Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II - Luther on Sin and the Flood
by Martin Luther
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The Luther Press MINNEAPOLIS, MINN., U.S.A. 1910


To all interested in studying the Christian Missionary problems of "the last times" of the modern world, this volume is dedicated.

Copyright, 1910, by J. N. LENKER.


The first volumes of the "American Luther" we selected for publication were his best commentaries, then eight volumes of his Gospel and Epistle sermons and one volume of his best catechetical writings. These rich evangelical works introduced us to the real Luther, not the polemical, but the Gospel Luther. They contain the leaven of the faith, life and spirit of Protestantism. We now return to his spiritual commentaries on the Bible which are the foundation of all his writings. The more one reads Luther the greater he becomes as a student of the One Book.

Contents of This Volume.

This, the second volume of Luther's great commentary on Genesis, appears now in English for the first time.

It covers chapters four to nine inclusive of Genesis. The subjects discussed are: Cain's murder, his punishment, Cain's sons, Seth and his sons, the wickedness of the old world, the ark, Noah's obedience, the universal destruction, the salvation of Noah's family, his sacrifice, his blessing, the rainbow covenant, Noah's fall, Ham cursed and Shem and Japheth blessed. These great themes are discussed by Moses and Luther. They have vital relations to problems pertaining to the end of the modern world. Our hope and prayer are that God may use this volume to make the book of Genesis and the whole Old Testament a greater spiritual blessing to the Church and that it may serve the servants of God in these latter days in calling people to repentance, faith and prayer like Noah and Luther did.

In his "Dear Genesis" Luther proved that the free Evangelical religion he taught was not new, but as old as the first book of the Bible, and that it does not consist in outward forms, organizations and pomp, but in true faith in Christ in our hearts and lives. Genesis contains the only historic records accessible of the first 2364 years of the 4004 years before Christ. It is worthy of study in our day as it was in the days of the Reformation.


Luther advised no one should translate alone and he practiced what he taught. We have followed his rule and example. Pastor C. B. Gohdes of Baltimore translated chapter six and President Schaller of Milwaukee Theological Seminary, chapters five, seven, eight and nine.

Inaccuracies may be due to the revision and editing, and not to the translators, for every good translation must be fluent and idiomatic, to secure which is the most difficult task. Pastor Gohdes also rendered valuable help in the final revision of parts. The translation of the analyses is by the undersigned.

The few last pages of the first edition of volume one we revised and reprint in this volume in order to make the pages of each volume of our edition to correspond with the German and Latin volumes of the Erlangen edition. The paragraphs are numbered and the analyses given according to the old Walch edition.

Luther and World-Evangelization.

In translating Luther into practical English in practical America, and in this age that is growing more and more practical, we need to be reminded that this work is for practical use and purposes. Luther was radical along Bible lines in applying the truth personally and to the world.

It is a year since the last volume of the "American Luther" appeared. The delay was caused by an effort to raise the work to a higher standard and by the publication of a book on "The True Place of Germans and Scandinavians in the Evangelization of the World", not a revision of, but a new companion volume to "Lutherans In All Lands" that appeared seventeen years ago. By comparing these two books one has the best evidence of the marvelous progress of God's Kingdom in recent years, and the growing world-significance of Luther's evangelistic writings. Evangelization at home and abroad is the popular religious theme today in the German fatherland and in the whole Protestant world. The word "world" is becoming so common its full meaning is not appreciated. When world-evangelization is discussed, it is too often from the standpoint of the nation discussing it. Each nation is so active in its own work that it fails to appreciate what others are doing. For example how little the world missionary conferences in English lands have to say of the German and Scandinavian missions and the Reformed Churches of the Lutheran work. Hence the fruits of Luther's evangelical writings are underestimated by the English people. It is opportune to translate not only Luther but also the best fruits of those writings in various languages during the past 400 years, especially since the memorable date of 1917 is soon to be celebrated by universal Protestantism. Luther in all languages and Lutherans in all lands go together. We ought to consider most carefully the great Reformer in his relation to the modern world and modern world-evangelization. The known world in his day was not so large. He had, however, a clear view of it all in his writings, which is due to his faithful study of the Scriptures. The Bible gave him a knowledge of the world, including all lands and all times. His commentary of eleven volumes on Genesis illustrates this. The first volume on Genesis treats of the first part of the ancient world; the second volume, the one before us, treats of the second part and end of the old world. This Luther would have us apply to the last times of the modern world.

Luther Educational and Devotional.

Here, as everywhere in his catechisms, sermons and commentaries, Luther is unique among religious authors in that he is both educational and devotional, appealing equally to head and heart. He is "religiously helpful and intellectually profitable," covering every phase of religious, moral and social conditions, and touching every interest of humanity. "His words went to the mark like bullets and left marks like bullets." Being beyond criticism they have a unique place to fill in the literature and libraries of the world.

Although the cry, "Read Luther!" has been raised here in the new world the multitudes of the English people are not rushing for his writings, as the Germans did when they first appeared in the old world, under conditions similar to what they are in America at present. If asked what made the German people what they are, the answer is, these writings, so universally circulated and read. If the Anglo-Saxons appreciated their educational and devotional value the 35,000 copies circulated the last seven years would easily, as a professor suggested, be increased to a hundred thousand copies.

Nations Helping Nations.

The world-consciousness is growing, so is the national consciousness. Both are characteristic of our times. Perhaps never did the national spirit develop as in recent years. The great powers, instead of dividing China, witness the national spirit growing everywhere—in Japan, China, India, Africa, South America, Norway, Sweden, as well as in Germany, England, Russia and the United States. This is a good sign, for the world-family is composed of nations, and each nation has at least one talent not to be crushed, but with which to serve all the others. One serves the world when he serves his nation. Luther's words, "I live for my countrymen", illustrates this. It is not the nations that have the largest armies and navies that are the greatest blessing to the world, but the nations that work out the best Christian civilization for the world to imitate and send over the earth the best farmers to show other nations and tribes how to cultivate the earth, the best teachers, preachers and authors to train the people, the best medical skill to relieve human suffering, the best mechanics and servants, the greatest philanthropists, the best Christians. In educational, industrial, medical and charitable mission work the nations dominated by Luther's writings stand high. Nations, like individuals, are the greatest which serve others best; not the nations which have the most territory, but nations which do the greatest service for the whole human family. The students missionary movement develops men, and the laymen's missionary movement raises money. Both are needed, but men must be trained to do their work in the best way and the money be used to bring the best results. Hence nations should help and study one another most carefully with this in view. Luther and his writings in the evangelization of Europe ought not to be overlooked in the evangelization of other continents. By helping abroad the home does not suffer. Among American Lutherans the Norwegians prove this, for they have done the most for the heathen and have the best home mission work.

Transition and Translation or Transition and Revolution.

While we are translating Luther for all Anglo-Saxons, we do not overlook the fact that Luther's disciples, Germans and Scandinavians, are themselves being translated, or are in a state of transition. The translation of a people and of their literature or spirit clearly presents a double problem, both sides of which demand at once the most careful work. The translation of both the people and their literature should run parallel and in the same, and not in an opposite, direction. Germans and Scandinavians have always, and do still, make the fatal blunder of translating from English into their own languages, instead of from their languages into English. They thus cross one another's path never to meet again. Their children and grandchildren, however, find it easier to translate into English, their mother tongue; but, alas, they have little interest in doing it. They make the mistake in thinking their old thoughts and classics are not needed in the new language. Their motto seems to be, "new literature for the new language", when to the English public, if not to themselves, the old writings would be the newest. It is marvelous how wide-awake preachers are mislead.

Best Literature is Translations.

People who are prejudiced against translations, forget that the Bible and our best literature are translations of the classics of the world's leading languages. Translations should be welcomed by a people who themselves are in a state of translation, especially if the translations are from their mother tongue into the language they are learning. What endless friction and confusion would be avoided, if people and their life and literature were translated at the same time. As we have said, a transition of a people without a translation of their literature is no transition, but a revolution. To this various church bodies witness. During the transition of language the best literature for the children to read is the translations of the classics of the language of the parents. There may be better literature, but not for these particular children, if the unity of the family life is to be perpetuated. Hence it becomes a vital concern that both children and parents understand that the best literature for them is such translations. But where are the German or Scandinavian teachers and preachers who are enthusing over putting this thought deep into the family life of their congregations.

