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Who Was Cain Afraid Of?

by Dr. D ~

Q: In Genesis, Abel kills his brother then says to God (paraphrase)-“Don’t send me out there, where others will surely kill me!” What others? Cain, Abel, Adam, & Eve are the only ones who exist at that time! Where did the ‘others’ come from? -From a friend of D.O.

A: Genesis 4 contains the story of Cain & Abel. There is no progressive timeline presented here. The text jumps back & forth over perhaps 930 years from 4:1-5:5, and gives us only a few chosen events, names only 17 people, & references an undefined number of others.

The women born to Adam & Eve remain unnamed. Adam & Eve had many other sons & daughters, but only Abel, Cain, & Seth are named in the text. Cain & Abel are named because they are the first male children. Seth is named because he is the progenitor of the righteous, including Noah, Abraham, & latter Jesus (Luke 3:38).

The first women actually named in the text (besides Eve) are Adah & Zillah who marry Lamech, who is the great-great-great grandson of Cain. How many years have passed between the time of Cain & Lamech? Perhaps a minimum of 100 yrs, maybe 500-900 yrs. or more? The text does not give us their timeline. These people were living for around 900 years, they probably didn’t enter middle age till after 400, and could probably continue to have children for several hundred years. Cain has a wife, she was probably his sister, or maybe the daughter of Abel? Abel probably married a sister also. The text does not give us the specific answers or details. The text does say that Eve was the “Mother of all the living”–so all the folks were closely related. The genetic code was flawless at that point, later it would degenerate to the point that close relatives could no longer safely produce children. Here in Genesis, we can come up with hundreds of questions that the text does not fully deal with, or answer to our satisfaction.

Now to the question–The text does not have enough detail to give us a definitive answer. However, we can come to an informed conjecture:

First of all, it is quite probable that there were more people than just ‘Cain, Abel, Adam, & Eve’ at the time of the first murder. Close to 130 years had gone by (4:25, 5:3) since the beginning. Adam & Eve had many other children unnamed in the text. None of their daughters are named. Abel could well have had a family, and that family might have been quite large after 130 years. These are the folk that Cain was probably concerned about. Cain also could have been quite prolific in that time frame. After all, he is said to be building a city in the land of Nod, for his family & all those who presumably went with him. After all, if it is just Cain, his wife, & a new born son, there would be no need for a city. The human race could easily have numbered in the hundreds at the time of Abel’s murder. The text in question (4:14-15) itself and 4:17, really point to & support the view that there were already a substantial number of people living at the time of the first murder.

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13 Responses to Who Was Cain Afraid Of?

  1. -Revisited: Who Was Cain Afraid of? | AFTF Bible Q & A

    […] “Who Was Cain Afraid Of?” […]

  2. Andrew

    This response makes sense, but one thing remains. In Gen 4:25, it says

    “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, [said she], hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”

    If Seth replaces Abel in Eve’s mind, this suggests that Seth is son #3. Otherwise, wouldn’t one of the other sons next in line after Abel be “another seed” that God has “appointed”? I guess there could be other sons already, but I take Eve here to mean “heir” when she mentions the “seed.” Cain would be disqualified for his conduct, and Abel is dead. Now Seth inherits the rights of “firstborn.” Otherwise, it sounds strange: Seth is “another seed” — in addition to the 25 other sons she has already? And if I’m right about this, we’re back to there being no one for Cain to fear.

  3. Dr. D

    Andrew,
    Good point. I do believe that Seth was Eve’s 3rd son and his line became the ‘righteous line’.
    However I am purposing here that the timeline is not defined and could have been long enough here that Abel might have had children before he was killed. We just don’t know.

    Plus Cain could have been thinking about the future when the population would be much larger. After all these folks were prolific and lived over 900 years.

