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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-26


Cain and Abel.—The Cainites.—The ungodly Worldliness of the First Civilization.

Genesis 4:1-26

1And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived, and bare1 Cain [the gotten, or possession], and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord [from, or with the God of the future, or 2 Jehovah]. And again2 she bare his brother Abel [Habel, the perishable; הֶבֶל, vanishing breath of life]. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought [offered] from the fruit of the ground an offering [מנחה] unto the Lord. 4And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect3 [looked in mercy] unto Abel and to his offering. 5But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. 6And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted?4 [Lange translates more correctly, lifting up of the countenance.] and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door [like a ravenous beast for prey]. And unto thee shall be his desire 8[sin’s desire—sin personified], and thou shalt rule [but thou shalt rule] over him. And Cain talked5 with Abel his brother [repeating God’s words hypocritically or mockingly to him. This is adapted to Lange’s translation, Cain told it to his brother. See Exegetical notes]: And it came to pass that when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother, and slew him. 9And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not; am I my brother’s keeper? 10And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy 11brother’s blood6 [properly, blood-drops, plural] crieth unto me from the ground. And now thou art cursed from the earth [which had before been cursed, Genesis 3:17; Bunsen: away from this ground], which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. 12When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield to thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond [נע ונד, frightened and driven on, shunned and abhorred] shalt thou be in the earth. 13And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment [Lange renders it guilt, which is certainly nearer the 14Hebrew עוני] is greater than I can bear. Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth [from the open, cleared, inhabited district 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. 15And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 16And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod [exile] on the east of Eden. 17And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived, and bare Enoch [Hanoch, the devoted, initiated], and he builded a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch. 18And unto Enoch was born Irad [city, עירד ְעיר, townsman, or, with elision of one ע, prince of a city]: and Irad begat Mehujael [Fürst and Gesenius: מחה, smitten of God; questionable whether it is not rather, purified, formed by God]: and Mahujael [Hebrew, Mahujiel] begat Methusael [man of God, great man of God, ש ,מֵת for אשר, and אל]: and Methusael begat Lamech [strong young man; Gesenius]. 19And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah [ornament, decoration, elegant], and the name of the other was Zillah [Gesenius: shadow; Fuerst: sounding, song, from צלל; or player]. 20And Adah bare Jabal [Fuerst: rambler, wanderer, nomade, from יבל]: he was the father of such as dwell in tents and of such as have cattle. 21And his brother’s name was Jubal [Fuerst: one triumphing, harper, from יָבֵל]. He was the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ. 22And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-Cain [Gesenius: smith, mason, or lance-maker; literally, brass of kain, that is, brass weapons], an instructor of every artificer7 [Lange more correctly: hammerer or polisher of all cutting instruments] in brass and iron; and the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah [loveliness, the lovely]. 23And Lamech said unto his wives:

Adah and Zillah hear my voice,
Ye wives of Lamech hearken unto my speech;
For I have slain a man to my wounding;
And a young man, to my hurt.

24If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold,

Truly Lamech seventy and seven-fold [Bunsen: seven times seventy].

25And Adam knew his wife again, and she bare a son, and called his name Seth [fixed, compensation, settled], for God (Elohim), said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel whom Cain slew. 26And to Seth also was there born a son, and he called his name Enos [man, weak man, son of man]. Then began men to call upon [call out, proclaim] the name of the Lord8 [the name Jehovah, in distinction from Elohim, though not according to the full conception of the name. See Exodus 6:0.].


1. The propagation of the human race through the formation of the family, is, in its beginning, laid outside of Paradise, not because it was in contradiction with the paradisaical destiny, but because it had, from the beginning, an unparadisaical character (that is, not in harmony with the first life as led in Paradise.—T. L.). Immediately, however, even in the first Adamic generation, the human race presents itself in the contrast of a godless and a pious line, in proof that the sinful tendency propagates itself along with the sin, whilst it shows at the same time that not as an absolute corruption, or fatalistic necessity, does it lay its burden upon the race. This contrast, which seems broken up by the fratricide of Cain, is restored again at the close of our chapter, by the birth and destination of Seth. In regard to its chief content, however, the section before us is a characterizing of the line of Cain. It is marked by a very rapid unfolding of primitive culture, but throughout in a direction worldly and ungodly, just as we find it afterwards among the Hamites. The ideality of art, to which the Cainites in their formative tendency have already advanced, appears as a substitute for the reality of a religious-ideal course of life, and becomes ministerial to sin and to a malignant pride. Not without ground are the decorative dress (the name Adah), the musical skill (the name Zillah) and beauty of the daughters of Cain brought into view. For after the contrast presented in chapter 5 between the Sethites, who advance in the pure direction of a godly life, and the Cainites, who are ever sinking lower and lower in an ungodly existence, there is shown, chapter 6, how an intercourse arises between them, and how the Sethites, infatuated by the charms of the Cainitish women, introduce a mingling of both lines, and, thereby, a universal corruption. According to Knobel the chapter must be regarded as the genealogical register of Adam, though this does not agree, he says, with the genealogical register of the Elohist (Genesis 5:0), which names Seth as the first-born (!) of Adam. The ethnological table (Genesis 10:0), he tells us, can only embrace the Caucasian race, whilst the Cainites can only be a legendary representation of the East Asian tribes (p. 53), the author of which thereby places himself in opposition to the later account, that represents all the descendants of Cain as perishing in the flood. The traits of the Cainitic race, as presented by Knobel, belong not alone to the East Asiatic people. They are ground-forms of primitive worldliness in the human race. In respect to the genealogical table of Genesis 4:5, Knobel remarks “that the Cainitic table agrees tolerably well with the Sethic” (p. 54). For the similarities and differences of both tables, comp. Keil, p. 71. These relations will be more distinctly shown in the interpretation of the names. Concerning the Jehovistic peculiarities of language in this section, see Knobel, p. 56.

2.Genesis 4:1-2. “Men are yet in Eden, but no longer in the garden of Eden.” Delitzsch. Procreation a knowing. The moral character of sexual intercourse. Love a personal knowing. The love of marriage, in its consummation, a spiritual corporeal knowing. The expression is euphemistic. In the Pentateuch only, in the supplementary corrections of the original writing. The like in other ancient languages. The name Cain is explained directly from קָנִיתִי, the gotten.9 The word קנה may mean, to create, to bring out, also to gain, to attain, which we prefer.—I have gotten a man from the Lord.—The interpretation of Luther and others, including Philippi, namely, “the man, the Lord,” not only anticipates the unfolding of the Messianic idea, but goes beyond it; for the Messiah is not Jehovah absolutely. And yet the explanation: with the help of Jehovah (with his helpful presence, Knobel), is too weak. So too the Vulgate is incorrect: per Deum, or the interpretation of Clericus: מֵאֵת, from Jehovah, that is, in association, in connection with Jehovah, I have gotten a man. In this it remains remarkable, that in the name itself, the more particular denotation is wanting. We may be allowed, therefore, to read: a man with Jehovah, that is, one who stands in connection with Jehovah; yet it may be that the mode of gaining: gotten with Jehovah, characterizes the name itself. The choice of the name Jehovah denotes here the God of the covenant. In the blessed confidence of female hope, she would seem, with evident eagerness, to greet, in the new-born, the promised woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15), according to her understanding of the word. Lamech, too, although on better grounds, expected something immensely great from his son Noah. We must observe here that the mother is indicated as the name-giver. In the case of the second name, Abel (Habel), which denotes a swiftly-disappearing breath of life, or vanity, or nothingness, nothing of the kind is said. Yet in place of the great and hasty joy of hope, there seems to have come a fearful motherly presentiment (Delitzsch, p. 199). That they were twins, as Kimchi holds, is a sense the text does not favor. Abel as shepherd, especially of the smaller cattle (צאן), is the type of the Israelitish patriarchs. Cain, as the first-born, takes the agricultural occupation to which his father was first appointed. The oldest ground-forms, therefore, of the human calling, which Adam united in himself, are divided between his two sons in a normal way (Cain was, in a certain sense, the heir by birth, and the ground-proprietor). It must be remarked, too, that agriculture, as the older form, does not appear as the younger in its relation to cattle-breeding. “Both modes of living belong to the earliest times of humanity, and, according to Varro and Dicæarchus in Porphyry, follow directly after the times when men lived upon the self-growing fruits of the earth.” Knobel. “In the choice of different callings by the two brothers, we seek in vain for any indication of a difference in moral disposition.” So Keil maintains, against Hofmann, that agriculture was a consequence of the cursing of the ground. Delitzsch, however, together with Hofmann, is inclined to the opinion that in the brothers’ choice of different callings there was already expressed the different directions of their minds,—that Abel’s calling was directed to the covering of the sinful nakedness by the skins of beasts (Hofmann), and therefore Abel was a shepherd (!). Delitzsch, too, would have it that Abel took the small domestic cattle, only for the sake of their skins, and, to some extent, for their milk, though this was a kind of food which had not been used in Paradise. It would follow, then, that if Abel slew the beasts for the sake of their skins, and, moreover, offered to God in sacrifice only the fat parts of the firstlings, it must have been that he suffered the flesh in general of the slaughtered animals to become offensive and go to corruption. It would follow, too, that the human sacerdotal partaking of the sacrificial offering, which later became the custom in most cases, had not yet taken place; not to say that the supposition of the enjoyment of animal food having been first granted, Genesis 9:3, is wholly incorrect.

