What does Genesis 4:14 mean?
ESV: Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
NIV: 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.'
NASB: Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and I will be hidden from Your face, and I will be a wanderer and a drifter on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'
CSB: Since you are banishing me today from the face of the earth, and I must hide from your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, whoever finds me will kill me."
NLT: You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!'
KJV: 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.
After Cain killed his brother Abel, God cursed Cain from the ground. The earth would no longer yield crops for him. Cain's life as a farmer was over. God also banished Cain from his home, sending him out as a fugitive and wanderer on the earth. In the previous verse, Cain began his protest, saying the punishment was more than he could bear. Now Cain lists back to God what he's about to lose: crops from the ground, home, and a relationship with God. Cain will be unprotected in the world as others try to find him and kill him, apparently in retribution for what he did to Abel.
Who was Cain afraid of specifically? So far in the text, the only people specifically mentioned in Scripture are Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel who is now dead. The most reasonable interpretation is that the murder of Abel took place decades—perhaps many decades—after Cain and Abel were born. This would have allowed ample time for Adam and Eve to have other sons and daughters and even for those children to begin having children of their own. As we'll see in the next chapter, the lifespans of the first generations of humans after the garden lasted hundreds of years. It's not impossible that Cain had quite a number of siblings, nieces, and nephews by this time. Many of them would be understandably indignant about the murder of Abel.
God's response in the next verse will show that Cain's fear was not unfounded, but also that God's provision for Cain would be merciful.
Genesis 4:1–16 tells the beginning of human history in the wake of Adam's and Eve's sin and separation from God. This passage details the murder of Abel by his older brother Cain, the first son of Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel work the ground and tend sheep. They worship God, but Cain kills Abel in a fit of envy over God's rejection of Cain and his offering. The first human born on earth becomes the first murderer. God forces Cain to leave his family and wander the earth, but God also marks Cain with a promise of great vengeance on anyone who would kill him.
The consequences of sin become apparent in chapter 4: envy, arrogance, rebellion, murder, punishment, separation from family, and separation from God. Adam and Eve's firstborn son, Cain, jealously murders his brother Abel and loses everything. Adam and Eve lose them both. Cain's descendants amplify his sinfulness. Still, God provides help for Eve in childbirth and even provides protection for Cain in his wandering. Eve remains a woman of faith, even in her loss. And the sons of Seth, born after the murder of Abel, become a people who proclaim the name of the Lord.
The first three chapters of Genesis explain the creation and loss of paradise, as Adam and Eve are separated from God both physically and spiritually. Their relationship with Him does not end, however. Eve recognizes His help in bearing her son Cain and later Seth. Cain and Abel both worship God until Cain kills Abel. God provides protection for Cain, whose descendants become innovative, artful, arrogant, and violent. The descendants of Seth, however, begin to call on the Lord's name. This chapter bridges the story of Genesis from our ultimate origins to the story of Noah, introduced in the next chapter.
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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