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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 4

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-16


Genesis 4:1

Exiled from Eden, o'er, canopied by grace, animated by hope, assured of the Divine forgiveness, and filled with a sweet peace, the first pair enter on their life experience of labor and sorrow, and the human race begins its onward course of development in sight of the mystic cherubim and flaming sword. And Adam knew Eve, his wife. I.e. "recognized her nature and uses" (Alford; cf. Numbers 31:17). The act here mentioned is recorded not to indicate that paradise was "non nuptiis, sed virginitate destinatum" (Jerome), but to show that while Adam was formed from the soil, and Eve from a rib taken from his side, the other members of the race were to be produced "neque ex terra neque quovis alio mode, sed ex conjunctione maris et foeminse" (Rungius). And she conceived. The Divine blessing (Genesis 1:28), which in its operation had been suspended during the period of innocence, while yet it was undetermined whether the race should develop as a holy or a fallen seed, now begins to take effect (cf. Genesis 18:14; Ruth 4:13; Hebrews 11:11). And bare Cain. Acquisition or Possession, from kanah, to acquire (Gesenius). Cf. Eve's exclamation. Kalisch, connecting it with kun or kin, to strike, sees an allusion to his character and subsequent history as a murderer, and supposes it was not given to him at birth, but at a later period. Tayler Lewis falls back upon the primitive idea of the root, to create, to procreate, generate, of which he cites as examples Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22; Deuteronomy 32:6, and takes the derivative to signify the seed, explaining Eve's exclamation kanithi kain as equivalent to τετοκα τοκον, genui genitum or generationem. And said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. The popular interpretation, regarding kani-thi as the emphatic word in the sentence, understands Eve to say that her child was a thing achieved, an acquisition gained, either from the Lord (Onkelos, Calvin) or by means of, with the help of, the Lord (LXX; Vulgate, Jerome, Dathe, Keil), or for the Lord (Syriac). If, however, the emphatic term is Jehovah, then eth with Makkeph following will be the sign of the accusative, and the sense will be, "I have gotten a man—Jehovah" (Jonathon, Luther, Baumgarten, Lewis); to which, perhaps, the chief objections are

(1) that it appears to anticipate the development of the Messianic idea, and credits Eve with too mature Christological conceptions (Lange), though if Enoch in the seventh generation recognized Jehovah as the coming One, why might not Eve have done so in the first? (Bonar),

(2) that if the thoughts of Eve had been running so closely on the identity of the coming Deliverer with Jehovah, the child would have been called Jehovah, or at least some compound of Jehovah, such as Ishiah—אישׁ and יהוה—or Coniah—קין and יהוה (Murphy);

(3) si scivit Messiam esse debet Jovam, quomodo existimare potuit Cainam ease Messiam, quem sciebat esse ab Adamo genitum? (Dathe); and

(4) that, while it might not be difficult to account for the mistake of a joyful mother in supposing that the fruit of her womb was the promised seed, though, "if she did believe so, it is a caution to interpreters of prophecy" (Inglis), it is not so easy to explain her belief that the promised seed was to be Jehovah, since no such announcement was made in the Prot-evangel. But whichever view be adopted of the construction of the language, it is obvious that Eve's utterance was the dictate of faith. In Cain's birth she recognized the earnest and guarantee of the promised seed, and in token of her faith gave her child a name (cf. Genesis 3:20), which may also explain her use of the Divine name Jehovah instead of Elohim, which she employed when conversing with the serpent. That Eve denominates her infant a man has been thought to indicate that she had previously borne daughters who had grown to womanhood, and that she expected her young and tender babe to reach maturity. Murphy thinks this opinion probable; but the impression conveyed, by the narrative is that Cain was the first-born of the human family.

Genesis 4:2

And she again bare (literally, added to bear, a Hebraism adopted in the New Testament; vide Luke 20:11) his brother Abel. Habel (vanity), supposed to hint either that a mother's eager hopes had already begun to be disappointed in her eider son, or that, having in her first child's name given expression to her faith, in this she desired to preserve a monument of the miseries of human life, of which, perhaps, she had been forcibly reminded by her own maternal sorrows. Perhaps also, though unconsciously, a melancholy prophecy of his premature re-moral by the hand of fratricidal rage, to which it has been thought there is an outlook by the historian In the frequent (seven times repeated) and almost pathetic mention of the fact that Abel was Cain's brother. The absence of the usual expression וַתַּהַר, as well as the peculiar phraseology et addidit parere has suggested that Abel was Cain's twin brother (Calvin, Kimchi, Candlish), though this is not necessarily implied in the text. And Abel was a keeper of sheep (ποιμηÌν προβαìτων, LXX.; the latter term includes goats—Le Genesis 1:10), but Cain was a tiller of the ground. These occupations, indirectly suggested by God in the command to till the ground and the gift of the clothes of skin (Keil), were doubtless both practiced by the first man, who would teach them to his sons. It is neither justifiable nor necessary to trace a difference of moral character in the different callings which the young men selected, though probably their choices were determined by their talents and their tastes. Ainsworth sees in Abel a figure of Christ "in shepherd as in sacrificing and martyrdom."

Genesis 4:3

And in process of time. Literally, at the end of the days, i.e.

1. Of the year (Aben Ezra, Dathe, De Wette, Rosenmüller, Bohlen), at which season the feast of the ingathering was afterwards kept—Exodus 23:16 (Bush). Aristotle, 'Ethics,' 8.2, notes that anciently sacrifices were offered after the gathering of the fruits of the earth (Ainsworth).

2. Of the week (Candlish).

3. Of an indefinite time, years or days (Luther, Kalisch).

4. Of some set time, as the beginning of their occupations (Knobel). It came to pass (literally, it was) that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering. Θυσιìα, LXX.; oblatio, Vulgate; speisopfer, Luther. The mincha of Hebrew worship was a bloodless sacrifice, consisting of flour and oil, or flour prepared with frankincense (Le Exodus 2:1). All tree fruits and garden produce were excluded; it was limited to the productions of agriculture and vine growing. Here it includes both meat offerings and animal sacrifices (cf. Exodus 23:4). Unto the Lord. Probably to the gate of the garden, where the cherubim and flaming sword were established as the visible monuments of the Divine presence.

Genesis 4:4

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. Either the firstborn, which God afterwards demanded (Exodus 13:12), or the choicest and best (Job 18:13; Jeremiah 31:19; Hebrews 12:23). And the fat thereof. Literally, the fatness of them, i.e. the fattest of the firstlings, "the best he had, and the best of those best"; a proof that flesh was eaten before the Flood, since "it had been no praise to Abel to offer the fatlings if he used not to eat of them" (Willet), and "si anteposuit Abel utilitate" suae Deum, non dubium quid solitus sit ex labore suo utilitatem percipere" (Justin). And the Lord had respect. Literally, looked upon; ἐπεῖδεν, LXX. (cf. Numbers 16:15); probably consuming it by fire from heaven, or from the flaming sword (cf. Le Genesis 9:24; 1 Chronicles 21:26; 2Ch 7:1; 1 Kings 18:38; Jerome, Chrysostom, Cyril). Theodotion renders ἐνεπυìρισεν, inflammant; and Hebrews 11:4, μαρτυροῦντος ἐπιÌ τοῖς δωìροις, is supposed to lend considerable weight to the opinion. Unto Abel and his offering. Accepting first his person and then his gift (cf. Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 15:8; 2 Corinthians 8:12). "The sacrifice was accepted for the man, and not the man for the sacrifice" (Ainsworth); but still "without a doubt the words of Moses imply that the matter of Abel's offering was more excellent and suitable than that of Cain's," and one can hardly entertain a doubt that this was the idea of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews". Abel's sacrifice was πλειìονα, fuller than Cain's; it had more in it; it had faith, which was wanting in the other. It was also offered in obedience to Divine prescription. The universal prevalence of sacrifice rather points to Divine prescription than to man's invention as its proper source. Had Divine worship been of purely human origin, it is almost certain that greater diversity would have prevailed in its forms. Besides, the fact that the mode of worship was not left to human ingenuity under the law, and that will-worship is specifically condemned under the Christian dispensation (Colossians 2:23), favors the presumption that it was Divinely appointed from the first.

