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Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16)

Vocabulary
101
Hebrew
cs en
46
Custom training

Description

The story of Cain and Abel is the first following right after the events of the fall. The story of the fall is full of despair and fear of the uncertain future. Humanity lost everything: relationships (God and among themselves), home, and future. However, here a new story begins with a bright and new hope.

The new hope is expressed in the introduction to the story (Gen 4:1-2). It resonates with the promise of an offspring a woman will bear who will conquer the evil. However, this information is very brief and the story goes rather a disastrous way.

The most puzzling and often debated portion of the story is the offering part (Gen 4:3-5) dealing with the offering of both brothers. A primary word used here for the offering is mincha (h. מִנְחָה). On other places in the Old Testament, this word is usually used to denote grain offering, however, in this text, its general meaning “gift” or “offering” is employed. This is due to the different character of both offerings thus forcing general meaning. This conclusion is drawn from various reasons. it is supported by a verbal form of the word mincha which is מנח meaning “to give”. Further, this offering in the meaning of grain offering excludes any slaying (compare with other offerings in Lev 1-7).

Very plausible solution for the understanding of the story can be drawn from the assumption that there was something in the character of the offerer. God warned Cain about doing good to conquer sin (Gen 4:6-7). What was really in his heart is manifested later in the act of murder.

This idea is also supported by the grammar of Gen 4:2-4. In both cases, the same verb “to bring” (h. בוא) and verbal stem (Hiphil) is used to describe the actions of the brothers. However, each having a different verbal aspect. In the case of Cain, imperfect aspect is employed, and in the case of Abel, perfect aspect is employed. The reason for this difference is stylistic to show that both are doing the same thing but differently and we are not told explicitly what it is. Moreover, in the New Testament, there is an allusion to this text in Hebrews 11:4 making case for the quality of faith - also something inner.

Nonetheless, it should be given justice to the following content of the story (Gen 4:6-16) which is too often disregarded. This is especially because the focus of the story is not primarily on the question of proper or improper offering but rather what is going on with Cain, who actually is the main character of the story.

 

Items

Word Meaning
עַתָּה now
ארר curse
אֲשֶׁר that, which
פצה open, set free
פֶּה mouth
לקח take, grasp, seize
יָד hand, side, place, power, monument
כִּי yea; that, for, when
נתן give, put, set

Biblical text

4:1וְהָ֣אָדָ֔ם יָדַ֖ע אֶת־חַוָּ֣ה אִשְׁתּ֑וֹ וַתַּ֙הַר֙ וַתֵּ֣לֶד אֶת־קַ֔יִן וַתֹּ֕אמֶר קָנִ֥יתִי אִ֖ישׁ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃2וַתֹּ֣סֶף לָלֶ֔דֶת אֶת־אָחִ֖יו אֶת־הָ֑בֶל וַֽיְהִי־הֶ֙בֶל֙ רֹ֣עֵה צֹ֔אן וְקַ֕יִן הָיָ֖ה עֹבֵ֥ד אֲדָמָֽה׃3וַֽיְהִ֖י מִקֵּ֣ץ יָמִ֑ים וַיָּבֵ֨א קַ֜יִן מִפְּרִ֧י הָֽאֲדָמָ֛ה מִנְחָ֖ה לַֽיהוָֽה׃4וְהֶ֨בֶל הֵבִ֥יא גַם־ה֛וּא מִבְּכֹר֥וֹת צֹאנ֖וֹ וּמֵֽחֶלְבֵהֶ֑ן וַיִּ֣שַׁע יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־הֶ֖בֶל וְאֶל־מִנְחָתֽוֹ׃5וְאֶל־קַ֥יִן וְאֶל־מִנְחָת֖וֹ לֹ֣א שָׁעָ֑ה וַיִּ֤חַר לְקַ֙יִן֙ מְאֹ֔ד וַֽיִּפְּל֖וּ פָּנָֽיו׃6וַיֹּ֥אמֶר יְהוָ֖ה אֶל־קָ֑יִן לָ֚מָּה חָ֣רָה לָ֔ךְ וְלָ֖מָּה נָפְל֥וּ פָנֶֽיךָ׃7הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ׃8וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יו וַֽיְהִי֙ בִּהְיוֹתָ֣ם בַּשָּׂדֶ֔ה וַיָּ֥קָם קַ֛יִן אֶל־הֶ֥בֶל אָחִ֖יו וַיַּהַרְגֵֽהוּ׃9וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־קַ֔יִן אֵ֖י הֶ֣בֶל אָחִ֑יךָ וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי׃10וַיֹּ֖אמֶר מֶ֣ה עָשִׂ֑יתָ ק֚וֹל דְּמֵ֣י אָחִ֔יךָ צֹעֲקִ֥ים אֵלַ֖י מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃11וְעַתָּ֖ה אָר֣וּר אָ֑תָּה מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ לָקַ֛חַת אֶת־דְּמֵ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ מִיָּדֶֽךָ׃12כִּ֤י תַֽעֲבֹד֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹֽא־תֹסֵ֥ף תֵּת־כֹּחָ֖הּ לָ֑ךְ נָ֥ע וָנָ֖ד תִּֽהְיֶ֥ה בָאָֽרֶץ׃13וַיֹּ֥אמֶר קַ֖יִן אֶל־יְהוָ֑ה גָּד֥וֹל עֲוֺנִ֖י מִנְּשֹֽׂא׃14הֵן֩ גֵּרַ֨שְׁתָּ אֹתִ֜י הַיּ֗וֹם מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה וּמִפָּנֶ֖יךָ אֶסָּתֵ֑ר וְהָיִ֜יתִי נָ֤ע וָנָד֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וְהָיָ֥ה כָל־מֹצְאִ֖י יַֽהַרְגֵֽנִי׃15וַיֹּ֧אמֶר ל֣וֹ יְהוָ֗ה לָכֵן֙ כָּל־הֹרֵ֣ג קַ֔יִן שִׁבְעָתַ֖יִם יֻקָּ֑ם וַיָּ֨שֶׂם יְהוָ֤ה לְקַ֙יִן֙ א֔וֹת לְבִלְתִּ֥י הַכּוֹת־אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־מֹצְאֽוֹ׃16וַיֵּ֥צֵא קַ֖יִן מִלִּפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב בְּאֶֽרֶץ־נ֖וֹד קִדְמַת־עֵֽדֶן׃