In Genesis 4:9-26, we see the results of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, and God’s response for this sin. It is important to note in this account the fact that Cain refused to confess his sin when God confronted him. The results were catastrophic for this man. Therefore, our theme in this chapter is unconfessed sin, and the results it brings to all of our lives. The Scripture declares, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.’ And Cain said to the LORD, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him’” (Gen. 4:9-15).
God confronts Cain.
Note how God confronted Cain’s murder of his brother, and the obvious rebellion in his heart toward God who questioned him. God asks, “where is your brother, and what have you done Cain?” He responds, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Does God ask this question because He doesn’t know what Cain has done? Of course not. God knew exactly what Cain had done, because He immediately tells Cain that his brother’s blood is crying out to Him from the ground. God asked Cain this question to confront him with his sin, so he would be convicted of what he had done and hopefully repent. This is God’s job to confront men with their sin. It has always been His job, and it will always be His job to convict men of their sin. To gain a right relationship with God men must see their sin, their need for righteousness, and understand the judgment that is coming if they will not repent. Today God is still confronting men with their sin through the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8).
Confronting sin is also your job as a Christian! We confront sin in our children as parents when we know our children have done something wrong. We usually ask them the same question, “What have you done?” Many times, the response is, “Nothing! I don’t know what you are talking about.” Just as God, we take this line of questioning with our children hoping to bring some sense of conviction and honesty within their hearts. We are seeking exactly what God was seeking, honesty and truth. This is exactly what God was seeking from Cain’s heart, but He didn’t receive anything close to honesty from this man.
Why is honesty and confession so important to the Lord? God has said, “He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). God wants to dispense mercy, but we can only experience His mercy when we confess and forsake our sins. In the New Testament we are also promised, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). All God wants us to do is to be honest with Him and confess and agree with Him that we have sinned, and we can be forgiven and experience His mercy. What an incredible opportunity is that! But Cain didn’t avail himself of God’s mercy, which then brought God’s judgment. In addition, notice how arrogantly Cain responded to the Lord. Cain is basically saying to God, “Who are You to ask me this question? Am I supposed to be keeping track of all my brother’s affairs?” The lesson here is simple; don’t respond to God by arrogantly lying to Him. Humble yourself and acknowledge your sins, and God will forgive and have mercy on you. Don’t miss out on this great grace from God.
Cain boldly lies to God.
When Cain boldly declared to God, “I don’t know where my brother is,” he was arrogantly lying to God. You would think that Cain would have known better than to try to lie to the God of heaven and earth, because He knows everything about everyone. Yet, Cain still thought he could get away with this lie, or his heart was so hard that he could care less about lying to God. Consequently, this lie reveals another important lesson to us, that one sin begets another, and another, and another, unless we confess our sins and get right with God. This is really an important insight that you should gain from the Scripture. When sin remains unconfessed it becomes progressive. Solomon declared this truth in Proverbs 14:5 when he wrote, “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies.” Notice Solomon’s use of the plural word, lies. A false witness will utter one lie after another. Lying is a fundamental cause of the destruction in all relationships. Why? Because truth is the most important foundation of any relationship. I have dealt with this problem many times in counseling, especially in marriages where a spouse is lying. They are caught in a lie, but they will not admit it and ask for forgiveness. The result is that the trust level in that relationship becomes non-existent. Trust is the basis of all relationships with other people. If you can’t trust someone’s word, then you can’t trust them. If you can’t trust them, then you can’t have a relationship with them. This is why in Colossians 3:9 Paul declared, “Do not lie to one another, since we have put off the old man with his deeds.” If you truly are a believer in Christ, you must put off lying, because this is a part of your old sinful nature.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?”
There is one more thing in this exchange between God and Cain that is important to see. The question by Cain to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper,” is quite revealing. We have all heard this phrase used by people many times, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It is most often used when a person flippantly rejects being called to account for why they haven’t helped another person. They respond with the same attitude as Cain did. So, I ask you how should you respond when someone makes this statement? The question you must first ask yourself is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Should you be concerned at all about your brother’s need? Do you have any responsibility concerning your brother’s struggles? I would assert that you do have a responsibility with anyone you have relationship with, or who you see has a need. Note what the Scripture declares in Deuteronomy 15:11 when God speaks about the poor and the needy. He declared, “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” In the New Testament the Apostle John wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18). Why should you obey this command? Because you are your brother’s keeper! If God is concerned about the poor and needy, you should also be just as concerned about their needs. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” So, the way I treat the least among society, is the way I treat Jesus. Now obviously, you alone cannot care for all the poor in this world, but you can help someone, or at least contribute to an organization that does help people in need. God sees the poor and needy of this world as very important to Him. Men look at the rich and famous as the important people of this world, but God sees it just the opposite. Therefore, think about how you see the needy of this world, and ask God what you should do to help them.
