The Greatest Murder Mystery
By James Donahue
we can accept the fourth chapter of Genesis as a true historical record, then Adam and Eve began populating the world with
three sons, Cain, Abel and Seth. But when they were grown, Cain murdered his brother, Abel.
The mystery in this story is why such a thing could have happened.
If these were the only humans on the planet, and the event happened while the soil was rich, the water pure and
everything was growing in abundance, what might have stirred the brothers into an angry fight that led to the death of Abel?
The Genesis story suggests that Cain was angry because he believed
God favored Abel over him because of the way God responded to offerings the brothers made.
The Genesis story reads:
Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering
to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked
with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry.”
If Cain were being tried in a contemporary court of law, the lawyers
would be attempting to establish motive. And using jealousy over first offerings to an invisible God is a relatively weak
reason for a man to go into a rage and murder his brother, one of only four or five known human to exist in the world at that
If Cain was a farmer and attempting
to grow crops for food, the best offering he could have produced was early grains, fruits and vegetables from the soil. The
story says he brought “some” of these things as his offering, obviously holding back the rest to feed his family.
Did this pissed off God? Was it that Cain didn’t give all of the crops as his offering?
Abel, who was obviously a sheep herder, offered some of the firstborn of his flock. He could afford to do this
since sheep continue to reproduce. Also one of the main benefits of raising sheep is the wool they produce. He did not have
to hold back on his offering since the herd was probably healthy and maintaining the needs of the family.
The only hint we have at Cain’s motive for killing Abel
comes from the following statement, attributed to God in a form of scolding Cain for his anger: “If you do what is right,
will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you
must rule over it.”
Whether the words
came directly from the lips of the Creator or not, it was good advice, not only for Cain but for all of mankind. We all have
our personal demons to fight and our task is always to maintain personal control, do what we do in love for others, and never
open the door to the sin that hovers just outside.
Cain obviously did not listen and committed the terrible act of killing his brother anyway. He summoned Abel out
into the field where he killed him. How did he think he could get away with such a crime? Of course Moses was not around yet
to establish laws with which people should live, so the act of murder was not considered a sin, or a crime. And if Cain watched
Abel slaughter sheep for the family meal, the act of killing a living thing may not have seemed wrong to Cain.
But punishment was dealt and Cain fled the area, having been given
a “mark of Cain” somewhere on his body by God to guarantee his protection. He went to the Land of Nod, a name
used in children’s story books to this day. There he married, had children and became the father of the Canaanites.
The Canaanites became what was later known as the Phoenicians, who
were important traders, sailors and world explorers during the late Bronze Age. They occupied what is now the nations of Lebanon,
Israel, and Palestine and influence the Egyptian, Hittite and Assyrian Empires.
Thus God’s judgment on Cain for his crime was not as severe as we are led to believe. If he was a real person
and the story is in any way credible, Cain left the world a dynamic legacy.
The third son, Seth, went on to become the father of the Hebrew people and the direct ancestor of Jesus.
We must wonder what influence Abel might have had on history had he lived.
We also wonder where these men found the women that bore their children. But that is yet another unsolved mystery
that leads to one of two conclusions. 1) They married their sisters, or 2) Homo
sapiens were in existence long before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene.