When Cain was punished for killing Abel, Cain assumed he’d be killed too. The Lord wouldn't allow that, so He put a mark on Cain.

Gen 4:13-15 (NABRE) Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. 14 Look, you have now banished me from the ground. I must avoid you and be a constant wanderer on the earth. Anyone may kill me at sight.” 15 “Not so! the LORD said to him. If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged seven times.” So the LORD put a mark[a] on Cain, so that no one would kill him at sight.

What mark did the Lord put on Cain so no one would kill him?

  • 1
    Great question! Sadly, while there have been many different speculations, such as making Cain colored, there can be no certain answer to this, due to the Bible's lack of detail of this event. Because this happened near the very beginning of the world, there will not be any other accounts, most likely.
    – Jeremy H
    Sep 9, 2014 at 20:52
  • The mark couldn't have been an outer mark on his skin, because that would have been a kind of tattoo, which the Old Testament discouraged in Lev 19:28. It was more likely a mark inside Cain’s forehead; imprinted on his mind. A mark that kept him indoors at night, making him a very small target. What that sign was is impossible to say, but if it was a Hebrew letter it most likely was the letter that looks like a doorway; the Hebrew letter "chet". Mar 30, 2019 at 23:27
  • Cain's crime was committed outdoors, and was probably deemed to be a second degree murder crime. The punishment of a second degree murder is lighter than a first degree murder, and probably consisted of an every day sunset curfew. This punishment also protected Cain from the "evil of the dark", who if aiming for Cain's life would have to break in to his house and kill him, and thereby commit a first degree murder crime, which would carry a 7 times worse punishment. Mar 30, 2019 at 23:28
  • A 7 times worse punishment than a sunset curfew would be pretty grim, I think. Mar 30, 2019 at 23:29

3 Answers 3


The Hebrew text actually doesn't say that the mark was placed on Cain (although that is Rashi's interpretation who says it was a letter of God's name) and many Jewish sources did not understand the verse to mean that a mark was placed on Cain.

The verse states וישם ה' לקין אות. This literally translates as "And God placed for Cain a sign." In the context, this is interpreted by Radak as meaning God gave Cain a sign that he Cain would not be killed for killing Abel, and Nachmanides interprets this to mean some sort of sign telling Cain where and when to travel.

At least one Midrash, (Bereishit Rabba 22:12) interprets this verse as meaning that God gave Cain a dog.

  • I'm aware of one commentator who connects Gen 4:15 with Ezekiel 9:4. Do you know if that association gets made in any Rabbinic commentaries?
    – Dɑvïd
    Dec 10, 2015 at 23:24
  • I have never seen any make that connection, but given Rashi and others that say it was a letter, I would be surprised if nobody out there made the connection. I will see if I can track one down. Dec 11, 2015 at 13:08


The events involving Cain and Abel foreshadow what is going to happen at the “end of days” for us. “And in process of time” = in the end of days.

Genesis 4:3-4 KJV (3) And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. (4) And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

The Son of God comes to give us an understanding. He comes to open up the Scriptures to our minds through the Spirit of Truth and we are to hear what the Spirit is saying and respond with good fruit (fruits of righteousness) and not evil: wrath, envy, strife, contentions, etc. What will men bring forth at the end of days as they hear His voice.

We show we know Him by doing His will…doing good…. at the opening up of the Scriptures to our hearing ears. It is out opportunity to show that we know Him by doing well at the hearing of His understanding.

1 John 5:20 KJV (20) And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

He sends His servants (fellow brothers/strangers) out to speak His words to our hearing ears and we are to respond with brotherly love and not with hate as Cain did to his own brother.

Hebrews 13:1-2 KJV (1) Let brotherly love continue. (2) Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

When a brother comes along to speak His words to our ears, then it is time to show that we know Him.

Luke 10:16 KJV (16) He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. How do we do this today? By remembering to have brotherly love. We are our brother’s keeper. We are serving the Lord in this.

Romans 12:10-11 KJV (10) Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; (11) Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

The “dead” in sins and trespasses will hear His voice….shall hear His word….and some will come forth and do good. They will believe on Him that sent the Son to open up the Scriptures. They will do good towards the hearing of His voice while others will hear and not believe and will do evil and will come into condemnation. Whosoever will hear His word and believe on Him that sent Him has everlasting life and shall not come unto condemnation but is passed from death unto life.

John 5:24-25 KJV (24) *Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (25) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live

The Lord will send out His servants (those “least brothers”) to speak His words…to give us His understanding as He opens up the Scriptures to our hearing ears and we are to be found of Him letting brotherly love continue as we hear His voice through them via the Spirit of Truth.

Matthew 25:38-40 KJV (38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

This is the message that we have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another. We should not follow in the way of Cain who hated his brother.

1 John 3:11-15 KJV (11) For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (12) Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. (13) Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

The religious institutions of men shall hate those brothers but those who will show love towards those least brothers sent out by Him to speak His words will have passed from death unto life.

(14) We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (15) Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Yet, some will rise up (exalt themselves) against those “least” of the brothers as the hearing of what they have to say. They will rise up and slay them with malicious words and false accusations “in the field”.

Genesis 4:8 KJV (8) And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

The brothers are “in the field” being fellow-helpers of God as they speak His words. Like Cain, some will rise up against those least of the brothers who speak His words and will “slay” them with malicious words.

1 Corinthians 3: 8 He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

“Abel” means “emptiness or vain”. They will speak of them as “fools” or “raca” for what they preach. They will rise up in their anger (going in the way of Cain) and will “kill” them with the spear of their tongues by calling them “fools”….”raca” (empty-headed). Their offer will not be respected as Cain's was not...until they be reconciled back to their brother.

