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Thinking about the primitive origins of war, over here, reminded me of a thing I'd thought about a while ago, before the journaling era: Abel has no sons.

Now, it's true, people speak of "Cain and Abel", as though they were matched, as though there were a tale of brothers there, as though some kind of story spun out to a tragic ending. No. The entire most interesting thing about Abel is that he dies. Cut down by Cain, he dies in a field. End of Abel.

The most interesting fact about Abel, is that he dies. Biblically, the number of people whose only interesting aspect is that they die is exceptionally few. This bears some reflection.

The other aspect, which really grows on one with reflection on the genealogical style of Genesis, is that Abel has no sons. The murdered out of jealousy is entirely without offspring. His blood is not carried on, but cries out from the earth. Of all the richness of family, all of the repetitions, "now here are the generations, the toledoth", the meeting, the courting, the begetting, the fathering, all these things, Abel has no part.

His branch is cut -- he is a dead end at the very beginning of history. There are only two children inhabiting our story, and one is slain, the other marked, cast away as murderer. Cain has many sons. Abel has no sons.

The story resumes with Seth, who follows all this. He is a third, something else, not part of it, but he lives in the history of it, the family of it. The story follows, and the whole of the story tells us of the promise which comes to the sons of Cain and the sons of Seth. But for Abel, there is nothing to his name.

The story is not what we would think of as a history, though it tells of how things had been between God and the first mother and father, and what the change was that brought the fall, which ends in the death of Abel and the casting-out of Cain and the birth of Seth. The story tells us it could have been otherwise, and once was. But that time changes things, and that things do not go backwards -- the sorry parents cannot return past the fiery sword, and Seth's older brothers never come home to him and offer the finest wholeheartedly to the Maker. The promise comes through the line of Seth, the fruit of it all, hanging from a tree.

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