The reason underlying God’s divergent actions towards the offerings of Cain and Abel has been highly disputed. It has been often assumed that the reason mainly lies in the two offerers’ differing dispositions and attitudes or in the quality and character of their offerings. However, the close relationship between YHWH and Cain and the differences between the text’s descriptions of Cain and of Abel provide a more concrete rationale for God’s action: Through the seemingly unjust rejection of Cain’s offering, YHWH calls on him to recognize his relationship and responsibility for his inferior brother. That the relation to others is inseparable from the relation to God becomes evident once more in the punishment.
Using a narratological synchronic reading, this article argues that Reuben and Judah are contrastively juxtaposed in their rhetoric and intentions in Genesis 37. Reuben considers the brothers’ plot a criminal act and bans both their internal intentions and their external evildoings against Joseph, whereas Judah repeatedly forbids them from killing Joseph, their own brother, posing a moral argument against fratricide. Problematically, however, he permits another evildoing, the sale of their own brother. The contrastive parallel of the two brothers in Genesis 37 does not support the classic documentary hypothesis, nor the supplementary expansion in favour of Judah. Rather, Judah’s problematic dealings with his own brother harkens to the practice of selling of own “flesh” and “kindred” into slavery in the post-exilic period. Genesis 37 in its present position provides a natural link to Genesis 38, as both chapters are identical in their negative depiction of Judah.