3.Genesis 4:3-8. The first offerings. The difference between the offering pleasing to God, and that to which he has not respect. The envy of a brother, the divine warning, and the brother’s murder. The fratricide in its connection with the offering, a type of all religious wars. The expression מקץ ימים denotes the passing of a definite and considerable time (Knobel: after the beginning of their respective occupations), and indicates also a harvest-season; yet to take it for the end of the year, as is done by De Wette, Van Bohlen, and others, is giving it too definite a sense.—It came to pass that Cain brought of the fruits of the ground, מִנְחָה (from מנח; Arabic: to make a present, “the most general name of the offering, as also קָרְבָּן.” Delitzsch). Fruits belonged to the oldest offerings. Though no altar is mentioned, as also in Genesis 8:20, it is nevertheless to be supposed. In the offering of Abel it is prominently stated that he brought of the firstborn of his herds (בְּכוֹרוֹת), but it is not said of Cain that his offerings were first fruits—בִּכּוּרִים. There is added, moreover, in respect to Abel, the word: וּמֵחֶלְבֵּהֶן (and of the fat thereof). Knobel explains this as meaning, from their fat; Keil, on the contrary, understands it of the fat pieces, that is, of the fattest of the firstlings. The ground taken by some, that it was because no sacrificial feasts had been instituted, or because men had not yet eaten of flesh, is pure hypothesis. It shows rather that we must not think here of the animal offerings of Leviticus. Here arise two questions: 1. By what was it made known that God looked to the offering of Abel,—that is, with gracious complacency? Many commentators say that Jehovah set on fire the offering of Abel by fire from heaven, according to Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:21 (Theodotion, Hieronymus, &c.). Delitzsch: the look of Jehovah was a fire-glance that set on fire the offering. Keil, however, reminds us how it is said, that to Abel himself, as well as to his offering, the look of Jehovah was directed. Knobel assumes, with Schumann, that it suits better to think of a personal appearance of Jehovah at the time of the offering, with which, too, corresponds better the dealing with Cain that follows. The safest way is to stand by the fact simply, that God graciously accepted the offering of Abel; but as in later times the acceptance was outwardly actualized by the miraculous sacrificial flame, so here, it suits best to think on some such mode of acceptance, though not on the “fiery glance” alone. 2. Wherein lay the ground of this distinction? Knobel: “The gift of Abel was of more value than the small offering of Cain. In all sacrificial laws the offerings of animals have the chief place.” So also the Emperor Julian, according to Cyril of Alexandria (Delitzsch, p. 200). According to Hofmann (“Scripture Proof,” i. p. 584), Cain, when he brought his offering of the fruits of his agriculture, thanked God only “for the prolongation of this present life, for the support of which he had been so laboriously striving: whereas Abel in offering the best animals of his herd, thanked God for the forgiveness of his sins, of which the continued sign was the clothing that had been given of God.” For this too advanced symbolic of the clothing skins, there is no Scripture ground, and rightly says Delitzsch: the thought of expiation connects itself not with the skins, but with the blood (see also Keil’s Polemic,—against Hofmann, p. 66). Yet Delitzsch contradicts himself when he says, with Gregory the Great: omne quod datur Deo ex dantis mente pensatur, and then adds: “the unbloody offering of Cain, as such, was only the expression of a grateful present, or, taken in its deepest significance, a consecrated offering of self; but man needs, before all things, the expiation of his death-deserving sins, and for this the blood obtained through the slaying of the victims serves as a symbol.” It is, however, just as much anticipating to identify the blood-offering with the specific expiation offering, as it is to give directly to the living faith in God’s pure promise the identical character of faith in the specific mode of atonement. The Epistle to the Hebrews lays the whole weight of the satisfaction expressed in Abel’s offering upon his faith (Genesis 11:4). Abel appears here as the proper mediator of the institution of the faith-offering for the world. As the doctrine of creation is introduced to the world through the faith of the primitive humanity, so in a similar manner did Abel bring into the world the belief in the symbolical propitiatory offering in its universal form; as after him Enoch was the occasion of introducing the belief of the immortal life, and so on. Keil, too, contends against the view that through the slaying of an animal Abel already made known the avowal that his sins deserved death. And yet it is a fact that a difference in the state of heart of the two brothers is indicated in the appearance of their offerings. Keil finds, as a sign of this difference, that Abel’s thanks come from the depths of his heart, whilst Cain’s offering is only to make terms with God in the choice of his gifts. Delitzsch regards it as emphatic that Abel offered the firstlings of his herds, and, moreover, the fattest parts of them, whilst Cain’s offering was no offering of first fruits. This difference appears to be indicated, in fact, as a difference in relation to the earliness, the joyfulness, and freshness of the offerings. After the course of some time, it means, Cain offered something from the fruits of the ground. But immediately afterwards it is said expressly: Abel had offered (הֵבֵיא, preterite, גַס־הוּא); and farther it is made prominent that he brought of the firstlings, the fattest and best. These outward differences in regard to the time of the offerings, and the offerings themselves, have indeed no significance in themselves considered, but only as expressing the difference between a free and joyful faith in the offering, and a legal, reluctant state of heart. It has too the look as though Cain had brought his offering in a self-willed way, and for himself alone,—that is, he brought it to his own altar, separated, in an unbrotherly spirit, from that of Abel.—And Cain was very wroth.—Literally, he was greatly incensed (inflamed). (אפּו denotes the distended nostril.—T. L.). The wrath was a fire in his soul (Jeremiah 15:14; Jeremiah 17:4).—And his countenance fell.—“Cain hung down his head, and looked upon the earth. This is the posture of one darkly brooding (Jeremiah 3:12; Job 29:24), and prevails to this day in the East as a sign of evil plottings” (Burkhardt, “Arabian Proverbs,” p. 248).—And the Lord said unto Cain.—This presupposes a certain measure of susceptibility for divine revelation; as does also his previous offering, though done in his own way. Jehovah, in a warning manner, calls his attention to the symptom of his wicked thoughts,—his brooding posture.—If thou doest well, &c.—The explanation of Arnheim and Bunsen: Whether thou bringest fair gifts or not, sin lurks at the door, &c., does not take the word שְׁאֵת in its nearest connection, namely, in contrast with the falling of the countenance, as the lifting it up in freedom and serenity. Should we take שְׁאֵת for the lifting up (the acceptance) of the offering, still would its better and nearer sense lie in the idea that good behavior is the right offering. And yet on account of the contrast, the lifting up of the countenance would seem to be the meaning most obviously suggested. We need not to be reminded that along with good behavior there is also meant an inward state, yet the expression tells us that that inward state will also actualize itself in the right way.

Genesis 4:8. And Cain talked with Abel.—Knobel represents these words as a crux interpretum. Rosenmüller and others interpret it: he talked with Abel, that is, he had a paroxysm or fit of goodness and spoke again peaceably with his brother. It is against this that the use of אָמַר for דִּבֵּר cannot be authenticated by sure examples. Therefore Hieronymus, Aben Ezra, and others, interpret it: he told it (namely, what Jehovah had said to him) to his brother. On the contrary, Knobel remarks: it does not seem exactly consistent that the still envious Cain should thus relate his own admonition. Here, however, the question arises whether we are required to take ויאמר in that manner. The sense of this may be that Cain simply preached to his brother in a mocking manner the added apothegm, sin lieth at the door. In a similar manner, to say the least, did Ahab preach to Elias, Caiaphas to our Lord Christ, Cajetan to Luther, &c. The Samaritan text has the addition: נֵלְכָה חַשָּׂדֶה (let us go into the field). It has been acknowledged by the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and certain individual critics. But even ancient testimonies show it to have been an interpolation.10 Knobel, together with Böttcher, has recourse to a conjecture that the reading should be שׁמר (he watched), instead of אמר. Delitzsch, again, supposes that the narration hastens beyond the oratio directa, or the direct address, and gives immediately its carrying out in place of the thing said, that is, he regards the invitation, “let us go into the field,” as implied or understood in the act. In a similar way, Keil. We turn back to the above interpretation with the remark that the narrator had no need to state precisely that Cain preserved the penal words of God as solely for himself, if he meant to tell us that out of this warning admonition Cain had made a hypocritical address to his brother.—Cain rose up against Abel his brother.—The words “his brother,” how many times repeated! The sin of the fall has advanced quickly to that of fratricide. The divinely charged envy in the sin of Eve, wherein there is reflected an analogue of the envy of man against God, is here again advanced from envy of a brother to hatred, then from hatred to a vile obduracy against the warning words of God, and so on, even to fratricide. Therein, too, it is evident that the tempter of man is a murderer of man. Yet still this is not in the sense as though John 8:44 had reference only to this fact. In the sense of this latter passage, Satan was the murderer of Cain,—a thing, however, which manifests itself in the murder of Abel. The fact here narrated will form a connected unity with that of Genesis 3:0. The working of Satan in Genesis 3:0 comes fully out in the fact narrated in Genesis 4:0 “Cain is the first man who lets sin rule over him; he is ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ (of the evil one), 1 John 3:12.” Delitzsch.

