What was the mark of Cain?

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The Story of Cain and Abel

The mark of Cain is mentioned in the book of Genesis. The story says that one day, Cain and Abel (the first sons of Adam and Eve) offer sacrifices to God. Cain offers the fruit of the land while Abel offers a sacrificial animal according to God’s command. So, the Lord accepts the offering of Abel but rejects the offering of Cain. Overcome by jealousy and anger, Cain kills Abel in the field (Genesis 4:1-8).

After killing his brother Abel, God curses Cain saying, now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth” (Genesis 4:11,12).

The Lord Put a Mark on Cain

Cain answers the Lord, my punishment is greater than I can bear and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me. But the LORD said to him, “whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (Genesis 4:13-15). The Lord put on Cain a mark for his safety.  It was not a mark of God’s forgiveness but only of temporary protection.The sevenfold refers to a most harsh penalty upon anyone murdering Cain (Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, 28; Psalms 79:12; Proverbs 6:31).

God’s protection to Cain is based on the principle, that He is the One who punishes the sinner (Romans 12:19). God, in wisdom, doesn’t kill Cain right away but plans to allow the consequences of sin to grow and the fruits of wickedness to reach maturity, in order that the character of its seeds may be manifested.

Jesus Christ explains this same principle in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared ... So the servants of the owner came and said to him … Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’”

But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:24-30).

The lives of Cain and his descendants are illustrations of the deadly consequences of sin. At the judgment, the wicked will see that the Lord is fair in punishing them and very patient in giving them ample opportunities to repent and change their ways (Acts 17:31). Then, they will admit that He is just (Philippians 2:10).

What Was the Mark of Cain?

The Hebrew word translated “mark” is ‘owth and means a “mark, sign, or token.” Other than its use in Genesis 4:15, ‘owth is used 79 times and is most frequently translated as “sign.” So, the Hebrew word does not give us a hint to the precise nature of the mark of Cain.

Some Jewish and Christian commentators propose that the mark of Cain was a physical mark on his body that would warn people not to hurt him. Others believe that Cain received a special sign from God as a divine promise that He will protect him and that nothing would harm his life.

And there are those that believe the mark was a dark pigment of the skin and that God may have changed Cain’s skin color to differentiate him from other people. And since he was cursed by God, some have used this idea to excuse the African slave trade and support it. But the Bible does not back this line of thinking for the following reasons:

  1. The Hebrew books of the Bible do not use the word ‘owth to point to skin color.
  2. Cain was the only human that received this mark and not His children.
  3. Cain’s offspring walked in his path and were wicked. So, naturally, they would have been destroyed by the flood. As a result, the dark skin pigment would no longer be in existence after the flood.

It is clear that the Bible does not teach that Cain was marked with dark or black skin. God gave Cain his mark and no one else. The Bible also does not tell us how this mark looked like, so we should be careful not to add ideas to God’s word.

The Life of Cain After the Curse

The Bible does not tell us that Cain repented from his evil act even though God had promised him protection (Genesis 4:16). This murderer left the fellowship of the righteous, and became a wanderer on the earth. He began his life in the land of Nod, to the east of Eden. This antediluvian area, whose name means “wandering,” “flight,” or “exile,” became the land of the wicked offspring of Cain. God created the world perfect but it soon got corrupted with the deceandants of Cain.

Cain married a wife (Genesis 4:17). And she conceived and bare him a son, which they called Enoch. This name possibly means “dedication,” or “initiation.” Probably the name Cain gave his son indicated his plan to begin living according to his own wishes. And he built a city for his family and called it after the name of his son—Enoch.

It is interesting to note that the world’s first “city” was built by the world’s first murderer, whose life was dedicated to evil and rebellion against the Lord. He built the city contrary to God’s plan, which designed that man should live amid the peaceful, calm and serene nature in order to be close to his Creator.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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