A Lesson from Luther and Wesley in America.

What unwisdom even to attempt to build up the Lutheran Christian life in free, aggressive Protestant Anglo-Saxon civilization without Luther's writings in good Anglo-Saxon! Muhlenberg (b. 1711; d. 1787) and Wesley (b. 1703; d. 1791) came to America about the same time. Wesley returned home in 1738 after a stay of two years in the south. Muhlenberg spent his ministerial life of 45 years (1742-1787) in America, in the Keystone state, in and near Philadelphia, the metropolis of the new world. When the two Palatinate Germans from Limerick County, Ireland, Philip Embury and Barbara Heck, a lay-preacher and a godly woman, held the first Methodist service in America, in 1766, in New York City, the Lutheran faith had been planted here by the Dutch since 1657 in the same city, by the Swedes on the Delaware since 1639, (Torkillus), by the Germans since 1708 (Kocherthal); Muhlenberg had arrived in Philadelphia in 1742, built churches the following year in Philadelphia and "The Trappe", and organized the Synod of Pennsylvania among its 60,000 Lutherans in 1748. All these Lutherans to some extent learned, preached and confirmed in English. Muhlenberg was naturalized in 1754 as a subject of Great Britain. This and his stay in England gave an Anglican turn to his German pietism. When we became a free people in 1776, the Methodists had only 20 preachers and 3418 members in America and less than 76,000 followers in Europe from which to receive immigrant members, while the Lutherans were strong here and in Europe. Today American Methodists report 60,737 churches, and the Lutherans 13,533. Why did Wesley's followers become the dominating religious force in America? Not because Wesley and his writings were greater than Luther and his writings. Methodists did not bear Wesley's name, but they did have his spirit and writings. Even to the present day every Methodist preacher must pass an examination in Wesley's writings before ordination. Where were Luther's spirit and writings among his early American followers?

Language is no more a barrier to Luther's spirit than to Wesley's. Methodism forged its way from English into German, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish and among Indians, Mexicans and Negros. People, regardless of language, color or condition, could not help but learn what real spiritual Methodism is. It was preached and sung in such simple, plain Anglo-Saxon, and in good translations, that it could not be misunderstood nor misrepresented. Wesley's simple evangelical message was abroad in the land in the hearts of the people. But the evangelical voice of Luther, the prince of translators, was hardly heard and even today the English world has no clear popular view of what spiritual Evangelical Lutheranism is. Often when they speak of it, they seem to think it is the opposite of what it is. Germans, Scandinavians and all know the spiritual side of Methodism, but the English world does not know the spiritual side of Lutheranism, and it never will until Luther's spiritual writings are translated into readable English and circulated broadcast over the land, and the hearts of the people come into direct and close touch with the heart of the great Reformer himself.

The English world knows the statistics, the numerical strength of Lutherans. That needs no apology. But what does need a defense among Americans is the spirituality of the Lutherans. That is developed by the translations into the plainest vernacular of God's Word and Luther's evangelical sermons and commentaries. These are the best literature for young Germans and Scandinavians. Although translations, and not perfect, they are the best for them. The Bible first; Luther's spiritual writings second, not first nor third. Have not Lutherans in America been following the disciples of Luther instead of Luther; while Methodists have followed Wesley and not Wesley's disciples. The Dutch, Swedish and German Lutherans in the east, all learned English. We say it was a transition, but was it not a revolution? Their history stands forth as beacon lights of warning to the polyglot Lutherans migrating to the ends of earth and learning all languages. They will no more keep up their faith with one language than the English nation will keep up their trade by refusing to learn other languages. Strange it is that nations can learn and use other languages in one line and not in another—the English in church work and not in trade; the Germans in trade, but not in church work.

It is said there are 30 million people in the United States with some German blood in their veins. Two thirds of these, or 20 millions, may be said to have some Lutheran mixture in their makeup, but only one and a half million of these 20 millions are communicant members of English and German Lutheran churches. What people in America can show a worse religious record? Yet the tenders of the sheep and lambs are afraid to feed them in the only way they can be fed. Verily whatever you sow, that shall you also reap. Lift up your eyes, behold the harvest! Can you not discern the signs of the times?

It is no wonder that the United States Census of 1890, the latest reliable statistics on the subject, gave the number of Lutheran communicants using only English in this English land at 198,907; General Synod 143,764; United Synod South 37,457; General Council 14,297; Ohio Synod 287; Missouri Synod 1,192—after 150 years of work. Our good German and Scandinavian parents, in the light of these figures, need not fear losing many members to purely English churches. "Reading Luther" in German, Swedish, Norwegian and English will bring better results to old and young than if read only in one language. The Church of the Reformation is not one-tongued, but many-tongued.

English Luther in German and Scandinavian Churches.

April 12th, 1910, became a memorable date in the North-west by the introduction of the Scandinavian languages into all the high schools of Minneapolis. German and Scandinavian taxpayers are gradually becoming more interested in having their children learn the language of their mothers in the public schools. This will prove to be a great blessing to children and home, society and state. The Church however will blunder, if she thinks there will now be no need of circulating English literature in German and Scandinavian congregations. Translating Luther and teaching German and Scandinavian are two ways of doing the same thing, for language is not an end, but a means to an end. Many young people are being confirmed in English and they often attend services in foreign languages. Many know more of the language than of the matter preached. When weak in the language they understand better what is preached if they are familiar with the thought. The reason many do not appreciate a sermon with the Luther ring is because they are familiar with neither the language nor the thought. Hence the need of our young people becoming familiar with Luther's sermons and commentaries in English. One understands better in a strange language what he is familiar with. This familiar knowledge would help to bridge the chasm between Lutheran parents and children. Ask parents and they will tell about the "Old Luther Readers," in their native land and tongue. All admit that if the young people are not interested to read Luther in English, they will never read him. All who do will the better understand sermons in German and Scandinavian. The universal reading of the English Luther, on the part of the young people, will therefore help, and not harm, the German and Scandinavian congregations. Luther's teachings thoroughly understood in a living way will bind the young to their Christian convictions, as much as the knowledge of a language binds them to that language. The passive interest therefore, on the part of German and Scandinavian pastors and congregations in circulating the English Luther, as far as their young people are concerned, should give way to active interest, for the sake of their own work in the future. It is important to learn your mother's language. You may do that and forget her faith—Better retain the faith than the language.

J. N. Lenker. The Fiftieth Day (Pentecost), 1910. Minneapolis, Minn.





1. What moved Cain to commit murder 107.

2. Cain's hypocritical actions in concealing his anger that he might the more easily commit the murder 108-109.

* Cain the picture of all hypocrites 110-129.

* The attitude of hypocrites to their neighbors. Also, how we are to view the efforts of the pope and bishops in behalf of peace and unity 111-112.

* Against what people we should most guard 112.

3. How Cain listened to no warning in his thoughts of murder 113.

* Complaint of the world's attitude to good admonition 114.

* The ways of the hypocrite. Also, why falsehood wears a friendly aspect 115.

4. Whether Cain's passion to murder Abel was noticeable 115.

5. Cain took no notice of Abel's sighing and praying 116.

* The origin of man's cruel and tyrannical nature 117.


1. Who questioned Cain, and his defiant actions 118.

2. Cain accused himself most when he tried to clear himself 119.

* Liars speak against themselves, as is proved by examples 119-120.

3. Cain's vindication more foolish than that of the first parents in paradise 121.

* St. Martin will absolve the devil if he repents 122.

* Whoever excuses his sin follows the example of Satan and makes his case worse 123.

4. How Cain heaps sin upon sin 124.

5. Cain despairs and is in a worse state than our first parents after their fall 125.

6. How Cain placed himself in a position where nothing could help him 126.

7. Gently accused, and yet defiant 127.

8. Cain has not the least reverence for God or his father 128.

* This is a picture of all hypocrites 129.

9. How his defense ends 130.

* How man ought to act when his conscience accuses him of sin 131.

* The hypocrite's actions when his conscience is awakened, and what he is to do 132-133.

10. In Cain's defense wickedness and folly are mingled 134.

* How God reveals hypocrites 135.

* Moses says much in few words 136.

* Whether Abel and our first parents anticipated Cain's murder 137.

* Without a thought of what might restrain him, Cain commits the deed 138.

* The picture of the sacrifice of Iphigenia applied to Moses' description of Cain's murder 139-140.

* Cain's is no ordinary murder, and how he differs from other murderers 141.

* The hypocrite's hatred is different from other hatred, and is found among the Jews and the Papists 142-143.

* Cain the father of all murderers 144.

* How the first parents felt over this whole affair 145.

a. Their grief was so great that they could not have endured without special divine comfort 146.

b. Their severe trial in view of the first sin 147.

c. Very likely because of this murder they refrained so long from bearing children 148.

* Whether the first parents had at the time more children than Cain and Abel 148.

* Why Cain slew Abel, and how he did it 149.

11. The time and occasion when Cain was called to account 150.

12. Adam with the authority of God calls Cain to account 152.


A. How Cain Murdered His Brother.

V. 8a. And Cain told (talked with) Abel his brother.

107. Our translation adds that Cain said: "Let us go out doors." But this is one of the comments of the rabbins, whose relative claim to credit I have fully shown on a previous occasion. Lyra, following the invention of Eben Ezra, relates that Cain told his brother how severely he had been rebuked of the Lord. But who would believe statements for which there is no authority in the Scriptures? We hold therefore to an explanation which has the warrant of the Scriptures, namely that Cain, finding himself rejected of God, indulged his anger, and added to his former sins contempt of his parents and of the Word, thinking within himself: "The promised seed of the woman belongs to me as the first-born. But my brother, Abel, that contemptible, good-for-nothing fellow, is evidently preferred to me by divine authority, manifest in the fire consuming his sacrifice. What shall I do, therefore? I will dissemble my wrath until an opportunity of taking vengeance shall occur."

108. Therefore the words, "Cain told Abel his brother," I understand to mean that Cain, dissembling his anger, conducted himself toward Abel as a brother, and spoke to him and conversed with him, as if he bore with good nature the sentence pronounced upon him by God. In this manner also Saul simulated an attitude of kindness toward David. "I know well," said Saul, "that thou shalt surely be king," 1 Sam 24, 20; and yet he was all the while planning to prevent this by killing David. Just so Cain now conversed with Abel his brother, and said: I see that thou art chosen of the Lord; I envy thee not this divine blessing, etc. This is just the manner of hypocrites. They pretend friendship until an opportunity of doing the harm they intend presents itself.

109. That such is the true sense of the passage, all the circumstances clearly show. For if Adam and Eve could have gathered the least suspicion of the intended murder, think you not that they would either have restrained Cain or removed Abel, and placed the latter out of danger? But as Cain had altered his countenance and his deportment toward his brother, and had talked with him in a brotherly manner, they thought all was safe, and the son bowed to and acquiesced in the admonition of his father. The appearance deceived Abel also, who, if he had feared anything like murder from his brother, would doubtless have fled from him, as Jacob fled from Esau when he feared his brother's wrath. What, therefore, could possibly have come into the mind of Jerome when he believed the rabbins, who say Cain was expostulating with his brother?

110. Accordingly, Cain is the image and picture of all hypocrites and murderers, who kill under the show of godliness. Cain, possessed by Satan, hides his wrath, waiting the opportunity to slay his brother Abel; meanwhile he converses with him, as a brother beloved, that he might the sooner lay his hands upon him unawares.

111. This passage, therefore, is intended for our instruction in the ways of murderers and hypocrites. Still Cain talks in a brotherly manner with his brother, and, on the other hand, Abel still trusts Cain as a brother should trust a brother; and thus he is murdered, and the pious parents meanwhile are deceived.

Just so the pope and the bishops of our day talk and confer much concerning the peace and concord of the Church. But he is most assuredly deceived who does not understand that the exact opposite is planned. For true is that word of the Psalm, "The workers of iniquity speak peace with their neighbors, but mischief is in their hearts," Ps 28, 3. For it is the nature of hypocrites that they are good in appearance, speak kindly to you, pretend to be humble, patient and charitable, give alms, etc.; and yet, all the while they plan slaughter in their hearts.

112. Let us learn, then, to know a Cain and especially to beware when he speaks kindly, and as brother to brother. For it is in this way that our adversaries, the bishops and the pope, talk with us in our day, while they pretend a desire for concord, and seek to bring about doctrinal harmony. In reality, if an opportunity of seizing us and executing their rage upon us should present itself, you would soon hear them speak in a very different tone. Truly, "there is death in the pot," 2 Kings 4, 40; and under the best and sweetest words there lies concealed a deadly poison.

V. 8b. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

113. Here you see the deceptive character of those alluring words. Cain had been admonished by his father with divine authority to guard against sin in the future, and to expect pardon for that of the past. But Cain despises the twofold admonition, and indulges his sin, as all the wicked do. For true is the saying of Solomon, "When the wicked cometh, there cometh also contempt, and with ignominy cometh reproach," Prov 18, 3.

114. Our ministry at the present day deserves no blame. We teach, we exhort, we entreat, we rebuke, we turn ourselves every way, that we may recall the multitude from security to the fear of God. But the world, like an untamed beast, still goes on and follows not the Word, but its own lusts, which it tries to smooth over by a show of uprightness. The prophets and the apostles stand before us as examples, and our own experience is instructive, also. Our adversaries, so often warned and convicted, know they are doing wrong, and yet they do not lay aside their murderous hate.

115. Learn, then, what a hypocrite is; namely, one who lays claim to the worship of God and to charity, and yet, at the same time, destroys the worship of God and slaughters his brother. And all this semblance of good-will is only intended to bring about better opportunities of doing harm. For, if Abel had foreseen the implacable wrath and the truly diabolical anger, he would have saved himself by flight. But as Cain betrayed no such anger, uttered a friendly greeting and manifested his usual courtesy, Abel perished before he felt any fear.

116. There is no doubt that Abel, when he saw his brother rising up against him, entreated and implored him not to pollute himself with this awful sin. However, a mind beset by Satan pays no regard to entreaties, nor heeds uplifted hands, but as a father's admonition had been disregarded, so now the brother is spurned as he pleads upon his knees.

117. Light is cast here upon the bondage to Satan by which our nature, entangled in sins, is oppressed. Hence Paul's expression, "children of wrath," Eph 2, 3, and the declaration that such are taken captive by Satan unto his will, 2 Tim 2, 26. For when we are mere men; that is, when we apprehend not the blessed seed by faith, we are all like Cain, and nothing is wanting but an opportunity. For nature, destitute of the Holy Spirit, is impelled by that same evil spirit which impelled wicked Cain. If, however, there were in any one those ample powers, or that free will, by which a man might defend himself against the assaults of Satan, these gifts would most assuredly have existed in Cain, to whom belonged the birthright and the promise of the blessed seed. But in that very same condition are all men! Unless nature be helped by the Spirit of God, it cannot maintain itself. Why, then, do we absurdly boast of free-will? Now follows another remarkable passage.

B. How Cain Had to Give an Account, and His Conduct.

V. 9. And Jehovah said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

118. Good God! into what depth of sin does our miserable nature fall when driven onward by the devil. Murder had been committed on a brother, and perhaps murdered Abel lay for days unburied. Thereupon, as Cain returned to his parents at the accustomed time, and Abel returned not with him, the anxious parents asked him: Cain, thou art here, but where is Abel? Thou hast returned home, but Abel has not returned. The flock is without their shepherd. Tell us therefore, where thy brother is. Upon this, Cain, becoming abusive, makes answer to his parents, by no means with due reverence, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

119. But it happened to Cain as to all the wicked, that by excusing himself he accused himself, according to the words of Christ, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant," Luke 19, 22. Also the heathen had a striking proverb among them, "A liar ought to have a good memory." Such was the judgment of heathen men, though they knew nothing of the judgment of God and of conscience, and had nothing to guide their judgment but their experience in civil affairs. And true it is that liars run much risk of being discovered and unmasked. Hence the Germans have the proverb, "A lie is a very fruitful thing." For one lie begets seven other lies, which become necessary to uphold the first lie. And yet it is impossible, after all, to prevent conscience from arousing and betraying itself at times, if not in words, then in gestures. This is proved by numberless examples. I will cite only one example here:

120. In Thuringia there is a small town in the district of Orla, called Neustadt. In this town a harlot had murdered her infant, to which she had secretly given birth, and had thrown it, after the murder, into a neighboring fishpond. Accidentally the little piece of linen in which she had wrapped the infant, brought the horrid deed to light. The case was brought before the magistrate; and as the simple men of the place knew no better means of investigating the crime, they called all the young women of the town into the town hall and closely examined them, one by one. The face and the testimony of each one of these proclaimed her innocent. But when they came to her who was the real perpetrator of the deed, she did not wait for questions to be put to her, but immediately declared aloud that she was not the guilty person. The contrast she presented to the others in making such haste to defend herself, confirmed the suspicion of the magistrates. At once she was seized by the constables and put to death.

