v.1 Adam met his wife Eve, who conceived and gave birth to Cain
v.2 Then she gave birth to her brother Abel. And Abel was a shepherd of sheep, and Cain was a farmer of the land.
In these first two verses, in which Cain and Abel are introduced, the element of opposition between two characters already appears. This figure of opposition will accompany us in many moments of our biblical journey, both in the Old and in the New Testament. It is enough to give as examples the cases of Abraham and Lot, of Esau and Jacob, of David and Goliath or of the brothers in the parable called “The prodigal son” . In the end, what it is about, is what we already pointed out in the comment of the previous chapter: to present the opposing realities of good and evil and, consequently, of the ability and freedom of the human being to choose between good, as God’s plan of happiness for man, or evil, which would be the non-acceptance of that saving plan.
In this case, the contrast apparently has to do with the work practice of each of the brothers: Cain is a farmer and Abel is a shepherd. Knowing how we know that the People of Israel is a people with a tradition of shepherds, we should not be surprised that good old Abel is a shepherd. I allow myself to remember at this moment all those cinematic westerns that show the struggle between ranchers and farmers. I cannot avoid connecting certain topics that occur in one and another era.
v.3 And it came to pass in time that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to Yahweh.
v.4 And Abel also brought some of the firstborn of his sheep, of the fattest of them. And Yahweh looked with favor on Abel and his offering;
v. 5 but did not look with favor on Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.
We were saying that apparently the opposition has to do with the job they do. But things tend to be deeper than they appear to be and events must be read, most of the time, with more than one key. If we only stay, when reading the Bible, with the sociological elements (which are important), we do not take the leap to reach the believing reading. From a theological point of view, the relationship of Cain and Abel with God the creator is of vital relevance. What they work with, which they have found in nature, has been created by God, has been generously lent to them by God. But by making the offering to God, by thanking him for his gift, we deduce that Abel responds from generosity and Cain responds from rashness. Or not? Be that as it may, the story tells us that God is not happy with Cain’s offering, but above all it tells us that Cain, instead of overcoming the call for attention, joins in the defeatism of the wounded pride.
We can think about what our relationship with God is like, our offering, and if, when we realize our rashness, we act like Cain (or like Judas). That is, do we allow ourselves to be loved and forgiven by God?
v.8 And Cain said to his brother Abel: Let’s go out into the field. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.
v.9 And Yahweh said to Cain: Where is Abel your brother? And he replied: I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?
Cain’s question answers itself. Would Cain wish he had been the victim of his brother’s wayward pride?
Pope Francis, in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, writes:
“The Word of God teaches that in the brother is the permanent prolongation of the Incarnation for each one of us:” What you did to one of these smallest brothers of mine, you did to me “(Mt 25 , 40). What we do with others has a transcendent dimension: “With the measure with which you measure, it will be measured to you” (Mt 7,2); and he responds to divine mercy with us: «Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Judge not and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; Give and it will be given to you […] With the measure you use, it will be measured to you ”(Lk 6,36-38)”.
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