In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. –Genesis 4:3-5
Dear members & friends,
The story of Cain and Abel is the first tragedy in the Bible that includes jealousy, rivalry between brothers, and murder. Also, this is the first place where you read about one of the strongest human emotions: anger. At the same time, this simple story also illustrates the struggle between farmers (or settlers) and shepherds (or nomads) in the ancient time. Getting to the deeper side of the story, Swedenborg explains that the story of Cain and Abel is related to the foundational aspect of how humans should relate to God: faith vs. charity.
In the biblical story itself, it is unclear why God did not accept the offering from Cain. The only hint we have is in Genesis 4:7 where the Lord says to Cain, “If you do well, will you not be accepted?” The core of the problem might not have been that Cain did something bad which made his offering unacceptable to the Lord, but what Cain did after his offering was not accepted: Cain was disappointed and angry. As the anger devoured him, Cain obviously did not listen to the Lord’s warning, because he killed his brother right after hearing it.
I would like to point out two things that we can learn from the story of Cain and Abel. First, when anger rules our mind, we are disabled from making any sound decision, thus we better off not doing or saying anything until the anger has cooled. Second, mere knowledge or faith based on knowledge only can easily be overruled by a strong emotion such as anger. Thus, a true relationship with God must be cultivated by means of loving actions, which requires a great degree of self-examination and self-control.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee