September 27, 2013

Commentary on the Book of Genesis

By: Tom Lowe


PART I: A GENERAL HISTORY FROM ADAM TO ABRAHAM—Gen. 1:1-11:9.


Topic #C: Three Sons of Adam and Their Posterity. Gen. 4.1-5.32

                 



Lesson I.C.2: Sentence Pronounced on Cain.



Gen. 4.9-15 (KJV)


9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? 

10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; 

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 

13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 

14Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 

15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.



Commentary


9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? 


And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother?

The question asked here reminds us of the question put to Adam when he was hiding from God, "Where art thou?" It is calculated to assault the conscience. The reply is different from that of Adam. Sin has now advanced from hasty, impetuous yielding to the tempter, to repeated and deliberate disobedience.



Perhaps (though it is only speculation) the Lord brought this up soon after the event and the next time Cain came with his offering to make a sacrifice to God, since Able was not with him. Whether these words were spoken by Adam (Luther), or whispered within his breast by the still small voice of conscience, or, as is most probable, uttered from between the cherubim, Cain felt that he was being examined by a Divine voice (Calvin).  He asks this question, not because He needed to learn from him why Able was not with him, but in order to stir his conscience with it, and fill him with remorse for murdering his brother, to convict him of the awfulness of it, and bring him to confess his sin. 



“and he said, I know not: 

This was a “bald-faced” lie; because he must know where he had left him, or hid the body. This shows he was under the influence of Satan, who was a liar, and the father of lies, as well as a murderer from the beginning; and that he was so blinded by him that he must have  forgotten to whom he was speaking; that he was the all-knowing God, and He knew every disgusting detail of the horrible deed he had done, and He knew that what he had just said was a lie, and He was capable of confronting him with both infractions, and of inflicting the appropriate punishment on him. 



There is, as usual, a grain of truth mingled with the amazing falsehood of this surly response. No man is the absolute keeper of his brother, to the extent he is responsible for his safety when he is not present. This is what Cain means to insinuate. But every man is his brother's keeper in that he is not himself to lay the hand of violence on him, or permit another to do so if he can prevent it. The Almighty has a right to demand this sort of keeping from everyone. But Cain's reply betrays a desperate recourse to falsehood, a total cessation of feeling, a quenching of brotherly love, a predominance of that selfishness which freezes affection and kindles hatred. This is the way of Cain (Jude 1:11).



How futile it was for Cain to lie to God! It was madness for him to think God didn’t know where Abel was, or that he could actually hide his sin from God.

 


“Am I my brother's keeper?”

His reply is impertinent and spoken in a “smart-alecky” manner; perhaps he wagged his head at the same time.  He may be desperate because he felt himself closely tracked by avenging justice and about to be convicted of his crime. "He showed himself a liar in saying, 'I know not; wicked and profane in thinking he could hide his sin from God; unjust in denying himself to be his brother's keeper; obstinate and desperate in not confessing his sin" (Willet).  He sounds like he is appalled that the Lord would ask him such a ridiculous question, since he knew he was not in charge of his brother, and that his brother was old enough to take care of himself; and if he could not, it was up to God and his providence to take care of him, and not to him. His heart had become so hard through sin that he was able to hate and kill his brother, and now he thinks he can do or say anything he wants, and get away with it, and that included lying to God.



This reply of Cain’s is famous; I am sure you have heard it before, or may have said it yourself. The fact of the matter is that he was supposed to be his brother’s keeper, but was instead his brother’s murderer, and he murdered him for the lowest of reasons. Able had not injured Cain in any way. Cain’s murderous rage was inspired purely by a spiritual jealousy. Jude 11 warns of the way of Cain, which is unbelief, empty religion leading to jealousy, persecution of those that are truly godly, and murderous anger—“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11). There is no greater curse on the earth than empty, vain religion, those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power of God (2 Timothy 3:5). Many are deathly afraid of “secular humanism” or atheism, but dead religion sends more people to hell than anything else.


10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 


And he said

The One who speaks this time is not Cain, the last speaker, but the Lord God.



The writer to the Hebrews uses this verse in Hebrews 12.24: “to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Abel’s blood spoke of Murder committed. The blood of Christ speaks of redemption; it speaks of salvation.



There is a definite parallel between God’s dealing with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and how He deals with Cain in this chapter. In both instances the Lord asked questions, not to get information (because He knows everything) but to give the culprits opportunity to tell the truth and confess their sins. In both instances the sinners were evasive and tried to cover up what they had done, but both times God brought their sins out into the light and they had to admit their guilt.



Adam and Eve had run to hide when they heard God’s voice (v.8), but God heard Abel’s voice crying from the ground and Cain couldn’t hide. The shedding of innocent blood pollutes the ground—“So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it” (Num. 35.33)—and that blood cries out for justice:

“O earth, do not conceal my blood. Let it cry out on my behalf” (Job 16.18).

“See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of the earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed on it; the earth will conceal its slain no longer” (Isa. 26.21).

