Am I my brother’s keeper – Part 3

a waterfall that looks like a human skull in it


Our first text critical note comes from Genesis 4:1. Is has to do with the use of the name Yahweh “Since Exo_6:3 seems to indicate that the name Yahweh (יְהוָה, translated LORD) was first revealed to Moses (see also Exo_3:14), it is odd to see it used in quotations in Genesis by people who lived long before Moses. This problem has been resolved in various ways: (1) Source critics  propose that Exo_6:3 is part of the “P” (or priestly) tradition, which is at odds with the “J” (or Yahwistic) tradition. (2) Many propose that “name”  in Exo_6:3 does not refer to the divine name per se, but to the character suggested by the name. God appeared to the patriarchs primarily in the role of El Shaddai, the giver of fertility, not as Yahweh, the one who fulfills his promises. In this case the patriarchs knew the name Yahweh, but had not experienced the full significance of the name. In this regard it is  possible that Exo_6:3 (i.e., Exodus 6:3b) should not be translated as a statement of denial, but as an affirmation followed by a rhetorical question implying that the patriarchs did indeed know God by the name of Yahweh, just as they knew him as El Shaddai. D. A. Garrett, following the lead of F. Andersen, sees Exo_6:2-3 as displaying a paneled A/B parallelism and translates them as follows: (A) “I am Yahweh.” (B) “And I made myself known to Abraham…as El Shaddai.” (A’) “And my name is Yahweh”; (B’) “Did I not make myself known to them?” (NET).

In Genesis 4:3 the offering that was being offered was a gift offering, and not a sin offering. Therefore the gift of fruit and vegetables would have been acceptable, “The Hebrew term מִנְחָה (minkhah, “offering”) is a general word for tribute, a gift, or an offering. It is the main word used in Leviticus 2 for the dedication offering. This type of offering could be comprised of vegetables. The content of the offering (vegetables, as opposed to animals) was not the critical issue, but rather the attitude of the offerer” (Net).

In vs 4:8 there is a question rasied by the use of the phrase lets go out to the field. The Masoretic Text (MT) has simply “and Cain said to Abel his brother,” omitting Cain’s words to Abel. It is possible that the elliptical text is original. Perhaps the author uses the technique of aposiopesis, “a sudden silence” to create tension. In the midst of the story the narrator suddenly rushes ahead to what happened in the field. It is more likely that the ancient versions (Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint (LXX), Vulgate, and Syriac), which include Cain’s words, “Let’s go out to the field,” preserve the original reading here. After writing אָחִיו (‘akhiyv, “his brother”), a scribe’s eye may have jumped to the end of the form בַּשָּׂדֶה (basadeh, “to the field”) and accidentally omitted the quotation. This would be an error of virtual homoioteleuton. In older phases of the Hebrew script the sequence יו (yod-vav) on אָחִיו is graphically similar to the final ה (he) on בַּשָּׂדֶה.

Outline of Passage 

  1. Cain and Abel
  2. Birth of Can and Abel – Gen 4:1-2
  3. Worship Differences of Cain and Abel – Gen 4:3-8
  4. Repentance of Cain – Gen 4:9-15
  5. Protection of Cain – Gen 4:15-16


To read the other parts in this series click any of the links below:

Am I my Brother’s keeper part 1
Am I my Brother’s keeper part 2
Am I my Brother’s keeper part 3
Am I my Brother’s keeper part 4
Am I my Brother’s keeper part 5
Am I my Brother’s keeper part 6


Author: Chris Flees

I am an artist, art promoter, and art marketing professional who specializes and blogs primarily about art topics and the "behind the scenes" of my subject and images. Occasionally I blog about Christian topics.