Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cain and Abel?

I listen to audiobooks and podcasts every chance I get. Sometimes, I fall several days behind in the news because I'm catching up on my TED talks or my "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." These days, the book I'm listening to on my ipod is "Kane and Abel" by Jeffrey Archer. It occurred to me that I don't have a good understanding of the biblical story, so I looked it up in my Children's Illustrated Bible. While I was reading that, my children walked into the room and wondered what on earth I was doing, (I was stretching and exercising on the floor at the same time, so it was a valid question.) Curious, they actually invited me to read the King James' version of that story to them over lunch.

It was helpful to read it together; the girls raised further questions I couldn't answer, but I could ponder with them. We wondered:
Why didn't the Lord like Cain's offering? Was he offering inferior grains and fruits? Was he the less favored child?
Why did Cain murder Abel? What are we to learn from that?
Was banishing him, but not allowing him to be harmed, a more terrible punishment for Cain than death would have been?
If, as it seemed, Cain and Abel were the first and for a while only people on the earth besides Adam and Eve, who were the masses of people that Cain feared might want to kill him for his crime? Other children of Adam and Eve? Then they'd be his siblings. . .
Why is the first murder in the bible between siblings?
Did Cain repent?
What does this story tell us about the people telling it to us?

I don't want to offend anyone who reads the bible as a religious text. I have no ax to grind or religious affiliation of any kind. My interest in the bible is primarily as a piece of important literature which contains the origins of most of our modern literature. I have barely scratched the surface of the bible's literary gifts, but I enjoy reading portions and trying to understand them whenever obvious references show up in my novels. In my quick look through blogs on the topic of Cain and Abel, I saw many different and interesting interpretations, but nothing that really satisfied me. Maybe you have ideas you'd like to share!

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