Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II - Luther on Sin and the Flood
by Martin Luther
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V. 12b. A fugitive and a wanderer (vagabond) shalt thou be in the earth.

189. This is a third punishment resting on murderers to our day. For, unless they find reconciliation, they have nowhere a fixed abode or a secure dwelling-place.

We find here, in the original, two words, No Vanod, signifying vagabond and fugitive. The distinction I make between them is, that No designates the uncertainty of one's dwelling-place. An illustration is furnished by the Jews, who have no established habitation, but fear every hour lest they be compelled to wander forth. Nod, on the other hand, signifies the uncertainty of finding the dwelling-place sought; with the uncertainty of a present permanent dwelling-place there is linked the uncertainty of a goal to strive for when the present uncertain dwelling-place must be abandoned. Thus, the punishment contains two features, the insecurity of the present dwelling-place and a lack of knowledge whither to turn when thrust forth from the insecure abode of the present. In this sense the term is used in Psalm 109, 10: "Let his children be continually vagabonds." That means, Nowhere shall they find a certain abode; if they are in Greece this year, they shall migrate to Italy the next, and so from place to place.

190. Just such is evidently the miserable state of the Jews at the present day. They can fix their dwelling-place nowhere permanently. And to such evil God adds this other in the case of Cain, that when he should be driven from one place of abode he should not know where to turn, and thus should live suspended, as it were, between heaven and earth, not knowing where to abide nor where to look for a permanent place of refuge.

191. In this manner the sin of Cain was visited with a threefold punishment. In the first place he was deprived of all spiritual or churchly glory; for the promise that the blessed seed was to be born from his posterity, was taken from him. In the second place, the earth was cursed, which is a punishment affecting his home life. The third punishment affects his relations to the community, in that he must be a vagabond without a fixed abode anywhere.

192. Notwithstanding, an open door of return into the Church is left, but without a covenant. For, as has been explained, in the event that any one of Cain's posterity should ally himself with the true Church and the holy fathers, he was saved. Thus the Home is left, but without a blessing; and the State is left so that he may found a city and dwell there, but for how long, is uncertain. Without exaggeration, therefore, he may be likened to a beggar in Church, Home and State.

193. This punishment is mitigated by the prohibition to slay him forthwith after the commission of the murderous deed, a law providing for the punishment of murderers which was reserved for a later day. Cain was saved that he might be an example for others, to teach them to fear God and to beware of murder. So much about the sin, arraignment, and punishment of Cain.

194. But there are some who reply that, the godly, likewise sometimes endure these same curses, while the wicked, on the contrary, are free from them. Thus, Paul says that he also "wandered about and had no certain dwelling-place," 1 Cor 4, 11. Such is even our condition to-day, who are teachers in the churches. We have no certain dwelling-place; either we are driven into banishment or we expect banishment any hour. Such was the lot also of Christ, the apostles, the prophets, and the patriarchs.

195. Concerning Jacob the Scriptures say "The elder shall serve the younger," Gen 25, 23. But does not Jacob become a servant when we see him, from fear of his brother, haste away into exile? Does he not, on his return home, supplicate his brother and fall on his knees before him? Is not Isaac also seen to be a most miserable beggar? Gen 6, 1-35. Abraham, his father, goes into exile among the Gentiles and possesses not in all the world a place to set his foot, as Stephen says, Acts 7, 1-5. On the other hand, Ishmael was a king, and had the princes of the land of Midian as his offspring before Israel entered into the land of promise, Gen 25, 16. Thus, as we shall see a little later, Cain first built the city of Enoch, and, furthermore, became the ancestor of shepherds, workers in metals, and musicians. All this appears to prove that it is a mistake to attribute to Cain and his posterity a curse. The curse seems to rest with weight upon the true Church, while the wicked appear to thrive and flourish.

196. These things are often a stumbling-block, not to the world only, but even to the saints, as the Psalms in many places testify. And the prophets, also, are frequently found to grow indignant, as does Jeremiah, when they see the wicked possess freedom as it were from the evils of life, while they are oppressed and afflicted in various ways. Men may therefore inquire, Where is the curse of the wicked? Where is the blessing of the godly? Is not the converse the truth? Cain is a vagabond and settled nowhere; and yet Cain is the first man that builds a city and has a certain place to dwell in. But we will answer this argument more fully hereafter. We will now proceed with the text of Moses.


1. How he despaired. "My punishment is greater" etc.

a. These words have greatly perplexed interpreters 197.

b. The way Augustine explains them 197.

c. The explanation of the rabbins 198.

* How the rabbins pervert the Scriptures and whence their false comments 198-199.

d. Why the rabbins' interpretation cannot be accepted 200.

e. The true understanding of these words 201.

* The punishment troubles Cain more than his sin 201.

f. What makes these words difficult 202.

* The right understanding of the words "Minso" and "Avon" 202-203.

* Grammarians cannot get at the right meaning of the Scriptures 204.

* How we should proceed in interpreting Scripture 204.

2. How Cain viewed his political punishment 205.

3. How he viewed his ecclesiastical punishment 206.

* Why Cain was excommunicated by Adam 206-207.

* In what sense Cain was a fugitive and a wanderer 208-209.

* Adam received his punishment in a better way 210.

* The meaning of being a fugitive and a wanderer. How the same is found among the papists 211-212.

* The grace of God was guaranteed to Seth and his posterity 212.

* Why no temptation can harm believers 212.

4. Cain's fear that in turn he would be slain 213.

* God shows Cain a double favor in his punishment. Why he does this 213.

* Whether any of Cain's posterity, under the Old Testament, were saved 214-215.

5. Whether Cain prayed that he might die, as Augustine, Lyra and others relate 216-217.

* The fables of the rabbins cause Luther double work and why he occasionally cites them 218.

* Whether God changed his judgment upon Cain 219.

* Why God still showed Cain incidental grace 219.

* The fables of the Jews concerning Cain's death and Lamech's punishment 220-221.

* It is foolish to dispute concerning the sevenfold vengeance to be visited upon the one who slew Cain 222.

* The divine promises.

a. They are twofold, of the law and of grace 223.

b. The promise Adam received 224.

c. Whether God gave Cain one of these promises 224-225.

d. The kind of promises well organized police stations have 226.

e. The promises the Church has 227.

f. Cain's promise is temporal, incidental and incomplete 227.

* Was Cain murdered 228.

6. How Cain had cause to fear, even though there were no people on the earth except Adam and Eve and his sisters 229-230.

* The sign that is put upon Cain.

a. Can anything definite be said of it. What the fathers thought of it 231.

b. Why this sign was placed upon him 232.

c. How he had to carry it his whole life 232.

d. How the sign was a confirmation and a promise of the law 233.

7. Of Cain's departure, and his excommunication from the presence of Jehovah.

a. The first parents in obedience to God made Cain an outcast 234-235.

b. How the first parents overcame their parental affections in expelling Cain 236.

* What should urge men to flee from their false security 237.

c. His expulsion must have pierced Cain to the heart 238.

* What is the presence of Jehovah 238.

d. How he went from the presence of Jehovah, to be without that presence 239.

e. It was a sad departure, both for Cain and his parents 240.

f. Whither he resorted 241.

* What meaning of "in the land of Nod" 241.

* Of Paradise.

(1) The deluge very likely destroyed paradise 241.

(2) Where was paradise 242.

* Of the Deluge.

(1) The deluge destroyed paradise 243.

* Cain lived where Babylon was built later 244.

(2) The deluge gave the earth an entirely different form 244.


V. 13. And Cain said unto Jehovah, My punishment (iniquity) is greater than I can bear (than can be remitted).

197. Here Moses seems to have fixed a cross for the grammarians and the rabbins; for they crucify this passage in various ways. Lyra recites the opinions of some who see in this passage an affirmation, considering it to mean that in his despair Cain claimed his sin to be greater than could be pardoned. This is our rendering. Augustine likewise retained this view of the passage, for he says, "Thou liest, Cain; for the mercy of God is greater than the misery of all the sinners."

198. The rabbins, however, expound the passage as a denial in the form of a question, as if he had said, "Is my iniquity greater than can be remitted?" But if this rendering be the true one, Cain not only does not acknowledge his sin, but excuses it and, in addition, insults God for laying upon him a punishment greater than he deserves. In this way the rabbins almost everywhere corrupt the sense of the Scriptures. Consequently I begin to hate them, and I admonish all who read them, to do so with careful discrimination. Although they did possess the knowledge of some things by tradition from the fathers, they corrupted them in various ways; and therefore they often deceived by those corruptions even Jerome himself. Nor did the poets of old so fill the world with their fables as the wicked Jews did the Scriptures with their absurd opinions. A great task, therefore, is incumbent upon us in endeavoring to keep the text free from their comments.

199. The occasion for all this error is the fact that some men are competent to deal only with grammatical questions, but not with the subject matter itself; that is, they are not theologians at the same time. The inevitable result is mistakes and the crucifixion of themselves as well as of the Scriptures. For how can any one explain what he does not understand? Now the subject matter in the present passage is that Cain is accused in his own conscience. And no one, not only no wicked man, but not even the devil himself, can endure this judgment; as James witnesses, "The devils also believe and tremble before God," Jas 2, 19. Peter also says, "Whereas angels which are greater in power and might cannot endure that judgment which the Lord will exercise upon blasphemers," 2 Pet 2, 11. So also Manasseh in his prayer, verses 4 and 5, confesses that all men tremble before the face of the Lord's anger.

200. All this is sufficient evidence that Cain, when arraigned by God, did not have courage to withstand and to argue with him. For God is an almighty adversary; the first assault he makes is upon the heart itself when he takes the conscience into his grasp. Of this the rabbins know nothing, nor can they understand it; in consequence they speak of this arraignment as if it took place before men, where the truth is either denied or facts are smoothed over. This is impossible when God arraigns men; as Christ says in Matthew 12, 37, "By thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

201. Cain thus acknowledges his sin, although it is not so much the sin he grieves over as the penalty inflicted. The statement, then, is to be understood in the affirmative, and it reveals the horrors of despair.

A further proof of Cain's despair is, that he does not utter one word of reverence. He never mentions the name of God or of his father. His conscience is so confused and so overwhelmed with terror and despair that he is not able to think of any hope of pardon. The Epistle to the Hebrews gives the same description of Esau when it states that he "for one mess of meat, sold his own birthright. For ye know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place for change of mind, though he sought it diligently with tears," Heb 12, 16-17. Thus in the present instance, Cain feels his punishment, but he grieves more for his punishment than for his sin. And all persons, when in despair, do the same.

202. The two original words of this passage, minneso and avon, are a pair of crosses for grammarians. Jerome translates this clause, "My iniquity is greater than can be pardoned." Sanctes, the grammarian of Pagnum, a man of no mean erudition and evidently a diligent scholar, renders the passage, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." But by such a rendering we shall make a martyr of Cain and a sinner of Abel. Concerning the word nasa, I have before observed that when it is applied to sin it signifies, to lift sin up, or off, or on high; that is, to take it out of the way. Similarly the figure has found currency among us: the remission of sins, or to remit sin. In the Thirty-second Psalm, verse one, we find the expression, Aschre Nesu Pascha. This, literally translated, would make: Being blessed through the removal of crime, or sin. We make it: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, or taken away. The same is found in Isaiah 33, 24, The people that dwell therein shall be Nesu Avon, that means, relieved from sin—shall be the people whose sin is forgiven.

203. The other original term, avoni, grammarians derive from the verb anah, which signifies "to be afflicted," as in Zechariah 9, 9: "Behold thy king cometh unto thee lowly (or afflicted)." Our translation renders it "meek." Likewise in Psalms 132, 1: "Jehovah, remember for David all his affliction." From the same root is derived the expression, "low estate," or "lowliness," used by the Virgin Mary in her song, Lk 1, 48. This fact induces Sanctes to render it "punishment."

But here avoni signifies "iniquity" or "sin," as it does also in many other passages of the Holy Scriptures, which appears more plainly from the verb "remit," which stands connected with it.

204. Hence it is that grammarians, who are nothing but such and know nothing of the divine things, find their crosses in all such passages, and crucify, not only the Scriptures, but themselves and their hearers as well. In the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, the sense is first to be determined; and when that appears in all respects consistent with itself, then the grammatical features are to receive attention. The rabbins, however, take the opposite course, and hence it grieves me that divines and the holy fathers so frequently follow them.

V. 14. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the ground; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.

205. From these words it appears that the sentence on Cain was pronounced through the mouth of Adam. Cain acknowledges that he is driven first from Home and State, and then also from the Church. Of the difference between the words adamah and erez we spoke above. We showed that erez signifies the earth generally, while the word adamah means the cultivated part of the earth. The meaning therefore is: I am now compelled to flee from thy presence and from that part of the earth which I have cultivated. The whole world indeed lies before me, but I must be a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth; that is, I shall have no certain dwelling place. In the same way fugitive murderers among us are punished with exile. These words, accordingly, cast additional light upon the utterance of Adam, "Cursed art thou from the ground." They refer to Cain's banishment. This part of Cain's punishment therefore is a civil punishment, and by it he is shut out from civic association.

206. But that which Cain next adds, "From thy face shall I be hid," is an ecclesiastical punishment and true excommunication. For, as the priesthood and the kingdom rested with Adam, and Cain on account of his sin was excommunicated from Adam, he was thereby also deprived of the glory both of priesthood and kingdom. But why Adam adopted this punishment is explained by the words, "When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee its strength;" as if he had said, Thou art cursed and thy labors are cursed also. Therefore if thou shalt remain with us upon earth it cannot be but that both thyself and we likewise must perish with hunger. For thou hast stained the earth with thy brother's blood, and wherever thou art, thou must bear about the blood of thy brother, and even the earth itself shall exact her penalties.

207. A similar sentence we find pronounced in 1 Kings 2, 29-33, where Solomon gives commandment to Benaiah, son of Jehoiada, saying, "Fall upon Joab, that thou mayest take away the blood, which Joab shed without cause, from me and from my father's house. And Jehovah will return his blood upon his own head. But unto David, and unto his seed, and unto his house, and unto his throne, shall there be peace for ever from Jehovah." As much as to say, If Joab suffer not this punishment of his unjust murder, the whole kingdom must suffer that punishment and be shaken by wars. The meaning of Adam then, in this passage is, If thou shalt remain on the earth with us, God will bring punishment upon us for thy sake, in that the earth shall not yield us her fruit.

208. But now let us reply to the question raised above. It was said to Cain, "A fugitive and wanderer shalt thou be in the earth." And yet, Cain was the first man who builds a city, and his posterity so increased from that time that they debauched and oppressed the Church of God, and so utterly overthrew it as not to leave more than eight persons of the posterity of Seth. All of the remainder of mankind, which perished in the flood, had followed Cain, as the text plainly declares when it affirms that the sons of God, when they came unto the daughters of men, begat giants and mighty men, which were of old, men of renown, Gen 6, 4. Therefore, since Cain had so great a posterity, and he built the first city, how can it be true, men ask, that he was a fugitive and wanderer upon earth?

209. We will reply in accordance with what is written. The illustrations from the New Testament above mentioned, Paul, the apostles, Christ, and the prophets, assuredly belong to quite a different category. When Adam here says to Cain, "A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth," he speaks these words to him to send him away, without further precept. He does not say to him, "Go to the east;" he does not say, "Go to the south;" he does not mention any place to which he should go. He gives him no command what to do; but simply casts him out. Whither he goes and what he does, is no concern of his. He adds no promise of protection, he does not say: God shall take care of thee; God shall protect thee. On the contrary; as the whole sky is free to the bird, which is at liberty to fly whither it pleases, but is without a place where it may be secure from the attacks of other birds, so Adam turns Cain away. The latter feels this. Hence his rejoinder: "It shall come to pass that every one that findeth me, shall slay me."

210. The condition of Adam was different and better. Adam had sinned, and by his sin he had sunk into death. But when he was driven out of paradise, God assigned him a particular task—that he should till the earth in a particular place. God also clothed him with a covering of skins. This, as we said, was a sign that God would take care of him and protect him. And, last but not least, a glorious promise was made to the woman concerning the seed which should bruise the serpent's head. Nothing like this was left to Cain. He was sent away absolutely without assignment of any particular place or task. No command was given him nor was any promise made him. He was like a bird aimlessly roving beneath the wide heavens. This is what it means to be a vagabond and wanderer.

211. Unsettled and aimless, likewise, are all who lack God's Word and command, wherein person and place receive adequate direction. Such were we under the papacy. Worship, works, exercises—all these were present; but all these existed and found acceptance without a divine command. A trying condition was that and Cainlike—to be deprived of the Word; not to know what to believe, what to hope, what to suffer, but to undertake and to perform everything at haphazard. What monk is there who could affirm that he did anything right? Everything was man's tradition and man's teaching, without the Word. Amid these we wandered, being driven to and fro, and like Cain, uncertain what verdict God would pass, whether we should merit love or hate. Such was, in those days, our instruction.

Unsettled and aimless like this was Cain's whole posterity. They had neither promise nor command from God, and lacked all definite guidance for life and for death. Hence, if any of them came to the knowledge of Christ, and allied themselves with the true Church, it was not by reason of a promise but through sheer compassion.

