Cain: Wikis


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Detail of the Ghent Altarpiece (1432) at Saint Bavo Cathedral

In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel (Hebrew: קין ,הבל, Qayin, Hevel)[1] are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an also contains this story, although Cain and Abel are not mentioned by name.[2]

In the Greek New Testament, Cain is referred to as εκ του πονηρου. [3] In at least one translation this is rendered "from the evil one"[4], while others have "of the evil one."[5] Some interpreters take this to mean that Cain was literally the son of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. A parallel idea can be found in Jewish tradition,[6] that the serpent (Hebrew nahash נחש) from the Garden of Eden was father to firstborn Cain.

In all versions, Cain is a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel is a shepherd.[7] Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his brother,[8] after God[9] has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices brought by Abel.[10]

The oldest known copy of the Biblical narration is from the 1st century Dead Sea Scrolls.[11][12] Cain and Abel also appear in a number of other texts,[13] and the story is the subject of various interpretations.[14] Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr;[15] while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as an ancestor of evil.[16] Some scholars think that it may refer to the days in which agriculture began to replace the ways of the hunter-gatherer.[17] [18]

Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean works up to present day fiction.



Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin (קין) and Havel (הבל). The original text did not provide vowels.[19] Abel's name is the same three consonants as a root speculated by people to have originally meant "breath", because Rabbis postulated one of its roots thus, also "waste", but is used in the Hebrew Bible primarily as a metaphor for what is "elusive", especially the "vanity" (another definition by the Rabbis of medieval France, Rashi in specific from his translation into Old French) of human beauty and work eg Hebel Jayophe vanity is as beauty from the Song of Songs of Solomon.[20] Julius Wellhausen, and many 'scholars' following him, have proposed that the name is independent of the root.[21] Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology.[22] In the Islamic tradition, Abel is named as Hābīl (هابيل), while Cain is named as Qābīl (قابيل). Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name. Cain is called Qayen in the Ethiopian version of Genesis.[23] The Greek of the New Testament refers to Cain three times,[24] using two syllables ka-in (Κάïν) for the name.[25]

More recent scholarship has produced another theory, a more direct pun. Abel is here thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning "herdsman", with the modern Arabic cognate ibil, now specifically referring only to "camels". Cain, on the other hand, is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word qyn, meaning "metal smith".[26] This theory would make the names merely descriptions of the roles they take in the story—Abel working with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam ("man") and Eve ("life", Chavah in Hebrew).[27]

The name Abel has been used in many European languages as both surname and first name. In English, however, even Cain features in 17th century, Puritan-influenced families, who had a taste for biblical names, sometimes despite the reputation of the original character.[28][29][30] Contrary to popular belief[citation needed], the surname McCain does not mean "Son of Cain" in Gaelic, rather it is a contraction (also McCann) of Mac Cathan. Gaelic cathan means "warrior", from cath "battle".[31]

Murder and motive

For convenience, the story can be considered in two sections — 1. murder and motive and 2. confrontation and consequences.

Religious sources of the Cain and Abel story can be found in Genesis (950 to 450 BC) in the Hebrew Bible, Sura 5 (Al-Ma'ida) of the Qur'an (early 7th century) and Pearl of Great Price (1851).[32]

Biblical account (Judeo-Christian)

Cain leads Abel to death, by James Tissot.

1Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. She said, "I have had a male child with the LORD's help."[33] 2Then she also gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel became a shepherd of a flock, but Cain cultivated the land. 3In the course of time Cain presented some of the land's produce as an offering to the LORD. 4And Abel also presented [an offering][34] — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.[35] The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.[36] 6Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you furious? And why are you downcast?[37] 7If you do right, won't you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it." 8Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field."[38] And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Genesis 4:1-8 (HCSB)


Though Genesis depicts Cain's motive in killing Abel as simply being one of jealousy concerning God's favor for Abel, this is not the view of many extra-biblical works. The Midrash and the Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan both record that the real motive involved the desire of women. According to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters, whom they were to marry. The Midrash records that Abel's promised wife was the more beautiful. Cain would not consent to this arrangement. Adam proposed to refer the question to God by means of a sacrifice. God rejected Cain's sacrifice, signifying His disapproval of his marriage with Aclima, and Cain slew his brother in a fit of jealousy.[39]

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ, there is a different view, found in part of their scripture, the Book of Moses (part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), which describes that Cain's motive is still jealousy, jealous of God's acceptance of Abel's offering and also Abel's livestock of which he is jealous. This translation also holds that it was Satan that "commanded" Cain to make the offering, thus making Cain's sacrifice vain and faithless.

Abel's death

William Blake's The Body of Abel Found by Adam and Eve.

In Christianity, Comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr: in Matthew 23:35, Jesus speaks of Abel as righteous; and the Epistle to the Hebrews states that The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:24). The blood of Jesus is interpreted as bringing mercy; but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).[40]

Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass with those of Abraham and Melchisedek. The Coptic Church commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.[41]


According to the Qur'an, Cain (Kabil) buried Abel (Habil), prompted to do so by a single raven scratching the ground, on God's command. The Qur'an states that upon seeing the raven, Cain regretted his action [al-Ma'idah:27-31], and that rather than being cursed by God, since He hadn't done so before, God chose to create a law against murder:

If anyone slew a person – be it for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.

According to Shi'a Muslim belief, Abel is buried in Nabi Habeel Mosque, located west of Damascus, in Syria.


