We begin our story with the first human birth of the universe, which somehow passes without Eve mentioning, “Holy fuck, Lord! You weren’t kidding about that whole ‘greatly multiplied’ pain thing!”
We meet Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd, and in time the two bring offerings of the fruits of their labor. Cain brings veggies and such, while Abel sacrifices some young goats or something like that. Thus we have Yahweh’s first real opportunity to showcase how much of a prick he is.
I just want to take a moment to note that shepherding, noble profession that it is, is nowhere near as difficult or labor-intensive as farming. Keep the 6,000 year old context in mind when considering what agricultural crops, tools, and techniques Cain had at his disposal. I even wouldn’t be surprised if he had to protect his fields from Abel’s flock upon occasion.
So, Yahweh was pleased by Abel’s gifts, but totally blew off Cain’s. Cain gets understandably upset, considering that it should be the thought (not to mention all the back-breaking labor) that counts, so Yahweh comes over and consoles him.
Nah, just kidding.
He scolds him for the fact that he’s upset, and says that Cain wouldn’t be upset if he had actually done well. Then he lectures Cain about sin waiting for him when he doesn’t do well. This is an understandable warning in context, since you’re far more likely to deal out some horrible retribution when you’re upset, but I feel like it only really fans the flames when you just told someone who took the time and effort to make you an offering out of the goodness of their heart that their present is total crap.
From this we can surmise that Yahweh is a carnivorous god who desires blood, raises eyebrow and nose at leafy greens, and likes to shame people who already feel bad.
Cain gets all jealous and kills his brother in a rage. An interesting question one might ask is if Christianity presupposes that humans have no innate moral compass and must be controlled by the edicts of a divine moral arbiter, could Cain have known that killing his brother is wrong since it mentions nowhere if Yahweh gave them commandments to follow after being banished from Eden?
In any case god asks Cain another batch of unnecessary questions (“Where’s your borther?” “What have you done?”), which leads me to believe that he’s either not omniscient or the most passive-aggressive god in all of mythology.
The phrasing of his curse upon Cain actually makes him sound more like a third party than anything else. It seems as if Cain is cursed directly from the Earth because of the blood it has absorbed, and therefore refuses to yield it’s bounty to him further. Terrible to be a farmer who can no longer grow food, but what Cain should have said was, “Yeah, well you never liked my veggies anyway!”
He’s understandably worried that anyone who finds him will kill him as he’s basically just been turned into a vagrant beggar. Tribal loyalties were a bit thicker back then, as well as distrust of outsiders, especially cursed ones. So Yahweh marks him to show that sevenfold vengeance will be taken against anyone who kills him. Kind of a sweet caveat, really. Sure, he’s cursed, but he’s still under divine protection. Of course, that’s arguably just to ensure that his suffering will be prolonged as much as possible.
Except, full stop. Who’s going to find and kill him? According to the bible so far, there are a grand total of
four three people left on the planet right now. And then Cain has kids with his wife. What!? That’s really all the explanation we get? So either he finds a wife if the land of Nod to which he journeys, or his wife is one of his sisters who doesn’t merit mention because the bible is as sexist in its genealogies as it is in its commandments. As if incest didn’t have its own issues.
We get our first taste of polygamy with Cain’s great-great-great grandson, who claims that if anyone kills him he’ll be revenged seventy-sevenfold (what formula is he using to calculate this?) because he has killed two people. He could be lamenting, but this really sounds more like boasting. Since when does the divine give out protection for slaughtering people anyway? Seems like the more people you murder under this protection racket, the less people would want to kill you for fear of incurring Yahweh’s wrath. Not an inconceivable scheme.
We meet Seth, Abel’s replacement as the righteous child, as evidenced by the fact that his descendants “called upon the name of the Lord.” Incidentally, it’s interesting to note that Eve’s only speaking parts here are to comment upon how grateful she is for the children god gives to her. She gets no further commentary presumably because she’s just a wicked baby-factory.
Actually, we don’t hear from Adam at all. Why isn’t there any sort of reaction on the parent’s part to one son being dead, one son a becoming a murderer? No cursing, shaming, weeping, casting out?
Fratricide is a terrible crime, but don’t worry. I’m sure god’ll sort it all out.