212. Seth, however, who was born subsequently, had, together with his posterity, a definite promise, a definite abode and a definite mode of worship; on the other hand, Cain was aimless. He founded a city, it is true, but he did not know how long he should dwell in it, not having a divine promise. Whatever we possess without a promise is of uncertain duration; at any amount Satan may disturb it or take it. However, when we go into the fray equipped with God's command and promise, the devil fights in vain; God's command insures strength and safety. Therefore, although Cain was lord of the whole world and possessed all the treasures of the world, still, lacking the promise of God's help and the protection of his angels, and having nothing to lean upon but man's counsels, he was in every respect aimless and unsettled. This he himself admits when he further says:

V. 14b. And it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me.

213. This result was quite to be expected. Having neither God nor his father to look to for succor, having forfeited his rights both as priest and as ruler, he saw the possibility before him that any one found him, might slay him, for he was outlawed, body and soul. Notwithstanding, God conferred upon the nefarious murderer a twofold blessing. He had forfeited Church and dominion, but life and progeny were left. God promised him to protect his existence, and also gave him a wife. Two blessings these by no means to be despised; and when he heard the first part of his sentence pronounced by his father, they were more than he had a right even to hope for. They were valuable for the additional reason that opportunity and time for repentance were granted, though, in the absence of a clear promise, there was neither covenant nor commission. In the same manner, we found our way under the papacy to uncovenanted mercy (fortuita gratia), if I may use this expression, for no promise was previously given that the truth was to be revealed in our lifetime, and the Antichrist to become manifest. The reason to which these blessings are attributable, is consideration for the elect. It is quite credible that many of Cain's offspring were saved, namely, those who joined the true Church. Likewise, at a later day, provision was made among the Jews for proselytes and Gentiles.

214. While a stern law existed according to which the Moabites and Ammonites were not admitted to the religious services, Ammonites and Moabites were saved, such as came to the kings of Judah to serve under them. Also Ruth, the mother and ancestress of our Saviour, was a Moabite. This is what I call uncovenanted mercy, no previous promise having rendered it certain.

215. Also Naaman, and the king of Nineveh, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Evilmerodach, and others from among the Gentiles, were saved by such uncovenanted mercy; for, unlike the Jews, they had no promise of Christ. In the same way, bodily safety is vouchsafed to Cain, and a wife with offspring, for the sake of the elect to be saved by uncovenanted mercy. For, although what we said of the Moabites is true of all his posterity, that it was to live under a curse, it is true, notwithstanding, that some of the patriarchs took their wives from the same.

V. 15a. And Jehovah said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.

216. Jerome, in his Epistle to Damascus, contends that Cain had begged of the Lord that he might be slain, an opinion into which he rushes full sail, as it were, entertaining no doubt whatever concerning its truth. Lyra follows Jerome, and resolutely affirms that the context requires this interpretation. But this error of theirs should be laid at the door of the rabbins from whom they received it. The true sense of the passage is rather that everyone was prohibited from killing Cain. Judgment is pronounced here by God, and when he spares Cain's life and in addition permits him afterward to marry, it is done to stay its execution.

217. Moreover, how is it likely that an ungodly person asks death at the very time when God exercises judgment? Death is the very punishment of sin; therefore he flees and dreads death as the greatest part of his penalty. Away, therefore, with such vagaries of the rabbins! With these also Lyra's suggestion may safely be classed that the text ought to be divided and made to mean, Whoever shall kill Cain, shall surely meet with severe punishment. And when it is further stated, He shall be punished sevenfold, they would explain it as meaning that in the seventh degree—in the seventh generation—the punishment is to be inflicted.

218. Such vagaries are worthy of the rabbins after having cast away the light of the New Testament. However, they impose a double labor upon us, inasmuch as we are compelled to defend the text and to clear it of such corruptions, and to correct their absurd comments. If I quote them occasionally, it is to avoid the suspicion of proudly despising them, or of failing to read, and to give sufficient consideration to, their writings. While we read them intelligently, we do so with critical discrimination, and we do not permit them to obscure Christ, and to corrupt the Word of God.

219. The Lord, accordingly, does not in this passage at all alter the sentence upon Cain whereby he had been doomed to a curse on earth, but merely vouchsafes to him this uncovenanted mercy for the sake of the elect that are to be saved from that curse as from a mass of dregs. That is the reason he said Cain should not be killed, as he feared.

There is, then, no necessity for doing violence to this text as Rabbi Solomon does, who, after the words "whosoever slayeth Cain," puts a stop; making it to be a hiatus or (ellipsis), as we find in that noted line in Virgil (Aeneas, 135)—

Quos ego—sed motos praestat componere fluctus. Whom I—but now, be calm, ye boist'rous waves.

And then the expression, "shall be punished sevenfold," the rabbi refers to Cain himself, who was punished in his seventh generation. For Cain begat Enoch, and Enoch begat Irad, and Irad begat Mehujael, and Mehujael begat Methusael, and Methusael begat Lamech.

220. And the Jews' absurd comment upon that passage (verse 23, below), is that Lamech, when he was old, and his eyes dim, was taken by his son Tubal-Cain into a wood to hunt wild beasts, and that, when there shooting at a wild beast, Lamech accidently shot Cain, who in his wanderings had concealed himself in the wood. Such interpretations are only fables, unworthy a place or notice in our schools. Moreover, they militate against the very truth of the text. For if Cain was really designed of God to be killed in the seventh generation, and if that time was thus fixed for his death, he was not "a fugitive and a vagabond upon earth."

221. We condemn, therefore, this interpretation of Rabbi Solomon, on the ground of critical discrimination, because it militates directly against that sentence which God had before pronounced; and God is not man, that he should change his mind, 1 Kings 15, 29-30. This rule should be strictly observed in all interpretation of the Holy Scripture, that the rendering of one passage must not subsequently conflict with that of another. And when the rabbins, moreover, say that the deluge was the particular punishment of Lamech's sin in thus killing Cain, Lyra refutes them. He very truly affirms that the deluge was the common punishment of the whole world of wicked men. We leave, therefore, all these Jewish absurdities and hold fast the true meaning of the text before us, that, when Cain feared lest he should be slain by any one who should find him, the Lord prevented him from being thus slain, and denounced on such murderer a punishment sevenfold greater than that of Cain.

222. And, though Lyra argues and inquires how it could be that he who should slay Cain could deserve a sevenfold greater vengeance than Cain deserved, who slew his own brother, of what profit is it to us to inquire into the counsel of God in such matters as these, especially when it is certain that God permitted his mercy to stray to Cain in the form of promises and blessings under the Law, if I may so express myself, thus securing his safety.

223. There are two kinds of promises, or a twofold promise, as we have often explained. There are the legal promises, if I may so call them, which depend, as it were, upon our own works, such as the following: "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land," Is 1, 19. Again, I am God, showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments, Ex 20, 6. And also above, in this case of Cain, "If thou doest well, shall not thy countenance be lifted up?" Gen 4, 7. And these legal promises have for the most part their corresponding threats attached to them.

But the other kind of promises are promises of grace, and with them no threats are joined. Such are the following: "Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken," Deut 18, 15. Again, "I will put my law in their inward parts, in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people," Jer 31, 33. And again, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman," Gen 3, 15. Now, these promises depend not in any way upon our works, but absolutely and only upon the goodness and grace of God, because he was pleased to make those promises and to do what he thus promised. Just in the same way we have the promise of Baptism, of the Lord's Supper, and of the Keys, etc., in which God sets before us his good will and his mercy and his works.

224. Now, God gave no promise of the latter kind to Cain. He only said to him, Whosoever shall slay thee shall be punished sevenfold. But Adam had such a promise of grace made to him. And Cain, because he was the first-born, ought to have received that promise as an inheritance from his parents. That promise was the large and blessed promise of eternal glory, because by it the seed was promised which should bruise the serpent's head, and this without any work or merit of man. For that promise had no condition attached to it, such as, If thou shalt offer thy sacrifices, if thou shalt do good, etc.

225. If, therefore, you compare this promise of grace with the words God spake to Cain, the latter are as a mere crust held out to a beggar. For even Cain's life is not promised him absolutely. Nothing more is said than a threat pronounced against those who should slay him. God does not say positively, No man shall slay thee. He does not say, I will so overrule all others that no one shall slay thee. Had the words been thus spoken, Cain might have returned into the presence of God and of his parents. But a command only is given to men that they slay not Cain. If, therefore, the words spoken to Cain be at all considered as a promise, it is that kind of promise which, as we have before said, depends on the works and will of man. And yet, even such promise is by no means to be despised, for these legal promises often embrace most important things.

226. Thus, Augustine observes that God gave to the Romans their empire on account of their noble virtues. And in the same manner we find, even to this day, that the blessings of those nations which keep from murder, adultery, theft, etc., are greater than those of other nations in which these evils prevail. And yet, even governments which, as far as mere reason can succeed, are especially well established, possess nothing beyond these temporal promises.