In classical times, as well as more recently, Abel was regarded as the first innocent victim of the power of evil, and hence the first martyr. In the Book of Enoch (at 22:7), the soul of Abel is described as having been appointed as the chief of martyrs, crying for vengeance, for the destruction of the seed of Cain. This view is later repeated in the Testament of Abraham (at A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls:

An awful man sitting upon the throne to judge all creatures, and examining the righteous and the sinners. He being the first to die as martyr, God brought him hither [to the place of judgment in the nether world] to give judgment, while Enoch, the heavenly scribe, stands at his side writing down the sin and the righteousness of each. For God said: I shall not judge you, but each man shall be judged by man. Being descendants of the first man, they shall be judged by his son until the great and glorious appearance of the Lord, when they will be judged by the twelve tribes of Israel, and then the last judgment by the Lord Himself shall be perfect and unchangeable.

According to the Coptic Book of Adam and Eve (at 2:1-15), and the Syriac Cave of Treasures, Abel's body, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures, before which Adam and Eve, and descendants, offered their prayers. In addition, the Sethite line of the Generations of Adam swear by Abel's blood to segregate themselves from the unrighteous.

Confrontation and consequences


9Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?"
"I know not," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"
10Then He said, "What have you done? Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the ground! 11So now you are cursed [with alienation][42] from the ground that opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood you have shed. 12If you work the land, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth."
13But Cain answered the Lord, "My punishment[43] is too great to bear! 14Since You are banishing me today from the soil, and I must hide myself from Your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me."
15Then the Lord replied to him, "Therefore,[44] whosoever slayeth Cain vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold. "[45] And the Lord set a Mark upon Cain,lest any finding him should kill him. 16Then Cain went out from the Lord's presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Genesis 4:9-16 (HCSB)


(5:26) Tell them the true story of the two sons of Adam. Each one of them offered a sacrifice. God accepted the sacrifice of one of them but not that of the other who then said to his brother, "I shall certainly kill you." His brother replied, "God only accepts the offerings of the pious ones"(5:27). "Even if you try to kill me, I certainly shall not try to kill you. I have fear of God, the Lord of the creation" (5:28).

"I would prefer you to take sole responsibility for both our sins and thus become a dweller of hell; this is what an unjust person deserves." (5:29) His soul prompted him to kill his own brother. In doing so he became of those who lose(5:30). God sent down a raven which started to dig up the earth to show the killer how to bury the corpse of his brother. On seeing the raven, he said, "Woe to me! Am I less able than a raven to bury the corpse of my brother?" He became greatly remorseful. (5:31) .

Al-Ma'ida (Sura 5)[46]

Pearl of Great Price (Mormon Scripture)

33And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands.
34And the Lord said unto Cain: Where is Abel, thy brother? And he said: I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?
35And the Lord said: What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood cries unto me from the ground.
36And now thou shalt be cursed from the earth which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.
37When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength. A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
38And Cain said unto the Lord: Satan tempted me because of my brother's flocks. And I was wroth also; for his offering thou didst accept and not mine; my punishment is greater than I can bear.
39Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord.
40And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
41And Cain was shut out from the presence of the Lord, and with his wife and many of his brethren dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Moses 5:16-41

Mark of Cain

Much has been written about the curse of Cain, and associated mark. The word translated as mark ('Oth, אות) could mean a sign, omen, warning, or remembrance.[47] In the Bible, the same word is used to describe the stars as signs or omens,[48] circumcision as a token of God's covenant with Abraham,[49] and the signs performed by Moses before Pharaoh.[50]

The word Ot (hard t) in Hebrew also means "a letter" (of the alphabet). Jewish mysticism, among other ancient lores, assigns spiritual ideas or powers to written letters and verses. The Mark of Cain may be a letter, a verse, a message, or a talisman.

The Bible makes reference on several occasions to Kenites, who, in the Hebrew, are referred to as Qayin, i.e. in a highly cognate manner to Cain (Qayin). Some therefore believe that the Mark of Cain referred originally to some very identifying mark of the Kenite tribe, such as red hair, or a ritual tattoo of some kind, which was transferred to Cain as the tribe's eponym. The mark is said to afford Cain some form of protection, in that harming Cain involved the harm being returned sevenfold. This is hence seen as some sort of protection that membership of the tribe offered, in a form such as the entire tribe attacking an individual who harms just one of their number.

Baptist[citation needed] and Catholic[citation needed] groups both consider the idea of God cursing an individual to be out of character, and hence take a different stance. Catholics officially view the curse being brought through the ground itself refusing to yield to, not being in harmony with, Cain[citation needed], whereas some Baptists view the curse as Cain's own aggression, something already present that God merely pointed out rather than added. There are several theories; in the Catholic world one example has been put forth that rather this mark is one of grace, and that perhaps the mark of is that of Abel's blood[51], by which God is saying, "This man is still mine. Vengeance is mine. I will repay. Hands off!" As the heart of God is always ready to show mercy. This view supports Abel as a Christ figure in paralleling Christ’s sacrifice; here a blood sacrifice which acknowledges guilt and counting himself as guilty seeks atonement (this is in contrast to Cain's sacrifice)[52]

In Judaism, the mark is not a punishment but a sign of God's mercy. When Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer he did not dispute the punishment but only begged that the terms of his sentence be altered slightly[citation needed], protesting "Whoever meets me will kill me!" For unspecified reasons, God agrees to this request. He puts the mark on Cain as a sign to others that Cain should not be killed until he has had seven generations of children. Lamech, Cain's descendant, refers poetically to the "mark of Cain" in Genesis 4:19-24, in a passage which has been subject to several interpretations.


