The Burning Lamb

58” X 86” oil on canvas/wood 1992

Shown in the side lunettes of this four-part painting is the original fratricide. Cain, the first born son of Adam and Eve, hurls a rock at his brother Abel, who is shown lying dead in the left panel.

Cain’s offering of grain was refused by God, but the lamb, which was Abel’s offering, was accepted by God who signified his regard for the sacrifice by sending a heavenly fire to consume it. The commentaries suggest that God accepted Abel’s offering because, unlike Cain, he offered the best of what he had.

Another explanation for the first murder is suggested in Midrash. Cain and Abel were each born with twin sisters –Abel with two and Cain with one. In the conversation that we are told led to the killing, Cain asks Abel to give him one of his twin sisters, since he is the first born son and thus entitled to a double inheritance. Abel refuses, and in his rage, Cain picks up a stone, and with it, kills his brother.

The upper lunette shows a coiled serpent, signifying the original snake in the Garden of Eden whose evil was transmitted to Cain.

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