This following verse has me thinking…

1 JOHN 3:12 not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. [snip]

What made Cain ‘of the wicked one’?

[Edit] Clarification - this verse seems to suggest/say that Cain was ‘of the wicked one’, therefore that’s why he murdered Able, that is, not because he did.

  • 3
    Curious - would help us ‘newbies’ if those who downvote a question explain why?
    – Dave
    Sep 28 at 22:56
  • See John 8:39-44.
    – Lucian
    Sep 29 at 10:05
  • @Lucian Yes. Thanks, but … would you say that it was their choice as to who their father was? Because they didn’t conscientiously make that choice.
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 19:37
  • They had no choice over their physical descent from Abraham, and inherited physical characteristics; but, then again, that did not matter, since it was ultimately due to spiritual, rather than physical characteristics, that God chose Abraham.
    – Lucian
    Sep 29 at 19:53
  • @Lucian Apologies, I wasn’t clear in my earlier comment, when I said “….*who their father was*” - I meant spiritually. They hadn’t conscientiously chosen ‘the devil’ - so what made that so?
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 21:16

I think that the answer is just a few verses above:

1 John 3:7-8

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

John is telling us that a man is wicked because he does wicked things; he is owned by his sin. Thus Cain belongs to Satan because of the actions he took

  • OK - so are you suggesting that anyone who ‘sins’ is of the devil? So men are all like Cain? Second - what ‘sin’ did Cain ‘do’ to make him ‘of the devil’?
    – Dave
    Sep 28 at 21:26
  • 1
    Dave - thanks for the question. "Of the Devil" likely means "belonging to the Devil". Consider what Jesus said in John 8:34 (Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin). Therefore, it seems the Scriptures are clear in that anyone who sins becomes a possession of Satan. Jesus states in Matthew 12:29 that it is His purpose to "bind the strongman" (Satan) and the "plunder his goods" (us). I hope this makes sense
    – Brainardo
    Sep 28 at 22:17
  • So … are you suggesting we all are ‘of the devil’?
    – Dave
    Sep 28 at 22:42
  • 2
    It seems Scriptures are fairly clear that all who are in sin are under the "sway" of Satan, as stated in 1 John 5:19. Consider the language of Colossians 1:13 as alternative language for the same idea. One is either "of Christ" or "of the devil". Thanks again!
    – Brainardo
    Sep 29 at 3:28
  • 2
    @Dave While it is important to read scripture in the light of other scriptures (such as Romans 3) and of theology, it's also important to take each passage on its own terms. The 1 John passage quoted above describes one group of people as "practicing righteousness" and "righteous," and another group of people as "sinning" and "from the devil." So no, this passage is not saying we all are "of the devil." According to the way 1 John uses the word "sin," everyone has sinned, but those who abide in Christ do not keep sinning. Compare 1 John 1:5-2:6.
    – DLosc
    Sep 29 at 16:15

Cain was the first murderer. Jesus identified the murderer as a child of the devil. He also identified hate as the motive for murder. Thus, contrasting Cain's hate with love. Those who do evil hate to be exposed. So, they hate the people who show the light. Cain hated Abel because he did what was right.

Hebrews 11 tells why God accepts Abel's offering, which implies that Cain didn't have faith.

 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (Heb. 11:4, ESV)

Cain became the first murderer. His willful defiance was evident when he brought a sacrifice that did not please God. It seems reasonable to infer from subsequent developments that God had made known what kind of sacrifice was required and that Cain acted contrary to those instructions. When Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by the Lord, Cain was provoked to murder his brother. -- Schultz, S. J., & Smith, G. V. (2001). Exploring the Old Testament (p. 16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. (John 8:44, ESV)

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 (Matt. 5:21–23, ESV)

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19–21, ESV)

Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matt. 23:31–36, ESV)

  • Greetings Perry Thanks for this response - but if you analyse the verse, it says (or seems to) that Cain was of the ‘wicked one’ prior to him murdering Able - It’s that aspect that prompted my Q
    – Dave
    Sep 28 at 22:37
  • @Dave See the edited answer.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 28 at 23:00
  • Thank you. So your suggesting that the reason Cain was ‘of the wicked one’ was ‘hate’. Fair enough, I’ll think that through. Cheers!
    – Dave
    Sep 28 at 23:08
  • Are you looking for why Abel's offering was accepted and not Cain's. Heb. 11 says Abel had faith.
    – Perry Webb
    Sep 29 at 0:04
  • No Perry, I was/am only interested in why (on what basis) John specifically said Cain was off the ‘wicked one’ - prior to Cains act of murder. How did John come to that conclusion?
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 1:07

What made Cain ‘of the wicked one’?

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning... 1 John 3:8

Quite simply because Cain was doing wicked things. You are the son of the one you obey.

This verse seems to suggest/say that Cain was ‘of the wicked one’, therefore that’s why he murdered Able, that is, not because he did.

Well, sure. I'm not clear why you snipped 1 John 3:12, but the rest of it shows that John agrees with you:

12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.
And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous.

Here we see the apostle John assessed that Cain didn't kill Abel ultimately because of the sacrifice, but because of Abel's righteousness in contrast with Cain's wickedness... But where did John get such an idea that Cain was already on the bad path before he murdered Abel? Well, right from the scripture itself.