As Abel's murderer, Cain was ordered to wander the earth in punishment, a tradition arose that this punishment was to be forever, in a similar manner to the (much later) legends of the Flying Dutchman or the Wandering Jew. According to some Islamic sources, such as al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and al-Tha'labi, he migrated to Yemen.

Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon's painting titled "Cain flying before Jehovah's Curse", c. 1880, Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Though variations on these traditions were strong in medieval times, with several claims of sightings being reported, they have generally gone out of favour. Nevertheless, the Wandering Cain theme has appeared in Mormon folklore (but not scripture)—a second-hand account relates that an early Mormon leader, David W. Patten, encountered a very tall, hairy, dark-skinned man in Tennessee who said that he was Cain. The account states that Cain had earnestly sought death but was denied it, and that his mission was to destroy the souls of men.[53][54] The recollection of Patten's story is quoted in Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness, a popular book within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[55]

Despite these later traditional beliefs of perpetual wandering, according to the earlier Book of Jubilees (chapter 4) Cain settled down, marrying his sister, Awan, resulting in his first son, Enoch (considered to be different from the more famous Enoch), approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then established the first city, naming it after his son, built a house, and lived there until it collapsed on him, killing him in the same year that Adam died.

A medieval legend used to say that at the end, Cain arrived at the Moon, where he eternally settled with a bundle of twigs. This was originated by popular fantasy interpreting the shadows on the Moon face. An example of this belief can be found in Dante Alighieri's Inferno (XX, 126[56]) where the expression "Cain and the twigs" is used as a synonym of "moon".

Legacy and symbolism

15th century depiction of Cain and Abel, Speculum Humane Salvationis, Germany.

In medieval Christian art, particularly in 16th century Germany, Cain is depicted as a stereotypical ringleted, bearded Jew, who killed Abel the blonde, European gentile symbolizing Christ.[57] This traditional depiction has continued for centuries in some form, such as James Tissot's 19th century Cain leads Abel to Death.

Another view is taken in Latter-day Saint theology, where Cain is considered to be the quintessential Son of Perdition, the father of secret combinations (i.e. secret societies and organized crime), as well as the first to hold the title Master Mahan meaning master of [the] great secret, that [he] may murder and get gain.[citation needed]


As the first murderer and first murder victim, Cain and Abel have often formed the basis of tragic drama. Lord Byron rewrote and dramatized the story in the poem "Cain", viewing Cain as symbolic of a sanguinary temperament, provoked by Abel's hypocrisy and sanctimony.[57] In Dante's Purgatory Cain is remembered by the souls in Purgatory in Canto XIV (14) on page 153, verse 133 saying "I shall be slain by all who find me!", Cain is facing the punishment that God has visited upon him for the sin of Envy, which is a similar play on the words in Genesis 4:13-14 where he says, "I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden retells the Cain and Abel story in the setting of the late 19th and early 20th century western migration towards California. Also, his novelette Of Mice and Men draws elements from the story. Baudelaire is more sympathetic to Cain in his poem "Abel et Caïn" in the collection Les Fleurs du mal, where he depicts Cain as representing all the downtrodden people of the world. The poem's last lines exhort, "Race de Caïn, au ciel monte/Et sur la terre jette Dieu!" (In English: "Race of Cain, storm up the sky / And cast God down to Earth!") Miguel de Unamuno's Abel Sánchez (1917) is a study on envy. Abel receives everything undeservingly, while his friend Joaquín is despised by God and society and envies him. Kane and Abel is a modern adaptation, a 1979 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer. In 1985, it was made into a CBS television miniseries titled Kane & Abel, starring Peter Strauss as Rosnovski and Sam Neill as Kane. In A Time For Everything (2004) by Karl Ove Knausgård, the story of Cain and Abel is retold with a focus on Cain - an introvert and troubled man who gets the reader's sympathy. In this version, God's favouring of Abel is simultaneously a curse for sneaking into Eden past the Cherubs guarding the gate. It is suggested that Abel in fact wants Cain to kill him, or at least this is what Cain believes - though he later regrets his act, and takes his punishment willingly.

Some form of legacy or curse of the name is often seen in literature: the monster Grendel in Beowulf is a descendant of Cain. In the epilogue to Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, the author refers to the Mark of Cain in laying out the clues. There is a Stephen King short story titled Cain Rose Up, in which a college student goes on a killing spree while ruminating on the story of Cain and Abel. In the DC Comics (Vertigo division) universe, Cain and Abel are a pair of fictional characters based on the Biblical Cain and Abel, in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. In the series, Cain is constantly killing off his brother, despite the fact they are both immortals.

Cain was traditionally considered to have red hair; the expression "Cain-coloured beard" is used in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.[57] In addition, Shakespeare also references Cain and Abel in Act III Scene iii of Hamlet when Claudius says, "It hath the primal eldest curse upon't/ A brother's murder!" (Lines 40-41).

Their names are often used in works of fiction simply as a reference, also. In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, the character of Estragon tries to guess the names of two other characters. He guesses Abel and Cain. One of Jason Bourne's many names in the The Bourne Identity and its sequels was Cain, an operative name in the Treadstone 71 program.


