Cain and Abel: Good and Evil come to life

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“Cain and Abel” oil on canvas by Herbert Mandel

About this series: A narrative exploring the stories behind the paintings of late artist Herbert Mandel as explained in the context of the Biblical texts they’re derived from, by his son-in-law, Jim Robidoux.

After Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, their first son Cain was born. Not long after, came the birth of their second son, Abel. Cain worked the fields and Abel was a keeper of sheep [Genesis Chapter 4.] After some time Cain and Abel brought their offerings to Yahweh. Abel’s offering pleased God, he offered his best and it came from the heart. Cain’s offering wasn’t his best and didn’t come from his heart and God wasn’t pleased. It seemed that God saw Cain’s attitude as lacking.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was good, the Tree of Life also, but both were put out of Adam and Eve’s reach after eating from the Tree of Knowledge prematurely. God warned Cain but, just like Adam and Eve, he also listened to God’s fallen angel (Satan). God was pleased with Abel and not with Cain, and Cain’s face showed his jealousy and frustration.

God made it clear to Cain to be more like Abel and promised him that if he did, Yahweh’s face would then shine upon him. God warned Cain to guard his emotions and to be careful in judging his situation with his brother. Instead of listening to God, Cain wasted no time in confronting his brother and then killed him, leaving him in a field to die alone. Ignoring God’s direction led to the death of his only brother, and Cain became a murderer.

When confronted by God, Cain neglected his responsibility and answered God with sarcasm. God asked, “Where is Abel your brother?,” and Cain responded, “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was disingenuous, for God knew what had happened and pronounced judgment on him:

“Cursed is the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on earth.”                                                 

“Cain and Abel” pen-and-ink by Herbert Mandel

Cain was banished from the ground he had cultivated and from God’s presence. He was also afraid he would be killed by people that might find him later. So God put a mark on Cain and warned all people they would be punished sevenfold if they killed Cain.

Abel’s life was cut short because of Cain’s jealousy and envy. He suffered much like God’s only son, and both Abel and Jesus were “the Good Shepherds.” Christ was the Lamb of God that was slain to take away the sins of the world. Abel was allowed to be slain to show the world our need for a savior. Death made its debut in this story, and God was working out our salvation through it. To ask why does God allow suffering in our world is pointless. All of us are the ones who allow suffering, not God! We are His creation and just like Adam and Eve and their firstborn Cain, we, too neglect our responsibility and deny our sin.

[The story of Cain’s murder of Abel and its consequences is told in Genesis 4:1-18.]

Click here for more posts in Pop’s Art: The Bible Illustrated.

Jim Robidoux works in precision sheet metal, is father of four and husband of Manchester Ink Link publisher Carol Robidoux. He enjoys smoking cigars, pondering life’s big questions, and roots for all his home teams, whether they’re from Philly or Boston. He looks forward to receiving fan mail at