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My youngest son is named Abel, so you can imagine the horror I experienced when I looked out the window one day to see his older brother, just shy of three years old at the time, walking toward Abel with a large rock lifted above his head. Scary for any parent, sure, but particularly so for those foolhardy enough to name their child after the Bible’s first victim of domestic violence.

In Genesis 4, just after God expels Adam and Eve from Eden for eating from the one tree, sin crouches at Cain’s door, and he does not overcome it. The seed from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had taken root, grown, and blossomed in ways Adam and Eve surely could not have imagined. What’s more, Cain’s sin and its consequences reveal the disturbing pattern that we know all too well: the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime, at least from our human perspective.

Russ Meek

Author, editor, and lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew at Ohio Theological Institute