Both Cain and his name have been used in works of television, film and video games. In the Command & Conquer series, the main antagonist is Kane, the leader of the Brotherhood of Nod. In addition to having a subordinate officer named Seth, Kane has a sarcophagus with the name Abel inscribed on it.

In both incarnations of Battlestar Galactica, the commander of the Battlestar Pegasus is named Cain.

In Mass Effect 2, the most powerful heavy weapon is named Cain.

See also


  1. ^ Genesis 4:1-2, "And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: 'I have gotten a man with the help of the YHWH.' And again she bore his brother Abel." Jewish Publication Society Bible, 1917 (public domain)
  2. ^ Qur'an, 5:27-32
  3. ^ 1 John 3:12
  4. ^ International Standard Version
  5. ^ New American Standard Version, Douay-Rheims Bible, English Revised Version, World English Bible, Young's Literal Translation, etc.
  6. ^ Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Vol.1, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8018-5890-9, p.105-9
  7. ^ "Cain cultivated the land" - Genesis 4:2
  8. ^ "Abel became a shepherd." (Genesis 4:2)
  9. ^ Genesis 4:1,3 and others (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, BHS)
  10. ^ Abel brought the from the firstborn of his flock and from their fats, whereas Cain brought from the fruits of the earth. Relevant passage quoted in text below
  11. ^ (4QGenb = 4Q242) The Dead Sea Scrolls were inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. See: Jim R Davila, Unpublished Pentateuchal Manuscripts from Cave IV Qumran: 4QGenExa, 4QGenb-h, j-k, unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1988.
  12. ^ PaeleoJudaica, Davila's blog post [search for 4QGenb].
  13. ^ Jubilees 4:31; Patriarchs, Benjamin 7; Enoch 22:7.
  14. ^ Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 1:7:5 (c. 180) describes (unfavourably) a Gnostic interpretation. Church Fathers, Rabbinic commentators and more recent scholars have also proposed interpretations.
  15. ^ Notably by Jesus of Nazareth as quoted by Matthew 23:35 (mid 1st century), "The blood of righteous Abel," in a reference to many martyrs.
  16. ^ Pirke De-Rabbi Eliezer 21 (c. 833) and others.
  17. ^ J. H. Hatfield, Why Call Me God? : The Gospel Seen with a Single Eye, ISBN 978-0-9562057-0-4.
  18. ^ "Kain and Abel". Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  19. ^ BHS. A very small minority of scholars believe that the original Hebrew Bible did have vowels, but their viewpoint is in disagreement with almost all of modern Hebrew scholarship.
  20. ^ Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), p. 210.
  21. ^ Julius Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, volume 3, (1887), p. 70.
  22. ^ Eberhard Schrader, Die Keilinschrift und das Alte Testament, 1872.
  23. ^ "Holy of Holies". Time Emits. Retrieved 2007-09-08. 
  24. ^ Hebrews 11:4; 1John 3:12; Jude 1:11.
  25. ^ Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27).
  26. ^ Richard S. Hess, Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1-11, pp. 24-25. ISBN 3-7887-1478-6.
  27. ^ See Adam and Eve for details.
  28. ^ For popularity in Thornton, Yorkshire see 'Thornton Village: History' [Internet], Brontë County.
  29. ^ For a neutral comment regarding America see Myra Vanderpool Gormley, 'Given Names in Early America: Shaped by history, religion and traditions' [Internet], RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees, (Los Angeles Times Syndicate, 1989).
  30. ^ For general unpopularity note that, "There was a natural dislike of Cain, Delilah, Jezebel, Herod." Donald Lines Jacobus, Genealogy As Pastime and Profession, 2nd revised edition, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publication Company, 1978), p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8063-0188-4
  31. ^ Henry Harrison, Surnames of the United Kingdom: A Concise Etymological Dictionary, (London: 1912), p. 65.
  32. ^ Franklin D. Richards, The Pearl of Great Price: Being a Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations and Narrations of Joseph Smith, (Liverpool: KD Richards, 1851).
  33. ^ Literally, the Lord (HCSB).
  34. ^ The bracketed text has been added for clarity (HCSB).
  35. ^ or fat calves, or milk Josephus — all plausible renderings the Hebrew consonants
  36. ^ Lit and his face fell (HCSB).
  37. ^ Lit. why has your face fallen (HCSB).
  38. ^ Sam, LXX, Syr, Vg; MT omits Let's go out to the field (HCSB).
  39. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1978 (reprint of 1894 version)). The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Edwinstowe, England: Avenel Books. pp. 3. ISBN 0-517-259-21-4. 
  40. ^ For copies of a spectrum of notable translations and commentaries see Hebrews 12:24 at the Online Parallel Bible.
  41. ^ Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.
  42. ^ The bracketed text has been added for clarity. HCSB
  43. ^ Or sin
  44. ^ LXX, Syr, Vg read Not so!
  45. ^ .
  46. ^ S. Abul A'la Maududi The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Brief Notes. Lahore, Pakistan: 13E, Shahalam Market, 12th Edition 1995.
  47. ^ BDB, p. 16f.
  48. ^ Genesis 1:14
  49. ^ Genesis 17:11.
  50. ^ Exodus 4:8-9).
  51. ^ i.e. Archbishop Fulton J Sheen CCD & Life is Worth Living Series
  52. ^ Catholic Stained Glass Window Pictures Abel as priest
  53. ^ Letter by Abraham O. Smoot, quoted in Lycurgus A. Wilson (1900). Life of David W. Patten, the First Apostolic Martyr (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News) p. 50 (pp. 46–47 in 1993 reprint by Eborn Books).
  54. ^ Linda Shelley Whiting (2003). David W. Patten: Apostle and Martyr (Springville, Utah: Cedar Fort) p. 85.
  55. ^ Spencer W. Kimball (1969). The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, ISBN 0884944441) pp. 127–128.
  56. ^ Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inferno, canto 20, line 126 and 127. The Dante Dartmouth Project contains the original text and centuries of commentary.
    "For now doth Cain with fork of thorns confine
    On either hemisphere, touching the wave
    Beneath the towers of Seville. Yesternight
    The moon was round."
    Also in Paradiso, canto 2, line 51.
    But tell, I pray thee, whence the gloomy spots
    Upon this body, which below on earth
    Give rise to talk of Cain in fabling quaint?"
  57. ^ a b c de Vries, Ad (1976). Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery. Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Company. pp. 75. ISBN 0-7204-8021-3. 

