Parent Category: Bible
And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand -- Genesis 4:11.
God's judgements will be visited upon those who are seeking to oppress and destroy His people. His long forbearance with the wicked emboldens men in transgression, but their punishment is nonetheless certain and terrible because it is long delayed. "The Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim, He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act." Isaiah 28:21. To our merciful God the act of punishment is a strange act. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Ezekiel 33:11. The Lord is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Yet He will "by no means clear the guilty." The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked." Exodus 34:6, 7; Nahum 1:3. By terrible things in righteousness He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. The severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the Lord's reluctance to execute justice. The nation with which He bears long, and which He will not smite until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity in God's account, will finally drink the cup of wrath unmixed with mercy.
When Christ ceases His intercession in the sanctuary, the unmingled wrath threatened against those who worship the beast and his image and receive his mark (Revelation 14:9, 10), will be poured out. The plagues upon Egypt when God was about to deliver Israel were similar in character to those more terrible and extensive judgements which are to fall upon the world just before the final deliverance of God's people. Says the revelator, in describing those terrific scourges: "There fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image." The sea "became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea." And "the rivers and fountains of waters . . . became blood." Terrible as these inflictions are, God's justice stands fully vindicated. The angel of God declares: "Thou art righteous, O Lord, . . . because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." Revelation 16:2-6. By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands. In like manner Christ declared the Jews of His time guilty of all the blood of holy men which had been shed since the days of Abel; for they possessed the same spirit and were seeking to do the same work with these murderers of the prophets -- Great Controversy, pp. 627, 628.
When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth -- Genesis 4:12.
Love no less than justice demanded that for this sin judgement should be inflicted. God is the guardian as well as the sovereign of His people. He cuts off those who are determined upon rebellion, that they may not lead others to ruin. In sparing the life of Cain, God had demonstrated to the universe what would be the result of permitting sin to go unpunished. The influence exerted upon his descendants by his life and teaching led to the state of corruption that demanded the destruction of the whole world by a flood. The history of the antediluvians testifies that long life is not a blessing to the sinner; God's great forbearance did not repress their wickedness. The longer men lived, the more corrupt they became.
So with the apostasy at Sinai. Unless punishment had been speedily visited upon transgression, the same results would again have been seen. The earth would have become as corrupt as in the days of Noah. Had these transgressors been spared, evils would have followed, greater than resulted from sparing the life of Cain. It was the mercy of God that thousands should suffer, to prevent the necessity of visiting judgements upon millions. In order to save the many, He must punish the few. Furthermore, as the people had cast off their allegiance to God, they had forfeited the divine protection, and, deprived of their defence, the whole nation was exposed to the power of their enemies. Had not the evil been promptly put away, they would soon have fallen a prey to their numerous and powerful foes. It was necessary for the good of Israel, and also as a lesson to all succeeding generations, that crime should be promptly punished. And it was no less a mercy to the sinners themselves that they should be cut short in their evil course. Had their life been spared, the same spirit that led them to rebel against God would have been manifested in hatred and strife among themselves, and they would eventually have destroyed one another. It was in love to the world, in love to Israel, and even to the transgressors, that crime was punished with swift and terrible severity -- Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 325, 326.
And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear -- Genesis 4:13.
A divine curse had already been visited upon the serpent and the ground (ch. 3:14, 17); now for the first time it falls on man. The Hebrew phrase rendered in the KJV, thou art "cursed from the earth," may with equal accuracy be translated as a comparative, "Thou art more cursed than the earth." Some commentators have understood this text to mean that Cain was banished to a less fertile region. The context (vs. 12, 14) seems to favour this explanation, or perhaps the idea that because Cain had misused the fruits of the ground God would no longer permit him to gain his livelihood by tilling the soil. A wanderer in the earth (vs. 14, 16), whether shepherd or nomad, cannot be a successful farmer.
Cain was doomed to a life of perpetual wandering in order to secure food for himself, his family, and his beasts. Having been compelled to drink innocent blood, the earth rebelled, as it were, against the murderer; and when he should till it, it would withhold its strength. Cain was to have but little reward for his labour. Similarly, at a later time, the land of Canaan is said to have "spued out" the Canaanites on account of their abominations (Lev. 18:28).
The divine sentence turned Cain's truculence into despair. Though Cain deserved the death penalty, a merciful and patient God gave him further opportunity for repentance and conversion. But instead of repenting, Cain complained of his punishment as being more severe than he deserved. No word of sorrow came from his lips, not even a recognition of guilt or of shame, nothing but the sad resignation of a criminal who realises he is powerless to escape the penalty he so justly deserves -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, [Genesis 4:11-13].
Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me -- Genesis 4:14.
Cain knew that he was to be cut off, not only from the blessings of the earth, but, by his own choice, from all contract with God as well.
Cain despaired of his own life, in fear that the curse of God meant the withdrawal of divine restraint from those who might seek to avenge Abel's blood. A guilty conscience warned him that he deserved to die and that henceforth his own life was in danger. But the death penalty, his due, was commuted to banishment for life. Instead of being imprisoned he was to be shut out from every happy, normal association with his fellow men, and, by his own choice, from God. He who had taken his brother's life saw in his fellow creatures his own prospective executioners -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, [Genesis 4:14].
Upon receiving the curse of God, Cain had withdrawn from his father's household. . . . He had gone out from the presence of the Lord, cast away the promise of the restored Eden, to seek his possessions and enjoyment in the earth under the curse of sin, thus standing at the head of that great class of men who worship the god of this world. In that which pertains to mere earthly and material progress, his descendants became distinguished. But they were regardless of God, and in opposition to His purposes for man.
In sparing the life of Cain the murderer, God gave the world an example of what would be the result of permitting the sinner to live to continue a course of unbridled iniquity. Through the influence of Cain's teaching and example, multitudes of his descendants were led into sin, until "the wickedness of man was great in the earth," and "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." -- Conflict and Courage, p. 27.
And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him -- Genesis 4:15.
It is not entirely clear what antecedent idea is intended by this word. The RSV, following the LXX, the Syriac, and the Vulgate, renders it, "Not so!" In other words, to Cain's declaration, "Every one that findeth me shall slay me," God replied, "Not so!"
This [vengeance] implies a most severe penalty upon anyone murdering Cain (see Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28; Ps. 79:12; Prov. 6:31). Special protection was granted him in harmony with the principle, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). The tares must grow together with the wheat; the fruits of sin must be permitted to reach maturity, in order that the character of its seed may be manifest. The lives of Cain and his descendants were to be exhibits of the outworking of sin in rational beings.
Some commentators have seen in this mark an outward sign attached to Cain's person, whereas others believe that he received a sign from God as a divine pledge that nothing would endanger his life. Whatever it was, it was not a sign of God's forgiveness but only of temporal protection.
He felt neither remorse nor repentance, but only the heavy burden of God's displeasure. He left the divine presence, probably never to return, and began his life as a wanderer in the land of Nod, to the east of Eden. This antediluvian land, whose name means "wandering," "flight," or "exile," became the home of the godless descendants of Cain -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, [Genesis 4:15, 16].