Sentence Pronounced on Cain: Page 1 of 3 (series: Lessons on Genesis)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

September 27, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe

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.


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.

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