Genesis 4:5

But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. Because of the absence of those qualities which distinguished Abel and his offering; not because the heart of Cain was "no more pure," but "imbued with a criminal propensity" (Kalisch), which it was not until his offering was rejected. The visible sign, whatever it was, being awanting in the case of Cain's oblation, its absence left the offerer in no dubiety as to the Divine displeasure with both himself and his offering. In the rejection of Cain's offering Bohlen sees the animus of a Levitical narrator, who looks down slightingly on offerings of the fruits and flowers of earth; but, as Havernick well remarks, the theocracy was essentially based on agriculture, while the Mosaic institute distinctly recognized the legality and value of bloodless offerings. And Cain was very wroth (literally, it burned with Cain exceedingly), and his countenance fell. In fierce resentment against his brother, possibly in disappointed rage against himself, almost certainly in anger against God (cf. Nehemiah 6:16; Job 29:24; Jeremiah 3:12, and contrast Job 11:15). There was apparently no sorrow for sin, "no spirit of inquiry, self-examination, prayer to God for light or pardon, clearly showing that Cain was far from a right state of mind" (Murphy). Yet the Lord does not forthwith abandon the contumacious and insensate transgressor, but patiently expostulates with and instructs him as to how he too might obtain the same blessing of acceptance which his younger brother enjoyed.

Genesis 4:6, Genesis 4:7

And the Lord (Jehovah) said unto Cain. Speaking either mediately by Adam (Luther), or more probably directly by his own voice from between the cherubim where the flaming sword, the visible symbol of the Divine presence, had been established (cf. Exodus 20:24). Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? The ensuing verse is a veritable crux interpretum, concerning which the greatest diversity of sentiment exists. Passing by the manifest mistranslation of the LXX; "If thou hast offered rightly, but hast not divided rightly, hast thou not sinned? Rest quiet; toward thee is his (or its) resort, and thou shalt rule over him (or it)," which Augustine, Ambrose, and Chrysostom followed, at the same time "wearying themselves with many interpretations, and being divided among themselves as to how Cain divided not rightly" (Wilier), the different opinions that have been entertained as to the meaning of its several clauses, their connection, and precise import when united, may be thus exhibited. If thou doest well. Either

(1) if thou wert innocent and sinless (Candlish, Jamieson), or

(2) if thou, like Abel, presentest a right offering in a right spirit (Vulgate, Luther, Calvin), or

(3) if thou retrace thy steps and amend thine offering and intention (Willet, Murphy). Shalt thou not be accepted? Literally, Is there not lifting up? (sedth, from nasa, to raise up). Either—

1. Of the countenance (Gesenius, Furst, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Knobel, Lange, Delitzsch).

2. Of the sacrifice, viz; by acceptance of it (Calvin); akin to which are the interpretations—Is there not a lifting up of the burden of guilt? Is there not forgiveness? (Luther); Is there not acceptance with God. (Speaker's Commentary); Is there not a bearing away of blessing? (Ainsworth). Vulgate, Shalt thou not receive (sc. the Divine favor). "Verum quamvis נָשָׂא עַוֹן reccatum condonare significet, nusquam tamen שְׂאֵת veniam sonat" (Rosen.).

3. Of the person, i.e. by establishing Cain's pre-eminency as the elder brother, to which reference is clearly made in the concluding clause of the verse (Bush). And if thou doest not well, sin—chattath, from chard, to miss the mark like an archer, properly signifies a sin (Exodus 28:9; Isa 6:1-13 :27; cf. Greek, ἀìτη); also a sin offering (Le Genesis 6:18, 23); also penalty (Zechariah 14:19), though this is doubtful.

Hence it has been taken to mean in this place—

1. Sin (Dathe, Rosenmüller, Keil, Kalisch, Wordsworth, Speaker's Commentary, Murphy).

2. The punishment of sin (Onkelos, Grotius, Cornelius a Lapide, Ainsworth), the guilt of sin, the sense of unpardoned transgression; "interius conscientiae judicium, quod hominem convictum sui peccati undique obsessum premit" (Calvin).

3. A sin offering (Lightfoot, Poole, Magee, Candlish, Exell)—lieth (literally, lying; robets, from rabats, to couch as a beast of prey; cf. Genesis 29:2; Genesis 49:9) at the door. Literally, at the opening = at the door of the conscience, expressive of the nearness and severity of the Divine retribution (Calvin); of the soul, indicating the close contiguity of the devouring monster sin to the evil-doer (Kalisch); of paradise (Bonar); of Abel's fold (Exell), suggesting the locality where a sacrificial victim might be obtained; of the house, conveying the ideas of publicity and certainty of detection for the transgressor whose sin, though lying asleep, was only sleeping at the door, i.e. "in a place where it will surely be disturbed; and, therefore, it is impossible but that it must be awoke and roused up, when as a furious beast it will lay hold on thee ' (Luther); i.e. "statim se prodet, peccatum tuum non magis,celari potest, quam id quod pro foribus jacet ' (Rosenmüller). And unto thee shall be hisi.e.

(1) Abel's (LXX. (?), Chrysostom, Ambrose, Grotius, Calvin, Ainsworth, Bush, Speaker's, Bonar, Exell); or

(2) sin's (Vulgate (?), Luther, Rosenmüller, Yon Bohlen, Kalisch, Keil, Delitzsch, Murphy); or

(3) the sin offering's (Faber, Candlish)—desire (vide Genesis 3:16),

and thou shalt rule over him. I.e; according to the interpretation adopted of the preceding words—

(1) thou shalt maintain thy rights of primogeniture over Abel, who, as younger son, shall be obsequious and deferential towards thee; or,

(2) "the entire submission and service of sin will be yielded to thee, and thou shalt make thyself master of it," sc. by yielding to it and being hurried on to greater wickedness—a warning against the downward course of sin (Murphy); or, while sin lurks for thee like a beast of prey, and "the demon of allurement" thirsts for thee to gratify thy passion, thou shalt rule over it, sc. by giving up thy wrath and restraining thine evil propensities—a word of hopeful encouragement to draw the sinner back to holy paths (Keil); or, "peccatum tanquam muller impudica sistitur, quae hominem ad libidinem suam explendam tentet, cut igitur resistere debeat" (Rosenmüller); or,

(3) the sacrificial victim is not far to seek, it is already courting thine acceptance, and thou mayst at once avail thyself of it (Candlish). Of the various solutions of this "difiicillimus locus," all of which are plausible, and none of which are entirely destitute of support, that appears the most entitled to acceptance which, excluding any reference either to Abel or to a sin offering, regards the language as warning Cain against the dangers of yielding to sin.

Genesis 4:8

And Cain talked with (literally, said to) his brother. Διεìλθωμεν εἰς τοÌ πεδιìον (LXX.); egrediamur foras (Vulgate). The Samaritan and Syriac versions interpolate to the same effect. The Jerusalem Targum explains—"Cainum cure Abele contendisse de vita aetcrna, de extremo judicio, et providentia divina," inserting a long conversation commencing, "Veni, egrediamur ad superficiem agri;" but the obvious supplement is to be found in the subject matter of the previous verse (Hieronynms, Aben Ezra, Gesenius). It is not against this that it arums too much moral goodness in Cain to suppose that he would tell his younger brother of Jehovah's admonition (Knobel); and it certainly relieves us from the necessity of adding to the moral turpitude of the unhappy fratricide by depicting him as deliberately planning his favored brother's murder, carrying the fell purpose within his guilty bosom, watching his opportunity (Bottcher and Knobel, who substitute שָׁמַר he watched, for אָמַר, he said), and at last accomplishing his unhallowed purpose by means of treachery. Beyond all question the historian designs to describe not an act of culpable homicide, but a deed of red-handed murder; yet the impression which his language conveys is that of a crime rather suddenly conceived and hurriedly performed than deliberately planned and treacherously executed. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Genesis 4:9

And the Lord said unto Cain. "Probably soon after the event, at the next time of sacrifice, and at the usual place of offering" (Bonar). Where is Abel thy brother? "A question fitted to go straight to the murderer's conscience, and no less fitted to rouse his wrathful jealousy, as showing how truly Abel was the beloved one" (ibid). Whether spoken by Adam (Luther), or whispered within his breast by the still small voice of conscience, or, as is most probable, uttered from between the cherubim, Cain felt that he was being examined by a Divine voice (Calvin). And (in reply) he said (adding falsehood, effrontery, and even profanity to murder), I know not: am I my brother's keeper? The inquiry neither of ignorance nor of innocence, but the desperate resort of one who felt himself closely tracked by avenging justice and about to be convicted of his crime. "He showeth himself a lyer in saying, 'I know not; wicked and profane in thinking he could hide his sin from God; unjust in denying himself to be his brother's keeper; obstinate and desperate in not confessing his sin" (Willet; cf. Psalms 10:1-18.).

