To: en & others
From: Su Min
Subject: My Brother's Keeper
Today's meditation centres upon Genesis 4, Cain and Abel.
As we look at Gen 4:1 we see in the KJV that Adam "knew" Eve. According to Strong's concordance the verb used here in Hebrew is "yada" (Strong 3045) to know by seeing, is used in a great variety of senses from literal, euphemistic and inference. In the NIV the verse is rendered "Adam lay with his wife Eve."
It appears that the old scribes had difficulty in using phrases that directly describe the biological functions required for human reproduction, hence the euphemism.. This contributed in no small way to the Puritanical and Victorian prudery in suppressing the enjoyment of sexual intimacy. But it is obvious enough that the ancients recognised that sexual intimacy was an integral and precious part of married life, and that sexual intimacy was associated with conception, pregnancy and childbirth. So by the middle of Gen 4:1 we are brought to the birth of Cain. Note that Eve gives credit to the Lord God Almighty for his help in the bringing forth of the child. An important lesson too for the Obstetric community: doctors and nurses should daily give credit to the Lord God Almighty for his help in the bringing forth of each child that is delivered in the delivery suite.
Later (but not very much later as it already happens in the next verse) the biological process is repeated and by the end of vs. 2 we have the name of the younger brother, Abel.
Sibling rivalry seems to an inherent part of fallen man. It was there ever since the first set of sibs and the result was blue murder! Cain was an agriculturist while Abel an animal husbander. Abel was perceptive enough to offer God the best of his produce as offering, but Cain thought it suffice to offer any old potato. At the end of OT in Malachi 1:8-9 we see that the habit of presenting God with lousy offerings continued right through all of OT days, and continues in us at the present time. OK, we don't offer rams and bulls; but what does God ask of us? Do we offer some spare pennies for church offering? Is that what it is about? Do we offer a few minutes of service at a church funfair, or a few hours to help at a church service? Do we do these grudgingly and consider these as sacrifice? I Sam 15:22 "To obey is better than to sacrifice: to heed is better than the fat of rams." In Hosea 6:6 "I desire mercy not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offering" Jesus quotes this teaching in Matt 9:12. "Go and learn what this means 'I desire mercy not sacrifice'." Repetition in the bible indicates significance.
So God wants us to obey him and heed his commands and be merciful. But how are we going to heed his commands if we do not know what they are? and how are we going to hear his voice if we do not listen to him? And how are we going to recognise his voice if we do hear it, if he is a stranger to us? The message is obvious: we must spend time in prayer talking with God, sharing with him our innermost needs, and also taking time to being still (Ps 46:10) to sense his presence and guidance. I also believe we have to read the word of God to see what he has to say to us. Other avenues of His instruction to us include Sunday sermons, small group fellowships, talks, books, video, film, and sometimes directly a person to person talk between God and you. Jesus says in John 10:11"I am the good shepherd". He says his sheep follow him because they know his voice (John 10:4). I am convinced that by allowing a personal relationship to develop by prayer and study, we will learn to recognise the voice of God, for indeed we are his sheep and he is our shepherd (Psalm 23).
(The concept of sacrifice is quite common amongst primitive people, giving something precious to God, as a token of love or in order to buy favour: In the OT we read of how Noah sacrificed burnt offering after the flood (Gen 8:20) In the pentateuch we read of various bullock and bird offerings. In Exodus 12 we read of the Passover and the Passover Lamb (Ex 12:21). Yearly sacrifices were required. In comparison in the NT we find that Jesus became the sacrificial lamb dying once for all to pay for our sins, and having died and been buried, rising on the third day as prophesied, to reign for ever as the Risen Saviour. So much for sacrifice:
In Gen 4:5, we read of consequence of the poor sacrifice: God did not look on it with favour: Cain was angry: Cain took his brother for a walk and killed Abel. First documented case of murder. First documented case of jealousy.
Let us meditate a little on jealousy first. Murder may not be so appropriate as most of us will not go about committing murder (although there are times when we may jolly well feel like doing). But the big J, the green eyed dragon. Why do you think that the bible describes the second ever sin in enough detail for us the see the role of anger and jealousy (for it was the accepted offering of his Abel that triggered off the anger in Cain). I believe that this is because jealousy is the next most common sin that we are guilty of. Now there is a "good" kind of jealousy. God is a described as a jealous God (Exodus 20:5, as he wants our undivided love, attention and worship. But human jealousy particularly in love relationships are surely falling short of God's standards: Look at Proverbs 6:34 "Jealousy arouses a husband's fury and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge." "Love is as strong as death, its jealousy as unyielding as the grave (Songs 8:6)" The lesson to be learned here I believe is that we must not be jealous, not of love, not of other peoples successes. If we let jealousy overwhelm us and become our God, we may well slip into a murderous state of mind without even realising it. Guard against jealousy.
But Cain slipped up. Cain slipped into a jealous murderous frame of mind. He cajoles Abel to take a walk. And blood is spilt. Fatally. Unseen, in a quiet field. No other human knows But God knows. There was no hiding from God. God confronts Cain. Cain pretends. Can it be that God does not know? We know better. We know that God knows everything. There is no hiding or running away from God. In Psalm 139 David acknowledges how God knows us so intimately, much more than any human could ever know. There is no where we could flee from God: Conversely, wherever we go we can depend on God's presence to be with us and protect us. Never need we feel lonely.
Cain was sent away from God's presence, to live in the land of Nod Gen 4:16) but even in punishment God shows mercy for he promises to protect Cain and even signifies this with a special mark (Gen 4:15). In verse 17 we read that Cain had a wife: footnotes of my Amplified suggest that 100 years may have elapsed since the first pregnancy of Eve and there would have been very many brothers and sisters and subsequent descendants (up to 3200?) So Cain must have married a sister or a niece or some other descendant of another combination of the offspring of Adam and Eve. This makes sense, and makes it possible to believe the literal interpretation of this part of the bible. Incest was a necessity for the first family. Or else who did Cain marry? Perhaps there were other people created by God that the bible does not tell us about? Does not bother me. Anyway there were more and more people, and they began to call on the name of the Lord (vs. 26) suggesting a beginning of organised orderly worship. Was this the very first church, the very first home cell group? I think it was.
Well, that was a mighty long meditation. I am sure we will learn more about the Word of God hidden in this the chapter the next time we have opportunity to study it. Read what you can now, referring to appropriate bible verses. Put the electronic file or hard copy aside for a rainy day. Maybe we can publish the whole set after we finish 3 years of E-mailing?
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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