According to Genesis 4:10, did Abel’s blood cry to God literally?


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Verse 10 is in direct response to Cain's denial, "Am I my brother's keeper?"

He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.

Abel's blood did not cry out literally any more than the ground opened a literal mouth in verse 11:

Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

The type of language here is personification and emphasizes the LORD's intimate knowledge of the events as well as the original curse on the soil. Even though Abel can no longer speak for himself, the very soil that received his blood cries out for justice.

The cry is heard by God, as are all cries for justice. There is nothing hidden from God. He is intimately aware of all that happens in his creation, so Cain's denial is futile. The creation itself cries out to God. This same type of idea is expressed throughout the scriptures, but some especially good examples include Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 98:8, Luke 19:40, and Romans 8:22.

These types of statements are poetic, visible representations of God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature. They emphasize God's complete mastery over his creation.

The curse on the soil which results from Adam's sin is also echoed here.

Verse 12 continues the LORD's judgement of Cain:

When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you;

The recurring theme here is the soil, which was central to Cain's identity. See verse 2:

...Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground.

Cain is a tiller of the soil, gives his offering from the soil, and spills his brother's blood into the soil. It is fitting that the soil itself betrays him, crying out on Abel's behalf. God's judgement is that the soil will no longer produce well for him.

So the personification language regarding the soil is carried over into Cain's judgement. The soil will no longer give Cain its strength. The soil itself will oppose Cain.

Cain understands the significance of this judgement, responding in verse 13:

Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden,...

The soil here is a stand-in for God. The soil will oppose Cain, but the real opposition is from the LORD. By being driven from the "face" of the soil, Cain is really being driven from the "face" of the LORD (Cain will no longer have face-to-face intimacy with him).

The personification of the soil is used because the LORD works through intermediaries in rendering his judgements. The soil is God's agent, limiting the effectiveness of sinful men.

  • Excellent answer, +1. Neat summary showing that the Bible very frequently uses figurative and metaphorical language.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 22:01

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