This is a Bible Study on Genesis 4:8-16.

Source: The Outlook, 1979. 3 pages.

Genesis 4:8-16 - Cain's Sin and Its Result

Read Genesis 4:8-16

God has given Cain ample warning concerning the dangerous state in which he finds himself. His anger because of the rejection of himself and his offering is able to plunge him into ever greater sin if he does not repent. He should be fully aware of the perils in the way and rule over the lurking evil.

However, Cain has not listened to the divine warning. He allows the evil to fester and grow. In­stead of ruling over the evil, he allows the evil to rule him completely. Cain speaks to Abel. The original text does not inform us of what was said. Some versions have "aided" the text by adding the words: Let us go out to the field. It may very well be that Cain spoke such words to his brother but, we should note, the text doesn't include the conversa­tion. The older versions place the words not found in the original in italics. But, the important thing is that they go out into a field, away from others, and Cain attacks his brother and kills him! This is the second recorded sin and it is indeed a grievous sin. Adam and Eve have disobeyed, thus bringing sin in­to the world. The floodgates have thereby been opened and a criminal act now takes place in their own family circle! It is not only murder, but fratricide — the killing of one’s own brother! Abel becomes the first in a long list of martyrs. His faith and his godliness are the objects of the murderous hatred of Cain. Eve has given birth to both the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent! How the parental hearts must have bled when they were made aware of what had taken place! How Satan has deceived them! He had promised them that they would be as God if they would listen to him and now, in the next generation, they saw their eldest son fall­ing to a sub-human level!

God seeks out Cain and speaks to him. He asks: "Where is Abel thy brother?" This question is not asked, of course, to obtain information but to make Cain aware of the fact that his deed is known to God and to confront him with the crime which has been committed. Cain answers arrogantly. At least, when Adam and Eve were confronted by the sin they had committed, there was a humble spirit even though they came with excuses. Not so Cain. He seeks to cover his crime with the lie: I don't know where he is! As though this lie is not enough, he even dares to inform God that he takes no responsibility for his brother. "Am I my brother's keeper?" He assumes the attitude: I am not to be questioned concerning the whereabouts or the welfare of my brother. He is to look out for himself!

God does not give a reply to the rude and arrogant speech of Cain but at once deals with the crime which has been committed. "What hast thou done?" Admit it now! It is known to Him who sees all things. The blood of Abel is crying from the ground, on which it has been spilled, to God for justice to be shown. Cain may consider that blood to be of little value but God, the Giver of life, considers it precious. The death of Abel has not gone un­noticed and the Judge of all the earth will do right. Abel is dead — but he still speaks (Hebrews 11:4). Cain thought that the slaying of his brother Abel would remove the source of his unhappiness and anger but he now hears that that blood has not been silenced. (Hebrews 12:24) He will now learn that a second sin does not root out the first one but makes it a thousand times worse.

The sentence is now pronounced upon Cain. Note that his life is not taken from him even though he had deserved capital punishment. It is only later — in the days of Noah and in the days of Moses that capital punishment is required when a murder has been committed. Nevertheless, the punishment is severe. The curse is pronounced on him. In chapter three the serpent was cursed and the ground too, but not Adam and Eve. Cain is to bear the curse himself. The ground had been cursed so that it would no longer produce its fruit with the ease it did before the fall and that thorns and thistles would now grow too. But, this curse becomes even more severe in regard to Cain. Adam could still wrestle a living from the ground by the sweat of his brow. But, when Cain tills the ground "it shall not henceforth yield unto thee its strength." He will not be able to make a living. Therefore he will wander from place to place. "A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth." What a life is in prospect for this man! No place of permanent residence.

Cain immediately realizes the severity of this punishment. There is no spirit of repentance for what he has done but he complains that he will not be able to bear the punishment! Doesn't the punishment fit the crime? He fully realizes that the earth will no longer be kind to him by giving its produce in answer to his labor. Graphically he pictures what will happen to him. God, he says, has driven him from the face of the earth. "And from thy face shall I be hid." God had made no mention of this last mat­ter. However, Cain seems to realize that this would naturally be involved. God will have nothing to do with him anymore, he believes. Suddenly it seems that he will consider this a great loss. That was not the impression left when he first replied to God!