Genesis 4:10

Satisfied that the guilty fratricide is resolved to make no acknowledgment of his deed, the omniscient Judge proceeds to charge him with his sin. And hei.e. Jehovah—said, What hast thou done? Thus intimating his perfect cognizance of the fact which his prisoner was attempting to deny. What a revelation it must have been to the inwardly trembling culprit of the impossibility of eluding the besetting God! (Psalms 139:5). The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me. A common Scriptural expression concerning murder and other crimes (Genesis 18:20, Genesis 18:21; Genesis 19:13; Exodus 3:9; Hebrews 12:24; James 5:4). The blood crying is a symbol of the soul crying for its right to live (Lange). In this instance the cry was a demand for the punishment of the murderer; and that cry has reverberated through all lands and down through all ages, proclaiming vengeance against the shedder of innocent blood (cf. Genesis 9:5). "Hence the prayer that the earth may net drink in the blood shed upon it, in order that it may not thereby become invisible and inaudible" (Knobel). Cf. Job 16:18; Isaiah 26:21; Ezekiel 24:7; also Eschylus, 'Chaephorae,' 310, 398 (quoted by T. Lewis in Lange). From the ground. Into which it had disappeared, but not, as the murderer hoped, to become for. gotten.

Genesis 4:11, Genesis 4:12

Convicted, if not humbled, the culprit is speechless, and can only listen in consternation to the threefold judgment which pronounced him "cursed in his soul, vagabond in his body, and unprosperous in his labors" (Willet). And now—either at this time, already (cf. Joshua 14:11; Hosea 2:10), or for this cause, because thou hast done this (Genesis 3:14; cf. Genesis 19:9; Exodus 18:19)—art thou cursed. The first curse pronounced against a human being. Adam and Eve were not cursed, though the serpent and the devil were. If we may not conclude that Cain was thereby for ever excluded from the hope of salvation if he should repent, still less must we explain the Divine judgment down to a simple sentence of banishment from Eden. The fratricide was henceforth to bear the displeasure and indignation of his Maker, whose image in Abel he had slain; of which indignation and displeasure his expatriation was to be a symbol. Different explanations have been offered of the clause, from the earth, or ground, Adhamah, which, however, cannot mean more than the ground, which already had been cursed (Genesis 3:17; Lunge), since "the curse of the soil and the misery of man cannot well be compared with each other" (Kalisch); or simply away from the district, the scene of his crime (Kalisch, Speaker's, Rosenmüller, Tuch, Gerlach, Delitzsch), as if all that the sentence implied was banishment from Eden; but must involve in addition the idea that the curse was to leap upon him from the earth, or ground, in general (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Knobel, Alford, Murphy). Which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. The terrible significance of this curse is further opened in the words which follow. The earth was to be against him—

1. In refusing him its substance. When thou tillest (literally, shalt till) the ground, it shall not henceforth yield (literally, add to give) unto thee her strength. Neither a double curse upon the entire earth for man's sake (Alford), nor a doom of sterility inflicted only on the district of Eden (Kalisch); but a judgment on Cain and his descendants with respect to their labors. Their tillage of the ground was not to prosper, which ultimately, Bonar thinks, drove the Cainites to city-building and mechanical invention.

2. In denying him a home. A fugitive and a vagabond—literally, moving and wandering; "groaning and trembling" (LXX; erroneously), "banished and homeless" (Keil)—shalt thou be in the earth. "As robbers are wont to be who have no quiet and secure resting-place" (Calvin); driven on by the agonizing tortures of a remorseful and alarmed conscience, and not simply by "the earth denying to him the expected fruits of his labor" (Delitzsch). The ban of wandering, which David pronounced upon his enemies (Psalms 59:12; Psalms 109:10), in later years fell upon the Jews, who "for shedding the blood of Christ, the most innocent Lamb of God, are vagabonds to this day over the face of the earth" (Willet). Thus the earth was made the minister of God's curse, not a partaker of it, as some have strangely imagined, as if by drinking up the blood of Abel it had become a participant of Cain's crime (Delitzsch).

Genesis 4:13, Genesis 4:14

And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment (or my sin) is greater than I can bear. Or, than can be borne away. Interpreted in either way, this is scarcely the language of confession, "sufficiens confessio, sod intempestiva" (Chrysostom); but, as the majority of interpreters are agreed, of desperation (Calvin). According to the first rendering Cain is understood as deploring not the enormity of his sin, but the severity of his punishment, under which he reels and staggers as one amazed (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Calvin, Keil, Delitzsch, Murphy, Alford, Speakers, Kalisch). According to the second, from the terrific nature of the blow which had descended on him Cain awakens to the conviction that his sin was too heinous to be forgiven. The first of these is favored by the remaining portion of his address, which shows that that which had paralyzed his guilty spirit was not the wickedness of his deed, but the overwhelming retribution which had leapt so unexpectedly from its bosom. The real cause of his despair was the sentence which had gone forth against him, and the articles of which he now recapitulates. Behold, thou hast driven me this day—"Out of the sentence of his own conscience Cain makes a clear, positive, Divine decree of banishment" (Lange)—from the face of the earth. Literally, the ground, i.e. the land of Eden. "Adam's sin brought expulsion from the inner circle, Cain's from the outer" (Bonar). And from thy face shall I be hid. Either

(1) from the place where the Divine presence was specially manifested, i.e. at the gate of Eden, which does not contradict (Kalisch) the great Biblical truth of the Divine omnipresence (cf. Exodus 20:24); or,

(2) more generally, from the enjoyment of the Divine favor (cf. Deuteronomy 31:18). "To be hidden from the face of God is to be not regarded by God, or not protected by his guardian care" (Calvin). And I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond. "A vagabond and a runagate" (Tyndale, Coverdale, 'Bishops' Bible'). Vagus et profugus. In the earth. The contemplation of his miserable doom, acting on his guilty conscience, inspired him with a fearful apprehension, to which in closing he gives expression in the hearing of his Judge. And it shall come to pass, that every one—not beast (Josephus, Kimchi, Michaelis), but person—that findeth me shall slay me. "Amongst the ancient Romans a man cursed for any wickedness might be freely killed (Dionysius Halicarnass; 1. 2). Amongst the Gauls the excommunicated were deprived of any benefit of law (Caesar. 'de Bello Gallico,' 50:6; cf. also Sophocles, '(Edip. Tyrannus')" (Ainsworth). The apprehension which Cain cherished has been explained as an oversight on the part of the narrator (Schumann and Tuch); as a mistake on the part of Cain, who had no reason to know that the world was not populated (T. Lewis); as referring to the blood avengers of the future who might arise from his father's family (Rosenmüller, Delitzsch); and also, and perhaps with as much probability, as indicating that already, in the 130 years that had gone, Adam's descendants were not limited to the two brothers and their wives (Havernick).

Genesis 4:15

The condemned fratricide's apprehensions were allayed by a special act of grace. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore (the LXX; Symm; Theodotion, Vulgate, Syriac, Dathius, translate Not so—οὐχ οὐìτως, nequaquam, reading לאֹ כֵו instead of לָכֵן) whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. I.e. fully, sevenfold vengeance—complete vengeance (cf. Le Genesis 26:28). In the case of Cain's murderer there was to be no such mitigation of the penalty as in the case of Cain himself; on the contrary, he would be visited more severely than Cain, as being guilty not alone of homicide, but of transgressing the Divine commandment which said that Cain was to live (Willet). As to why this special privilege was granted to Cain, it was not because "the early death of the pious Abel was in reality no punishment, but the highest boon (Kalisch), nor because banishment from God's presence was the greatest possible punishment, "having in itself the significance of a social human death" (Lange), nor because it was needful to spare life for the increase of posterity (Rosenmüller); but perhaps—

1. To show that "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

2. To prove the riches of the Divine clemency to sinful men.

3. To serve as a warning against the crime of murder. To this probably there is a reference in the concluding clause. And the Lord set a mark upon—gave a sign to (LXX.)—Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. Commentators are divided as to whether this was a visible sign to repress avengers (the Rabbis, Luther, Calvin, Piscator, &c.), or an inward assurance to Cain himself that he should not be destroyed (Aben Ezra, Dathe, Rosenmüller, Gesemus, Tuch, Kalisch, Delitzsch). In support of the former it is urged that an external badge would be more likely to repel assailants; while in favor of the latter it is pleaded that of seventy-six times in which oth occurs in the Old Testament, in seventy-five it is translated sign. If there was a visible mark upon the fugitive, it is impossible to say what it was; that it was a shaking (LXX.), or a continual fleeing from place to place (Lyra), or a horn in the head (Rabbis), a peculiar kind of dress (Clericus), are mere conceits. But, whatever it was, it was not a sign of Cain's forgiveness (Josephus), only a pledge of God's protection; Cf. the Divine prophetic sentence against the Jewish Cain (Psalms 59:11).

