The expression refers to the relationship between the two eldest sons in the first family of humankind.
History is full of examples of this first battle being repeated on many different levels, e.g. within the individual in the battle between mind and body, between siblings, in family feuds, tribal wars, wars between nations and in major global conflicts between blocs of nations.
Often the parties in such conflicts have a Cain-Abel relationship with each other. The reason why the expression is used to describe conflicts between two parties, is that God always wants parties in conflicts to be reconciled with each other, as he did in the relationship between Cain and Abel.
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