• Chris Steele

Considering Cain

Sunday, April 18, 2021


When Cain killed his brother Abel, God cursed him to be a fugitive and vagabond on the earth. This worried Cain. He said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.”

The first murderer has violently killed his brother and tried to cover up his crime. He lied to God about any knowledge of his brother’s disappearance. Yet, it seems as though without remorse or sorrow, he’s worried and afraid of someone murdering him! A guilty conscience can eat at a person. “The wicked flee when no one pursues…” (Proverbs 28:1).

We cannot conclude how old Cain was at this time, nor when he married or traveled to Nod and his first child was born. We do know, Adam and Eve had two named sons—one was killed and the other exiled. Another son was born after these events. Scripture says, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had many sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4). Remember also, Eve was “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20), and Adam lived to be 930 (Genesis 5:5). If we do the math, Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born. Eve would have been near the same age. In the garden, God commanded them to “be fruitful and replenish the earth.” There’s no telling how prolific the first couple was. It is very likely Cain and Abel had many brothers and sisters when Cain killed Abel.

Abel was the first person ever to die. Eve, “the mother of all living,” would have been devastated. God’s curse would be ringing in her ears, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). She and Adam brought the curse of death into God’s perfect world. When she conceived again, and “bore a son and named him Seth,” she was comforted. “For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.” The Bible does not imply Seth was Adam and Eve’s third son.

We are curious to know, “Where did Cain get his wife?” Only one answer is possible. Since all humans came from Adam and Eve (the mother of all living) he married a sister or a niece. This seems odd to us, but God provided for this in the beginning. Adam and Eve were created without any genetic defects. Their offspring could marry without any problems. When we consider how people back then lived to be hundreds of years old, just in a few generations, there could have been hundreds of people living when Cain chose a wife. He may have found her before he was exiled and traveled east of Eden into the land of Nod (literally “the place of wandering”). Eventually, the gene pool of these early generations would have become defective (Psalm 102:25-26). This is why the practice became prohibited by God (Leviticus 18:6-18).

Now let’s go back to Cain’s punishment. As the earth’s population increased family tribes began to form. During those early days of civilization, these family tribes began to spread throughout the land. Perhaps Cain was worried he would not live long if people knew he killed his brother. They might be afraid of him or try to seek retribution for killing their loved one. Too bad he didn’t think more about this before he rose up against Abel, cutting short his brother’s life!

Still, God showed His great love and mercy! “And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:12–15). “Mark” comes from the Hebrew word oth, which can mean “a distinguishing mark” or “miraculous sign.” Whatever the mark was, the Lord assured Cain that no one would dare kill him.

We cannot know or understand why God allowed Cain to live and further protect his life. We don’t know how long he lived, but he had a son and grandsons. Although he was a vagabond, he stayed long enough in Nod to take part in building a city. Paul explains, “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Romans 9:15). Perhaps this could compare with David and his killing of Uriah or Paul and his having Christians arrested and sentenced to death. God permitted these two men to live. However, we also know they repented (Psalm 51; Acts 22). There’s no direct statement telling us Cain ever repented. Thousands of years later, Jude uses Cain as one of the top three examples of heinous and detestable wickedness (verse 11).

John used Cain’s story in a lesson on brotherly love for us today. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:10–12).

In this context, John compares the children of God and their pursuit of love and righteousness, with the children of Satan. Cain was under the influence of the “evil one.” He hated his brother because Abel lived a faithful righteous life (Hebrews 11:4).

The word “murdered” is from the Hebrew word “slew” meaning “to put to death by violence, slaughter, to cut the throat.” What a horrible crime! John makes a figurative comparison with hate and murder. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).

We should think twice before we ever think about hating anyone, let alone our brothers or sisters in the body of Christ. We should not be surprised when the world hates us (John 15:18, 17:14). We do the best we can to live at peace with everyone. God’s people should never sink to their level by treating them as they have treated us. We refuse to entertain hateful thoughts toward our brethren, or our enemies. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men...do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Considering Cain is a very sad study, but one that helps us to see the ugliness of hatred. —Chris

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