Genesis 4: 1-10 – The World Behind the Text

Last week in our Rooted readings we looked at that wonderful chapter in Hebrews, chapter 11. That is a such a wonderful passage of scripture, giving examples of so many saints in the Old Testament.  The next few weeks we’ll look at many of the saints that are mentioned in this chapter.  This week we are going to look deeper at Genesis 4:1-10, the story of Cain and Able:

1 Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 Next she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

I want to say this on the front end of our reading this week, we are going to be more focused on Able than upon Cain. Able is who is mentioned in Hebrews 11, he is one of the icons of faith. Much time is spent looking at Cain, but we want to focus on the one who is our example of faith – Able.

Today, we want to look at the world behind the text of Genesis, particularly this section dealing with Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able.  Genesis is historically attributed to Moses as the author, but within much of the Jewish tradition, God himself is seen at the author and was given directly to Moses.  I think of Genesis, ironically in the same way that I do the Gospel of John.  I believe it is historically true and giving a historic account of what happened.  But I believe that if we focus only on the historic account we are missing a large portion of what the text is trying to share with us.

One of the mistakes that we citizens of the 21st century can make when we try to read everything like we are reading a newspaper or website.  The language of scripture is supposed to wash over us and speak to us about truth greater than just words upon the paper. The Holy Spirit will enlighten our eyes to beautiful truths that are greater than simply what we see.

We see in creation a God so great that He speaks and life springs into existence. But we also see a God so intimate that he notices that Adam is lonely.  These are huge sweeping truths. We see with Cain and able the truths of worship and dedication and pride and selfishness.  Truths that echo down to us today.

Genesis doesn’t want to simply give a historic account, it wants to give us a sense of wonder and beauty and tragedy.  Read this text with wonder in your eyes, let it peek your imagination.  That is what this text was given to us.  Let it lead you to where the Spirit guides.

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