227. The Church, however, possesses the promises of grace, even the eternal promises. And although Cain was left utterly destitute of these promises, yet it was a great favor that the temporal mercies were left him: that he was not immediately killed, that a wife was given him, that children were born unto him, that he built a city, that he cultivated the earth, that he fed his cattle and had possessions, and that he was not utterly ejected from the society and fellowship of men. For God could not only have deprived Cain of all these blessings, but he could have added pestilence, epilepsy, apoplexy, the stone, the gout, and any other disease. And yet there are men disposed curiously to argue in what manner God could possibly have multiplied the curse of Cain sevenfold on himself or on any other.

As God above deprives Cain of all the divine blessings, both spiritual—or those pertaining to the Church—and civil, so here he mitigates that sentence by commanding that no one shall slay Cain. But God does not promise at the same time that all men shall surely obey his command. Therefore Cain, even possessing this promise in reference to his body, is still a fugitive and a wanderer. And it might be that if he continued in his wickedness, he was liable to be slain at any moment; whereas, if he did well, he might live a long time. But nothing is promised him with certainty, for although these corporal or legal promises are great and important, yet they are positively uncertain and uncovenanted.

228. Whether, therefore, Cain was killed or not, I cannot with any certainty say, for the Scriptures afford no plain information upon that point. This one thing, however, evidently can be proved from the present text, that Cain had no certain promise of the preservation of his life; but God left him to a life of uncertainty, doubt and restless wandering, and did no more than protect the life of Cain by a command and a threat which might restrain the wicked from killing him, on account of the certain awful punishment which would follow such destruction of the murderer. But a promise that he should not be murdered was withheld. We know, moreover, what is the nature of the law, or a legal command, and that there are always very few who obey it. Therefore, although it is not recorded at what time, in what place, or by whom, Cain was slain, yet it is most probable that he was killed. The Scriptures however make no mention of it, even as they are quite silent also concerning the number of the years of Cain, and say nothing about the day of his birth or the day of his death. He perished, together with his whole generation; to use a popular proverb, "without cross, candle, or God." A few only of his generation are excepted, who were saved by the uncovenanted mercy of God.

229. The question is here usually asked, To what persons could the words of Cain possibly apply, when he says, "Everyone that findeth me shall slay me," when it is evident that besides Adam and Eve and their few daughters, no human beings were in existence. I would at once reply that they bear witness to the fact that we see the wicked "flee when no man pursueth," as the Scriptures say; for they imagine to themselves various perils where none really exist. Just so we see it to be the case with murderers at the present day, who are filled with fears where all is safe, who can remain quiet nowhere, and who imagine death to be present everywhere.

230. However, when it follows in the command of God, "Yea, verily, whosoever slayeth Cain shall be punished sevenfold," these words cannot be referred exclusively to the fears of Cain, for Cain had sisters, and perhaps he greatly dreaded that sister whom he had married, lest she should take vengeance on him for the murder of her brother. Moreover, Cain had perhaps a vague apprehension of a long life, and he saw that many more sons might be born of Adam. He feared, therefore, the whole posterity to Adam. And it greatly increased these fears that God had left him nothing more than his stray mercy. I do not think that Cain feared the beasts at all, or dreaded being slain by them; for what had the sevenfold vengeance threatened upon murderers to do with beasts?

V. 15b. And Jehovah appointed a sign for (set a mark upon) Cain, lest any finding him should smite him (slay him).

231. What this mark was is not to be found in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore commentators have entertained various opinions. Nearly all, however, have come to this one conclusion—they have inferred that there was apparent in Cain a great tremor of his head and of all his limbs. They suppose that, as a physical cause of his trembling, God had changed, or disarranged, or mutilated some particular organ in his body, but left the body whole as it was first created, merely adding a visible outward mark, such as the trembling. This conjecture of the fathers contains much probability, but it cannot be proved by any testimony of the Scriptures. The mark might have been of another kind. For instance, we observe in nearly all murderers an immediate change in the eyes. The eyes wear an appearance of sullen ferocity, and lose that softness and innocence peculiar to them by nature.

232. But whatever this mark was, it was certainly a most horrible punishment; for Cain was compelled to bear it during his whole life as God's penalty for the awful murder which he had committed. Rendered conspicuous by this degrading mark, hateful and abominable in the eyes of all, Cain was sent away—banished from his home by his parents. And although the life he asked of God was granted him, yet it was a life of ignominy, branded with an infamous mark of homicide; not only that he himself might be perpetually reminded of the sin he had committed, to his own confusion, but also that others might be deterred from the crime of committing murder. Nor could this mark be effaced by repentance. Cain was compelled to bear about this sign of the wrath of God upon him as a punishment in addition to his banishment, the curse, and all the other penalties.

233. It is worthy of observation that the original verb used above is harag, which signifies "to kill." But the verb here found is nakah, which means "to strike." God, therefore, here gives to Cain security, not only from death, but also from the danger of death. This security, however, as we have observed, is a legal security only; for it merely commands that no one shall slay Cain, threatening a sevenfold punishment upon the person who should do so. But God does not promise that all men will obey his command. It was far better for Cain, however, to have this legal promise made him, than to be without any promise at all.

V. 16. And Cain went out from the presence of Jehovah, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

234. This also is a very remarkable text, and it is a wonder that the fancy of the rabbins did not run riot here as usual. Moses leaves it to the thoughtful reader to reflect how miserable and how full of tears this departure of Cain from his father's house must have been. His godly parents had already lost their son Abel; and now, at the command of God, the other son departs from them into banishment, loaded with the divine curses, on account of his sin—the very son whom his parents had hoped to be the only heir of the promise, and whom they therefore had devotedly loved from his cradle. Adam and Eve, nevertheless, obey the command of God, and in conformity therewith they cast out their son.

235. Accordingly, this passage rightly praises obedience to God, or the fear of God. Adam and Eve had, indeed, learned by their own experience in paradise that it was no light sin to depart from the command of God; therefore they thought: Behold, our sin in paradise has been punished with death, and with an infinite number of other calamities into which we have been thrown since we were driven out of paradise. And now that our son has committed so atrocious a sin, it behooves us not to resist the will of God and his righteous judgment, however bitter we feel them to be.

236. The story of the woman of Tekoah is well known, whom Joab instructed to intercede for the banished Absalom. She pleads as an argument before the king, that as she had lost one son, it would be wicked in the extreme to deprive her of the other also. Also Rebecca said to Jacob, her younger son, after she had perceived the wrath of Esau against his brother: "Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?" Gen 27, 45. Adam and Eve overcame this same pain in their bosoms, and thus mortified their paternal and maternal affections. For not only did they feel it to be their duty to obey the will of God, but they had also learned wisdom from former obedience. They had been driven out of paradise for their sin of disobedience. They feared, therefore, that if they now retained their son with them, contrary to the will of God, they should be cast out of the earth altogether.

237. This part of the history of Adam and Eve, therefore, is a beautiful lesson in obedience to God, and a striking exhortation to fear God. This is also Paul's principal object in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, nearly all of which is written against the self-confidence of the human heart. For, although God is merciful, yet men are not therefore to sin; he is merciful to those only who fear and obey him.

238. As it was bitter in the extreme for the parents to lose their son, this departure from his home was, I have no doubt, most bitter also to Cain himself. For he was compelled to leave, not only the common home, his dear parents and their protection, but his hereditary right of primogeniture, the prerogative of the kingdom and of the priesthood, and the communion of the Church.

Hence it is that we have the expression in the text, that Cain "went out from the presence of Jehovah." We have above shown what the Scriptures term "the face of Jehovah," namely, all those things and means by which Jehovah makes himself known to us. Thus the face of Jehovah, under the Old Testament, was the pillar of fire, the cloud, the mercy-seat, etc. Under the New Testament, the face of Jehovah is baptism, the Lord's Supper, the ministry of the Word, etc. For by these things, as by visible signs, the Lord makes himself known to us, and shows that he is with us, that he cares for us and favors us.

239. It was from this place, therefore, in which God declared that he was always present, and in which Adam resided as high priest, and as lord of the earth, that Cain "went out;" and he came into another place, where there was no "face of God," where there was no visible sign of his presence by which he could derive the consolation that God was present with his favor. He had no sign whatever, save those signs which are common to all creatures, even to the beasts, namely, the uses of sun and moon, of day and night, of water, air, etc. But these are not signs of that immutable grace of God contained in the promise of the blessed seed. They are only the signs of God's temporal blessings and of his good will to all his creatures.

