“Am I my brother’s keeper?” I tried that Biblical line on my mother once when I was about 6 or 7. It didn’t go over so well. Of all the Bible characters to quote, Cain probably isn’t the best choice. Two things caught my attention this morning. First, was the question which sparked Cain’s snarky reply: “Where is your brother?” It reminds me of the second greatest commandment identified in Matthew 22: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” From the beginning, God has desired and expected us to love not only Him but also each other.
The second thing was the curse on Cain: “When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain sin cost him both his job and family. The formerly successful farmer who had been so proud of his crops that he thought they should suffice for a blood sacrifice would never again be able to coax food from the ground. He would be a nomadic hunter and gatherer, ever wandering far from his family. The punishment is so appropriate and just. The source of his pride was taken away, as was the comfort of the family he despised.
Yet this passage also demonstrates God’s love and mercy, even for the rebellious son. When reading the Old Testament, I’m always tempted to gloss over the geneologies. Here Genesis 4 gives the first geneology in Scripture, the descendants of Cain, which at first glance seems insignificant. But it occurred to me this morning that this short description of Cain’s children and grandchildren has a point. In spite of the curse, God did show Cain mercy. He lived, prospered and raised a family. He had a lifetime of opportunity to repent and turn back to God. God’s justice and mercy have always coexisted and always will.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. -Ps 85:10
Reading: Genesis 4