According to Jewish tradition, Cain rises up and murders his brother Abel with a stone. Genesis tells us the murder was driven by anger and envy over the Lord finding Abel’s offering more favorable.
Cain murdering Abel is one of the most well-known – and unfortunate – stories in the Old Testament. We believe it to be the first murder in history, confirming what most readers of Genesis assume: things are heading downhill for mankind. Sin will grow and grow in our hearts on the earth until God intercedes.
But how exactly did Cain kill Abel? And why did he murder him? Let’s investigate.
The Story of Cain and Abel
Genesis introduces us to Cain and Abel as the first and second sons of Adam and Eve. Some believe Cain and Abel may have even been twins, but it’s not conclusive.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”Genesis 4:3-7 (NIV)
Cain was into farming and Abel was a skilled shepherd who took care of the family’s animals. It goes without saying but they were probably around the same height as Adam and Eve, and spoke the same language. One day, both of them decided to worship and thank the Lord by making sacrifices. Cain brought some of the produce from the land, while Abel brought the firstborn of his sheep. God was pleased with Abel’s sacrifice because it was the best that he had to offer.
But this made Cain jealous and angry. So much so that he lured his brother Abel into the fields and murdered him.
Cain Kills Abel
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.Genesis 4:8
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
It’s a terrible murder. Most Bible readers are asking themselves, “Will things turn around for God’s people? Will they repent of their wrongdoing and chart a path back to Eden? Or will things get worse.”
As depicted in the murder scene, things got worse.
What Did Cain Use to Kill Abel?
Here we need to make a little detour away from the book of Genesis, which provides no details into the murder. It’s not clear how Cain kills Abel or what kind of weapon he uses.
But in the Book of Jubilees, an ancient Jewish work, tells us Cain kills Abel with a stone. Cain lures Abel into the field, and murders him with a rock.
The Book of Jubilees is not canonical (meaning it’s not held to the same degree as Genesis as the Word of God, similar to the book of Enoch), but this doesn’t mean it can’t contain accurate history.
The Aftermath of Abel’s Murder
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”Genesis 4:9-12
When God asked Cain what happened, he lied about killing his brother. But God knew the truth and punished Cain for his wrongdoing.
Although God was harsh on Cain and banned him from growing crops on his land, He goes on to promise Cain that no one would kill him. He offers Cain grace, despite his treacherous actions.
Learn what the Bible says about cremation and scattering ashes.
Envy Leads Cain to Murder Abel
At the heart of the story is envy and jealousy, and maybe a bit about offerings to God. Abel brings a more honorable offering, giving up the best portions of the firstborn from his flock. He gives to God his best.
Cain brings some fruits of the soil – and probably not his first fruits either.
So God is far more pleased with Abel’s offering, prompting anger and envy in Cain’s heart.
This story isn’t first and foremost about envy, but it’s definitely central in the story. Envy and jealousy can lead us to become people we never thought we’d be.
Sin is Crouching at the Door
As God tells Cain, “…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
We are called to rule over sin and our sinful desires. They are not our master. But they are certainly crouching at the door, waiting for us to give into them so they can overtake us.
Because of the sacrificial death of Jesus, we have access to a power far greater than that of sin. We don’t have to fight on our own.