Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper? Genesis 4:9 –
Relationships between siblings have always amazed me. My sons may fight each other in the yard. But, if anyone threatens one of them, the other brother rushes to his aid.
Unfortunately, I have witnessed many sibling rivalries that ended up creating a wedge between them that was never rectified. Few things are as sad and disgraceful as this.
Surprisingly, in criminal cases, I have seen brothers who would do anything to protect their brother or sister from being sent to prison by either offering to take their place or refusing to testify against them. I never understood why until I read and studied Genesis.
Most Christians are familiar with the above verse from the Bible. Cain and Abel were brothers. They were the sons of Adam and Eve.
When Eve conceived and bore Cain, she said, “I have got me a man with the Lord”. Soon, she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. One day, Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to God. Abel too had brought the finest animals in his flock. Yet, God regarded Abel and his offering but did not regard Cain and his offering. Cain was consumed by anger and jealousy for the first time in his life.
With hate brewing in his heart, Cain said to Abel, “Let us go out to the field as brothers”. When they were in the field, Cain rose against Abel and killed him. His deceit and disloyalty to his brother would have painful consequences.
God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother? Cain responded, “I do not know: am I my brother’s keeper?” God said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother’s blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it will no longer give you strength. A restless wanderer shall you be on the earth.”
Cain responded to God by saying, “My punishment is too great to bear. Now that You have driven me this day from the soil I must hide from Your presence. I shall be a restless wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
God showed Cain grace. He said, “Whoever kills Cain shall suffer sevenfold vengeance”.
Cain tried to cover his sin by claiming ignorance of Abel’s whereabouts. Cain knew exactly where Abel’s body was located. But when God approached Cain and asked where his brother was, Cain responded with this outright lie: “I do not know”.
After his lie, Cain further answered God with this sarcastic statement, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” By saying this, Cain essentially said he was not responsible for his brother’s well-being. This showed a calloused lack of love and concern on Cain’s part. This was a result of his hatred and anger.
Unfortunately, human history has been marked by this core attitude of a lack of concern for the care and well-being of others; even brothers.
This lie, told directly to God, is the first recorded human lie. Interestingly, murder and lying are connected in John 8:44 as two central characteristics of the character of Satan.
While this is an extreme example of violence, it clearly illustrates that there are consequences when a brother or sister lies about the nature of their wrongdoing to their sibling.
While we as Christians are to be known as truth tellers, no one is without sin, nor the lies that come with it. We are all sinners.
But, there is a difference between maintaining a lie and confessing to it by asking for forgiveness and bringing forth the truth. This can be difficult for those who are weak. Only the strongest of men and women can truly do what is right.
So, what is the meaning of being my brother’s keeper? It means being responsible for the well-being of a brother or other sibling or, by extension, for other human beings in general.
Cain claimed not to have this responsibility. He was wrong. While we are not perfect, we do have a significant responsibility to care for and watch over our brothers and sisters regardless of the circumstances.
Let us all look over the relationships we have with our siblings. Are we truly our brother’s keeper?