A LITTLE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS Biblical fiction
Volume One of The Generations series
Main Characters : Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, Sheriah, and Namrel
Setting : Adam’s Valley, Paradise, Eden, Nod, Second and Third Heaven
Premise : No sin is so bad that God will not forgive and restore. He is the Lord of reconciliation.
For the first couple, obedience trump rebellion then leads to redemption. But what of their children? Seduced by evil, Cain kills Abel then flees with his sister to the land of Nod. Bereaved of all their children in one day, Adam and Eve are heartbroken, but not until they both see a vision of Abel in Paradise with their childhood pets Lion and Lamb does Eve find the strength to wait upon the Lord for His blessing.
Cover art by Judy Downs Levine (lovely prints available)
Read Chapter One:
For years, Cain dreamed of going to the high place. This day he would see God for himself, but best of all, tonight he and his sister would become one, as Padam and Meve.
Bless the God of Creation, all of Cain’s dreams would come true.
Already three-quarters up what his father called God’s Mountain, he lowered his bundle and looked back. He loved being so high, but never before on this mountain. The harsh ruggedness intrigued him.
His plow would be useless here, wouldn’t make even a scratch. From his new vantage, he studied the valley below. The house and barns surrounded by his own fields and his father’s orchards appeared small enough to hold in his hands.
He loved the effect his crops designed on the earth, but the new perspective clearly revealed the need to straighten the corn’s western boundary. He filled his lungs as he enjoyed the view.
A stiff breeze far below rustled the fruit trees’ tops then swirled over to the wheat causing the blanket of green heads to wave and bend. He savored the sight a few more heartbeats then turned his face again to the summit.
With his load slung over his shoulder once more, he climbed on toward the Lord’s special place. Following his father’s instructions, he reached Guard Rock, a head-high boulder that he recognized from Padam’s stories.
It hid a small clearing just short of the peak.
He set his offering on the ground, tugged on his tunic until it hung smoothly, then ran his fingers through his sweat-soaked hair.
He opened his mouth and pulled hard and deep until he filled his lungs full of the thin mountain air, then blew it all out. A shadow fell on his soul, and he sank to his knees. His heart beat against the confines of his ribs.
He would see God, or at least His finger. He wiped the sweat from his forehead. A fist-sized rock weighted the pit of his stomach.
The wind picked up and whistled around the outcroppings and sparse brush. He stood, trudged to the boulder and peered around. His father sat motionless in the small clearing, stroking the head of a lamb.
Everything looked exactly as he imagined; Padam, the stone altars. All perfect. A waist-high pile of blackened stones stood flanked by almost identical, though uncharred, heaps. As firstborn, his position would be the right.
A new strength flowed through him. He retrieved his pack and marched into the clearing.
His father looked up and opened his mouth, but spoke no words. Only shook his head and looked away. Had there been a twinge of disgust on his face? But how could he know?
Oh, how Cain wanted to blurt out his promise to Sheriah not to kill a lamb, to explain, but held his tongue. When God accepted his offering, and a new bloodless way of worshiping was ushered in, then his father would understand.
Moving to the right, he sat before the altar. “Padam?” In awe and respect for the Holy ground, he barely whispered. “What do I do?”
His father shook his head again. “Wait. Your brother will be here soon.”
Cain looked away. He could wait all day sitting there in the dirt, but Abel would never come. Padam should know his soft-hearted son would never bring one of his precious lambs to slaughter.
Ever since Cain and his twin understood why the lamb their father carried off every spring never returned from the mountain with him, Abel swore that if called, he would refuse to participate in the bloody ritual.
The waiting gnawed at Cain. With each beat of his heart, the rock in his belly grew heavier. He wanted it all to be over, to acquire God’s acceptance of his first fruits and new way.
The ground rumbled. The sky darkened.
The shadow returned and whispered to Cain. “Run.”
His heart raced, and sweat rolled down his face. He wanted to, would have, but could not. He took a deep breath and willed his heart to rest. After all, as firstborn, he would soon be a man and a husband.
Padam’s lamb bleated. Another answered.
Abel strode into the clearing with the yearling draped around his neck. The one he’d lavished so much extra care and attention on—the best one of all the rest. Without words, his father gestured toward the left altar, and Abel took his place.
What a liar his brother turned out to be!