Genesis 4:16

And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord. Not simply ended his interview and prepared to emigrate from the abode of his youth (Kalisch); but, more especially, withdrew from the neighborhood of the cherubim (vide on Genesis 4:14). And dwelt in the land of Nod. The geographical situation of Nod (Knobel, China?) cannot be determined further than that it was on the east of Eden, and its name, Nod, or wandering (cf. Genesis 4:12, Genesis 4:14; Psalms 56:8), was clearly derived from Cain's fugitive and vagabond life, "which showeth, as Josephus well conjectureth, that Cain was not amended by his punishment, but waxed worse and worse, giving himself to rapine, robbery, oppression, deceit" (Willet).


Genesis 4:1-15

The first brothers.


1. The first home. Of Divine appointment, and among the choicest blessings that have survived the fall, homes are designed for—

(1) The increase of the human family. Of all animals, the offspring of man is least fitted to provide for itself in infancy. Without the shelter of a home man would be born only to die.

(2) The happiness of the race. Considering man's weakness and wants, miseries and dangers, as a fallen being existing in a sin-cursed world, the family constitution, which secures the interdependence of individuals, largely enhances his comfort. Whether the same amount of happiness would have been attainable had the race been created, like the angelic, as a multitude of separate individuals may be difficult to determine.

(3) The training of children. Being God's gift, they should be highly prized, tenderly cherished, carefully nurtured, intelligently counseled by the father, anxiously cared for by the mother, lovingly, perseveringly, prayerfully reared by both; educated not for themselves, or the world, or even for their parents, but for God; trained to work, as indolence is a sin, and to worship, as piety is a duty.

2. A pious home. Its locality, though outside the garden, was still in Eden, which was a mercy, and probably not far from the cherubim, Adam's gate of heaven, which was hopeful. When man founds a home it should never be far removed from God, heaven, or the Church. Its structure, mayhap, was humble,—another garden likely, but this time man-made, and not so fair as that which God had planted,—but its precincts were hallowed by the rites of religion. It is one mark of a pious home when God has an altar in it (Psalms 118:15). Its inmates were fallen creatures, but still pardoned sinners, who, having believed the Divine promise, had become partakers of the Divine mercy. There is no true piety where there is no humble faith in the gospel.

3. A happy home. At least it had all the elements that were needful to surround them with earthly felicity: the only true foundation on Which a happy home can rest—religion (Psalms 112:1; Proverbs 15:25; Proverbs 24:3); the best blessing a home can receive—the Divine favor (Proverbs 3:33); the best ornaments a home can possess—children (Psalms 128:3).

II. THE BROTHERS AT WORK. These works were—

1. Necessary. God's commands, man's powers and needs, the earth's condition, render toil indispensable. No one is born to sloth. Every one should have a calling. Those whom God's bounty relieves from the necessity of toiling for daily bread should still labor in some specific occupation for God's glory and man's good.

2. Various. The first instance of division of labor. Diversity of employments, rendered necessary by individual capacities and tastes, promotes excellence of workmanship, facility of production, and rapidity of distribution; contributes to the unity and stability of the social fabric by teaching the interdependence of its several parts; multiplies the comforts, stimulates the energies, and generally advances the civilization of mankind.

3. Useful. Most trades and professions are useful; but some more so than others. Parents should, select for their children, and young persons for themselves, occupations that contribute to the good of man rather than those which enhance their own profit. A calling that flourishes on the world's luxuries is less remunerative, besides being less honorable, than one which supplies men's necessities.

4. Healthful. These brothers both worked in the open air. Out-of-door employment more conducive to physical vigor and mental activity than toiling in mines, factories, warehouses, and shops. Men should study health in their secular pursuits.

III. THE BROTHERS AT WORSHIP. Born in the same homes educated by the same parents, trained to the same duty of devotion, the first brothers became worshippers of the same God, at the same time, and in the same place, at the same altar, and in the same way, viz. by the presentation of oblations, yet their service was essentially diverse.

1. Their offerings. These were not the same—

(1) In matter. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground; Abel of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. The one was bloodless, the other bloody. Each one's offering was connected with, perhaps suggested by, his daily calling. So the trades, temperaments, abilities of men determine the kinds of their religious service and devotion. This diversity in men's oblations is naturals appropriate, beautiful, right. God requires the consecration to himself of the first-fruits of men's powers and callings (Proverbs 3:9).

(2) In measure. Abel offered unto God a more excellent (literally, a greater) sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4). Cain brought of the fruit, not fruits, of the earth—offering with a penurious hand, as many of God's worshippers do still. Abel brought of the fattest and the best of his flocks; so should all God's worshippers reserve for him the first-fruits of their years, powers, labors, increase.

(3) In meaning. The elder brother's offering was an acknowledgment of dependence upon God, an expression, probably (?), of gratitude to God, possibly also a recognition of God's claim to be worshipped; the younger son's declared consciousness of sin, faith in atoning blood, hope in Divine mercy.

2. Their worship. The state of the heart is the essential thing in worship. If the offering of the hand he the husk, the devotion of the soul is the kernel of true religion. Not only was Abel's offering better than Cain's; it was offered in a better way.

(1) In faith, trusting in the promise, having an outlook towards the woman's seed (Hebrews 11:4). Without faith in the Lamb of God who died for sin no worship can be accepted.

(2) In obedience. Abel's worship was offered in the way prescribed. God does not leave men to invent forms of religion. Christianity condemns will-worship (Colossians 2:18). The most costly offerings will not suffice for obedience to Divine prescription (1 Samuel 15:22).

(3) In sincerity. Cain was a formalist; Abel a worshipper of God in spirit and in truth. Only such can worship God (John 4:24). Hypocrisy and formalism, though accompanied with splendid ritual, God rejects (Proverbs 21:27; Isaiah 1:13-15; Matthew 6:5).

3. Their receptions. These were—

(1) Diametrically opposite. Abel was accepted by God, received into Divine favor, regarded as righteous, considered as a justified person. Cain was not accepted; not because the fruits of the earth were in themselves unworthy of God's acceptance, but because, in presenting them, he virtually proclaimed his disbelief in God's promise and repudiation of God's way of salvation.

(2) Visibly proclaimed. By some outward sign God expressed in the one case his approbation, and in the other his displeasure. By the gospel he now solemnly declares his reception of the true and rejection of the false worshipper (John 3:36). More reliable are the announcements which God now makes through his word than those which he then delivered through the medium of signs.

(3) Distinctly understood. Neither Cain nor Abel was in any dubiety as to his position. The mind of God had been explicitly revealed. The one was assured that he was righteous; the other knew that he was reprobate. So may every one ascertain his standing in God's sight who listens to the inspired declarations of the Divine word (John 3:18; Romans 3:20; Romans 4:5).

IV. THE BROTHERS AT VARIANCE. Divided in dally toils, religious worship, Divine acceptance, they were now also divided in fraternal regards. This estrangement was—

(1) Unseemly in its character, existing, as it did, between brothers. Where, if not within the hallowed circle of home, should mutual love prevail? Who, if not brothers, should preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace? (Psalms 133:1). Brothers were meant for friendship and helpfulness, not for envy and destruction. Let us thank God there is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

(2) Unjustifiable in its cause. It sprang from religion. Alas, that which was heralded as the bringer of peace on earth and good-will among men has often been the cause of strife and contention, separation and estrangement, as Christ foretold (Matthew 10:34 Matthew 10:36). What a signal proof of the corruption of the human heart! It was occasioned through envy. Cain was wroth because his brother was accepted. Unbelievers often take offence at believers because of blessings they affect to despise.

(3) Wrathful in its manifestation. Because his brother's person and service were approved Cain grew enraged; because himself and his offerings were refused he was angry with God. Hypocrites and sinners are always displeased with those who are better than themselves.

