In this second chapter about Cain and Abel, Oursler describes the Garden of Eden as being “lost and vanished.” Does he mean that it actually disappeared? I’ve often wondered what happened to it, because I don’t think the Bible ever said. But to have an entire garden simply vanish? That seems outrageous even to me. It was a place here on Earth, and though I know God can do anything He wants, if He’d just plucked it off the Earth I feel like the Bible would have mentioned it. But it said that He placed an angel to guard it. So does it still exist? And if it does, is it as perfect and unblemished as it was when it was created, or did death’s sting bite it too?
It must have been weird for Adam and Eve to leave the garden and find that they suddenly had no control over the animals, and that the animals were dangerous. The lions and lambs weren’t lying together anymore. The lions had gained a taste for meat, and that includes human. The first time Adam had to fight off an animal’s attack must have been shocking to him.
It had briefly occurred to me before that people didn’t have any written language back in the beginning, so how did the creation story get in the Bible? But Oursler intelligently deduces that Adam and Eve must have been very open to their kids about what had happened, and the stories were passed down from generation to generation until it was finally written. That’s a good point. I like it.
And really, if anyone should know how the world began, it was Adam and Eve. The creation story is a simple one if you think about it, and that’s one reason why I find myself inclined to believe it. When humans make up a story pertaining to the origin of the human species, they think up something complicated like a massive explosion or gradual evolution over billions of years. But with the creation story in the Bible, all you’ve got is, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3) That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?
It’s interesting that sacrificial offerings were invented so early on in our history. Adam and Eve knew they had done something wrong and they were trying their hardest to make it right. And of course, they had no way of knowing that God wanted a blood sacrifice to atone for the sin they had caused as opposed to a crop offering. So it wasn’t Cain’s fault for giving the wrong thing. Both brothers gave the best of what they happened to raise. Cain’s fault was in becoming jealous because God liked Abel’s offering better. You can kind of understand where he’s coming from, though. He was probably hurt because he had given his best but God still liked Abel’s better, and so he lashed out in pain and anger.
I wonder how they knew that God preferred Abel’s offering, though. The Bible doesn’t tell us that part. It tells us that God looked on Abel’s offering with favor, but how did the little humans find out? We know He could speak to them audibly. Was it like a “Well done, good and faithful servant” type of moment?
You can tell that Cain has never done something this horrible before because after he killed Abel and God came and asked him where his brother was, his response was indignant. “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” You can hear the anger, the pain, maybe even shock about what he’d just done.
Cain protested when God cursed him and exiled him to a lifetime in which he could farm as hard as he ever had but would never get any crops in return (which, to be honest, would be the worst punishment imaginable for a farmer). That seems like a human thing to do, but it was also a stupid thing to do, because God complied with his protest that whoever saw him would kill him. Be careful what you say to God. Instead of getting killed himself, God gave Cain just what he wanted: protection from his fellow man ~ and with it, the doom of a long life of agony in work and in regret for the terrible thing he had done.
Finally, I want to leave off with this thought from Oursler’s book:
“For God Himself is love and women are the principal bearers of His mercy in this world. They habitually give their love to men who do not in any way seem to deserve it.”