God’s curse upon Cain. Vs. 11-15
In verses 11-15, God placed a curse upon Cain. Why did God pronounce this judgment upon him? It was because he refused to repent and confess his sin. Whenever someone experiences God’s curse upon them it is always the result of unconfessed sin (John 3:36). Remember the verse we already covered in this study, “He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). This is why God speaks nothing but judgment upon Cain. It is also important to note that there is nothing in the Scripture that ever gives us any indication that Cain repented, nor did many of his children after him. We will see from later verses that some of the children that come forth from Cain’s line continue to live in rebellion against the Lord. The glorious thing is that the other children from Adam and Eve turn away from Cain’s rebellion and follow the Lord.
The question is always asked, “Could Cain have found forgiveness before God?” Yes, absolutely! How can I be so sure of this fact? Because if anyone will confess their sin and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive them. The Apostle John assured us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The Bible leaves us with this promise in the final message to mankind, “Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Note that word whoever. This means anyone who repents, and desires to find the life that is in God, can have it, if they just come to God. Why? Because God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and find His forgiveness (2 Peter 3:9). So, Cain could have repented at any point in this exchange with God, or afterward, but he did not.
God then tells Cain, “You shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth.” God also told him, “You will till the ground and it will no longer yield its strength.” In other words, instead of the blessing from his farming that he had experienced up to this point, the ground would no longer yield its fruit to him. This would cause Cain to become a vagabond upon the earth, finding no place where he could rest. The word fugitive literally means one who roams without shelter or home. The word vagabond means one who wanders aimlessly moaning in grief. This would not be a pleasant experience for Cain, or any man.
Cain’s response to this curse was, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” This is the first mention in the Bible of the word punishment. The first mention of any truth or concept in the Scripture is very important to note. Punishment and judgment are always the result of sin. If anyone chooses to sin against God, punishment will be the result. It is the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. Solomon taught us that, “He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow” (Prov. 22:8). Paul taught the same thing when he wrote, “For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:8). There is no way around this principle. May each of us take these truths to heart! Whenever punishment and judgment come up in your conversations with others, it is important to always address the question in people’s minds. Does God enjoy punishment and judging people who sin? No! But there must always be a consequence for a person’s sin and rebellion. This is the result that men reap for their rebellion toward God. Cain is upset with God, thinking that his punishment is greater than he could bear; but he had no concept of what his murder of Abel had cost Adam and Eve, and how they would have to bear their loss. Sinful rebellion hurts everyone that it touches. No one is left unscathed. This is why God wants us to obey Him, and love one another.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t immediately put Cain to death for the murder of his brother, or refused to allow anyone else to put him to death? I have questioned this myself each time I have read through this section of Scripture. God later, after the flood of Noah, does allow capital punishment. But was Cain’s punishment actually worse than death? To be a wanderer and find no place of rest in your life, is not something I would want to experience for the rest of my life.
It is also interesting that Cain even rebelled against his punishment of being a vagabond, because he settles down in a city in the land of Nod. In verses 16-17 it declares, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the East of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son—Enoch.” Cain builds a city and he names the city after his son. At this point, when he has Enoch, Cain is living in the land of Nod, which means to wander. Isn’t it interesting that this land was known as the land of the wanderer?
Do you remember what it was like when you were a wanderer with no rest in your soul? You and I were fugitives and alienated from God. We were running from Him and trying to find rest for our souls. Do you remember moaning within yourself at the emptiness of your life? This is the reason I came to faith in Christ after hearing the blessed news that I could be forgiven. This is also what drives me back to Him when I don’t spend that time with Him that I should. It’s what motivates me back to seeking His peace again. People today are looking to drugs and alcohol for relief from the emptiness within their souls. They search for meaning in the pursuit of intellectual things, or aberrant religious paths. I personally looked at every religious system that is out there, and none of them made sense to me. I could not find any peace anywhere. This is exactly what God said will be the plight of those who are far from God. He said through the Prophet Isaiah, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Is. 57:20-21). So, draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. He is the Prince of Peace, and when you put your faith in Him, He will fill you with the power of the Holy Spirit, who will bring peace to your soul.
When you read about a curse upon Cain, this naturally brings up the subject of generational curses. There is much talk today within the church and in various books about generational curses, which are supposedly passed down from one generation to another among believers. Is this a biblical truth found in the Scriptures? No, it is not! Yes, the Bible does talk about men being cursed because of sin, but the fact that a curse can be passed down from a parent to a child is simply not true! For a Christian, who is in Christ, the curse of sin has been dealt with once and for all. That curse was taken once and for all by Christ when He went to the cross. Paul taught in Galatians 3:13, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.').” This is the glorious truth, that Christ became a curse for me that I might be set me free from that curse and every curse.