(4) Murderous in its termination. Envy, wrath, murder—the beginning, middle, end of a wicked man's life. The last act lies enfolded in the second, and the second in the first, as the fruit in the tree, and the tree in the seed. Hence wrath is murder in the thought (1 John 3:15); and "who is able to stand before envy?" (Proverbs 27:4). Therefore obsta principiis. Cultivate fraternal affection. Let brotherly love continue. Follow younger brothers in their piety rather than hate them for their prayers.


1. Both went there. The spirit of the first martyr ascended to God, and God came to arraign the red-handed murderer. So must we all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.

2. Both were judged there. The righteous Abel's character and conduct were approved; for God espoused his cause, and heard the cry of his innocent blood. The guilty Cain was condemned. So will all before the great white throne be judged according to their works; of every one of which God is now a witness, as he was of the fratricidal act of Cain.

3. Both were sentenced there. Abel was received into glory, and his blood avenged; Cain banished from God's presence, transformed into a wandering fugitive, in mercy spared from immediate destruction, but in reality, with his scarred brow, doomed to a lifetime of woe—fit emblem of the doom of the ungodly; as the award of righteous Abel was of the honor of the righteous (Matthew 25:46).


1. Value the Divine gift of home.

2. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.

3. Serve the Lord with gladness. Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Come into his courts, and bring an offering with you.

4. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

5. Live in anticipation of, and preparation for, the judgment-day.

6. Learn that nothing will keep a man right in life and safe in death except faith in atoning blood. Cain had pious parents, a good home, an honorable calling, a religious profession, and yet was lost. Abel had a short life and a sad death, but he was safe. Faith in Christ (the woman's seed) made the difference.

Genesis 4:9

Am I my brother's keeper?

I. The world says, No!

1. Every man's brother ought to keep himself.

2. If a men's brother cannot keep himself, he deserves to perish.

3. No man's brother will be at the trouble to keep him.

4. Every man has enough to do to keep himself. Such is the gospel of selfishness proclaimed and practiced by the world.

II. God says, YES!

1. Because he is your brother. Affection should prompt you.

2. Because he may get lost without your keeping, Humanity should incline you.

3. Because I expect you. Religion commands you. Such is the gospel of love which God preaches and charges us to practice.


Genesis 4:1-8

The kingdom of God.

Another "genesis" is now described, that of sinful society, which prepares the way for the description of the rising kingdom of God.


We must still bear in mind that the aim of the narrative is not scientific, but religious and didactic. The sketch of the first family in Genesis 4:1 and Genesis 4:2 is plainly an outline to be filled in. The keeper of sheep and the tiller of the ground are out in the broad world. We are not told that there were no other human beings when they were grown up. Probably from their employment it is meant to be inferred that the human family had already grown into something like a community, when there could be a division of labor. The production of animal and vegetable food in quantities can only be explained on the presupposition that man had increased on the earth. Then, in Genesis 4:3, we are led on still further by "the process of time."

II. THE COMMUNITY OF MEN, THUS EARLY, HAS SOME PROVISION FOR RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. The two men, Cain and Abel, "brought" their offerings apparently to one place. The difference was not the mere difference of their occupations. Abel brought not only "the firstlings of the flock," but "the fat thereof," an evident allusion to the appointment of some sacrificial rites. The Lord's respect to Abel's offering was not merely a recognition of Abel's state of mind, though that is implied in the reference to the person, as distinct from the offering, but it was approval of Abel's obedience to the religious prescription which is in the background. The Lord remonstrates with Cain when his countenance fell and he was wroth. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (croucheth like a beast of prey ready to be upon thee). This may be taken either

(1) retrospectively or

(2) prospectively

—sin as guilt, or sin as temptation; in either case it is at the door—not necessarily a welcome guest, but ready to take possession. Sin forgiven, temptation resisted, are placed in apposition to acceptance. "Unto thee shall be his desire,"—i.e. Abel's, as the younger,—"and thou shalt rule over him," i.e. the natural order shall be preserved. Notice—50. Divine love providing acceptance in the Divine order, in which religion is preserved, and natural life, with its appointments.

2. Divine mercy rescuing a fallen creature from the results of his own blind disobedience.

3. The righteousness of God maintained in the disorder and passion which spring out of human error and corruption. Sin is at the door; judgment close upon it. Yet God is justified though man is condemned. There is no great sin committed but it has been seen at the door first.

4. Doing not well precedes the direct presumptuous sin. "Cleanse thou me from secret faults." Cain was warned by God himself before his fallen countenance darkened his heart with crime and stained his hand with a brother's blood. What a picture of the gradual degradation of the conscience. Notice—

(1) The disobedience of a Divine commandment in some minor point.

(2) Sense of estrangement from God—loss of his "respect unto us."

(3) Sullen, brooding enmity against God and man.

(4) All these culminating in the violent outbreak of self-assertion, his own works evil, his brother's righteous, therefore he bated him. Genesis 4:8 is again an epitome. The talk of the two men with one another may represent a long period of angry debate. "It came to pass," on some occasion, in the field, the angry thoughts found their vent in angry words. "Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." The first blood shed had a religious occasion for its origin. The proto-martyr was slain as a testimony to the truth. Mark the significant omen for the subsequent human history. Marvel not if the world hate those to whom God shows special respect. The type is here of all religious wars. The Cain spirit is not mere bloody-mindedness, but all defiance of God, and self-assertion, as against his will and word. Infidelity has been as bloody as superstition. Both meet in the same perverted worship of self.R.


Genesis 4:9

Care for our brethren.

How terrible this question to the murderer! He thought, perhaps, his act was hidden, and strove to put it out of mind. Perhaps did not anticipate effect of his stroke; but now brought face to face with his sin. "Where is Abel?" He knew not. He knew where the body lay; but that was not Abel. Had sent him whence he could not call him back. "Where is thy brother?" is God's word to each of us. It expresses the great law that we are responsible for each other's welfare. "Am I my brother's keeper?" some would ask. Assuredly yes. God has knit men together so that all our life through we require each other's help; and we cannot avoid influencing each other. And has created a bond of brotherhood (cf. Acts 17:26), which follows from our calling him "Father." What doing for good of mankind? Not to do good is to do harm; not to save is to kill. Love of Christ works (Romans 10:1; 2 Corinthians 5:14).

I. WE ARE CALLED TO CARE FOR THOSE AFAR OFF. "Who is my neighbor?" We might answer, Who is not thy neighbor? Everywhere our brethren. Thousands passing away daily. Abel, a vapor, the character of human life (Psalms 103:15). Whither are they going? And we know the way of salvation. Light is given to no one for himself only (Matthew 5:13, Matthew 5:14). We are to hold it forth; to be as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). It is God's will thus to spread his kingdom. Are we answering the call? Test yourselves (cf. 1 John 3:17). Deliver us from blood-guiltiness, O God. Thank God, the question speaks to us of living men. There are fields still to be reaped. The heathen, our brethren, claim a brother's help. How many varieties of Cain's answer:—You cannot reclaim savages; you just make them hypocrites; we must look at home first. And the lost masses at home are our brethren. Oh, it is in vain to help them; they will drink; they hate religion; they only think what they can get from those who visit them. Test these objections. Single out in thought one soul; compare his case with yours. You have instruction, ordinances, influences; and he the darkness of heathenism, or surroundings of vice. Yet Christ died for that soul. Can you let it depart without some effort, or even earnest prayer?

II. WE ARE CALLED TO CARE FOR THOSE AROUND US. For their sake, watchfulness and self-restraint (cf. Romans 14:15). We teach more by what we do than by what we say. The loving life teaches love; the selfish, ungodliness. Inconsistencies of Christians hinder Christ's cause. What art thou at home? Is thy life pointing heavenward? "None of us liveth to himself." "Where is thy brother?"—M.


Genesis 4:9-15

The condemnation and judgment of the first murderer.


I. The Divine APPEAL TO CONSCIENCE, affording opportunity to repentance and confession, and therefore to the exercise of mercy.

II. THE BLINDING EFFECT OF A GREAT SIN. The man who Anew that God knew all persisting in a lie, and insulting the Divine majesty at the very throne of judgment, i.e. defying God by the monstrous extravagance of self-assertion, which is the effect of indulged sin, not only hardening the heart, but filling it with a mad desperation. So we find great criminals still, to the very last, adding sin to sin, as though they had come to think that the deeper they sunk into it the more chance they had of escaping its punishment, or by daring the whole extremity might the sooner know the worst.

