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Cain & Abel

The Farmer and The Shepherd

As the two grew into manhood, Cain worked the ground, while Abel tended sheep. 
 iBIBLE Chapter 3


Scripture reference: Genesis 4:2b

When God created mankind, He placed them in the garden to work and keep it. While Adam and Eve were called to keep the garden and have dominion, these commands become focused professions for the next generation. Cain works the ground as a farmer, and Abel tends sheep as a shepherd. Both farming and shepherding are integral professions in communities ever since.


While technology has impacted how these jobs may be completed, the two vocations remain mostly unchanged. Both of these professions are necessary for a society to function.


Genesis tells us that there will be thorns and thistles, and creation itself groans for Jesus's return (Romans 8:19–23). Nobody feels this more acutely than those working the ground. With long days, working by the sweat of their brow, farmers struggle against the impact of weather, pests, plant sickness, and a host of other challenges. They are at the mercy of hurricanes, unpredictable weather, fires, and floods. Even with modern advancements in agricultural science and technology, we still must work the land like Cain did. The ground continues to need to be cultivated, to be tilled, to be watered and cared for. Little has changed.


Just as farming has remained fundamentally the same, so has shepherding. Sheep are delicate animals that do not survive well on their own. They need special care and a protector to thrive.


The lessons that were true for Cain and Abel as they learned their professions are true for us today. Without farmers, we would all starve. Without shepherds, we would lack a necessary food and textile source. Some of the hardest professions out there continue to be foundational to our society. And still, even those of us who are not farmers or shepherds continue cultivating our own gardens and caring for our own animals. Aspects of these vocations are learned and practiced among people everywhere in the world.


The universality of these professions, therefore, makes both farming and shepherding illustrations especially relatable as they are used throughout Scripture. Jesus often refers to plant life, using illustrations like the mustard seed (Mark 4:30–32), plants bearing fruit (Matthew 7:15–20), and seeds growing on various kinds of soil (Matthew 13:3–9). Jesus is called the “Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep,” (John 10:11) and we, God’s people, are likened to sheep:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

—Isaiah 53:6 [ESV]

God speaks to us in ways we can understand; He is gracious to use stories from our everyday lives that we can relate to.

Our Response


As God’s people, we too are called to cultivate the earth and tend to the animals who live here. And so, we share in a heritage of all humans who have ever lived.


Be encouraged as you plant your garden, as you prepare the food for your family, as you care for your own animals—these are things that God has called us all to do even from the very beginning. And as we work to cultivate the beautiful world that God has given us, we can trust the One who placed mankind here to begin with and called us to do these things. Even when we are faced with the difficulties of a world laden with sin, we can trust that God is the ultimate source of preservation of the land and animals, and our lives too.

You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

—Psalm 65:9–13

Even with modern advancements in agricultural science and technology, we still must work the land like Cain did.

A Prayer for This Week

Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth, You have given us this incredible creation to steward and care for. We thank You for this great blessing. Be present with us as we plant, as we water, and as we harvest. Please bless those who farm, those who garden, those who tend animals, and everyone who brings food to the world. Feed and protect those who are hungry and guide us as we serve our neighbors in this life in our various vocations. You are our Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. Thank You for salvation in Christ; help us to live in light of the freedom He has won for us. In Jesus’s name, we pray, Amen.

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