Indeed, instances are innumerable and of daily occurrence which show that people, in their eagerness to defend themselves, accuse themselves. Sin may, indeed, lie asleep, but that word which we have just heard, is true. It lies at the door.

121. Just so in the present case. Cain thinks he has made an effectual excuse for himself by saying that he is not his brother's keeper. But does he not confess by the very word "brother" which he takes upon his lips that he ought to be his keeper? Is not that equal to accusing himself, and will not the fact that Abel is nowhere in evidence arouse the suspicion in the minds of his parents that he has been murdered? Just so also Adam excuses himself in paradise, and lays all the blame on Eve. But this excuse of Cain is far more stupid; for while he excuses his sin he doubles it, whereas the frank confession of sin finds mercy and appeases wrath.

122. It is recorded in the history of St. Martin, that when he absolved certain notorious sinners, he was rebuked by Satan for doing so. St. Martin is said to have replied, "Why, I would absolve even thee, if thou wouldst say from thy heart, I repent of having sinned against the Son of God, and I pray for pardon." But the devil never does this. For he persists in committing sin and defending the same.

123. All liars and hypocrites imitate Cain their father, by either denying their sin or excusing it. Hence they cannot find pardon for their sins. And we see the same in domestic life. By the defense of wrong-doing, anger is increased. For whenever the wife, or the children, or the servants, have done wrong, and deny or excuse their wrong-doing, the father of the family is the more moved to wrath; whereas, on the other hand, confession secures pardon or a lighter punishment. But it is the nature of hypocrites to excuse and palliate their sin or to deny it altogether and under the show of religion, to slay the innocent.

124. But here let us survey the order in which sins follow each other and increase. First of all Cain sins by presumption and unbelief when, priding himself on the privilege of his birthright, he takes it for granted that he shall be accepted of God on the ground of his own merit. Upon this pride and self-glorification immediately follow envy and hatred of his brother, whom he sees preferred to himself by an unmistakable sign from heaven. Upon this envy and hatred follow hypocrisy and lying. Though he designs to murder his brother, he accosts him in a friendly manner and thereby throws him off his guard. Hypocrisy is followed by murder. Murder is followed by the excusing of his sin. And the last stage is despair, which is the fall from heaven to hell.

125. Although Adam and Eve in paradise did not deny their sin, yet their confession was lukewarm, and the sin was shifted from the one to the other. Adam laid it on Eve, and Eve on the serpent. But Cain went even farther, for he not only did not confess the murder he had committed, but disclaimed responsibility for his brother. And did not this at once prove his mind to be hostile against his brother? Therefore, though Adam and Eve made only a half-hearted confession, they had some claim to pardon, and in consequence were punished with less severity. But Cain, because he resolutely denied his sin, was rejected, and fell into despair.

And the same judgment awaits all the sons of Cain, popes, cardinals, and bishops, who, although they plan murder against us day and night, say likewise, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

126. There was a common proverb of old, "What is it to the Romans that the Greeks die?" So we think that our dangers and calamities only belong to ourselves. But how does this principle agree with the commandment of God? For his will is that we should all live together, and be to each other as brethren. Cain, therefore, by this very saying of his, heavily accuses himself when he makes the excuse that the custody of his brother was no affair of his. Whereas, if he had said to his father, "Alas, I have slain Abel, my brother. I repent of the deed I have done. Return upon me what punishment thou wilt," there might have been room for a remedy; but as he denied his sin, and, contrary to the will of God, disclaimed responsibility for his brother altogether, there was no place left for mercy or favor.

127. Moreover, Moses took special pains in the preparation of this account, that it might serve as a witness against all hypocrites, and as a chronicle containing a graphic description of their character and of the ire to which they are aroused by Satan against God, his Word and his Church. It was not enough for this murderer that he had killed his brother, contrary to the command of God, but he added the further sin that he became filled with indignation and rage when God inquired of him concerning his brother. I say, "when God inquired of him," because, although it was Adam who spoke these words to his son Cain, yet he spoke them by the authority of God and by the Holy Spirit. In view of so great a sin, was it not quite gentle to inquire, "Where is Abel thy brother?" And yet, to this word, which contained nothing severe, the hypocrite and murderer is ferocious and proud enough to reply, "I know not." And he is indignant that he should be called to an account concerning the matter at all. For the reply of Cain is the language of one who resists and hates God.

128. But to this sin Cain adds one still worse. Justly under indictment for murder, he presently becomes the accuser of God, and expostulates with him: "Am I my brother's keeper?" He prefaces his reply with no such expression of reverence or honor as is due both to God and to his father. He did not say, "Lord, I know not." He did not say, "My Father, didst thou make me the keeper of my brother?" Such expressions as these would have indicated a feeling of reverence toward God or toward his parent. But he answers with pride as if he himself were the Lord, and plainly manifests that he felt indignation at being called to account by him who had the perfect right to do so.

129. This is a true picture of all hypocrites. Living in manifest sins, they grow insolent and proud, aiming all the while to appear righteous. They will not yield even to God himself and his Word when upbraided by them. Nay, they set themselves against God, contend with him, and excuse their sin. Thus David says, that God is judged of men, but that at length he clears and justifies himself, and prevails, Ps 51, 4. Such is the insolence of the hypocrites Moses has here endeavored to paint.

130. But what success has Cain with his attempt? This, that his powerful effort to excuse himself becomes a forcible self-accusation. Christ says, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant," Lk 19, 22. Now, this servant wished to appear without guilt, saying: "I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou didst not sow; and I was afraid, and hid thy talent," Mt 25, 24-25. Could he have brought a stronger accusation against himself, in view of the fact that Christ immediately turns his words against him? Thereby Christ evidences the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

131. Such illustrations help us to learn not to contend with God. On the contrary when you feel in your conscience that you are guilty, take heed with all your soul that you strive neither with God nor with men by defending or excusing your sin. Rather do this: When you see God point his spear at you, flee not from him; but, on the contrary, flee to him with a humble confession of your sin, and with prayer for his pardon. Then God will draw back his spear and spare you. But when, by the denial and excuse of your sin, you flee farther and farther from him, God will pursue you at close range with still greater determination, and bring you to bay. Nothing, therefore, is better or safer than to come with the confession of guilt. Thus it comes to pass that God's victory becomes our victory through him.

132. But Cain and hypocrites in general do not this. God points his spear at them, but they never humble themselves before him nor pray to him for pardon. Nay, they rather point their spear at God, just as Cain did on this occasion. Cain does not say, "Lord, I confess I have killed my brother; forgive me." On the contrary, though being the accused, he himself accuses God by replying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" And what did he effect with his pride? His reply was certainly equal to the confession that he cared naught for the divine law, which says, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," Lev 19, 18. And again, "Do not unto another that which you would not have another do unto you," Mt 7, 12. This law was not first written in the Decalog; it was inscribed in the minds of all men. Cain acts directly against this law, and shows that he not only cares nothing for it, but absolutely despises it.

133. In this manner, Cain represents a man who is not merely wicked, but who occupies such a height of wickedness as to combine hypocrisy with bloodshed, and yet is so eager to maintain the appearance of sanctity that he rather accuses God than concedes the justice of the accusation against himself. And this is what all hypocrites do. They blaspheme God and crucify his Son, and yet wish to appear righteous. For after their sins of murder, blasphemy and the like their whole aim is to seek means whereby to excuse and palliate the same. But the result always is that they betray themselves and are condemned out of their own mouths.

