Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Below are some notes from a study that I am working on now. In this section, Cain is burning with anger against his brother Abel. God had just provided Cain with the wisdom, that if Cain did it, would have given him power over his anger and revealed the image of God through his actions. But, the Bible has also revealed prior to this account, that through man’s freewill, he has the power to act like a wild predatory animal. In the scene below, Cain comes face-to-face with his brother Abel. What will he do?

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Cain, like a wild predatory animal, rose up and attacked his brother. Cain committed the first murder in the Bible – and it was brother against brother. Here, the Bible is expressing one of the most profound, if saddest, truths in the history of religions when it shows how an originally well-intentioned act of divine worship became the cause of the loss of human life.[i] Again, we do not know how much time passed between the murder and what took place next:

And YAHWEH said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?"[ii]

Cain’s answer has become one of the most famous verses of the Bible:

And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"[iii]

As pointed out above, the word “brother” appears in the section seven times, a stylistic feature that focuses specifically upon the fraternal relationship. The biblical text clearly establishes emphatically this moral principle:

Man is indeed his brother’s keeper and all homicide is
at the same time fratricide – the act of killing one’s brother.

The culpability of Cain rests upon an unexpressed assumption of the existence of a moral law operative from the beginning of time as we saw in the first account – life is the highest value of the Creator. [iv] Now we learn YAHWEH values human life above religious rituals.

Cain’s famous answer to YAHWEH, in addition to originating the great tradition of answering a question with another question, its substance suggests that Cain realized he had done something  so terrible that he would deny it even to YAHWEH.[v]

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SHALOM & Be Empowered!
Jim Myers

[i] Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel; p. 30.
[ii] Genesis 4:9a
[iii] Genesis 4:9b
[iv] Understanding Genesis: The Heritage of Biblical Israel; p. 31.
[v] The Genesis of Justice by Alan M. Dershowitz © 2000; Warner Books, New York, NY; p. 53.

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