If you’re not familiar with the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, The Singing Bone, I recommend clicking here to read the story before proceeding to my commentary.
The tale of two brothers. A story almost as old as boy-meets-girl. After all, first there was Adam and Eve, then there was Cain and Abel. That’s what we have before us in The Singing Bone. Like with Cain, sin was crouching at the oldest brother’s door. If only he would’ve ruled over it (Genesis 4:7)
When the younger of the two brothers does well in the forest, the elder, who is described as “crafty and shrewd, out of pride,” sees his success and murders him. This was exactly how things happened in Genesis. Cain grew “very angry, and his face fell” (Gen. 4:5). Or as we just read, “his envious, evil heart gave him no peace.”
So what did Cain do?
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him (Gen. 4:8).
What did the eldest brother in our story do?
He called out to him… and then they went away together, and when in the darkness… [he] gave him such a blow from behind that he fell down dead.
O, the treachery! Where’s the justice? The older brother in our tale gets the girl when the younger should have. And just like the vile deed committed against Joseph by his brothers (Gen. 37:29-34) – another account of brother(s) sinning against brother – he deceives everyone, declaring that “the boar must have killed” his younger brother. Who wouldn’t believe that the fierce animal devoured him (Gen. 37:33)?
But never fear, my friends, justice is served. Both in real life and in the Grimm’s fairyland extension of it. As they said,
But as nothing remains hidden from God, so this black deed also was to come to light.
God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (almighty), and omnipresent (present everywhere). We cannot keep our sins from Him. We may try our best to conceal our evil deeds, we can carry them out under the shroud of darkness, it doesn’t matter, “nothing remains hidden from God.” He will uncover the deeps out of darkness and bring deep darkness to light (Job 12:22). There are plenty of Scripture passages that deal with justice and God bringing vengeance on the evil doer, but perhaps considering Psalm 37:28 will be sufficient for our purposes.
For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed; the offspring of the wicked will perish.
God did not forsake Abel. Cain killed his younger brother whose blood cried out to God from the ground (Gen. 4:11). God heard this cry and answered it by dealing directly with Cain, but also, years later, by sending His Son, Jesus, to take on flesh and be killed like Abel. Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant whose sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than Abel’s blood (Hebrews 12:24). Christ came to defeat the grave once and for all, so that the ground that opened its mouth and received the blood of the faithful would be defanged (Gen. 4:11; Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58), swallowed up forever.
This reality is conveyed in our tale when a shepherd brings the truth to light. A shepherd? Go figure (See John 10:11)! He reveals the dark past by uncovering the younger brother’s bone, which sings out just like Abel’s blood.
What else did you notice? Tell me you took note of the story’s conclusion. What happened to the two brothers? The wicked brother is drowned as a part of the baptismal picture. In baptism the sinner is drowned while the innocent Christian man is given life.
Wait a minute! What?! The younger brother isn’t alive at the end. He’s dead.
Is he? Death was defeated by Jesus. For the Christian, death is the consummation of baptism. What was started at the font comes to completion in the churchyard (cemetery) as the believer’s soul – “innocent and simple, from a kind heart” – is brought into the presence of Christ at the throne of God. The body of the younger brother, who spent a long time beside the water (we spend the length of our days beside the water of baptism) is laid to rest in a beautiful tomb in the churchyard. That is, he’s given the Christian rest that comes in the Gospel of Christ Jesus. He is given life, even if you and I cannot see it on this side of our Lord’s second coming.
The next Finding Truth in The Story will be on Maid Maleen. Click here to read the fairy tale in advance.
I’m reading the fairly tales from the Fall River Press publication, Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Click here to purchase a copy for yourself.
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