Genesis 4:12 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 4:12, NIV: "When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.'"

Genesis 4:12, ESV: "When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.”"

Genesis 4:12, KJV: "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."

Genesis 4:12, NASB: "When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a wanderer and a drifter on the earth.'"

Genesis 4:12, NLT: "No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.'"

Genesis 4:12, CSB: "If you work the ground, it will never again give you its yield. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.""

What does Genesis 4:12 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the previous verse, God began to pronounce His curse on Cain for murdering his brother Abel. Here, He concludes it. In addition to no longer being able to get crops from the ground, Cain would become a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. He would be forced to separate from his family and seek other places to find food and shelter to survive.

Cain's curse is revealing. Even Cain, evil in his heart (1 John 3:12), found some satisfaction in working the ground to produce crops to feed himself and others. God took away what had brought some meaning and purpose to his life. In addition, of course, God drove Cain away from his family as He had driven Adam and Eve away from their home in the garden. Sin always leads to separation.

Interestingly, God does not yet demand Cain's life in response to his murderous act. God will later demand exactly that from His people, in response to the murder of the innocent. He does not kill Cain to satisfy justice for the murder of his brother, and He doesn't require Cain to make any animal sacrifice to atone for his sin. This seems to be extended as one last gesture of mercy. Cain, according to the following verses, will not only defy God's punishment by building a city (Genesis 4:17), he will produce a culture of evil, rebellious people.