III. There is great significance in the INTIMATE CONNECTION SET FORTH BETWEEN THE CRIME AND PUNISHMENT OF CAIN AND THE EARTH AND THE GROUND. The blood speaks from the ground, crying to God. Cain is cursed from the ground. The ground opened her mouth to receive the brother's blood. The ground refuses to serve the murderer. On the earth he shall be a fugitive and vagabond. From the face of the earth he is driven. His punishment is greater than he can bear. Surely all that is intended to place in vivid contrast the righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of man; the one witnessed by the steadfast earth, with its unbroken laws, its pure, unfallen, peaceful state, with its communities of creatures innocent of all sin; the other witnessed by the cursed, wandering, suffering, hunger-pinched, miserable man, flying from his neighbor, flying from himself.

IV. As in the expulsion of man from Eden, so in the expulsion of Cain from society, there is MERCY MINGLED WITH JUDGMENT. The mark set upon Cain by the Lord was at once the mark of rejection and the mark of protection; it threatened sevenfold vengeance on the murderer of the murderer; it was an excommunication for the sake of the sinner as well as for the sake of the community. We must not expect to find in these primeval records more than a dim intimation of the Divine mind. But here, at the outset of the human race, there is the germ of that distinction and separation among mankind on the moral and spiritual ground which really is the essential fact of the kingdom of God. "The blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel." Yet it is a good thing that God should say to us, in however fearful a manner, that that which is destructive of human society, which rises up against a brother's life, which hates and works out its hatred in cruel act, shall be, can be, separated from the world into which it has come, and cast out. We must look at the whole narrative from the side of the Abel element, not from the side of the Cain element; and the blessed truth contained in it is that God purges society of its evil men and evil principles, and makes its very martyrs' blood to be a consecration of the earth to proclaim his righteousness. We have not to answer the question, How about Cain? He is protected from violence. He is permitted to repent and return, though for a time an outcast. Out of the conflict of the two worlds will come forth the purpose of God—evil separated, good eternally triumphant.—R.

Verses 17-26


Genesis 4:17

Domiciled in Nod, whither, impelled by woman's love, his wife had accompanied him, the unhappy fugitive began to seek, if not to find, relief from the gnawing agonies of remorse in the endearments of conjugal felicity and the occupations of secular industry. And Cain knew his wife. Who must have been his sister, and married before the death of Abel, as "after that event it can scarcely be supposed, that any woman would be willing to connect herself with such a miserable fratricide" (Bush). Though afterwards forbidden, the tendency of Divine legislation on the subject of marriage being always in the direction of enlarging rather than restricting the circle of prohibited relationships, the union of brothers and sisters at the first was clearly indispensable, if the race was to multiply outwards from a common stock. "Even in much later times, and among very civilized nations, such alliances were not considered incestuous. The Athenian law made it compulsory to marry the sister if she had not found a husband at a certain age. Abraham married his half-sister, Sarah; and the legislator Moses himself was the offspring of-a matrimony which he later interdicted as unholy" (Kalisch). And she conceived. For even from the unbelieving and unthankful, the disobedient and the repro. bate, God's providential mercies are not entirely withheld (Psalms 145:9; Matthew 5:45). And bare Enoch. Chanoch, "dedicated," "initiated," from chanach, to instruct (Proverbs 22:6) and to consecrate (Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63). Candlish detects in the name the impious pride of the first murderer; with more charity, Keil and Kalisch see a promise of the renovation of his life. The latter thinks that Cain called his son "Initiated" or "Instructed" to intimate that he intended to instruct him from his early years in the duties of virtue, and his city "Dedicated" to signify that he now recognized that "the firstling of his social prosperity belongs to God." If Luther's conjecture be correct, that the child received its name from its mother, it will touchingly express that young mother's hope that the child whom God had sent might be an augury of blessing for their saddened home, and her resolution both to consecrate him from his youth to God and to instruct him in God's fear and worship. And he builded. Literally, was building, i.e. began to build, "but never finished, leading still a runagate life, and so often constrained to leave the work, as the giants did who built the tower of Babel" (Willet). A city. Vater, Hartmann, and Bohlen discover in the city-building of Cain "a main proof of the mythical contents of the narrative," an advanced state of civilization "utterly unsuitable to so early a period;" but ancient tradition (Phoenician, Egyptian, and Hellenic) is unanimous in ascribing to the first men the invention of agriculture and the arts, with the discovery of metals, the origin of music, &c. (vide Havernick's 'Intro.,' § 16). Of course the עִיר which Cain erected was not a city according to modern ideas, but a keep or fort, enclosed with a wall for the defense of those who dwelt within (Murphy). It was the first step in the direction of civilization, and Kalisch notes it as a deep trait in the Biblical account that the origin of cities is ascribed not to the nomad, but to the agriculturist. Impelled by the necessities of his occupation to have a fixed residence, he would likewise in course of time be constrained by the multiplication of his household to insure their protection and comfort. It is possible also that his attempt to found a city may have been dictated by a desire to bid defiance to the curse which doomed him to a wandering life; to create for his family and himself a new point of interest outside the holy circle of Eden, and to find an outlet for those energies and powers of which, as an early progenitor of the race, he must have been conscious, and in the restless activity of which oblivion for his misery could alone be found. If so, it explains the action which is next recorded of him, that he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. I.e. he consecrated it to the realization of these his sinful hopes and schemes.

Genesis 4:18

Years passed away, the family of Cain grew to manhood, and, in imitation of their parents, founded homes for themselves. And unto Enoch (whose wife probably would also be his sister, few caring at this early stage to intermarry with the accursed race) was born Irad. Townsman, citizen, urbanus civilis (Keil, Lange); fleet as a wild ass (Murphy); ornament of a city, from Ir, a city (Wordsworth). And Irad begat Mehujael. Smitten of God (Keil, Gesenius, Murphy), the purified or formed of God (Lange). And Mehujael begat Methusael. Man of God (Gesenius, Lange), man asked or man of El (Murphy), man of prayer (Keil). And Methusael begat Lamech. Strong youth (Gesenius, Lange); man of prayer, youth (Murphy); king, by metathesis for melech (Wordsworth). The resemblance between these names and those in the line of Seth has been accounted for by supposing a commingling of the two genealogies, or one common primitive legend in two forms (Ewald, Knobel). But—

1. The similarity of the names does not necessarily imply the identity of the persons. Cf. Korah in the families of Levi (Exodus 6:21) and Esau (Genesis 36:5); Hanoch in those of Reuben (eh. Genesis 46:9) and Midian (Genesis 25:4); Kenaz in those of Esau (Genesis 36:11) and Judah (Numbers 32:12).

2. The similarity of the names only proves that the two collateral branches of the same family did not keep entirely apart.

3. The paucity of names at that early period may have led to their repetition.

4. The names in the two lines are only similar, not identical (cf. with Irad, Jared, descent; with Mehujael, Mahalaleel, praise of God; with Methusael, Methuselah, man of the sword).

5. The particulars related of Enoch and Lamech in the line of Seth forbid their identification with those of the same name in the line of Cain.

Genesis 4:19

And Lamech took unto him two wives. Being the first polygamist of whom mention is made, the first by whom "the ethical aspect of marriage, as ordained by God, was turned into the lust of the eye and lust of the flesh" (Keil). Though afterwards permitted because of the hardness of men's hearts, it was not so from the beginning. This was "a new evil, without even the pretext that the first wife had no children, which held its ground until Christianity restored the original law—Matt, Genesis 19:4-6" (Inglis). The names of Lamech's wives were suggestive of sensual attractions. The name of the one Adah, the Adorned (Gesenius), and the name of the other Zillah, the shady or the tinkling (Keil), the musical player (Lange), the shadow (Wordsworth). "Did Lamech choose a wife to gratify the eye with loveliness? and was he soon sated with that which is so short-lived as beauty, and then chose another wife in addition to Adah? But a second wife is hardly a wife; she is only the shadow of a wife" (ibid.).

Genesis 4:20

And Adah bare Jabal. Either the Traveler or the Producer, from yabhal, to flow; poetically, to go to walk; hiphil, to produce; descriptive, in the one case, of his nomadic life, in the other of his occupation or his wealth. He was the fatherav, father; used of the founder of a family or nation (Genesis 10:21), of the author or maker of anything, especially of the Creator'(Job 38:28), of the master or teacher of any art or science (Genesis 4:21)—of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. Mikneh, literally, possession, from kanah, to acquire, as in Genesis 4:1; hence cattle, as that was the primitive form of wealth (cf. pecus, pecunia); by which may be meant that Jabal was the first nomad who introduced the custom of living in tents, and pasturing and breeding not sheep merely, but larger quadrupeds as well, for the sake of wealth.

