Cain was the first child recorded born to a human family. Cain was so named because his mother was the first human to give birth, a partner in creation to a new being.
Cain literally means, ‘the product of creation’. Cain grew up to be a farmer, working the soil agriculturally. His younger brother, Hevel (Abel) became a sheep farmer.
Conscious of the Divine, each set aside from their crop as an offering to God. While Hevel brought the firstborn of his flock, Cain brought along a selection of vegetables of no specialness.
God showed acceptance of Hevel’s offering and ignored Cain’s. Anger and jealousy set in and Cain was crestfallen. God tells Cain that should he improve himself rather than become angry, it would be better for his self-control.
Unfortunately, Cain did not take this message to heart. Frustrated, he decided to take out his anger on his brother; he lured Hevel out into the fields and murdered him.
When God asked Cain the whereabouts of his brother, he lamely replied: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God was angry with him and told Cain that his brother’s blood was crying out from the ground. As punishment, God cursed Cain’s relationship with the land, informing him that from now on he would have to work much harder to get a yield of produce.
Furthermore, Cain would have to live a life of wandering, looking for new land to plant as the land would tire from producing for him.
Racked with guilt, Cain confesses himself as a sinner, banished from settlement and forever exposed as a murderer, and feels vulnerable to attack.
Therefore, God placed a mark on Cain to protect him. Cain then settled down in the land of Nod and started a family, with hope thus returning to the world.
Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation.