The Mark Upon Cain

by Glenn Conjurske

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother, and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid, and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and it shall come to pass that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whoseover slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Gen. 4:8-16).

The book of Genesis is filled with solid spiritual food and instruction. The things related here are not mere curious facts concerning the early history of the human race. There is a divine purose in all of them. Many of them are types—-exquisitely beautiful to those who have eyes to see them. Once I had no such eyes. I was offended at those who saw types where I could see none. Now those types are among the most beautiful things in the Bible, and one of the strongest proofs of its inspiration. No part of the Bible has been the object of more determined attacks from infidels than the early chapters of Genesis, and yet no part of the Bible is so clearly stamped with the marks of divinity. Thus God cares for his own ark, and provides for the faith of his own. The types of the book of Genesis are one of the surest marks of its divinity. What man could have sketched such shadows, thousands of years before the substance appeared? Cain is one of those shadows, or types, and as such I wish to speak of him. But first, the more direct instruction of the passage:

There is a very obvious difference of dispensation between this time which precedes the flood, and the time which follows it. There the murderer is to be put to death. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Gen 9:6). Here the murderer is spared—-yea, shielded. This is not an arbitrary or purposeless difference, but a clear reflection of the ways of God under those dispensations. The time between the fall and the flood was a day of divine forbearance—-a day of grace. At the time of the flood that day of grace gave place to a day of justice, in which God asserted his claims to the earth by a sweeping judgement, and by the establishment of a righteous government, under which the righteous might dwell in peace in the earth which had been thus purged. These two periods are thus types of the present reign of grace, and the reign of righteousness which is to follow it, in the which the rod of righteousness—-the rod of iron—-will be the scepter of Christ’s kingdom.

Cain himself is a type of the Jews, who hated and slew their righteous brother. The judgement of God falls heavily upon them, as it did upon Cain, and yet, as Cain, they are spared and protected and preserved.

This is all simple and beautiful enough—-but how little understood in the church of God. Bishop Hall, in his (usually spiritual and profitable) Contemplations, calls the mark upon Cain “the brand of God’s vengeance in his forehead”!—-the very opposite of what it was. The commentary of Matthew Poole: a “visible token of the Divine displeasure.” Matthew Henry, “such a visible and indelible mark of infamy and disgrace as would make all wise people shun him.” Suffice it to say, none of this has anything to do with Cain’s mark. It was a mark to protect him, not to disgrace him—-though it were disgrace enough to stand in need of such a mark. It was a mark of divine forbearance, not of divine vengeance. Yet we see much more here than the mere forbearance of God. We see in fact a very deliberate and determined protection of the offender. The mark was accompanied with such a promise of divine intervention for his protection as has perhaps never been given to another man—-and this in the face of his known and awful guilt. In all of this Cain stands as a type of the Jew. “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes, but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” (Rom. 11:28). They are rejected of God, yet protected by him—-preserved by him through all of the judgements which his own hand has poured out upon them, and through all the malice of men and devils.

“A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” “Wandringe and a vagabunde,” as Tyndale has it in verse 16. “Vnstable of dwellyng and fleynge about in erêe,” the later Wycliffe Bible has it. Here is “the wandering Jew,” who after all of God’s promises of a LAND, and SURE DWELLINGS in it, must now wander and be driven from pillar to post, century after century, without a country and without a home. “And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; … and among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest.” (Deut. 28:64-65). And yet for all that, ever watched over by God and protected (for their blessing is yet to come), in spite of a whole history of diabolical attempts to exterminate them. Such is the significance of the mark upon Cain.

Glenn Conjurske