Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis 4:1-16

Genesis 4:1-16

  - Section IV - The Family of Adam

  - Cain and Abel

1. קין  qayîn, Qain (Cain), "spear-shaft," and קנה  qānah, "set up, establish, gain, buy," contain the biliteral root קן  qan, "set up, erect, gain." The relations of root words are not confined to the narrow rules of our common etymology, but really extend to such instinctive usages as the unlettered speaker will invent or employ. A full examination of the Hebrew tongue leads to the conclusion that a biliteral root lies at the base of many of those triliterals that consist of two firm consonants and a third weaker one varying in itself and its position. Thus, יטב  yāṭab and טיב  ṭôb. So קין  qayîn and קנה  qānah grow from one root.

2. הבל  hebel, Habel (Abel), "breath, vapor."

3. מנחה  mînchâh, "gift, offering, tribute." In contrast with זבח  zebach, it means a "bloodless offering".

7. חטאת  chaṭā't, "sin, sin-penalty, sin-offering." רבץ  rābats, "lie, couch as an animal."

16. נוד  nôd, Nod, "flight, exile; related: flee."

This chapter is a continuation of the second document. Yet it is distinguished from the previous part of it by the use of the name Yahweh alone, and, in one instance, אלהים  'ĕlohîym alone, to designate the Supreme Being. This is sufficient to show that distinct pieces of composition are included within these documents. In the creation week and in the judgment, God has proved himself an originator of being and a keeper of his word, and, therefore, the significant personal name Yahweh is ready on the lips of Eve and from the pen of the writer. The history of fallen man now proceeds. The first family comes under our notice.

 

Genesis 4:1 "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD."

In this verse the first husband and wife become father and mother. This new relation must be deeply interesting to both, but at first especially so to the mother. Now was begun the fulfillment of all the intimations she had received concerning her seed. She was to have conception and sorrow multiplied. But she was to be the mother of all living. And her seed was to bruise the serpent's head. All these recollections added much to the intrinsic interest of becoming a mother. Her feelings are manifested in the name given to her son and the reason assigned for it. She "bare Cain and said, I have gained a man from Yahweh." Cain occurs only once as a common noun, and is rendered by the Septuagint δόρυ  doru, "spear-shaft." The primitive meaning of the root is to set up, or to erect, as a cane, a word which comes from the root; then it means to create, make one's own, and is applied to the Creator (Genesis 14:19) or the parent (Deuteronomy 32:6). Hence, the word here seems to denote a thing gained or achieved, a figurative expression for a child born. The gaining or bearing of the child is therefore evidently the prominent thought in Eve's mind, as she takes the child's name from this. This serves to explain the sentence assigning the reason for the name. If the meaning had been, "I have gained a man, namely, Yahweh," then the child would have been called Yahweh. If Jehovah had even been the emphatic word, the name would have been a compound of Yahweh, and either אישׁ  'îysh, "man," or קנה  qînâh, "qain," such as Ishiah or Coniah. But the name Cain proves קניתי  qānîytîy, "I have gained" to be the emphatic word, and therefore the sentence is to be rendered "I have gained (borne) a man (with the assistance) of Yahweh."

The word "man" probably intimates that Eve fully expected her son to grow to the stature and maturity of her husband. If she had daughters before, and saw them growing up to maturity, this would explain her expectation, and at the same time give a new significance and emphasis to her exclamation, "I have gained a man (heretofore only women) from Yahweh." It would heighten her ecstasy still more if she expected this to be the very seed that should bruise the serpent's head.

Eve is under the influence of pious feelings. She has faith in God, and acknowledges him to be the author of the precious gift she has received. Prompted by her grateful emotion, she confesses her faith, She also employs a new and near name to designate her maker. In the dialogue with the tempter she had used the word God אלהים  'ĕlohîym. But now she adopts Yahweh. In this one word she hides a treasure of comfort. "He is true to his promise. He has not forgotten me. He is with me now again. He will never leave me nor forsake me. He will give me the victory." And who can blame her if she verily expected that this would be the promised deliverer who should bruise the serpent's head?

 

Genesis 4:2 "And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground."

