c) Gen 4:15–16: Here the narrative of Gen 4:1–16 takes a surprising turn: the Lord granted the murderer a pledge and a protective action.[1]

Although God did not promise that Cain would live, he would render judgment against anyone who killed him.[2]

The number seven denotes a complete cycle.[3]

Therefore, that upon “anyone who kills Cain sevenfold shall vengeance be taken” indicates that God would deliver perfect justice,[4] an act of divine retribution (Ps 79:8–12).[5]

Then “the Lord put on Cain a sign (oth).”[6]

God provided protective clothing for Adam and Eve before sending them out of Eden into a hostile environment (Gen 3:17–18, 21–24). Here he gave their son a safeguard for his new conditions.[7]

The precise nature of this sign remains a subject of tremendous speculation.[8] Marking a slave with a tattoo,[9] or maiming a criminal commonly occurred in the Ancient Near East.[10]

However, Cain’s mark best fits with the sign of preservation which an angel placed upon the heads of innocent people in Jerusalem (Ezek 9:3–6).[11]

Although he was forced from God’s presence, Cain remained under the Lord’s protection.[12]

Moses reported, “And Cain was banished from the presence of the Lord,”[13] just as his parents had been.[14]

He continued, “And he dwelt in the land of Nod.” “Nod” means “Wandering.” This designation reinforced Cain’s sentence to live as a restless outsider (Gen 4:11–14).[15]

Adam and Eve went “east of Eden.” So did their only remaining son.[16]

While Adam and Eve had attempted to become like God (Gen 3:1–7), Cain sought to draw near to God by making an offering (Gen 4:3). However, his demeanor ultimately resulted in banishment from his community as well as from the Lord’s presence (Gen 4:4–8).[17]

Many parallels exist between the accounts of the fall and of Cain and Abel. However, the narrative of the two brothers demonstrates the increasingly brutal effects of sin. In only one generation, Cain’s behavior resulted in even greater alienation of humanity from God.[18]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 4:15-16. How did Cain live in alienation from God and yet with his mercy? Have you ever experienced that?




Go to Children of the Devil


[Related posts include Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); and Their Eyes Are Opened (Gen 3:7); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); Clothed by God (Gen 3:21); Access to the Tree of Life (Gen 3:22); Driven Out (Gen 3:23–24); 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); Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8); Misappropriated Blood (Gen 4:9‒10); Cursed from the Ground (Gen 4:11‒14); Exegesis and Hermeneutics; and Author and Date of Genesis]

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


[1] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 233.

[2] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 165.

[3]Leland Ryken, et al., “Seven,” in Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (DBI) (Downers Grove, IL; Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 774–5.

[4] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 99.

[5] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 109.

[6] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “אוֹת” (oth), BDB, 16, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/16/mode/2up.

[7] Walton, Genesis, 265-6.

[8] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 109.

[9]Mallory Ditchey, “Body Language: Tattooing and Branding in Ancient Mesopotamia,” Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 4, no. 1 (14 March 2017), https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/janeh.ahead-of-print/janeh-2015-0004/janeh-2015-0004.xml.

[10]Theophile J. Meek , “Middle Assyrian Laws,” in ANET, A4, 180, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n205/mode/2up.

[11] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 4:15.

[12] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 235.

[13]Jacob J. Rabinowitz, “The Susa Tablets, the Bible, and the Aramaic Papyri,” VT 11, no. 1 (1 January 1961): 55–76, 56, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/249582516_The_Susa_Tablets_The_Bible_and_The_Aramaic_Papyri.

[14] Alexander, From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch, 133.

[15] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 235.

[16] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17,  227–8.

[17] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 110.

[18]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 100.