  4. Martin

    Chaps. If Abel had (male) children then he had a line of descent and would not need replacing. There is no record of descent from Abel. I’m never happy rationalizing even elements of myth, even though rationalization helps! The simplest interpretation of the narrative is that life was incredibly slow by our standards, no one was in a hurry to breed. Which itself is counter-intuitive, the sex drive being what it is. If we are less rigorous with Occam’s razor then we can introduce entities in many ways: by interpolating people around Cain and Abel, including their own families (which introduces the problem above for Abel needing ‘replacement’) and by making time non-linear: verse 17 happened BEFORE verse 16, years before the murder of Abel. These things are possible but proliferate entities in themselves and further complexities. However some entity proliferation seems esential in the face of the unreality or tensions of the narrative.

    Regards – Martin

  5. Dr. D

    Martin,
    Some good comments to consider. Actually I am not suggesting that Abel had any male children I don’t think he did, however he could well have had female children.

  6. Keggs

    Interesting thoughts! I find it hard to believe he would fear his younger siblings. I have heard he was afraid of the Neanderthal’s that where still present. Any thoughts?

  7. Dr. D

    Keggs,
    We have so little info given that any conclusions we would draw are speculation at best so welcome to the conversation. However, there is no Biblical reference reflecting the possibility of parallel group of hominids like Neanderthals in that timeline.

  8. punk

    Could he of been afraid of the final cavemen? They looked human enough and scary enough.

    Who says they have to be relatives what if sending him out there meant the sons of God could have killed him. The sons of God or angels maybe were already in their early corrupt stages. Angels and sons of God are not the same. Angels fornicated with women. I think the bible says something about “Strange Flesh” regarding the angels. – The sons of God married human women and had nephilum. They started corrupting the human bloodline. Adam and Eve could not go back and forth to heaven. The sons of God and angels could even the not so nice ones). Maybe everyone living in that territory had security or divine protection where these spiritual bad guys who could manifest in the flesh couldn’t get in. However, when he left all bets could have been off. Also the way Cain was marked would have been something only the divine could see. he wasn’t disfigured. So it makes sense that manifesting spirit creatures such as fallen angels or sons of God could have been what he feared.

    I’m just a bible beginner…but a logical thinker…let me know if I missed anything.

  9. Crystal

    I don’t think that Seth replacing Abel necessarily means that Seth was Eve’s third son. Cain and Abel weren’t children at the time of Abel murder. Eve could have had more sons before Abel’s death. I think the fact that she thought of Seth as replacing Abel only implies that Seth was born shortly after Abel’s death but she could have had other sons before that time.

  10. KingDaniel

    What an intiutive and relevant discussion. Yet I still dont get it where did these people Cain feared originate? Cain married a wife from beyond the garden of Eden. Does this imply there were other gardens out there?

    My opinion rests on the premise that the Bible narratives are centred on Gods chosen people he may have chosen to have Eve,Adam, Cain and Abel in he garden and the rest were commissioned beyond the garden of Eden.

    My bible says Jacob I have loved Esau I hated. Meaning? Im saying all this to say God saw it fit that Adam and Eve be the first people in the garden.Bearing Abel,Cain and Seth. those we are not told of are Adam and Eve’s children but perhaps not chosen to be in the chosen race.

    As iron sharpens iron,I welcome you to this healthy discourse

  11. Ersula

    This is interesting! I have a different hypothesis though:

    In Genesis 17:5 Abram gets his name changed to Abraham and is told that he has become the father of many nations. We no that’s not literal and that this scripture means that because of his faith in the Messiah, many nations who heard the gospel of his descendant Jesus, would be saved. To make a long point quick: what if Adam was metaphorically speaking of Eve when he said that she would be the mother of all the living? What if he meant that because the line of Christ would come from her descendants (Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac…David…Jesus), she would be the mother of everyone alive in Christ from the beginning of the world as we know it to the end. Just something to think about fellas! Have a blessed day!

  12. Mikki

    There are some very good points here. I have always asked this question. And this article and so many of the comments give me more to look into.

  13. Hoyberg

    No one here seem to consider that satan and his minions are on earth. In Hebrew the story of eve biting the fruit, tricked by a serpent- this serpent translates as bright shining upright being so it is nothing like what we call a serpent today. Also in genesis 6:1-4 it speaks of the sons of GOD mixing with the daughters of men and creating giant hybrid beings- why couldn’t Cain be afraid of these creations? Or for better be afraid of a bright shining upright reptilian being?

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