them and may have enjoyed an intimate and personal relationship with God…understanding something of His nature. It only makes sense to me that the same knowledge of God and invitation to relationship with him was available to Cain as was available to Abel. God’s exhortation to Cain reveals this too; “You will be accepted if you do what is right.” Surely Cain realized the omnipotent power and authority of the Great and Eternal Creator God; surely, he must have. But his reaction and response to Him was so flippant and disrespectful.
God calls Cain to the carpet for his irreverence and his crime against humanity as the repercussions of his actions begin to fall back upon him. But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
The original curse upon Adam for his disobedience was remarkably similar to Cain’s curse. Adam was banished from the Garden and was cursed to labor and till the ground for his survival. Cain is cursed on top of Adam’s curse; no longer will the ground yield good crops no matter how hard he works for them… and he is banished from sharing community—never to have a place that he can call home, “from now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
The amazing similarities and parallels shine forth to me in light of Cain’s response to these pronouncements of God in response to Cain’s act of atrocity upon his brother Abel. First, Cain never accepts responsibility for his action. He never once gives assent to the instruction God had originally presented to him during the offerings of sacrifice when his gift was first rejected.
The second thing(s) I notice is how Cain fully exposes the depth and depravity of the human condition; his subsequent response and actions reveal what may be the hidden nature of many people.
- Cain chooses to be angry at God—rather than “do what is right” he chooses to harden his heart remain angry.
- Cain chooses to place blame on Abel for his own rejection—rather than accept responsibility for his actions, he projects his failure upon his brother.
- Cain chooses to allow his jealousy to have dominion over him—rather than heed God’s advice, Cain allows his frustration, anger, and jealousy to fester into murderous rage that consumes him.
- Cain chooses to act out on his rage with the murder of his brother, Abel—Cain succumbs to the ultimate act of self-centeredness by taking his brother’s life.
- Cain still refuses to accept responsibility for his actions—Cain replies to the Lord: “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer…”
Cain’s words in response to God’s justice reveal that he holds God responsible for the punishment of his crime against humanity and his brother; “You have banished… You have made me a wanderer…” He still doesn’t get it. And, apparently he never does…
The narrative of Cain and God ends with a sad explanation and counting of the genealogy of the House of Cain. Verse sixteen of Genesis chapter four reads as follows: “So Cain left the LORD’s presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Although this is an argument of silence, it might be plausible… It seems that Cain went on with his life without ever returning to fellowship with God; in effect, turning his back to God and forever giving Him the silent treatment. It also seems the curse of Cain continues with his progeny. Several generations following Cain was born a man named Lamech who continues the murderous legacy of his great-great-great grandfather; “One day Lamech said to his wives, I have killed a man who attacked me…” Nothing more is heard of Adam’s lineage through the house of Cain.
I have witnessed these same chain of events on a much smaller stage countless times. I know in my own life I have committed acts against society by my own choosing and then wanted to blame others when repercussions began to swallow me up. I have seen these actions of Cain in the rearing and discipline of my own sons. I think it is part of the nature that Adam has passed on to us, but it doesn’t have to end in the way of Cain… we don’t have to be irritable and disgruntled humans… “Cain”tankerous, as it were. We can choose to listen and act on the exhortation of God’s words; “do right…” We can accept responsibility and own our actions rather than project fault upon others. We can live according to the humble and surrendered life of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, and walk in intimate relationship with God…never to turn our back on Him and never to live silently outside of God’s presence… to the east of Eden.
LENT—Day 5: The Choices We Make [2011MAR14]
Lenten Meditation (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7)
15 The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. 16 But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—17 except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)
“…and he (Adam) ate it.” (Genesis 3:1-7)
I wonder if Adam gave thought to the choice that he made on that day… and if he did, what did he think the repercussions might be if he disobeyed God. The wonder comes as I consider the choices I make as well as the choices that others make. While I fall short of full adherence to the Butterfly Effect, I do believe that no choice is ever made in a void. I think the decisions and action choices we make are all made from some influencing factor on our decision making process to begin with. Then, once a choice is made, it will have some reciprocating influence… at the very least it will now become part of the filter we use in the next decision or choice we make. Therefore, I believe no choice is ever made in a void.
Returning to Adam and the Genesis account, we read God telling Adam “don’t eat, you’ll die.” I may miss the mark, but what if Adam thought, “okay, worst case scenario… I die.” The reason I postulate that idea is because I have done this. I have made decisions and acted on my choices based upon scenarios where I was the only person that existed. In my “decision world” I would often not consider collateral damage. I was often “too large” to see the fallout of my choices affecting others. I think this too epitomizes why pride is such a devastating sin, but let’s consider Adam some more.
“The beginning of the pride of man is to fall away from God… Original sin is common to all, regardless of the personal sins of each other.” ~~Augustine
When Adam disobeyed God’s edict and he was confronted by God about it, I believe the reason Adam hid was the fear for his life. I mean, after all, that is what God had told him… “You eat you die.” That is not exactly what happened though. When God spelled out the essence of what “die” actually meant, there were repercussions and horror that Adam most likely never considered. God said to them (Adam and Eve) things about childbirth. What did they know about that? Maybe Adam was just born with understanding about childbirth, we don’t know, but I think it unlikely. Can you imagine what it must have been like? The first pregnancy??? Eve with morning sickness; did they eat something poisonous? Eve starts “swelling” with child… what were their thoughts. Then Eve goes into labor, screaming in pain, and a child burst into the world in a bloody mess from between her legs. I wonder what that first experience must have been like. I wonder if Adam gave thought to the sweet bite of fruit that had brought him to the moment he was experiencing with Eve. I wonder also if Adam was brought back to the day he held the fruit in his hand when he looked over the broken body of a son who had suffered at the hand of a brother. I wonder if Adam thought; “what’s the worst that could happen if I eat from this tree God told me not to eat from; I’ll just die, but maybe I won’t.” Maybe he won’t indeed.
As I said, I don’t think our decisions or our choices suffer any less gravity. I look back on the choices I have made and wince. Yes, I have been forgiven the trespasses that I committed, but there are still scars that remain on the lives of people I trespassed against and there are still scars on me. All of them (scars) the result of choices, some I have made and other scars from choices made by other people… sometimes even people I never knew. This is the gravity of our choices.
I bet Adam never gave thought to starvation, cancer, AIDS, earthquakes, tsunamis, bigotry, genocide, or fratricide. He might have just thought on the worst case, he’d just die. The problem was he only thought about himself… and that’s where we usually make our critical mistake too.
“O LORD, I pray… have mercy on me. Heal me, for I have sinned against you.” –Psalm 41:4