Now . . . Eve became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel. When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
For some reason, God like’s Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s. Why? Is Cain proud and self-willed? Is God trying to rub it in Cain’s face that he’s the Bad Seed? Is God anti-vegetarian? Was there something wrong with Cain’s crops? Maybe God really does like the little brother best. Maybe Cain’s devotion to God was lukewarm while Abel expressed enthusiastic piety.
For some reason, God likes Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. The only clue we have to why might be found in one small word in the text: “Some.” Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel makes an offering to God, too, which the storyteller describes in detail. Abel gives the best, and Cain only gives some and God rejects it. Cain is angry. And sad. And depressed. Cain will soon be guilty of something rather horrible--so terrible that it makes his lackluster offering look trivial by comparison. Seeing Cain’s simmering rage, God suggests that with some effort, Cain can wrestle temptation to the ground and become the master over it instead of the victim. Did Cain even try? Did wrestle with his frustrations and angers?
Screaming blood and kissing lips. Justified punishment and gracious salvation. Cain’s bloody hands and God’s mark of protection on Cain’s forehead. The images collide and bewilder. Why does God keep insisting on life? Why doesn’t the cry of Abel’s blood have the last word? Why? Because only God may have the last word, and that word is life.