Genesis 4:21

And his brother's name was Jubal. Player on an instrument, the musician. Cf. jobel, an onomatopoetic word signifying jubilum, a joyful sound. Cf. Greek, ὀλολυìζειν ἀλαλαìζειν; Latin, ululare; Swedish, iolen; Dutch, ioelen; German, juchen (Geseuius). He was the father of all such as handle the harp. The kinnor, a stringed instrument, played on by the plectrum according to Josephus ('Ant.,' 7, 12, 3), but in David's time by the hand (1 Samuel 16:23; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9), corresponding to the modern lyre. Cf. κινυìρα κιννυìρα, cithara; German, knarren; so named either from its tremulous, stridulous sound (Gesenius), or from its bent, arched form (Furst). And the organ. 'Ugabh, from a root signifying to breathe or blow (Gesenius), or to make a lovely sound (Furst); hence generally a wind instrument—tibia, ftstula, syrinx; the shepherd's reed or bagpipe (Keil); the pipe or flute (Onkelos); the organon, i.e. an instrument composed of many pipes (Jerome). Kalisch discovers a fitness in the invention of musical instruments by the brother of a nomadic herdsman, as it is "in the happy leisure of this occupation that music is generally first exercised and appreciated." Murphy sees an indication of the easy circumstances of the line of Cain; Candlish, "an instance of the high cultivation which a people may often possess who are altogether irreligious and ungodly;" Bonar, a token of their deepening depravity—"it is to shut God out that these Cainites devise the harp and the organ."

Genesis 4:22

And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain. Worker in brass or iron;related to Persian, tupal, iron dross (Gesenius, Rodiger, Delitzsch). Keil and Furst think this Persian root cannot be regarded as the proper explanation of the name. Furst suggests that the tribe may have been originally named Tubal, and known as inventors of smith-work and agricultural implements, and that Cain may have been afterwards added to them to identify them as Cainites (vide 'Lex. sub hem.'). The name Tubal, like the previous names Jabal and Jubal, is connected with the root yabal, to flow, and probably was indicative of the general prosperity of the race. Their ancestor was specially distinguished as an instructor (literally, a whetter) of every artificer (instrument, LXX. ,Vulgate, Kalisch) in brass (more correctly copper) and iron בַּרְזֶל, according to Gesenius a quadrilateral from the Genesis בְּרַן, to transfix, with ל appended; according to Furst out of בָּזֶל, from בָּזַל, to be hard, by resolving the dagesh into r. And the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah—the lovely. Considering. the general significance of names, we shall scarcely go astray if with Kalisch we find in the name of the sister of Tubal-cain, "the beautiful," as compared with that of Adam's wife, "the living," a growing symptom of the degeneracy of the times. Beauty, rather than helpfulness, was now become the chief attraction in woman. Men selected wives for their lovely forms and faces rather than for their loving and pious hearts. The reason for the introduction of Naamah's name into the narrative commentators generally are at a loss to discover. Ingiis with much ingenuity connects it with the tragedy which some see in the lines that follow.

Genesis 4:23, Genesis 4:24

And Lamech said unto his wives. The words have an archaic simplicity which bespeak a high antiquity, naturally fall into that peculiar form of parallelism which is a well-known characteristic of Hebrew poetry, and on this account, as welt as from the subject, have been aptly denominated The Song of the Sword.

Adah and gillah, Hear my voice;
Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech:
For I have slain a mum to my wounding (for my wound),
And a young man to my hurt (because of my strife).
If (for) Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Truly (and) Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

Origen wrote two whole books of his commentary on Genesis on this song, and at last pronounced it inexplicable. The chief difficulty in its exegesis concerns the sense in which the words כִּי הָרַגְתִּי are to be taken.

1. If the verb be rendered as a preterit (LXX; Vulgate, Syriac, Kalisch, Murphy, Alford, Jamieson, Luther), then Lamech is represented as informing his wives that in self-defense he has slain a young man who wounded him (not two men, as some read), but that there is no reason to apprehend danger on that account; for if God had promised to avenge Cain sevenfold, should any one kill him, he, being not a willful murderer, but at worst a culpable homicide, would be avenged seventy and sevenfold.

2. If the verb be regarded as a future (Aben Ezra, Calvin, Kiel, Speaker's. "The preterit stands for the future … (4) In protestations and assurances in which the mind of the speaker views the action as already accomplished, being as good as done"—Gesenius, 'Hebrews Gram.,'§ 126), then the father of Tubal-cain is depicted as exulting in the weapons which his son's genius had invented, and with boastful arrogance threatening death to the first man that should injure him, impiously asserting that by means of these same weapons he would exact upon his adversary a vengeance ten times greater than that which had been threatened against the murderer of Cain. Considering the character of the speaker and the spirit of the times, it is probable that this is the correct interpretation.

3. A third interpretation proposes to understand the words of Lamech hypothetically, as thus:—"If I should slay a man, then," &c. (Lunge, Bush); but this does not materially differ from the first, only putting the case conditionally, which the first asserts categorically.

4. A fourth gives to כִּי the force of a question, and imagines Lamech to be assuring his wives, who are supposed to have been apprehensive of some evil befalling their husband through the use of Tubal-cain's dangerous weapons, that there was no cause for their anxieties and alarms, as he had not slain a man, that he should be wounded, or a young man, that he should be hurt; but this interpretation, it may be fairly urged, is too strained to be even probably correct.

Genesis 4:25, Genesis 4:26

The narrative now reverts to the fortunes of the doubly saddened pair. And Adam knew his wife again. Having mournfully abstained for a season a thro conjugali (Calvin); not necessarily implying that Adam and Eve had not other children who had grown to man's estate prior to the death of Abel (cf. Genesis 5:4). And she bare a son, and called his name Seth. Sheth, from shith, to put or place; hence appointed, put, compensation. For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed—semen singulars (Calvin); filium, Eve having borne daughters previously (Onkelos, Jonathon, Dathe, Rosenmüller)—instead of Abel. Her other children probably had gone in the way of Cain, leaving none to carry on the holy line, till this son was born, whom in faith she expects to be another Abel in respect of piety, but, unlike him, the head of a godly family (Calvin). Whom Cain slew. Literally, for Cain killed him (Kalisch). The A. V. follows the LXX; ὁν ἀπεìκτεινε καιÌν, and has the. Support of Gesenius, who renders כִּי=אַשֶׁר. (see 'Lax. sub nom.'); of Rosenmüller, who says, "Conjunctio enim causalis כִּי saepius pro relative pronomine usurpatur," quoting, though without much aptness, Psalms 71:15 (com. in loco); and of Sal. Glass, who supplies several so-called examples of the relative force of כִּי, every one of which is perfectly intelligible by translating the particle as quia ('Sac. Philippians, 3.2, 15.); and of Stanley Leathes ('Hebrews Gram.,' Genesis 12:16). There seems, however, no sufficient reason for departing from the ordinary casual signification of the particle. Furst does not recognize the meaning which Gesenius attaches to כִּי, And to Seth, to him also there was born a son. Thus the expectations of Eve concerning her God-given son were not disappointed, but realized in the commencement and continuance of a godly line. The pious father of this succeeding child, however, had either begun to realize the feebleness and weakness of human life, or perhaps to be conscious of the sickly and infirm state in which religion then was. And he called his (son's) name Enos. Enosh, "man" (Gesenius); "mortal, decaying man" (Furst); "man, sickly" (Murphy). Then began men. Literally, it was begun. Huchal third preterite hophal of chalal (Greek, χαλαìω λυìω), to open a way. Hence "the literal sense of the word is, a way was now opened up, and an access afforded, to the worship of God, in the particular manner here described" (Wordsworth). To call upon the name of the The Lord. Either

(1) to invoke by prayer the name of Jehovah, i.e. Jehovah himself as he had been pleased to discover his attributes and character to men, referring to the formal institution of public worship. "The expression is elsewhere used to denote all the appropriate acts and exercises of the stated worship of God—Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:4; Genesis 21:33; 1 Chronicles 16:8; Psalms 105:1" (Bush). Or

(2) to call themselves by the name of Jehovah—cf. Numbers 32:42; Judges 18:29; Psalms 49:12; Isaiah 44:5 (margin). Other renderings need only be mentioned to be set aside.

