Who Was Cain Afraid Of?

Cain and Abel offering sacrifices, as depicted in the Pre-Flood World exhibit at the Ark Encounter.

In Genesis 4 we read the tragic account of the first murder in history. Cain, the oldest son of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel. Envious of his brother because the Lord respected Abel’s sacrifice but not him and his sacrifices, Cain ignored God’s admonishment and murdered Abel.

Some Christians believe that God favored Abel’s sacrifices because Abel offered the firstborn of his flock and its fat (v. 4) while Cain simply brought an offering of his crops (v. 3). The text does not say whether Cain offered the best of his crops. While there is a special significance to blood sacrifices in Scripture, the Bible makes it pretty clear that God accepted grain as an offering in some situations (Leviticus 2).

The real problem was Cain’s attitude. First John 3:12 states that Cain was of the wicked one and his deeds were evil. Cain’s refusal to follow the Lord’s warning demonstrates that his heart was the biggest problem.

Cain’s Concern

More could be written about this issue, but I wanted to address a question that has been asked of many Christians, and unfortunately, most people do not answer it appropriately. When the Lord confronted Cain after Abel’s death, He told him that he would be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth (v. 12). Cain expressed fear that anyone who found him would kill him (v. 14). Since Adam and Eve had Cain and Abel, who was Cain afraid of? Why was he concerned that somebody might find him and kill him?

A common answer to this question is that God must have made other people besides Adam and Eve. After all, didn’t Cain go to the land of Nod and find a wife? Um, No. That’s not what the Bible says. It says that he went to the land of Nod and had relations with his wife (Genesis 4:16–17). In other words, his wife came with him. Who was she? We’ll get to that in a moment.

There are some big problems with the notion that Cain was afraid of other people that God might have created. First, if there were others who lived wherever Cain was heading, why would they want to harm him for something he did to a person they presumably did not know and had probably never even heard of? How would they even know he did such a terrible thing?

The bigger problem is that the Bible makes no mention of these proposed people, and it actually rules out such an idea. The Bible states that Eve was the mother of all the living (Genesis 3:20). This would not be accurate if God made others. Also, the New Testament explains that because of Adam’s sin, we are all sinners (Romans 5:19). Of course, we will be held accountable for our own sins—not Adam’s, but we die because of Adam’s sin. This whole idea is contingent upon Adam being the head of humanity. Paul said in Acts 17:26 that God made all men of “one blood.” Once again, this is true because we are all from Adam.

So if God did not make other people, then who was Cain afraid of? The solution is much easier than you might think, but you have to think through the text a little more than how it is usually presented in Sunday school. We must first answer another question in order to help solve this mystery. How old were Cain and Abel when the murder took place?

How Old Was Cain?

Most people tend to picture Cain and Abel as young men, possibly even teenagers, when Cain killed Abel. However, such an idea is almost certainly wrong. In fact, they were probably about one hundred years older than that. Wait. What? A hundred years older? Yep, that’s what I wrote. Consider the clues left in the Bible about this issue.

In Genesis 4:25 Eve gives birth to another son, Seth, and it’s clear that she views him as a replacement for Abel. She said, “God has given me another child in place of Abel because Cain killed him” (NET). In Genesis 5:3, we learn that this happened when Adam and Eve were 130 years old, and that Seth was just one of many other children that Adam and Eve had. Since Seth was viewed as Abel’s replacement, then he was almost certainly the next son born to them after Abel’s death. This means that Abel would have been murdered nearly 130 years after Adam was created. And if Cain was born within the first few years of Adam and Eve being banished from the garden, then Cain would have been over 120 years old at the murder of Abel. We have no reason to think that it would have taken very long for Eve to conceive. When God created them He instructed them to be fruitful and multiply, and Genesis 4 and 5 show us that they certainly did that.

This depiction of Cain murdering Abel is from the Pre-Flood World exhibit in the Ark Encounter.

If you think of Cain and Abel being in their 120s when this event occurred, does it become clearer who Cain might have been afraid of? There would have been plenty of time for Adam and Eve to have many other children, just as Genesis 5:4 teaches. So Cain’s siblings may have wanted revenge against him. Not only that, since Abel was nearly Cain’s age, he would have been old enough to have children and grandchildren by the time Cain murdered him. The Bible doesn’t tell us if he had any offspring, but there is no reason to think he would have remained single for over 100 years when God wanted people to multiply. Abel’s descendants, if he had them, would have been the most likely candidates for revenge against Cain.

Who Was Cain’s Wife?

So if Cain went to Nod with his wife, and Abel may have been married, then where did their wives come from? The answer is very simple. In all likelihood, Cain’s wife was his sister, although it’s possible she was his niece (if Abel or another brother married a sister and had a daughter). This answer fits all of the biblical data, and we need to remember that the command against close intermarriage was not given until Leviticus. It makes sense from a genetic perspective why close intermarriage would have been problematic at that time, but the closer we go back to the beginning, the fewer genetic mistakes existed in people. So there would be less risk of severe genetic defects in the offspring.

Book chapters have been written and presentations have been given on the subject of Cain’s wife so I won’t go into more detail here, other than to point out a case of extreme hypocrisy. Skeptics frequently mock the Bible here, claiming that it teaches incest (check out the links in the previous sentence for a response to this), but let’s take a look at what most of these skeptics believe. They believe that every single person and every plant and animal on earth came from a single-celled organism that somehow came to life by time and chance. Besides the absurdity of life arising on its own and one kind of organism changing into another kind, consider the problem of incest multiplied a billion-fold. At every stage of the alleged evolutionary chain from the first microscopic organism to man, a significant amount of inbreeding must have occurred. This is particularly problematic for those who believe in the form of evolution known as punctuated equilibrium. Think about it, each time a new species in this supposed chain arose they would have very few options for mates, if any. Those that might be available would be from within that small group or family.

Conclusion

So why was Cain afraid when he was sent away? Most likely, he had plenty of close family members who might have sought revenge. This conclusion rarely comes to mind for people because we frequently have a wrong picture in our minds about how old Cain and Abel were in Genesis 4. Rightly understanding their ages brings into clearer focus the solution to our primary question.

Speaking of wrong pictures, we might have another one related to Cain and Abel. What did Cain use to murder Abel? A rock? There are pro-Second Amendment billboards and many illustrations that promote this idea, like the one used in this post, but the Bible does not tell us what he used. It certainly is possible that he used a rock, so these pictures aren’t necessarily wrong, but there are many other things Cain might have used.

Can People Seek God? Examining a Commonly Misused Bible Verse

Romans 3:11 is often pulled from its context and wrongly applied to every single person.

It is certainly not uncommon to hear Christians proclaim that no one seeks after God or that no man can seek after God. Often these types of claims come from those within the camp of Reformed theology (popularly called Calvinists), but these claims are also used by many non-Calvinists. Verses that seem to teach this idea can certainly be found. But is this what the biblical writers intended to teach or might they have had something else in mind?

Let’s first take a look at the verses that appear to teach that no one seeks after God, and then we will highlight some reasons why I believe these passages are being misunderstood, at least to a degree. (Note: all uses of bold in the verses quoted in this post have been added for emphasis.)

Commonly Misused Bible Verse—Romans 3:11

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.” (Romans 3:10–11)

Well, there you have it. No one seeks after God, right? That’s what verse 11 plainly states, so how could I possibly argue that the Bible teaches something different? As always, we need to look at the entire context of what is being taught, consider other verses that seem to run counter to this, and in cases like this where the writer is quoting another passage, we need to look at the context of the original passage(s).

Following the letter’s introduction, Paul spends the bulk of Romans 1–3 building a watertight case demonstrating that all of mankind is guilty of sinning against God. Chapter one explains that Gentiles who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness (v. 18) were guilty of an array of sins. Notice, he does not say that every Gentile has done this (and he does not say that every unbeliever throughout the future will be guilty of this, which is how verse 18 is often misapplied today). But before anyone could think of himself as being better than those described in chapter 1, Paul points out that those who are self-righteous and judgmental are guilty of the same things (Romans 2:1). This includes both Jew and Gentile (2:9–10). In verses 12–16 he mentions Gentiles who live moral lives, but the fact that they recognize God’s moral standards shows that they are to be held accountable for breaking them. Then for the remainder of the chapter and through Romans 3:8, he focuses on Jewish people who are guilty of sinning against God.

As we reach Romans 3:9, Paul starts to wrap up this section of the letter by identifying who is guilty of sin before God. The conclusion: everyone. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Before he reaches that point, Paul quotes a handful of verses from the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah that talk about the wickedness of sinners.

