There are 18 thoughts on “Getting Cain and Gain”.

  1. Pingback: Cain, Kinship, Curses, and Characters, Part 2 | The Lunch is Free

  2. With one exception this was a very interesting essay and I found it highly informative. The Cain episode and the scriptural themes related to “secret combinations” have always fascinated me and I sincerely appreciate your insights on the subject.
    The exception to this in my view came with the conclusion. Before even reading it I knew you were broaching dangerous territory. I was disappointed, but not shocked, that your example for the dangers bequeathed to us by the Satan and Cain covenant of murder, etc., for gain was Nibley’s comments on the “Mahan priniciple.”
    I love Hugh Nibley and grew up reading his books and essays. When approaching Zion was written I suspect his comments were the best examples of the “Mahan principle” he had.
    (I wonder if it is significant that he doesn’t specifically refer to secret combinations.)
    Nibley’s quote is certainly worthy of discussion and debate, but when I survey world events today my first inclination is not to raise my fist and say “those darned manufacturers and their methods of production.” I don’t think of soldiers of fortune or hit men as they are guns-for-hire and not generally ideologically motivated (although I suppose I do think of the US government arming terrorists and/or dictators, but not, at least, initially).
    What comes to mind for me are the terrorist groups who openly and honestly murder in the name of God to get gain–territory, power, wealth, and ruling authority. The groups that treat everyone as expendable and kill for even the slightest perceived offense to their religious and world view. The organizations (ISIS, for example) that are right now overrunning the Middle East and growing their operatives throughout the world.
    These groups fit the secret combination narrative almost perfectly and, I am afraid, they’ve gotten above us. (Maybe as a result of the ills Nibley sites making us too spoiled and too lazy to recognize evil and treat it as such.)
    When I visit Wal Mart’s or Amazon’s websites I am never met with a mission statement of murdering in the name of God for gain.
    I suspect that anyone who has the stomach to explore ISIS’s online presence just might.
    Is it really so controversial or dangerous to point out the obvious?
    Again, I was disappointed, but not surprised.

    • Thank you for your response, Brown. If I had opted to “name names” with respect to specific contemporary secret combinations, I suppose I might have written a much lengthier conclusion. However, this would have been (in your own words) “point[ing] out the obvious.” I anticipated, when I wrote this paper, that my readers would be able to connect some dots on their own. You certainly have done so, which was the very thing I had hoped. 🙂 Best regards.

  3. One last shot at high jacking this thread: the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews clearly saw Abel’s murder in context of the Day of Atonement, so I could be on to something:
    (Heb 12:24) And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

  4. Thanks for the neat insights. I have a hard time understanding the scriptures and frankly these articles make them much more enjoyable 🙂

  5. If I understand Margaret Barker correctly, the High Priest was a Christ figure offering his life to atone for sin on Yom Kippur. The angel telling Adam that his sacrifice symbolized Christ strongly indicates the Day of of Atonement preceded the Children of Israel by a couple of thousand years. They didn’t invent it, they adopted it from ancient practice. If that is correct, then Abel being the offering for sin is possible. Also, Cain distinctly broke at least seven of the Ten Commandments, plus the two “great commandments.” Either the Commandments also preceded the Israelites, or maybe some Israelite edited the story of C&A to fit the pattern.
    You offer some valid criticism, and some points to be resolved.

    • Jacob Milgrom comments re Lev 4:5 that “it seems strange that the high priest is both expiator and the expiated, that he officiates for his own sin.” Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16, Anchor Bible, 232.
      So Barker may be correct.

