When I read the below verse, I am unclear which Law Paul is Talking about. Is he refering to the Law on Mount Sinai?

  1. Cain was punished even before the law was given
  2. The whole earth was punished except Noah and his family

If he is not talking about the Sinai law was there another law G-d gave that based on which he punished these people

If we have a law (concience) that came to us throiugh G-d's breath it means we always had a law.

Romans 5:13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

  • Pretty much, since v14 ... the phrase "to the time of Moses" gives the context. The law is to expose man's sinfulness ... not punishment. God can judge according to His own righteouness, His very Being.
    – pehkay
    May 16, 2021 at 9:36
  • @pehkay That is where my confusion is. If Torah(Moses's law) came later, under which law was Cain charged for murder? Likewise, we see in Noah's time some law was in play. So essentially there was a law from the beginning, right? Do you think G-d will judge if there is sin?
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 9:40
  • :) What I am essentially saying ... apart from the law, we cannot know sin. But when the law comes, sin is exposed. It DOES NOT mean we do not have sin. Maybe this distinction helps
    – pehkay
    May 16, 2021 at 10:35
  • But that is exactly my question. Why was Cain punished for murder when we came to know that we should not murder only when the law came. Please note that Paul says if we don't know the law we cannot be punished.
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 10:37
  • A not common view is the law exposes so that we realize that we need salvation and Christ (the types) rather than for punishment. Also, the law is reflection of His divine nature. I am not sure what with the preoccupation of the law with human conscience if that is so? But I mean those time, man was under the government of his conscience. Again, it is a bridge to God's presence through jusifyting man's action if right.
    – pehkay
    May 16, 2021 at 10:49

7 Answers 7


[...] was there another law G-d gave that based on which he punished these people

Before Cain had ever murdered Abel, God already discussed with him about right and wrong.

Gen. 4:7
7If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."
(The Holy Bible: New International Version. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Biblica, Inc. 2011.)

God instructed Cain to be careful of sin, but as we know, Cain killed his brother.

Some questions:

  1. How could Cain have known right from wrong without any sort of written Law?
  2. Why did God expect Cain to already know the difference?
  3. By what Law was Cain judged?

Let's remember that this is long before there even existed the concept of a Jew or non-Jew. Non-Jews, that is, those who never received the Law, are judged by a different Law: the Law of the Heart.

In the simplest of terms, this is defined as one's own conscience, and this is what reveals if one stands accused or not, in the absence of any other written Law from God.

Rom. 2:14-15
14For when nations that have no law, by nature may do the things of the Law, these not having a law—to themselves are a law; 15who show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also witnessing with them, and between one another the thoughts accusing or else defending,
(The Holy Bible: Literal Standard Version. New York, NY: Covenant Press, 2020.)
  • is Romans 2:14-15 not referring to gentiles post the law being given --- 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 11:36
  • @Yeddu It refers to those who "do not have the law". The Gentiles, being, by definition, non-Jews, are those who do not have the Law. Cain could be considered a non-Jew, as nations had not yet been established at this time.
    – carsonfel
    May 16, 2021 at 11:41
  • when you said god said to Cain what is good and what is bad he would have told him not to do the bad I believe and that is what the law means.
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 11:44

While it is true that the formal giving of the moral law occurred at Sinai, it is equally true that the moral law of the 10 commandments was well-known long before Sinai - see appendix below.

Therefore, Paul's argument appears to buttress this very idea - if sin reined from Adam to Moses (ie, Sinai); AND, there can be no sin without law, therefore, the law (as documented below) must have existed. All sinned (Rom 5:12), and are thus, held responsible for breaking the law that was always known - sin was in the world before the law was given.

Thus, the moral law has always existed and was presumably given to Adam as even his sons were held responsible for breaking the law and punished for it.

Therefore, the law to which Rom 5:12-19 is referring is obviously the moral law.

APPENDIX - Ten Commandments or moral law, before Sinai

The following (far from exhaustive) list shows that people knew of the ten commandments well before the formal giving at Mt Sinai. Indeed, we have the very general comment –

  • Gen 26:5, because Abraham listened to My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.

Commandment #1 – Worship only YHWH:

  • Gen 22:5, 24:26, 48, 52 all describe worship of the true God of heaven, YHWH.
  • Gen 35:1-4 – Jacob instructs his whole household to eliminate all foreign gods

Commandment #2 – Idolatry prohibited

  • Gen 31:32-35 – Jacob clearly understood that idolatry was forbidden.
  • Gen 35:1-4 – Jacob instructs his whole household to eliminate all foreign gods

Commandment #3 –Cursing and taking the name of the LORD in vain prohibited

  • Job 1:5 – When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.