Bile seeped in and pitched the heavy rock inside, forcing it upward again. It erupted into his mouth. The terrible taste made him want to spit, but he dared not. Not there. Not on God’s Holy Mountain.
His father rose and carried the yearling to the center altar then turned to Cain and nodded.
Swallowing hard, he held his breath and lifted his load. He meticulously emptied his bundle’s contents, the very best of his own labors, and arranged the offering in rows on top of his pile of stones.
Standing motionless a moment, he admired the bounty. Who wouldn’t accept such a gift? He backed slowly away.
Then Padam dipped his head toward Abel who laid his lamb on the third altar. A flint knife materialized in his father’s hand. With a smooth stroke, he opened his lamb’s throat, spilling its blood on the charred stones.
As his brother did the same with his own yearling, a twinge of jealousy stabbed Cain. He had always wanted to kill one of Abel’s lambs, dreamed of it. This would have been his chance, but Sheriah would have been repulsed by it.
He’d prove his new way the better. They would all see.
Streaks of liquid fire cavorted across the darkening sky, followed by a series of crackling booms, each more deafening than the last.
Cain tried to swallow again, but could not, as though his heart stopped beating all together and seized him. Thoughts of running disappeared as he sank to his knees. Finally, after all those stories of Eden, he would see God for himself.
Sweat ran into his eyes. The salty rivulets stung. He swiped at them, unwilling to miss any part.
Midst the darkness, a pure white cloud gathered above.
The winds blew, and it moved directly over the mountain’s peak, hovering. An enormous finger of fire dropped from the whiteness, so bright he had to glance away, but looked back, shading his eyes.
It extended toward the stone altars, and a thin stream of molten liquid leapt from God’s finger to the center altar.
The lamb sizzled and burned until completely consumed. The speed of its consumption amazed Cain. Not even an ash—only the darkened stones—remained.
The fire dissipated, as the smoke drifted upward and merged into the cloud, darkening it slightly.
His father fell to his knees, spread his arms high in the air. “Bless You, Father, and thanks be unto You for accepting my sin offering.” He lowered his forehead until it rested on the rocky ground.
Cain stood. As firstborn, he would be next.
God’s finger extended again from the cloud. Cain watched it intently, inhaled an expectant breath, then kept it inside. The fire sprang from God’s finger, but instead of consuming his grains, it darted straight toward Abel’s lamb.
No, this couldn’t happen.
He was firstborn.
God knew that.
Padam claimed the Creator knew everything.
The fire devoured his twin’s offering, and the sweet-smelling smoke wafted toward God’s cloud. Abel cried out something. The ringing in Cain’s ears distorted the words. His face burned.
Who cared anyway what his brother babbled?
His jaws clinched shut, and he glared first at the altar, the cloud above, then his twin. God should have accepted his offering second. Why hadn’t He? Cain glanced skyward, but his eyes could not stand the brightness.
WHY ARE YOU ANGRY CAIN
The question came from the Almighty’s swirling cloud.
WHY IS YOUR FACE DOWNCAST
IF YOU DO WHAT IS RIGHT YOU WILL BE ACCEPTED
SIN IS CROUCHING AT YOUR DOOR
IT DESIRES YOU BUT YOU MUST MASTER IT
Cain willed the Almighty to send fire to the remaining altar, the only one left not scorched. With each booming beat in his chest, his face burned hotter, and a mallet pounded in his head.
But no fire came.
Once the sky lightened to blue again, and God’s cloud disappeared, the blood drained from his face. How would he face her? He had failed, been rejected. He raised his fist to the sky, but not a trace of the white cloud remained.
God had departed.
Spreading his pack, he cleared the altar of his offering with one swipe of his forearm, gathered the corners around what remained onto his cloth, threw the bundle over his shoulder, then marched from the high place.
Abel raised his head and immediately covered his eyes. Though the cloud vanished, the Lord’s golden afterglow proved a wondrous experience, even if he could hardly bear the brightness.
After a fistful of heartbeats, he peeked between his fingers. His brother was nowhere to be seen, but his father remained prostrate before the center altar.
When God had rebuked his brother, Abel remained perfectly still, dared not look or add to Cain’s shame. Now, he pushed himself to his feet and looked toward the path. Could his brother’s footfalls already be out of hearing?
An eagle screamed overhead then dove straight for him.
