The Cult of Cain by Neil Whitwam
The evening sky was a stunning palette of color, the thin clouds refracting the light of the setting sun into countless, iridescent shades ranging from deep purple to rich mango.
Cain noted that his shadow was lengthening, and that the first evening stars were revealing themselves in the eastern sky as he made a few, final adjustments to his offering to the Creator, Yahweh.
This was going to be spectacular, and everything had to be just right. His belly tingled with excitement and anticipation as he viewed his masterpiece.
He had built a new altar, using large, smooth stones of beauty and symmetry that he had gone to no end of trouble to locate and then to lug back toward the meeting place – the place where Yahweh came periodically to meet with Cain and his family.“Cain noted that his shadow was lengthening, and that the first evening stars were revealing themselves in the eastern sky as he made a few, final adjustments to his offering to the Creator, Yahweh.”
This new altar was somewhat larger and much more elaborate than the old, bloodstained one. The old one was functional and adequate but lacked the pizzaz appropriate to this situation.
Reaching down toward his sacrifice, he brushed a fly away from the deep red-orange interior of the papaya that he had sliced open and artfully displayed as a brilliant center-point for his masterpiece. He had to admit that he had never seen anything quite so marvelous.
He had brought of his fruit of the ground his very best – waxy yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, mango, watermelon, kiwi, grapes (green and purple), figs, coconuts…. It truly was a cornucopia of bounty.
Arranged on the wood of the alter, he had provided a stunningly diverse display of size, shape, color, and aroma. It was simply the most fantastic thing that Cain had ever seen.
Doubtlessly, the Creator would be thrilled.“Cain’s mom and dad had told him of the time, shortly before he was born, when there were no insect bites, no thorns, no irritations. No sacrifice either, for that matter. It was just a joyful existence of fellowship with each other and with Yahweh.”
Something was buzzing around his head. Those infernal mosquitos could just drive you crazy! He felt a sting on the back of his neck, and he slapped at it.
Looking down at his hand he saw the dead, crushed insect intermingled with his own blood on his hand. He sighed, wiping his palm off on his thigh.
His mom and dad had told him of the time, shortly before he was born, when there were no insect bites, no thorns, no irritations. No sacrifice either, for that matter. It was just a joyful existence of fellowship with each other and with Yahweh.
It must have been nice, but honestly, the story was getting a little old; they must have told it to him a million times….
He peered through the gathering dusk, about twenty yards away, to where his brother, Abel, was arranging his sacrifice upon the old altar.“Abel could love his little lambs; that was fine for him. But Cain had moved on to bigger and better things.”
Shaking his head, he grinned pityingly at his brother as he watched him wiping his bloody hands off on a large leaf, and then placing the limp, dead lamb upon the wood of the altar. That blood got slippery when you were preparing the lamb for sacrifice.
Abel saw him watching, and smiled at him cheerfully, waving a bloody hand at his brother. Cain smirked and waved back. Poor fool.
True, the Creator had instructed them to offer a lamb as a sacrifice. Cain understood that. He understood why. Blood was needed to cover their sin guilt. There was a problem with this, however.
Cain was certain that Yahweh would agree with him on this, reasoning, “Sheep are Abel’s thing; he is a shepherd after all. Of course, he would bring a sheep. What else would he bring? Sheep are good for two things: we need the skins for clothing, and we use them for sacrifice. In Abel’s case I guess they are also good for companionship, but it’s not like we can eat them or anything!”“This sacrifice of the fruit of the ground laying upon the alter was a display of countless hours of effort and toil. He had brought the best of his creative labor to the Creator. Surely, He would be very pleased.”
Cain had assumed the responsibility as the primary provider of food for the family. True, he loved working in the ground and watching the miraculous process of a seed becoming a plant after its kind and flourishing, producing more seeds.
It was his passion, but it was also a lot of hard work. He looked back over at his brother. It was always a bit irritating to observe Abel sitting under a tree, tending to his flock while he, Cain, was breaking his back and blistering his palms out in the hot sun.
In fact, just the other day, the family had been sitting around the table eating dinner. They were eating the food that he, Cain, had grown as they chatted about their day.
Abel had told them how a couple of wolves had come out of the jungle and pounced upon one of his little lambs. He had grabbed his staff and charged at the wolves whacking them with his stick and driving them back into the underbrush.“A little wave of irritation spread through him as he observed his brother. He was just so compliant. He did everything just the way he had been told. How could anyone be so unimaginative?”
Mom’s eyes grew big as she asked him if he was hurt. Dad looked grave and shook his head, muttering something about “The Curse,” which is what he often said when there was a new problem.
Abel smiled smugly and praised the Creator for His protection as he began to gobble another ear of corn which he just assumed was his to take.
You know, this really was wearing a bit thin. The family seemed to take Abel just as seriously as they did him. It just did not seem to occur to them that the fruit of the ground was of far greater importance than sheep! Sheep were a pain to deal with.