When he has become a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth he is afraid that anyone who finds him will slay him. These words have given rise to many dif­ferent interpretations. Who would he be afraid of? Who else populated the world in his day? Some have taught that there were other people on the earth besides the family of Adam and Eve. Others believe that Adam and Eve were not the first people but that there were pre-Adamites. The book of Genesis, however, does not allow this kind of interpretation. But, the question still remains: Who is he afraid of, because who else is living on the earth? We must never lose sight of the fact that the Bible generally, and the book of Genesis in particular, does not give a complete, that is, a detailed history of men and of nations. We are informed of the birth of Cain and Abel and the one episode in their life which will be of significance for all future history. We are not to con­clude from this that Adam and Eve had only these two children until the time that Seth was born. In Genesis 5:4 we read that Adam was the father of sons and daughters. Because of the long life given to man in the early history of the world the families were very large and that was very likely the case with our first parents. The fear of Cain for his own life becomes very real. Those whom he may meet in his wandering over the earth are related to him and they will know what he had done! Not only will they have knowledge of it but they also will have per­sonal interest in it! If a murderer of their own relative, Abel, is allowed to live, they may be tempted to avenge his blood and take the law into their own hands. It is, therefore, no imaginary fear that grips Cain's heart.

The disobedience of our first parents drove them out of the garden of Eden. The sin of their firstborn virtually drives him from the earth! How quickly sin "progresses." It is but one step from disobedience to murder. Sin, that wild beast which was crouching at the door, has made its leap and has destroyed the first two children of Adam and Eve. It cost Abel's life and Cain's soul!

How does a murderer dare plead for mercy? There is not a word of repentance nor an indication that he now realizes what a monstrous crime he has committed, but only a numbing fear of punishment! His life will indeed lie under the curse and he is beginning to realize what that means. He had no mercy toward Abel — but don't let others do to me what I have done to my brother! He slew his brother without cause but others will have reason enough to slay him. Sin is not only irrational, it is also coward­ly. These things have been written for our benefit too so that we may be able to see the destructive power of sin and flee it — and rule over it!

This cry of fear by Cain does not go unanswered. God is still willing to listen to him. There is a certain measure of mercy shown him in the beginning that his life is not claimed in payment for the life of his brother. However, this "mercy" is weakened by the severe punishment meted out to him so that it becomes a question whether the life which is spared is now worth living. But, when he now cries out in fear that, though God has spared him, he may still lose his life at the hands of others, the Lord gives him assurance that this will not happen. It is amaz­ing that a person such as Cain can still find mercy. But, very early in the history of the human race we are already introduced to the mercy of our God.

God will spread His protection over Cain. Should anyone seek to slay Cain, a sevenfold vengeance shall be taken on him. This "sevenfold" means that the vengeance shall be complete. This statement can serve to encourage Cain but it is of course not speaking of a preventative. He now goes farther and gives a sign to Cain for his protection. Many are the guesses which have been made as to the nature of this sign. So many proceed on the assumption that a sign was put on Cain himself. The test does not say this and such a sign would do more to attract atten­tion to him than to prevent someone hurting him. We are not told what that sign was but it was given to him to assure him of divine protection. Such signs were given different individuals in later history — God gave signs to Moses, Gideon, Saul, etc.

Cain now leaves the presence of God to begin his wandering as a fugitive over the face of the earth. The location of the land of Nod, in which he dwells, is unknown to us but it is east of Eden. The family of Adam and Eve seem to have settled in the proximity of the garden of Eden — but there is no place here anymore for the firstborn son who wanders over the earth and finds that the earth which has drunk in his brother's blood refuses to give him food!

Questions for Discussion:🔗

  1. Is it not somewhat unnatural that Cain should have become so angered that he killed his own brother? Or isn't it? Explain.

  2. Are we our brother's keeper? If so what does that involve?

  3. Why isn't Cain put to death for this sin of murder, whereas God demands this punishment for this sin in Genesis 9:6?

  4. What does it mean when a man is cursed of God (vs. 11)?

  5. Adam lived 930 years. Could there have been a sizeable population in the world at the time of his death?

  6. Is this history of Cain and Abel of much im­portance to us today? Explain.

Add new comment

(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.
(If you're a human, don't change the following field)
Your first name.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.