The enlightenment teaching of the Essene was known as THE WAY. This teaching became the final interpretation of the Law and the speaking of the Prophets, as revealed by Yeshua Messiah. The Way also became the enlightened transitional teaching of the early church.
Through Abel, the character attributes of faith and righteousness are introduced into the story and established as working principles of the Way.
Cain plants his crop. After planting, Cain seems intent on waiting for God to make it rain. “…he first contrived to plough the ground,” Josephus tells us, Ant. bk. 1, ch. 2. “Contrived” is interpreted by many scholars that Cain’s intention is to gain benefit in the easiest manner possible. There seems to be a wave of anger and defiance relative to Cain’s nature and behavior as he “forces the ground,” as Josephus writes it. This ‘forcing’ lends itself to the thought that Cain may not have been much of a farmer. Everything Cain does is struggle and frustration. Although scholars have made much about the conflicts that may have arisen between Cain the farmer and Abel the herder, the crux of this story lies with Cain’s inner man.
Now the story moves quickly forward. “Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil; and Abel, for his part, brought the choicest of the firstlings of his flock.” In contrast, we will first discuss Abel and the meaning of his sacrifice. Abel stands faithful in heart and mind and pictured as he who loves righteousness for its own sake. He sees goodness in the world and sees God in all things. Abel associates himself with the best, the choicest. Abel recognizes God’s goodness and demonstrates a fundamental faith in relationship to Him. The worship of God is ancient, and Abel’s sacrifice is the first true faith attribution we observe in the biblical story of man.
Faith itself will become a subject of importance throughout the Hebrew and Christian bibles, imbedded and intrinsic within all biblical narratives—faith in giving, faith in receiving, as well as the consequences of the lack of faith. Just as in Jesus’ times, Belief-Faith now becomes the first initiated step onto the enlightenment pathway of the Way. Abel demonstrates faith as foremost.
Cain’s offering, however, is the first indication of a problem concerning Cain. By contrast to Abel, Cain seems to gather whatever grain is handy. He makes no special or committed effort as a part of his attribution toward God. There is no mention or indication of Cain’s good intent. Cain seems only interested in ‘getting’, this ‘forcing of the ground’, not giving. He is not thoughtful toward God but possessed and focused on himself and his own struggles.
Cain is associated with the earth, dust, mortal or earthbound man. He lacks a true vision for a relationship with God. Likened to a man who makes a fist to hold onto his own, Cain cannot let go and thus receive further illumination. For those who walk in the Way the lesson of letting go is straightforward, for no progress can be made otherwise. As the story will further indicate, Cain cannot let go of himself.
For his part, Abel tends the flock and would feel blessed by every newborn lamb and kid, and as a herder would recognize every animal he oversees. Shepherds have times of great activity, but also times of rest, even quiescence. Abel stares at the clouds as he oversees the pasturing of his flocks, perhaps musing with many different thoughts. He is not only in a certain way innocent, but within the biblical narrative represents innocence itself. He represents a soul who is open, both as a person and before God.
Much as faith is intrinsic to the Way, openness before God becomes a fundamental principle as well, what is often referred to today as transparency. Abel recognizes the goodness of God, and this infers that goodness must also reside in Abel. Cain and Abel both speak to God, but it is Abel who believes in God’s goodness and who begins the pathway of knowing Him. Abel gives sacrifice out of gratitude.
Above all, Abel is righteous because he has received righteousness from God. Abel has received God in a manner Cain wills not. Abel has a true relationship with God. Personal and intimate would describe Abel’s relationship. Abel personifies the nature of God in man, and for the traditional Christian interpretation becomes the first messianic figure. Being righteous and innocent, Abel reflects Messiah (Righteous Abel P. 2).
A second reason, according to many theologians, as to why Cain’s offering may have been deemed unworthy lies in Gen. 3.20. God makes for Adam and Eve more appropriate clothing and provides skins for them as a covering. This requires the shedding of blood, to take an animal’s life and skin it. We see this rite of sacrifice throughout the Hebrew Bible, and eventuating finally in the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah. The argument goes that Cain’s offering is not a blood offering, the blood which represents life, and therefore not worthy.
However, Cain naturally brings of ‘his own part’, or from that which he had labored. It is not the fruits of his labor which is the problem. Cain comes of himself, Cain sees only his own earthly efforts. Cain works under his own perception of labor, the law of his labor, and thus what he perceives from his labor as good enough for God. He comes in his natural self, not his obeisant self, nor righteously. So the argument that Cain does not make a blood-offering is a superficial conclusion.
Cain brings of his labor, just as we all must. But, as the story progresses it is the soul-nature and intent of Cain that becomes more and more the issue. ‘I worked hard for this grain,’ Cain says to himself. ‘I give a fair share,’ he analyzes. The problem is that Cain’s whole approach to God is divisive, possessive, nor does Cain truly give his first, or best fruit.
In the teaching of the Way, Jesus emphasizes the viewpoint of oneness. Cain’s divisiveness, or a lack of oneness, here represented as a lack of gratitude and a lack of faithfulness, becomes a repeated theme throughout scripture. For example, the prodigal son’s return represents separation and lack of wisdom, facing consequences, then resolved by returning to his roots and acceptance.
