Sentence Pronounced on Cain: Page 2 of 3 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
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.