4.Genesis 4:9-16; Genesis 4:9-16 The Judgment of Cain. Where is Abel thy brother?—The divine arraignment analogous to the arraignment of Adam and Eve. But Cain evades every acknowledgment. He lies, and denies in an impudent manner; then comes boldly out with the scornful expression: Am I my brother’s keeper? “What a fearful advance from the resort and exculpation of our first parents after the fall, so full of shame and anguish, to this shameless lying; this brutality, so void of love and feeling!” Delitzsch. Irreligiousness, together with an inhuman want of feeling, stand out in continually increasing, reciprocal action. Upon this impudent denial follows the accusation and the judgment. The streams of his brother’s blood are represented as his accusers, and the earth itself must bear witness against him.—What hast thou done?—So we read, since we take the sense of that which follows to be: A voice hast thou made, etc. “The deed belongs to those crimes that cry to Heaven (Genesis 18:20; Genesis 19:13; Exodus 3:9). Therefore does Abel’s blood cry up to Heaven that God, the lord and judge, may punish the murderer. All blood shed unrighteously must be avenged (Genesis 9:5); according to the ancient view it cries to God continually, until vengeance takes place. Hence the prayer, that the earth may not drink in the blood shed upon it, in order that it may not thereby be made invisible and inaudible (Isaiah 26:21; Ezekiel 24:7; Job 16:18).” Knobel. Compare Psalms 116:15; Hebrews 11:4; Revelation 6:9 Calvin: Ostendit Deus, se de factis hominum cognoscere utcunque nullus queratur vel accuset; deinde sibi magis caram esse hominum vitam, quam ut sanguinem innoxium impune effundi sinat; tertio, curam sibi piorum esse non solum quamdiu vivunt, sed etiam post mortem. The blood as the living flow of the life, and the phenomenal basis of the soul (primarily as basis of the nerve-life) has a voice which is as the living echo of the blood-clad soul itself. It is the symbol of the soul crying for its right (to live), and in this way affects immediately the human feeling.11And now art thou cursed, etc.—The words following (מן האדמה) are explained in different ways: 1. My curse shall smite thee from this land; that is, here shall be its execution (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and others; Knobel, Keil, more or less definitely). 2. Cursed away from the district; that is, driven forth by the curse (Rosenmüller, Tuch, Gerlach, Delitzsch). 3. As in the history of the first judgment there appear two cursings, it is proper to look back to them. There is the serpent cursed directly as Cain is here. But the earth, too, is cursed for Adam’s sake. Since now here, in the curse of Cain, the earth is again mentioned, the obvious interpretation becomes: thou thyself shalt be cursed in a much severer degree than the earth. The earth, which through Adam’s natural sin has become to a certain extent partaker of his guilt, shall appear innocent in presence of thine unnatural crime; yea, it becomes thy judge.—Which hath opened her mouth.—This is the moving reason for the form of the preceding penal sentence. So Delitzsch interprets: the ground has drunk innocent blood, and so is made a participant in the sin of murder (Isaiah 26:21; Numbers 35:31). Keil disputes this, and on good grounds. “It is because the earth has been compelled to drink the innocent blood which has been shed that, therefore, it opposes itself to the murderer, and refuses to yield its strength (כֹּח its fruits or crops, Job 31:40) to his cultivation; so that it returns him no produce, just as the land of Canaan is said to have spit out the Canaanites, on account of the abominable crimes with which they had utterly defiled it (Leviticus 18:28).” It is clear that in this case there is transferred to the earth a ministration of punishment against Cain. Since Cain has done violence to nature itself, even to the ground, in that it has been compelled to drink his brother’s blood, therefore must it take vengeance on him in refusing to him its strength. The curse proper, however, of Cain must be, that through the power of his guilt-consciousness he must become a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth. נע ונד, a paronomasia, as in Genesis 1:2. The first word (participle from נוע) denotes the inward quaking, trembling, and unrest, the second (from נוד) the outward fleeing, roving, restlessness. The interpretation, therefore, of Delitzsch is incorrect, “that the earth in denying to Cain the expected fruits of his labor, drives him ever on from one land to another.” The proper middle point of his curse is his inner restlessness. More correctly says Delitzsch: “ban of banning, wandering of exile, is the history of Cain’s curse; how directly opposite to that which is proclaimed by the blood of the other Abel, the Holy and Righteous one (Acts 3:14).” Knobel, according to the view above noticed, interprets the words “fugitive and vagabond,” as indicating in the author a knowledge of the roaming races of the East.—My punishment is greater than I can bear [Lange renders it my guilt, עוני].—The question arises whether this expression means my sin, or my punishment. The old interpretations (Septuagint, Vulgate) render it my sin, and accordingly give נשא the sense of forgiveness. My sin is too great to be ever forgiven. This expression of despair into which his earlier confidence sinks down, has been interpreted by some as denoting Cain’s repentance, which, analogous to the repentance of Judas, fails of salvation through self-will and want of faith, or rather, bears him on more fully to destruction. But since עון may denote also the punishment of sin (Genesis 19:15; Isaiah 5:18), and since Cain further on laments the greatness of his punishment, Delitzsch, Keil, and others, with Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Calvin, etc., take the sense to be: my punishment is too great, that is, greater than I can bear. But now the question arises, whether there is not here in view a double sense, as indicated by the very choice of the expression; and this the more, since, in fact, there lies also in Cain’s repentance a similar double sense. The sin is evidently acknowledged, but only in the reflex view of the punishment, and because of the punishment (attritio in contrast with contritio). The self-accusation, therefore, that the sin is held unpardonable, is, at the same time, an accusation of the judge for having laid upon him an unendurable burden. The reservation of the heart still unbroken in its selfishness and pride, makes the self-accusation, in this kind of repentance, an accusation of the doom itself; it is “the sorrow of the world that worketh death.” It is, however, the lies bound up with the pride that gives the impassioned utterance its curiously varied coloring.—Behold thou hast driven me out.—Out of the sentence of his own conscience, through which God lets him become a fugitive and a vagabond, Cain makes a clear, positive, divine decree of banishment. Thereby does it appear to him a heavier doom that he must go forth from the presence of the adamah in Eden, than his departure from the presence of God (though before he had put the latter first); and, finally, they are both to him the harder punishment, since now “every one that finds shall slay him.” It is the full, unbroken, selfish fear of death, that falls upon him like a giant, rather than the wish that he may be slain by the avenger of blood, whoever he may be. But therein does his outer understanding of it give notice of the sentence: thou shalt be a fugitive and a vagabond. It has changed, for him, into the threatening: avengers of blood will everywhere hunt and slay thee (Proverbs 28:1).—Behold thou drivest me forth this day from the face of the Adamah, that is, out of Eden. “In Eden dwelt Jehovah, whose presence guaranteed protection and security.” Knobel. But would Cain take comfort in the idea of the divine protection? It is suffering and punishment, in itself, that, as he says, he is directly driven forth (גרש) from that home still so rich and charming, where, moreover, through his tilling of the ground he meant to become a permanent possessor.—And from thy face shall I be hid.—Knobel: “Outside of Eden, withdrawn from thy look. In a similar manner Jonah believed that by his withdrawal from Canaan, the land of Jehovah’s habitation, he should escape from his territorial jurisdiction.” On the contrary, Delitzsch and Keil: “from the place where Jehovah revealed his presence.” It must be observed that he mentions this suffering as of second moment. It sounds partly as a complaint, and partly as a threatening; for it is the specific expression of the morose self-consciousness that it flees from the presence of God, whilst it maintains, in order to have some plea of right, that it has been forced to do so. When I lose the face of my home, then also am I compelled to flee from the face of God. Though in every place he would fain hide from the face of God, yet the obvious sense here is neither the unbiblical thought that God dwelt only in Eden (or in Canaan), nor the loss of the beholding of the cherubim. The idea that man can hide himself from God the Scripture everywhere treats as a mere false representation of the evil conscience. It is clearly growling despair that will no more seek the presence of Jehovah through prayer and sacrifice, under the pretence that it is no more allowed to do so. Cain, however, has still religious insight enough to know, that the further from God, the deeper does he fall into the danger of death.—Every one that findeth me.—How could Cain fear lest the blood avenger should slay him, when the earth was uninhabited? Josephus, Kimchi, Michaelis, have referred the declaration to the ravenous beasts. Clericus, Dathe, Delitzsch, Keil, and others, have referred it to the family of Adam. Schumann and Tuch find in it an oversight of the narrator.12 Knobel takes it as embracing the representation of their having been primitive inhabitants of Eastern Asia (Chinese immigrants, perhaps) with whom Cain had fought. Delitzsch says: “It is clear that the blood avengers whom Cain feared, must be those who should exist in the future, when his father’s family had become enlarged and spread abroad; for that the murderer should be punished with death (we might even say that the taking vengeance for blood is the fountain of regulated law and right respecting murder) is a righteous sentence written in any man’s breast; and that Cain already sees the earth full of avengers, is just the way of the murderer who sees himself on all sides surrounded by avenging spirits (̓Εριννύες), and feels himself subjected to their tormentings.” Keil adds: “Though Adam, at that time, had not many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, yet, according to Genesis 4:17, Genesis 5:4, he must, at that time, doubtless, have had already other children, who might multiply, and, earlier or later, avenge Abel’s death.” In aid of this supposition we must take the representation that would give to Cain an immensely long life. Cain’s complaint was an indirect prayer for the mitigation of the punishment. Jehovah consents to the prayer in his sense, that is, he knows that the fear of Cain is, in great part, a reflection from his evil conscience, and, consequently, the destiny which is appointed to him appears to serve more for the silencing (not giving rest to) his frantic excitement, than as designed to protect him outwardly from any danger. For not absolutely shall he know himself protected, but only through the threatening of a seven-fold blood-vengeance against his pursuer, whoever he might be, and through the warning of the same as given by a sign. There appears to Knobel a difficulty in the question, Who then would undertake the blood-vengeance on behalf of Cain, seeing he had no companions? Seven-fold shall he be punished, or shall he (Cain) become avenged.—Set a mark upon Cain.—According to the traditional interpretation, God put a sign on Cain himself, which would make him known; and hence the proverbial expression: the mark of Cain. On the contrary, the literal language has the preposition ל (to or for). Another old interpretation (Aben Ezra, Baumgarten, Delitzsch) will have it that God gave him a token for his security, in order that he might not be slain. The language, however, does not denote a sign of security for Cain that would make him absolutely safe, but only a sign of warning, and threatening, for some possible pursuer, and which might possibly remain unnoticed, though serving to Cain himself as a conscious sign for the quieting of his fears. According to Knobel, the author had in mind, perhaps, some celestial phenomenon, which should every time make its appearance and warn away the assailant. Such a divine intervention, however, would be a placing the murderer in absolute security, and besides a thing simply inconceivable. The warning sign for the pursuer of Lamech, whoever he might be, was the newly invented weapons of his son Tubal-Cain. The warning sign that should serve for the protection of Cain, must disclose to the pursuers the threatening prospect of a seven-fold blood-vengeance. Such a sign, although for Cain, may be, notwithstanding, represented as on Cain in some kind of threatening defence, perhaps, or in the attendance of his wife; it is enough that the history is silent, or simply means to tell us that God already, immediately after the first deed of murder, had established a modification of the natural, impulsive, and impassioned, taking of vengeance for blood;—a warning sign, in fact, that the carrying out of the blood-vengeance would have for its consequence the extirpation of the whole human race. But why this exemption of Cain? To this question every kind of answer has been given (comp. Delitzsch and Keil). The chief thing was, that this banishment had in itself the significance of a social human death. It was a member cut off from the human community, as in the New Testament history of Judas. Besides, the unfolding of the Cainitish existence was to reveal an unfolding of death in a higher degree, and, at the same time, to do service to human culture in the dissemination of the Cainitish talent. Finally, there comes into consideration, in relation to Cain, what is said by Delitzsch: “He was gracious to him in the prolongation of his time of grace, because he recognized the sin as sin.” But at the same time, God himself gives here the first example for the significance of the law of pardon in the later society. To demand the death of Cain was properly the right only of Abel’s parents. But these were also Cain’s parents. The right of pardoning is the right of modifying or mitigating the punishment in view of special mitigating circumstances.—And Cain went out.—“The name נוד denotes a land of escape and banishment, and is therefore the contrast to the happy land of Eden, where Jehovah walks and communes with men.” Keil. The land lay eastward of Eden. In other respects it cannot be definitely determined; for Cain carried everywhere the land of Nod with him in his heart. Knobel thinks here again of China.

5.Genesis 4:17-23. Cain and the Cainites.—And Cain knew his wife.—Here comes in the supposition that Adam must have already had daughters too. Cain’s wife could only have been a daughter of Adam, consequently his sister, and Abel’s sister. She still adheres, nevertheless, to the fearful man, and follows him in his misery, which is also a testimony to a humane side in his life. The marriage of sisters was, in the beginning, a condition for the propagation of the human race. At the commencement of the race, the contrasts in the members of the family must have been so strongly regarded, that thereby the conditions for a true marriage could be present in the same family; whilst the most significant motive for the later prohibition of sister marriages, such as the establishment of a new band of love, and the consequent separation of the sisterly and marriage relations, could not yet have become effectual. Keil, moreover, remarks that the sons and daughters of Adam represent not merely the family, but the race; this is indeed the case, even in single families, though on a reduced scale. Some have thought it strange that Cain should have built a city for his son. But in this objection it is overlooked that the main conception of a primitive city is simply that of a walled fortification. The city must have been a very small one. Cain might have built it for an entire patriarchal race. Moreover, it reads, as Keil calls attention to it, יַיְהִי בֹּנֶה, he was building. It was the thought and the work of his life, in proof that immediately after the protection offered to him by God, he longed for something to fortify himself against the fear of his conscience, and had need to fix for himself an outward station, in opposition to his inner unsettled condition. “Even if we do not, with Delitzsch, regard this city as the foundation-stone of the worldly rule in which the spirit of the beast predominates, yet we must not misapprehend therein the effort to remove the curse of banishment, and to create for his race a point of unity as a compensation for the lost unity in society with God; neither must we lose sight of the continual tendency of the Cainitish life to the earthly. The mighty development of the world-feeling, and of ungodliness, among the Cainites, becomes conspicuous with Lamech in the sixth generation.” Keil. This comes to be, indeed, the ground idea of the Cainite development, that in the symbolic ideality of culture, it seeks an offset to the real ideality of the living cultus (or worship), even as this is generally the character of the secularized worldliness; that is, it makes a development of culture, in itself legitimate, to be its one and all. If after this we take into view the names of the Cainitish line, it will serve for a confirmation of what has been said.

1.      Henoch, initiation, the initiated and his city.
2.      Irad, townsman, citizen, urbanus, civilis.

3.      Mahujael, or Mahijael, the purified, or the formed of God (מחה).

4.      Methusael, the (strengthened) man of God.
5.     Lamech, strong youth. His two wives: Adah, the decorated, Zillah, the musical player (according to Schröder, the dark brunette). [Schröder is all wrong.—T. L.]
6.     The sons of Lamech, by Adah: Jabal, the traveller (nomade), and Jubal, the jubilant, the musician. By Zillah: Tubal Cain, worker in brass or iron (according to the Persian, Thubal; Gesenius), the lance-forger (according to the Shemetic, mason)—if not more probably: brass (or iron) of Cain, that is, the forger of the weapons in which the Cainites trusted. His sister Naamah, the lovely.
Cain and Adam included, this is eight generations; whereas the line of Seth that follows (Genesis 5:0) embraces ten generations. On account of the like names, Henoch and Lamech, Irad and Jared, Kain and Kenan, Mahujael and Mahalael, Methusael and Methuselah, Knobel supposes a mingling of both genealogies, or one common primitive legend in two forms; Keil contends against this by laying emphasis on the difference of the names that appear to be similar, and the different position of those that are alike. For the sake of comparison we let the line of Seth immediately follow: 1. Adam (earth-man). 2. Seth (compensation, or the established). 3. Enoch (weak man). 4. Cainan (profit, a mere like-sounding of Cain). 5. Mahalaleel, praise of God (only an echo of Mahujael). 6. Jared, descending, the descender (only a resemblance in sound to Irad). 7. Enoch or Henoch, the consecrated. Here the devoted, or consecrated, follows the descending; in the Cainitish line he follows Cain. The one was the occupier of a city in the world, the other was translated to God; both consecrations, or devotions, stand, therefore, in full contrast. 8. Methuselah. According to the usual interpretation: man of the arrow, of the weapons of war. As he forms a chronological parallel with the Cainitic Lamech, so may we regard this name as indicating that he introduced these newly invented weapons of the Cainites into the line of Seth, in order to be a defence against the hostile insolence of the Cainites. It consists with this interpretation, that with him there came into the line of Seth a tendency to the worldly, after which it goes down with it, and with the age. Even the imposing upon his son the name Lamech, the strong youth, may be regarded as a warlike demonstration against the Cainitic Lamech. Therefore, 9. Lemech or Lamech. 10. Noah, the rest, the quieter, or peacemaker. With Lamech, who greeted in his son the future pacificator, there appears to be indicated, in the line of Seth, a direction, peaceful, yet troubled with toil and strife. It was just such an age, however, as might have for its consequence the alliances and minglings with the Cainites that are now introduced, and which have so often followed the exigencies of war. This Sethian Lamech, however, forms a significant contrast with the Cainitic. The one consoles himself with the newly invented weapons of his son Tubal Cain, as his security against the fearful blood-vengeance. The other comforts himself with the hope that with his son there shall come a season of holy rest from the labor and pains that are burdened with the curse of God. In regard to both lines in common, the following is to be remarked: 1. The names in the Cainitic line are, for the most part, expressive of pride, those of the Sethic, of humility. 2. The Cainitic line is carried no farther than to the point of its open corruption in polygamy, quarrelsomeness, and consecration of art to the service of sin. The Sethic line forms in its tenth period the full running out of a temporal world-development, in which Enoch, the seventh, properly appears as the highest point. 3. Against the mention of the Cainitic wives, their charms, and their art, appears in the Sethic line only the mention of sons and daughters. It serves for an introduction to the sixth chapter.

