In preparing a recent sermon on the Passover as recorded in Exodus 12, I noticed an interesting parallel between the two offerings in Genesis 4 and in Exodus 12.
Genesis 4 is the Cain and Able narrative in which a pastoralist (Able) and an agriculturalist (Cain) both bring offerings to God. Able’s offering is favored while Cain’s is not. No explanation is given as to the reason for YHWH’s response, but the result is that Cain becomes angry and kills his brother, Able. Death and disunion are the results of the two offerings coming together.
Exodus 12 is the Passover narrative in which a pastoral offering (a one year-old unblemished male lamb) and an agricultural offering (unleavened bread) are offered together. Scholarship suggests that these were two distinct rituals observed in the land of Canaan during the period in which the people that would become the Hebrews and later the nation of Israel were emerging as a distinct and dominant group in the region. This is intriguing because in the Passover portion of the larger Exodus memory, it is the combining of two offerings that had previously separated the pastoralists and the agriculturalists, that brings cohesion to this people. They are offered together, as in the Cain and Able narrative, but instead of death and disunion they bring life and unity. It seems that the exodus memory freed the Hebrews not only from slavery in Egypt, but from slavery to violence and division.