Bible Study Moment – Cain & Abel

From time to time one of my Facebook friends will share a meme saying “Cain killed Abel with a rock. Hate is the problem”. My reaction is to ask does the Bible say Cain had a rock? So I looked at Genesis 4:8 in various translations. Some say Cain rose up, others that Cain attacked and one that Cain set on Abel and killed him. None mentioned any weapon.

I’ve also heard some try to explain why Cain’s offering was not accepted by God while Abel’s was. First question, how do we know Cain’s was not accepted? Because the narrator of the story tells us? How does he know? Does Cain feel his offering is not accepted?

Many of those offering explanations have said it was because Cain did not offer a blood sacrifice, citing the animal sacrifices instituted by Moses. Of course, Moses lives many hundreds of years after this, and that system of offerings and sacrifices includes grain offerings.

I as well as others have noticed that in verses 3 & 4, the descriptions of the offerings seem to indicate that Abel chose from the first and best of his flocks, while Cain just presented some of his land’s crop with no indication that his was among the first or best.

It could be just what is there in the story; Cain feels resentful but hasn’t sinned yet. The problem isn’t the emotions we feel but what our reactions are to what we are feeling. God warns him to avoid sin but we know the rest of the story.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment: Genesis 3

For what I have to say about Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, I’m going to tell a story from high school.

I took German, and the first day of German 2 the teacher told us to speak only in German and the class told this story with each student adding a sentence or so to the story. It got around to Smitty at the point in the story where the people had eaten the forbidden fruit and now God was reacting. Smitty had God say, “That is a no-no.” in German of course.

And that kind of thinking about God, that God is looking for us to do wrong so he can punish us seems to be a common understanding of God. But that is not God’s first reaction. In verse 9 God calls out “Where are you?”
God’s priority is to be in relationship with us, and when we damage that relationship, God does whatever it takes to restore that relationship.

One other item, the Hebrew word for man is adam, and like in English it has many meanings, some gender specific, others referring to humans regardless of gender, sometimes singular, other times plural, and translators use context to help them decide the meaning. So even though I’m not qualified to translate the original Hebrew, thinking God is addressing all the people present when calls out “Where are you” may be accurate.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment – Genesis 1

I’m going to offer a couple of personal observations about the creation story in Genesis 1:1-2:4.

First, the repeating phrase of “There was evening and there was morning, the first (or whichever) day” sounds like a refrain separating the verses of a song.

The other one is that for many years my understanding of the repeating phrase, “God saw that it was good” is that each part of creation works like God intended. It wasn’t until sometime around 25 years ago, which at my age doesn’t seem that long ago, that I started to understand God seeing that creation is good can easily mean that God likes it.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment – Genesis

Mark Phillips has volunteered to occasionally contribute a brief Bible Study in our weekly newsletters. For this first one where better to start than at the beginning – Genesis.

Genesis is pre-history. In the first 11 chapters there are stories about creation, earliest people, the flood, and the tower of Babel. Stories of the beginnings of the people known as the Israelites, the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob follow in chapters 12-36. Beginning in chapter 37 through the end of Genesis (chapter 50), is the story of Joseph with chapter 38 being the story of Tamar.

In future articles we’ll look more closely at some of the stories in Genesis. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Mark Phillips