Uncle Aaron’s Bible Stories – A Cynical Take on Cain and Abel
Once the man and Eve were exiled from the garden they started humping like sex-starved rabbits in spring. After one of their many daily encounters with the beast with two backs, Eve became pregnant with her first child.
“Oh my God! Like, with God’s help, I have made a little man!” she said, holding the newborn baby to her breast.
The man looked at the boy skeptically, “With God’s help eh? I’ve been thinking, he doesn’t look very much like me.”
“Like, I don’t know if you’re trying to say he isn’t yours or not, but you do know you’re the only man right?”
The man shrugged, “Well at any rate I’m sure he’ll make us proud,” he said, taking the boy and rocking him to sleep. After Cain was asleep the two had sex again, and Eve fell pregnant with her second child. When that child was born, she just named him Abel and moved on with her life.
In the course of time the two boys took very different paths in life. Like his father, Cain became a farmer. Abel decide to work primarily with livestock and became a shepherd.
For no reason whatsoever, the two boys decided to make an offering to God. So one day they each brought their offering. Cain brought some of his produce, the fruits of his orchard, grain from his field, and some vegetables. Abel, ever the show off, brought the fattest of the first born female lambs of his flock.
God, as is known, loves barbecue and favored Abel’s offering. He didn’t even look at Cain’s healthier, vegan friendly offering. Not even the apples, which were amazing. This made Cain irrationally angry with his brother.
Noticing Cain’s anger and frustration God visited him.
“Cain, why are you angry? You look like one of Abel’s sheep peed in your coffee.”
“What’s coffee?” Cain asked.
“Nevermind. Look there’s no reason for you to be mad. If with everything you do, you do a good job, you’ll be accepted. If you don’t do a good job, sin will be skulking around you, wanting you, desiring you. You can’t let it have its way, you must assert dominance and subjugate it to your will.”
“I think I understand, God,” Cain said. He didn’t particularly understand, God was known for being somewhat cryptic and had a tendency to retaliate harshly on anyone who didn’t understand what He was getting at.
“Good, good talk,” God said, slapping Cain on the back and wandering off to parts unknown.
Cain, who couldn’t quite get over his anger found his brother sitting on his ass watching his sheep and playing some nonsense musical instrument he’d invented.
“Hey Abel!” Cain yelled, “Come with me out to one of my fields, I need some help with something right quick.”
Abel got up and followed his brother. “What do you need help with?”
“I’ve lost one of my tools in a hole, and can’t quite reach it. Your arms are a bit longer than mine, thought I’d get you to try before I go to the effort of digging it out,” Cain replied.
“Makes sense,” Abel replied.
They reached the field and Cain pointed to a small crevice in the ground, “It’s down there, you should be able to see it.”
Abel crouched down and looked in the hole, “Cain I don’t see it? What am I looking for?”
“It’s a wooden stick with a rock tied to it. Seriously, you need to eat more carrots, I can see it from here,” Cain replied.
Abel laid down and peered into the hole, “I still don’t see it.”
“Silly me, I found it,” Cain said, bringing a stone club down on his brother’s head as hard as he could. Abel’s head split open like a ripe watermelon in August. Cain’s profession made him inhumanly strong, pulling his wooden plow through the hard, cursed ground.
Later that afternoon while Cain was pleasantly harvesting garlic, the Lord approached him.
“Yes, God?” Cain asked, not looking up from his work.
“Where’s your brother Abel? I can’t find him.”
“How the hell should I know where my brother is? Am I supposed to keep track of his schedule or something? He does his own thing. With sheep. It’s weird and unhealthy,” Cain replied.
“It was a rhetorical question Cain. I know you killed him, his blood has been screaming at me from the ground all day. So, as punishment, I’m cursing you so that the ground won’t produce for you anymore, because of all the blood you made it drink. You’re going to be a wanderer, and probably a weak one as the ground isn’t going to give you its strength anymore,” God said.
“Ok, see that’s a good curse. You’re getting better at this. Dad said you cursed the ground because of what he did, now you’re cursing me because of what I did. Much more fair,” Cain said.
God puffed out his chest, “Well, thank you, Cain.”
“But!” Cain replied, holding up a finger, “This is too much punishment for what I did. First of all, Abel kind of had it coming. Second, you’re going to make me unable to do the only thing I’m good at and wander all over the place begging for food. I won’t make it to the next farm over before they kill me. The Cherub over there does a good job of keeping us safe from bandits. He’s even taken to turning into a man, and I shouldn’t tell you this but he lets dad borrow his sword sometimes.”
“Oh, that’s easy to remedy,” God said, putting his finger on Cain’s head, “I’m marking you so people will know if they kill you, they’ll get it seven times worse.”
“What did you do?”
“I made it look like you’re a somewhat inhuman monster. People will be afraid to touch you,” God replied.
“I’m hideous aren’t I?”
“Oh, no far from it. In fact, while people won’t want to kill you, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding a wife or two now,” God said, winking at Cain, “Now get the fuck out of here.”
And so it was that Cain left Eden and ran off to the Land of Nod. Which is to say he wandered around aimlessly for a time.
This is why the world hates vegans.
Notes… And musings about vampires…
As always, my sources are the Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, and the Orthodox Jewish Bible. I also refer to an extra biblical source for part of this story called the “Apocalypse of Moses”. Some of the other ideas come from more than one non-biblical source.
Most translators and probably the original authors sort of talk around Adam and Eve having sex. They say things like, “Adam knew his wife,” much like how we say, “Oh they slept together.” Some translations make it more blatant. With Adam and Cain, it specifically says they ‘knew their wives’ before they had children. With the other patriarchs, it does not say this, they just had children, which is a more natural way of saying it.
