Ronald S. Hendel’s article, “When God Acts Immorally—Is the Bible a Good Book?” BR 07:03, obviously touched a raw nerve. In examining the story of Cain, Hendel suggested that God may not be a perfect God, but a good God nevertheless, and that the Bible may not be a wholly good book, but a “good enough” book. Judging from the outpouring of letters that followed, many readers took exception—even offense—at Hendel’s reading of the story.a
Without going over the same ground as Hendel and the subsequent letter writers, it might be fruitful to review the story of Cain and his seemingly unfair punishment. In the process, I hope to offer some new insights by comparing two biblical figures who are not usually thought of as linked—Cain and Job.
In our evaluations of characters in the Bible, we naturally list Cain with the villains and Job with the heroes. We decry the inherent evil of Cain and applaud the innate goodness and faith of Job. We see Cain’s murder of his brother Abel as the first and ultimately the worst human injustice, so different from the quietness and patience of Job, whose righteousness remains firm despite inhuman pain and grief.