Bible Review 7:5, October 1991

Readers Reply

Bible Review

Never Mind Why Cain’s Offering Was Rejected

Concerning the intriguing problem of God’s motive in preferring Abel’s offering over Cain’s (“When God Acts Immorally—Is the Bible a Good Book?” BR 07:03), it may be that Ronald Hendel’s analysis does not exhaust the possibilities. There may be a fifth explanation for God’s seemingly motiveless choice: The motive, in this particular narrative, may be irrelevant to the purpose of the story. If the author’s point is to illuminate the causes and consequences of internecine jealousy in human affairs, of the destructive character of fraternal enmity, then the seminal circumstance giving rise to the hostility is, in context, merely the story’s “given” base of action, what Henry James called the narrative donnée, which must be granted an author before the reader begins to criticize what he has made of it.

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