They were boring. They were stupid. He loathed them. Abel could love his little lambs; that was fine for him. But Cain had moved on to bigger and better things.
He had been working on the cross breeding of some different types of squashes and found that he could create beautiful works of art which still tasted great. He had had similar results with corn and citrus, creating large and luscious fruit, the likes of which he had never seen nor tasted before.“A sick, tight, metallic feeling formed in his stomach and throat. Could it be that Yahweh had rejected his sacrifice! All that work, all that effort, all that planning was for naught.”
It thrilled his soul to be able to do this, and as it was Yahweh who had enabled him to do so, it seemed reasonable to bring the best of this new fruit in an offering of worship and praise to Him.
Bringing a lamb (which he would need to obtain from Abel) for an offering just seemed tired and outdated. He didn’t have to work to obtain the lamb. He had no personal effort involved. Such a sacrifice did not seem adequate; it seemed simplistic.
Conversely, this sacrifice of the fruit of the ground laying upon the alter was a display of countless hours of effort and toil. He had brought the best of his creative labor to the Creator. Surely, He would be very pleased.
It was nearly dark now. It was time. Cain could just make out the figure of his brother, Abel prostrating himself in an attitude of worship, facing the direction from which they both knew that the Creator would approach.
A little wave of irritation spread through him as he observed his brother. He was just so compliant. He did everything just the way he had been told. How could anyone be so unimaginative?“Thinking these thoughts of his brother, he began to experience an emotion that was new to him, a deep and burning desire to cause him harm. To make him hurt. To destroy what brought him pleasure.”
Kneeling before his alter, his belly tightened in anticipation of his encounter with God. Suddenly the night sky was illuminated with a brilliant light.
There was a thunderous roar as there fell a spectacular ball of fire from above which instantly and completely consumed the sacrifice on Abel’s alter. The lamb and the wood were vaporized, and the grass around the base of the altar was singed.
Cain looked in awe at this display of Elohim’s mighty power. He had seen this phenomenon before, and it always took his breath away. He heard his brother in the darkness sobbing and praising his Creator in passionate worship.
Cain hunkered down again in the position of worship. Apparently, Yahweh was saving the best until last. He braced himself for the all-consuming, roaring ball of flame which would announce the acceptance and pleasure of the Creator. Time passed. He looked up. He could still hear Abel crying out to God. He waited. He could hear crickets chirping.
Time passed. He could hear a mosquito buzzing around his head. It landed on his shoulder and bit him, but he did not move. He waited. Doubt crept into his heart. It had never taken this long before.
Time passed. He was getting uncomfortable crouched down like this. The evening mist had started up and both he and his sacrifice were getting soggy and cold. Time passed. He waited. Time passed.“As these thoughts thrashed in his mind, Cain’s anger morphed into a consuming rage.”
A sick, tight, metallic feeling formed in his stomach and throat. Could it be that Yahweh had rejected his sacrifice! All that work, all that effort, all that planning was for naught.
Cain felt a physical, tearing pain in his chest as if his heart would break. Nausea gripped him, and he fell on his face in anguish and despair.
He thought back to the consumption of Abel’s sacrifice, imagining the smugly pleased look on his face as he was accepted. Wasn’t this just a typical turn of events!
Thinking these thoughts of his brother, he began to experience an emotion that was new to him, a deep and burning desire to cause him harm. To make him hurt. To destroy what brought him pleasure.
Abel was so spiteful, irritating, and obsequious – a sniveling and groveling little toad who always did exactly as he was told. As these thoughts thrashed in his mind, Cain’s anger morphed into a consuming rage.
Leaping to his feet, storming over to his altar, and then lifting the papaya overhead, Cain hurled it to the ground where it landed with a satisfying splat. Screaming out his fury, his vision clouding into a red haze, he then seized a chunk of wood from atop the altar and beat the fruit of his offering into an unrecognizable pulp.
He then tore the alter apart picking up the stones and casting them about him in his raging tantrum of destruction. Finally, he retched, then collapsed, falling upon the ground a seething and weeping wreck.
6) And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7) If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.Genesis 4:6-7 (KJV)
Cain did not answer. He lay there in his misery; wet, cold, and dejected. His head throbbed.
Presently, Abel softly came up beside him, placed his hand upon his brother’s shoulder, and just sat there quietly with him.
After a while, he spoke, “Cain, brother, I just feel terrible for you. I don’t know what to say. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Cain looked up and smiled disarmingly at Abel. “Don’t worry about me, my brother, I’ll be just fine. There is something that I need to talk to you about. Tomorrow morning, let’s go for a walk out in the field and discuss it…”
8) And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.Genesis 4:8 (KJV)
18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.Romans 1:18 (KJV)
21) Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22) Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:21-22 (KJV)
And now the end is here
And so I face that final curtain
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way
-Frank Sinatra, 1969
On many levels, the Cult of Cain persists today.
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Kaïn als landbouwer en Abel als herder by Johann Sadeler (I), after Maerten de Vos (1583). The Rijksmuseum. RP-P-2005-214-6-1.