|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:8-15 Malice in the heart ends in murder by the hands. Cain slew Abel, his own brother, his own mother's son, whom he ought to have loved; his younger brother, whom he ought to have protected; a good brother, who had never done him any wrong. What fatal effects were these of our first parents' sin, and how must their hearts have been filled with anguish! Observe the pride, unbelief, and impenitence of Cain. He denies the crime, as if he could conceal it from God. He tries to cover a deliberate murder with a deliberate lie. Murder is a crying sin. Blood calls for blood, the blood of the murdered for the blood of the murderer. Who knows the extent and weight of a Divine curse, how far it reaches, how deep it pierces? Only in Christ are believers saved from it, and inherit the blessing. Cain was cursed from the earth. He found his punishment there where he chose his portion, and set his heart. Every creature is to us what God makes it, a comfort or a cross, a blessing or a curse. The wickedness of the wicked brings a curse upon all they do, and all they have. Cain complains not of his sin, but of his punishment. It shows great hardness of heart to be more concerned about our sufferings than our sins. God has wise and holy ends in prolonging the lives even of very wicked men. It is in vain to inquire what was the mark set upon Cain. It was doubtless known, both as a brand of infamy on Cain, and a token from God that they should not kill him. Abel, being dead, yet speaketh. He tells the heinous guilt of murder, and warns us to stifle the first risings of wrath, and teaches us that persecution must be expected by the righteous. Also, that there is a future state, and an eternal recompence to be enjoyed, through faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice. And he tells us the excellency of faith in the atoning sacrifice and blood of the Lamb of God. Cain slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous, 1Jo 3:12. In consequence of the enmity put between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the war broke out, which has been waged ever since. In this war we are all concerned, none are neuter; our Captain has declared, He that is not with me is against me. Let us decidedly, yet in meekness, support the cause of truth and righteousness against Satan.
Verses 13, 14. - And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment (or my sin) is greater than I can bear. Or, than can be borne away. Interpreted in either way, this is scarcely the language of confession, "sufficiens confessio, sod intempestiva" (Chrysostom); but, as the majority of interpreters are agreed, of desperation (Calvin). According to the first rendering Cain is understood as deploring not the enormity of his sin, but the severity of his punishment, under which he reels and staggers as one amazed (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Calvin, Keil, Delitzsch, Murphy, Alford, Speakers, Kalisch). According to the second, from the terrific nature of the blow which had descended on him Cain awakens to the conviction that his sin was too heinous to be forgiven (margin, Septuagint, Vulgate, Theodotion, Arabic, Syrlac, Onkelos, Samaritan, Gesenins, Wordsworth). The first of these is favored by the remaining portion of his address, which shows that that which had paralyzed his guilty spirit was not the wickedness of his deed, but the overwhelming retribution which had leapt so unexpectedly from its bosom. The real cause of his despair was the sentence which had gone forth against him, and the articles of which he now recapitulates. Behold, thou hast driven me this day - "Out of the sentence of his own conscience Cain makes a clear, positive, Divine decree of banishment" (Lange) - from the face of the earth. Literally, the ground, i.e. the land of Eden. "Adam's sin brought expulsion from the inner circle, Cain's from the outer" (Bonar). And from thy face shall I be hid. Either
(1) from the place where the Divine presence was specially manifested, i.e. at the gate of Eden, which does not contradict (Kalisch) the great Biblical truth of the Divine omnipresence (cf. Exodus 20:24); or,
(2) more generally, from the enjoyment of the Divine favor (cf. Deuteronomy 31:18). "To be hidden from the face of God is to be not regarded by God, or not protected by his guardian care" (Calvin). And I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond. "A vagabond and a runagate" (Tyndale, Coverdale, 'Bishops' Bible'). Vagus et profugus (Vulgate; vagus et infestus agitationibus (Tremellius and Junins). In the earth. The contemplation of his miserable doom, acting on his guilty conscience, inspired him with a fearful apprehension, to which in closing he gives expression in the hearing of his Judge. And it shall come to pass, that every one - not beast (Josephus, Kimchi, Michaelis), but person - that findeth me shall slay me. "Amongst the ancient Romans a man cursed for any wickedness might be freely killed (Dionysius Halicarnass., 1. 2). Amongst the Gauls the excommunicated were deprived of any benefit of law (Caesar. 'de Bello Gallico,' 50:6; cf. also Sophocles, '(Edip. Tyrannus')" (Ainsworth). The apprehension which Cain cherished has been explained as an oversight on the part of the narrator (Schumann and Tuch); as a mistake on the part of Cain, who had no reason to know that the world was not populated (T. Lewis); as referring to the blood avengers of the future who might arise from his father's family (Rosenmüller, Delitzsch); and also, and perhaps with as much probability, as indicating that already, in the 130 years that had gone, Adam's descendants were not limited to the two brothers and their wives (Havernick).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Cain said unto the Lord,.... In the anguish of his spirit and the distress of his mind:
my punishment is greater than I can bear; thus complaining of the mercy of God, as if he acted a cruel part, inflicting on him more than he could endure; and arraigning his justice, as if it was more than he deserved, or ought in equity to be laid on him; whereas it was abundantly less than the demerit of his sin, for his punishment was but a temporal one; for, excepting the horrors and terrors of his guilty conscience, it was no other than a heavier curse on the land he tilled, and banishment from his native place, and being a fugitive and wanderer in other countries; and if such a punishment is intolerable, what must the torments of hell be? the worm that never dies? the fire that is never quenched? and the wrath of God, which is a consuming fire, and burns to the lowest hell? some render the words, "my sin is greater than can be forgiven" (u); as despairing of the mercy of God, having no faith in the promised seed, and in the pardon of sin through his atonement, blood, and sacrifice; or, "is my sin greater than can be forgiven" (w)? is there no forgiveness of it? is it the unpardonable sin? but Cain seems not to be so much concerned about sin, and the pardon of it, as about his temporal punishment for it; wherefore the first sense seems best, and best agrees with what follows.
(u) "major est iniquitas mea, quam ut veniam merear", V. L. "iniqutas mea? major est quam ut remittatur", Tigurine version, Fagius; "quam ut remittat, sub. Deus mihi", Vatablus; so the Targum of Onkelos, Sept. Syr. & Ar. (w) "Ergone majus est delictum meum, quam ut remittatur"; Schmidt.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
13, 14. And Cain said … My punishment is greater than I can bear—What an overwhelming sense of misery; but no sign of penitence, nor cry for pardon.
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