Matthew 5:21-24 KJV (21) Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. (23) Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; (24) Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

When this persecution comes from them, we are not to return their evil for evil but follow in the steps of Christ and suffer for His sake.

1 Peter 2:21-23 KJV (21) For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

We are not to revile when being reviled by those who will think that we are foolish for what we speak.

(23) Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

This persecution from the unbelievers of the churches (those brothers who will not believe in what they hear) is the mark that is revealed for all to see. We are not to avenge ourselves by rendering evil for their evil but commit ourselves to Him that judges righteously. The man of sin shall reveal himself...but we are not to render evil back to them for their evil speaking of us.

Genesis 4:15 KJV (15) And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

This “mark” that God gives is the “evident token” of perdition to those who go in the way of Cain as they rise up and “kill” another with false accusations (“fool”, “raca”). But to us who suffer in the way of Christ (by not reviling when reviled), this mark is an evident token of our salvation.

Philippians 1:28-29 KJV (28) And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. (29) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Again, their persecution of us is a “manifest token” of the righteous judgment of God upon them (a sign of their perdition) but to us a manifest token that we are counted worthy of the kingdom of God as we suffer for Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:4-6 KJV (4) So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure: (5) Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: (6) Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

We are then made partakers of Christ’s sufferings as we are reproached for the name (authority) of Christ.

1 Peter 4:12-19 KJV (12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (14) If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.

Let none of us suffer as a “murderer” by rendering evil for evil by those who will persecute us as they go in the way of Cain.

(15) But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. (16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (17) For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (18) And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (19) Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

We are to suffer the persecutions of those who will go in the way of Cain according to the will of God (by doing well in the face of their evil speaking of us). If we return evil for their evil, then we shall suffer harm as God will take vengeance sevenfold upon us.

Genesis 4:15 KJV (15) And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

We shall not be hurt of the "fire"...the intense persecutions... that will come out of our mouths. They will "flame" us with name-calling and false accusations....but we are to follow in the steps of Christ (the Son of God) just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did in the intense heat of the furnace that they were thrown into to try their faith. We are to endure the fiery trial of our faith by those who will not believe and will hate us for believing.

Daniel 3:24-27 KJV (24) Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.

The "fire" of persecutions will not hurt us. "They have no hurt".

The "second death" shall not harm us if we follow in the steps of Christ (the form of the fourth is like the Son of God) and not return evil for their evil.

We are to be faithful unto the death...His death...and keep His sacrifice (the Lamb) in our lives by dying to sin...dying to evil speaking as they will persecute us.

(25) He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

The "mouths" of those who will persecute us is the mouth of the "burning fiery furnace" that will try our faith....a fiery trial of our faith. We must serve the most high God and do well as they test our faith in the fire of persecutions.

(26) Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

If we have on the armor of God, then their "fire" shall not touch us as we commit ourselves to God and do well in the face of their fiery persecutions. The "fire has no power" as we do His will.

But if we do not do His will and avenge ourselves when they call us names and make false accusations, then there is power to harm us and we shall suffer for God will take vengeance sevenfold upon us for doing so.

(27) And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Do not think it strange concerning the "fiery trial" of those who will go in way of Cain in this coming time as they will resist the hearing of what the Spirit says and will resist/persecute any who will believe in it.

The trial of our faith in the Word of Truth revealed from Heaven (as opposed to the word of men that has been preached for so long) will come from those who will follow after Cain by rising up and "killing" their brothers with malicious words (showing hatred toward their brothers whom they are supposed to love). If a man cannot bridle his tongue, then his religion is vain. His offerings will not be respected just as Cain's was not.

1 Peter 4:12-13 KJV (12) Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (13) But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

Let us not render evil for their evil. Let us see the appearing mark....the manifest token... set by God to alert us to not engage in their evil back to them. This mark is the "power" set by God to do us harm if we go about avenging ourselves (against those who go in the way of Cain) by returning evil words for their evil. We shall suffer by being "hurt of the fire" of their persecutions of us if we do.

Let us not avenge ourselves (or we will suffer "sevenfold" for doing so) but rather give place unto wrath as the Lord shall render tribulation to those who will trouble us with their persecutions.

Romans 12:17-21 KJV (17) Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. (18) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (20) Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.


I was reading a Commentary on the Torah and Jeff Benner came up with a hypothesis.

Genesis 4:15 Mark
The Modern Hebrew word for a “letter” (as in the letters of the alphabet) is אות(ot , Strong's #226, the plural form is אותיות/otyot). This word can be found in the following passage.

And the Lord said to him, “Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. (Genesis 4:15 NKJV)

Is it possible that the “mark,” the אות, was an actual “letter” of the Semitic alphabet? Let’s take a look at another passage that uses the word “mark.”

and the Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.” (Ezekiel 9:4 NKJV)

Again we have Yahweh placing a “mark” on a person, but this time it is not the Hebrew word אות, but instead the word תו(tav, Strong's #8420). This is another Hebrew word that means “mark,” but it is also the 22nd and last “letter” of the Hebrew alphabet, which in Modern Hebrew is written as ת, and as 𐤕 (approximately × or +) in ancient times. Is it possible that the אות(mark) Yahweh placed on Cain is the letter 𐤕?

  • It’s a plausible guess, but on this site a sourced argument would be more appropriate. If you can find the Midrashic literature on the topic you might find a source that agrees with your guess, perhaps with more of an explanation. Oct 27, 2014 at 3:22
  • Yeah, is this not sourced?
    – Decrypted
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:54
  • You give no source for the speculation that Cain’s os mark is the same as the tav mark in Ezekiel. Oct 27, 2014 at 20:56
  • Then it shall be done as you decide it to be done ^^
    – Decrypted
    Oct 27, 2014 at 21:10

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