The Punishment of Cain

This passage looks at the result of Cain's sin and the punishment meted out to him by God.
Class by:
19 of 50

We have the story of Adam and Eve developing on four levels simultaneously, like 4 camera angles.

  1. The close-up of the first family. - Creation, disobedience, effects on their family: loss of Garden home; loss of relationship with God; conflict between brothers and death.
  2. The beginning of the deterioration of the world. (Society) - It is slow at first, merely a harder task of drawing a living from the earth. The disintegration of the family because of murder and later we will see new patterns of social breakdown because of polygamy.
  3. The first mention and the tracking of God's promise of salvation. (Seed of promise) - God's promise to Eve regarding her offspring. A witness that that promise was believed as we see Abel offering sacrifice (acceptable sacrifice) to God.
  4. The war between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan. (War of the seeds) - The on-going struggle for dominance over man in every generation. The woman deceived. Cain seduced to anger and murder.

Each generation will see this struggle continue until Christ comes (the seed) and wins a final victory (crushes the head of Satan) by resurrecting from the dead:

14Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
- Hebrews 2:14-15

The struggle continues today with the "seed" but it is to lure us away from the truth. The actual battle has been fought and won at the cross. If we fail now it is because we believe the lie and disregard the truth.

We now continue in chapter 4 and we are on the "family level", the close-up shot, as we see the result of Cain's act and how God deals with him. We will then move on to observe a wider level of society and its development.

Cain's Judgment – 4:9-15

9Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"

At first God had met Cain at the sacrifice altar. Now there is no sacrifice, no worship. (Sin dulls our interest and desire for worship.) God finds Cain to deal with him. God does not need information but like Adam and Eve, He opens up the question in order to elicit from Cain an attitude of repentance. Obviously Cain has not come to Him to confess and ask for mercy. Cain responds in two ways:

  1. He lies – he says he does not know.
  2. He challenges God – he challenges God's right to question him. He is not my responsibility, he is Yours!
10He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.

God is no longer going to speak to him in mercy, now it will be judgment that will come forth. Abel is not there but God's law, through Abel's blood, must be satisfied. The blood appeals to God for justice. An eye for an eye. In Genesis 9:6 God will articulate the law on capital punishment.

11Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. 12When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."
- Genesis 4:11-12

In this case God does not execute the punishment due immediately but lists the consequence of this sin in his life.

  1. The land, which was already difficult will no longer respond to him because he shed innocent blood.
    • A nation always pays a price for shedding innocent blood.
    • For example, do not think America will not pay a price for all the babies aborted here.
  2. He will become a wanderer.
    • He is allowed to live but his life would be an unpleasant one.
    • A state of restlessness. Buddhists claim that this is the essential problem with man. All their teaching and training (yoga) is to deal with this problem.
    • God does not execute him, He imposes a life sentence on him instead.
    • The state has a right to do both.

Perhaps a reason for this punishment is that Cain would be a visible reminder of the effects of sin and God's justice.

13Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear!

Cain finally cries out for help. He is less proud and rebellious and comes to grips with the punishment he must bear.

14Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me."

He reviews the punishment and in his words we see the third and most painful part of the curse on him.

3. He will no longer behold the face of the Lord. No longer will he commune with the Lord as he did in the past. Before he was rebellious and arrogant but at least there was a relationship, now even this is taken away. Sin always separates us from God.

4. It seems that the people of this time knew the law of justice for killing and Cain saw his life as being a constant fugitive from those in society who would "justly" take his life to satisfy innocent blood. After all, Abel was known and loved as a righteous man.

15So the Lord said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.

To guarantee that his life would be spared (if God did not execute him, He would not let anyone else execute him), God gave him a sign, a mark. The Hebrew word is "sign". We do not know what it was but with time others knew of God's provision for Cain (Genesis 4:24) and so the sign must have been effective.

It seems from what we know about Cain's later life that even the sign he had did not give him peace of mind and he did indeed wander and left the ground for living in cities.

The Way of Cain

From the close-up perspective featuring the relationship of Cain and God, the story now refocuses on the development and deterioration of society.

