Cain Tilled the Ground
“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
As a child attending Sunday School and listening to so many disconnected Bible stories, I was confused by the account of Cain and Abel. In particular, I found it strange that God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. There didn’t seem to be a reason. I remember asking my Sunday School teacher, who didn’t know either.
“Maybe Cain wasn’t very nice in the way that he gave his offering,” she suggested.
But that can’t be the case. Cain offered the fruit of the ground when it was harvested. This was probably the first and best of the crops. Surely God would be pleased with the best. How can we possibly know whether Cain offered the crop with bad grace?
Part of the problem was that my Sunday School teacher did not believe that the account of Cain and Abel was genuinely historical. It was more of a legend to her. But years later, when I had accepted that Genesis was literally true, I realized that the answer was there in the text. Cain brought the best that he could offer, but the best that we can offer is not good enough because we are sinners. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.
Abel brought a blood sacrifice. He did not raise sheep for food because meat was forbidden us until after the Flood. Abel’s offering recognized his sin and the need for atonement. Cain’s offering was given insufficient because we cannot earn our way to God. We need the atoning blood of Jesus Christ.
Ref: Taylor, P.F. (2009), Cain and Abel: Worship and Sacrifice, (Toutle, WA: J6D Publications), pp. 17-20. Image: Ben Peter Scotton, commissioned by the author for his use.
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