What is the
MARK of CAIN?
Submit YOUR questions, through our easy to use form,
to our team of mature Christians known as the Email Evangelists!
Bible students for years have wondered about the mark God placed on Cain to warn others not to kill him. The scriptures in question are found in the fourth chapter of Genesis. We will first examine some of the verses leading up to the mark so that other questions related to Abel's murder are answered.
"Now 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 KILLED HIM. Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is Abel your brother?' He said, 'I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?'
"And He said, 'What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.' (Genesis 4:8-12, NKJV throughout)
What did God spare Cain's life instead of killing him? One reason is that God had not yet given man a command not to murder another human. Such a command will be given by God, however, right after Noah leaves the ark after the flood waters subside.
"'Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed. For in the image of God He made man.'" (Genesis 9:6)
Another, and likely more important reason, Cain was allowed to live is so that other humans would be warned of God's view and judgment on sin. If he was put to death as a punishment that death would soon be forgotten (Ecclesiastes 8:10) and the lesson of what happened lost. He is, instead, cursed to wander the earth with no permanent home. His constant wandering (due to being a fugitive), coupled with a mark he will soon receive, will be a living testament to others not to repeat the same mistake.
"And Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear! Surely You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground; I shall be hidden from Your face; I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and it will happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.'
"And the Lord said to him, 'Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.' AND THE LORD SET A MARK ON CAIN, LEST ANYONE FINDING HIM SHOULD KILL HIM." (Genesis 4:4-15, NKJV throughout)
Why would Cain greatly fear someone taking vengeance on him ("anyone who finds me will kill me") if, as some assume, no one else but Adam and Eve where living at the time? The Bible does not state Adam's age when either of his first two sons were born. Seth was born after the death of Abel when Adam was 130 years old. The youngest age at which the first patriarchs (Seth, Enosh, Cainan all the way to Noah) gave birth to their first son was sixty-five. If we conservatively assume Adam had his first son at 65 then that would give Adam and Eve 50 years or more to procreate until Abel's murder. A footnote in the writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus states a very old tradition that said Adam had a total of thirty-three sons and twenty-one daughters. The number of Adam and Eve's children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc. that existed when Cain received his punishment would have been enough to warrant his concern.
Why did God issue a stern warning, through the mark, that no one should kill Cain? It is because, in part, it would defeat God's judgment and the purpose why he was allowed the world's first murderer to live.
Now we come to the Mark. Many have speculated, down through the years, that what was given to warn others not to take vengeance was:
A horn (either short or long) placed on the forehead
Leprosy on his face
Abel's guard dog for his sheep which would protect him
A special letter, or a letter from God's name, placed on the forehead
Cain's own name placed on his head
The Killing of Abel
The truth is, the Bible simply does not tell us in any clear way what was the special mark God gave Cain. Any conjecture, therefore, regarding this issue is ultimately based on opinion and not the word of God.