What significance did the murder (Gen 4:8) hold for Jesus himself, as reported by Matthew and Luke?

Similar remarks from Jesus occur in both. On Matthew’s formulation, he warns his disciples that, as “prophets, and wise men, and scribes,” some of them should be killed and crucified, but that would be more of “the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias” (Matt. 23:34-35). The suggestion in both places is that a tradition of martyrdom for righteousness began with Abel. So in Abel, Jesus finds the first martyr—a personal sacrifice both bloody and painful, but also honorable and necessary.

How do the events of Cain’s discovery and punishment by God (Gen 4:9-16) unfold in a way similar to those of the Fall of Adam and Eve?

God begins with an arraignment—with a question to which he shows, almost immediately, he knows the answer. Then the same question: “What have you done?” He is sentenced in a way that makes his work even harder; he is exiled, sent even farther away from God’s presence; and then there is a reprieve from the worst of consequences, when he is marked in some way that will prevent him from being killed.

What does it mean to say “the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (Gen 4:10)?

While literally it suggests that the ghost of Abel was calling to God, its clear figurative, even poetic, meaning is that God is aware of the horror of a brother’s life blood covering the ground. The next verse continues the image, saying the earth “opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand”. It is eloquent that God chooses to describe the first murder in such poetic terms. It is interesting that there are many references to blood being shed upon the ground in the Bible. For example, “O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place.” (Job 16:18) Perhaps the most striking connection, however, is in the deliberate pouring out of blood on the earth next to the altar in a blood sacrifice (e.g., Lev 4:18). This hardly suggests that Abel is a sacrifice, but he is the first martyr, as Jesus intimates and as we have already seen.

Have all sins so far been “cursed,” as Cain was in Gen 4:11?

By my count, this would be God’s third named and documented curse in Genesis. The serpent (Gen 3:14) and Adam (Gen 3:17) are very specifically “cursed,” but Eve’s punishment was not described as a “curse,” although surely it was one. Anyway, here Cain is cursed in a way similar to Adam: the ground is cursed even more, and he is sent even farther away from God’s presence.

Why does God not execute Cain in Gen 4:11? That is the punishment required in the Mosaic code. Is exile not quite a lenient sentence?

Humanity did not yet live under the Mosaic code, which indeed states clearly: “And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.” (Lev 24:17) The next murder occurs just a bit further down in the same chapter, when Cain’s wicked descendant, Lamech, kills a man and no punishment, either from man or God, is recorded. It is not until after the Flood that Noachian code include a more severe punishment: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Gen 9:6) Now, Cain’s murder of Abel is only the second documented sin, and the first documented act of violence. It seems God might well forbear shedding more blood, even for the sake of justice, when the horror of this first murder is so awful. We are not told of Adam’s and Eve’s reaction to the slaughter, but they were no doubt devastated. The combination of murder when there were probably not many people on earth at the time (possibly only four), together with exile, was probably horror enough to teach the lesson, to that generation, that murder is to be avoided.

Why is Cain “cursed from the earth” (Gen 4:11) by God?

In short, and in terms of the figure, it is because he shed blood on the ground: life is sacred, so the blood of life is sacred, and so the shedding of life blood is absolutely forbidden and brings a curse. Since Abel’s blood was spilled on the same ground from which Cain earns his living, the blood is cursed from that ground. Moreover, Cain’s offering was the first fruits of the ground, and so he was punished in respect of his work—that is, from the ground out of which his offering came. No future offering from that source would be acceptable, which is why the ground would no longer produce crops for Cain.

Is Cain not the first to be exiled (Gen 4:12)? And is it not significant that he was exiled to the east?

While Adam and Eve were the first to be exiled from the Garden and God’s immediate presence, they were still in his presence and care. Matters are much worse for Cain, who was exiled entirely out of both God’s presence and the company of his mother and father. His exile to the east was a foreshadow of exiles to come. Thus he is a “type” of cursed sinner and is used as such several times later in the Bible.

What does “punishment” mean at Gen 4:13 and why is it greater than Cain can bear?

The word translated here “punishment” is עָוֹן or avon, glossed as “iniquity” or “punishment for iniquity.” As the word his this double-meaning, Cain’s suggestive statement is not merely a lament for the woes to come; it means, essentially, that the severity of the sentence has revealed to Cain, only too late, just how enormous his crime was.

Do Cain’s remarks at Gen 4:13-14 show he was contrite after his sentencing?

The fact that two verses are given to Cain’s description of his punishment might be thought to show this, but it is not altogether clear, because he never actually expresses regret or asks for forgiveness. He does show that he recognizes the severity of the curse and punishment, and he shows well-justified fear. It is well that he might react this way, considering that this is the harshest punishment meted our to humanity yet, being left to literally wander the wilderness without any help from man or God. But it is perhaps God’s mercy on him—bestowing the mark that forbids vengeance, at Gen 4:15—that is best evidence that Cain was contrite and perhaps not wholly lost.

How is it a particular curse to be cast out of the presence of God (Gen 4:15)?

First Adam and Eve were cast out of the immediate presence and guardianship of God in the Garden, and then Cain was cast wholly out of his presence. This is just the first of many instances of God’s hiding his face from those who have sinned: “And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought” (Deut 31:18). The reason this is a curse, of course, is that God provides for and blesses man.

What does “sevenfold” mean at Gen 4:15?

The number seven is the number of completion or fulfillment; it is used in this way numerous times throughout the Bible. It means, essentially, that anyone (such as Adam, the only other male whom we know to be alive at the time) who sought revenge on Cain would be punished greatly and “perfectly.” I conjecture that the force is something like “utterly destroyed.”

Why would God threaten to avenge a murderer sevenfold (Gen 4:15)?

There are a few reasons. First, since God took justice into his own hands, man was not to interfere; that was, in that very early age, for God alone. The sentence has already been declared and executed. A further punishment—in the form of vengeance approved by God—would be unjust simply because it would be an additional punishment. God would have taken a life for a life if that had been his sentence. Since he did not, that was not his will. Any further bloodshed would, therefore, not only constitute a new and unjustified act of violence, it would usurp God’s own prerogative of doing justice.

Do we know where the land of Nod (Gen 4:16) was?

No, we have no clue. Nor do we have any notion where the city of Enosh might have been. It was east of Eden, and if Eden were in northern Mesopotamia, then perhaps it was in southeastern Mesopotamia, near where some of the oldest Sumerian cities were. But we must also bear in mind that this was before the Flood, and therefore all such geographical speculation becomes silly; the terrain itself might have changed immensely.