134. While Cain makes an effort to clear himself, he exhibits the foulest stains. He thinks he made a most plausible excuse when he said, "Am I my brother's keeper?" But this very excuse becomes his most shameful accusation. The maxim of Hilary, that wickedness and stupidity always go hand in hand, finds unvarying application. If Cain had been as wise as he was wicked, he would have excused himself in quite a different manner. Now, under the operation of the divine rule that wickedness and stupidity are running mates, he becomes his own accuser. The same principle operates in favor of the truth, and makes her defense against all adversaries easy. Just as Cain betrayed by word and mien his indifference and hate toward his brother, so all adversaries of the truth betray their wickedness, the one in this way, the other in that.

135. Facts of importance and apt for instruction are, therefore, here set before us. And their general import is that God does not permit hypocrites to remain hidden for any length of time, but compels them to betray themselves just when they make shrewd efforts to hide their hypocrisy and crime.

136. Moses does not exhibit in his narrative the verbose diction characteristic of pagan literature, where we often find one and the same argument embellished and polished by a variety of colors. We find by experience that no human power of description can do justice to inward emotions. In consequence, verbosity, as a rule, comes short of expressing emotion. Moses employs the opposite method, and clothes a great variety of arguments in scant phraseology.

137. Above the historian used the expression, "when they were in the field." Thereby Moses indicates that the murderer Cain had watched his opportunity to attack his brother when both were alone. All the circumstances plainly show that Abel was not idle at the time; for he was in the field, where he had to do the things his father committed to him. From Moses' statement we may infer that Abel's parents felt absolutely no fear of danger. For, although at the outset they had feared that the wrath of Cain would eventually break out into still greater sin, Cain, by his gentleness and pretended affection, prevented all suspicion of evil on the part of his parents. For had there been the least trace of apprehension, they certainly would not have permitted Abel to go from their presence alone. They would have sent his sisters with him as companions; for he no doubt had some. Or his parents themselves would have prevented by their presence and authority the perpetration of so great a crime. As already stated, also the mind of Abel was perfectly free from suspicion. For, had he suspected the least evil at the hand of his brother, he would doubtless have sought safety by flight. But after he had heard that Cain bore the judgment of God with composure, and did not envy the brother his honor, he pursued his work in the field with a feeling of security.

138. What orator could do justice to the scene which Moses depicts in one word: "Cain rose up against his brother?" Many descriptions of cruelty are to be found on every hand, but could any be painted as more atrocious and execrable than is the case here? "He rose up against his brother," Moses writes. It is as if he had said, Cain rose up against Abel, the only brother he had, with whom he had been brought up and with whom he had lived to that day. But not only the relationship Cain utterly forgot; he forgot their common parents also. The greatness of the grief he would cause his parents by such a grave crime, never entered his mind. He did not think that Abel was a brother, from whom he had never received any offense whatever. For Cain knew that the honor of having offered the more acceptable sacrifice, proceeded not from any desire or ambition in Abel, but from God himself. Nor did Cain consider that he, who had hitherto stood in the highest favor with his parents, would lose that favor altogether and would fall under their deepest displeasure as a result of his crime.

139. It is recorded in history of an artist who painted the scene of Iphigenia's sacrifice, that when he had given to the countenance of each of the spectators present its appropriate expression of grief and pain, he found himself unable to portray the vastness of the father's grief, who was present also, and hence painted his head draped.

140. Such is the method, I think, Moses employs in this passage, when he uses the verb yakam, "Rose up against." What tragical pictures would the eloquence of a Cicero or a Livy have drawn in an attempt to portray, through the medium of their oratory, the wrath of the one brother, and the dread, the cries, the prayers, the tears, the uplifted hands, and all the horrors of the other! But not even in that way can justice be done to the subject. Moses, therefore, pursues the right course, when he portrays, by a mere outline, things too great for utterance. Such brevity tends to enlist the reader's undivided attention to a subject which the vain adornment of many words disfigures and mars, like paint applied to natural beauty.

141. This is true also of the additional statement, "He slew him." Occasionally we see men start a quarrel and commit murder for a trivial cause, but no such ordinary murder is described here. Murderers of this kind immediately afterward are filled with distress; they grieve for the deeds they have done and acknowledge them to be delusions of the devil by which he blinded their minds. Cain felt no distress; he expressed no grief, but denied the deed he had done.

142. This satanic and insatiable hatred in hypocrites is described by Christ in the words, "When they kill you, they will think that they do God service," Jn 16, 2. So the priests and the kings filled Jerusalem with the blood of the prophets and gloried in what they did as a great achievement; for they considered this as proof of their zeal for the Law and the house of God.

143. And the fury of popes and bishops in our day is just the same. They are not satisfied with having excommunicated us again and again, and with having shed our blood, but they wish to blot out our memory from the land of the living, according to the description in the Psalm, "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof," Ps 137, 7. Such hatred is not human but satanic. For all human hatred becomes mellow in time; at all events, it will cease after it has avenged our injury and gratified its passion. But the hatred of these Pharisees assumes constantly larger dimensions, especially since it is smoothed over by a show of piety.

144. Cain, therefore, is the father of all those murderers who slaughter the saints, and whose wrath knows no end so long as there remains one of them, as is proved in the case of Christ himself. As for Cain, there is no doubt of his having hoped that by putting Abel to death he should keep the honor of his birthright. Thus, the ungodly always think that their cruelty will profit them in some way. But when they find that their hope is vain they fall into despair.

145. Now, when the fact of this shameful murder was made known to the parents, what do we think must have been the sad scenes resulting? What lamentations? What sighs and groans? But I dwell not on these things; they are for the man with the gifts of eloquence and imagination to describe. It was certainly a marvel that both parents were not struck lifeless with grief. The calamity was rendered the greater by the fact that their first-born, who had aroused so large hopes concerning himself, was the perpetrator of this horrible murder.

146. If, therefore, Adam and Eve had not been helped from above, they could never have been equal to this disaster in their home; for there is nothing like it in all the world. Adam and Eve were without that consolation which we may have in sudden and unexpected calamities, namely, that like evils have befallen others and have not come upon us alone. Our first parents had only two sons, though I believe that they had daughters also; and therefore they lacked such instances of grief in the human family as we have before our eyes.

147. Who can doubt, moreover, that Satan by this new species of temptation increased greatly the grief of our first parents? They no doubt thought, Behold, this is all our sin. We, in paradise, wished to become like God; but by our sin we have become like the devil. This is the case also with our son. We loved only this son, and made everything of him! Our other son, Abel, was righteous before us, above this son; but of his righteousness we made nothing! This elder son we hoped would be he who should crush the serpent's head; but behold, he himself is crushed by the serpent! Nay, he himself has become like the serpent, for he is now a murderer. And whence is this? Is it not because he was born of us, and because we, through our sin, are what we are? Therefore it is to our flesh; therefore it is to our sin, that this calamity must be traced.

148. It is very probable, accordingly, and the events of the series of years which followed strengthen this probability, that the sorrowing parents, shaken to the core by their calamity, abstained for a long time from connubial intercourse. For it appears that when Cain committed this murder he was about thirty years of age. During this period some daughters were born unto Adam. In view of the subsequent statements, verse 17, that "Cain knew his wife," he no doubt married a sister. Moreover, since Cain himself says in verse 14, "It shall come to pass that everyone that findeth me shall slay me", and as it is further said in verse 15, "The Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him"—it appears most probable from all these circumstances that Adam had many children besides Cain and Abel, but these two only are mentioned, on account of their important and memorable history, and because these two were their first and most remarkable children. It is my full belief that the marriage of our first parents was most fruitful during the first thirty years of their union. Somewhere Calmana and Dibora are mentioned as daughters of Adam, but I know not whether the authors are worthy of credence. Inasmuch, therefore, as the birth of Seth is recorded as having taken place a long time after this murder, it seems to me very probable that the parents, distressed beyond measure at this monstrous crime in the bosom of their family, refrained for a long time from procreation. While Moses does not touch upon all these things, he intimates enough to arouse in the reader a desire to dwell upon the noteworthy events which the absence of detailed information permits us to survey only from a distance.