All of the root problems (separation) of man might be represented in these brief moments with Cain: lack of faith and faithfulness, lack of gratitude, lack of relationship, lack in unity and oneness with God, insistence on one’s own values, which in Cain’s case are the values of a crude initiate. Cain gives according to the laws and standards he has set up for himself. He is all about his inner law, vanity, and how he perceives conditions. He is not about the grace and goodness of God, nor relationship to Him. Cain represents the mortal world.
The story of Cain and Abel illustrates many valued principles of the Way. Through the attributes of faith and gratitude, Abel lays the groundwork for man’s future revelation into the spirit of God. By contrast, Cain falls under subjugation to the laws of self. It is the ‘I’, the ego, which commands him. As we will later discover, Cain continues along this bent, as the generations of Cain will prove. Concerning the individual, this is in part why enlightenment teachings prescribe ‘ending the self’, or ‘giving yourself away’ as is the Christian ethos, to the end that the person may more fully receive an enlightened mind.
This principle of “not my will, but thine” (Mt. 26.39) will later become fundamental to the teaching of the Way and is the epitome of Jesus’s teaching when it comes to our attractions, desires, and actions. The inner voice which speaks from the kingdom becomes more integral to the pathway experience the farther one walks. Cain would have difficulties with this outlook. Essentially, Cain has put himself into subjugation to his mortal or earthbound self and does not realize it.
Cain’s nature begins to devour him. His jealousy, so often mentioned, extends from a divergent nature. Cain and Abel are fundamentally different. Cain is often viewed as from the seed of Satan, Abel from the seed of Adam. Whether these two different sources to Cain and Abel are understood as literal or allegorical, the source in each sibling concerns motive and attitude and must be inspected. Clearly, Cain himself stands in the way of his relationship with God. He wants blessing from God, he wants to be accepted, but his attribution in character and his offering is mediocre, even lackluster.
Nothing in Cain indicates gratitude, and he may already despise Abel. “The Lord paid heed to Abel and his offering, but to Cain and his offering He paid no heed.” In this instance, God focuses on the good and dismisses that which is in lack. “Cain was much distressed and his face fell.” Cain is totally shocked. He has no idea how far he has fallen away. The daily intercourse of life is now beginning to reveal Cain.
Cain’s absence of conscience proves Cain’s lack of acquaintance with the board in his own eye. In a certain way, Cain is unconscious. Underneath, he remains completely asleep. Cain’s condition begs the question of our own wakefulness. Jesus gives us the term ‘born again’, and for Christians, this phrase means a commitment to Jesus as Savior. However, its fundamental meaning relates to awakening, waking up to the spirit (kingdom) within, and sowing seed into that kingdom. After such an awakening all things spiritual may follow. The individual pathway takes on new texture and meaning.
Cain appears to be quite the opposite of any spiritual awakening. Cain perceives himself psychologically but does not perceive himself as a spiritual being. Fully engaged with his earthly duties, Cain binds himself to his earthly urges, including a self-centered nature that accounts for little outside of himself. He broods, he is conflicted, nor does he understand his bondage. Nor does he seem to have any bulwark of love or sensitivity as a counterbalance. He is in no discernible way disciplined into God. In an improper and possessive manner, Cain essentially loves himself! At this moment Cain reveals himself, and utter conviction now sits upon him. Cain’s unhealthy loose nature has led him to his slipshod offering.
Even so, God offers to assist Cain. Gen. 4.6, “Why are you distressed, and why is your face fallen? Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right sin crouches at the door.” In this world, sin will stand nearby. Cain shows no commitment. Cain’s sin consists of Cain doing whatever Cain wants in whatever manner suits him, including all of his attributions unto God, made clear by his unworthy sacrifice. “Its urge is toward you,” God tells him, “yet you can be its master.” Much as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, God’s hand is outstretched.
Does God recognize Cain’s urge to kill? It would seem so. The Hebrew Bible tells in v. 8, “Kayin had words with his brother Hevel.” What words were these? Words like, ‘So you think you are better than me?’ ‘You think God loves you more?’ Cain lashes out with his words, and actions will soon follow. Cain follows his own word and not the word of God. How many of us have performed in like manner?
Elements of character become revealed. Jealousy yes, but Cain’s false-pride now surfaces. His false-pride will not let him seek God, nor does his false-pride allow him to release his angst. His efforts not honored and further, rejected, Cain cannot admit error. Just as when Jesus confronted the scribes and the Pharisees, their belief was that the Messiah would confirm them, not convict them. Yet, in the end, false-pride and perceived status betray the Pharisees. Trapped within himself, Cain becomes the prisoner of his own false-pride. In the story of Cain and Abel, the groundwork for many lessons within the enlightenment teaching of the Way standout.
It is too late for Cain. Cain’s resentment, jealousy, angry words, false-pride and now feelings of humiliation overwhelm him. Cain is now at a point where he seeks to resolve his inner demons at the expense of the outside world. He is incapable of looking into his heart to resolve the issue. He cannot let go of himself, for himself is what he has gained, just as ‘to gain’ is his namesake. Symbolically, he is the clenched fist, not the open palm. At this point, the desire to kill Abel unleashes completely.
“Come,” says Cain to his brother, “let us go into the field.”
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