The Better Life of Cain: When One Path Ends Another Starts

Cain and Abel #12

In Gen 4:14 Cain, not accepting the consequences of his action, continues to plead for leniency.  This, of course, supports our understanding that in verse 13 he was complaining about his punishment, not admitting guilt. But more than that, this verse teaches us that at times of change, as bleak as our future life may seem, end of one path presents us with new opportunities, often better than those we are leaving behind.  

Table which shows the English translation of Genesis 4:14 where Cain is speaking to God about his future life, next to the original Hebrew Bible text: 14. "Because you expelled me today from the face of the land, and I will be hidden from your face, I would become a wanderer of the land, and if someone found me, they would kill me.

Discussion

There are three points relating to this verse I wish to discuss:

First, what does Cain mean when he says 旨诪执驻指旨谞侄讬讱指, 讗侄住指旨转值专 (and I will be hidden from your face)?

It is common to interpret it as something like: and I must hide myself from You. But does Cain really believe that he can hide from God? And why would he want to hide from God? After all, it is being killed by other people he is worried about.

More than being a wanderer, Cain fears losing the protection of God. He understands that without this protection he will die.  With this understanding, when he says, 旨诪执驻指旨谞侄讬讱指, 讗侄住指旨转值专 he means And you will hide your face from me, and therefore I will not be protected any longer.

This interpretation, in which Cain is aware that God has been his protector, sheds new light on verse 9, as we discussed previously, when he says, Am I the guard of my brother. Now that we know that Cain is aware of the role God plays in protecting him (and probably Abel) it makes it likely that his words were uttered in defiance: Why are you asking me? It is You who is the guard of Abel. Where were you when he needed Your protection?

Second, I am often asked who is Cain worried about?

As the son of Adam and Eve, who are the other people who could kill him?  I think it is a common misconception that Adam and Eve were the only people created by God. The Bible never says that God did not create other people. On the contrary. We do have many hints that they were not the only ones.  This will be a topic for a separate blog post about the creation on man.  

The last point I wish to discuss is life changes.

When Cain realises that his life as a farmer is over, he is not thankful for not getting a harsh punishment, nor for staying alive (he killed Abel, after all. A crime which warranted death punishment) his reaction is of fear and worry, not of gratefulness or looking forward into a new future. Was it this trait of his personality, fear rather than gratefulness that led him to kill Abel, rather than cherish the fact that God spoke to him, giving him the the first commandment and telling him the purpose of his life?

We now know that Cain’s future would turn up to be much brighter than the farming life he was leaving behind. We do not know why God bestowed Cain, a killer, with such a bright future. But the Bible shows us here, once more, that none of us, regardless of our past, knows what awaits us; that every change, every end of path, as frightening as it may seem, is a beginning of a new path that can lead us to much better places.

So let’s not follow Cain heritage, looking back at what we had with fear and regret. Instead, lets remember that the end of one path is an opportunity to change, to grow, and to get ourselves into a better place.

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Mark
Mark
9 months ago

Thank you for an article that shows us the profound wisdom of this Bible verse and how it is related to our behavior. Cain’s words show the first emotions that appear in our mind after doing something wrong. We try to find excuses and blame others for our bad deed.… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Mark
9 months ago

Thanks Mark. As it is clear you already see, every verse of the bible has layers upon layers of meanings. Every verse can be a lifetime pursuit after the truth. What you have stated here I did not see, but I can clearly see now. I agree with you, it… Read more »

Lea
Lea
9 months ago

Thank you Ran, for this great article. I have read this verse often without understanding it’s true depth. I find it very interesting that you say, God explained Cain the purpose of life by giving him the first commandment “you have to reign over him (the sin)”. This is the… Read more »

Ran Fuchs
Reply to  Lea
9 months ago

Some do understand it, the majority do not. In many of the groups I take part in, they say “all this is not relevant since the time of Jesus. Now we have a new covenant” . I disagree. The OT gives us the way to do it ourselves. A few… Read more »