The Bible Is a Parable: A Middle Ground Between Science and Religion
The story of Cain and Abel is told in a short terse manner, using few words to
convey much more than the simple interplay between the three main characters. It is left
to extra-biblical sources to interpret into the story the things that would have logically
been said and done that would give meaning to the sparse words chosen to convey the
Nowhere is the earthly father, Adam, mentioned. Also not mentioned is the fate of
many firstborn children when brought into the world under less than ideal conditions.
Parents who are immature and/or inexperienced in raising a child under tough conditions
tend to unknowingly inculcate certain wa ys of reacting to unduly distressing experiences,
especially if the child might be equated in some way with the conditions under which
they all must exist.
The Bible indicates that -Cain was a farmer | while -Abel became a shepherd. | In
many biblical stories, the lesser important, younger members of a family -tended the
sheep, | leaving the -tilling of the fields | by implication and other references in the Bible
to more important members. This leads one to conclude an inference that Cain, the
firstborn, with the higher status of the two was engaged in that more important
occupation. Cain‘s work verified his position as inheritor within the family, whereas
Abel‘s work implied his status to be that of a helper in support of his elder brother, as the
passing of generations left sons to replace their father‘s leadership role.
A study within anthropology reveals that farming (agriculture) was a newer skill than
shepherding (animal husbandry). Therefore, it appears that the practice of this newer skill
led to an elevated status within the biblical family.
-At harvest time, Cain brought the Lord a gift of his farm produce, and Abel brought
the fatty cuts of meat from his best lambs, and presented them to the Lord | (Gen. 4:3–4,
Neither the preceding nor succeed ing texts seems to reveal much about how this
practice got started.
Elie Wiesel, in an extra-biblical commentary, has this to say in his opinion on a
closely related matter. -At first we become attached to Cain. He shares with his younger
brother, Abel, the generous idea of offering gifts to the Lord. But for this, Abel might
never have felt the need to do the same. |
This interpretation implies that the idea of presenting offerings began with Cain. Mr.
Wiesel shares with us, in a later paragraph, the extra-biblical source that aided him in
making this interpretation.
-As always, the Midrash comes to the rescue in our attempt to fill the gaps left by the
biblical text. |
The Midrash, as indicated in a footnote, -is a genre of rabbinic literature that includes
the nonliteral elaborations of biblical texts. |
This appears to have been a long-established practice in Hebrew theology that was
meant to aid in the understanding of the parts of the biblical texts where more seems to
have been left out than included. I‘m sure that the lifetime studies of many Hebrew
scholars went into these elaborations before they could be presented with any certain
authority. However, I cannot agree with the suggestion, even while only implied, that
Cain was the originator of the practice. There are a variety of passages in the Bible that
could be used to present a different set of events than what Mr. Wiesel suggests.