...And the Lord had regard for Abel AND his offering, 5 but for Cain AND his offering he had no regard..." Genesis 4:4-5

You see, God didn't just accept Abel's offering. He accepted Abel AND Abel's offering. He didn't merely reject Cain's offering. He rejected Cain AND Cain's offering. Notice that God first accepts or rejects the person before he accepts or rejects the offering.
Indeed when counseling Cain regarding this, God provides him the remedy for the problem:

6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7

In order for Cain AND his sacrifice to be accepted, he needed to do good. The reason, therefore, he AND his sacrifice were not accepted was because he was up to no good and God was not having it.

So we can see from the available text that Cain was of the wicked one simply because wicked Cain was doing as wicked does.

  • 1
    Your answer both points to, and draws some valid conclusions. Particularly your first point, which is reflected in Romans 6:16 - thanks!
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 17:41
  • 1
    Although I’d be curious to know why or what made Cain different-
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 17:44
  • @Dave me too. More specifically I'd love to know what Cain was up to before God decided to reject him and his sacrifice.
    – Austin
    Sep 30 at 3:29

What made Cain of the wicked one.

He continued to go his own way....

This is taken from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

  1. He that committeth sin is of the devil—in contrast to "He that doeth righteousness," 1Jo 3:7. He is a son of the devil (1Jo 3:10; Joh 8:44). John does not, however, say, "born of the devil." as he does "born of God," for "the devil begets none, nor does he create any; but whoever imitates the devil becomes a child of the devil by imitating him, not by proper birth" [Augustine, Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John, Homily 4.10]. From the devil there is not generation, but corruption [Bengel].

Cain is a prototype of all of us born into this world as it says in Romans.

For we have already charged both Jews and Greeks all to be under sin. 10As it has been written: “There is none righteous, not even one; 11there is none understanding; there is none seeking after God. 12All have turned away; together they have become worthless; there is none who is practicing good, there is not so much as one. Romans 3:10<


  • OK, following on from those commentaries, [can we deduce] that because we all sin, and none are righteous, that we are all of the wicked one? Like Cain?
    – Dave
    Sep 29 at 19:42
  • Yes, look into one'heart. Cain’s father was Adam. Cain murdered his brother because he was just like the evil one. His character was “out of” the evil one. There is no man or woman who has not murdered someone in his or her heart. We are all out of the evil one in our hearts (see Matt. 5:21-22). Only God can change man’s heart and give him a clean one. Quoted from never thirsty. For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, Eph.5:8
    – Sherrie
    Sep 30 at 1:51
  • The one practicing sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this reason the Son of God was revealed, so that He might destroy the works of the devil. I think that's a hard realization to see don't you?
    – Sherrie
    Sep 30 at 13:58

1 John 3:

12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.

καὶ (kai)
Strong's 2532: And, even, also, namely.

OP: this verse seems to suggest/say that Cain was ‘of the wicked one’, therefore that’s why he murdered Able

καὶ does not indicate the time sequence nor does it indicate the consequence of a "therefore". It is a simple conjunction.

  • Tony, are you suggesting that Cain was of the evil one because he murdered Able?
    – Dave
    Oct 1 at 17:25
  • Good question. No, I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting that one needs to look elsewhere to find a proper answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Oct 1 at 17:42
  • And, I totally 100% agree! (I believe there is an answer, and this Q was looking for some confirmation.)
    – Dave
    Oct 1 at 17:49

From the OT story we know through the words of the Lord that Cain was angry that God did not have regard for him or his offering (Gen 4:4-7). With whom he was angry is not made clear. Was he angry with Abel, himself, and/or even God? The Lord said to him, “If you do well, will your face not be cheerful? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door.” But his face was not cheerful, and sin was clearly lurking at his door.

In what way was he not doing well? Or rather, what was the nature of his sin? Was it his anger, his envy, or his resentment? In the passage in question, the author gives this explanation for why Cain killed his brother:

  • And for what reason did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil, but his brother’s were righteous. – 1 Jn 3:12

Meyer's NT Commentary makes this observation:

The verb ΣΦΆΖΕΙΝ (besides here, only in the Apocalypse), strictly used of slaughter, indicates the violence of the action;[221] the diabolical character of it is brought out by the following: καὶ χάριν τίνος κ.τ.λ.; the form of the sentence in question and answer serves to bring out emphatically the thought contained in it, that the hatred of Cain towards his brother was founded in his hatred towards the good, i.e. that which is of God

And from the Cambridge commentary:

S. John puts this question to bring out still more strongly the diabolical nature of the act and the agent. Was Abel at all to blame? On the contrary, it was his righteousness which excited the murderous hate of Cain. Cain was jealous of the acceptance which Abel’s righteous offering found, and which his own evil offering did not find: and ‘who is able to stand before envy?’

The inference is that Cain, in his pride and envy, had come to hate the very righteousness of his brother that had gained for him God's favor. If so, then the sin of Cain was akin to that of “the wicked one,” he who, also from pride and envy, first came to hate everything that is good.

Murder begins in the heart (Mt 15:19), and the extent to which Cain's heart was corrupted by pride can be seen in his response to the Lord's query. In his answer, particularly in the attached rhetorical question, there is little sign of remorse, only further evidence of his insolence and rebellion:

  • Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” – Gen 4:9
  • Thanks Nhi - Yes, but, I’m not really looking at inferences for answers. People can ‘infer’ all sorts of things in order to reach conclusions - I believe there is clear evidenced reason.
    – Dave
    Oct 1 at 17:32

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