Concerning the repeated appearance of like names, compare what is said by Keil, p. 71. Zillah can just as well mean the shadowy as the sounding, yet the latter interpretation is commended by the context. By the invention of Jubal a distinction is made between stringed and wind instruments. In its relation to Tubal Cain the word חֹרֵשׁ must be taken as neuter; since otherwise Tubal Cain would appear as the smith that forged the smiths. The song of Lamech is the first decidedly poetic form in the Scriptures, more distinct than Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:23, as is shown by the marked parallelism of the members. It is the consecration of poetry to the glorification of a Titanic insolence, and, sung as it was in the ears of both his wives, stands as a proof that lust and murder are near akin to each other. Rightly may we suppose (with Hamann and Herder), that the invention of his son Tubal Cain, that is, the invention of weapons, made him so excessively haughty, whilst the invention of his son Jubal put him in a position to sing to his wives his song of hate and vengeance. This indicates, at the same time, an immeasurable pride in his talented sons. He promises himself the taking of a blood-vengeance, vastly enhanced in degree, but shows, at the same time, by the citation of the case of his ancestor Cain, that the dark history of that bad man had become transformed into a proud remembrance for his race. The meaning of the song, however, is not, I have slain a man (Septuagint, Vulgate, &c.). He supposes the case that he were now wounded, or now slain; that is, it looks to the future (Aben Ezra, Calvin, &c). We may take the כִּי with which the song begins as an expression of assurance, and the preterite of the verb as denoting the certainty of the declaration (see Delitzsch, p. 214). We think it better, however, to take it hypothetically, as Nägelsbach and others have done, and this too as corresponding to the sense as well as to the grammatical expression. In respect to the inventions of the Chinese, and the discovery of music as coming out of the shepherd-life, compare Knobel, p. 65. In regard to the conjectures concerning these genealogies, see the Catalogue of Literature, p. 56. Thus, for example, Jubal is connected with Apollo, and Tubal Cain with Vulcan. The similarity of particular forms in popular traditions cannot justify us in confounding them. Knobel refers here, in the view he takes, to the bloodthirsty cruelty of the Mongolian tribes. Ewald finds in the three sons of Lamech (Noah?) the representatives of three principal states according to the Judæan conceptions (see Delitzsch, p. 212; also similar interpretations of Ewald, p. 211).

6. Genesis 4:24-26. Seth.—And called his name Seth.—Seth may denote compensation for Abel (Knobel, Keil),—one who comes in the place of Abel who has been slain and taken away; and in this way he is said to be fixed, established. Eve called the giver Elohim, according to Knobel, because the Sethites were elohists; according to Keil it was because the divine power had compensated her for what human wickedness had taken away. The fact that the name Jehovah, as mentioned further on, came to be adopted in connection with Enoch (weak man), may lead to the thought, indeed, of a lowering of hopes, and yet there lies an expression of hope in this, that she regards Seth as a permanent compensation for Abel.—And to Seth,—to him also was born a son.—Enoch,—a designation of weakness, frailty; probably a sorrowful remembrance of Abel (Psalms 8:5; Psalms 90:3).—Then began men to call.—קָרָא בּ, primarily, to call on the name of Jehovah, and then to proclaim him, to announce. Men had before this prayed and called upon God, but now they begin to reverence God as Jehovah. But why not before, in the time of Seth? God as Jehovah is the covenant God of a pious race, of a future full of promise. First with Enoch does there appear the sure prospect of a new line of promise, after the line of Cain had lost it. With a new divine race, and a new believing generation, there ever presents itself the name Jehovah, and ever with a higher glory. Now it is for the first time after Eve’s first theocratic jubilee-cry of hope. Delitzsch is inclined to think that men now called upon Jehovah in the direction of the East (where the Cainites made their settlement). Moreover, it must be that here is narrated the beginning of a formal divine worship. In respect to this, as also in respect to the two pillars of Seth’s descendants of which Josephus speaks, compare Delitzsch, p. 218. The language undoubtedly refers to a general honoring of the name Jehovah among the pious Sethites. Concerning the name of God, compare the Bibelwerk, Matt., p. 125 (Am. ed.). In relation to Jehovah is the name of special significance, because Jehovah is the God of the covenant, or of the revelation of salvation, and because the name of God, whilst on the one side it denotes his revelation, does, on the other, present the reflex of his revelation in the human religious recognition, that is, in religion itself. In respect to the supposition that the primitive religion was the true religion, as we find it in Romans 1:19-21, Knobel gives an account in its historical relation (p. 67). According to a Hebrew interpretation of the word הוּחַל, as though from the word חלל, to profane, and which Hieronymus mentions, though he rejects it, there must have begun, in the days of Enoch, a species of image-worship, as a profanation of the name of Jehovah (see Rahmer, “The Hebrew Traditions in the Works of Hieronymus,” p. 20). It is a Rabbinical figment, resting upon the misinterpretation of a word, and of the whole text.


1. The propagation of the human race is outside of Paradise, not because it is first occasioned by sin, but rather because it supposes a distinct development of mankind, and is tainted with its sin.
2. The human pairing is not an act of natural necessity, but a free ethical love, a knowing, as its fruit is a begetting, a witnessing.
3. The first mother’s-joy after the first mother’s-anguish, is a spirit of high enthusiasm, and, therefore, an expression of believing hope in the coming salvation. It takes the form of womanly precipitancy, and may mean that now she has borne the serpent-crusher (gotten him, or brought him forth). This is the first misreckoning in respect to the times and hours of God, and the person who is to bring salvation, but the believing hope itself is not a vain thing. Upon this high soaring, as it appears in the mother’s naming of Cain (εὕρηκα, see John 1:42), there follows, after the human fashion, a great lowering of hope, as shown in the naming of the second son, wherein there appears to be indicated a fearful motherly foreboding, which may have been already occasioned by the conduct of the young Cain.

4. The formation of the family: the fundamental law of human relations (“next to the conjugal the parental, the sisterly and brotherly, the general relation of kindred,” Delitzsch) and of all human ordinances. Church and state, with their binding cement, the school, all in the embryo form. The offering. The sentence upon Cain for his brother’s murder. The first moral lesson, an admonition or warning to Cain.
5. In the bosom of the first family there appears the first contrast between the two ground-forms of the human calling,—between worldly power and a divine endurance, between an ungodly and a godly direction, between one who was godless and one who was pious, between one who was loaded in life with the curse of God and one who was slain for his piety, yet whose death, blood, and right, had still an abiding value in the eyes of God.

6. The religious offering is indicated and introduced as early as humanity in the state of sin, Genesis 3:21. It has its origin in thankfulness for God’s gifts, and the acknowledgment that all belongs to him and must be presented or consecrated to him. It is, moreover, an expression of the feeling that the failure to present a real and perfect obedience of the heart and will, and of a perfectly holy life with prayer, is attested by the symbolical offering, which, as such, denotes a longing for, and a craving need of restoration to, that perfect condition wherein life and offering unite in one. Concerning the offering, see Exodus and Leviticus.

7. God’s pleasure in the one offering, his displeasure at the other. See the Exegetical notes.

8. God’s warning to Cain. Sin evidently appears in Cain in an advanced stage of progress, and this indicates hereditary sinfulness. The divine warning, moreover, characterizes this hereditary tendency to sin, in its most peculiar being, not as a fatalistic force, but as a seducing inclination to evil, as a tempting power which already, like a ravenous wild beast, was crouching at his door, and ready to spring upon him. Therefore does God ascribe to him a capacity to rule over sin by the aid of the warning word of God standing as security to him for such assistance. It does not depend upon his choice whether he shall be tempted or not, but it does belong to his choice, whether he will let sin have its will in him, or whether he himself shall rule over it. Sin (though feminine) is presented in the figure of a male beast, or of a masculine nature,—as a lion, dragon, or serpent. On account of a supposed strangeness in the expression: rule over him (or it), Ewald takes it as a question: Wilt thou be able to rule over it? And Delitzsch holds that it does not mean the ruling over the sin that is lurking for him, but only over the inward temptation. But this inward temptation, in so far as it is temptation only, is just the sin that is crouching at the door; for the door denotes the entrance to his inclination, or to his will. Keil corrects Delitzsch by saying: “it is not the holding down of the inner temptibility which is commanded, but the withstanding of that power of evil which invades man from without,”—a view which here gives no proper sense. The personification of sin, and what is said about its desire and its craving after men (as though to devour them), appears not without significance, yet still the remembrance of 1 Peter 5:8 should not lead us to find here, as Delitzsch does, a conscious intimation of Satan. More rightly does the Book of Wisdom make a distinction between men’s being raised out of the fall, on the one hand, or their permitting sin to charm them, increase in strength, and so give power to the hereditary sinful tendency, on the other (Wisd. of Solomon, Genesis 1:13-16; Genesis 2:24; Genesis 10:1). What is said Romans 5:12 : “Death has passed upon all men,” bears alike upon all; but what follows: ἐφ’ ᾧπάντες ἥμαρτεν, allows an endless diversity of individual character, and within the ratios of its gradations, forms that contrast between the pious and the godless, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, which the Scripture everywhere sets forth.

9. The Fratricide. “Thus sin attains to its dominion, and in the outward act reveals its inhuman, beastly, diabolical nature. Devilish hate, brutal savageness; it is in these two together that murder has its origin. At the same time there comes out openly here, for the first time, the conflict of the two seeds in the relations of man to man. It is the serpent-nature of Cain under whose stab in the heel Abel falls—the first example of martyrdom; in appearance a defeat, but in truth a victory. From the innocent murdered man, there goes on, even to the case of Zachariah the son of Jehoiada, one great stream of blood throughout the whole history of the Old Testament (Matthew 23:35). At the very head of the New Testament history does the bloody deed of Cain against his brother Abel again repeat itself in its counterpart, the bloody act of the Jewish people as committed against God’s most ‘holy child Jesus,’ their brother in the flesh. Thenceforth flows on the stream of martyr-blood through the whole history of the Church. Death and murder proceeding from him who was ἀνθρωποκτόνος�’ ἀρχῆς (a murderer from the beginning, John 8:44), become indigenous in the history of man, and of the world, and rule in a thousand forms.” Delitzsch.

10. The death of Abel; the second powerful proof of the prophetic significance of his bloody offering. Abel appears as the special prophet and mediator of the peculiar idea of the Old Testament revelation, or as the one who introduces into the world the typical sacrifice—that is, the symbolical representation of a yielding up of the individual will and life to God through death, in order to the taking away the separation between God and man; and which representation (as it unfolds) must over become more and more the type of the real propitiation as set forth in the New Testament. Therefore would Abel be justified by his act of faith, even as Abraham was (Hebrews 11:4); and to such an extent must the offering of Abel be referred back to a divine occasioning, or some divine institution.

11. The first murder of a brother proceeded from a strife concerning religion. It appears to be presupposed that Cain, in his sacrificial worship, had wilfully separated himself from Abel. This would be the first separation. The second is that his offering, whilst it appeared in a stinted form, remained throughout an unbloody sacrifice. Communion in the offering would have made it of richer value. The mark of servility, legality, joylessness, and an envious jealousy of his brother’s altar, appears quite prominent. Therefore it is, too, that he fails of the blessing, and the seal of the divine acceptance. The effect, however, is not repentance, but envy, fanaticism, hate, obduracy against God’s word, and, finally, the murder of his brother. The first war was a religious war. From thence have all the wars in the world’s history had their motive and their coloring. Even with the most modern wars religion has more to do than is commonly thought. The altar, the centre as it is of all holy sacrificial acts, is the centre also of all that is horrible in the history of the world; since it is the religious idea, in some form, that is the moving power of human history.