His brother Habel. - Habel means "breath, vanity." Does a sense of the vanity of earthly things grow in the minds of our first parents? Has the mother found her sorrow multiplied? Has she had many daughters between these sons? Is there something delicate and fragile in the appearance of Habel? Has Cain disappointed a mother's hopes? Some of all these thoughts may have prompted the name. There is something remarkable in the phrase "his brother Habel." It evidently points with touching simplicity to the coming outrage that was to destroy the peace and purity of the first home.

The two primitive employments of men were the agricultural and the pastoral. Here is the second allusion to some use which was made of animals soon after the fall. Coats of skin were provided for the first pair; and now we have Habel keeping sheep. In the garden of Eden, where the tree of life was accessible, an exclusively vegetable diet was designed for man. Whether this continued after the fall, we are not informed. It is certain that man had dominion over the whole animal kingdom. It can scarcely be doubted that the outer coverings of animals were used for clothing. Animals are presently to be employed for sacrifice. It is not beyond the bounds of probability that animal food may have been used before the flood, as a partial compensation for the desire of the tree of life, which may have been suited to supply all the defects of vegetable and even animal fare in sustaining the human frame in its primeval vigor.

Man in his primitive state, then, was not a mere gatherer of acorns, a hunter, or a nomad. He began with horticulture, the highest form of rural life. After the fall he descended to the culture of the field and the tending of cattle; but still he had a home, and a settled mode of living. It is only by a third step that he degenerates to the wandering and barbarous state of existence. And only by the predominance of might over right, the selfish lust of power, and the clever combinations of rampant ambition, comes that form of society in which the highest state of barbaric civilization and the lowest depth of bondage and misery meet.

 

Genesis 4:3 "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD."

At the end of days. - This may denote the end of the week, of the year, or of some longer period. The season of the year was probably the ingathering, when the fruits of the earth and the firstlings of the flock would come in, and when it was not unnatural for the first family to celebrate with a subdued thankfulness the anniversary of their creation. And the present occasion seems to have been the time when Cain and Habel, have arrived at the years of discretion and self-dependence, solemnly come forward with their first voluntary offerings to the Lord. Hitherto they may have come under their parents, who were then the actual offerers. Now they come on their own account.

Here, accordingly, we ascend from the secular to the eternal. We find a church in the primeval family. If Cain and Habel offer to God, we may imagine it was the habit of their parents, and has descended to them with all the sanction of parental example. But we may not venture to affirm this in all its extent. Parental example they no doubt had, in some respects; but whether Adam and Eve had yet ascended so far from the valley of repentance and humiliation as to make bold to offer anything to the Lord, admits of question. Right feeling in the first offenders would make the confidence of faith very slow of growth. It is even more natural for their children, being one remove from the actual transgressors, to make the first essay to approach God with an offering.

Cain brings of the fruits of the soil. We cannot say this was the mere utterance of nature giving thanks to the Creator for his benefits, and acknowledging that all comes from him, and all is due to him. History, parental instruction, and possibly example, were also here to give significance to the act. The offering is also made to Yahweh, the author of nature, of revelation, and now, in man's fallen state, of grace. There is no intimation in this verse of the state of Cain's feelings toward God. And there is only a possible hint, in the "coats of skin," in regard to the outward form of offering that would be acceptable. We must not anticipate the result.

 

Genesis 4:4,5 "And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."

And Habel brought. - Habel's offering differs from that of his brother in outward form. It consists of the firstlings of his flock. These were slain; for their fat is offered. Blood was therefore shed, and life taken away. To us who are accustomed to partake of animal food, there may appear nothing strange here. We may suppose that each brother offered what came to hand out of the produce of his own industry. But let us ascend to that primeval time when the fruit tree and the herb bearing seed were alone assigned to man for food, and we must feel that there is something new here. Still let us wait for the result.

And the Lord had respect unto Habel and his offering, - but not unto Cain. We have now the simple facts before us. Let us hear the inspired comment: "Πίστελ  pistei, 'by faith' Abel offered unto God πλείοναΘυσίαν   pleionathusian, 'a more excellent sacrifice' than Cain" (Hebrews 11:4). There was, then, clearly an internal moral distinction in the intention or disposition of the offerers. Habel had faith - that confiding in God which is not bare and cold, but is accompanied with confession of sin, and a sense of gratitude for his mercy, and followed by obedience to his will. Cain had not this faith. He may have had a faith in the existence, power, and bounty of God; but it wanted that penitent returning to God, that humble acceptance of his mercy, and submission to his will, which constitute true faith. It must be admitted the faith of the offerer is essential to the acceptableness of the offering, even though other things were equal.