  6. “I’ve just written an essay on the murder of Abel as seen in context of the Day of Atonement, Abel as the sacrifice and Cain as the scapegoat”
    I don’t see how it can work.
    The scapegoat in the atonement statute ( Lev 16 ) is a pure vessel that has the sins of others placed upon its head. In my opinion, they are placed upon the head of the scapegoat because of a righteous intercession, not because of personal sin.
    BOTH of the kid goats were without blemish and taken from the congregation of the children of Israel and offered as sin offerings, (16:5)
    There is nothing mentioned in the atonement statute that would indicate that the scapegoat offering was not acceptable to the Lord. Yet we know that Cains offering was NOT acceptable to the Lord, making Cain an unlikely type of the scapegoat.
    Were Cain and Able taken from the congregation of the Children of Israel?
    Israel did not exist yet.
    Were the sins of others ever placed upon Cains head?
    I don’t think so.
    He was not punished for the transgressions of others. He was punished for his own transgressions.
    In my opinion, the scapegoat represents one of the Lord’s servants who offers an intercessory atonement offering in behalf of the wayward children of Israel, resulting in their sins being place upon the Lord’s servant. (similar to how Moses provided an atonement offering in behalf of the apostate children of Israel to prevent the Lord from destroying them from off the face of the earth.
    Even if that interpretation does not make sense to you, how do you justify making Cain out to be an acceptable “living sacrifice”?
    It sounds as if you are accepting the commonly accepted interpretation that postulates that the two goats are representing Christ and Satan.
    I believe that interpretation is hugely problematic.
    Although an event that took place before the establishment of the House of Israel could have typological applications, statutes are enactments of future events. It might be more practical to find a realistic type, or literal fulfillment of the atonement statute in a prophetic event that happened sometime after the atonement statute was given.

    • re ritual scapegoat mechanism, Wathcer says, “Israel did not exist yet.”
      Long before the existence of Israel, and contemporary with Abraham, we have Hittite and Hurrian culture and lore including the scapegoat ritual, and this was certainly familiar to any people living in north Syria. See the general summary and evaluation of M. A. Morrison in Anchor Bible Dictionary, IV:1160-1161.
      We have, for example, Hittite nakuššiš “scapegoat, substitute,” which was borrowed from Hurrian, and which reflects the Hurrian itkalzi purification ritual and azazhum scapegoat/cathartic sacrifice – used like Hebrew ‘Az’azel (the name of the scapegoat), to assuage the “anger of the god,” See O. R. Gurney, “Magic Rituals: The Scapegoat,” in Some Aspects of Hittite Religion (1976-1977), 47-52; and G. Wilhelm, Hurrians (1989), 75, citing Lev 16:8-22 (Syriac ‘zz’jl), magical impurity and divine anger being equated. Wilhelm notes that the azaz-stem is a semitic loanword in Hurrian (Akkadian uzzu “to be angry”; enzu “goat; she-goat”).
      We also have another cathartic ritual, a bird sacrifice: Wilhelm, Hurrians, 74, citing Lev 14:1-8.
      These are merely examples of a whole range of rites which preceded the existence of Israel, but which show up in Israelite cult.

  7. The timing is interesting, I’ve just written an essay on the murder of Abel as seen in context of the Day of Atonement, Abel as the sacrifice and Cain as the scapegoat. It seems to work.

  8. I guess the well-known article “Joseph Smith in the British Museum: The Lost Years” will now require a companion piece: “Joseph Smith’s Childhood Studies in Semitic Etymology and Etiology.” 🙂

  9. Very interesting article, Matt. Thanks.
    Someone reversed the Hebrew in endnote 4.
    For both Mahah, son of Jared (Ether 6:14), and Master Mahan (Moses 5:31,39), perhaps the etymological source is Sumero-Akkadian MAḪ, maḫ “highest, supreme,” as in LU.MAḪ, lumaḫḫum, a high-ranking priest, “ecstatic priest” — Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, rev. ed., 221-222; Michalowski, Letters from Early Mesopotamia, 32-33, 55, 58-59 (texts 83 – 86), 138.

    • Thanks, Bob! It looks like Bryce fixed the Hebrew. I like your Sumero-Akkadian MAḪ, maḫ suggestion for “Mahan.” It seems especially relevant in light of Ether 8:9: “Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?” as well as Ether 14:8-10: “Now the brother of Shared, whose name was Gilead, also received great strength to his army, because of secret combinations. And it came to pass that his high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne.And it came to pass that one of the secret combinations murdered him in a secret pass, and obtained unto himself the kingdom; and his name was Lib.” The high priest connection is particularly interesting in this vein.

      • My lovely wife reads scriptures with less intellectual rigor than I do (which I stated earlier is nowhere near what you do), but she gleams insights I don’t see… I guess that is what makes the scriptures great…

        • That is one reason I really enjoy being a teacher. While learning, students sometimes come across insights that they are uniquely prepared to receive and impart. When they voice those insights in class some truly serendipitous learning occurs for everyone involved (cf. D&C 50:22).

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