What does the Bible mean (part 1)

Alright guys, before we get started on this dialogue let me explain the format:

Alright, here we go! Joey’s first question:

Why in the heck did God put down Cain when he offered him his harvest of fruits & veggies? (see these verses if you need some background on this story)

On the surface, it looks like God is simply a meat lover, praising the “fat” animal offering of Abel. But I think it goes beyond that. I think it is a test of Cain’s merit, a “do the right thing,” moment. Of course he fails miserably. If there were back story on this fine tale, I’d suspect that Cain has a history of acting out in anger, and not taking criticism lightly. “Do the right thing and you will be accepted,” implies something deeper than an offering.

It’s just that in the story, there’s no set-up that offering fruit is bad. So it’s got to be about something else.

And what about the mark of Cain? Is God protecting Cain with the mark? Punishing him? Or setting an example for Cain’s countrymen to refrain from “the sin that is crouching at their doors?”

Cain goes on to have children and build a city. Which could be interpreted as God letting him slide for a most horrid crime.

Great questions Joey!

You demonstrated some great insight when you wrote, “On the surface, it looks like God is simply a meat lover, praising the “fat” animal offering of Abel. But I think it goes beyond that.” You’re right. It does go beyond that. God is not the “Cosmic Carnivore.” So why then does he seem indifferent to the “green” offering that Cain the farmer offered?

Later on in the Scriptures we read these words, “the life of any creature is in its blood. I have given you the blood so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).

Follow me on this…

After Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God they incurred God’s displeasure and the promised punishment (death  – see 2:15-17). People who study these things commonly believe that God’s anger was appeased by a sacrifice. Instead of carrying out His promise of death on Adam and Eve, He carried out His promise on an animal. This sacrifice was made on behalf of Adam and Eve and stood as their substitute in death. Where they deserved death, they received life (3:21f.) Where is that sacrifice? 3:21 says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” Again, it is commonly thought that this animal was the first sacrifice for sin and therefore set a sacrificial precedent = atonement comes through the shedding of blood. In other words, where there is sin, there must be death.

So God was not so much “anti-green” as He was insistent upon the right sacrifice = blood. Cain brought his own idea of redemption to God and it was rejected. Though a “right way” was made available to him, he rejected it in place of his own “redemption” which clearly was not sufficient.

Make sense?

Regarding Cain’s “mark”, it points to the mercy of God. Cain deserved to be crushed. But God had mercy on him. How could this be? St. Paul, later in the Scriptures, answers this question:

Romans 3:24-26  God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times [for instance, Cain]. 26 And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.

The bottom line in all of this, Joey, is that Cain, you, me, and everyone else is far from perfect. We are not crushed because God is merciful, and He can be merciful because He took out all of His wrath on the ultimate sacrifice… Jesus Christ. Check out these verses:

Romans 3:22-25  22 We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.  23 For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  24 Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  25 For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.

Alright. It’s your turn. What do you think?

8 thoughts on “What does the Bible mean (part 1)

  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t the LORD’s rejection of Cain’s offering have a lot to do with the spirit with which he made the offering? I did a parallel lookup of the story, and each one says that Cain brought an offering of *some* fruit and that Abel brought the *first* of his flocks. It seems to me that Cain was giving, but a) he wasn’t respecting God; b) he did just what he thought was enough to get by; and c) when God pointed out the shortcoming, he got all huffy about it.

    And, tragically enough, as I type this, I realize that I am guilty of the same thing way more than I am comfortable owning up to. YIKES!!

    1. I think your points are very interesting and make a lot of sense. What bothers me is that the Bible itself is very vague about all of this. Scholars have interpreted, but like us they have their own opinions and perceptions about things.

      One of the biggest things I ask of myself is to look beyond what others say about the text (and life in general for that matter) and dive into one’s heart to interpret things for ourselves and gain answers.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

      Peace,

      Joey

      1. Sherri,

        This is not an uncommon interpretation of these verses, and the points you make may be true! However, it seems to me, for the reasons outlined in the original post, that there was more at stake than fruit or flock. It seems like Cain shot around God’s way and tried to create his own way of “being right with God.”

  2. Paul, you know your Bible! I’m only like 5% in and all I can say is that the Old Testament is pretty brutal.

    I have a few comments/quesitons in regard to your response:

    I’m wondering why God would ask for innocent creatures to be sacrificed “so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement” (Leviticus 17:11). That doesn’t seem fair, let alone Godly. It’s like a killer going on trial for murder, being convicted, but then his DOG is killed while he’s allowed to go free.

    What has he learned? Where’s the negative consequence for his actions? The poor dog! When an animal is sacrificed to atone for a person’s sins, that person is not taking responsibility for their actions. What do you think about sin being attoned for with death — especially the death of an innocent animal?

    As far as God getting angry, I simply don’t buy it. He’s God, not some immature 5th grader with anger issues. Anger is a human emotion. There is so much somoting going on in the Old Testament, it reads more like a mobster movie than a spiritual guide book. Maybe I’m looking for the wrong things. I was expecting good life lessons like Jesus gives, not a smote fest.

    OK, so God shows mercy on Cain, but then just three pages later allow we see Noah curse Canaan! (Genesis 9:25). When Noah’s son Ham “saw his father’s nakedness” (9:22), he wakes up from a drunken slumber and curses Ham’s son Canaan. In this case it’s not God doing the judging, but the message is right there in print — a 6,000 year (poor) legacy of punishing the innocent. Why does Cain get mercy and Ham go unpunished, while Canaan and those poor animals get screwed?

    I get it when you say, “we are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.” But what about people who don’t believe in Jesus that are good people? Or people like me who believe that Jesus existed, but practice another religion? Is my lack of Christian faith punishable?

    Now onto another question (if that’s OK and if you’re still talking to me):

    What is your take on Adam & Eve? Specifically:
    (1) The fact that Eve came from Adam’s rib insinuating that she is of lesser value than Adam.
    (2) If these were the only two people on earth, then their kids were having sex with each other to populate the earth. Which means we’re all products of incest.

    I’m sure I’m not the first to ask these questions, but I’m curious as to what you think.

    Peace…

  3. My little intellectual-worshipper heart goes flutter-flutter at this entry … will be processing this with the ever-insightful Mike Nelson for a few days. Thanks for letting us “spy” on you.

  4. Hey Joey!

    Great feedback! A couple of things:

    Thanks for not throwing softballs! Let’s have a vigorous, respectful debate… and that’s exactly what I’ve sensed from you!

    The more intense the questions get the more time I may need to thoughtfully respond.

    You’ll not offend me with your questions. You are not asking about me, your asking about my God. I’m not taking any of this personal. Of course I’m going to do my best to represent my God well in the face of thoughtful, tough questions but I’ll make every effort to do it with grace and love!

    Looking forward to learning with and from you!

    Paul

    1. I too will do the same. My fear was that such blatant questions may just be rude – which of course is not my intention. I may also need more time to respond as we journey through this, so I totally understand.

      In a lot of ways I’m not questioning God at all. I’m questioning the interpretation of the authors who wrote The Bible. This topic will rear its head shortly in one of my questions…

      Peace!

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