12. Already has the first-born lost his birthright, through a proud confidence in its prerogative, out of which is developed envy of his brother’s preference, and from this, again, in the course of its progress, scorn and hate. In this form goes the story through the history of the world, through the history of religion, of the church, and of the state. Thus, many a time does the prerogative of birth, which in itself and normally is a blessing, become transformed into a prerogative of hereditary sin and guilt (Matthew 3:9).

13. As chapter 3d presents to us the archetype of the genesis of sin, even to the evil act, so does chapter 4th give us the form of the genesis, and of the unfolding of obduracy. The commencing point is irreligiosity, that is, an offering worthless and hypocritical in its idea (Romans 1:21). The consequences that immediately follow are unfriendliness, envy, brotherly hate, rage, grudging, and moroseness. To this succeeds an impenitent demeanor towards the divine voice of warning, as shown in a wicked silence. Then comes the consummation of his evil behavior towards his brother. The first example of this was probably a mocking perversion of what God had said, into a presumptuous retort upon his brother; then the bold throwing off the mask in the murder itself, as it took place in the field, upon the boundaries of their respective callings. Now again, on God’s arraignment, his impudent, diabolical lying, and Titanic presumption, but which becomes, after the imposition of the penalty, a howling despair. Thus it is that while in his presumption, and in his despondency, he becomes an enemy of God, so is he also a foe of man; seeing that his disordered imagination peoples the world with human beings who stand to him on a footing of deadly hostility. When in this spirit he goes forth as a fugitive and a vagabond from the land of Eden to a land of solitary exile, and there builds a city, the main significance of it lies in its walls. It is a fortress to defend himself against any of Adam’s future children who may not belong to the Cainite race.

14. The judgment on Cain, a parallel to the first judgment, Genesis 3:0, just as the behavior of Cain is a counterpart, and a parallel, to the behavior of his parents. As a parallel it reminds us of the behavior of the serpent. “Clamitat ad cœlum vox sanguinis, etc.; it is like the old saying of the four heaven-crying sins. When the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that by means of his faith, Abel, though dead, yet speaketh (λαλεῖ), it must mean that the cry of his blood, regarded as still heard, is a proof that even after death he is still an object of the divine care,13 one still unforgotten, not lost—still living.” Delitzsch. At the same time is the cry of this martyr-blood the first signal of that voice, whether of the blood or of the spirit, which ever calls for God’s judgment, first upon Jerusalem (Matthew 23:15; comp. Genesis 2:18), and finally upon the whole world (Revelation 6:10). Only the call of the blood of Christ it is that transforms this judgment into a judgment of deliverance for all who shall receive salvation (Hebrews 12:24).

15. The chief points in the sentence against Cain. He is cursed from the ground. The very nature of the ground, so to speak, becomes an angel (or minister) of penal vengeance against the unnatural transgressor. He hath aroused it against him in its innermost nature, in forcing it to drink his brother’s blood. Henceforth will earth deny to him its fruits. Where the murderer perpetrated the murder, the grass grows no more. The fratricide makes the ground the place of judgment. The war desolates the land. The curse proper, however, lies on the conscience itself. His heavy consciousness of guilt, incapable of being healed, and in its deceit, its presumption, and its despondency, driven to despair, must make him a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth. He is banished beyond any protecting enclosure, from every place of rest; and though he may surround himself with walls as high as heaven, he is still a banished Azazel (Leviticus 16:22)—the prince of exiles. There lies in the passage before us a germ of the church’s excommunication and of the civic outlawry. The banishment into immeasurable space appears as a warning prelude to the endless exile of damnation. We may ask: Why was not the punishment of death imposed on Cain, as is demanded by the later law, Genesis 9:6, instead of exile? It is not a sufficient answer to say, that the parents of Cain could not execute such a sentence; the cherubim might have crushed him. But it becomes evident, already, that the religious social death of absolute banishment from human society, constitutes the peculiar essence of the death penalty (see Lange, Die Gesetzlich-Catholische Kirche als Sinnbild, p. 71).

16. In respect to the repentance of Cain and Judas, see the Exegetical annotations to v. 13.
17. The Cainitic race. Development of the earliest world—culture in its reciprocity with the advancing Cainitic corruption. Delitzsch finds it significant that Cain gave the same name, Henoch, to his son and to the city which he built for him, and that he must have had regard in both to the fundamental beginnings of a peculiar and special historical development. He cites the words of Augustine, De Civitate Dei, Gen 14:28 : “Fecerunt igitur civitates duas amores duo, terrenam scilicet amor sui usque ad contemptum dei, cœlestem vero amor Dei usque ad contemptum sui; illa in se ipsa, hœc in Domino gloriatur.” Yet still even Delitzsch makes prominent the value of each Cainitic advance in culture. In writings which set forth the origin of all things, there could not fail to be something in relation to the origin of trades and arts. At a later time would these inventions come into the possession of God’s people. Still the Cainitic race has the honor of every important advance in worldly culture; because this race of the promise has suffered in the ruin of the world, whilst the race of the curse falls naturally into it, or make it their home. We can only say, however, that the one-sided, worldly tendency, favored a precocious development of every power of culture among the Cainites—or that the children of this world are wiser in their way than the children of light. It is not the inventions themselves, but their morbidly active development, and their abuse, that have on them the mark of the curse. Again, it is in the direction of the dualistic, theosophic assumption of a deeper, or hidden sense, when we read (Delitzsch, p. 213): “Even to this day the arts cannot disown the root of the curse, out of which they spring.” “There is, moreover, remaining in all music, not only an unspiritualized ground of material naturalness merely, but a Cainitic element of impure sensuality” (p. 213). Nevertheless, through the subjectivity of the artist shall “that fundamental being of art which in itself is sinless” attain that to which it is morally destined,” p. 215. Further on Delitzsch well says: “With a deed of murder began, and with a song of murder closes, the history of the Cainites. In the seventh generation all is forgotten—immersed in music, revelry, luxury, decoration and outward show,” etc. Again he says: “This is the genesis of the most spiritual art, such as poetry, music, etc.” (p. 216). More happily, at least in respect to its outer consequences, did there precede all this that pious song of jubilee at the creation of the first man (p. 123). Thus much is true, that as art, and especially poetry, points out the distance between the real and the ideal on the side of culture, so does the sacrificial offering do the same on the side of cultus, or religion.

18. Concerning the worship of Jehovah as beginning among the Sethites, see the Exegetical explanations.


See Doctrinal and Ethical.—Adam’s Family. His guilt, his suffering, his salvation, and his hope.—The first family picture in the Bible.—The tragic sorrow in every family (indicated in the baptism of children).—The family the root of every human ordinance—both of church and state.—The first form of education as it makes its appearance in the first sacrifice, and in the varied callings of Cain and Abel. What education can do, and what it cannot.—Unlike children of like parents.—Pious parents may have wicked children (Cain—Abel).—Eve’s precipitancy even in the utterance of her faith.—Eve’s maternal joy, in its divine trust, and in its human mistakings: 1. The divine truthfulness in her hope of salvation; 2. the mournful disappointment in her expectations of Cain; 3. the happy disappointment in respect to Abel (not a vanishing vapor: Abel “yet speaketh”).—The two ground-forms of the human vocation.—The acceptable and the rejected offering.—The contrast between Cain and his brothers in its significance: 1. Cain lives, Abel dies; 2. Cain’s race perishes, the race of Seth continues (through Noah), even to the end of the world.—Cain the first natural first born (like Ishmael, Esau, Reuben, the brothers of David, etc.), Abel the first spiritual first-born.—Cain and his pride in the carnal birthright and prerogative, a world-historical type: 1. For the religious history, 2. for the political.—Cain and Abel, or the godless and the pious direction inside the common peccability.—Cain and Abel, or the history of the first sacrificial offering, a prefiguration of the most glorious light-side, or of the darkest and most fearful aspect in the world-history.—Cain and Abel: the separated altars, or the first religious war, or the divinely kindled flame of belief and the wrath-enkindled flame of fanaticism.—Cain, or the world-history of envy. Abel, or the world-history of martyrdom.—The brother’s murder.—The brother’s blood.—The first slain.—And death with sin.—The first appearing of death—War.—The obduracy of Cain, or Cain warned by God in vain.—Cain’s freedom and bondage.—Cain’s sentence.—The curse of Cain.—Cain’s repentance (first presumption, then despair).—The evil conscience in the history of Adam and in the history of Cain. Comparison.—The banishment of Cain.—The sign of Cain.—Cain and his race, or worthlessness as regards religion and worldly spiritual power, a reflected image of the satanic kingdom.—The progress of corruption in the Cainitic race.—It was not the worldly cultivation of Cain that was evil, or from the evil one, but its worldliness.—The first city.—Lamech, or the misuse of weapons, or the misuse of art, or of all culture.—Polygamy.—Seth, or the one remaining, established, compensation for Abel.—The Sethites, or the first beginning of a new and better time indicated in this, that men begin to proclaim the name Jehovah, the God of the covenant.—Enosh, denoting frail humanity, a name of humility.—When God becomes great at any time, or in any race, then man becomes small,—Does man first become small, then God becomes to him great. At the birth of Cain, Eve was hasty in her joy; at the birth of Abel, hasty in her despondency; at the birth, of Seth, quiet and confiding.—Seth, or the established people of God; “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against them.”

Starke: Genesis 4:3. God himself instituted the offerings, as we see from Hebrews 11:4, that as the belief of Abel in his offering had for its necessary ground the divine command, promise, and revelation, so the offerings themselves must be types of Christ.

Genesis 4:4. We cannot doubt that from the very beginning God reserved to himself the firstlings or first-born. Such a command He repeated, Exodus 13:2; Numbers 3:13. It was for a type of Christ the first-born before all creations.

Genesis 4:5. Cain ever oppresses and murders Abel. What else is it than the strife between the flesh and the spirit, the enmity between the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent? Arndt’s “Christianity.”—Tüb. Bible: Wouldst thou that thy service be acceptable to God, perform it with unfeigned belief, and a pure heart (Matthew 5:23-24; Matthew 9:13; 1 Timothy 1:15).—Cramer: When God builds a church, then does the devil build a chapel close to it (Psalms 26:5).—How beautiful and lovely is it when brothers dwell together in harmony (Psalms 133:1)? but how rare?—Envy and jealousy have their origin from the devil, and are the root of all evil deeds.—When the godless ought to be allured to reformation by the example of the pious, they often become thereby only the more embittered (Acts 7:54).

Genesis 4:8. According to the Jews, Cain maintained that there was no judge, no judgment, no reward of the good, no punishment of the wicked, no eternity, all which Abel contradicted; wherefore Cain became so embittered that he slew his brother. There is no ground for the pretence of the Masorites that there are wanting here twenty-eight verses, which contain the speech of Cain with Abel.—Abel prefigures Christ. As Abel was a shepherd, so also was Christ.—Freiberg Bible: Cain is an exact type of Antichrist.—Osiander: The preaching of repentance avails not with all men; especially is this the case with those who are given up to a reprobate mind (Acts 7:49, etc.).—Cramer: Sin grows rapidly, and after a small beginning takes wide steps (Wisdom of Sir 28:13-14).—Where there is an evil heart, there is an evil eye, and where both these are, there is also an evil hand.—The Würtemb. Bible: It is a very ancient stab in the heel by the malicious devil, that the false church hates the true, and persecutes it even unto blood.—Hedinger: How early the date of martyrdom in the world! The first man that dies dies for the sake of religion. He whose offering is acceptable to God, becomes now himself the victim.

Genesis 4:10. When Cain thought that he had won, that he was now alone the beloved child, that Abel was wholly forgotten, then did the latter still live, stronger and mightier than before. Then does the Majesty on high assume his cause; He cannot bear it, He cannot keep silence when His own are oppressed. And though they are crushed for a little while, they only rise to a more glorious and stronger state; for they still live.—Cramer: There is nothing secret that shall not be made manifest (Matthew 10:26; Exodus 2:12; Exodus 2:14; Joshua 7:22; 2 Samuel 12:9).