240. Miserable, therefore, was that going out of Cain indeed. It was a departure full of tears. He was compelled to leave forever his home and his parents, who now gave to him, a solitary man and a "vagabond," their daughter as his wife, to live with him as his companion; but they knew not what would become either of their son or of their daughter. In consequence of losing three children at one time their grief is so much greater. No other explanation suggests itself for the subsequent statement "Cain knew his wife."

241. Where, then, did Cain live with his wife? Moses answers, "in the land of Nod," a name derived from its vagabond and unsettled inhabitant. And where was this land situated? Beyond paradise, toward the east, a place indeed most remarkable. Cain came into a certain place toward the east, but when he came there, he was insecure and unprotected, for it was the land of Nod, where he could not set foot with certainty, because "the face of God" was not there. For this "face" he had left with his parents, who lived where they had paradise on their side, or toward the west. When Cain fled from his home he went toward the east. So the posterity of Cain was separated from the posterity of Adam, having paradise as a place of division between them. The passage, moreover, proves that paradise remained undestroyed after Adam was driven out of it. In all probability it was finally destroyed by the deluge.

242. This text greatly favors the opinion of those who believe that Adam was created in the region of Damascus, and that, after he was driven out of paradise for his sin, he lived in Palestine; and hence it was in the midst of the original paradise that Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho stood, in which places Jesus Christ and his servant John chiefly dwelt. Although the present aspect of those places does not altogether bear out that conclusion, the devastations of the mighty deluge were such as to change fountains, rivers and mountains; and it is quite possible that on the site which was afterward Calvary, the place of Christ's sacrifice for the world's sin, there stood the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the same spot being marked by the death and ruin wrought by Satan and by the life and salvation wrought by Christ.

243. It is not without a particular purpose, therefore, that Daniel uses the striking expression: "The end thereof (of the sanctuary, the sacrifice and the oblation) shall be with a flood," Dan 9, 26. As if he had said, The first paradise was laid waste and utterly destroyed by the mighty deluge, and the other, future paradise, in which redemption is to be wrought, shall be destroyed by the Romanists as by a flood.

244. We may carry the analogy further by stating that as Babel was the cause of the destruction of the Jewish people, so this disaster had its beginning with Cain and his offspring, who settled in that part of the earth where, at a later day, Babylon was founded. These are my thoughts and views, derived partly from the fathers. Though they may not be true, they are yet probable, and have nothing ungodly in them. And there can be no doubt that Noah, after the flood, saw the face of the whole earth altogether changed from what it was before that awful visitation of the wrath of God. Mountains were torn asunder, fountains were made to break forth and the courses of the rivers themselves were wholly altered and diverted into other channels, by the mighty force of the overwhelming waters.



1. Why Cain's generations were described before those of the righteous 245.

2. How the Holy Spirit is interested more in the generations of the righteous than in those of Cain 246-247.

3. Why the Holy Spirit gives this description of both 248.

4. The relation of the two to each other 248.

5. How the generations of the righteous are attacked and conquered by those of the godless 249.

* Of Cain's marriage.

a. Who was his wife, and the question of his being married before he committed the murder 250-251.

* How to read the writings of the Jews 251.

b. The question of his being married after the murder 252-254.

* That some of his posterity were saved 254.


A. The Posterity of Cain in General.

V. 17. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

245. It is worthy of admiration that Moses describes the generation of the sons of Cain before the generation of the sons of God. But all this is done according to the fixed counsel of God. For the children of this world have in this life and in this their generation the advantage of the children of God (Lk 16, 8) with reference to the first promise. The spiritual seed of the woman indeed possess the spiritual blessing, but the seed of the serpent arrogate to themselves the corporal, or temporal, blessing, and they bruise the heel of the blessed seed. In this respect the temporal has precedence over the spiritual.

246. But a great difference comes to the surface at a later day. Although Moses records the history of the posterity of Cain before the posterity of the righteous, yet we afterwards see that the latter are more especially the care of the Holy Spirit. He does not confine himself to a bare registration of their names, but he carefully numbers their years, makes mention of their death, and not only chronicles their own doings, as he chronicles in this passage those of the sons of Cain, but also the transactions and the conversations which Jehovah had with them, the promises he made, the help rendered in danger, and the blessings vouchsafed.

247. None of these things are recorded of the wicked posterity of Cain. When Moses has said that Cain begat a son named Enoch, and that he built a city to which he gave the name of his son, calling it Enoch, the sacred historian immediately cuts off the memory of Cain altogether and, as it were, buries him forever with these few short words of record. He seems to entertain no further care or concern for either his life or his death. He merely records temporal blessings—that he begat a son and that he built a city. For as the gift of reproduction was not taken away from the murderer Cain, neither was the gift of dominion taken from him. But he lost all the rich blessings of the earth because it had drunk the blood of his brother, as we have shown above.

248. The Holy Spirit records these things in order that we may see that there was, from the very beginning, two churches: one the church of the sons of Satan and of the flesh, which often makes sudden and great increase; and the other the church of the sons of God, which is usually weak and makes slow progress. Although the Scriptures do not relate how these two churches lived together in the beginning, yet, as it was declared by God to Satan, "I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed," it is certain that the church of Cain was ever hostile to the Church of Adam. And the present text fully shows that the sons of men so increased and prevailed that they almost completely perverted and destroyed the Church of the sons of God. For in the great flood, only eight souls of them were saved; all the rest of the human race perished in the waters on account of their sin.

249. And this is a calamity of the true Church, common to all ages: as soon as she begins to increase, she is compelled to oppose with all her might Satan and the ungodly. She is at length tired out by the wickedness of her enemy, and is then either obliged to yield to her enraged foe, overcome by the cross and its afflictions, or she sinks under the seductions of pleasures and riches. So it was with the posterity of Adam. Broken down, at length, under so long a war with the sons of men, they yielded, being reduced at last to eight souls only, who were saved. Ungodliness having so far prevailed, and the godly losing ground, the Lord at length interposes and saves the few righteous remaining; but all the rest, both the seduced and the seducers, he punishes, including them in the same judgment. And we hope and believe the Lord will do the same in the judgment at the last day.

250. Many questions arise here. Some inquire respecting the circumstances connected with the wife of Cain: at what time the murder was committed; whether Cain murdered his brother before he was a husband, or after he was married. And the Jews, moreover, say that Eve brought forth twins at every birth, a male and a female; and they assert that Cain married his sister Calmana, and Abel his sister Debora. Whether these things be true or not I cannot affirm. I know not. But they are not vital to the interests of the Church, and there is nothing certain known concerning them. This one thing is certain, that Cain had a sister for his wife. But whether or no he had her as his wife when he committed the murder, cannot with certainty be proven. However, the text before us greatly tends to the conclusion that Cain was married when he committed the murder of his brother; for it intimates that the inheritance was divided between the two brothers when it affirms that the care of the cattle was committed by the father to Abel and the tilling of the ground to Cain. I, therefore, am inclined to believe that both of the brothers were married.

251. This conclusion is favored also by the statement made above, that Cain and Abel "in the process of time" brought their offerings. This has been explained in the following manner: At the end of the year, the two newly married husbands brought as offerings the new fruits which God had given them in this first year of their marriage; Cain brought the first fruits of the earth, and Abel the first fruits of his flock. And the time was probably the autumn of the year, the time when the fruits of the earth are gathered, the same season in which the Jews afterwards held the feast of expiation. Moses, in his Levitical law, seems carefully to have noted and collected the ancestral patterns, and to have reduced them to a code. When, therefore, the new husbands came to render their thanks to God for his blessings and to offer their gifts, and Abel's offering was accepted of God and not the offering of Cain, Cain's heart was immediately filled by Satan with hatred of his brother; and upon this hatred afterwards followed the horrible murder. This is the opinion of the Jews, which I thus relate because it does not appear to be at all far from the truth. But, as I have often said, the interpretations of the Jews are to be read with critical discrimination, so that in their teachings, we may retain the things consistent with the truth, but condemn and refute all fictions of their own making.

252. If Cain was not married when he slew his brother, it is still more wonderful that after such a wicked deed he obtained a wife at all; and certainly that damsel was worthy the highest praise who married such a man. For how could the maiden rejoice in a marriage with her brother who was a murderer, accursed and excommunicated? She, on her part, no doubt supplicated her father, and expostulated with him and asked how he could give her, an innocent one, in marriage to a man thus accursed, and force her into banishment with him. Nay, the very example of her brother's murder must have naturally filled her with terror, lest the crime which her husband committed on his brother he might also dare to commit on her, his sister and his wife.

253. In bringing about this marriage, Adam obviously had to exercise marvelous eloquence. It was for him to convince his daughter that the father's command was not to be disobeyed, and that while Cain, curse-ridden, would have to bear the penalty of his sin, God would still preserve and bless her, the innocent one.

Nor do I entertain the least doubt that God conferred many personal blessings upon Cain, down the whole line of his posterity, for the sake of his wife, who, from motives of faith toward God and of obedience toward her parents, had married her murderous brother.