However, in this case, there is a difference in the things offered. The one is a vegetable offering, the other an animal; the one a presentation of things without life, the other a sacrifice of life. Hence, the latter is called πλείωνθυσία  pleiōnthusia; there is "more in it" than in the former. The two offerings are therefore expressive of the different kinds of faith in the offerers. They are the excogitation and exhibition in outward symbol of the faith of each. The fruit of the soil offered to God is an acknowledgment that the means of this earthly life are due to him. This expresses the barren faith of Cain, but not the living faith of Habel. The latter has entered deeply into the thought that life itself is forfeited to God by transgression, and that only by an act of mercy can the Author of life restore it to the penitent, trusting, submissive, loving heart. He has pondered on the intimations of relenting mercy and love that have come from the Lord to the fallen race, and cast himself upon them without reserve. He slays the animal of which he is the lawful owner, as a victim, thereby acknowledging that his life is due for sin; he offers the life of the animal, not as though it were of equal value with his own, but in token that another life, equivalent to his own, is due to justice if he is to go free by the as yet inscrutable mercy of God.

Such a thought as this is fairly deducible from the facts on the surface of our record. It seems necessary in order to account for the first slaying of an animal under an economy where vegetable diet was alone permitted. We may go further. It is hard to suppose the slaying of an animal acceptable, if not previously allowed. The coats of skin seem to involve a practical allowance of the killing of animals for certain purposes. Thus, we arrive at the conclusion that there was more in the animal than in the vegetable offering, and that more essential to the full expression of a right faith in the mercy of God, without borrowing the light of future revelation. Hence, the nature of Habel's sacrifice was the index of the genuineness of his faith. And the Lord had respect unto him and his offering; thereby intimating that his heart was right, and his offering suitable to the expression of his feelings. This finding is also in keeping with the manner of Scripture, which takes the outward act as the simple and spontaneous exponent of the inward feeling. The mode of testifying his respect to Habel was by consuming his offering with fire, or some other way equally open to observation.

And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. - A feeling of resentment, and a sense of disgrace and condemnation take possession of Cain's breast. There is no spirit of inquiry, self-examination, prayer to God for light, or pardon. This shows that Cain was far from being in a right frame of mind.

 

Genesis 4:6,7 "And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him."

Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? - The Lord does not yet give up Cain. In great mercy he expostulates with him. He puts a question which implies that there is no just cause for his present feelings. Neither anger at his brother, because his offering has been accepted, nor vexation in himself, because his own has not, is a right feeling in the presence of the just and merciful God, who searches the heart. Submission, self-examination, and amendment of what has been wrong in his approach to God, alone benefit the occasion. To this, accordingly, the Lord directs his attention in the next sentence.

If thou do well, shalt thou not be accepted? - To do well is to retrace his steps, to consider his ways, and find out wherein he has been wrong, and to amend his offering and his intention accordingly. He has not duly considered the relation in which he stands to God as a guilty sinner, whose life is forfeited, and to whom the hand of mercy is held out; and accordingly he has not felt this in offering, or given expression to it in the nature of his offering. Yet, the Lord does not immediately reject him, but with longsuffering patience directs his attention to this, that it may be amended. And on making such amendment, he holds out to him the clear and certain hope of acceptance still. But he does more than this. As Cain seems to have been of a particularly hard and unheedful disposition, he completes his expostulation, and deepens its awful solemnity, by stating the other alternative, both in its condition and consequence.