Genesis 4:13. When man should humble himself, he goes rather into despair, and rejects the means of grace. He falls, therefore, into a bitter enmity towards God, and into an ever-deepening unbelief, since he refuses to acknowledge the grace of God, and the service of Christ, or to let them avail for his salvation.—It is in this way that Satan plays his game; he sets the sins before the conscience in their most frightful form, whilst he takes from the eyes the grace of God.—Mark the steps of sin, how imperceptibly they advance! 1. Cain was arrogant; by reason of his birthright he thought himself better than he was; 2. he thereupon falls from arrogance into mocking hypocrisy, and secret presumption; 3. thinking that there is nothing like him, he becomes envious; 4, from the foregoing sins he falls into murder, even the slaying of a brother; 5. then he falls into lies, wherewith he thinks to palliate or excuse his brother’s murder; 6. finally he falls into utter despair.

Genesis 4:14. Surely in the anguish of his conscience must Cain be afraid of everything, of angels, of men, of wild beasts even; yea, even inanimate things cause him distress and terror.

Genesis 4:15. Cramer: No sins are too great to be forgiven (Isaiah 1:18).—No man shall arbitrarily take from Him the infliction of vengeance upon evil doers (Romans 12:19).—Tüb. Bible: All godless men bear in their souls a mark of the curse, which numbers them among the goats. God marks all evil-doers with a brand in the conscience (1 Timothy 4:2).

Genesis 4:16. Würt. Bible: It is the mind of all the children of the world, their trade and business; they ask not after the true church; gladly are they separated from it; they rejoice if it only goes well with the body (Psalms 49:10).

Genesis 4:24. Confident men willingly delude themselves with the example of others, and thus did Lamech comfort himself with a falsehood.

Genesis 4:21. (O ye musicians, bethink yourselves that ye are descended from a godless and murderous race; cease to abuse your art, otherwise will your end be like theirs!) Handicrafts, arts, and inventions are gifts of the Holy Spirit, and come from God, who bestows them upon both the believing and unbelieving; blessed is he who uses everything for the honor of God! (Daniel 1:17; Sir 38:6; Exodus 35:31-35).

Genesis 4:26. Cramer: God can wonderfully console Christian parents in affliction; has he taken from them an Abel, he can give them back a Seth.—We can do no more precious work on earth than to help in propagating and spreading the true and right service of God (Sir 49:4).—Ye teachers in schools and churches, follow the blessed example of these holy forefathers, and let it be your chief business to proclaim and make known the name of the Lord to old and young (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 6:6, etc.).

Schröder: The first revelation of the divine holiness is renewed in the second; and in the same proportion is the advancing progress of the curse.

Genesis 4:1-5. After the character of the parents has become fixed in the probation, then must the mention be of their children; they must be born that others may be born from them. In her song of joy, she forgets what lay right before her eyes; with her glance of hope into the future she calls the infant “a man.” She looks at the child of her womb, and thinks it the seed to whom God has promised the victory. This common reference to the divine promise in Genesis 3:15 is ever held as truth in the interpretations of our fathers.—Luther: But the poor woman is deceived; she does not yet see her sorrow aright, nor understand that from flesh can nothing else than flesh be born, and that by flesh and blood sin and death can never be vanquished; she knows not, moreover, the day nor the hour. Eve’s joy and Mary’s song of praise, Luke 1:46, how different! (Yet Mary too knew not yet that at a later time a sword must pierce her own soul). The one birth from Eve is followed by a second,—the first is the Patriarch of the false, the other of the true church. The name of the one forms an exact contrast to the name of the other. In Cain does the mother of the living repose all her longing and her hope; Abel, on the contrary, the second-born, must serve as the foil of her heart’s pain and sorrow. The best description of this name Abel (nothingness or vanity) we read in Ecclesiastes (or the Preaching of Solomon), Genesis 1:2. That whole book, indeed, may be regarded as a diffuse commentary on the name Abel. According to the opinion of some of the fathers, Abel was never married.—Luther: Adam and Eve are not simply parents to nourish and instruct their children: they bear towards them also a priestly office (in that they lead the children to the sacrifice). The sacrifice is as old as religion (that is, as the religion of fallen men).—Luther: All the histories of the Old Testament show that God, in his superabundant grace, hath ever given and maintained in close connection with his word an outward and visible sign of grace, that men, as reminded by such sacramental sign, might the more confidently believe. Therefore it is that after the flood the rainbow appears. And so to Abraham was given the sign of circumcision. In respect to the supposed sign of God: let one think on the blessing of God upon Abel’s cattle-keeping in the year that followed, whilst Cain’s agriculture miscarried, or on the symbolic upward-mounting, earthward-steaming, sacrificial smoke. For other biblical analogies, in strictest accordance with this, we may think of a glance of light for Abel, and which would become for his offering a consuming flame of fire (Exodus 14:24, &c.). In Matthew 23:35, Christ makes Abel the beginning of the church of those that fear God, which will remain to the end of the world, whereas Cain is the beginning of the church of the malignant and the murderous, which will also continue to the end of the world. Abel is not slain on any worldly or domestic account, but only on account of the service of God. The good and the evil conscience are described here as though they were visible to our eyes; the one only lifts its face on high, the other casts itself despairing down.

Genesis 4:6-7. [On this field (of the murder), so runs the story, was Damascus afterwards built, whose name hints at the bloody deed].—He who according to his mother’s hope was to have been the slayer of the serpent, becomes the murderer of his brother the son of his own mother.—Herder: What a dramatic spectacle! the first slain upon the earth.—Krummacher: Here is the first brother’s murder on the very threshold of Eden,—the first war.

Genesis 4:9-10. Herder: Who shall take vengeance, when God does not take vengeance? The father?—Luther: Cain intends, by this, his exculpation; but when he uses the name of brother, what else is it but an acknowledgment that he ought to be his brother’s keeper. It is not for slaughtered sheep and cattle slain that God asks; it is for a slain man that he inquires. It follows that men have the hope of a resurrection, the hope in a God who out of the bodily death can bear them up to everlasting life, and who asks after their blood as a very dear and precious thing (Psalms 116:15). What can be that still small voice which comes from the earth, and which God hears high up in heaven? Abel had, heretofore, whilst yet in life, endured violence with gentleness and silence; how is it that now when he is dead, and rudely buried in the earth, he is impatient at the wrong? How is it that he who before spake not one word against his brother, now cries out so complainingly, and, by his cry, moves God to action? Oppression and silence are no hindrance to God in judging the cause which the world so mistakenly fancies to be buried.

Genesis 4:11-12. As Adam’s sin develops itself in Cain’s deed of murder, so does the first curse of God reveal itself in the second. Cursed be thou; that is, thou art not the one from whom the blessed seed is to be hoped. By this word is Cain excommunicated, cut off like a twig from the branch, so that he can have no more hope of the honor which he coveted. That which with Abel had a figurative or præfigurative power, becomes in Jesus the most perfect realization; “and the earth did quake” (Matthew 27:52). Adam had already become a stranger in the earth; Cain is now a fugitive.—Calvin: Not to bodily exile alone is Cain condemned, but subjected to a much severer punishment; there is not a spot of earth that he can find where he shall not be confounded and mazed in soul; for as a good conscience is rightly called a wall of iron, so neither a hundred walls, nor as many fortresses, can protect the godless from their unrest.

Genesis 4:13-16. In this way, although not excusing his sin, does Cain complain nevertheless of the fearful severity of that judicial sentence which deprives him of every refuge. So too the devil.—He must hide from God (Psalms 5:5), and yet he cannot (Psalms 139:7). God’s face or countenance means his presence as revealed in guiding care, or in forgiving mercy (Exodus 33:15).—And this his misery be imputes, not to his sin, but to the account of God. Cain considers not merely that he is stripped of God’s protection, but also that every creature in the world is now armed with weapons to take vengeance upon him. According to an ancient legend it was the destiny of Cain to be slain from the house in which he dwelt. The Jewish tradition makes him perish with his race in the flood.—In respect to the mark of Cain: some have conjectured that God placed upon his brow one of the letters of the name Jehovah; others say that it was a dog that continually ran before him; others that it was a horn which grew out of his forehead, and others; finally, maintain that it was a particular robe which God commanded him to wear, that every one might know him. Then follow the views respecting this mark that were held by Luther and the author (Calvin), that it was something that lay in his appearance, especially in his look.

Genesis 4:17-21. Luther: In this case the affliction of the parents is the greater in that they must have lost three children at once (Abel, Cain, and his wife who went into exile with him).—Even in his city, too, did Cain remain a fugitive and a vagabond.—Zillah, “shadow,” either meaning the dark, the brunette, or the one shaded by a rich head of hair.—Calvin: We have here the origin of polygamy in a perverse and degenerate race, as we also find its first author to be a man ferocious and alien to all human kindliness.—Naama: Jewish tradition ascribes to her the first poetry and gift of song; others make her the inventress of the arts of spinning and weaving.—Baumgarten: True it is that originally all, as created by God, was very good: but since the entrance of sin, the whole outward world of nature is loaded with the curse of death. And yet is this testimony of Holy Scripture against the pomp of the world far removed from the monastic rigor; as is shown by the subsequent course of the Scripture history. It is true that Cain builds the first earthly city, but afterwards comes a city of God. [In support of this, there follows mention of the beauty of the mother of Israel, the rich tents and herds of Abraham, the harp of David, the watchword of Gideon (“the sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” in contrast with that of Tubal Cain),—and then legends concerning Cain’s old age and Lamech’s death, p. 99.] Men are very fond of boasting before their wives. The first poet in the world was an old man rejuvenated, a hero in words, a praiser of himself. His song is without doubt a song of triumph on the invention of the sword. The Arabians have a whole book full of names and praises of the sword.—Ziegler: The sin of Cain becomes fearful in the sword-intoxicated Lamech.

Genesis 4:25-26. We see that culture and science are as old as humanity itself. Barbarism and brutality follow after a corrupt civilization. Immediately after the ever-stronger manifestations of a Cainitic world-spirit, we find the strong revelations of the covenant Jehovah.—Luther: There are traditions of Adam’s daughters Salmana and Deborah, but I know not of any ground for believing in them. Eve had slighted Abel, whilst she thought much of Cain as the one who should inherit and possess the promise; now (on the birth of Seth) she holds the contrary, and seems to say: in Abel was all my hope, for he was righteous, but him the godless Cain hath slain; therefore has there been given to me another seed in place of Abel. She does not adhere to him in the motherly way, and after the motherly heart. She does not excuse or palliate the sin of her son. The Sethites: They unite together in a community; but there arise not therefrom cities full of lust and luxury; no, no, but places of holy meditation and devotion. And so there emerge the first delicate outlines of a church and community of life among the pious. Adam and Eve, we may believe, assembled their children and descendants for the maintaining of a solemn divine service. In contrast to the self-congregating of the wicked were the good gathered into a church by God himself.

Gerlach: The gross deeds of individual sin, as well as the original sin of Adam, had their primary seat, not in the temptations of the sense, nor in any momentary outward occasions, but in the disposition of the heart towards God. This is manifest here on the occasion of the first outward divine worship through the sacrificial offering, in which man, separated indeed from God, yet outwardly feeling his need of him, might hope to merit the divine acceptance in such religious service; whereas, with God, such a work has worth and significance only as the outer manifestation of the inner yielding of the heart to him.

Genesis 4:3. The use of the earliest domestic animals, and the cultivation of grain, were derived to man out of their primitive condition. The sheep cannot live without the human care and protection; the grain is nowhere found wild upon the earth, and it degenerates without human cultivation.

Genesis 4:4. When man joins in covenant with this divine will, nothing. can ever overcome him, for he has omnipotence on his side.

Genesis 4:10. Here comes in now the division of works and occupations.

Lisco: The offerings. As offered in faith, which ever rests on the word of God, they are to be regarded as divinely instituted. Abel is God’s friend; his cause is, therefore, God’s cause, and God is his avenger.