As Christ was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to establish the certainty of the promise made unto the Jewish fathers; and as, in the absence of a promise, he was the minister of the Gentiles, because of the mercy of God, (Rom 15, 8-9), so the like uncovenanted mercy was shown also to the posterity of Cain. These two opinions have been expressed concerning the marriage of Cain, but which is the truth I know not. If Cain was married after he committed the murder, his wife is most certainly worthy of all praise and of all fame, who could thus yield to the authority of her parents, and suffer herself to be joined in marriage with an accursed murderer.

254. To myself, the first opinion appears to be much nearer the truth, that he murdered his brother after his marriage with his sister; because we have so clear a testimony in the text concerning the division of the inheritance. And in that case, the necessity lay on the wife to follow her husband. As wife and husband are one body and one flesh, Adam had no desire to separate them; moreover, the wife is bound to bear her part of the calamities of her husband. Just in the same manner as the posterity of Cain enjoyed a part of those blessings which were bestowed of God upon the innocent wife, Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was saved in the time of Joseph, and the King of Nineveh was saved in the time of his calamity, although neither of them belonged to the people of God. And so I also believe that some were saved out of the posterity of Cain, although Cain himself had utterly lost the promise concerning the blessed seed.


* The names were given to the descendants of Cain, not by accident, but by special thought and with a definite meaning 255.

1. Of Enoch.

a. The meaning of his name 255-256.

b. Is the first in Cain's posterity and the beginning of the temporal blessing 256.

* Why Cain built a city 257-258.

2. Irad and the meaning of his name. It was not given without a purpose 259.

3. Mehujael and the meaning of his name 260.

* The means the false church uses to suppress the true Church 260.

4. Methushael and the meaning of his name 261.

5. Lamech.

a. What his name signifies 262.

* Cain's descendants persecute the true Church. Yet some of Cain's posterity were saved 263.

b. The reason he took two wives 264.

c. Who were his wives 265.

d. His sons, Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-cain, and his daughter Naamah 266-268.

* Why Moses mentions the various arts of Cain's descendants 269.

* Whether poverty drove Cain's descendants to the arts 269-270.

* As the false church was before the flood so is she still, and will remain so to the end of the world 271.

* How the Cainites increased and oppressed the true Church 272.

* Why the Scriptures do not mention that some of the Cainites were saved 272.

e. Of his haughty speech, "I have slain a man etc."

(1) This is difficult to understand, and has been poorly treated by interpreters 273.

(2) The fable explanation of these words by the Jews refuted 274-275.

(3) How others explained them 275.

(4) Luther's understanding of them 276-277.

f. Whether Lamech slew Cain, and thereby made himself famous 278.

g. How he attempted to be ruler upon Adam's death 279.

* How the Church is oppressed from both sides 279.

* Why Moses mentions the blood descendants of Cain with such care 280.

h. Cain is not sorry for his deed, but even boasts of it 281.

* The nature of the Cain church 281.

i. How he seeks to avoid being slain by others 282.

* The pope has the conscience of Cain and Lamech 282.

j. He is a type of all the children of this world 283.

* How the devil drives the Cainites to rage against the Church under the guise of being holy 284.

* The true Church from the very beginning had to shed her blood 285.

* The tyranny of Popes Julius II and Clement VII 285.

* God at all times severely punished the persecutors of his Church 286.

k. How Lamech still wished to defend his deed 287.

l. He had no Word of God, but was filled with pride 288.


255. As regards the names of Cain's offspring, I believe that, in common with those of the holy patriarchs, they indicate not an absence of purpose or a random selection, but a definite purpose and a prophecy. Thus "Adam" signifies a man of, or taken out of, the red earth. "Eve" signifies the mother of life, or of the living. "Cain" signifies possession. "Abel" signifies vanity. And we find that also among the Gentiles many names have such a significance; not seldom names are found which are truly prophetic. "Enoch" is a prophetic name, expressive of hope in the future as a relief to Cain's mind, or rather to his wife's, for it was the latter who called the son she bore Enoch, from the Hebrew Hanach, which signifies, "she dedicated," or "she devoted."

256. This is a word frequently used by Moses. As when he says, "What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it," Deut 20, 5. The verb in this passage, which signifies originally to dedicate, here signifies to possess, or to enjoy; and when this possession or enjoyment begins, it is attended with happy signs and auspicious invocations. So when the wife of Cain brought forth her first son, she said to her husband, Enoch; that is, "Dedicate him, devote him:" for the verb is in the imperative mood. As if Cain had said himself, May this our beginning be happy and prosperous. My father Adam cursed me on account of my sin. I am cast out of his sight. I live alone in the world. The earth does not yield me her strength; she would be more fruitful to me, had I not thus sinned. And yet God now shows me uncovenanted mercy in giving me this son. It is a good and happy beginning.

As in the generation of Cain the corporal blessings begin with Enoch, so it is another Enoch in the generation of the righteous under whom religion and spiritual blessings begin to flourish.

257. That which is added by Moses concerning the city Cain thus built belongs to history. But I have before observed that Cain, when separated from the true church and driven into banishment, hated the true church. When, therefore, Cain thus first built a city, that very act tended to show that he not only disregarded and hated the true Church, but wished also to oppose and oppress it. For he reflects thus: Behold I am cast out by my father and I am cursed by him, but my marriage is not a barren one; therefore I have in this the hope of a great posterity. What, therefore, is it to me that I am driven by my father from beneath his roof? I will build a city, in which I will gather a church for myself. Farewell, therefore, to my father and his church. I regard them not.

258. Accordingly, it is not through fear, or for defense, that Cain "built a city," but from the sure hope of prosperity and success, and from pride and the lust of dominion. For he had no need whatever to fear his father and mother, who at the divine command had thrust him out to go into some foreign land. Nor had he any more ground of fear from their children than from themselves. But Cain was inflated with pride through this uncovenanted mercy of God, as I have termed it; and, as the world ever does, he sought by means of his "city" an opportunity of emerging from his present state into future greatness. The sons of God, on the contrary, are only anxious about another city, "which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God," as we have it described in the Epistles to the Hebrews 11, 10.

V. 18a. And unto Enoch was born Irad.

259. What opinion to form concerning this name, I really know not, for its origin is very obscure; and yet I believe the name is not accidental but prophetic. In the book of Joshua we have a city called Ai; and this same term is used elsewhere as an appellative. Now, the proper name Ai signifies, "a heap," as a heap of fallen buildings. And if with this name you compound the verb Irad, the word thus compounded will signify increase. Although the posterity of Cain, on account of their excommunication, were at that time like a great heap of ruins, it was his prayer that they might not altogether perish, but be preserved and greatly increased by means of this son Irad. If anyone can offer a better interpretation, I will by no means despise it; for on obscure points like the present, conjecture is quite allowable.

V. 18b. And Irad begat Mehujael.

260. This name is formed from the verb mahah, which signifies "to destroy," and from jaal, "he began," or "he attempted or dared." Accordingly this name signifies that the posterity of Cain should now enter upon so mighty an increase as to dare to set itself in array against the true Church and to despise it and persecute it; so mightily should it prevail by its wealth, wisdom, glory and numbers. These, indeed, are for the most part the influences through which the true Church is always overcome by the world and the false church.

V. 18c. And Mehujael begat Methushael.

261. Meth signifies "death," and schaal means "to ask," or "to demand." Hence we have the name Saul; that is, demanded. This name indicates a spirit haughtier than any of the others. I understand it to signify that Methushael threatens that he will avenge his parents, who are dead, whom the other church—that is the true Church—has punished with excommunication and exile.

V. 18d. And Methushael begat Lamech.

262. Hitherto the Cainites seem to have insulted the true Church with impunity and to have triumphed over them. But the name "Lamech" signifies that God, at the time in which Lamech was born, inflicted on the posterity of Cain their due punishment. The name Lamech is derived from the verb makak, which signifies to humble, to diminish, to suppress. Or, it may be understood actively, to mean that in the time of Lamech the posterity of Cain so greatly increased that the true Church was quite overwhelmed by them.

263. Such was the posterity of Cain; men, no doubt, renowned for their wisdom and greatness. And I also believe that some of them were saved by the uncovenanted mercy of God, as I have above explained. But far the greater part of them most bitterly hated and persecuted the true Church. They could not brook inferiority to the sons of Adam, the true Church; therefore they set up their own forms of worship, and introduced many other new things for the sake of suppressing the church of Adam. And because the false church was thus kept separate from the true Church, I believe that Cain married to each other his sons and daughters. Accordingly, about the time of Lamech, Cain's posterity began to multiply exceedingly. And it is for this reason, I believe, that Moses here terminates the list.