And if thou do not well, at the door is sin lying. - Sin past, in its unrequited and unacknowledged guilt; sin present, in its dark and stubborn passion and despair; but, above all, sin future, as the growing habit of a soul that persists in an evil temper, and therefore must add iniquity unto iniquity, is awaiting thee at the door, as a crouching slave the bidding of his master. As one lie borrows an endless train of others to keep up a vain appearance of consistency, so one sin if not repented of and forsaken involves the dire necessity of plunging deeper and deeper into the gulf of depravity and retribution. This dread warning to Cain, expressed in the mildest and plainest terms, is a standing lesson written for the learning of all mankind. Let him who is in the wrong retract at once, and return to God with humble acknowledgment of his own guilt, and unreserved submission to the mercy of his Maker; for to him who perseveres in sin there can be no hope or help. Another sentence is added to give intensity to the warning.

And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. - This sentence has all the pithiness and familiarity of a proverb. It has been employed before, to describe part of the tribulation the woman brought upon herself by disobedience, namely, the forced subjection of her will to that of her husband in the fallen state of humanity (Genesis 3:16). It is accordingly expressive of the condition of a slave under the hard bondage and arbitrary caprice of a master and a tyrant. Cain is evidently the master. The question is, Who is the slave? To whom do the pronouns "his" and "him" refer? Manifestly, either to sin or to Habel. If to sin, then the meaning of the sentence is, the desire, the entire submission and service of sin will be yielded to thee, and thou wilt in fact make thyself master of it. Thy case will be no longer a heedless ignorance, and consequent dereliction of duty, but a willful overmastering of all that comes by sin, and an unavoidable going on from sin to sin, from inward to outward sin, or, in specific terms, from wrath to murder, and from disappointment to defiance, and so from unrighteousness to ungodliness. This is an awful picture of his fatal end, if he do not instantly retreat. But it is necessary to deal plainly with this dogged, vindictive spirit, if by any means he may be brought to a right mind.

If the pronouns are referred to Habel, the meaning will come to much the same thing. The desire, the forced compliance, of thy brother will be yielded unto thee, and thou wilt rule over him with a rigor and a violence that will terminate in his murder. In violating the image of God by shedding the blood of thy brother, thou wilt be defying thy Maker, and fiercely rushing on to thy own perdition. Thus, in either case, the dark doom of sin unforsaken and unremitted looms fearfully in the distance.

The general reference to sin, however, seems to be the milder and more soothing form of expostulation. The special reference to Habel might only exasperate. It appears, moreover, to be far-fetched, as there is no allusion to his brother in the previous part of the address. The boldness of the figure by which Cain is represented as making himself master of sin, when he with reckless hand grasps at all that comes by sin, is not unfamiliar to Scripture. Thus, the doer of wickedness is described as the master of it (Ecclesiastes 8:8). On these grounds we prefer the reference to sin, and the interpretation founded on it.

There are two other expositions of this difficult sentence which deserve to be noticed. First. "And as to thy brother, unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him with all the right of the first born." But (1) the reference to his brother is remote; (2) the rights of primogeniture are perhaps not yet established; (3) the words do not express a right, but an exercise of might against right arising in a fallen state (Genesis 3:16); (4) the Judge of all the earth is not accustomed to guarantee the prerogatives of birth to one who is in positive rebellion against him, but, on the other hand, he withdraws them from the unworthy to confer them on whom he will. For these reasons we conceive this exposition is to be rejected. Second. "And unto thee shall be sin's desire; but thou shalt overcome it." But (1) the parallelism between the two members of the sentence is here neglected; (2) a different meaning is assigned to the words here and in Genesis 3:16, (3) the connection between the sentence thus explained and what goes before is not clear; (4) the lesson taught is not obvious; and (5) the assurance given is not fulfilled. On these grounds we cannot adopt this explanation.

The above address of the Lord to Cain, expressed here perhaps only in its substance, is fraught with the most powerful motives that can bear on the mind of man. It holds out acceptance to the wrong-doer, if he will come with a broken heart and a corresponding expression of repentance before God, in the full faith that he can and will secure the ends of justice so that he can have mercy on the penitent. At the same time it points out, with all clearness and faithfulness to a soul yet unpractised in the depths of iniquity, the insidious nature of sin, the proneness of a selfish heart to sin with a high hand, the tendency of one sinful temper, if persisted in, to engender a growing habit of aggravated crime which ends in the everlasting destruction of the soul. Nothing more than this can be done by argument or reason for the warning of a wrong-doer. From the mouth of the Almighty these words must have come with all the evidence and force they were capable of receiving.