Genesis 4:13. First presumption, then despair; both are contrary to Holy Scripture. Unbelief in God’s righteousness before the evil deed, tends, after the act, to unbelief in the greatness and power of the divine mercy;—to a repentance that is full of despair.—A tortured conscience fears everything: the murderer fears murder, the treacherous fears perfidy.

Calver Handbook: How many vain offerings and gifts in the heathen world!—Where faith is, there is the willing mind, and there can God make demands of men.—Instead of a crusher of the serpent, Cain is one of the serpent’s seed.—Bunsen: The land of Nod, that is, the land of flight, of wandering, of banishment, the strange land (the interpretation that refers it to Turan in opposition to Iran).

Michow: The first evil fruit of the evil seed. He cites the saying of Schiller:

The evil deed’s avenging curse it is,
That evil evermore it shall beget.

Taube: 1. As thou standest in relation to the God of mercy, so art thou,—either believing or unbelieving. 2. Remainest thou unbelieving, then, in spite of all attempts to obtain deliverance from God, thy course is onward from sin to sin until it lands thee in despair.—W. Hofmann: The seed of the woman: 1. In its first manifestation; 2. in its remote future; 3. in its prefigurative significance.

Delitzsch: Whilst the race of the Cainites developed itself in outward show, and on the ground of a corrupt nature, the community of the Sethites built itself up through the common calling upon the name Jehovah,—that is, of a God revealing himself on the ground of mercy.


[1][Genesis 4:1.—For remarks on קָנָה קַיִן and אֵת, see the Exegetical, and marginal note.—T. L.]

[2][Genesis 4:2.—ותסף ללדת can only mean a second bearing, and not the birth of a twin.—T. L.]

[3][Genesis 4:4.—וישע would have been better rendered looked at, with אֶל; with מִן or מֵעַל, it has just the contrary sense, looked away from, Job 7:19 et al.—T. L.]

[4][Genesis 4:7.—שְׂאֵת; the context and the contrast will hardly allow any other sense to this than that of acceptance, as denoted by the lifting up the countenance; see the Exegetical. Vulgate, recipies. תשיקתו must refer to sin personified as masculine by the participle רובץ. Comp. Genesis 3:16, where the same word denotes subordination, that which is ruled over; only there it is applied to persons, whilst here it means the appetite or passion, represented as a wild beast, in subjection to the righteous will.—T. L.]

[5][Genesis 4:8.—ויאמר. See the Exegetical. The best interpretation is that of Delitzsch and of some Jewish commentators, which makes the elliptical subject (or thing said) the very action that follows, and which the LXX. and Vulgate have supplied in words. It is not at all probable that they read any different text.—T. L.]

[6][Genesis 4:10.—דְּמֵי, plural intensive; comp. Psalms 5:7, איש דמים, man of bloods, very bloody man, Psalms 26:9; Psa 55:24. צעקים agrees grammatically with דמים, and not with קיל, voice, as would seem from our English Version. The most literal, and, at the same time, the most impressive, rendering, would be obtained by taking קול as the nominative independent, or exclamatory: The voice of thy brother’s bloods! they cry; or, Hark! it is the voice of thy brother’s blood-drops,—they are crying unto me. The separation of the participle from the remoter subject gives it such a force, and makes this, though seemingly free, the most truly literal or emotional sense. Rashi and Aben Ezra say the word is plural because it denotes all Abel’s possible posterity, thus murdered with him. Other Jewish writers have drawn a still more singular inference. Thus it is said in the Talmud, Sanhedrin fol. Genesis 37:0 : “The plural here is to teach us that every one who destroys a single life from Israel, there is a writing against him as though he had destroyed a world full of lives.” Another Jewish interpretation (see Rashi) says that the plural form represents the many wounds that Cain had given him, because he did not know from what part of the body the soul or life (the blood) would go out; all these bloody mouths crying out to God, “a tongue in every one.” Comp. Shakespeare, Antony’s speech over the dead body of Cæsar. See also the Exegetical, and marginal note.—T. L.]

[7][Genesis 4:22.—תֹרֵשׁ means the smith himself; but this cannot make sense unless we adopt a different pointing from the Masoretic, when it may read: a sharpener of everything (כֹל), a smith, or worker of brass, etc.—T. L.]

[8][Genesis 4:26.—בשם; see the Exegetical. They first began, or there was then a beginning of the invocation or formula בְּשֵׁס־יְהוָֹה, beshemychowah. Comp. it with the Arabic invocation or formula بسم الله (bismillah). A corresponding abbreviation in Hebrew would have been בשמאלוה (with א elided בִּשְׁמְלֹהַ), bishmeloah, or with the other divine name, bishmeyahveh. It evidently refers to some solemn form of address, which perhaps came to be denoted by a single abbreviated word, like this and other similar forms in the ancient sister language.—T. L.]

[9][Genesis 4:1. קָנִיתִי. The sense of bearing (pariens), pro-creating, begetting, seems to be older in this word than that of getting, or possessing, and if so, it should guide us in interpreting the language of this very ancient document. It is a case in which, if ever, words would be used in their archaic significance. It is, moreover, much more easy to see how the latter senses came from the former than to trace them in the opposite direction. There is the same order in the Latin pario, Greek τίκτω, τέκος, τοκός, birth, offspring, gain (primum parit mater filium—peperit divitias). For decided examples of the elder generative sense in the Hebrew word, see Deuteronomy 32:6, הוא אביך קנך, thy father that begat thee, where it is used in parallelism with עשׂך and יכוננך, and in precisely the same connection as ילדך and מחללך in Genesis 4:18 of the same chapter. Compare also Genesis 14:19; Genesis 14:22, where it is used both by Melchizedek and by Abraham, as an antique designation of the Creator, more solemn and impressive than בוֹרא, “El Elion, God most high, קונה שׁמים וארץ, Generator (Creator, ancient founder) of the heavens and the earth.” The LXX. there renders it ἔκτισε, and the Vulgate creavit; so interpreted also by Rashi and Maimonides. In Psalms 139:13, קנית כליותי (rendered, thou hast possessed my reins), the context shows that it must have this older and deeper sense; since the reins denote the most interior or fundamental being, and the words following express, as far as language can, the supernatural creative action, exclusively divine, and that supervenes in every human quickening; תְּסֻכֵּנִי, thou didst overshadow me, ἐπεσκίασας μοι; compare Luke 1:35. This is also the best sense Proverbs 8:22, יחוה קנני, rendered, the Lord possessed me,—rather, begat me, as the πρωτότοκος, Colossians 1:15. To these passages we are justified in adding the one before us, Genesis 4:1. The idea of possession or acquisition, as outward gain or property, does not suit. Eve had her mind upon the seed of the woman, Genesis 3:15, and nothing could be more natural than that she should have used this kind of language. She cries out in her joy, קניתי קיך, Kanithi Kain, τέτοκα τόκον, or τέκος, genui genitum, or generationem, I have borne the seed, a man, the Lord. She calls him a man, איש; for the child as a distinctive name was as yet unknown, and she saw only the image of the humanity without regard to size or growth. Nothing could be more subjectively truthful. It was a new man, and she connects with it, as with her own being, a creative or generative process. So Rashi, regarding אֵת as equivalent to עִם, paraphrases the words: “When God created me and my man (אישי) he created us alone, or by himself, לבדו, but in this we are sharers with him; that is, we are pro-creators,” and so she says קניתי. The new offspring carries the מין, the image or species which had been created in the beginning; and so Aben Ezra says that “Adam, when he saw that he must die, felt the need of keeping alive the מין, and therefore Eve uses this language.” Maimonides, without denying this, somewhat modifies it by rendering את, as Onkelos does, by קדם יהוה, “before the Lord: for when we die he shall stand in our place to worship his creator,” בוראו, regarding Cain’s birth as a creation, though, in a qualified sense. If קנה, then, is τέτοκε, genuit, peperit, קין is τόκος, τέκος, genitus, partus. The derivation which Gesenius seems to favor (קַיִן, lancea, 2 Samuel 21:16), is utterly absurd. What would make Eve think of lances, or weapons of war, before there had been a human birth on earth! besides, as thus used, it is evidently a much later word, from whatever source it may have come. Gesenius himself regards קנה as cognate with הכין ,כין; hence there is no difficulty in connecting it, not only with the Arabic كان, but also the Greek and Latin γεν, gen. If so, then Kain (Kin, Ken), is equal to γένος etymologically as well as lexically. The particle את is generally taken by the Jewish grammarians as a preposition = with (עִם), or as denoting the closest union between the verb and its object, and in certain cases its subject; though sometimes they say it is equivalent to עֶצֶם, substance. This is the view of Gesenius. It has the force of a reflex pronoun expressing ipseity, or selfhood, as individuality,—את השמים, the very heavens themselves. A close examination always shows some kind of emphasis, or some contrast, stronger or weaker. Or at least it may be said it calls attention to a thing in some way. The cases where it seems to be used as a preposition, or where it is used to make the separate objective pronouns, can be easily explained from this. את יהות—את קין—it is placed here before both in precisely the same way. This makes it harsh and difficult to give it the rendering with in the latter case, and seems to shut us up to the rendering: I have borne a man, the very Jehovah, or, I have borne a man, the very God, the very Jehovah. The supposition would not be extravagant that in this earliest use of the name (earliest as spoken) there is an emphasis in its future form, יהיה or יהוה (yah-yeh or yah-vah), the one who shall be, as in Exodus 3:14; except that in the latter passage it is in the first person, אהיה אשר אהיה. The greatness of Eve’s mistake in applying the expression to one who was the type of Antichrist rather than of the Redeemer, should not so shock us as to affect the interpretation of the passage, now that the covenant God is revealed to us as a being so transcendingly different. The limitation of Eve’s knowledge, and perhaps her want of due distinction between the divine and the human, only sets in a stronger light the intensity of her hope, and the subjective truthfulness of her language. Had her reported words, at such a time, contained no reference to the promised seed of the woman, the rationalist would doubtless have used it as a proof that she could have known nothing of any such prediction, and that, therefore, Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 4:1 must have been written by different authors, ignoring or contradicting each other.—T. L.]

[10][It is not in the Syriac, which closely follows the Hebrew, and there is no reference to it in the Targums. It looks more like something added (supposed to be necessary to explain יאמר) than like something left out. The fact of its being in the Samaritan Pentateuch, therefore, Instead of showing the superior antiquity and correctness of that as compared with the Hebrew letter, only proves its later date as copying the interpolations of the Septuagint. See the conclusive argument of Gesenius as against the claims of this Samaritan Pentateuch.—T. L.]

[11] [“Crying for its right to live.” The feeling here earliest manifested, and the idea of demanded retribution that grows out of it, pervades antiquity; but as exhibited in the Greek tragic poetry it becomes almost terrific. Compare numerous passages in the Eumenides of Æschylus; also the Chœphoræ, Genesis 398:

ἀλλὰ νόμος μὲν φονίας σταγόνας
χυμένας ἐς πέδον ἄλλο προσαιτεῖν
αίμα. ΒΟΑ’ γὰρ λοιγὸν ΕΡΙΝΝΥΣ

παρὰ τῶν πρότερον φθιμένων ἄτην
ἑτέραν ἐπάγουσαν ἐπ’ ἄτῃ.

There is a law that blood once poured on earth
By murderous hands demands that other blood
Be shed in retribution. From the slain
Erynnys calls aloud for vengeance still,

Till death in justice meet be paid for death.
In another passage there is a similar reference to a very ancient law, or mythus, which the poet styles τριγέρων, from its exceeding antiquity. Ib. Genesis 310:

’Αντὶ δὲ πληγῆς φονίας φονίαν

πληγὴν τινέτω· δράσαντι παθεῖν

ΤΡΙΓΕΡΩΝ ΜΥΘΟΣ τάδε φθνεῖ.

