Am I my brother’s keeper? Genesis 4:9
A marine biologist was swimming near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when a 50,000-pound humpback whale suddenly appeared and tucked her under its fin. The woman thought her life was over. But after swimming slowly in circles, the whale let her go. It’s then that the biologist saw a tiger shark leaving the area. The woman believes the whale had been protecting her—keeping her from danger.
In a world of danger, we’re called to watch out for others. But you might ask yourself, Should I really be expected to be responsible for someone else? Or in Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). The rest of the Old Testament resounds with the thunderous response: Yes! Just as Adam was to care for the garden, so Cain was to care for Abel. Israel was to keep watch over the vulnerable and care for the needy. Yet they did the opposite—exploiting the people, oppressing the poor, and abdicating the calling to love their neighbors as themselves (Isaiah 3:14–15).
Yet, in the Cain and Abel story, God continued to watch over Cain, even after he was sent away (Genesis 4:15–16). God did for Cain what Cain should have done for Abel. It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of what God in Jesus would come to do for us. Jesus keeps us in His care, and He empowers us to go and do likewise for others.
Who has God entrusted to your care? How have you embraced that responsibility? How have you tried to evade or avoid it?
Compassionate God, thank You for Your care for me. You keep me and watch over me. Help me to do the same for others.
Genesis 2 describes how God placed Adam and Eve in the garden to work it and take care of it. In turn, the garden would take care of them by providing them with all the food they’d need. However, sin disrupted this mutual relationship between humanity and the earth. When Adam and Eve sinned, one of the consequences was that the earth wouldn’t be as fruitful for them as it had once been. “[The earth] will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:18).
A broken relationship with the ground was also a consequence for Cain when God punished him for killing Abel. God said the ground wouldn’t produce anything for him (4:12). Cain splattered the ground with his brother’s blood and the ground became barren for him.