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Cain and Abel--A Short Study in not taking things literally.
We have all grown up with the story of Cain and Abel as literal truth.
It really happened.
These first two boy children of the real first humans on earth, Adam and Eve, had a falling out over what was appropriate sacrifice to "God.
"Cain killshis brother Abel in a rage of rejection.
I remember thinking as a child how scary.
I had a hard time imagining a brother killing an only brother in any circumstance, much less the killing by one brother of the only other brother on earth!Talk about a risk at loneliness!With only mom and dad left, on earth, it was going to be a strange life he had inflicted upon himself.
Of course, the events never literally happened as the message of the mythology was bit deeper than this "charming" Sunday school lesson.
Before looking at the details, let me just state the point.
The events never literally happened.
Like the previous events in Genesis,the Creation, the Fall and now the first murder, each had a lesson,a warning or a signal that times were changing for the Israelites, but did not literally happen.
Briefly, the lesson of Genesis 1 was that "Our God Made Your gods.
"The god who makes sun, moon and stars; wind , water and fire; animals, vegetables and minerals etc...
is greater than the gods that are worshipped as these things.
Therefore, the Hebrew God is the supreme God.
Genesis 1 is not a commentary on how the universe or life came to be.
It is not literally true.
The two creation accounts found in Gen.
1 and 2 are contradictory if taken literally.
Secondly, the story of the Fall is a simple statement against Goddess worship and how, in spite of it's popularity in the nations around Israel,will not be tolerated in Israel.
Matriarchy and it's associated benefits and perspectives is out and Patriarchy and the diminished roll of women from objects of worship and respect to having babies in pain and saying "yes sir" to men is in.
The sacred counselor in history to the woman, the Serpent, is now the Devil, though the text does not say serpent=Satan, that was added later.
Originally in the context, the Serpent was the wise counselor to the Goddess.
The story is meant to also dethrone this idea and make bothserpent and women the cause for sin and misery on planet earth.
(See the New Testament for the ongoing application of these beliefs.
) We see a remnant of Serpent respect in Israel when "Moses" lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness to save the Israelites who were being bitten by serpents in yet another punishment from God.
(Num.
21).
As a child I distinctly remember wondering what was Moses thinking to raise a SNAKE up on a pole to inspire healing in Israelites!And doesn't it take some time to fashion a bronze one? How weird!Later this bronze serpent, which was, at first ,lovingly preservedin the Ark of the Covenant for some reason, was laterdestroyed by Hezekiah as an abomination to God!(2 Kings 18:4)Is that not like Abraham Lincoln destroying something dear to us which Thomas Jefferson wrote? Later we have it being a type of Jesus being crucified (John 3;14-15).
It is obvious use of questionable objects is in the eye of the beholder.
And now the story of Cain and Abel in Gen.
4.
Cain, being the eldest becomes jealous of the fact that Abel has offered a more pleasing sacrifice to God.
Cain'soffering was agricultural in nature and Abel's was animal.
Again, as a CHILD, I wondered about what was so wrong with Cain's agricultural grain offering and why was it so offensive to God?...
And what was so right about Abel's animal offering?Once you know the change from Matriarchy to Patriarchy in the previous chapters, you will know.
Agricultural offerings were fertility symbols, just as Goddess worship was.
Agricultural offerings smacked of Goddess worship.
The gods of agriculture were fertility gods.
Earth and sky, dirt and rain, brought forth life! This had to change and the story of Cain and Abel makes the transition from the agricultural gods from which even the God of the bible sprang, to a God that needed animal sacrifice to be worshipped.
Now it was blood that ran the theology of the times, not veggies.
It is blood that forgives sin in OT and NT theology.
The bread (grain) and wine (blood) Eucharist in the NT is a reflection of much older and pre-Israelite custom of eating both thebody and drinking the blood of the god man.
The Passover roots of the OT are not any more original to Israel than the Eucharist is to the NT Church, Jesus or Paul.
The book of Hebrews clearly equates Jesus' sacrifice to animal sacrifice and blood letting.
At any rate,Cain's embarrassment grows to resentment and he kills his brother Abel.
So in with animal sacrifice and the Levitical Priesthood of slaughter and gore and out with fertility symbols.
Now Cain gets punished by God for killing Abel, which is really a message to those that would continue agricultural fertility rites and goddess worship to get on board or share his fate.
Genesis 4:13-15: "My punishment is greater than I can bear...
I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me shall slay me.
"Then the Lord says to him..
...
"Not so!If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall bet taken upon him sevenfold.
And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest anyone who came upon him shall kill him.
" Strange isn't it?Here we have Cain, the only surviving son on earth of the only two parents on earth having to flee into a world of NO people scared to death someone out there was going to kill him.
Maybe he didn't know the story of his parents origins! On top of this, God says for him not to worry, this enigmatic "sign" would prevent "anyone" from killing him.
Hey...
someone tell God there is not "anyone" out there yet!And anyone that will be out there has not yet been born,would have to grow up at least a bit to go after Cain and would have to want to!Gen.
4:25 makes it clear that Seth was a replacement for Abel...
a third child on earth now.
But just the third.
It's a myth.
It never happened.
It has a message for Israelites, but it is not literal history.
Next Cain finds a wife and has a another son, Enoch.
Always boy children and we won't even begin to wonder where Cain got the woman to marry.
He either was wrong to believe his own bible story about his family origins and there really were other humans around, or incest was OK to get the ball rolling.
The story does not say that there were daughters yet but the ad hoc apologetic is left with only the possibility of sisters or nieces.
So incest is OK if used sparingly in the early stages of a family tree! The solution to all this literalism is simple.
It never happened.
All human beings did not really arise from two people called "red clay" and "mother of all living.
"There was no real Cain who grew great veggies who killed his brother Abel, who bred great sheep.
The reason for this killing was not that God literally hated veggies and loved meat!It was a system of worship that was changing and this story is the illustrative tale that makes that point clear to a large population of Israelites, just as the previous chapters had made the point that "our God is greater than your god," and women havethe role ofhaving babies painfully and servitude to men, who now will be gods on earth in the form of Kings and Priests.
Later they will be the male ministers of the New Covenant.
Now isn't that special?Think about it:)
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