Rival Brothers

“Cain and Abel * Jacob and Esau * Isaac and Ishmael * Romulus and Remus

The story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, warns us of the jealousies that exist between brothers. Abel was the first shepherd, Cain the first tiller of the soil. But the murderous envy of Cain was inflamed when he saw that his brother’s offering to God was deemed more acceptable as a sacrifice, so he killed Abel. Jacob and Esau did not murder each other, though Jacob tricked his firstborn brother of his birthright by selling him ‘a mess of pottage’ when he was hungry. The story of Ishmael and Isaac has its own tone, for the brothers were friends, but the elder would be driven from out of the tent of his father, Abraham, by his stepmother. Remus would be murdered by his brother Romulus during the foundation ceremony for the city of Rome.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

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