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From LoveToKnow 1911

CAIN, in the Bible, the eldest son of Adam and Eve (Gen. iv.), was a tiller of the ground, whilst his younger brother, Abel, was a keeper of sheep. Enraged because the Lord accepted Abel's offering, and rejected his own, he slew his brother in the field (see Abel). For this a curse was pronounced upon him, and he was condemned to be a "fugitive and a wanderer" on the earth, a mark being set upon him "lest any finding him should kill him." He took up his abode in the land of Nod ("wandering") on the east of Eden, where he built a city, which he named after his son Enoch. The narrative presents a number of difficulties, which early commentators sought to solve with more ingenuity than success. But when it is granted that the ancient Hebrews, like other primitive peoples, had their own mythical and traditional figures, the story of Cain becomes less obscure. The mark set upon Cain is usually regarded as some tribal mark or sign analogous to the cattle marks of Bedouin and the related usages in Europe. Such marks had often a religious significance, and denoted that the bearer was a follower of a particular deity. The suggestion has been made that the name Cain is the eponym ,of the Kenites, and although this clan has a good name almost everywhere in the Old Testament, yet in Num. xxiv. 22 its destruction is foretold, and the Amalekites, of whom they formed a division, are consistently represented as the inveterate enemies of Yahweh and of his people Israel. The story of Cain and Abel, which appears to represent the nomad life as a curse, may be an attempt to explain the origin of an existence which in the eyes of the settled agriculturist was one of continual restlessness, whilst at the same time it endeavours to find a reason for the institution of blood-revenge on the theory that at some remote age a man (or tribe) had killed his brother (or brother tribe). Cain's subsequent founding of a city finds a parallel in the legend of the origin of Rome through the swarms of outlaws and broken men of all kinds whom Romulus attracted thither. The list of Cain's descendants reflects the old view of the beginnings of civilization; it is thrown into the form of a genealogy and is parallel to Gen. v. (see Genesis). It finds its analogy in the Phoenician account of the origin of different inventions which Eusebius (Praep. Evang. i. 10) quotes from Philo of Byblus (Gebal), and probably both go back to a common Babylonian origin.

On this question, see Driver, Genesis (Westminster Comm., London, 1904), p. 80 seq.; A. Jeremias, Alte Test. im Lichte d. Alten Orients (Leipzig, 1906), pp. 220 seq.; also Enoch, Lamech. On the story of Cain, see especially Sta de,A kademische Reden,pp.229-273; Ed. Meyer, Israeliten, pp. 395 sqq,; A. R. Gordon, Early Trad. Genesis (Index). Literary criticism (see Cheyne, Encycl. Bib. col. 620-628, and 4411-4417) has made it extremely probable that Cain the nomad and outlaw (Gen. iv. 1-16) was originally distinct from Cain the city-builder (vv. 17 sqq.). The latter was perhaps regarded as a "smith," cp. v. 22 where Tubal-cain is the "father" of those who work in bronze (or copper). That the Kenites, too, were a race of metal-workers is quite uncertain, although even at the present day the smiths in Arabia form a distinct nomadic class. Whatever be the meaning of the name, the words put into Eve's mouth (v. I) probably are not an etymology, but an assonance (Driver). It is noteworthy that Kenan, son of Enosh ("man," Gen. v. 9), appears in Sabaean inscriptions of South Arabia as the name of a tribal-god.

A Gnostic sect of the 2nd century was known by the name of Cainites. They are first mentioned by Irenaeus, who connects them with the Valentinians. They believed that Cain derived his existence from the superior power, and Abel from the inferior power, and that in this respect he was the first of a line which included Esau, Korah, the Sodomites and Judas Iscariot. (S. A. C.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also cain, Caín, and Caïn



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From Hebrew קַיִן (qayin) ‘craftsman’.



Proper noun




  1. (mythology) The eldest son of Adam and Eve as described in Genesis; considered the first murderer. (see w:Cain and Abel).
  2. (rare) A male given name


  • 1611King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 4:8
    And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.