149. But I return to the text before us. Cain is an evil and wicked man, and yet, in the eyes of his parents, he is a divine possession and gift. Abel, on the contrary, is in the eyes of his parents nothing; but in the eyes of God he is truly a righteous man; an appellation with which also Christ honors him when he calls him "righteous Abel"! Mt 23, 35. This divine judgment concerning Abel, Cain could not endure, and, therefore, he thought that by murder not only the hatred against his brother could be satisfied, but also his birthright be retained. But he was far from thinking that was sin; as the first-born he thought he had exercised his right. He killed Abel, not with a sword, as I think, but with a club or a stone, for I hold that there were as yet no iron weapons.

150. After the murder, Cain remained unconcerned, for he thought the deed could be concealed by hiding the body, which he buried, or perhaps cast into a river, thinking that thus it would surely remain undiscovered by his parents.

When Abel, however, had been from home a longer time than had been his habit, the Holy Spirit prompted Adam to inquire of Cain concerning Abel, saying, "Where is Abel thy brother?" The above-mentioned utterance of Adam, "If not, sin lieth at the door," was a prophecy which now began to come true. Cain thought he had laid his sin to rest, and all would thus remain hidden. And true it was that his sin did lie at rest, but it lay at rest "at the door." And who opens the door? None other than the Lord himself! He arouses the sleeping sin! He brings the hidden sin to light!

151. The same thing must come to pass with all sinners. For, unless by repentance you first come to God, and yourself confess your sin to God, God will surely come to you, to disclose your sin. For God cannot endure that any one should deny his sin. To this fact the psalmist testifies: "When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture was changed as with the drouth of summer." Ps 32, 3-4. For, although sin has its sleep and its security, yet that sleep is "at the door"; it cannot long last, and the sin cannot remain hidden.

152. When Moses introduces Jehovah as speaking, I understand him to mean, as above, that it was Adam who spoke by the Holy Spirit in the place of God, whom he represented in his relation as father. The expression of the Holy Spirit, therefore, is intended to set forth the high authority of parents; when children dutifully hear and obey these, they hear and obey God. And I believe Adam knew by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that Abel had been slain by his brother; for his words intimate the commission of murder at a time when Cain still dissembled as to what he had done.



1. By whom and how he is punished 153.

2. Why he was not put to death 153.

* The double grief of the first parents 154.

* What was Adam's church and altar 155.

3. How Cain was excommunicated 156.

* God's inquiry about Abel's blood.

a. How unbelievers refer to it 157.

b. How a theologian should use it 158.

c. It is a great and important matter 159.

* How Abel's death is to be viewed 159.

d. Why God does not inquire after the blood of beasts 160-161.

e. Whether this inquiry was from God direct or made through Adam 162-163.

f. How Cain felt upon this inquiry 164.

* The result of sin to murderers and other sinners 165-166.

* An evil conscience the result of evil-doing 166.

g. How to understand the statement that Abel's blood crieth to heaven 167.

* How God's children are to comfort themselves when the world oppresses them and seemingly God refuses to help 168-171.

h. This inquiry is a sign of God's care for Abel 169.

* The blood of many Evangelical martyrs cry to the Papists 170.

* How God opportunely judges the afflictions of believers 171.

* Why God's vengeance does not immediately follow 172.

i. The time this inquiry occurred 173.

* God indeed has regard for the sufferings and tears of his children 174.

* How sinners can meet the judgments of God 174.

4. The miserable life Cain must have led after his punishment 175.


1. The Church suffered.

a. How Cain's punishment and curse differed from Adam's 176-178.

b. Why Cain's person was cursed 178-179.

* The more Cain desired honor, the less he received 180.

* The beginning of both churches, the true and the false 181.

* Cain's whole posterity perished in sin 181.

c. How his curse and punishment were lightened 182.

* Whether any of Cain's posterity were saved, and holy 182.

* The way the heathen had part in the promise 182-185.

* The way Cain withheld his children from the true Church 185.

2. The Home suffered.

a. How this curse affected the earth 186-187.

b. Why Adam used such severe words in this curse 186.

c. How it caused the earth to be less fruitful 187.

* The difference between "Arez" and "Adama" 188.

3. The State suffered.

* What "No" and "Nod" mean, and how they differ 189-190.

* Cain's sin punished in three ways and in each the sin was mitigated 191-193.

* Cain a fugitive and a wanderer.

a. This refers chiefly to the true Church, as is illustrated by many examples of the saints 194-195.

b. It refers less to the false 194-195.

c. Many take offense at this 196.


A. Cain's Punishment in General.

153. If Eve overheard these words, what think you must have been the state of her mind! Her grief must have been beyond all description. But the calamity was brought home to Adam with even greater force. As he was the father, it fell to him to rebuke his son and to excommunicate him for his sin. Since, according to the ninth chapter, the law concerning the death-penalty for murderers was not promulgated until afterward when the patriarchs beheld murder becoming alarmingly frequent, Adam did not put Cain to death, but safeguarded his life in obedience to the prompting and direction of the Holy Spirit; still, it is a fact not to be gainsaid that the punishment ordained for him and all his posterity was anything but light. For in addition to that curse upon his body he suffered excommunication from his family, separation from the sight of his parents and from the society of his brothers and sisters, who remained with their parents, or in the fellowship of the Church.

154. Now, Adam could not have done all this, nor could Eve have heard it without indescribable anguish. For a father is a father, and a son is a son. Gladly would Adam have spared his son and retained him at home, as we now sometimes see murderers become reconciled to the brothers of their victims. But in this case no place was left for reconciliation. Cain is bidden at once to be a fugitive upon the face of the earth. The pain of the parents was doubled in consequence. They see one of their sons slain, and the other excommunicated by the judgment of God and cut off forever from the fellowship of his brethren.

155. Moreover, when we here speak of excommunication from the Church, it stands to reason that not our houses of worship, built in magnificent style and ample proportions out of hewn stone, are meant. The sanctuary, or church, of Adam was a certain tree, or a certain little hill under the open heaven, where they assembled to hear the Word of God and to offer their sacrifices, for which purpose they had erected altars. And when they offered their sacrifices and heard the Word, God was present, as we see from the experience of Abel.

Also elsewhere in the sacred story, mention is made of such altars under the open heaven, and of sacrifices made upon them. And, if we should come together at this day under the open sky to bend our knees, to preach, to give thanks, and to bless each other, a custom would be inaugurated altogether beneficial.

156. It was from a temple of this kind and from such a church, not a conspicuous and magnificent church at a particular place, that Cain was cast out. He was thus doubly punished; first, by a corporal penalty, because the earth was accursed to him, and secondly, by a spiritual penalty, because by excommunication, he was cast out from the temple and the church of God as from another paradise.

157. Lawyers also have drawn upon this passage, and quite properly brought out the fact that Jehovah first investigated the matter and then passed sentence. Their application is, that no one should be pronounced guilty until his case has been tried; until he has been called to the bar, proved guilty and convicted. This, according to a previous statement, was also done with Adam: "The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him. Where art thou?" Gen 3, 9. And further on: "I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know," Gen 11, 5; 18, 21.

158. However, dismissing the matter in its bearings upon public life, let us view its more attractive theological features. The element of doctrine and of hope is found in the fact that Jehovah inquires concerning the dead Abel. Clearly there is pointed out to us here the truth of the resurrection of the dead. God declared himself to be the God of Abel, although now dead, and he inquired for the dead, for Abel. Upon this passage we may establish the incontrovertible principle that, if there were no one to care for us after this life, Abel would not have been inquired for after he was slain. But God inquires after Abel, even when he had been taken from this life; he has no desire to forget him; he retains the remembrance of him; he asks: "Where is he?" God, therefore, we see, is the God of the dead. My meaning is that even the dead, as we here see, still live in the memory of God, and have a God who cares for them, and saves them in another life beyond and different from this corporal life in which saints suffer affliction.

