The First Criminal (Genesis 4:8-15)
While we have two sins previously recorded (three if you count Adam and Eve separately), this is the first murder.
As I read through this passage, there are several things I ponder:
- How did Adam and Eve learn of this murder?
- How did Adam and Eve react to one son murdering another?
- Did Abel put up any resistance? Was it possible for him to do so?
- What weapon did Cain use?
Cain talked with Abel his brother. Notice that we are reminded that Abel is Cain’s brother. This is going to be a common theme in this text: Abel is Cain’s brother. The point is that this is a horrible crime, for Cain slew his own brother.
The impression from the text is that Cain only talked with his brother in order to get him to go into the field. Cain wasn’t interested in his brother; he only wished to kill him. Have you ever encountered someone who simply wanted to do you harm?
Cain rose up against his brother and killed him. This episode is told with a surprising brevity, but there are two points worthy of consideration:
- The Law of Moses would later say that a crime committed in the field showed the helplessness of the one sinned against in the field (Deut 22:25-27).
- The Hebrew word “killed” means “ruthless violence.” In 1 John 3:12, John does not use the conventional word for “murder.” Instead, he uses a verb that means to slaughter or butcher. We are to likely intended to see Cain’s murder of Abel as an extremely violent act. The idea from 1 John 3:12 really sounds as though Abel was chopped into pieces.
The Lord asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Why did God ask where Abel was? Why is it wise to confess our sins instead of trying to hide them?
Cain lies to God and says, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s never wise to lie to God, for the Lord knows all things.
Was Cain his brother’s keeper? Are we our brothers’ keeper? How do we show that we are our brothers’ keeper?
The voice of Abel’s cried out from the ground. How did Abel’s blood cry out from the ground?
There are some important points being made here:
- This does teach us that life is in the blood (Lev 17:11).
- Blood would defile the Promised Land (Num 35:33-34). This seems to harken back to the fact that God made the world.
- Even if a murder could not be solved, the Law required a measure of atonement (Deut 21:1-9).
Revelation 6:10. I know that the martyrs are crying for their blood to be avenged. But, the cry is for their blood to be avenged.
In Scripture, a “cry” going up before God is a plea for Him to answer one who is in dire need. Exodus 2:23. Judges 3:9. Maximus, a 5th century preacher, said, “Blood, to be sure, has no voice, but innocent blood that has been spilled is said to cry out not by words but by its very existence and to make demands of the Lord not with eloquent discourse but with anger over the crime committed.”
Cain was cursed from the earth. The idea seems to be that Cain is not going to escape his sin. Do we ever think that we will escape from our sins? Why can we not escape from our sins? How does God keep us from escaping our sins?
The ground would no longer yield its strength to Cain. Because the ground had been saturated with his brother’s blood, it would no longer cooperate with him. It seems to me that this is an “extra” course placed on Cain—Cain will have a hard time growing food.
Cain would be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth. The idea that Cain would be a fugitive indicates that he will be constantly on the run from justice.
He would also be a vagabond. This would imply that he would never have a permanent place to call home. However, Cain “built a city” (v 17). Some ideas:
- Some might say God “mitigates” the punishment at verse 15.
- However, Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord” (v 16). That would be, in my estimation, the worst way to be a “vagabond.”
Cain says to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” Notice that Cain is more concerned with his punishment than with his crime. There is absolutely nothing in the text that would suggest that Cain is the least bit remorseful over murdering his brother. He lies when God first asks where his brother is (v 9). He here mentions his punishment, not his brother.
This text clearly teaches that there are dire consequences to sin. In context, God is directly punishing Cain for his sin. I do not believe that God does so today. However, making things right before God does not mean there will not be consequences for our actions. Galatians 6:7. What are some consequences we face for sin?
Do you think many people today worry about the consequences of the sin and not the sin itself?
How can we have a heart that cares more about sin than the consequences?
- We need to understand what sin really is. Sin is an affront to the holiness of God. Sin caused the death of Jesus. Sin harms our relationship with the holy God.
- We need to understand that sin harms our relationships. The opening of Genesis demonstrates how sin harms our closest relationships (Adam and Eve/Cain and Abel). I don’t believe that the damage of sin is something confined only to the pages of Scripture.
Cain says that he “shall be hidden from [God’s] face” (v 14). What is involved in being hidden from God’s face? How do we hide ourselves from God’s face? Or, is it that God hides His face from us at times? How do we keep God’s face from being hidden from us?
Cain is concerned that whoever finds him will kill him. This implies that the earth is well populated. This seems to suggest that several years have passed between being cast out of the Garden and this event. This would not necessarily need to be just Cain’s siblings.
Cain is likely concerned that one of Abel’s descendants will kill him. Under the Law, there were cities of refuge where one who accidentally killed someone could flee (Num 35:6-34).Cain obviously fears an “avenger.”
The LORD says that whoever kills Cain, “vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” Seven is often a complete number in Scripture. God doesn’t exactly spell out how that sevenfold punishment would work. Obviously, that is a moot point, for no one killed Cain. It’s important to remember that the law of Genesis 9:6 was not yet in place.
God placed a mark on Cain, lest anyone kill him. Scripture does not tell us what this mark was. However, it was a mark of divine grace. God made garments for Adam and Eve to protect them. He puts a mark on Cain to keep him from being killed. Why would God show grace to a murderer like Cain?
There are some very important lessons in this passage about Cain.
One: We need to be careful about jealousy.
Can you think of other examples where people were jealous? Joseph and his brothers. Korah and those in his rebellion. David and Saul. Why is jealousy so detrimental to the Christian life? Scriptures about jealousy: 1 Corinthians 3:3. Galatians 5:20. James 3:14.
Two: We need to be careful about anger.
Anger obviously leads people (Cain in this text) to do things they would not ordinarily do. Jesus cautions us against anger (Matt 5:21-26). How can we deal with anger appropriately?
This Bible class was originally taught by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.