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My Brother's Shepherd
by Wayne Blank
"And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so." (Genesis 1:29-30 RSV)
As such, the first human occupation was that of a gardener, a keeper of the garden - an easy task since The Lord had done the work of planting it and it was free of weeds or pests. Everything was readily available to the first humans, with one exception.
"And The Lord God [see YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD] planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed .. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die." (Genesis 2:8,15-17 RSV)
"If you do well, will you not be accepted?"
The first humans chose to disobey The Lord's command regarding His garden, so they were put out and required to make their own living. Man went from being a caretaker of a lush, ready-made garden to a laborer of the hard soil, a very weedy soil.
"And to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:17-19 RSV)
When Adam and Eve had children, the eldest son, Cain, continued his father's hard-labor profession of worker of the weed-infested soil, while the younger son, Abel, became a keeper of sheep i.e. it was Adam and his oldest son Cain who produced food for the vegetarian family ("you shall eat the plants of the field"), while Abel produced sheep, apparently only for sacrifices and clothing since it wasn't until after the flood that humans became meat eaters ("The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything," Genesis 9:2-3 RSV).
"Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of The Lord." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground." (Genesis 4:1-2 RSV)
Although Cain and Abel were brothers (some are of the opinion that they were twins), they were very different in attitude. One day, when hard-working Cain brought an offering of the produce of the soil, it was, for some reason, bettered by Abel's offering from the flocks.
"In the course of time Cain brought to The Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4:3-5 RSV)
Although the reason that Cain's offering was regarded with less favor than Abel's is not specified, it was not personal. When The Lord saw that Cain was upset, He encouraged, and warned, Cain to do what was right, from which he would be accepted.
"The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7 RSV)
Nevertheless Cain ignored The Lord's admonition. Cain's anger grew into premeditated murder.
"Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him." (Genesis 4:8 RSV)
Then, The Lord's question:
"Then The Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" (Genesis 4:9 RSV)
Cain answered with apparent sarcasm, with a reference to his brother as a keeper of sheep (the James Moffat translation more-literally renders Genesis 4:9 as "How do I know?" said, Cain; "am I a shepherd to my brother?")
"He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4:9 RSV)
Cain answered The Lord using shepherd terminology; The Lord then responded to soil-worker Cain in soil-worker terminology. Because the soil had been defiled with the blood of a murder victim, the soil would become even more desolate than it had for Adam when he broke The Lord's Commandments (in taking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve committed theft, while Cain committed murder - see The Ten Commandments Before Sinai?)
"And The Lord said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." (Genesis 4:10-12 RSV)
Fact Finder: The English word pastor originated from the word pasture. How is that related to sheep and a shepherd?