159. This passage, therefore, is most worthy of our attention. We see that God cared for Abel, even when dead; and that on account of the dead Abel, he excommunicated Cain, and visited him, the living, with destruction in spite of his being the first-born. A towering fact this, that Abel, though dead, was living and canonized in another life more effectually and truly than those whom the pope ever canonized! The death of Abel was indeed horrible; he did not suffer death without excruciating torment nor without many tears. Yet it was a blessed death, for now he lives a more blessed life than he did before. This bodily life of ours is lived in sin, and is ever in danger of death. But that other life is eternal and perfectly free from trials and troubles, both of the body and of the soul.

160. No! God inquires not after the sheep and the oxen that are slain, but he does inquire after the men who are slain. Accordingly men possess the hope of a resurrection. They have a God who brings them back from the death of the body unto eternal life, a God who inquires after their blood as a most precious thing. The Psalmist says: "Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of his saints," Ps 116, 15.

161. This is the glory of the human race, obtained for it by the seed of the woman which bruised the serpent's head. The case of Abel is the first instance of such promise made to Adam and Eve, and God showed by the same that the serpent did not harm Abel, although it caused his murder. This was indeed an instance of the serpent's "bruising the heel" of the woman's seed. But in the very attempt to bite, its own head was crushed. For God, in answer to Abel's faith in the promised seed, required the blood of the dead, and proved himself thereby to be his God still. This is all proved by what follows.

V. 10. And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.

162. Cain's sin hath hitherto lain at the door. And the preceding circumstances plainly show how hard he struggled to keep his sin asleep. For being interrogated by his father concerning his brother Abel and his whereabouts, he disclaimed knowledge of the matter, thus adding to murder lying. This answer of Cain is sufficient evidence that the above words were spoken by Adam in his own person, and not by God in his divine Majesty. For Cain believed that the deed was hidden from his father, as he was a mere man, while he could not have thought this of the divine Majesty. Therefore, had God spoken to him in his own person, he would have returned a different answer. But, as he thought himself dealing with a human being only, Cain denied his deed altogether, saying: "I know not. How numerous are the perils by which a man may perish. He may have been destroyed by wild beasts; he may have been drowned in some river; or he may have lost his life by some other death."

163. Thus Cain thought that his father would think of any other cause of death than the perpetration of murder. But Cain could not deceive the Holy Spirit in Adam. Adam therefore, as God's representative, arraigns him with the words, "What hast thou done?" As if he had said "Why dost thou persist in denying the deed; be assured thou canst not deceive God, who hath revealed to me all. Thou thinkest the blood of thy brother is hidden by the earth. But it is not so absorbed and concealed thereby as to prevent the blood crying aloud unto God." That meant to awaken the sin lying at the door, and to drag it forth.

164. The text before us, then, provides much consolation against the enemies and murderers of the Church; for it teaches us that our afflictions and sufferings and the shedding of our blood fill heaven and earth with their cries. I believe, therefore, that Cain was so overwhelmed and confounded by these words of his father that, as if thunderstruck, he knew not what to say or what to do. No doubt his thoughts were, "If my father Adam knows about the murder which I have committed, how can I any longer doubt that it is known unto God, unto the angels, and unto heaven and earth? Whither can I flee? Which way can I turn, wretched man that I am?"

165. Such is the state of murderers to this day. They are so harassed with the stings of conscience, after the crime of murder has been committed, that they are always in a state of alarm. It seems to them that heaven and earth have put on a changed aspect toward them, and they know not whither to flee. A case in point is Orestes pursued by the furies, as described by the poets. A horrible thing is the cry of spilled blood and an evil conscience.

166. The same is true of all other atrocious sins. Those who commit them, experience the same distresses of mind when remorse lays hold of them. The whole creation seems changed toward them, and even when they speak to persons with whom they have been familiar, and when they hear the answers they make, the very sound of their voice appears to them altogether changed and their countenances seem to wear an altered aspect. Whichever way they turn their eyes, all things are clothed, as it were, in gloom and horror. So grim and fierce a monster is a guilty conscience! And, unless such sinners are succored from above, they must put an end to their existence because of their anguish and intolerable pain.

167. Again Moses' customary conciseness is in evidence, which, however, is more effective than an excess of words. In the first place, he personifies a lifeless object when he attributes to blood a voice filling with its cries heaven and the earth. How can that voice be small or weak which, rising from earth, is heard by God in heaven? Abel, therefore, who when alive was patient under injuries and gentle and placid of spirit, now, when dead and buried in the earth, can not brook the wrong inflicted. He who before dared not murmur against his brother, now fairly shrieks, and so completely enlists God in his cause that he descends from heaven, to charge the murderer with his crime. Moses, accordingly, here uses the more pregnant term. He does not say, "The voice of thy brother's blood speaketh unto me from the ground," but, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me." It is a cry like the shout of heralds when they raise their voices to assemble men together.

168. These things are written, as I have observed, to convince us that our God is merciful, that he loves his saints, takes them into his special care, and demands an account for them; while, on the other hand, he is angry with the murderers of his saints, hates them and designs their punishment. Of this consolation we stand in decided need. When oppressed by our enemies and murderers, we are apt to conclude that our God has forgotten and lost interest in us. We think that if God cared for us, he would not permit such things to come upon us. Likewise, Abel might have reasoned: God surely cares nothing for me; for if he did, he would not suffer me thus to be murdered by my brother.

169. But only look at what follows! Does not God safeguard the interests of Abel better than he could possibly have done himself? How could Abel have inflicted on his brother such vengeance as God does, now that Abel is dead? How could he, if alive, execute such judgment on his brother as God here executes? Now the blood of Abel cries aloud, who, while alive, was of a most retiring disposition. Now Abel accuses his brother before God of being a murderer; when alive he would bear all the injuries of his brother in silence. For who was it that disclosed the murder committed by Cain? Was it not, as the text here tells us, the blood of Abel, fairly deafening with its constant cries the ears of God and men?

170. These things, I say, are all full of consolation; especially for us who now suffer persecution from the popes and wicked princes on account of our doctrine. They have practiced against us the utmost cruelty and have vented their rage against godly men, not in Germany only, but also in other parts of Europe. And all this sin is disregarded by the papacy, as if it were nothing but a joke. Nay, the Papists really consider it to be a service toward God, Jn 16, 2. All this sin, therefore, as yet "lieth at the door." But it shall become manifest in due time. The blood of Leonard Kaiser, which was shed in Bavaria, is not silent. Nor is the blood of Henry of Zutphen, which was shed in Dietmar; nor that of our brother Anthony, of England, who was cruelly and without a hearing slain by his English countrymen. I could mention a thousand others who, although their names are not so prominent, were yet fellow-sufferers with confessors and martyrs. The blood of all these, I say, will not be silent; in due time it will cause God to descend from heaven and execute such judgment in the earth as the enemies of the Gospel will not be able to bear.

171. Let us not think, therefore, that God does not heed the shedding of our blood! Let us not imagine for a moment that God does not regard our afflictions! No! he collects all our tears, and puts them into his bottle, Ps 56, 8. The cry of the blood of all the godly penetrates the clouds and the heavens to the very throne of God, and entreats him to avenge the blood of the righteous, Ps 79, 10.

172. As these things are written for our consolation, so are they written for the terror of our adversaries. For what think you can be more horrible for our tyrants to hear than that the blood of the slain continually cries aloud and accuses them before God? God is indeed long-suffering, especially now toward the end of the world; and therefore sin lies the longer "at the door," and vengeance does not immediately follow. But it is surely true that God is most grievously offended with all this sin, and that he will never suffer it to pass unpunished.

173. Such judgment of God on Cain, however, I do not believe to have been executed on the first day, but some time afterward. For it is God's nature to be long-suffering, inasmuch as he waits for the sinner to turn. But he does not, on that account, fail to punish him. For he is the righteous judge both of the living and of the dead, as we confess in our Christian Faith. Such judgment God exercised in the very beginning of the world with reference to these two brothers. He judged and condemned the living murderer, and justified murdered Abel. He excommunicated Cain and drove him into such agonies of soul that the space of the whole creation seemed too narrow to contain him. From the moment Cain saw that God would be the avenger of his brother's blood, he felt nowhere safe. To Abel, on the other hand, God gave for enjoyment the full width of earth and heaven.