Commandment #4 – Sabbath worship

  • Gen 2:1-3 – Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. And by the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on that day He rested from all His work. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because on that day He rested from all the work of creation that He had accomplished.
  • Exo 16 also records the incident with manna and that collecting manna on the seventh-day Sabbath was forbidden

Commandment #5 – Respect for parents, elders and authority

  • Gen 28:6, 7 tells of the story of Jacob following his mother’s advice. Respect for parents is built into the very fabric of the patriarchal stories in Genesis.

Commandment #6 – Sanctity of Human life

  • Gen 4:8-12, 15 records Cain’s punishment for the sin of murder
  • Gen 9:5, 6 records that murder was prohibited under the ancient Noahide covenant

Commandment #7 – Adultery prohibited

  • Gen 12:10-20, 20:1-17, 26:6-11 all record “adultery narratives” in which the patriarch is (correctly) chided for almost tricking a pagan king into committing adultery
  • Gen 19 records the appalling events involving attempted pack-rape of the two angels
  • Gen 39:7-9 – Joseph calls Potiphar’s wife proposal “a great evil and sin against God”.
  • Gen 49:4 – Reuben is scalded for his sin of incest
  • Gen 34 – the story of Dinah records a heinous incident involving her defilement (plus murder and lying)

Commandment #8 – Stealing prohibited and respect for property

  • Gen 30:33 – Laban and Jacob discuss the problem of stealing of wages and property
  • Gen 31:32-35 – Laban is angry about the sin of stealing the household gods

Commandment #9 – Lying prohibited; insistence of honesty and integrity

  • Gen 4 – the story of Cain being punished, among other things for not being honest with Abel and God in his statements
  • Gen 12:10-20, 20:1-17, 26:6-11 all record “adultery narratives” in which the patriarch is (correctly) chided for lying to a pagan king about their marital status In the story of Jacob, he is pejoratively called Jacob = “deceiver”, Gen 27:36.

Commandment #10 – Coveting prohibited

  • Gen 3:6 – the woman is tricked by the serpent using the sin of covetousness Other Laws

Even the probation against eating blood is listed among the requirements in the Noahide covenant, Gen 9:4, 5.

  • Thank you Dottard. I commented on this just now. So why does Paul say this law is not needed anymore hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/60410/…
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 11:20
  • @Yeddu - I am unaware of where Paul says that the moral law is not needed.
    – Dottard
    May 16, 2021 at 11:24
  • Oh. Then which law does he talk about? the 613 laws
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 11:25
  • May I say that that before Sanai there were 7 laws only. I think they are called noahide laws.
    – Yeddu
    May 16, 2021 at 11:27
  • 1
    I think your conclusion is the opposite of Paul's point. Paul isn't trying to support the argument that there is no sin without law, he's saying that "sin is not charged against anyone's account where there is no law". Instead of this legal/forensic view of sin, there was the relational and familial view of sin, where sin puts you at enmity with God, and then the consequences of sin, including God's judgement, fall on your family. The law is brought in later to convict those who love to sin, even sinning to spite the existence of the law, which is how I read Romans 5:20.
    – curiousdannii
    May 16, 2021 at 13:03

The Israelites were under a covenant, made by their fore-fathers. A covenant made between G-d and themselves. Exodus 19. This covenant gave them access to the righteousness they needed in order to interact with their G-d.

They couldn’t ‘keep’ the conditions of this covenant, which essentially were keeping the commandments - the Law. So a sacrificial system was established to ‘cover’ (kapha) their transgressions.

The new covenant provides righteousness through Yeshua. But in order to offer this, they (Jews) had to be ‘released’ from their original covenant, taken out from under the Law. This was accomplished by Yeshua.

So now - they were no longer ‘under’ the Law. So yes - that is exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 5 (and elsewhere, extensively). That is, they were no longer ‘under’ the Law - the ‘Law’ being the 10 commandments.

Now let’s overview your examples of Cain, and the flood, and put these into the correct perspective. This ‘punishment’ came as a consequence of unrighteousness - not violating any/the Law. Unrighteousness has consequences. This ‘punishment’ was brought onto them by them, themselves. Their ‘unrighteousness’, and refusing to deal (cover) this.