Remember this is the world before the flood in an environment where both nature and man are relatively free from illness and the harmful environmental factors that cause decay. Most of archeology deals with events and artifacts present after the flood.

16Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

The word "NOD" means wandering and so it could suggest that Cain left the proximate area of the Garden and began to wander; or lived in a place called Nod but lived as a nomad without fixed roots.

17Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.

Cain now begins his family line. The sign is fulfilling its purpose, he lives long enough to produce children.

Cain's wife was related to him obviously but in that time it was genetically possible, socially necessary (how else?), and morally acceptable (God said to multiply and this was the only way).

I believe that this was the manner since Genesis 5:2 says that Adam and Eve were the first and only persons created, this is the only option. We see this interfamily relationship in these early times in others (Abraham marries his half-sister; Lot's daughters conceive through their father). He builds (or begins to build because the verb here is indefinite, was building) a city. Perhaps an effort to stabilize his own wandering life. The city is named after his son, Enoch, who becomes the first city dweller, and is left to him to rule the city and continue to live.

18Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech.

The Cain family line is described here to provide a time bridge to Lamech, a significant person in Cain's lineage.

19Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.

Lamech is the first recorded one to begin polygamy, a direct disobedience of God's law regarding marriage.

  • The names of his wives mean ornament and shadow, suggesting their beauty and his attraction.
  • Of course, the reason for this may not have been sexual lust, but the desire to have a larger family faster, guaranteeing safety and prosperity of numbers.
20Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
– Genesis 4:20-22

We get a glimpse of the origins of various social developments as they take place in this era:

  1. Jabal invents tents that allow nomads to take their home with them and also the keeping of cattle for commercial purposes.
  2. Jubal which means "sound". His ability produced both stringed and reed instruments and the development of this art.
  3. Tubal-cain. We are not sure of his name but he developed metal uses and products.

The descendants of Cain no longer farmed but began to earn their living through commerce and manufacturing (in a basic way) and they were the prototype for those who live in the cities today.

Henry Morris says that man's attempt to thwart God's curse is illustrated by the development of Cain's descendants ending with the 7th generation of Lamech.

  1. Urban life is now preferred over tilling the ground and eating from it.
  2. Nomadic life preferred over settled life.
  3. Cattle raising now developed to satisfy man's appetite for meat in rejection of God's command regarding vegetation for food.
  4. Metal working developed to ease the "curse" of toil.
  5. Musical instruments used to mitigate sorrow.
  6. Polygamy introduced to gain advantage and social class.
  7. Metallic weapons introduced to guarantee position or establish it.
  8. Writing and art used to rail against God and provoke Him.

We see this in the oldest poetry recorded, Lamech's poem:

23Lamech said to his wives,
"Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
24If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold."
- Genesis 4:23-24
  • He boasts of his strength as a warrior and the fact that he has killed someone for attacking him.
  • He boasts that he is greater than his ancestor Cain because God would only avenge Cain's killer seven times.
  • Anyone attacking him would receive back 70 times that much.

In these developments we see the "seed" of Cain (influenced by Satan) and the steady deterioration not only of one man, but of the society as well. They are looking less and less like the people in the Garden and seven generations later are actually producing blasphemous poetry.

Discussion Questions

  1. Summarize the event of Cain's sin from Genesis 4.
  2. What was Cain's reaction to God's question regarding Abel and how does this relate to the immediate impact of sin on our relationship with God?
  3. Summarize Cain's punishment and its impact on him.
  4. Why did God allow intermarriage between family members and polygamy?
  5. Read Genesis 4:17-22 and summarize the different ways the descendants of Cain changed their lives.
  6. Why does God allow the writers of scripture to include the sins and weaknesses of mankind?
  7. Read Genesis 3:11-13 and Genesis 4:9 and answer the following questions:
    1. What are the similarities between the reaction of Adam and Eve when God confronted them for their sin, and the reaction of Cain when he was confronted?
    2. Defend the idea that if Adam and Eve or Cain had responded differently by repenting before God that God would have forgiven them rather than punishing them
    3. What does the example of Adam, Eve and Cain's reaction teach us?
  8. Compare Cain's statement in Genesis 4:13-14 and that of our Lord in Matthew 27:46.
  9. How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?
19 of 50