The Work of Cain

I’ve come to kinda hate discussing the Garden of Eden story. But I can never resist! What did God know nd when did He know it? Could our first parents have sinned when they didn’t yet know good from evil? It sucks me in every time.

But, if the story of The Fall can be viewed s humans seizing the divine knowledge( which, as God confirms, makes THEM —us—godlike) then what does the Cain story mean?

It’s a strange story: Cain, the first human of woman born, kills his brother. He at first pretends ignorance, then when God reveals He knows all about the deed, he expresses NO contrition, nor even fear. He just starts arguing for mitigation of the sentence.
Which God grants, putting a protective mark on him (we think of the “mark of Cain” as a curse but actually it ws a benison) . And God vows to avenge Cain’s wounding sevenfold.
Then Cain goes off east of Eden, marries, founds a city (man’s first city!) and sires a line of descendants, whoinvent and teach mankind animal husbandry, music, and metallurgy. And we have a paean by one of them, Lamech, the father of the afore-mentioned prodigies, who boasts that he has killed a man who wounded him:

“If Cain shall be avenged seven times ,then Lamech, seventy times seven!”

Why didn’t God just strike Cain dead when He initially confronted him? It strikes me that up till this point God hasn’t killed anyone. Everybody’s living for about 900 years. They WILL die, in the fullness of time, but nobody has been stricken down. Whereas later in the Old Testament, after Cain, God kills people wantonly, starting with the Flood, continuing with the Egyptian plagues, Aaron’s sons, Sennacherib, to name just a few.

Does the Cain story represent humanity’s appropriation to itself of yet ANOTHER theretofore exclusively divine Power: power over human life and death?


It seems to me that humans have been “edging” (to borrow a term from a different realm) the First Commandment for some time. Lately, though, we are brazen about it - including promises of immortality. Maybe Hell is high humidity in the cloud rather than high temp?

I have a question for you, one which has bothered me for some time whenever I read these passages. When Cain went East of Eden, where did the other people come from??


I know, right!?! The Ol’ Sunday school stumper: where did Cain get his wife? If this is right after the expulsion nd before the birth of Seth, there would’ve been only 3 humans in the world.
Well, after Seth, Adam and Eve do have many more children. So it had to be one of his sisters. But the law had not been given yet, so maybe that was ok, like Lot’s daughters. Everybody was living for 8:or 900 years, so there’d have been plenty of time for A & E’s daughters to grow up.

Of course, “thou shalt not kill” hadnt been formally declared, either. It almost seems in Gen. 4 like God is saying to Cain: your mother the earth is really mad at you because you spillled blood on her! I shoulda mentioned murder is forbidden!


The Cain and Abel story seemed to me like a “startup problem”, where God, the founder, hadn’t had enough practice to get good at His job and was just discovering how perverse these beings with free will could be at interpreting things their own way rather than how He might expect them to behave.

Consider Genesis 4:9, “ And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Hello?—did God forget His omniscience? Why is he asking Cain what happened? Perhaps to see if Cain will lie, but then shouldn’t He know that? Then, in the very next verse, Abel’s blood cries out to God. What, didn’t God know?

Then, murder not having come up before, God has to figure out what to do about it, and is surprisingly lenient. This is not the God of Exodus 21:23–25, “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” Instead, Cain is sent wandering and later has a son and founds a city.

It’s like God is learning just how troublesome these creatures with minds of their own can be, not unlike creators of large language models who are embarrassed unto panic when their creations start to speak impolite truths their creators would never utter.

Other examples which seem to me like a God learning on the job are when in Genesis 18:20–33 Abraham dickers with God about how many righteous must be found in Sodom in order to spare the city and negotiates God’s first offer of fifty all the way down to ten. In 18:33, when “the LORD went his way…”, one can imagine Him muttering, “Remind Me not to haggle with that guy in the bazaar”.

Or consider when the burning bush commands Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus 4:10–16 and Moses doesn’t want to take the job, angering God. But Moses negotiates Him down until He appoints Aaron to be Moses’s spokesman in Egypt.

“Start-ups”, God muttered, “It’s like an endless game of Whac-A-Mole.”


It just seems to me tht Cain gets all the blessings God usually hands out in the OT.
Scofield of course tells the big picture: Cain founds a city and cities are evil. His spawn are violent and godless. The passage about the sons of god and the daughters of men doesn’t refer to the watcher angels, but to Cain’s line mixing with Seth’s so everybody gets violent and Gid destroys everybody except Noah, a sethite.
BUT, early Jewish sources say Noah’s wife was Naamah sister of Tubalcain. So we are all descendants of Cain as well as Seth!