174. Why, then, should we ever doubt that God ponders and numbers in his heart the afflictions of his people, and that he measures our tears and inscribes them on adamantine tablets? And this inscription the enemies of the Church shall never be able to erase by any device whatever except by repentance. Manasseh was a terrible tyrant and a most inhuman persecutor of the godly. And his banishment and captivity would never have sufficed to blot out these sins. But when he acknowledged his sin and repented in truth, then the Lord showed him mercy.

So Paul had, and so the pope and the bishops have now, only one way left them: to acknowledge their sin and to supplicate the forgiveness of God. If they will not do this, God in his wrath will surely require at their hands the blood of the godly. Let no one doubt this!

175. Abel is dead, but Cain is still alive. But, good God, what a wretched life is that which he lives! He might wish never to have been born, as he hears that he is excommunicated and must look for death and retribution at any moment. And in due time this will be the lot of our adversaries and of the oppressors of the Church.

B. Cain's Punishment In Detail.

V. 11. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

176. We have heard, so far, of the disclosure of Cain's sin through the voice of Abel's blood, of his conviction by Adam his father, and of the decision rendered with reference to the two brothers, namely, that the one should be canonized, or declared a saint—the first fruits, as it were, of the blessed seed; but that the other, the first-born, should be condemned and excommunicated, as shall presently be shown. Now Moses mentions the penalties to be visited upon such fratricide.

177. First of all, we should mark as particularly worthy of note the discrimination exercised by the Holy Spirit. Previously, when the penalty for his sin was inflicted upon Adam, a curse was placed not upon the person of Adam, but only upon the earth; and even this curse was not absolute but qualified. The expression is this: "Cursed is the ground for thy sake"; and in the eighth chapter of the Romans, verse twenty, we read: "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." The fact is, that the earth, inasmuch as it bore guilty man, became involved in the curse as his instrument, just as also the sword, gold, and other objects, are cursed for the reason that men make them the instruments of their sin. With fine reasoning the Holy Spirit discriminates between the earth and Adam. He diverts the curse to the earth, but saves the person.

178. But in this instance the Holy Spirit speaks of Cain. He curses the person of Cain. And why is this? Is it because the sin of Cain, as a murderer, was greater than the sin of Adam and Eve? Not so. But because Adam was the root from whose flesh and loins Christ, that blessed seed, should be born. It is this seed, therefore, that was spared. For the sake of this seed, the fruit of the loins of Adam, the curse is transferred from the person of Adam to the earth. Thus, Adam bears the curse of the earth, but his person is not cursed; from his posterity Christ was to be born.

179. Cain, however, since he fell by his sin, must suffer the curse being inflicted upon his person. He hears it said to him, "Cursed art thou," that we might understand he was cut off from the glory of the promised seed, and condemned never to have in his posterity that seed through which the blessing should come. Thus Cain was cast out from the stupendous glory of the promised seed. Abel was slain; therefore there could be no posterity from him. But Adam was ordained to serve God by further procreation. In Adam alone, therefore, after Cain's rejection, the hope of the blessed seed rested until Seth was born unto him.

180. The words spoken to Cain, "Cursed art thou," are few, but nevertheless entitled to a great deal of attention, in that they are equal to the declaration: Thou art not the one from whom the blessed seed is hoped for. With this word Cain stands cast out and cut off like a branch from the root, unable longer to hope for the distinction around which he had circled. It is a fact, that Cain craved the distinction of passing on the blessing; but the more closely he encircled it the more elusive it became. Such is the lot of all evildoers: their failure is commensurate with their efforts to succeed.

181. From this occurrence originate the two churches which are at war with each other: the one of Adam and the righteous, which has the hope and promise of the blessed seed; the other of Cain, which has forfeited this hope and promise through sin, without ever being able to regain it. For in the flood Cain's whole posterity became extinct, so that there has been no prophet, no saint, no prince of the true Church who could trace his lineage back to Cain. All that was denied Cain and withdrawn from him, when he was told: "Cursed art thou."

182. We find added, however, the words, "from the ground." These words qualify the fearful wrath. For, if God had said, "from the heavens," he would have deprived his posterity forever of the hope of salvation. As it is, the words, "from the ground," convey, indeed, the menacing decision that the promise of the seed has been forfeited, but the possibility is left that descendants of Cain as individuals, prompted by the Holy Spirit, may join themselves to Adam and find salvation.

This, in after ages, really came to pass. While it is true the promise of the blessed seed was a distinction confined to the Jews, according to the statement in Psalm 147, 20: "He hath not dealt so with any nation," the Gentiles, nevertheless, retained the privilege of beggars, so to speak. It was in this manner that the Gentiles, through divine mercy, obtained the same blessing the Jews possessed on the ground of the divine faithfulness and promise.

183. In like manner, all rule in the Church was absolutely denied also to the Moabites and Amorites; and yet many private individuals among them embraced the religion of the Jews. Thus, every right in the Church was taken away from Cain and his posterity absolutely, yet permission was left them to beg, as it were, for grace. That was not taken from them. Cain, because of his sin, was cast out from the right of sitting at the family table of Adam. But the right was left him to gather up, doglike, the crumbs that fell from his father's table, Mt 15, 26-27. This is signified by the Hebrew expression min haadama, "From the ground."

184. I make these observations because there is a great probability that many of the posterity of Cain joined themselves to the holy patriarchs. But their privileges were not those of an obligatory service toward them on the part of the Church, but mere toleration of them as individuals who had lost the promise that the blessed seed was to spring from their flesh and blood. To forfeit the promise was no trifle; still, even that curse was so mitigated as to secure for them the privilege of beggars, so that heaven was not absolutely denied them, provided they allied themselves with the true Church.

185. But this is what Cain, no doubt, strove to hinder in various ways. He set up new forms of worship and invented numerous ceremonies, that thereby he might also appear to be the Church. Those, however, who departed from him and joined the true Church, were saved, although they were compelled to surrender the distinction that Christ was to be born from their flesh and blood. But let us now return to the text.

186. Moses here uses a very striking personification. He represents the earth as a dreaded beast when he speaks of her as having opened her mouth and swallowed the innocent blood of Abel. But why does he treat the earth so ruthlessly since all this was done without her will? Yes, being a creature of God which is good, did not all transpire in opposition to her will and in spite of her struggle against it, according to Paul's teaching: "The earth was made subject to vanity, not willingly," Rom 8, 20. My reply is: The object was to impress Adam and all his posterity, so that they might live in the fear of God and beware of murder. The words of Adam have this import "Behold the earth hath opened her mouth and swallowed the blood of thy brother; but she ought to have swallowed thee, the murderer. The earth is indeed a good creature, and is good to the good and godly; but to the wicked she is full of pitfalls." It is for the purpose of inspiring murderers with fear and dread that these terrifying words were spoken. Nor is there any doubt that Cain, after hearing the words from an angry father, was overwhelmed with terror and confusion, not knowing whither to turn. The expression, "which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand," is, indeed, terrifying, but it portrays the turpitude of the fratricidal deed better than any picture.

V. 12a. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee its strength.

187. The Lord said above to Adam, "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." But the words spoken to Cain are different. As if he had said, "Thou hast watered and fertilized the earth, not with healthful and quickening rain, but with thy brother's blood. Therefore the earth shall be to thee less productive than to others. For the blood thou hast shed shall hinder the strength and the fruitfulness of the earth." This material curse is the second part of the punishment. The earth, although alike cultivated by Adam and Cain, should be more fruitful to Adam than to Cain and yield its return to the former for his labors. But to the labors of Cain it should not yield such returns, though by nature desirous to give in proportion to its fruitfulness and strength, because it was hindered by the blood spilled by Cain.

188. Here we must offer a remark of a grammatical nature. In the present passage Moses terms the earth haadama. In the passage following, "A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth" he uses the term arez. Now adama signifies, according to grammatical interpreters, that part of the earth which is cultivated, where trees grow and other fruits of the earth adapted for food. But arez signifies the whole earth, whether cultivated or uncultivated. This curse, therefore, properly has reference to the part of the earth cultivated for food. And the curse implies that where one ear of wheat brings forth three hundred grains for Adam, it should bring forth scarcely ten grains for Cain the murderer; and this for the purpose that Cain might behold on every side God's hatred and punishment of the shedding of blood.

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