Somewhere between Genesis 3 and Genesis 4 we apparently jump from a world with Adam and Eve, recently expelled from the Garden of Eden to one with enough populace that Cain fears strangers and there are potential wives for Adam and Eve’s sons. I’m glad I’m not trying to take this literally, because that one would throw me for a loop.
I find it interesting that God show’s favor for Abel’s offering of livestock over Cain’s of fruits. What is it about the animals that makes this offering superior? I wonder if the answer lies in the descriptions. Abel offers the fat portions of the firstlings of his flock, Cain merely the fruit of the ground. Notably, it is not described as the first fruits or the best fruits. Perhaps the lack of adjective is the answer; an offering of sacrifice is one of value, not that left behind. Regardless of why Cain’s offerings are not up to snuff, I think it’s safe to say he overreacts. Yet, he’s still protected by God. Even in punishment and exile, there is some measure of grace.
Then we again have a separate retelling of the same events, a genealogy of sorts. There seems to be a lot of waiting — having children at the age of one hundred or over. Then again, if you’re living to be eight or nine hundred, I suppose it’s not all that late in life. Until God arbitrarily decides to give humanity a lifespan of 120 years. I must wonder — why 120? What about that number? There’s no discernible reason for it. Yet, there it is.
Finally, we move on to the beginning of Noah’s story and the flood. Given the recurrence of flood myths in several mythologies, it seems likely there was some sort of large flood that impacted the population. So Noah is righteous — I suppose that’s fairly self-evident, since it would take a fair amount of faith and devotion to listen when a deity tells you to build an ark. I’m pretty sure that everyone around Noah would have thought he was nuts.
Yet everyone else is wicked. But it doesn’t say how, but I can’t help but notice that it doesn’t seem surprising. Thus far there’s no evidence that God has laid down any expectations for humanity since the expulsion from Eden. Presumably there is something said of sacrifice or Cain and Abel wouldn’t have bothered. But there seems little else; only an angry God who punishes. It makes me think of a parent who offers no appropriate toys, then yells at their toddler for getting into things. How do you stay inside the lines, if you don’t know where they are?