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (Rev. 6.9, 10)



The more you think about Cain’s sin, the more heinous it becomes. The murder wasn’t motivated by sudden passion; it was carefully premeditated. Cain didn’t kill a stranger in self-defense; he murdered his own brother out of envy and hatred. Furthermore, Cain did it after being at the alter to worship God, and in spite of God’s warming and promise. Finally, once the horrible deed was done, Cain took it all very lightly and tried to lie his way out of it.



what hast thou done? 

This is the question the Lord put to Cain: “What a shocking crime you have committed! But I know what you have done; you have murdered your brother; a holy, righteous, and good man, who never threatened you or did you any harm, or gave any good reason to shed his innocent blood. Our Lord said this in order to show that He knew what he had done, and to impress on his mind a sense of how evil it was, and to cause him understand that it was sinful, and then to confess it, before the sentence was passed, so that everyone can clearly see that the Lord was fair and just in His punishment of Cain. 



Cain, to throw suspicion off himself may have been engaged some kind of religious exercise when he was challenged directly from the Shekinah itself.



the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. 

“Voice” is used here to indicate that the Lord knew all about what Cain had done. The “blood” He speaks of may be the blood that soaked the ground where he was slain, or perhaps Cain hid the body by covering it with brush, or he may have buried it, so that it could not be seen, and the murder not discovered. But God saw everything that happened and every drop of blood as it hit the ground, and the voice of innocent blood came into his ears, and cried for vengeance at His hands. In the original it reads, "The voice of thy brother's bloods" (s), in the plural; which the Jews generally understood to refer to the future generations that would have descended from Abel, if he had not been murdered; or it may refer to the blood of the seed of the woman, of all the righteous ones that would be slain in a similar manner. Jarchi thinks it refers to the many wounds which Cain gave Abel, from which blood ran; and every wound and every drop of blood, in a manner of speaking, cried for vengeance on the murderer. Cain may have tried to cover up this blood with dirt, but even though it was covered up it still cried out to God. Jehovah could hear it and He understood the meaning of the cry, because He knew what Cain had done. How lamentingly that blood was crying out for vengeance.



11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; 

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 


And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

This curse is added to the general curse on the ground for Adam’s sin. 



Jehovah had cursed the serpent (Gen. 3.14) and the ground (Gen. 3.17), but He had not cursed Adam and Eve. However, He did curse their son Cain, who was a child of the devil (the serpent). Cain had defiled the ground with his brother’s blood, and now the ground wouldn’t work for him. If Adam toiled and struggled day after day, he would get a harvest (Gen. 3.17-19), but for Cain, there would never be fruit from his labors. So, he couldn’t continue as a farmer. All he could do was wander from place to place and eke out a living.



When thou tillest the ground, 

The curse pronounced upon the murderer involved banishment from food producing soil to the unproductive desert. The ground, God said, would be hostile to the murderer, so that he could not derive sustenance from tilling the soil. 



it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; 

In our day, it appears there is still a curse on the land in many places on the earth, which has caused it to lose its fertility. Who knows the extent and weight of a Divine Curse, how far it reaches, and how deep it pierces. In some of the lushest sections of our planet multitudes are starving. It takes great effort and ingenuity for man to make this earth produce abundantly. Certainly, the blood of Abel cries out from the very earth itself—blood that was spilled by one brother murdering another.



a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 

A vagabond has no home; a fugitive is running from home; but a pilgrim is heading home. “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live” (Deut 30.19). Cain made the wrong choice and instead of being a pilgrim in life, he became a stranger and a fugitive, wandering the land.



As a fugitive he would be condemned to perpetual exile—a degraded outcast—the miserable victim of an accusing conscience. In his search for sustenance, he would become a Bedouin of the waste lands, wandering about in weariness and despair. Insecurity, restlessness, hard struggle, guilt, and fears would be his constant companions. The word for fugitive caries the idea of tottering, staggering, stumbling uncertainly along in a fruitless search for satisfaction. It was a dismal, discouraging prospect.



We all deserve this curse, and it is only in Christ that believers are saved from it, and inherit the blessing. Cain was cursed from the earth. He found his punishment there where he chose to make his lot in life, and set his heart. The wickedness of the wicked brings a curse on all they have and all they do. He was condemned to perpetual reproach and disgrace among men and to perpetual anxiety and horror in his own mind. And yet in the sentence there is mercy mixed in, inasmuch as Cain was not immediately cut off, but was given time to repent: God is longsuffering.



13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 

14Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 


And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Though Cain’s life was spared, he shuddered under the weight of his sin, his shame, and his punishment, and the never-ending consequences that loomed before him. His bitter cry to God called attention to the unbearable weight of his punishment. It was heavier than he could “lift” and “carry.” The Hebrew word rendered “bear” has the ides of “taking away” (forgiveness) and of “lifting up” (expiation). It is clear he is overcome by the prospect of an unknown future.