10 As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10–18)

Near the start of these verses we see our topic: “There is none who seeks after God” (v. 11). What is Paul attempting to do with this list of activities performed by sinners? Is he really trying to say that every single one of them is guilty of all of these actions? Of course not, that is, unless you want to say that every one of us (since we are all sinners) has a mouth “full of cursing and bitterness” (v. 14) and “feet that are swift to shed blood” (v. 15). So surely this cannot be referring to every person. What about every unbeliever? While this is certainly true of some, it’s demonstrably inaccurate to apply it to all unbelievers (e.g., Are all non-Christian pacifists really swift to shed blood?).

Similarly, in verse 10 we read that there is not a single righteous person, “no, not one.” But how can this be understood as a sweeping statement to refer to all humanity when the Bible identifies several righteous people, including Abel (Hebrews 11:4), Noah (Genesis 7:1), Abraham (Romans 4:9), and Lot (2 Peter 2:7). Indeed, just two chapters later, Paul mentions that someone might possibly be willing to die for a righteous man, and there might be someone who would die for a good man (Romans 5:7).1 This implies that Paul knew there were righteous people, so why would he quote a verse that seems to imply that none exist?

I believe it is a mistake to automatically assume that Paul believed that every single person prior to salvation was personally guilty of every single action here, yet that is essentially what someone is claiming when they cite Romans 3:11 as an absolute statement about every person’s unwillingness (or inability) to seek God.

Original Context Qualifies the Non-Seekers

When we consider the Psalms from which this verse is taken, it becomes clearer that not every single person is in view. Psalm 14 and 53 are very similar and begin with the same few verses, including an implication of our subject.

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (Psalm 53:1–3)

Notice that the words, “There is none who seeks after God” do not appear in this verse, or in any other Old Testament verse. Paul seems to be paraphrasing or summarizing an idea implicit in this passage. God is looking down upon the children of men to see if there are any wise people or any that seek Him. Verse 3 states that there is not one.

If this is where the Psalm ended then I think a stronger case could be made by those who claim that no one seeks after God (or no one can seek after Him). However, the Psalm does not end here. In fact, it goes on to speak about people who don’t fit into this category.

Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge,
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And do not call upon God? (Psalm 53:4)

Oh, that salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!
When God brings back the captivity of His people,
Let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad. (Psalm 53:6)

The wicked people who do not seek after God in verses 1–3 are contrasted with “my people,” “His people,” “Jacob,” and “Israel” in verses 4 and 6. So obviously, the psalmist is not saying that every single person is included in the group that does not seek after God. Does this mean that perhaps some people do seek after Him? Let’s see what else the Bible has to say on that issue.

Seeking God

David wrote Psalms 14 and 53 cited above. He also wrote these words:

And those who know Your name will put their trust in You;
For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You (Psalm 9:10).

Those who seek Him will praise the Lord (Psalm 22:26).

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You (Psalm 40:16).

David instructed his son, Solomon, to “know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

The prophet Jeremiah taught that people could seek after God and find Him. (Image of Jeremiah from the Sistine Chapel taken from Dwelling in the Word.)

In Jeremiah 29:13, God spoke these words through the prophet: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” In his other book, Jeremiah wrote, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him” (Lamentations 3:25).

Similarly, in Hosea 5:15 we read, “…Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” Later in the same book we read, “For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12).

Many more examples of people who sought God (or would seek Him) could be cited from the Old Testament. Does the New Testament teach that people can seek God?

In his famous address at the Areopagus in Athens, Paul told the people that God spread man across the face of the earth and had determined their times and boundaries (almost certainly a reference to the Babel event of Genesis 11). Why did He do this? Acts 17:27 says that God divided them up “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.” This isn’t some mere hypothetical that Paul is setting up. He said that God’s reason for dividing the people into nations was so that people might seek Him and find Him. So did this same individual (Paul) really think that not a single person could seek after God as he seems to have written to the Romans?

Hebrews 11 is known as the “faith” chapter, and it’s also been called the “faith hall of fame.” Here the writer tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). According to the author of Hebrews, a person definitely can seek God, find Him, and be rewarded by Him. In fact, a person can even “diligently seek Him.”

In case you are wondering, in each of the verses cited above, the Greek word in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) translated as “seek” is the same word used in each of the New Testament verses.