V. 19. And Lamech took unto him two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

264. Here again a twofold question arises. In the first place divines dispute whether Lamech married these two wives on account of lustful passion or for some other cause. My belief is that polygamy was not entered into for the sake of lust, but with the object of increasing his family, and from the lust of dominion, and especially so if, as his name imports, the Lord at that time had been punishing the Cainites, or the posterity of Cain, by pestilence, or by some other calamity. In this case, Lamech probably thought by such expedient to retrieve his greatness. Thus barbarous nations retain polygamy to strengthen and establish both home and State.

265. As regards the names of these two wives, the name of one is Adah; that is, adorned, or, having chains on the neck. Adi signifies a neat, or elegant woman, and adah, the verb, signifies to adorn, or, to put on. And perhaps this name was given to her, not only because she was the mistress of the house, elegantly adorned or clothed, but because she was also beautiful. The name of the other wife, Zillah, signifies, his shade.

V. 20. And Adah bare Jabal; he was the father of such as dwell in tents and have cattle.

266. The name Jabal is derived from the verb jabal, which signifies to bring forward, or to produce.

V. 21. And his brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe.

267. And the name Jubal has the same origin and signification; for it means produced, or introduced. Both these names, therefore, contain a wish or prayer of Lamech concerning the increase of his family. The posterity of Cain always entertained the object and expectation of surpassing in numbers. And, no doubt, the Cainites held up this temporal blessing in the face of the true Church as an evident proof that they were not cast off by God, but were the very people of God.

V. 22. And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of (an artificer in every workmanship of) brass and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

268. Tubal-cain signifies, produce property. So the Romans gave such names as "Valerius" (from valeo), and "Augustus" (from augeo). And Naamah received her name from her sweetness, or beauty. This posterity of Cain increased infinitely; hence Moses breaks off at this point.

269. Now, when he not only chronicles names but makes mention also of the deeds and labors of each one, the Jewish explanation is to be rejected that the offspring of Cain was compelled to follow other occupations because the earth was cursed, and hence gained their livelihood, one as a shepherd, another as a worker in brass, and another as a musician, obtaining grain and the other fruits of the earth from the offspring of Adam. But if the Cainites had been so severely pressed by hunger, they would have forgotten the harp, organ and other instruments of music in their extremity; for the enjoyment of music is not characteristic of the hungry and thirsty.

270. Their invention of music and their efforts in the discovery of other arts is proof that they had the necessaries of life in abundance. The reason, therefore, that the descendants of Cain turned to these pursuits and were not contented with the simple food the earth produced, like the descendants of Adam, was that they wished to rule, and aimed at the high praise and glory of being men of talent. I believe, however, that some of them passed over to the true Church and followed the religion of Adam.

271. And such as Moses here describes the generation of the wicked, or the false church, to be, from the beginning down to the mighty flood of waters, so we find it ever, and such it will remain until the final flood of fire. "The sons of this world are for their own generation wiser than the sons of the light," Lk 16, 8. Therefore it is that they ever advance and increase, and commend themselves and their own, and thus acquire riches, dignities and power; while the true Church, on the other hand, always lies prostrate, despised, oppressed, excommunicated.

Vs. 23-24. And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for bruising me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

272. Thus far Moses has given us a history of the generation of the children of this world, and having brought down the list to the time of Lamech and his wives and children, he buries them, as it were, altogether in silence, leaving them without any promise, either of the life which is to come or of the life that now is. For except that uncovenanted blessing of offspring and of food, the Cainites possessed nothing whatever. Yet they so increased in power and in multitude that they filled the whole world, and at length overturned and ravaged to such an extent the righteous nation of the children of God which possessed the promise of the future and eternal life, and sunk them into so deep a hell of wickedness, that eight men only remained to be saved when the flood came upon the whole world of the ungodly. And though there is no doubt that some of the generation of Cain were saved both before the flood and in the flood, yet the Scriptures do not mention them, to the end that we might the more fear God and walk according to his Word. But hard as the diamond are those human hearts which fail to be moved by such an example as the flood, than which nothing more dreadful is to be found in the whole chain of time.

273. Moses, therefore, having buried in silence the entire generation of Cain, records only one unimportant fact respecting Lamech, but what the real import of that fact is, Moses does not explain. I know not that any other passage in the Holy Scriptures has been so diversely interpreted, and so rent and wrested, as this text. For ignorance at least, if eloquence is not, is fruitful of surmises, errors and fables. I will mention some of the vulgar views upon the passage now before us.

274. The Jews compose the fable that Lamech, when he had grown old and was blind, was led by a youth into the woods to hunt wild beasts, not for the sake of their flesh but for their skins; circumstances which are altogether absurd, and at once prove the whole fable to be a lie. And they hold that Cain was there, concealed among the bushes, and in that solitude he not only exercised repentance but sought security for his life. The young man who directed the spear for Lamech, thinking he saw a wild beast in a certain thicket, told Lamech to hurl his spear, and Lamech hurled his spear and, contrary to all thought, pierced Cain. And they add that after Lamech had been made conscious of the murder he had committed, he immediately speared the youth himself, who also died under the wound he received. It was thus, say the Jews, that the "man" and the "young man" were slain by Lamech. But such absurdities as these are utterly unworthy of refutation. Indeed, Moses himself completely refutes them; he records the fact that Cain, far from fleeing into solitude and concealment, "built a city," which implies that he governed a State and thereby established for himself a kind of kingdom. Moreover, the ages of Cain and Lamech would not accord with this explanation, for it is not at all probable Cain lived to the time Lamech became old and blind.

275. There is still another Jewish invention. After Lamech had killed Cain, his wives would no longer live with him, through fear of the punishment they foreboded would come upon him, and therefore Lamech, to comfort himself and to induce his wives to live with him, prophesied that whosoever should kill him would assuredly be punished "seventy and sevenfold." The Jews invent like absurdities also concerning the sons of Lamech, whom they say he taught to fabricate arms for the destruction of men. Other commentators, again, will have it that the sense of this text is to be taken negatively, thus: If I had killed a man, as Cain killed his brother, I should have been worthy of your reprobation.

276. My interpretation, accordingly, is that the words, "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold," etc., are not to be taken for the Word of God. For that generation did not have the Word; how, then, could Lamech be believed to have been a prophet? Thus, even such a man as Jerome produces the vagary that, inasmuch as, according to Luke, seventy-seven generations can be counted between Adam and Christ, it was after this space of time that Lamech's sin was taken away by Christ. If such vaporings are legitimate, anything can be proved from the Scriptures. Jerome even forgets that Lamech represented the seventh generation from Adam! The word under consideration then, is not to be placed upon the same level with the former, spoken to Cain; for that was the Word of God. It is, on the contrary, the word of a wicked murderer; not true, but an audacious fiction, based upon that spoken by Adam to Cain. But why does he deliver his discourse not before his church but at home, and only before his wives?

277. It is probable that the good and pious women were greatly alarmed on account of the murder committed by their husband. The wicked murderer, therefore, to appear equally safe with Cain, endeavored in this way to reassure his wives concerning his safety from death. This is what the wicked church is accustomed to do; it prophesies out of its own head. But all such prophecies are vain. This one thing, however, we can gather from the present text, that Lamech did not utter the contents of his prophecy from the Word of God, but out of his own brain.

278. In respect to Cain, I do not think that he was killed by Lamech, but that he died long before the time of Lamech. And as there were continual animosities between the Cainite church and the Church of Adam—for the Cainites could not brook their being treated as outside of the true communion—my opinion is, that Lamech killed some eminent man and some distinguished youth of the generation of the righteous, just as Cain, his father, had killed Abel. And I believe that, having committed such murders, he wished to protect himself from being killed by uttering the words of the text, after the manner of the protection vouchsafed by God to his father Cain. For Lamech was no doubt a man of very great abilities and the chief man in his day and State. He had also strengthened his cause by a novel venture, for he was the first man who married two wives. And he harassed the Church of the godly in various ways, as men are wont to do who combine talent with malice. Therefore he furnished his men with arms, riches, and pleasures, that he might overcome the true Church on every side, which alone held the holy faith, the pure Word, and the pure worship of God. To all else he paid little attention.

279. It is very probable that the patriarch Adam died about this time, this being the first patriarchal death; and there is no doubt that Lamech seized this opportunity of transferring the whole government of the world at that time to himself, that he might have all things under his own rule. This is the manner in which the world acts to this day. The Church of God, therefore, placed as it were in the midst, is oppressed on either side; by tyrants and blood-thirsty men on the one hand, and by those who are devoted to the concerns and pleasures of this world on the other. As tyrants use violence and the sword to destroy the Church, so the latter entice her by their allurements.

