Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The First Murder

God is as good as he is just, so he next taught Adam and Eve how to clothe themselves in the skins of wild beasts, and then sent them out of the Garden of Eden, which they were never to see again. God did not want them to come back there, because the tree of life grew in the garden, and as long as they ate of its fruit they could not die. To prevent their coming in again, he placed an angel at the gates of Paradise (Eden), and armed him with a flaming sword which turned every way.

Although Adam and Eve suffered keenly for their disobedience, they did not despair. They believed Godís words, and began to look forward to the time when the promised child would come, who, by killing the serpent, would make up for the harm they had done. The mention of this child is the first prophecy about the Messiah, or Redeemer; and from the day she left Eden, Eve lived in constant hope of his coming. To prevent man from forgetting this promise, and, the Christians say, as a sign of the last great sacrifice in the Bible, God also taught Adam and Eve to offer living animals upon his altar.

It was after they had been driven out of Eden that Eve gave birth to her first child, in sorrow and suffering, as God had foretold. This child was called Cain, a word which means "a possession," because his mother thought that he was the promised child; but when her second son, Abel, meaning "a breath or vapor," was born, Eve began to understand that the time for the keeping of Godís promise might still be a long way off.

While Eve nursed her children, Adam tilled the soil, and when the two boys grew up, they worked too, Cain at the plow, and Abel as a shepherd. Thus, you see, farming and cattle raising were the two first occupations of man.

When these two young men were old enough, they got ready to offer a sacrifice to God. But Cain, the elder, was in a bad temper when he laid a basket of fruit on the altar. An offering made in such a spirit could not be agreeable to God, so he not only refused it, but also rebuked Cain for his bad feelings. Abel, who was gentle and loving, brought a lamb from his flock, and laid it upon the altar, full of love and trust in God; so his sacrifice was accepted.

Shortly after this ceremony, the two brothers met in a very lonely place; and Cain, who had long been jealous of his brother, took this chance to fall upon him and murder him. This first crime was very quickly punished. Even as Cain fled in terror from the spot where his brotherís lifeless body was lying, God suddenly appeared to him, and asked: "Where is Abel, thy brother?"

Cain and Abel


Cain crossly answered: "Am I my brotherís keeper?" But God knew all that had happened. To punish Cain, God told him that the earth would no longer bear any fruit under his care, and that he would not be allowed to make his home near the spot where his murdered brother lay.

At the same time, God also filled Cainís heart with a constant dread that someone would kill him, as he had killed Abel. He therefore fled in terror; but God, who did not wish him to perish, put a mark upon him, and spoke a sevenfold curse upon any one who should dare to lay hands upon him.

Protected by this mysterious mark, which is called the "brand of Cain," the unhappy man started out; and, after wandering about in an aimless way for some time, he settled in the land of Nod, a word which means "banishment."

Here Cain saw that the earth would no longer bring forth fruit for his support; so he ceased to earn his living as a farmer, and began to make all kinds of things instead. His haunting fears, however, never left him; and to protect himself, he built a fortified city, to which he gave the name of his son Enoch.

We know very little about Cainís life after that, and the Bible only tells us the names of some of his descendants. Lamech, his great-great-great grandson, was the father of Jabal, the first wandering herdsman, and Jubal, the Inventor of the first musical instruments, and Tubalcain, the first smith, who made articles of iron and bronze.

[Illustration] from The Story of the Chosen People by Helene Guerber