And the LORD said to Cain, Where is Abel your brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
I. The Divine APPEAL TO CONSCIENCE, affording opportunity to repentance and confession, and therefore to the exercise of mercy.
II. THE BLINDING EFFECT OF A GREAT SIN. The man who Anew that God knew all persisting in a lie, and insulting the Divine majesty at the very throne of judgment, i.e. defying God by the monstrous extravagance of self-assertion, which is the effect of indulged sin, not only hardening the heart, but filling it with a mad desperation. So we find great criminals still, to the very last, adding sin to sin, as though they had come to think that the deeper they sunk into it the more chance they had of escaping its punishment, or by daring the whole extremity might the sooner know the worst.
III. There is great significance in the INTIMATE CONNECTION SET FORTH BETWEEN THE CRIME AND PUNISHMENT OF CAIN AND THE EARTH AND THE GROUND. The blood speaks from the ground, crying to God. Cain is cursed from the ground. The ground opened her mouth to receive the brother's blood. The ground refuses to serve the murderer. On the earth he shall be a fugitive and vagabond. From the face of the earth he is driven. His punishment is greater than he can bear. Surely all that is intended to place in vivid contrast the righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of man; the one witnessed by the steadfast earth, with its unbroken laws, its pure, unfallen, peaceful state, with its communities of creatures innocent of all sin; the other witnessed by the cursed, wandering, suffering, hunger-pinched, miserable man, flying from his neighbor, flying from himself.
IV. As in the expulsion of man from Eden, so in the expulsion of Cain from society, there is MERCY MINGLED WITH JUDGMENT. The mark set upon Cain by the Lord was at once the mark of rejection and the mark of protection; it threatened sevenfold vengeance on the murderer of the murderer; it was an excommunication for the sake of the sinner as well as for the sake of the community. We must not expect to find in these primeval records more than a dim intimation of the Divine mind. But here, at the outset of the human race, there is the germ of that distinction and separation among mankind on the moral and spiritual ground which really is the essential fact of the kingdom of God. "The blood of sprinkling speaketh better things than that of Abel." Yet it is a good thing that God should say to us, in however fearful a manner, that that which is destructive of human society, which rises up against a brother's life, which hates and works out its hatred in cruel act, shall be, can be, separated from the world into which it has come, and cast out. We must look at the whole narrative from the side of the Abel element, not from the side of the Cain element; and the blessed truth contained in it is that God purges society of its evil men and evil principles, and makes its very martyrs' blood to be a consecration of the earth to proclaim his righteousness. We have not to answer the question, How about Cain? He is protected from violence. He is permitted to repent and return, though for a time an outcast. Out of the conflict of the two worlds will come forth the purpose of God - evil separated, good eternally triumphant. - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?