 

Genesis 4:8 "And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."

And Cain talked with Abel his brother. - Cain did not act on the divine counsel. He did not amend his offering to God, either in point of internal feeling or external form. Though one speak to him from heaven he will not hear. He conversed with Habel his brother. The topic is not stated. The Septuagint supplies the words, "Let us go into the field." If in walking side by side with his brother he touched upon the divine communication, the conference did not lead to any better results. If the divine expostulation failed, much more the human. Perhaps it only increased his irritation. When they were in the field, and therefore out of view, he rose up against his brother and killed him. The deed is done that cannot be recalled. The motives to it were various. Selfishness, wounded pride, jealousy, and a guilty conscience were all at work (1 John 3:12). Here, then, is sin following upon sin, proving the truth of the warning given in the merciful forbearance of God.

 

Genesis 4:9 "And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

Where is Habel thy brother? - The interrogatory here reminds us of the question put to the hiding Adam, "Where art thou?" It is calculated to strike the conscience. The reply is different from that of Adam. The sin has now advanced from hasty, incautious yielding to the tempter, to reiterated and deliberate disobedience. Such a sinner must take different ground. Cain, therefore, attempts to parry the question, apparently on the vain supposition that no eye, not even that of the All-seeing, was present to witness the deed. "I know not." In the madness of his confusion he goes further. He disputes the right of the Almighty to make the demand. "Am I my brother's keeper?" There is, as usual, an atom of truth mingled with the amazing falsehood of this surly response. No man is the absolute keeper of his brother, so as to be responsible for his safety when he is not present. This is what Cain means to insinuate. But every man is his brother's keeper so far that he is not himself to lay the hand of violence on him, nor suffer another to do so if he can hinder it. This sort of keeping the Almighty has a right to demand of every one - the first part of it on the ground of mere justice, the second on that of love. But Cain's reply betrays a desperate resort to falsehood, a total estrangement of feeling, a quenching of brotherly love, a predominence of that selfishness which freezes affection and kindles hatred. This is the way of Cain (Jude_1:11).

 

Genesis 4:10 "And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."

What hast thou done? - The Lord now charges him with his guilt: "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the soil." In the providence of God blood has a voice crying to him to which he cannot but give heed. It is vain, then, to attempt concealment.

 

Genesis 4:11,12 "And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; 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."

The curse (Genesis 9:25, note) which now fell on Cain was in some sense retributive, as it sprang from the soil which had received his brother's blood. The particulars of it are the withdrawal of the full strength or fruitfulness of the soil from him, and the degradation from the state of a settled dweller in the presence of God to that of a vagabond in the earth. He was to be banished to a less productive part of the earth, removed from the presence of God and the society of his father and mother, and abandoned to a life of wandering and uncertainty. The sentence of death had been already pronounced upon man.

 

Genesis 4:13,14 "And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, 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."

My iniquity is more than I can bear. - To bear iniquity is in Hebrew phrase to undergo the punishment of it. And the prospect of this, as it presents itself to the eyes of Cain, is so appalling that he shrinks from it as intolerable. To be driven from the face of the soil, inhabited by the other surviving members of the human family, to an unknown and therefore terrible region; to be hidden from the face of God, who manifested himself still to the race of Adam in their present abode; to be a vagabond and a fugitive in the earth, far away from the land of his birth; and to be liable to be slain in just revenge by anyone who should find him - such is the hard fate he sees before him. It is dark enough in itself, and no doubt darker still in the exaggeration which an accusing conscience conjures up to his imagination. The phrase, "every one finding me," implies that the family of Adam had now become numerous. Not only sons and daughters, but their children and grandchildren may have been growing up when Cain was sent into exile. But in his present terror even an excited fancy suggested an enemy at every turn.

 

Genesis 4:15 "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."

The reply of the Lord is suited to quell the troubled breast of Cain. "Therefore." Because thy fears of what thou deservest go beyond what it is my purpose to permit, I give thee assurance of freedom from personal violence. "To be avenged seven-fold" is to be avenged fully. Cain will no doubt receive even-handed justice from the Almighty. The assurance given to Cain is a sign, the nature of which is not further specified.

