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CAIN (kān)

The first son of Adam and Eve, and a farmer by occupation. As an offering to God, he brought some of the fruits of the ground, while his brother brought an animal sacrifice (Gen.4.1-Gen.4.26). Angry when his offering was not received (Heb.11.4 shows that he lacked a right disposition toward God), he murdered his brother. He added to his guilt before God by denying the act and giving no evidence of repentance. He fled to the land of Nod and there built a city, becoming the ancestor of a line that included Jabal, forefather of tent-dwelling cattle-keepers; Jubal, forefather of musicians; Tubal-Cain, forefather of smiths; and Lamech, a man of violence. His wife must have been one of his own sisters—not an impropriety in those days.The progenitor of the Kenites (Num.24.22).A village in Judah (Josh.15.57, niv “Kain”).——ABF

CAIN kān (קַ֔יִן, from the Heb. word, to acquire, by popular etymology. Related to the word to forge in metal, hence, a smith), the eldest son of Adam and Eve who tilled the soil, whereas his younger brother Abel was a shepherd. Cain became a symbol of evil in that he did not exhibit faith in God’s revelation. He offered the fruit of the soil as a sacrifice, but God rejected him. Cain is described in the NT as being “of the evil one” (1 John 3:12). When Abel’s offering from his flocks was accepted by God, Cain became angry, enticed his brother to join him where they were alone, and killed him. God met him, asked about Abel, and pronounced a curse on Cain because of his sin (Gen 4:9-16). Cain was sent into the land of Nod (i.e. wandering) where he feared he might be in danger. God protected him by placing a mark upon Cain. The nature of the mark is unknown, but it may have been similar to tribal marks known in the Middle E. Cain built a city and became the progenitor of a large family with diverse occupations. The first tent-dwelling herdsmen, metal-workers, and musicians were from the line of Cain. Other peoples of the ancient world thought of the gods as the originators of the arts and crafts, but the Bible traces them to human development within the line of Cain. Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve, and he became the first murderer, illustrating the development of sin within the race of Adam.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(qayin, "spear" or "smith," resembling in sound the root qanah, "get," "acquire," Ge 4:1 the Revised Version, margin, but not necessarily derived from that root; Septuagint Kain):

1. The Scripture Narrative:

(1) In Ge 4:1-24 Cain is the first son of Adam and Eve. His birth is hailed as a manifestation of Yahweh’s help. He becomes "a tiller of the ground," and brings to Yahweh an offering of the produce of the soil, his brother Abel, the shepherd, bringing at the same time the fat of the first-born of his own flock. From Cain and from his offering Yahweh withholds the sign of acceptance which he grants to Abel. That the ground of this difference of treatment is to be found (so Heb 11:4) in Cain’s lack of right disposition toward Yahweh is shown by his behavior (see Abel). Instead of humbling himself he gives signs of strong indignation at Yahweh’s refusal to favor him. Under the just rebuke of Yahweh he hardens his heart and is further confirmed in impenitence. His jealousy of Abel, unrepented of, increases until it culminates in deliberate murder. Deliberate, for in Ge 4:8 we must restore a clause to the Hebrew text, all the ancient versions bearing witness, and read "And Cain said unto Abel his brother, Let us go into the field," etc. In the vain attempt to conceal his crime Cain adds falsehood to his other sins. He is cursed "from," i.e. away from, that soil upon which he poured out his brother’s blood, and must become a fugitive and a wanderer, far from the immediate presence of Yahweh. Although his remonstrance against the severity of his sentence displays no genuine contrition, still Yahweh in pity appoints a "sign" for his protection. Cain takes up his abode in the land of Nod ("wandering"), and there builds a city and becomes the ancestor of a line which includes Jabal, forefather of tent-dwelling cattle-keepers; Jubal, forefather of musicians; Tubal-cain, forefather of smiths; and Lamech, like Cain, a man of violence. In Cain’s character we see "a terrible outburst of selfwill, pride, and jealousy, leading to a total and relentless renunciation of all human ties and affection." "Among the lessons or truths which the narrative teaches may be instanced: the nature of temptation, and the manner in which it should be resisted; the consequences to which an unsubdued temper may lead a man; the gradual steps by which in the end a deadly crime may be committed; the need of sincerity of purpose lest our offering should be rejected; God’s care for the guilty sinner after he has been punished; the interdependence upon one another of members of the human race; and the duties and obligations which we all owe to each other" (Driver). In Heb 11:4 Cain’s spiritual deficiency is pointed out; 1Jo 3:12 observes his envy and jealousy, as "of the wicked one," and Jude 1:11 makes him a very type of the ungodly.

2. Difficulties:

3. Critical Theories:

Without going outside the Scripture text we may find strong evidence that the narrative under consideration is founded in part upon ancient sources. Let the line of Cain (Ge 4:17-24) be compared with that of Seth (Ge 5:1-29):


A. Dillmann, Genesis (English translation); S. R. Driver, Genesis ("Westminster Commentaries"); H. E. Ryle, Early Narratives of Genesis; J. Skinner, Genesis (ICC); A. H. Sayce, "Archaeology of the Book of Genesis," The Expositor T, August, 1910, June, 1911. (2) In Jos 15:57, the Revised Version (British and American) KAIN, which see.

See also KENITES.