Sibling Rivalry (Genesis 4:8)

“They ended up fighting and the younger brother gave the older a bloody nose and the older bruised the younger’s rib cage.”


I was listening to my friend recount a recent argument between his two sons. I was alarmed by the escalation of tensions and violence but my friend reassured me. “But it’s okay! They’re brothers. They fight all the time but they love each other.”


“Yes, they later hugged each other and apologized.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and reflected upon my relationship with my younger sister. Six years younger than I am, we continuously fought when we were growing up. It was not physical abuse but verbal abuse, usually instigated by me, her bullying older brother. It began as light-hearted teasing but over the years, it escalated to name-calling. One day, when we were both adults, my sister confronted me and told me how much I hurt her during those years.  I was mortified and apologized. Just as it took many years to slowly build to a tipping point, our relationship needed a long time to heal but we eventually reconciled and now we are very close. 

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Genesis 4:8 (NLT)

The Bible does not tell us the details but I wonder if the fatal action of Cain killing his brother Abel was the culmination of a long-standing, simmering rivalry? They were the first siblings and certainly faced obstacles that were unique, similar to every family. Perhaps it began as a snide comment or a perceived snub. Whatever the initiating cause, it may have escalated, leading to the calculated murder. 

God knew what was in the heart of Cain as this rivalry fomented and tortured his soul. At this critical moment, He warned Cain about the sinister consequences but to no avail. 

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Genesis 4:6-7 (NLT)

Sibling rivalry.

For my friend’s sons and for my own sister, reconciliation and forgiveness were an option. For other siblings, it may be too late. I pray that God’s grace and mercy would enter into every sibling relationship and allow each side to master their desire to inflict more hurt and turn to one another in love and forgiveness.

Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.

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