Cain never repented of his sins; his words reveal only remorse and regret. He didn’t say “My guilt is more than I can bear.” He was concerned only with his punishment, and not with his character, or the greatness of his sin. He complained about his punishment, as if it was more severe than he deserved. If he wandered from place to place, he would be in danger, but if he stayed in one place, he would starve. The earth had turned against him, and people would turn against him. Anyone Cain met might be a relative, who might want to avenge Abel’s murder. What could he do?



The big question is, “If Cain’s punishment was greater than he could bear, why didn’t he just turn to God and confess his sin and cast himself on God’s mercy?” It was too great for him to bear, but God was providing a Savior for him if he would just turn to Him.



Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth;

Cain sees himself expelled from the comforts of this life, and exposed to the ill-will of all mankind. There was no one alive, except his own near kin, yet he who had so barbarously murdered his own brother is rightly afraid of even them.



and from thy face shall I be hid;

Cain says now that he is to be hidden from the face of God (from God’s care), and of course, that is exactly what happened. 



and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth;

By hating and murdering his brother, and refusing to repent, Cain created for himself an intolerable life. He opened the door to temptation, and closed the door on his family, God, and his future. No mater where he went or what he did, Cain would always be a restless man for whom there was no remedy.



that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

Dread and despondency began to overwhelm the sinful man as he began to think about the hazards of the desert. He imagined that cruel adversaries would seek him, find him, and kill him. He could feel the hot breath of Abel’s avengers on his neck. His active imagination and his guilty conscience were making his situation appear to be more than he can stand. In his fear, he was sure certain that destruction awaited him, since he would be outside God’s circle of care.



This shows that by this time the population of the world had greatly increased. As a wandered and scavenger in an agrarian society, Cain would be easy prey for those who wanted vengeance for Able, by taking Cain’s life.


NOTICE NEXT THAT GOD PROTECTS CAIN. This is strange: God is actually harboring a murderer, a criminal.


 

15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.


And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. 

There has been no law given at this time. Cain is a sinner, but he is not a transgressor, because there has been no law given about murder. His great sin was that he did not bring an offering that was acceptable to God. His deeds were evil in what he brought to God, and he showed his evil nature by killing his brother.



To be banished from the presence of God was a curse. Cain left his home, left his father Adam and his other children; not being allowed to continue any longer with them, or converse with them, after he had been guilty of such a horrible crime; and went to live in the land of Nod (lit., “wandering”), which was east of Eden—“So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden (Gen 4.16)—a land given that name either because of his wandering up and down in it; being unable to stay in one place, or because his mind was restless and uneasy. It is thought by many that the land of Nod may have been Arabia-Petræa—which was cursed with sterility on his account. Jarchi mentions another reason for its name, which was that in every place where he went the earth shook under him, and men said, Depart from him, this is he that slew his brother. 



And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

God did a strange thing; He assured him of His continuing presence and unending protection. He put a mark on Cain to indicate that he belonged to the Lord God, a sign that would protect him from anyone who wanted to kill him. At the same time, the mark that saved him was a lifelong sign of his shame. There is no evidence that the mark of Cain’ was a sign to announce to the world that he was a murderer. It was, instead, a special mark of loving care and protection. The Holy Spirit has chosen not to reveal to us what this mark was or why people would recognize it as God’s protective seal; but it worked. The speculation of the best commentators is that the mark was a wild ferocity of countenance that made him the object of universal horror and avoidance. Cain would continue always in the safekeeping of the covenant God. Whatever this mark was, it was, no doubt, well known to all concerned, both as a brand of infamy on Cain, and as a sign from God that they should not kill him. Though a murdered, he was the recipient of God’s favor. This was purely an act of mercy, on God’s part.



This brings yet another question to mind; “Why would God allow a diabolical murderer like Cain to go free?” Why does he continue to offer forgiveness and salvation to murderers, rapists, and child molesters? Now, this is something very important for us to see—In His mercy, God doesn’t give us what we deserve; and in His grace He gives us what we don’t deserve. That is the nature of God. God spared Cain’s life, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Eventually Cain died and “after this the judgment” (Heb. 9.7). “After this the judgment,” refers to the last and general judgment, which will befall all men, the quick and dead, the righteous and wicked, and in which Christ will be the Judge. There is a particular judgment which happens immediately after death; by virtue of which, the souls of men are appointed to their proper state of happiness or of despair; and there is a universal judgment, which will be after the resurrection of the dead, and is called eternal judgment, and the judgment to come; this has been prearranged by God, though the time when it will occur is unknown to men; yet nothing is more certain, and it will be a righteous judgment. The entire civilization Cain built was destroyed by the Flood, but the record of his life is left in the Scripture as a warning to anyone who pretends to worship, play with sin, and doesn’t take sin seriously. “The way of Cain” (Jude 11) is not the narrow way that leads to life—“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and NARROW IS THE WAY, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7.13, 14).



Cain was protested by this Divine declaration, so that the sentence he was under, that he would “be a fugitive and a vagabond,” would be enforce for as long as God allowed him to live “on the earth.” God has wise and holy purposes for protecting and prolonging the lives of very wicked men


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