Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
Though Genesis 4:2 is a simple and straightforward verse about the birth of Adam and Eve’s second son, it sets the context for a very important set of events that we will cover next week. We should note that some commentators feel that Cain and Abel were twin brothers, with Cain being born first followed by Abel. Though this is plausible, the text allows for Abel to be the second-born son.
Let’s consider the different occupations the two brothers had:
- Cain was a “tiller of the ground.” This meant that his interest was horticulture, and he cultivated produce to feed himself and his family. Because God no longer directly blessed the ground (Genesis 3:17-18), Cain’s job would have been very difficult and would have necessitated his inventing tools to successfully remove “thorns and thistles” and to cultivate the soil. Cain’s probable invention of sharp tools may help explain what we will read next week.
- Abel was a “keeper of sheep.” This means that he tended sheep and was what we would call a “shepherd.” As we will see, Abel will represent the first righteous offspring of Adam and Eve. It is interesting to consider that some of God’s greatest servants had a background in shepherding: Moses (Exodus 3:1) and David (1 Samuel 16:11). Jesus Christ used shepherding to describe His role as the leader and caregiver of God’s people (John 10:11-16; 1 Peter 5:4).
Not only did the two brothers have different occupations, we will learn next week that they had two different approaches to worshipping God.
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Two Keys to Prayer.”