Genesis 4:11
And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
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(11, 12) And now (because of thy crime) art thou cursed from the earth.—Heb., from the adâmâh, or cultivated ground. Cain was the first human being on whom a curse was inflicted, and it was to rise up from the ground, the portion of the earth won and subdued by man, to punish him. He had polluted man’s habitation, and now, when he tilled the soil, it would resist him as an enemy, by refusing “to yield unto him her strength.” He had been an unsuccessful man before, and outstripped in the race of life by the younger son; for the future his struggle with the conditions of life will be still harder. The reason for this follows: “a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” Restless and uneasy, and haunted by the remembrance of his crime, he shall become a wanderer, not merely in the adâmâh, his native soil, but in the earth. Poverty must necessarily be the lot of one thus roaming, not in search of a better lot, but under the compulsion of an evil conscience. Finally, however, we find that Cain’s feelings grew more calm, and being comforted by the presence of a wife and children, “he builded a city,” and had at last a home.

Genesis 4:11. And now art thou cursed — 1st, Separated to all evil, laid under the wrath of God, as it is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. 2d, He is cursed from the earth. Thence the cry came up to God, thence the curse came up to Cain. God could have taken vengeance by an immediate stroke from heaven: but he chose to make the earth the avenger of blood; to continue him upon the earth, and not presently to cut him off; and yet to make even that his curse. That part of it which fell to his share, and which he had the occupation of, was made unfruitful, by the blood of Abel. Besides, 3d, A fugitive and a vagabond (says God) shalt thou be in the earth — By this he was condemned to perpetual disgrace and reproach, and to perpetual disquiet and horror in his own mind. His own guilty conscience would haunt him wherever he went.

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.The curse (Genesis 9:25, note) which now fell on Cain was in some sense retributive, as it sprang from the soil which had received his brother's blood. The particulars of it are the withdrawal of the full strength or fruitfulness of the soil from him, and the degradation from the state of a settled dweller in the presence of God to that of a vagabond in the earth. He was to be banished to a less productive part of the earth, removed from the presence of God and the society of his father and mother, and abandoned to a life of wandering and uncertainty. The sentence of death had been already pronounced upon man.11, 12. now art thou cursed from the earth—a curse superadded to the general one denounced on the ground for Adam's sin. As the earth was cursed for thy father’s sake, so now art thou cursed in thy own person;

from the earth, or, in regard of the earth, which shall grudge thee both its fruits and a certain dwelling-place, and which had more humanity to thy brother than thou hadst; for it kindly received and covered that blood which thou didst cruelly and unnaturally shed upon it.

And now art thou cursed from the earth,.... From receiving benefit by it, and enjoying the fruits of it as before, and from having a settled dwelling in it, as is afterwards explained:

which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; the blood of his brother, which was shed by his own hand, was received and sucked into the earth, where it was spilt, through the pores of it, and drank up and covered, so as not to be seen; in which it was as it were more humane to Abel, and as it were more ashamed of the crime, and shuddered more, and expressed more horror at it, than Cain.

And now art thou cursed {k} from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

(k) The earth will be a witness against you, which mercifully received the blood you most cruelly shed.

11. from the ground] The meaning is not quite obvious. Probably, we should not understand, that the curse is to come from the ground upon Cain, but that Cain is driven by Jehovah’s curse from the ground. The emphasis is on “the ground” (hâ-adâmâh). It is the ground which Cain tilled, the ground whose fruits he offered, and the ground which he has caused to drink human blood. From this ground he is now driven by a curse. For pollution of the land by bloodshed cf. Numbers 35:33, “So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood, it polluteth the land: and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

On blood-revenge, cf. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage, pp. 25–27.

Verses 11, 12. - Convicted, if not humbled, the culprit is speechless, and can only listen in consternation to the threefold judgment which pronounced him "cursed in his soul, vagabond in his body, and unprosperous in his labors" (Willet). And now - either at this time, already (cf. Joshua 14:11; Hosea 2:10), or for this cause, because thou hast done this (Genesis 3:14; cf. Genesis 19:9; Exodus 18:19) - art thou cursed. The first curse pronounced against a human being. Adam and Eve were not cursed, though the serpent and the devil were. If we may not conclude that Cain was thereby for ever excluded from the hope of salvation if he should repent, still less must we explain the Divine judgment down to a simple sentence of banishment from Eden. The fratricide was henceforth to bear the displeasure and indignation of his Maker, whose image in Abel he had slain; of which indignation and displeasure his expatriation was to be a symbol. Different explanations have been offered of the clause, from the earth, or ground, Ad-hamah, which, however, cannot mean more than the ground, which already had been cursed (Genesis 3:17; Lunge), since "the curse of the soil and the misery of man cannot well be compared with each other" (Kalisch); or simply away from the district, the scene of his crime (Kalisch, Speaker's, Rosenmüller, Tuch, Gerlach, Delitzsch), as if all that the sentence implied was banishment from Eden; but must involve in addition the idea that the curse was to leap upon him from the earth, or ground, in general (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Knobel, Alford, Murphy). Which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. The terrible significance of this curse is further opened in the words which follow. The earth was to be against him -