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Up to date as of January 23, 2010
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Roy Franklin Cain (Cain)
(1906- ) Canadian bryologist.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: a possession; a spear

The first-born son of Adam and Eve (Gen. 4). He became a tiller of the ground, as his brother Abel followed the pursuits of pastoral life. He was "a sullen, self-willed, haughty, vindictive man; wanting the religious element in his character, and defiant even in his attitude towards God." It came to pass "in process of time" (marg. "at the end of days"), i.e., probably on the Sabbath, that the two brothers presented their offerings to the Lord. Abel's offering was of the "firstlings of his flock and of the fat," while Cain's was "of the fruit of the ground." Abel's sacrifice was "more excellent" (Heb 11:4) than Cain's, and was accepted by God. On this account Cain was "very wroth," and cherished feelings of murderous hatred against his brother, and was at length guilty of the desperate outrage of putting him to death (1Jn 3:12). For this crime he was expelled from Eden, and henceforth led the life of an exile, bearing upon him some mark which God had set upon him in answer to his own cry for mercy, so that thereby he might be protected from the wrath of his fellow-men; or it may be that God only gave him some sign to assure him that he would not be slain (Gen 4:15). Doomed to be a wanderer and a fugitive in the earth, he went forth into the "land of Nod", i.e., the land of "exile", which is said to have been in the "east of Eden," and there he built a city, the first we read of, and called it after his son's name, Enoch. His descendants are enumerated to the sixth generation. They gradually degenerated in their moral and spiritual condition till they became wholly corrupt before God. This corruption prevailed, and at length the Deluge was sent by God to prevent the final triumph of evil.

The first-born of Adam and Eve. His name is derived, according to Genesis 4:1, from the root kanah, to possess, being given to him in consequence of the words of his mother at his birth: "I have possessed a man by the favour of the Lord". No very serious objection can be urged against this derivation. The Book of Genesis, interested in this section in the origin of the different occupations of men, tells us that Cain became a husbandman while his brother Abel tended flocks. They both offered to the Lord a sacrifice, acknowledging, in a manner analogous to that later prescribed in the law, the sovereign power of the Creator. Cain offered of the fruits of the earth; Abel of the "firstlings of his flock and of their fat". By some means not indicated in the sacred text, perhaps, as has been thought, by some such sign as the fire which consumed the offering of Gideon (Judges, vi, 21) or that of Elias (III, Kings, xviii, 38), God manifested to the brothers that Abel and his sacrifice were acceptable to Him; that, on the contrary, he rejected Cain and his offering. We are not told the reason of this preference. Among the conjectures on the subject one that has found most favour among commentators is that which is incorporated in the Septuagent version of the words of God to Cain in verse vii: "If thou didst offer well but divide badly, hast thou not committed sin?" This implies that Cain committed the fault of presenting to God imperfect gifts, reserving to himself the better part of the produce of the land. However, St. Augustine, who was under the influence of the Septuagint, understood the division in another way. Cain, he tells us, gave God a part of his goods, but he did not give Him his heart (De Civitate Dei, XV, vii). This is in keeping with the cause more generally assigned for God's preference. The sequel of the story shows us the evil disposition of Cain's heart. St. John says that Cain slew Abel because his works were evil, while those of his brother were just (I John, iii, 12), and we read in Hebrews that "by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb., xi, 4).

Cain is angered by the Divine rejection. In verses 6 and 7 of chapter iv of Genesis we have God's rebuke and warning: "Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou dost well, is not thy countenance raised up? If thou dost not well, sin crouches at the door. Its desire is towards thee, but thou rule over it." Sin here is represented under the figure of a wild beast crouching at the door of the heart ready to pounce upon its victim. Cain is able to resist temptation. But he does not, and the Bible story goes on to relate the terrible crime born of his anger and jealousy. He slays Abel. Questioned by the Lord as to the whereabouts of his brother, he answers defiantly that he knows not. To avenge the blood of Abel, God pronounces a curse against the first homicide. The Hebrew text of the curse may be translated either: "Cursed be thou by the earth which has opened its mouth and drunk the blood of thy brother" etc., or "Cursed be thou from the earth" etc. The former translation refers the sentence to the words which follow: "When thou shalt till it, it shall not give thee its strength" i.e. its produce; the latter, to the banishment related afterwards. This banishment from the country where his parents lived and where, as we learn from such passages from the present one, God continued to manifest his presence in some special way, is spoken of as "going out from the face of Jehovah" (verse 16). The country of Cain's banishment, where he was to lead a wandering, vagrant life, is called, in the Hebrew, the land of Nod, and is said to be east of Eden. As we do not know where Eden was, the location of Nod cannot be determined. The punishment seemed to Cain greater than he could bear; in answer to his words expressing fear that he might be killed, God gave him a promise of special protection for his life, and put upon him a sign. No indication as regards the nature of this sign is given us. The only event of the subsequent life of Cain spoken of in the Bible is the founding of a city, called Henoch after a son of that name. A good many authors find that this tradition, which makes of Cain the first city builder, is not compatible with the story just related, which they say is best understood as a popular account of the origin of the wandering desert tribes. If we do not put into the history of the author of Genesis elements of which he seems to have been altogether unconscious, there is no reason to suppose he was wrong in regarding the words of the curse as consistent with the "building" of a city by Cain. Conservative commentators are probably right in their judgment that this "city" of Cain was not of notable extent or importance.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.


