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Who was Cain in the Bible?

Cain was a son of Adam and Eve; presumably, he was their first son because his is the first recorded birth in Scripture (Genesis 4:1). His name comes from the Hebrew word qanah, meaning "possession." Cain is most commonly known for being the first murderer, because he killed his brother Abel.

Cain was a worker of the ground and Abel was a shepherd. By faith Abel offered the "firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions" to the Lord, and he had favor with God (Hebrews 11:4; Genesis 4:4). Hebrews 11:4 seems to imply that Cain did not have faith. He offered some of the fruit of the ground to the Lord, but it was not an acceptable sacrifice. Genesis 4:5 tells us "for Cain and his offering [God] had no regard." God tried to encourage Cain to offer an acceptable sacrifice to Him and also warned him of the danger of sin: "The Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it'" (Genesis 4:6–7). Instead of heeding the Lord's warning, Cain acted in anger and killed Abel (Genesis 4:8).

When God confronted him, Cain attempted to deceive God and act like he knew nothing about what had happened (Genesis 4:9–11). God punished Cain by causing the earth to be even more difficult for him to farm and by banishing him to a life of wandering (Genesis 4:12). Cain was marked by God in some way that ensured he himself would never be murdered (Genesis 4:13–15). He settled in Nod, a land located east of the garden of Eden, where he built a city and had a family. Cain's descendants are listed in the Bible to the sixth generation and they were smiths, nomadic herdsmen, and musicians (Genesis 4:17–22). Cain's descendants became progressively more wicked and were most likely destroyed in the flood of Noah's day.

Cain is mentioned a few times in the New Testament, always in the context of warning us how not to behave. Cain welcomed evil into his heart by failing to choose obedience to God; this is what caused him to ultimately murder Abel. He had a way out, but he chose wrong (1 John 3:12). Cain did not truly bring his offering to God in faith, as Abel did (Hebrews 11:4). We must have faith in order to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Because Cain did not have faith, he chose to blaspheme God. Jude 1:10–11 falls within a warning passage about false teachers who "blaspheme all that they do not understand" and "walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion." Cain's life is an example for us of how destructive it is to live a life ruled by anger and jealousy and a refusal to put faith in God.


Related Truth:

Who was Abel in the Bible?

Where did Cain's wife come from? Who was she?

After Cain killed Abel, who did he have to fear?

What is the land of Nod in the Bible? Where was it?

Why is knowing about the various characters in the Bible important?


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