Murder is Fratricide

Light of truth

Jacob Chanikuzhy

Why did Cain kill Abel? There are stories different from those in the Bible to explain Cain’s hostility to Abel. According to a Turkish story, both Cain and Abel were born with twin sisters. When they all reached the marriageable age, Adam asked, according to the divine command, Cain to marry the twin sister of Abel and Abel to marry the twin sister of Cain. Now, the girl born along with Cain was exceedingly pretty and Cain wanted to marry his own twin sister. Though he asked Adam to allow him to marry her, Adam insisted that Cain’s twin sister belonged to Abel. Getting furious at this Cain killed Abel to be able to marry his dream girl. Thus, the first murder was committed in the name of a woman!

An Armenian story suggests a different motive behind the first fratricide. As this story goes, once Eve called little Cain and Abel to her. When they came she stretched her right arm to Cain and the left to Abel and asked both of them to bite her arm. Cain immediately bit her arm so sharply and made her bleed. Abel, however, gave his mother a long kiss on her arm. Seeing this Eve told Adam that Cain is going to be a wicked man. Adam and Eve loved Abel more than Cain. Becoming jealous of Abel, Cain wanted to kill him but did not know how. To give him an idea about how to proceed, the devil took the form of a raven and fought with another raven in the sight of Cain. After a fierce fight, the devil in raven’s disguise took a sharp pebble and slit the throat of the other raven and killed it. Cain, took that flint and tied it to his cloth. Later, he invited Abel for a walk in the field where using the flint he cut the throat of Abel and killed him.

The murder of Abel by Cain shows the spread of evil in greater intensity. Whereas Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, Cain sinned by a far graver crime of murder. In the struggle between the serpent and the woman, the first casualty was on the side of the woman. Though killing in itself is a grave crime, certain other aspects of the first murder aggravate its horror. First, the victim was an innocent and God-fearing man. The first victim of killing is a saint and not a wicked man. Second, the perpetrator was the brother of the victim. The victim had absolute trust in his brother and would have never suspected him. The perpetrator had betrayed this trust. Third, it was the younger brother who was killed and he was killed by the elder brother who had the obligation to love and protect the younger and the weaker brother. Finally, it was a pre-meditated crime. The bible considers a crime committed in the open filed as a pre-planned crime. A field is the place where no one would hear the cry of the victim and hence no one would come to his rescue. Thus, what Cain committed was a perfect murder.

Contrary to the expectation of Cain, however, God saw the murder. He immediately appears to question him. The question “where is your brother” implies that God wants us to take care of our brothers. But Cain tries to cover his murder by a lie – “I do not know.” The devil that made Cain a murderer makes him also a liar -from the beginning he is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44-45). Cain refuses to take any responsibility for his brother, “Am I my brother’s keeper.” But God does not admit his frivolous answer. Reflecting on this story Elie Wiesel writes, “Whoever kills, kills his brother.”

When Adam and Eve were punished, they accepted it without any complaints. But Cain dared to object to God’s verdict. Though he committed a grave crime, he was not ready to accept the punishment. He was more worried about the punishment than his own sin. He complains, “anyone who meets me may kill me.” It is interesting to note that in the story there are no other characters except Adam and Eve to kill Cain. So whom is Cain afraid of? It reveals to us the perennial torment of the sinner. A sinner is afraid of anything and everything even when there is no one and nothing to terrify him. Sin causes unfounded fears.

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