—1. Biblical Data:

First-born of Adam and Eve, named "Cain" ("Ḳayin") because "gotten" (root, "ḳanah") "with the help of Yhwh." He became a tiller of the ground, and made an offering of its fruits which Yhwh did not accept, though He had accepted that of Abel. Cain was angered, whereupon Yhwh assured him that divine acceptance depended upon conduct. Cain slew Abel, and was cursed by Yhwh so that the soil should yield no return to his labor, and he should be driven out to wander over the earth. At Cain's appeal Yhwh "made to him a sign, lest any one finding him should smite him." Cain went forth to the land of Nod Wandering), east of Eden; his wife bore him a son Enoch, after whom he named a city which he had built. From him were descended Lamech, who is recorded as having married two wives; Jabal, who instituted nomad life; Jubal, who invented music; and Tubal-Cain, the inventor of metal weapons—i.e., the authors of material and social progress.

—In Rabbinical Literature:

Cain, the murderer of his brother Abel, presented to the views of the Rabbis two different types. One was that of a sinner who yielded to his passions who was greedy, "offering to God only worthless portions; the remnants of his meal or flaxseed"; whom either God's favorable acceptance of Abel's sacrifice or Abel's handsomer wife and twin sister filled with jealousy; who, because he claimed the pasture-land or the wife of Abel as his birthright, quarreled with his brother. He was nevertheless sincere in his repentance when he said, "Too great is my sin [A. V., "punishment"] to bear" (Gen. iv. 13). and so the mark the Lord set upon him was a token of forgiveness. Like a man who had slain another without premeditation, he was sent into exile to atone for his sin (Sanh. 37b); and his crime was finally atoned for when he met death through the falling upon him of his house (Book of Jubilees, iv. 31), or at the hands of his great-grandson Lamech, who took him for a wild beast in the distance and shot him (Tan., Bereshit, ed. Vienna, p. 6b, and Yalḳ. i. 38).

Cain was also viewed as a type of utter perverseness, an offspring of Satan (Pirḳe R. El. xxi.), "a son of wrath" (Apoc. Mosis, 3), a lawless rebel who said, "There is neither a divine judgment nor a judge" (Midr. Leḳaḥ Ṭob and Targ. Yer. to Gen. iv. 8), whose words of repentance were insincere (Sanh. 101b; Tan.), whose fleeing from God was a denial of His omnipresence (Gen. R. xxii.), and whose punishment was of an extraordinary character: for every hundred years of the seven hundred years he was to live was to inflict another punishment upon him; and all his generations must be exterminated (Test. Patr., Benjamin, 7, according to Gen. iv. 24; Enoch, xxii, 7). For him and his race shall ever be "the desire of the spirit of sin" (Gen. R. xx., after Gen. iv. 7). He is the first of those who have no share in the world to come (Ab. R. N. xli., ed. Schechter, p. 133).

Generations of Cain.

The seven generations of Cain, as the brood of Satan, are accordingly represented as types of rebels(Gen. R. xxiii.). While the pious men all descended from Seth, there sprang from Cain all the wicked ones who rebelled against God and whose perverseness and corruption brought on the flood: they committed all abominations and incestuous crimes in public without shame. The daughters of Cain were those "fair daughters of men" who by their lasciviousness caused the fall of the "sons of God" (Gen. vi. 1-4; Pirḳe R. El. xxii.; compare Sibyllines, i. 75). The Ethiopian Book of Adam and Eve and the Syriac Cave of Treasures—both Christianized Melchisedician works based upon a genuine Jewish original—relate the story of the fall of the descendants of Seth as "the sons of God" who had lived in purity as saints on the mountain near Eden, following the precept and example of Seth and Enoch, their leaders, but were attracted by the gay and sensuous mode of life in which the children of Cain indulged; the latter spending their days at the foot of the mountain, in wild orgies, accompanied by the music of instruments invented by Jubal, and by women, in gorgeous attire, seducing the men to commit the most abominable practises. In the days of Jared ("descent") the Sethites ("the sons of God") went down the hill to join the Cainites, heedless of the warnings of Jared; and none of those who walked in the path of sin could come back. This was repeated in the days of Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah: all the admonitions of these saintly leaders did not prevent the fall of the sons of Seth, for whom the daughters of Cain lusted (see The Book of Adam and Eve, transl. by S. C. Malan, 1882, pp. 115-147; Dillmann, "Das Christliche Adambuch," 1853, pp. 82-101; Bezold, "Die Schatzhöhle," i. 10-23). Josephus ("Ant." i. 2, § 2; i. 3, § 1) also speaks of the excessive wickedness of the posterity of Cain, which grew in vehemence with every generation; while the posterity of Seth remained virtuous during seven generations, after which the fall of the angels ensued and they were enticed by their gigantic offspring. To Philo, likewise, Cain is the type of avarice, of "folly and impiety" ("De Cherubim," xx.), and of self-love ("De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini"; "Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat," 10). "He built a city" (Gen. iv. 17) means that "he built a doctrinal system of law-lessness, insolence, and immoderate indulgence in pleasure" ("De Posteritate," 15); and the Epicurean philosophers are of the school of Cain, "claiming to have Cain as teacher and guide, who recommended the worship of the sensual powers in preference to the powers above, and who practised his doctrine by destroying Abel, the expounder of the opposite doctrine" (ib. 11).

