Cain and Abel – The Offerings

Cain and Abel #4

In this part we discuss Cain 鈥檚 and Abel鈥檚 offerings, as described in Gen 4 verses 3 and the first half of verse 4.  You may ask what gives me the right to arbitrarily split the text as I wish. This is a good question. But as the division of the text into verses is not part of the original Bible, but was added much later, I feel that other than the verses should be taken as bookmarks rather than hints to understanding the text. We should not be constrained by them.

This part of the story is written in a straightforward, non-ambiguous, fashion. It leaves little to questioning. That is, nearly all of it.

聽聽讜址讬职讛执讬, 诪执拽值旨抓 讬指诪执讬诐; 讜址讬指旨讘值讗 拽址讬执谉 诪执驻职旨专执讬 讛指讗植讚指诪指讛, 诪执谞职讞指讛–诇址讬讛讜指讛.
聽聽讜职讛侄讘侄诇 讛值讘执讬讗 讙址诐-讛讜旨讗 诪执讘职旨讻止专讜止转 爪止讗谞讜止, 讜旨诪值讞侄诇职讘值讛侄谉;
And it came to pass讜址讬职讛执讬
At the end of days 鈥 in the Bible days can refer to unspecific period, and not necessarily 12 or 24 hours.诪执拽值旨抓 讬指诪执讬诐
And Cain brought from the fruit of the land讜址讬指旨讘值讗 拽址讬执谉 诪执驻职旨专执讬 讛指讗植讚指诪指讛
Offering to God诪执谞职讞指讛诇址讬讛讜指讛
And Abel he also brought讜职讛侄讘侄诇 讛值讘执讬讗 讙址诐讛讜旨讗
From first born of his herd and their milk诪执讘职旨讻止专讜止转 爪止讗谞讜止, 讜旨诪值讞侄诇职讘值讛侄谉
3 And it came to pass at the end of days, and Cain brought from the fruit of the land offering to God, 4 and Abel, too, brought from the first born of his herd and their milk

Discussion

Although some scholars find hints in the text to show that Cain brought the worst of his produce as offering, and that was the reason God鈥檚 rejected it (I know, story spoiler).  I mostly take these words at face value.  Yet, I am perplexed by the expression  

拽值旨抓 讬指诪执讬诐

While many Bible interpreters ignored these two words and took them as an alternative (albeit irregular) way to describe the passage of time, the word 拽值旨抓 is quite specific. It means the end of, as we can see in the following two examples:

Gen 8:6  讜址讬职讛执讬, 诪执拽值旨抓 讗址专职讘指旨注执讬诐 讬讜止诐; 讜址讬执旨驻职转址旨讞 谞止讞址, 讗侄转-讞址诇旨讜止谉 讛址转值旨讘指讛 讗植砖侄讈专 注指砖指讉讛.And at the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark which he had built
Gen 41:1  讜址讬职讛执讬, 诪执拽值旨抓 砖职讈谞指转址讬执诐 讬指诪执讬诐; 讜旨驻址专职注止讛 讞止诇值诐, 讜职讛执谞值旨讛 注止诪值讚 注址诇-讛址讬职讗止专.And at the end of two years and Pharaoh had a dream, and here he is standing by the Nile

拽值旨抓 (end) of what days is the verse referring to, and why is it not mentioned like in the other examples?聽

  • Is it simply, as many think, a substitute expression to 鈥榓fter a while鈥?  But isn鈥檛 the word 拽值旨抓 too extreme for the purpose? 
  • Is it a hint about 拽值旨抓 讬指诪执讬诐 as the end of time? Can this story take place in the future?  
  • Is it a reference to 鈥 as some believe 鈥 to the interpretation that God build and destroys worlds (one explanation to the six days creation). According to this interpretation 拽值旨抓 讬指诪执讬诐 is end of one of these cycles.
  • Or is it simply an irregular way to indicate that a long time has passed between the two brothers, Cain and Abel, becoming adults and the time of the offering.

All these options are consistent with the text. There are many more. When the text does not tell us, it is for us to search for clues, or better insight. Which interpretation is the one that feels true to you? Do you have a better one? When you read it again, do you discover new things or have new way to understand it?

In the next post we will discuss God鈥檚 response to the two offerings, and why he rejected Cain鈥檚.

Here you can see the full text in Hebrew and English: https://mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0104.htm

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Eleonora
Eleonora
2 years ago

I did not know that the original Bible text was not divided into verses. A very crucial insight in my opinion. This might change our understanding of connections and dependencies of time and narrative flow completely.

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Eleonora
2 years ago

Yes, still the Jewish Torah until today, the book that is copied a letter at a time does not have verses, nor punctuation marks

Eleonora
Eleonora
2 years ago

I find it very inspiring to contemplate about the words ‘end of days’. Why is it the first time the Bible is talking about people making offerings to God`? What was the reason for these offerings? Did Cain and Abel survive the end of a cycle? Was it because of… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Eleonora
2 years ago

This is the very first time offering is made. This is a great question actually, which I somehow failed to think about myself. Why did they make the offering? How did they know they needed to make one. These are excellent questions to which I have no answer. Now I… Read more »

Eleonora
Eleonora
2 years ago

The first man in the Bible and his wife Eve were never mentioned again in the Bible, correct? Maybe they died at that time, this is meant with the `’end of days’ and Cain and Abel were preparing sort of funeral. We will never know, but it is amazing to… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Eleonora
2 years ago

Actually this is not correct. At the end of this chapter, Adam and Eve are mentioned again that they had another son Shet, who Eve said came ‘to replace’ Able

Lea
Lea
2 years ago

Very interesting post with completely new insights. I know that this question is not related, but it is something that has bothered me for long time 鈥. After the disobedience of the first couple in the Bible it is written in Gen 3:16: 鈥濽nto the woman鈥 he said鈥, I will… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Lea
2 years ago

Hi Lea, This question is extremely relevant as many use this verse in order to justify suppression of women. I should probably write a full blog about it, but at the moment lets just refer directly to your question. The verse says 讜职讗侄诇-讗执讬砖讈值讱职, 转旨职砖讈讜旨拽指转值讱职, 讜职讛讜旨讗, 讬执诪职砖讈指诇-讘旨指讱职 or in simple translation… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
2 years ago

Hi Lea, This question is extremely relevant as many use this verse in order to justify suppression of women. I should probably write a full blog about it, but at the moment lets just refer directly to your question. The verse says 讜职讗侄诇-讗执讬砖讈值讱职, 转旨职砖讈讜旨拽指转值讱职, 讜职讛讜旨讗, 讬执诪职砖讈指诇-讘旨指讱职 or in simple translation… Read more »

trackback
1 year ago

[…] let鈥檚 keep in mind that the killing did not take place immediately after the offering, but rather some unspecified time 鈥 hours, days, maybe longer 鈥 after the discussion with God. […]

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1 year ago

[…] now (Genesis 4:4-5) we already know that the two brothers are making offering to God. Cain brings from his labour in the field, and Abel, the shepherd, from is […]