But you may ask, “Where does this idea of generational curses come from?” It comes from a misunderstanding of several verses of Scripture. Let me explain. In Exodus 20:5, God declares concerning idols that, “You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Note the qualifier, “of those who hate Me.” Usually when people quote this passage, they leave out these words “of those who hate me.” There are four places in the Old Testament where you find this idea of God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. First in the passage Exodus 20:5 which I just quoted, then Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and last in Deuteronomy 5:9. In the first and last references, the phrase, “of those who hate me” is present. In the other two passages it is not found in the text. When people teach this concept of generational curses, they quote the verses where the phrase “of those who hate me” is absent. Why? Because the phrase, “of those who hate me” makes it clear that this has no reference to believers in Christ.
So, what does this phrase mean and how should it be applied correctly? The meaning of the declaration, “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,” is very simple. God is declaring that if the sons hate Him just as their father’s did, then they shall receive the same judgment as their fathers. It is also essential to note the next thing that God declares in the very next verse. God promises also, “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex. 20:6). Obviously, the only person that will experience God’s mercy is the one who loves Him. And if your children love Him as you have loved Him, then He will show them the very same mercy He has given to you.
God has declared over and over again that each person will receive individually from Him based on their faith or unbelief. The proof of this fact is found in Ezekiel 18. There God states in unequivocal terms the law of personal responsibility, when He declares, “‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. ‘But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die’” (Eze. 18:19-24). God could not have said it anymore clearly. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. I encourage you to read and study this entire eighteenth chapter in Ezekiel because of the powerful truth it reveals. Therefore, when you hear this teaching of generational curses, point people to these verses in Ezekiel. Always remember that, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Remember, all things become new. Not just some things, but all things!
The spread of godlessness in civilization. Vs. 16-24
The Scripture declares, “Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son--Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad begot Mehujael, and Mehujael begot Methushael, and Methushael begot Lamech. Then Lamech took for himself two wives: the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal. He was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal. He was the father of all those who play the harp and flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah. Then Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’ And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Gen. 4:16-26).
As you read this account given in these verses, you see there is a divergence between those who call on the name of the LORD, and those who want to rebel against Him. These two groups of people grow side by side, even as they do today. It is important to understand that these verses reveal the beginning of a seed or lineage of Cain, and the seed or lineage of Seth (1 John 3:10-12). One lineage rebelled against God, and the other called on His name.
Where did Cain get his wife?
One of the first questions people ask about this section of Scripture is, “If Cain knew his wife” as it declares in verse 17, where did this woman come from? Why does this question come up? Because it appears from the first four chapters of Genesis that all we have recorded is the birth of Abel and Cain, so where did this woman come from? To answer this question is very simple. All you must do is read on a few more verses to see the account of the genealogy of Adam and see that he had many, “sons and daughters,” whose names are not given in the record (Gen. 5:4). Why would these other children’s names not be listed? Because Scripture only lists the names in the genealogy of the heir to the promise made to Adam and Eve. The proof that these other children were not listed is found in Genesis 5:7; 10; 13; 16; 19; 22; 26; and 30, where you find the same phrase that each individual listed in the genealogy, “had sons and daughters.” This proves that there are many more children that are not specifically listed in the text. This means that Cain married one of his sisters or nieces. At this point in the story of mankind there is no prohibition against taking your sister or niece as your wife. Why? For several reasons. First, the gene pool at this point in the history of man would have been extremely pure. Adam and Eve were created perfect human specimens without defect spiritually, emotionally, physically, and genetically. It was only after the fall of man that defects genetically would have entered into human biology. In addition, when the water canopy that surrounded the earth was removed after the flood of Noah, you will notice that the lifespan of men began to decline, which clearly reveals a further corruption to the gene pool was occurring. You remember I explained this water canopy that surrounded the earth in our study in Genesis 2:5-17, so I would refer you back to that study for a full explanation of this concept. Understanding this corruption of the gene pool of man is what caused the lifespan of men to decline as seen in Genesis 11. Then, after the flood, when God gave the Law to Moses, He instituted the prohibition of marrying one of your close relatives.
The second reason Cain could have married his sister or niece was because of the multitude of women that Cain could have chosen from. All you have to do is consider how many children Adam and Eve could have had if they lived 800+ years? Two healthy parents living in a lush landscape with plenty of food could have had hundreds of children over their lifespan. Then how many children could those hundreds of children have produced? And how many children did those children have? James Ussher did an extensive study on this topic of population growth before the flood of Noah that you would find very interesting. He looked at each generation from Adam, their lifespan, and calculated how many years they each would have produced children. Taking the most conservative estimates of population growth from before the flood, which was approximately 1,656 years from Adam to the flood, Ussher calculated there would probably have been a minimum of 7 billion people on earth. This is approximately the same amount of people that are on the earth right now. Population scientists tell us that in 2021 there were aproximentely134 million births, which is 42 million more births per year than in 1950. That means that every single month there are roughly 11,000,000 individuals born into this world. Every year that number grows by 600,000. Therefore, that means there is a geometric progression in population growth every year. This also means that Cain would have had a large number of women and a large gene pool to choose from when he picked his wife. So, never be fearful of ever answering this question, “Where did Cain get his wife?”