For blood must blood be shed. A law by age

Thrice holy on the murderer’s guilty head

This righteous doom demands.
Here again, as has been before remarked, it is not difficult to decide which is the original and which is the copy. Æschylus drew from the primitive feeling and the primitive idea, but how greatly had it become deformed. How pure, how holy, how merciful even, is this scriptural presentation of the first murderer and his doom, as compared with the fierce revenge (as distinguished from vengeance, or pure retribution) together with the fatalism that appears in the Grecian Drama, and in the still harsher pictures of other mythologies.

The allusion to the blood of Abel, Hebrews 12:24, has been supposed to intimate the blood of Abel’s sacrifice (see Jacobus, p. 138), but the more direct parallelism is with the voice here spoken of as crying from the earth. The words κρείττονα λαλοῦντι (Hebrews 12:24) are best rendered speaketh stronger, louder, taking κρείττονα adverbially with its primary sense of strength, superiority (from κράτος); and this is confirmed by the Hebraism in παρὰ, for מִן, or מ comparative. The blood of Christ cries louder for mercy than Abel’s did for vengeance.

The Scripture calls the blood the life, and so it comes to he used for נפש or ψυχή. Had it meant (as it is no extravagance to suppose it did mean) that Abel’s soul was crying, this would have been the most ancient mode of saying it; as there is no evidence that in that earliest experience of mankind, death, though an awfully strange and fearful event, was regarded as a cessation or discontinuance of being. They could not have had anything like our modern notion of death either in its hyper-spiritualism or in its materialism. There was still a personality, a self hood, in the body and in the blood. Abel was not wholly gone; he still lived in his blood, lived, at least, unto God, who is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:32).

The use of the blood for the life or soul (as life) may help us to understand better Revelation 6:9, as having some connection with this passage. John saw under the altar (θυσιαστηρίου) the souls (τὰς ψυχὰς) of those that had been slain (ἐσφαγμένων); and they were crying out for retribution: How long, O Lord, holy and true! It is difficult to take ψυχὰς in this vision as denoting spirits redeemed who have entered into rest. If, however, it is something more than a personification, that is, if we are to regard the ψυχαὶ here as real personal beings then it is not irrational to take the same view of the blood, life, ψυχὴ of Abel, as a true personal existence for whom God still cared, and to suppose that such was the view taken by the ancient author. A mere personification is inconsistent with the simplicity of this earliest thinking and feeling, however this kind of language may fall to that in a later time, when poetry (if we will call it poetry) becomes predominantly rhetorical. If such an idea is forbidden in the Apocalyptic picture, much more is it alien to the first; and there can hardly be a doubt that the two passages are connected and mutually suggestive. Was Abel’s soul among those that were under the altar? The idea is seen in the imagery that follows: “there were given unto them white robes.” This white robe is in striking contrast to the red garment of blood, and its being “made white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14) adds to the vividness of the idea.—T. L.]

[12] [If there is a difficulty here, it is one that the writers of the account must have seen as clearly as the most acute of modern critics. The narrative excludes the idea of any other historic human race than that derived from Adam. If there had been before this any other creation, or creatures bearing a resemblance to man. either physical or psychological, or if there were any such in other and remote parts of the earth, they had no generic connection with the species homo, or that Adamic family, afterwards represented by the three sons of Noah, and from which has come all whom history has recognized, and now recognizes, as properly man, בני אדם, Sons of Adam, according to the Scriptural designation, or Sons of Man. But what reason have we to suppose that Cain knew all this? The inconsistency of some commentators here is very striking. They hold as absurd that notion of some of the older theologians, according to which Adam was a being of surpassing knowledge, and yet here, in order to make an objection to the Scriptures, they ascribe to Cain a knowledge he could only have had from some transcendent experience or some direct divine revelation. To establish such a contradiction, they suppose him to have known, or that he ought to have known, that there were no other beings like himself anywhere in existence.

Now, as far as the account goes, nothing of this kind had ever been revealed to him, and he had no means of learning it. There is nothing to show that even Adam himself had any such knowledge of his own earthly solitariness. Beyond his own Eden he knew nothing of the earth’s vast extent or of what God may have done in other parts of it. We are carrying into the narrative our own definite knowledge of the figure, geography, and history of our globe, and this some would call interpreting rationally. We may, indeed, have a high view of Adam’s position in its moral aspect and in its spiritual grandeur, but this does not demand for him a past knowledge, which could only have been supernaturally acquired, and of which the account gives not the slightest intimation. Awaking to a human consciousness under the divine inspiration that first made him man, he finds himself the object of a tender care and a guiding law, proceeding from a being higher than himself. His next experience is that of a companion mysteriously introduced to him as one derived from himself. He is conscious of a serene happiness and a blissful home. Then comes his later knowledge. He remembers the beautiful Eden, his sad transgression, his fall from that blessed state, and his banishment into the wide wilderness world. He carries with him the thought of some dark malignant power from whom he had received deadly injury, and is consoled by the promise that one of his descendants shall finally triumph over him; but beyond this, nature and history are all unknown. The vast waste may have other inhabitants. Nothing to the contrary has as yet been revealed to him or to his children. His geography is limited to the lost Eden and the adamah that lies around it; his ethnology takes in only himself, his companion the mother of life, and the children that have been born to him. To Adam himself there may have been the thought that he was alone with God upon the earth, but it would not be experience or revelation,—only an inference from the care and government of which he found himself the object. To the lawless, vindictive Cain, on the other hand, nothing would be more natural than the thought that, somewhere in the unknown waste, there might be beings like himself, and who might be as malignant to himself as he had been to his slain brother. Thus regarded, Cain’s language, instead of involving a contradiction, or an oversight on the part of the narrator, presents one of those inimitable features of truthfulness that characterize the account the moment we get in the right position for viewing it. Had not the author been writing artlessly and truthfully (that is, in his subjective consciousness, whether coming from inspiration or otherwise), he would have provided against the cavil; for he could not have failed to see the difficulty if his stand-point had been the same with that of the modem objector. Had it been a mere fancy, he would have supplied the required Knowledge, as Milton has done by the conversation of the angel.
We may say, too, as Lange intimates, that Cain’s awful guilt gave a preternatural power to his imagination, and peopled the world with avengers. This is perfectly credible and in accordance with human experience. The supposition, too, that by כָּל מוֹצְאִי, whosoever or whatsoever finds me, he may have had in mind imagined demonic beings, is not to be rashly rejected. To say nothing now of any outward demonic realm, such as the Bible elsewhere clearly reveals, a subjective world of devils is created by the guilty human conscience, which must find an avenger, an ἀλάστωρ, somewhere; and we thus regard Cain as the first human medium of this awful revelation, just as other doctrines of a different kind have been brought out, first as emotional consciousness and afterwards as expressed dogma, through the action of the human soul itself in its holy experience. This has been the method of their inspiration, or the germ of their first introduction to the minds of men. Thus the doctrine of a hell originated in the human soul itself, just as the hope of some final rest, in holy souls like Enoch, or of some “city that had foundations,” as in the longings of the pilgrim patriarchs (Hebrews 11:10), became God’s morning star of revelation to the whole doctrine of a future life, growing brighter and brighter until, in the New Testament, it reaches the “perfect day.”

When, in the Eumenides of Æschylus, Orestes sees the Ἐριννύες everywhere pursuing him, we recognize it as dramatically true to nature. It is indeed a strange aspect of the human soul that the poet presents, but it has its ground in its deeper consciousness, and we cannot help feeling that there must be something objective corresponding to it. If we acknowledge this fitness in the representations of the Greek tragedian, founded, doubtless, on some past tradition, why may we not regard it as a truthful interpretation of the same human conscience in this account of the first murderer?—T. L.]

[13] [Crieth unto me, Genesis 4:10, clamat ad me, complains unto me. This is one of the texts which the blind Sadducee had often read, but with the veil upon his heart. He had seen nothing in it. It was no proof to him of anything vital and personal in man after death. But what a flood of light is poured upon this, and similar language in the Old Testament, by the divine interpreter: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” Matthew 22:32. It must be life that cries unto God, and that he hears. Abel yet lived; he yet spake; λαλεῖ, in the present, he speaketh still. To Christ, in whom the veil is taken away, it was no figure merely, or rhetorical usus loquendi, as it was to the Sadducee, and as it has become, in a great measure, to the modern interpreter who carries back the deadness and frigidity of worn-out modern speech to chill the warmth and vitality of ancient language. In such primitive forms there is nothing unmeaning, or merely rhetorical. To the spiritual mind of Christ it was all made real by that intimation of a divine interest which guaranties a real personal being in those for whom it is expressed. The soul of Abel, of which the blood was the nearest material garment, was ὑποκάτω τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου, “under the altar” of the Divine Justice, בְּסֵתֶר עֶלְיוֹן, in “the secret place of the Most High;” it was “lodging, tarrying יִתְלוֹנַן Psalms 91:1), under the shadow of the Almighty.” It was not for Cain’s sake that this is said, for his reformation, or for his punishment merely, or for any preventive benefit of a police kind in the checking of future murders among a race all of whom, if only the worldly aspect is regarded, were soon to perish in some way and be no more. It was not this, solely or mainly, that made that voice effectual in its call. It was for Abel’s sake, as a pious son of God,—the still living Abel, in whom the image of God had been assailed (see Genesis 9:6; Psalms 116:15).

And so we may say of other expressions in the Old Testament, now become mere metaphors, or dead forms of speech, but anciently full of life and reality, representing souls, especially the souls of the pious, as yet having some kind of being, known at least to God “to whom they live,” as our Saviour adds, Luke 20:38. They are “gathered to their people;” they have “gone to their fathers;” they “yield up the ghost,” not as a thing that perishes, but as a most precious deposit to be kept (laid up, or treasured in Sheol, Job 14:13), “until the set time when God shall call and they shall answer; for he will have a regard (יִכְסֹף Job 14:15-16, will have a longing desire) to the work of his hands.” They call themselves “pilgrims and sojourners upon earth”—a phrase that has no meaning except as connected with the idea of another state of being, a homeland, a rest. This is the salvation, as one of these pilgrims says at the very close of his earthly life, when all thought of a mere worldly deliverance is necessarily excluded, and there can remain only the hope of something beyond: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” See how it breaks from the dying Jacob in the very midst of his prophetic contemplation of the future worldly destiny of his sons, Genesis 49:18. What could they mean? There are here no imagined bounds of space and time, no localities; it is all pure subjectiveness, it may be said; but such a hope, indefinite as it may seem, has far more of moral power than any Elysian or Hesperidean fancies. It was security, it was blessedness, and with this they were content. It was the idea of protection, a “covering of wings,” being under “the shadow of the Almighty.” It was all that was contained in that most mysterious expression סֵתֶר פָּנִיך, “the secret of thy presence,” Psalms 31:20, “the hiding (בְּסֻכָּה) in God’s pavilion,” where they have that unimaginable being which Christ calls “living unto God,” πάντες γὰρ αὐτῷ ζῶσιν, Luke 20:38. Some may see in such expressions merely the hope of temporal deliverance, and yet even the most unspiritual interpreters can hardly avoid the feeling that this lower idea, however it may be partially accommodated to a seeming secular context, does not satisfy the holy earnestness of the language, or fill out that idea of blessedness and protection so far beyond what could be afforded by any earthly tabernacle, or in any temple made by hands: “O how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up (צָפַנֻתָּ comp. Job 14:13) for those that fear thee! Thou wilt hide them in the secret of thy presence, thou wilt treasure them in thy pavilion,” away from all the strife and censure of this present life, Psalms 31:20-21. We cannot be wrong when we have our Saviour to guide us in the interpretation of such language, as proving a belief in immortality, or a continuous being, from the expression of the divine care and protection for the pious living and the pious dead. Identity, continuity, personality, are inseparable from the idea of such an interest, and we must suppose that the thought was vividly present to the minds of those in early times who so passionately expressed it. One thing is certain, that Sadduceeism or materialism would never have given rise to such modes of speech, although they may be satisfied with them after they have divested them of all meaning. We may say, too, that after such an exposition as Christ has given us, the denial of there being any idea of a future life in the Old Testament is downright, infidelity, however it may be presented by professed Christian theologians, or even by learned bishops in the Church.—T. L.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Genesis 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/genesis-4.html. 1857-84.
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