Original Research

Rethinking violence through the narrative of Genesis 4:1–16

Blessing O. Boloje
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 55, No 1 | a2715 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v55i1.2715 | © 2021 Blessing O. Boloje | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 January 2021 | Published: 19 May 2021

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Blessing O. Boloje, Department of Old Testament and Hebrew Scriptures, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Genesis 4:1–16 is a well-known narrative following the ejection of Adam and Eve from the garden. It is an essential aspect of Genesis’ theological unity that consists of a combination of stories that show separation within family and state. The narrative is rich in alternating developmental plot and served as a significant pointer to the divine-human relationship. Obviously, at a time and in settings in which it has become increasingly painful to look at life, as individuals and communities witness the collapse of the pillars of social life, this article identified values and principles, and offered perspectives for dealing with the sequence of violence in order to create possibilities for communal solidarity. In view of the fact that the narrative is rich in its developmental plot, this article exegetically highlighted the textual sub-units in the narrative and theologically attempted to rethink violence from the perspectives of the perpetrator and the victim in God’s creation. The theological datum of the article is that violence in the narrative of Genesis 4:1–16 is an offshoot of perceived divine arbitrariness in which the perpetrator is unable to acknowledge divine prerogative. Consequently, the failure of people to manage their dissatisfaction and to control their impulses in the face of incomprehensible divine arbitrariness, hides the inevitability of violent conflict in daily human experiences.

Contribution: The article drew theological and moral implications that will challenge contemporary readers of the Cain-Abel narrative, who are faced with the most profound existential issues of human relationship and thus struggle with violent behaviours of individuals and groups, to embrace its instructive potential for faith and life.


Cain-Abel narrative; Genesis 4:1–16; violence; divine arbitrariness; offering; perpetrator and victim.


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