At the last blink, the mighty bird veered and soared on the wind’s current over their valley below. He followed its flight a while then turned back to his father who lay motionless.
Wasn’t he going after Cain?
A tear rolled down Abel’s cheek. Everything would be so wonderful if only his headstrong brother had sacrificed a lamb.
He hugged himself. His heart hurt. For all the fights and harsh words spoken, he loved his brother—even more with the understanding of the sin offerings. If only he could help Cain comprehend.
The Lord said if he would do what was right, he would be accepted. Abel stroked his beard and looked again at his father who murmured praises, obviously oblivious. Maybe there was still enough time.
He grabbed his shawl and prayer blanket then quietly backed away from the sacred place. Once past Guard Rock, he ran down the mountain after his twin and found him on the path leaning against the tree they’d named Last Look years prior.
“Come, Brother. If we hurry, you can still make an offering.”
“Forget it. Our father’s God rejected me.”
“Don’t be a snake-in-the-tree. The Lord didn’t reject you, only your offering. He only wants you to do what is right.” Abel grabbed his brother’s arm. “Hurry. We can still choose a yearling and be back to the high place before long shadows.”
Cain’s eyes blazed, and he balled his fist. Abel braced himself, but the blow never came.
The fire in his twin’s eyes cooled to a cold stare before he patted Abel’s shoulder, and in those silent moments, a concern for his mother and sister gripped Abel, as if their hearts suffered some unknown great pain.
Why would that be?
His brother’s voice brought him back. “Yes, you may be right. It’s worth a try. Let’s go fetch a yearling.” He nodded with an odd smile. “But hurry. There’s something I must show you first.” He spun around and trotted toward his furthest field.
Abel ran after. “But Brother, can’t it wait? Our father is still at the high place. You must make a blood offering and be accepted.”
Cain offered no response until he reached the field’s edge. “This won’t take long.” He pointed toward a spot not fifty strides away. “See? It’s there.” He strode toward the place.
“What?” Nothing worth a delay came to view. “What’s so important? We should hurry to my flock.” He followed his brother to the middle of the field. Cain knelt, picked something up, then swung around.
The fire returned to his eyes and with it, an evil Abel had never seen before.
His brother’s words escaped through clenched teeth, though his volume could barely be heard over the screaming eagle overhead. “Never again will you take my place.”
“Brother, what do you mean?”
Suddenly Cain roared. “I am the firstborn.”
“Of course, you are. I know that.” Abel held out both hands, palms up. “Why do you think that? When have I ever tried to take your place? What have I done?”
“I hate you!” Cain lowered his shoulder and charged.
Abel balled his own fist then consciously relaxed it. He would not, could not, fight his brother again. The Lord’s peace, carried from the high place, still enveloped him, though confusion now warred against it.
With each step, it seemed Cain ran slower and slower. A crazed expression twisted and contorted his face. He raised the rock in his hand above his head as he advanced, but it made no matter. Abel would not defend himself. “God said you must master –”
The impact slammed him to the ground, forcing the breath from his lungs. His brother’s weight impeded another. Though Cain held the stone above his head, God’s peace still permeated Abel’s soul. He looked into his brother’s eyes.
How could there be so much hate and anger there?
The rock crashed down.
Pain exploded then vanished. His eyes lost focus. Blackness engulfed him as he closed his eyes as if to sleep. The sensation of great speed carried him toward a bright light then consciousness came again.
A brilliant golden glow encompassed him.
He floated peacefully downward. Where had the pain gone? He traced his hand over his head. No blood? Neither any wound. But how?
“Cain? Where are you, Brother? Put that rock down. We must hurry and choose a lamb.” The words formed in his mind, he spoke them, but where could the sound of them be?
The light dimmed as strong arms wrapped around him then set his feet onto firm ground.
He stood in the midst of a meadow, a place he had never seen, but recognized from his parents’ stories. Released, he turned and faced a winged being.
The odd-looking man stood half-a-head shorter than he and wore a long white robe with a band of golden cloth across his chest.
“Who are you?” Again, no audible words came forth.
“I am called Namrel.” The being’s smile seemed understanding. This speaking without benefit of sound puzzled Abel though.
“Is this my parents’ Garden? Eden?”
The birdman chuckled and shook his head. “No, my new friend. You are in Paradise.”