280. Hence it is that Moses makes a special point of recording that the blood-thirsty seed of the Cainites gave themselves up to pleasures and to other worldly pursuits. And hence it is, also, that Christ expressly shows that much blood was shed even before the flood, by testifying "that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar," Mt 23, 35. Moses testifies subsequently (Gen 6, 1-13), that the earth before the flood was filled with iniquities; and he is not speaking of the iniquities and violent deeds of thieves and adulterers, but describes particularly the tyranny of the Cainite church, which pursued with all the violence of the sword the holy posterity of Adam. And it is for this same reason that the sacred historian describes the descendants of Cain by the name "giants." These are the reasons which lead me to conclude that Lamech followed in the footsteps of his father Cain and slew some distinguished man of the holy patriarchs and his son.

281. It was certainly an evidence of the greatest tyranny in Lamech, that, when he had been discovered by his wives, he did not grieve for what he had done, but held in contempt the punishment which he had just cause to dread. As if he had said: I have killed a man 'tis true, but what is that to you? The wound of that belongs to me; I shall be wounded for it, not you. I have indeed killed a young man, but it is to my own hurt. I shall be punished for it, not you. What utterances could evince more contempt than these in the face of open sins?

These are my thoughts on the passage now before us. The text shows that the Cainites were tyrannical men, proud of their success, and given to pleasure; and the very words of Lamech prove him to be a proud man, not grieving at all for the murder he had committed, but glorying in it as in a righteous cause. The Cainite church always excuses that tyranny which it exercises over the godly, as Christ says: "Whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God," Jn 16, 2. This is expressed in the additional words of Lamech:

V. 24. If Cain shall he avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

282. Here Lamech sets himself above his father Cain, making it appear that he had a more righteous cause for the murder he had committed, and fortifying himself against those inclined to avenge the murders perpetrated by him. For the words of the text are not the words of the Lord, as we have said, but the words of Lamech himself. Just so the pope fortifies himself by violence, tyranny, threats and anathemas, to make himself secure against avengers, for he has the conscience of a Cain and a Lamech. Let him, says the pope, who shall do anything contrary to these my decrees know that he shall incur the indignation of St. Peter and St. Paul.

283. Lamech, therefore, is an example of this world, and Moses points to him to show what kind of a heart, will and wisdom the world has. Just as if he had said in reference to Lamech: Such are the actions of the seed of the serpent and such are the children of this world. They gather riches, follow their pleasures, increase their power, and then abuse all these things by their tyranny, making use of them against the true Church, the members of which they persecute and slay. And yet in the midst of all these mighty sins, they fear not, but are proud and secure, boasting and saying, "What can the righteous do?" (Ps 11, 3): "Our lips are our own: who is lord over us?" (Ps 12, 4): "He (the wicked) saith in his heart: God hath forgotten, he hideth his face, he will never see it," (Ps 10, 11): and other like sentiments.

284. That such is the meaning of the passage in question the facts recorded prove, though the words of the text do not so clearly express that meaning. The true Church has ever Satan as its great enemy, and he drives the Cainites into fury, disguised as devotion, against their brethren, the Abels; as Christ also says, affirming that the devil was a murderer from the beginning, Jn 8, 44. It is declared throughout the Scriptures concerning the true Church, that the wicked are ever shedding its blood. The various passages in the Psalms speak the same things, "Precious shall their blood be in his sight," Ps 72, 14. Again, "Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of his saints" Ps 116, 15. And again, "For thy sake are we killed all the day long" Ps 44, 22.

285. As, therefore, the Church of God has at all times, and in all ages, given her blood to be shed by the wicked and by false brethren, so also, in that first age of the world she had to suffer from her enemies, whom the Scriptures call "giants," and affirm that those "giants" filled the earth with "violence." Among these giants was also this Lamech now before us, who was one perhaps like Pope Julius II or Clement VII who although they exercised cruelty in the highest degree, yet wished to be called and appear as most holy saints. Just so Lamech here wishes to make it appear that he had a most righteous cause for the murder he had committed, and therefore he threatened greater vengeance on the man who should kill him than God himself had threatened on the person who should slay his father, the murderer Cain.

286. In this manner, the Church was vexed with the cross and with persecutions from the very beginning of the world until God, compelled by the wickedness of man, destroyed the whole world by the flood. Just so, also, when the measure of Pharaoh's malice was full he was drowned with all his host in the Red Sea. Just so, again, when the measure of the malice of the Gentile nations was full they were all uprooted and destroyed by Moses and Joshua. In the same manner afterwards when the Jews raged against the Gospel they were so utterly destroyed that not one stone was left upon another in Jerusalem. Other instances are the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Grecians, and the Romans.

287. The Scriptures therefore do not record whom Lamech killed. They only record that two murders were committed by him, and that Lamech, in his impenitence, wished to protect himself in the same manner as his father Cain had been divinely protected, by issuing his proclamation, thereby making it appear that he had righteous cause for the murder he committed. And if this interpretation be not the true one, it is at least certain that the generation of the Cainites was a blood-thirsty generation, and hated and persecuted the true Church.

288. And it is, moreover, true that Lamech had not the Word, and that, accordingly, his utterance is not to be considered in the same light as that word which was spoken to his father Cain; for the latter was the voice of truth, but the word of Lamech was the voice of his own pride, expressive of the rule of Satan and of a church of hypocrites, which sins securely and yet glories in its sins as if they were deeds of righteousness.


1. Of Seth.

a. Why Seth is described in detail 289.

b. Why Eve at Seth's birth recalled Cain's murder 290.

* How and why the first parents after Abel's death refrained from bearing children 291.

c. Seth's birth was announced before in a special way by God 291-292.

* The uncovenanted grace of the Cainites. Also, why God did not mention that some of them would be saved 293.

d. How Eve manifested special faith and obedience in Seth's birth 294-295.

* Why the Romish church never canonized Eve 296.

* The idle fables of the Jews about Lamech and his wives, and about Adam's abstinence and Cain's increase, are to be rejected 297.

e. A new generation springs from Seth, in which the promise shall be fulfilled 298.

2. Of Enoch.

a. What his name means, and why it was given to him 299.

* The names of the holy patriarchs originated not by chance 299.

b. How true worship began under Enoch 300-302.

* Of true worship.

(1) In what it consists 301.

(2) Why it was not in use before 302.

* The meaning of "the name of Jehovah" or the proclaiming of the name of Jehovah 303.

(3) The right course to take in the doctrine concerning divine worship 304.

* God always ministered comfort to his Church under the cross 305.

(4) What is the true worship according to the first table of the law 306-307.

(5) How true worship according to the second table follows from the first 308.

(6) People are to be instructed first and chiefly in the worship of the first table 309.

(7) Whether visible signs were present in these days in their worship, and to what end they were necessary 310-311.

(8) The worship of which Moses speaks is to be understood not of the Cainites but of Seth's posterity 312.

* A summary review of the contents of the fourth chapter of Genesis 313.

* Why the fifth chapter was written 314.

* Why the Jews cannot see the unity in the first five chapters of the Bible 315.


V. 25. And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For, said she, God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him.

289. Hitherto Moses has spoken of the generation of the wicked only, the whole of which he buries as it were with the above brief catalog. The historian now turns to the description of the godly and of the true Church. And first of all, we are to observe the manner of expression Moses uses in reference to the name given by Eve to her son: "And she called his name Seth." Moses does not speak thus concerning Cain when he was born, nor concerning righteous Abel, nor with reference to Enoch, nor with reference to any of the others. By this particular expression regarding Seth and his name Moses would signify that this was the first son in whom flowed the stream of the promise which had been made to the parents in paradise. So Eve is to be understood when she assigns the reason for giving her son this name. Eve manifests her surpassing godliness and faith in giving her son such a name.

290. The fact that Eve recalls the murder by wicked Cain of his brother Abel proves that there had existed a fierce enmity between these two churches, and that she had witnessed and suffered many evils and indignities from the Cainites. Because of this she now called to mind the awful murder which had been committed, whereby Cain wished to destroy the righteous seed that he might reign alone. But thanks be to God, says she, who hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel.

291. Moses here, as is his usual manner, embraces in the fewest possible words the mightiest things, that he may incite the reader to the most diligent consideration of the works of God. Of the pain and righteous grief of the parents at the murder of Abel by his brother we have spoken before. I see no reason why we should not believe that after the perpetration of that horrible murder no son was born to Adam until the birth of Seth; for it is most probable that the awful peril of a recurrence of a calamity like that which they had just experienced, induced the godly parents to abstain from connubial intercourse. I believe, therefore, that by a particular promise made to them by an angel, their minds were again comforted and confirmed, and that they were influenced to believe that a son of the description of Seth would now be born unto them, who should hold fast the promise; and that, although the generation of Cain should utterly perish by their sin, the generation of him about to be born should be preserved until the promised blessed seed should come into the world.

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