1. In refusing him its substance. When thou tillest (literally, shalt till) the ground, it shall not henceforth yield (literally, add to give) unto thee her strength. Neither a double curse upon the entire earth for man's sake (Alford), nor a doom of sterility inflicted only on the district of Eden (Kalisch); but a judgment on Cain and his descendants with respect to their labors. Their tillage of the ground was not to prosper, which ultimately, Bonar thinks, drove the Cainites to city-building and mechanical invention.

2. In denying him a home. A fugitive and a vagabond - literally, moving and wandering; "groaning and trembling" (LXX., erroneously), "banished and homeless" (Keil) - shalt thou be in the earth. "As robbers are wont to be who have no quiet and secure resting-place" (Calvin); driven on by the agonizing tortures of a remorseful and alarmed conscience, and not simply by "the earth denying to him the expected fruits of his labor" (Delitzsch). The ban of wandering, which David pronounced upon his enemies (Psalm 59:12; Psalm 109:10), in later years fell upon the Jews, who "for shedding the blood of Christ, the most innocent Lamb of God, are vagabonds to this day over the face of the earth" (Willet). Thus the earth was made the minister of God's curse, not a partaker of it, as some have strangely imagined, as if by drinking up the blood of Abel it had become a participant of Cain's crime (Delitzsch). Genesis 4:11"And now (sc., because thou hast done this) be cursed from the earth." From: i.e., either away from the earth, driven forth so that it shall no longer afford a quiet resting-place (Gerlach, Delitzsch, etc.), or out of the earth, through its withdrawing its strength, and thus securing the fulfilment of perpetual wandering (Baumgarten, etc.). It is difficult to choose between the two; but the clause, "which hath opened her mouth," etc. seems rather to favour the latter. Because the earth has been compelled to drink innocent blood, it rebels against the murderer, and when he tills it, withdraws its strength, so that the soil yields no produce; just as the land of Canaan is said to have spued out the Canaanites, on account of their abominations (Leviticus 18:28). In any case, the idea that "the soil, through drinking innocent blood, became an accomplice in the sin of murder," has no biblical support, and is not confirmed by Isaiah 26:21 or Numbers 35:33. The suffering of irrational creatures through the sin of man is very different from their participating in his sin. "A fugitive and vagabond (ונד נע, i.e., banished and homeless) shalt thou be in the earth." Cain is so affected by this curse, that his obduracy is turned into despair, "My sin," he says in Genesis 4:13, "is greater than can be borne." עון נשׁא signifies to take away and bear sin or guilt, and is used with reference both to God and man. God takes guilt away by forgiving it (Exodus 34:7); man carries it away and bears it, by enduring its punishment (cf. Numbers 5:31). Luther, following the ancient versions, has adopted the first meaning; but the context sustains the second: for Cain afterwards complains, not of the greatness of the sin, but only of the severity of the punishment. "Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from Thy face shall I be hid;...and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me." The adamah, from the face of which the curse of Jehovah had driven Cain, was Eden (cf. Genesis 4:16), where he had carried on his agricultural pursuits, and where God had revealed His face, i.e., His presence, to the men after their expulsion from the garden; so that henceforth Cain had to wander about upon the wide world, homeless and far from the presence of God, and was afraid lest any one who found him might slay him. By "every one that findeth me" we are not to understand omnis creatura, as though Cain had excited the hostility of all creatures, but every man; not in the sense, however, of such as existed apart from the family of Adam, but such as were aware of his crime, and knew him to be a murderer. For Cain is evidently afraid of revenge on the part of relatives of the slain, that is to say, of descendants of Adam, who were either already in existence, or yet to be born. Though Adam might not at this time have had "many grandsons and great-grandson," yet according to Genesis 4:17 and Genesis 5:4, he had undoubtedly other children, who might increase in number, and sooner or later might avenge Abel's death. For, that blood shed demands blood in return, "is a principle of equity written in the heart of every man; and that Cain should see that earth full of avengers is just like a murderer, who sees avenging spirits (Ἐρινύες) ready to torture him on every hand."
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