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CAIN AND ABEL, THE TWO SONS OF THE FIRST
A SACRIFICE to Jehovah is offered by Cain and Abel, the two sons of the first human pair; but the fruits of the field which the husbandman Cain presents are less pleasing to the Deity than the firstlings of the flocks offered by Abel. Cain then becomes angry with his brother, and kills him. He is therefore banished by Jehovah to the east of Eden, where his descendants distinguish themselves in trade and arts.
The narrative of the fourth chapter is closely connected with the second and third chapters, and must be regarded as a continuation of the same history; whilst the fifth chapter belongs to the first cosmogony, and appears to have no reference to the episode which occupies this Section. Indeed the marked change in the name of the Deity justifies this separation of the early part of Genesis into distinct portions, which has been strictly maintained by commentators ever since Astrük put forth his views on the subject, and is confirmed by the general tone of the narrative, by the predilection for the derivation of names and the reference to what preceded, as well as by verbal coincidences and similarity of views. The separation
1 Genesis iv. 7, and iii. 16.
therefore of the first and fifth chapters from the rest of the narrative may be considered as a settled point in criticism, which derives additional confirmation from the name Jehovah being used alone, in the fourth chapter, without Elohim, however uncertain this criterion may be found in the subsequent part of the book of Genesis. Previously, in the account of the garden of Eden, the author had employed the two names Jehovah Elohim together, that he might elevate the Deity of his nation above the gods; but in this portion of his work, where his patriotic views are concerned, he employs the name Jehovah alone, and he states, in chap. iv. ver. 26, that in the time of Seth men began to call on the name of Jehovah, thus affording a justification of the antiquity of his own form of divine worship.
The genuine Israelitish tendency of this narrative has never yet been considered with sufficient attention, and the views of the author respecting the formation of the different classes of society, and the extension of the human race, are not altogether satisfactory1. Indeed it has been remarked, that, with our present historical knowledge, which the ancients could not have at all possessed, we may clearly observe that the writer has passed over intervals of whole centuries at a single bound.
In the commencement of the existence of the human race, we can only imperfectly picture to ourselves the first dawn of civilization; man had just emerged from a mere animal state to the attainment of consciousness and propriety, and had learnt after the rude manner of savages to cover his nakedness. But here, in this chapter, we
1 See Buttmann, in the Berliner Monatschr. March, 1811, and various works of Schumann.
find agriculture and the arts of civilized life introduced in connection with the sons of the newly created man. Two brothers of one family are represented as pursuing different modes of life; they take to themselves wives, of whose birth nothing had been previously mentioned; one of the sons alone builds a city; he dreads the vengeance for blood, on account of the murder of his brother; and lastly, sacrifices of blood are mentioned in strict accordance with Levitical enactments, and are described as more pleasing to the Deity than the offering of fruits, although the Law enjoins sacrifices of the first-fruits of corn and similar oblations1. These apparent inconsistencies and contradictions have been regarded in some critics as signs of antiquity and of unpractised composition; but the intention of the narrator is fully manifested in the general tendency of the composition. Cain is the firstborn, and dwells towards the east: he is banished to a spot where Jehovah is not present2; he tills the fields, murders his brother from jealousy, and the curse of Jehovah falls upon him. Nevertheless he is not doomed to be destroyed; but, on the contrary, it is precisely from his race, at a very early period, that civilization and arts proceed. Hence, in the narrative of the Hebrew compiler, we find an acknowledgment, that the Asiatic nations to the east of Palestine were of greater antiquity than the Jews,—that they did not worship Jehovah, that they followed agricultural pursuits at an earlier period than the Hebrew nation, and inhabited towns and became civilized, but that, with all this, they must be regarded in the light of proscribed outlaws. We are plainly
1 See Gesenius, Encycl. in artic. Abel.
2 "Cain went away from the presence of Jehovah," ch. iv. ver. 16.
informed in Genesis iv. 16. where we must look for the race of Cain,—namely to the east of Eden, or Iran, but without the exact direction being specified, although the words may perhaps be considered as obscurely pointing towards India. At a later period, the Jews adopted this reference to more eastern countries; for they considered Cain as the offspring of the serpent, and the souls of his race as demons or Ahrimanic creations1. We may also notice the circumstance that the Zend religion decidedly enjoins and favours agriculture, this employment appearing to be, according to its tenets, a species of divine service; indeed, at the present day, the Ghebers esteem it a most virtuous act to bring waste land into a state of cultivation, thereby rescuing it from Ahriman2, and thus the people who are here intended may be recognized [as the ancient Persians]. On the other hand, a pastoral life, which in Palestine never wholly disappeared, was considered by the Hebrew narrator as protected and sanctified by Jehovah. Agriculture too, according to the same writer, had been imposed as a punishment upon man3; and it was here degraded, from the same feeling of antipathy to that employment, which the Hebrew derived from his Bedoween origin, and which he still continued to manifest long after he had been obliged, by his settled position in Palestine, to devote himself to the cultivation of the soil and to enact agrarian laws. Agriculturists were always esteemed an inferior class to shepherds among the Israe- . lites; kings kept their flocks; men of superior attainments arose from pastoral life; many agriculturists, as the
1 See Pirke Elieser, c. 21; Eisenmenger, i. 832; ii. 427.
2 See Chardin ii. 180.
3 Genesis iii. 17, &c.
Rechabites, returned to dwell in tents1; and the Talmudists have a proverb which says, "If thou layest out a hundred grains in a trade, thou shalt daily eat meat and wine; but if thou expendest the same sum upon agriculture, thou shalt have only salt and herbs?."
Finally, the Hebrew writer, who was too much accustomed to his own sacrifices of animals to attach importance to the offerings of first-fruits, treats with contempt the offerings of corn and flowers which were presented by the Persians and Buddhists; and the book Sohar especially represents Cain in this passage as sacrificing to devils3.
In the following account of Cain and Abel, we have simply a popular legend, or political myth, with a hostile intention [towards neighbouring nations], which is so frequently manifested by the Hebrew writers; indeed the Talmud actually asserts, that Cain might have been slain wherever he had been met with, because the sign which Jehovah had given to him could not be found.
1 "All your days ye shall dwell in tents."-Jerem. xxxv. 7.