There’s nothing wrong with either talking about or around sex, I just find it odd it’s even brought up. Of course they had sex, that’s how children are made. Was there some pamphlet going around suggesting Adam’s children and Cain’s children came about some other way?
In Adam’s case, actually yes. It was a widespread belief that Cain’s father was a fallen angel, Satan, the snake, or even God Himself. The latter probably being the logical answer to the question, “What did she mean with God’s help I’ve gotten a man?” My guess is that the passage didn’t include the part about Adam and Eve boning. I’d imagine someone added it later try and dispel the idea that Cain was somehow half-human and that was the reason he murdered Abel. Why be specific with Cain and his wife, I have no idea.
The differing professions of the brothers are equally valid ways to produce food. Producing food used to be far more important to people, and far more labor intensive than it is today. Also, most people were involved in it. Now, a relatively small number of people can feed hundreds, possibly thousands, due to industrialization and thousands of years of selective breeding.
There’s almost certainly a statement being made here about the people who farm, and the people who raise livestock. I’m not sure what the issue was when the story was being penned. The best suggestion I’ve read is that the semi-nomadic, sheep herding way of life was seen as superior to the settled, agricultural life of civilized people. Considering Cain builds the world’s first city later, it’s as good a theory as any.
The nature of the two offerings is, at best confusing. Cain is said to have brought some of his produce as an offering. Abel is said to have brought a meat offering, and it’s said in the most confusing way possible.
The way most translations I looked at phrase Genesis 4:4, it indicates Abel brought both some whole, firstborn sheep, as well as some choice cuts of meat he’d butchered. Maybe this is correct, as such offerings did occur. Young’s Literal Translation indicates he brought some of the fattest firstborn female sheep he had as an offering. That’s what I went with, mostly because it fits better with the common idea of what an ancient animal sacrifice was, namely a whole animal being burned. No other translation I looked at indicates the sheep were female.
The issue is that this wasn’t a sacrifice, it was a gift offering, which didn’t usually mean the whole animal was burned. While gift offerings were sometimes made as an addition to the regular sin offerings, they were not mandatory and were rarely a whole animal.
Say you had a good harvest, or were trying to curry God’s favor for your next horse race, you might burn some grain, oil and incense. If you had been a particularly sinful rancher this year, you might also toss in a filet mignon or two with your regular offering of a whole cow, just to make sure it took. Often times only part of your offering was actually burned, the priests would eat most of it. I think of it much like a donation to the church apart from your tithe for a special project or something like that.
Why God turned down Cain’s offering is anyone’s guess. Many interpretations exist. One common interpretation is that God required an animal sacrifice, and that vegetables were unacceptable. Absent any sort of theological frameworks, it certainly reads that way. However, God later institutes grain sacrifices, fruit sacrifices and various other non-animal based sacrifices, which indicates at some point in time these kinds of offerings and sacrifices were seen as normal. The author of this story may have simply been from a time when animal sacrifices and offerings were the only kind that were acceptable.
There are tons of other ideas, few of which have any basis in what the scripture actually says. Cain’s attitude, effort, and the grain not being the first fruit of the field are all interpretations I’ve heard, and read. These are all products of various theological frameworks being applied retroactively to the text. The scripture says nothing of the sort.
I have a more cynical, and more practical idea as to why the story reads the way it does. These stories were almost all written down by the literate priests. It’s also my understanding that priests would get parts of the offerings and sacrifices to eat themselves. I believe this was how they were paid. Since meat is more desirable than bread to most, this was just one (or more) priest’s way of getting the all barbecue he wanted as opposed to the less tasty dough offerings.
A lot of artwork depicts Cain killing Abel with the jawbone of a donkey. I was always taught he grabbed a rock and smashed Abel over the head. I think this idea comes from the Qoran (actually, a lot of the stories I heard in Sunday School were really from the Qoran or some other Islamic source), and the jawbone thing was probably some weird idea from England in the middle ages. Either way it’s not specified how Cain killed Abel. The idea I like the best is he just clubbed him on the back of the head with some primitive farm implement while he was distracted.
The mark God gives Cain after the murder is also the subject of centuries of debate. One of the letters of God’s sacred name is one idea I’ve seen. Another is that God caused him to grow a horn. A reasonable idea is that God gave him leprosy. Since Cain was a city builder, I suspect it wasn’t supposed to be leprosy if the author knew of the city building. One of the more interesting, and fantastic ideas is that God turned him into a vampire. There are a few apocryphal texts describing Cain biting his brother on the neck, and of Eve having a vision of Cain drinking Abel’s blood. This seems to be where that particular idea comes from.
At any rate it seems to be that the mark was something people could see and understand. I like the idea of some kind of deformity. Whatever it was obviously didn’t hinder his ability to obtain a wife and have children so it couldn’t have been too horrifying.
Dwelling in the Land of Nod is apparently an ancient idiom for living a wandering, nomadic lifestyle. It’s not a literal place, it just means that he wandered around east of Eden for a while.
As for the moral of the story at the end. I just find this funny. A lot of these Bible stories have a quick little, “And this is why a thing is like that” at the end. This one didn’t have one, but Creation and The Fall both do. Creations is “And this is why a man leaves his parent’s house and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh”, the one for the Fall is actually the curse, explaining the following:
- Why Snakes have no legs.
- Why women have pain in child birth.
- Why people hate snakes.
- Why men have to work hard their whole life for seemingly less than they put in.
- Why the ground grows weeds and other hindrances to agriculture.