Cain – 4th century BC

By | November 12, 2016

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”


Cain Killing Abel by Bartolomeo Manfredi


Cain committed the world’s first murder when he slew his brother Abel. The brothers were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve. Cain (original name Qayin) was a farmer who was jealous of Abel (Havel), a shepherd. Cain had offered to God some of his produce while Abel offered some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s, which infuriated the farmer. Cain suggested that he and Abel go for a walk in the fields where he murdered Abel. However, other non-Biblical theories posit that the brothers were due to marry twin sisters and Cain was jealous because Abel’s girlfriend was prettier.


Damascus, Syria


4th century BC


At first Cain was pleased with what he had done saying, “I am free; surely the flocks of my brother fall into my hands.” Then God asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” to which he replied, “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” God said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! So now you are cursed from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood you have shed. If you work the land, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

God placed a protective mark on Cain so that no one would kill him — “whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be upon him sevenfold” — and Cain left with his wife and family and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain later founded a city he called Enoch, after his son.


The Coptic Church celebrates Abel as a saint whose feast day is 28 December.

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