Genesis 4:13
And Cain said to the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
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(13, 14) My punishment (or my iniquity) is greater than I can bear.—Literally, than can be borne, or forgiven.” It is in accordance with the manner of the Hebrew language to have only one word for an act and its result. Thus work and wages are expressed by the same word in Isaiah 62:11. The full meaning, therefore, is, “My sin is past forgiveness, and its result is an intolerable punishment.” This latter idea seems foremost in Cain’s mind, and is dwelt upon in Genesis 4:14. He there complains that he is driven, not from the face of the earth,” which was impossible, but from the adâmâh, his dear native soil, banished from which, he must go into the silence and solitude of an earth unknown and untracked. And next, “from thy face shall I be hid.” Naturally, Cain had no idea of an omnipresent God, and away from the adâmâh he supposed that it would be impossible to enjoy the Divine favour and protection. Without this there would be no safety for him anywhere, so that he must rove about perpetually, and “every one that findeth me shall slay me.” In the adâmâh Jehovah would protect him; away from it, men, unseen by Jehovah, might do as they liked. But who were these men? Some commentators answer, Adam’s other sons, especially those who had attached themselves to Abel. Others say that Adam’s creation was not identical with that of Genesis 1:27, but was that of the highest type of the human race, and had been preceded by the production of inferior races, of whose existence there are widespread proofs. But others, with more probability, think that Cain’s was a vain apprehension. How could he know that Adam and his family were the sole inhabitants of the earth? Naturally he expected to find farther on what he had left behind; a man and woman with stalwart sons: and that these, regarding him as an interloper come to rob them, and seeing in his ways proof of guilt, would at once attack and slay him.

Genesis 4:13-14. Cain said, My punishment (Hebrews my sin) is greater than I can bear — Sin, however, seems to be put for punishment, as it is Genesis 4:7, and in many other places. For Cain was not so sensible of his sin, as of the miserable effects of it, as appears from the next verse, where, to justify his complaint, he descants upon the sentence, observing, 1st, That he was excluded by it from the favour of God: that, being cursed, he was hid from God’s face, which is indeed the true nature of God’s curse, as they will find to whom God shall say, Depart from me, ye cursed. 2d, That he was expelled from all the comforts of this life; driven out from the face of the earth, and hid from God’s face — Shut out from the church, and not admitted to come with the sons of God to present himself before the Lord. And, adds he, every one that finds me shall slay me — Wherever he goes, he goes in peril of his life. There were none alive but his near relations, yet even of them he is justly afraid, who had himself been so barbarous to his own brother.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.My iniquity is more than I can bear. - To bear iniquity is in Hebrew phrase to undergo the punishment of it. And the prospect of this, as it presents itself to the eyes of Cain, is so appalling that he shrinks from it as intolerable. To be driven from the face of the soil, inhabited by the other surviving members of the human family, to an unknown and therefore terrible region; to be hidden from the face of God, who manifested himself still to the race of Adam in their present abode; to be a vagabond and a fugitive in the earth, far away from the land of his birth; and to be liable to be slain in just revenge by anyone who should find him - such is the hard fate he sees before him. It is dark enough in itself, and no doubt darker still in the exaggeration which an accusing conscience conjures up to his imagination. The phrase, "every one finding me," implies that the family of Adam had now become numerous. Not only sons and daughters, but their children and grandchildren may have been growing up when Cain was sent into exile. But in his present terror even an excited fancy suggested an enemy at every turn.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. Hebrew, My sin; but sin seems here to be put for punishment, as before, Genesis 4:7 Genesis 19:15 Leviticus 5:1 Psalm 69:27 Proverbs 12:21; for Cain was not so sensible of his sin as of the ill effects of it, as himself shows, Genesis 4:14. 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.

And Cain said unto the LORD, {m} My punishment is greater than I can bear.

(m) He burdens God as a cruel judge because he punished him so severely.

13. And Cain said] The bitter cry of Cain is not that of repentance for his sin, but of entreaty for the mitigation of his doom.

My punishment] Better than marg. mine iniquity. The Hebrew word is used to denote both guilt and its penalty, and consequently is sometimes ambiguous, e.g. 1 Samuel 28:10, “And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall be no punishment happen to thee (marg. guilt come upon thee) for this thing.” In our verse the rendering “punishment” is to be preferred. Cain in Genesis 4:14 is thinking of his sentence, not of his sin.

than I can bear] The rendering of the margin, than can be forgiven, which is that of the versions, though possible, is not to be preferred. It has sometimes been advocated on the ground that the “iniquity” of Cain was typical of the sin “that is unto death” (1 John 5:16), and that cannot be forgiven (St Mark 3:29). LXX μείζων ἡ αἰτία μου τοῦ ἀφεθῆναί με. Lat. major est iniquitas mea quam ut veniam merear. Similarly Targum of Onkelos: cf. Psalm 38:4, “As an heavy burden, they [mine iniquities] are too heavy for me.”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). "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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