This passage unfolds to us a mode of dealing with the first murderer which is at first sight somewhat difficult to be understood. But we are to bear in mind that the sentence of death had been already pronounced upon man, and therefore stood over Adam and all his posterity, Cain among the rest. To pronounce the same sentence therefore upon him for a new crime, would have been weak and unmeaning. Besides, the great crime of crimes was disobedience to the divine will; and any particular form of crime added to that was comparatively unimportant. Wrong done to a creature, even of the deepest dye, was not to be compared in point of guilt with wrong done to the Creator. The grave element in the criminality of every social wrong is its practical disregard of the authority of the Most High. Moreover, every other sin to the end of time is but the development of that first act of disobedience to the mandate of heaven by which man fell; and accordingly every penalty is summed up in that death which is the judicial consequence of the first act of rebellion against heaven.

We are also to bear in mind that God still held the sword of justice in his own immediate hands, and had not delegated his authority to any human tribunal. No man was therefore clothed with any right from heaven to call Cain to account for the crime he had committed. To fall upon him with the high hand in a willful act of private revenge, would be taking the law into one's own hands, and therefore a misdemeanor against the majesty of heaven, which the Judge of all could not allow to pass unpunished. It is plain that no man has an inherent right to inflict the sanction of a broken law on the transgressor. This right originally belongs to the Creator, and derivatively only to those whom he has intrusted with the dispensation of civil government according to established laws.

Cain's offences were great and aggravated. But let us not exaggerate them. He was first of all defective in the character of his faith and the form of his sacrifice. His carnal mind came out still more in the wrath and vexation he felt when his defective offering was not accepted. Though the Almighty condescends now to plead with him and warn him against persisting in impenitent silence and discontent, lest he should thereby only become more deeply involved in sin, does not retreat, but, on the contrary, proceeds to slay his brother, in a fit of jealousy; and, lastly, he rudely and falsely denies all knowledge of him, and all obligation to be his protector. Notwithstanding all this, it is still to be remembered that the sentence of death from heaven already hung over him. This was in the merciful order of things comparatively slow of execution in its full extent, but at the same time absolutely certain in the end. The aggravation of the first crime of man by the sins of self-will, sullenness, envy, fratricide, and defiant falsehood, was but the natural fruit of that beginning of disobedience. It is accordingly visited by additional tokens of the divine displeasure, which manifest themselves in this life, and are mercifully calculated to warn Cain still further to repent.

Cain's guilt seems now to have been brought home in some measure to his conscience; and he not only stands aghast at the sentence of banishment from the divine presence, but instinctively trembles, lest, upon the principle of retributive justice, whoever meets him may smite him to the death, as he had done his brother. The longsuffering of God, however, interferes to prevent such a catastrophe, and even takes steps to relieve the trembling culprit from the apprehension of a violent death. This leads us to understand that God, having formed a purpose of mercy toward the human family, was sedulously bent upon exercising it even toward the murderer of a brother. Hence, he does not punish his repeated crimes by "immediate death," which would have defeated his design of giving him a long day of grace and opportunity to reflect, repent, return to God, and even yet offer in faith a typical atonement by blood for his sin. Thus, the prohibition to slay him is sanctioned by a seven-fold, that is, an ample and complete vengeance, and a sign of protection mercifully vouchsafed to him. The whole dealing of the Almighty was calculated to have a softening, conscience-awakening, and hope-inspiring effect on the murderer's heart.

 

Genesis 4:16 "And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."

The presence of the Lord - seems to have been at the entrance of the garden where the cherubim were stationed. There, probably, the children of men still lingered in faith and hope before the Lord, whom they still regarded as their Maker and merciful Saviour. They acknowledged his undeserved goodness in the form of sacrifice. The retreat of Cain from the scene of parental affection, of home associations, and of divine manifestation, must have been accompanied with many a deep, unuttered pang of regret and remorse. But he has deeply and repeatedly transgressed, and he must bear the consequence. Such is sin. Many a similar deed of cruelty and bloodshed might the sacred writer have recorded in the later history of man. But it is the manner of Scripture to note the first example, and then to pass over in silence its subsequent repetitions, unless when a particular transaction has an important bearing on the ways of God with man.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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