Lamech’s rebellion! Vs. 19-24
In verses 19-24 you read of Lamech, who came from the lineage of Cain, who chose to rebel against monogamy and married two wives. This is the first time polygamy is mentioned in the Scripture, and it is in direct association with his rebellion against God. In the beginning God declared in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife.” One wife was intended for one man. Jesus quotes this same passage in the New Testament reaffirming the fact of God’s intention for one man and one woman in marriage (Matt. 19:4-6). In addition, if God intended many wives for one man, then He would have created Eve, Sue, and Mary to be Adam’s wives, but He didn’t. Now, you may be thinking about the patriarchs, because many of them had more than one wife. Why was that allowed? This was a time which the Bible called a time of ignorance. Paul declared this when he wrote, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). They just simply did not know, or they did not care, or both. Them having more than one wife didn’t make it right, but today all men know and are accountable to God’s revealed Word. Paul made it clear when talking to the leaders of the church that they were to be the “husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:3; 12). Therefore, God’s original intention from the beginning was for one man to have one wife.
In addition, Lamech revealed his rebellion by boasting about the murder of a man whom he declared hurt him. He also blasphemously and arrogantly declared that his punishment toward anyone like this man would not be 7-fold as God said of Cain, but his punishment would be 77-fold. This was clearly a time of rebellion toward God as witnessed by Lamech.
A time of culture and ingenuity.
We are also told in these verses that these were not cave men as some scientists try and teach us today. These were men of intellect and ingenuity, because they built cities, raised livestock, tilled the ground, made music, and crafted tools of iron and bronze. They were sophisticated people, not cave-men. Even anthropologists today teach that men came out of the stone age by the proof of building urban centers or cities, farming and tilling the ground, and the use of different metallurgy techniques in making tools. You must realize that all of these sons of Adam had all of these skills.
Think about this for a moment. Could you make a musical instrument? Could you build a city? Would you know how to fashion bronze by heating and mixing tin and copper together? How long would it have taken for these early men to learn these techniques? Hundreds of thousands of years? No! Evolution needs hundreds of thousands of years. Just consider where we have come from since 1900? From 1900 we went from traveling on a horse, to driving in a car, to flying on a jet, to going to the moon in just 69 years. That is simply amazing when you look at just the progression of technology and the understanding to do all of these things. We didn’t need hundreds of thousands of years to go from riding a horse to going to the moon. The only ingenuity that needs hundreds of thousands of years is evolution. These examples are proof that these early men were not cave-men.
The spread of godliness in civilization.
It is very important to notice the complete change in the storyline recorded for us in verses 25-26. God declared, “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Gen 4:25-26). Instead of the family lineage of Cain, God now records the family lineage of Seth. God shows the total difference in the seed of the serpent through Cain, and the seed of the woman through Seth. Abel was murdered by Cain, and now Seth takes his place. Why is that important? Because God is revealing His plan and election of the family lineage that will trust Him, follow Him, and ultimately bring forth the ultimate Seed of the Woman, the Messiah. He will crush the head of the serpent and the seed of the serpent through Cain. Also, note Adam and Eve’s faith in the naming of Seth, which means, for God. Seth and his family lineage are revealed as men of faith, because the Scripture declares, “Then men began to call on the name of the LORD.”
The word call in this statement is a very interesting Hebrew word. The word call can also be translated to proclaim, to preach, or to read. You can find this word call translated in these different ways in Exodus 33:19, Jonah 3:2, and Exodus 24:7. Therefore, from Seth and his family lineage they began to proclaim, preach, or read to others about the name of the Lord. Many commentators believe that this statement communicates the idea that this is where public worship began. Men began to gather together to tell others about the Lord, or to read about the name of the Lord. If they were reading about the Lord this would mean that Adam had to have begun writing down the storyline of what took place in his creation, life, and fall. They would also have been sharing the message of the Seed of the woman, the Promised One, that would come to deliver them from the seed of the serpent. These are all actions that would come from a behavior and heart of faith. This is why you call on the name of the Lord, because you believe. This is how you got saved, and then you began to call on the name the Lord. Remember that Scripture promises, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). You also read His word because you believe. You proclaim His name to other people because this is a behavior and action of faith. If you want to determine if you are a man or woman of faith, then ask yourself, do you pray? Do you read God’s Word? Do you tell others about Jesus? These are three very clear behaviors that a person of faith will pursue. May God cause you to walk in faith!