Where confusion can arise is that the Law ‘spells out’ the requirements of the righteousness G-d requires. But, whether they’re ‘spelt out’ (written [on stone]), or not, does not take away the requirements for righteousness. Pre-Sinai righteousness came by ‘faith’ - not by ‘man being righteous’. However, the Law put the onus for righteousness onto man - essentially through the self righteousness of the exiles. (Stiff-necked). They ‘asked’ for ‘it’ - Exodus 19 ... ‘all that G-d expects we will/can do’.


Levitical Priesthood began after the golden calf, Added law with animal sac, not the Ten comm, Rom 5:13 Law Lev priesthood, Sac, Temple duties. Gal 3:17-19 same added cuz of sin circumcision was already Gen 17:11, works of law is circumcision,ect... not the moral law plus law of sin & death is not holding on no more for repented to the end, Praise Yah,

  • 2
    @ Mark Allmaras - Thank you for your input, Mark. However, it would be more readable if less abbreviations were used. And more "completed sentences" would add to your Answer's presentation. As it is, it is hard to understand. Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the Soul!
    – ray grant
    Feb 18 at 22:48

In Romans 5:13, Paul refers to the Mosaic Law. It is illustrated in Romans 5:14

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

Paul asserts that before the Mosaic Law, although sin was not specifically attributed to individuals, death remained the inevitable consequence, and Adam serves as a significant figure.

In contrast to Adam as a figure of death, Jesus is a figure of life. Paul further expounds on this theme in Romans 5:15-21 NIV;

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! .......17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people............20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


I believe you are correct on this being the law within the conscience (Romans 1:19 "...God hath shewed it unto them"...verse 20 "...from the creation of the world"..."...so that they are without excuse:").

Basically everyone, from Adam (and Cain), those of the flood, and everyone else included, knew/knows the difference in right and wrong but willingly choose/chose wrong.

Romans 1:18-25

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.


Of course God gave humans commands even before Moses' law, even in Paradise before the fall. Had Adam not possessed a choice to transgress or not, then it would be unjust to punish him on the part of God and expel him from there.

Abraham was long before the law and had he been given a precept "You shall not commit adultery", or "You shall not desire to possess a wife or a donkey of your neighbor" - he would have said: "Do you regard me a stupid? Do you regard me an impenetrable idiot? If not, then why are you telling me such self-evident truisms?" Yes, Jewish nation during Moses and Aaron became of a dimmed mind and dimmed heart, and that's why they necessitated Law which was not at all needful for their healthy-minded and healthy-hearted ancestors. Thus, the Law was not a sign of the chosen nation's moral development, but on the contrary - of its moral degradation. And why to speak about Abraham, would not an average statistical Persian or Hellene agree that false testimony or murder is wrong? Did not they have themselves such laws? They did!

Pagans also have very acute sense of right and wrong, of virtue and vice. Just read Greek literature, Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Sophocles - they are no much lesser in their acuteness of telling right from wrong and good from evil than are the Biblical figures. Who can fail to admire valor and virtue of Hector, or wisdom of Nestor, or love and sense of divine justice of Antigone, or striving towards the moral perfection of Plato and Aristotle?

Thus, it is not even a serious question whether pagans had a sense of good and evil for they had it 100%. However, Jews were given also additionally Law through which they were put to a greater alert to the transgressions than pagans. But to tell that pagans did not know that, for instance, stealing or murdering or slandering was evil will be both preposterous and perfectly wrong.

Death reigned upon Jews and pagans alike until the advent of Christ, but Jews in a way were in a more burdensome, graver conditions, for they knew the transgressions more clearly through the written law that they always held in front of them, while Greeks knew it by natural mental and psychological capacities, in a more disorderly way with a more changeable intensities: after watching, say, Sophocles "Oedipus Rex" at a theatre, experiencing the ensuing "catharsis", more intensely, but after engaging themselves in a drunken orgy - in a rather slackened and dimmed way, if at all.

To give an analogy: if one knows not traffic signs (cf. pagans) he will still sense the violations of the traffic by a natural reason, and when he transgresses this natural wisdom and crosses street in a dangerous place, he will be hit by car and be thus punished; however, the one who knows the street signs (cf. Jews), they not only can discern dangers by natural reason, but also be confined by the knowledge of signs (cf. law) so that there is a greater responsibility for them, for if they violate, they do not violate only their natural reason, but also the clearly visible signs.

Stoics (IV c. BC) actually, upheld that there was a universal cosmic Law that was encoded also in human minds, the divine Logos, so that anybody who transgressed this Law was an offender and guilty of lawbreaking. Paul takes his idea of the "law written on fleshly tablets of hearts" from Stoics.

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