2010-01-26 - Bad Guys of the Bible: Cain
As someone who has done work (both paid and volunteer) in the criminal justice system during the last decade, I find it interesting that Cain is the first person to ever be convicted of homicide. Side note: I am amazed and impressed by the complex and thoughtful law code in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible). There are, for example, different sentences for those who accidentally kill someone, versus someone who intentionally kills, with malice and aforethought, as we would say today.
One thing we can learn from Cain is that God does intend for us to be held accountable for our behavior; otherwise we dont learn from our mistakes, and are prone to repeat them. The facts speak for themselves; too often, when people are given probation instead of serving time for their violent offenses, they end up back in the system in a fairly short time, having graduated as one judge put it, to even more serious offenses. God didnt let Cain off the hook. The Bible is replete with evidence that God is pro-life (this is not a statement about abortion, but rather all life), and here we see it. Cain had taken a valuable life, and in response, God sentenced him to a life of wandering the Earth. It was effective sentencing, for Cain felt the weight of it.
However, this story is also an illustration of Gods mercy. For years, I mistakenly believed the mark of Cain was similar to the Scarlett A in the book, The Scarlett Letter, a reminder of Cains sin / crime. Not so. In fact, when I began reading the Bible more closely (a valuable lesson for myself!), I discovered that it was actually a mark that represented Gods protection and love. Even though he had taken a precious life in Gods bright new world, and even though he had to be held responsible (because of the value of that life, as well as for his own ultimate good), God showed mercy to Cain:
Genesis 4:13 (NIV) Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." 15 But the LORD said to him, "Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. 16 So Cain went out from the LORD's presence and lived in the land of Nod , east of Eden .
Of course, Cain wasnt the only murderer that was shown spiritual mercy by God; the Apostle Paul was a sterling example (Well hear more about him later.). Cains story is a poignant reminder to us, that no matter what we have done, we can restore our relationship to God. We may bear temporal consequences for the act(s), but as long as we are on this Earth, its not too late to reconcile with God.
Another facet of Cain's story that stood out to me was how he is a lot like us. No, most of us will never commit an act of violence. But Cain, like his parents before him, didn't want to "own up" to his actions. He must have either forgotten, or not known, that God is omniscient (all-knowing). For when God questioned him about Abel's whereabouts, Cain tried to play innocent, defensively asking God if he was his brother's keeper. Isn't that how we are sometimes? Who wants to admit to doing something wrong?
I personally am learning from this series, as I reread the Bible stories of the "Bad Guys." I recommend that you join me in revisiting these familiar stories.