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The open mouth of the earth

When God asked Cain where his brother was, God already knew the answer, but was trying to give Cain an opportunity to regret and confess his actions. The response of Cain that he was “not his brothers’ keeper” led God to say:

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”(Gen. 4:10-11)

“וַיֹּאמֶר מֶה עָשִׂיתָ; קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן-הָאֲדָמָה.  וְעַתָּה אָרוּר אָתָּה מִן-הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר פָּצְתָה אֶת-פִּיהָ לָקַחַת אֶת-דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ מִיָּדֶךָ”

The humanization of the ground here –  that it opened its mouth to receive Abel after he died but also remained silent – has always intrigued me. I have always wondered what exactly happened there in the unwritten conversation between the brothers. The brothers, for me, symbolized a battle between field workers and shepherds. In this case, the field worker, Cain, killed the shepherd.

Another interesting story about the ground and fight between two opposing sides is the story of Korach, the man who led a rebellion against Moses. He was not a shepherd.  At the end of the Korach story, the earth opened its mouth as well:  

“And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korach, together with their possessions…and they perished and were gone from the community”(Num. 16:32-33)

“וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת-פִּיהָ, “וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת-בָּתֵּיהֶם, וְאֵת כָּל-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח, וְאֵת כָּל-הָרְכוּשׁ…. וַיֹּאבְדוּ מִתּוֹךְ הַקָּהָל.”

rjkofroIn the second case it seems the “shepherd” won in the battle. The ground opened its mouth in order to show us that Moses and other shepherds like him (Jacob, David) were the leaders of the Israelites, on the ground. In Heaven there’s another shepherd too – and I think we all know Who that is!

English-Transliteration- Hebrew

The earth-hā’ārets – הָאָרֶץ

The community-haqqāhāl – הַקָּהָל

The ground-hā’ădāmāh – הָאֲדָמָה

Opened-pātstāh – פָּצְתָה

Its mouth-pîhā – פִּיהָ


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