A doctrine of the Cainites appears, then, to have been in existence as early as Philo's time; but nothing is known of the same. In the second century of the common era a Gnostic sect by the name of "Cainites" is frequently mentioned as forming a branch of the antinomistic heresies which, adopting some of the views of Paulinian Christianity, advocated and practised indulgence in carnal pleasure. While some of the Jewish Gnostics divided men into three classes—represented (1) by Cain, the physical or earthly man; (2) by Abel, the psychical man (the middle class); and (3) by Seth, the spiritual or saintly man (see Irenæus, "Adversus Hæreses," i. 7, 5; compare Philo, "De Gigantibus," 13)—the antinomistic pagan Gnostics declared Cain and other rebels or sinners to be their prototypes of evil and licentiousness. Cain, Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and even Judas Iscariot, were made by these Gnostics expounders of the "wisdom" of the serpent in rebellion against God (Gen. iii. 5), the primeval serpent, "Naḥash ha-Ḳadmoni" (Gen R. xxii. 12). How many of these pernicious doctrines were already formed in pre-Christian times and how many were developed during the first and second Christian centuries is difficult to ascertain (see Jude 11, "the way of Cain"; Irenæus, l.c. i. 31, 1; 26, 31; 27, 3; Hippolytus, "Adversus Omnes Hæreses," v. 11, 15, 21; Clemens of Alexandria, "The Cainists," Stromata vii. 17; Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iii. 29; Epiphanius, "Hæres." xxv., xxvi., xxxviii. 2). Blau with good reason refers to such Cainite doctrines the Haggadah of blasphemy, referred to in Sanh. 99b, as taught by Manasseh ben Hezekiah, the typical perverter of the Law in the direction of licentiousness.


  • A. Hönig, Die Ophiten, Berlin, 1889;
  • M. Friedländer, Der Vorchristliche Jüdische Gnosticismus, 1898, pp. 19 et seq.;
  • idem, Der Antichrist, 1901, pp. 101 et seq.;
  • Hilgenfeld, Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums, 1884, pp. 324 et seq.;
  • Ginzberg, Die Haggada bei den Kirchenvätern, pp. 59-70.

—Critical View:

Sources and Original Form.

The narratives in Gen. iv. are assigned to two different strata of the Jahvistic document; e.g., Ball, "S. B. O. T.," the story of the murder of Abel (1-16a, 25, 26 2 to J), the later stratum; and the story of Cain, the city-builder, and of his descendants (16b-24 1 to J), the earlier stratum. The independence of the two sections is shown, among other things, by the fact that the man who, in verse 12, is to be "a fugitive and a wanderer," in verse 17 builds a city. Verses 16b-24, to which probably 1a should be added, are from the same document as the story of the creation in Eden; and 1b-16, 25, 26, from that containing J1's account of the flood. The apparent cross-reference, "wanderer," "nad" (12), with "wandering," "Nod" (16b), is due to a redactor; and verse 24 refers to a version of the story of Cain which is different from that given in 1b-16 (compare below).

The later section, 1b-16, is commonly explained thus (compare Holzinger's "Genesis"): Cain is the eponym of the Kenites (see 2), and the verses are a form of an independent tradition which explained the nomadic life of the Kenites as due to a curse laid upon them for some ancient murder. To the settled Israelites the nomadic life, seemed mean and wretched. Verses 25, 26 connect this story with the complete J.

The earlier section, 17-24, is J1's genealogy of the descent of the human race from Adam, and his account of the development of civilization. The Song of Lamech (23, 24) is an ancient fragment inserted by J1, referring to a form of the story of Cain which placed his conduct in a favorable light.

Text of Gen. iv. 1: A. V., "[a man] from the Lord," so Targ. O., implies a reading ' (image) ; the actual text might possibly be rendered as R. V., "with the help of the Lord"; so Septuagint, Vulgate, or even"from Yhwh." Marti, apud Holzinger, proposes 'ot for 'et, "a man bearing the Yhwh-sign" (compare verse 15, and below).

Origin of Name.

The etymology of iv. 1 is a linguistic impossibility. The name was originally that of the Kenite tribe (see 2). The word (image) ("ḳayin") is read in the Masoretic text of II Sam. xxi. 16, and translated "lance"; the corresponding words in Arabic and Syriac mean "smith." The tribe may have derived its name from the fame of its smiths. The "Cainan" of Gen. v. 14 ("Ḳenan") is another form of this name (compare "Kenan"; R. V. "Kenan"). No explanation of Yhwh's disapproval is given in the Masoretic text. The LXX. of verse 7 implies some ceremonial irregularity. Suggestions that the sin consisted in the bloodlessness of the offering, or in its worthlessness, or that it was given in a wrong spirit, are alike conjectures. The story is probably imperfect at this point.

The "Sign" of Cain.

The "sign" of Cain is sometimes understood as a sign given to Cain to reassure him, but probably some mark on his person is intended, which should indicate that he was under divine protection. It perhaps refers to a tribal mark of the Kenites connected with their worship of Yhwh (Stade,"Z.A.T.W."; Guthe, "Herzog," 1901, s.v.).

The Apocrypha (Wis 10:3f) refers to Cain as the cause of the Flood. In the New Testament Cain is mentioned as an evil example (Heb 11:4; 1Jn 3:12; Jude 1:11).

See also: Cain (town)

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Up to date as of February 01, 2010
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From Familypedia

Birth 9999 in Garden of Eden
Death: 9999 in Nod
Father: Adam (4004 BC-3074 BC)
Mother: Eve (4004 BC-?)
Wife: Awan (?-?)
Wedding: 9999 in "Mesopotamia"
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Killed his brother Abel in an act of jealousy. Was exiled by YHWH (God) and went to live in the East.




Offspring of  Cain and Awan (?-?)
Name Birth Death
Enoch (son of Cain) in Mesopotamia in Mesopotamia
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  • Book of Genesis

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