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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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The derivation of this word is disputed; but it probably signifies an acquisition or possession. Some degree of mystery attends the immediate origin of the horrible crime of Cain. Abel, it appears, brought two offerings, the one an oblation, the other a sacrifice. Cain brought but the former—a mere acknowledgment, it is supposed, of the sovereignty of God; neglecting to offer the sacrifice which would have been a confession of fallen nature, and, typically, an atonement for sin. It was not, therefore, the mere difference of feeling with which the two offerings were brought which constituted the virtue of the one, or the guilt of the other brother. God's righteous indignation against sin had been plainly revealed; and there can be no doubt that the means of safety, of reconciliation and atonement, were as plainly made known to Adam and his offspring. The refusal, therefore, of the sacrifice was a virtual denial of God's right to condemn the sinner, and at the same time a proud rejection of the proffered means of grace.

The punishment which attended the crime was such as could only be inflicted by an Almighty avenger. It admitted of no escape, scarcely of any conceivable alleviation. Cursed from the earth himself, the earth was doomed to a double barrenness wherever the offender should set his foot. Physical want and hardship, therefore, were among the first of the miseries heaped upon his head. Next came those of mind and conscience: 'The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground,' was the announcement of his discovered guilt. He could now hear that same voice himself; nor did any retreat remain to him from the terrors of his own soul or those of Divine vengeance. By the statement that 'Cain went out from the presence of the Lord,' probability is given to the conjecture which represents him as abiding, till thus exiled, in some favored spot where the Almighty still, by visible signs, manifested Himself to His fallen creatures. The expression of dread lest, as he wandered over the face of the earth, he might be recognized and slain, has an awful sound when falling from the mouth of a murderer. But he was to be protected against the wrath of his fellow-men; and of this God gave him assurance, not by setting a mark upon him, which is a false translation, but by appointing a sign or token which he himself might understand as a proof that he should not perish by the hand of another, as Abel had perished by his.

It may be worthy of observation, that especial mention is made of the fact, that Cain having traveled into the land of Nod there built a city; and further, that his descendants were chiefly celebrated for their skill in the arts of social life. In both accounts may probably be discovered the powerful struggles with which Cain strove to overcome the difficulties which attended his position as one to whom the tillage of the ground was virtually prohibited.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Cain'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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