Furthermore, there are cases of people seeking God in Scripture. Ruth grew up in a pagan culture, but after seeing the example of her mother-in-law Naomi, Ruth wanted to follow the God of Israel. Many other examples could be given.

Who Can Seek Him?

When I have mentioned some of the above details to those who claim that no one seeks after God, they usually amend their original statement to say that a person cannot seek God unless God first enables or draws the person. Most Christians would agree with that amended statement. Yes, even the classic Arminian position states that man cannot believe in God unless God first works in him.2 I believe that is perfectly consistent with Scripture. Jesus said that no one can come to the Him unless the Father first draws him (John 6:44).

However, some Christians claim that God must first regenerate the person before he could seek God. Their theology leads them to what I believe is an erroneous position. That is, if God has already regenerated the person, why does the person still need to seek God if he has already found Him? This strange notion is rooted in the Calvinist’s view of man’s total depravity and spiritual “deadness.” While I believe unregenerate man is depraved, possessing a sin nature and guilty of sinning against God, I believe Calvinists misinterpret what Paul meant when he spoke of those who were “dead in trespasses in sin” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). This will be the topic of an upcoming blog post, so let’s return to our main topic for now.3

Is it only those who are first regenerated that have the ability to seek God? I don’t believe so. While Jesus did say that the Father must first draw someone before they could come to Him, He also said that if He were lifted up from the earth (often believed to be a reference to His impending Crucifixion), He would draw all to Himself (John 12:32). The Apostle John stated that Jesus is “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9). I believe that God has given all people the ability to seek Him, and those who do will find Him.

Does this mean that a person saves himself because they sought God? Not at all! God initiated the process by drawing the person, Jesus died and rose to make salvation possible, and the Holy Spirit convicts the person of sin. The person who seeks God simply believes the message of the gospel, responding in faith to the sacrificial death, burial, and Resurrection. And since we know that Paul went to great lengths to explain that faith is not a work, then we can state unequivocally that when a person places their faith in Christ’s atoning work that they are not in any way whatsoever performing a work to save themselves.

Conclusion

The debates about Calvinism/Arminianism and related issues will likely continue until the Lord returns. They certainly will not be solved in this blog post, so please don’t turn the comment section into a debate on those issues—let’s stick to the topic in this post. Regardless of one’s position on these matters, I believe it is important for Christians to be more careful in how we use and quote the Bible. To cite Romans 3:11 to claim that no man seeks after God ignores the many passages in the Bible that speak of those who do seek God and those who are expected to seek Him. This forces a contradiction into the text where no contradiction exists when one understands the context of Romans 3 and balances that statement in light of relevant data found elsewhere in Scripture.

I think some of the overemphasis on Romans 3:11 is due to an overreaction to the seeker-sensitive movement in churches and the right desire to caution believers against thinking that people will naturally seek God if we are kind to them. While God may use our examples to draw them to Christ, we need to remember that the unbeliever’s default mindset is not a godly one. So we should never be content in thinking that through our moral behavior, church attendance, etc., we are directing the unbeliever to God. Being seeker-friendly should not be our primary goal, particularly since that often means that the message is watered down to avoid offending someone. Yes, we should be friendly, but it is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16), so we must make every effort to tell them of Christ’s atoning work on the Cross and His subsequent Resurrection—even if it offends them.

Thanks for reading!

 


  1. Notice that Paul makes a distinction between a righteous man and a good man. Many Christians argue that no one is good but God, based on the statement Jesus made to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18 and parallels in Matthew and Luke. However, once again, context must again be taken into account since many people are identified as being good in the Bible. 

  2. See articles 3 and 4 of the Articles of Remonstrance http://www.theopedia.com/five-articles-of-remonstrance 

  3. Rather than referring to a total inability to place faith in God or perform any spiritual activity, as Calvinists teach, the context shows that Paul means something different. This was one of Paul’s ways of speaking about “Gentiles in the flesh” (v. 11) and “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (v. 12), and “who were once far off” but have now “been brought near by the blood of Christ” (v. 13). They were wrecked and marred by sin and headed for destruction. So rather than claiming that the person was actually dead, meaning no spiritual vitality or capability whatsoever, he is using death in a way consistent with his usage in Romans 8:10 where he says that living believers’ bodies are dead but he means that they are wrecked or marred by sin. They are obviously not physically dead, since he’s addressing living people.