Cain Arose Against His Brother: Genesis 4:8

Cain arose against Abel (3)

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8) Gen 4:8: Here we reach the center of the chiasm in the account of Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1–16). Thus, the central focus falls upon the two brothers standing alone.[1]

In contrast to the long dialogues on either end of the story, this section tersely describes what occurred.[2]

Depictions of Cain struggling with his conscience or considering the consequences of his actions are strikingly absent. Instead, Moses portrayed his act as the outrageous result of consuming jealousy.[3]

The repetition of “his brother” magnifies the horror of the event.[4]

Only one generation after the fall (Gen 3:1–7; Gen 3:22–4:1), the first case of sibling rivalry proved deadly.[5]



The verse begins with “And Cain said to Abel his brother,” then omits what Cain communicated. It skips right to “And it happened, while they were in the field, Cain arose against Abel his brother, and he killed him.”

That Cain went out to the field to find his brother strongly suggests premeditation.[6] He vented his anger toward God on the most likely scapegoat.[7]

The fractured relationship between husband and wife now extended to their offspring (Gen 3:12, 16).[8]

“Killed” (hāragh) implies private, ruthless violence.[9]

Such activity lies at the extreme of what the sixth commandment forbids,[10] for Exod 20:13 employs a term (rātsakh) which includes the possibility of manslaughter.[11]

Cain rejected the one whom the Lord accepted, instead of acknowledging God’s rebuke and repenting (Gen 4:6–7). Yet, this only increased his torment.

He dealt with Abel by exterminating him, but what could he do with God?[12]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 4:8. What do you think Cain was trying to accomplish by killing his brother? Do you see similar tendencies in yourself?



Go to Transcending the Law (Matt 5:21‒22)

[Related posts include A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Hiding from God (Gen 3:8); A Day of Reckoning (Gen 3:9–13); An Anguishing Process (Gen 3:16); A Return to the Ground (Gen 3:19); Eve Acquires a Man (Gen 4:1); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Sin Lies Stretched Out (Gen 4:6‒7); Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10); Cursed from the Ground (Gen 4:11‒14); Banished from God’s Presence (Gen 4:15‒16); and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]


[1] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 106.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 99.

[3] Walton, Genesis, 264.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 106.

[5] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 98.

[6] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 106.

[7] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 230.

[8]H. F. Fuhs, “הָרַג” (hāragh) in TDOT, 3:454–7, 454.

[9] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “הָרַג” (hāragh), BDB, 246–7,

[10] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 230.

[11]W. R. Domeris, “רָצַח” (rātsakh) in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE), 5 Vols. (Willem A. Van Gemeren, ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), 3:1189.

[12] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 230.