(a) Then began men profanely to call upon the name of God (Onkelos, Jonathan, Josephus), referring to the institution of idolatry.

(b) Then men became so profane as to cease to call (Chaldee Targum).

(c) Then he hoped to call upon the name of the Lord; ου}toj h!lpisen e)pikalei=sqai to_ o!noma Kuri&on tou= qeou= (LXX).

(d) Then the name Jehovah was for the first time invoked (Cajetan), which is disproved by Genesis 4:3.


Genesis 4:17-26

The progress of the race.

I. ITS INCREASE IN POPULATION. Starting from a single pair in Eden, in the course of seven generations the human family must have attained to very considerable dimensions. At the birth of Seth, Adam was 130 years old, and in all probability had other sons and daughters- besides Cain and his wife. If Lamech, the seventh from Adam in the line of Cain, was contemporaneous with Enoch, the seventh from Adam in the line of Seth, at least 600 years had passed away since the race began to multiply; and "if Abraham's stock in lease than 400 years amounted to 600,000, Cain's posterity in the like time might arise to the like multitude" (Wilier). If to these the descendants of Seth be added, it will at once appear that the earth's population in the time of Lamech was considerably over 1,000,000 of inhabitants. Let it remind us of the reality and power of God's blessing (Genesis 1:28).

II. ITS ADVANCEMENT IN INTELLIGENCE, "It is a curious fact that while all modern writers admit the great antiquity of man, most of them maintain the very recent development of his intellect, and will hardly contemplate the possibility of men equal in mental capacity to ourselves having existed in prehistoric (?) times". For prehistoric write antediluvian, and the sentiment is exactly true. The circumstance that we have no remains of antediluvian civilization is no sufficient evidence that such did not exist. Speaking of certain earthworks of great antiquity that have been discovered in the Mississippi valley, camps, or works of defense, sacred enclosures, with their connected groups of circles, octagons, squares, ellipses, polished and ornamented pottery, &c.,—the same distinguished writer says. "The important thing for us is, that when North America was first settled by Europeans, the Indian tribes inhabiting it had no knowledge or tradition of any races preceding themselves of higher civilization. Yet we find that such races existed; that they must have been populous, and have lived under some established government; while there are signs that they practiced agriculture greatly, as indeed they must have done to have supported a population capable of executing such gigantic works in such vast profusion." The exhumation by Dr. Schliemann on the plains of Troy of three successive civilizations, of which two were not known to have previously existed, and the third (the Ilium of Homer) had been almost regarded by archeologists as fabulous, is conclusive demonstration that the absence of all traces of primeval civilization is no more a proof that such civilization did not exist, than is the absence of all traces of the third day's vegetation a proof that it did not exist. The passage under consideration unmistakably reveals that the human intellect in those early times was not asleep. Within the compass of ten verses we read of the building of cities, of the laying out of farms and the acquisition of property, of the beginning of the mechanical arts and the manufacture of metallic weapons, of the rise of music and the cultivation of poetry. It may strike one as peculiar that this great intellectual development is represented as taking place exclusively in the line of Cain. From this some have inferred that the Bible means to throw disparagement upon human industry, commercial and agricultural enterprise, and all kinds of mechanical and inventive genius, and even sanctions the idea that religion is incompatible with business talent, poetical genius, and intellectual greatness. There is however, no reason to suppose that this advancement in intelligence was confined to the Cainitic branch of the Adamic race. The prophecy of Enoch (vide Expos.) and the incidental allusion to metallic weapons in the name of Methuselah (man of the dart) suggest that the Sethitic line kept pace with their ungodly contemporaries in the onward march of civilization, though that was not their chief distinction. Let us learn—

1. That there is no essential antagonism between intelligence and piety.

2. That in God's estimation righteousness is of much higher value than material prosperity.

3. That where, as in the Cainitic line, there is no true godliness-there is apt to be too intense devotion to culture or business.


1. We can trace it in their names. Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, Lamech being suggestive of qualities, principles, characteristics such as are approved by the spirit of worldliness; and Adah and Zillah (vide Expos.) being indicative of sensual attractions.

2. Their works proclaim it. It would be wrong to say that cities are necessarily evil things. On the contrary, they are magnificent monuments of man's constructive genius, and immensely productive of man's comfort. A city too is a type of heaven's gathering of redeemed humanity. Still it cannot be doubted that the need for cities was a proof of sin, as the building of the first city was an act of sin. The acquisition of property, and the uprise of such ideas as the rights of property, are likewise indications of a state of life that is not purely innocent (cf. Acts 4:32). And though certainly it cannot be sinful either to make or to handle a harp, or to cultivate poetry, yet when we put all these things together—beautiful wives, iron weapons, musical instruments, and warlike ballads, if not bacchanalian songs—it is not difficult to perceive a deepening of that devotion to the things of this life which invariably proclaims a departure from the life of God.

3. Their immoral lives attest it. A growing disregard for the marriage law is evinced by the polygamy of Lamech; in the manufacture and use of offensive weapons we see the rising of a turbulent and lawless spirit; and these two things, licentiousness and lawlessness, always mark the downward progress of an age or people.

IV. ITS PROGRESS IN RELIGION; at least in a section of its population, the godly line of Seth, in whom the piety of Abel was revived. Yet the narrative would seem to indicate that even they were not entirely free from the prevailing wickedness of the times. In the third generation the pressure of the worldly spirit upon the company of the faithful was so great that they felt obliged, as it were, in self-defense, to buttress their piety by a double wall of protection; viz; separation from their ungodly associates in the world by the formation of a distinct religious community, and by the institution of stated social worship (Genesis 4:26). And without these declension in true religion is as certain as with them advancement is secure. They are the New Testament rules for the cultivation of piety (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 4:11-13; Hebrews 10:25).


1. The downward progress of sin.

2. The danger of intellect and civilization when divorced from piety.

3. The only right use of earth and earthly things is to make all subservient to the life of grace.

4. The danger of conformity to the world.

5. The only safety for the people of God, and especially in these times of great intellectual activity and mechanical and scientific skill, is to make deep and wide the line of distinction between them and the world, and steadfastly to maintain the public as well as private ordinances of religion.


Genesis 4:16-24

The kingdom of God contrasted with the kingdom of this world.

Society without the Lord. The banished Cain and his descendants.

I. MULTIPLICATION apart from Divine order is no blessing.

II. CIVILIZATION without religion is a chaos of conflicting forces, producing violence, bloodshed, working out its own ruin. Compare France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Arts of life may grow from a mere natural root. Music, mechanical skill, scientific discovery, and invention, in themselves contain no moral life. Luxury turns to corruption, and so to misery.

III. RELIGION IS THE BASIS OF SOCIAL PROSPERITY. It is the true defense against the "inhumanity of man." Lamech, with his artificial protection against violent revenge, suggests the true safety in the presence of the Lord and observance of his commandments.—R.

Genesis 4:25, Genesis 4:26

Revelation in history.

The reappearance of the redeeming purpose. The consecrated family of Adam. The Divinely blessed line of descent preserved leading onward to the fulfillment of the first promise. "Then begat, men to call upon the name of Jehovah."

I. THE COMMENCEMENT OF REGULAR WORSHIP, possibly of distinct Church life.

1. The name of the Lord is the true center of fellowship—including revelation, redemption, promise.

2. The pressure of outward calamity and danger, the multiplication of the unbelievers, the necessary separation from an evil world, motives to call upon God.

II. RENOVATION AND RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGIOUS LIFE WORKS OUT GOD'S BLESSING ON THE RACE. The separated seed bears the promise of the future. See the repetition of the message of grace in the names of the descendants of Seth, "the appointed."

II. The worship which was maintained by men was ENCOURAGED AND DEVELOPED BY REVELATIONS and special communications from Jehovah. Probably there were prophets sent. Methuselah, taking up the ministry of Enoch, and himself delivering the message to Noah, the preacher of righteousness. It is the method of God throughout all the dispensations to meet men's call upon his name with gracious manifestations to them.

IV. THE PERIOD OF AWAKENED RELIGIOUS LIFE and of special messengers, culminating in the long testimony and warning of Noah~ preceded the period of outpoured judgment. So it is universally. There is no manifestation of wrath which does not vindicate righteousness. He is long-suffering, and waits. He sends the spirit of life first. Then the angel of death.—R.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Genesis 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/genesis-4.html. 1897.
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