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“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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 contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭

Why did Cain receive warning, from God no less, but Abel was not warned about the imminent danger he was in? Cain is recorded to have had conversations with God before and after his murderous act, yet Abel is not recorded to have had any conversations with God like his brother Cain.

God actually goes a step further, sure he curses Cain but God wants to preserve Cain’s life and adds protective measures for Cain, even though he is a murderer.

“Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:15‬ ‭

Why wouldn’t God demand an eye for an eye, as He would later? Why is Cain being spared?

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    I wouldn't say God sides with the sinner. In fact, in a way, he sides with Abel by warning Cain to rule over sin(implying that there would be negative consequences if he did not). If he had never given Cain a warning, there would have been no chance at all that Cain would not have done what he did. At least a warning helps somewhat. For an explanation of the story of Cain and Abel, take a look at my answer here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/69360/…
    – Rajesh
    Jan 23 at 5:30

4 Answers 4

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I think the best route to take Scripturally speaking is that God is very compassionate & merciful even to wicked men. So yes Cain was cursed:

“And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:10-11

‬ ‭Yet again, in Scripture elsewhere we are told of God’s kindness to evil men:

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:35-36

‬ ‭We also see that God doesn’t want to inflict people willingly:

“Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men.” ‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:32-33‬

Also, with Jonah, we see God relent of judgment upon Nineveh:

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” ‭‭Jonah‬ ‭3:10 …….

“So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.” ‭‭Jonah‬ ‭4:1-2

This is why God spared Cain even after Abel’s murder.

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    Your Nineveh argument would be stronger had Cain felt remorse and repented of his way. I don’t see Cain doing anything of the sort. Jan 23 at 13:45
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    @Nihil Sine Deo True, but the highlighted portion from the book of Jonah is the key, For example “God relents from doing harm” rather than God being quick to anger & consuming Cain with fire and brimstone like Sodom & Gomorrah. It’s apparent that God had some form of compassion on Cain despite Cain not doing true repentance.
    – Cork88
    Jan 23 at 16:44
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The story of Cain and Abel, and indeed, pretty much all of Genesis 1-11, is just as much about the mythological origins of the people of Israel and the cosmology from whence they came, as it is about attempts at telling historical truth, shared down through the ages first as an oral tradition, then as a written narrative:

“The Genesis stories are based on ancient oral traditions that had a long and complex history of transmission before they were first written down, perhaps sometime in the tenth century B.C. at the time of David and Solomon, centuries after they were supposed to have taken place.” The Ancient World: A Social and Cultural History, Fifth Edition, Copyright © 2002 by D. Brendan Nagle, Pearson Education, Inc.

"Determining the type(s) of literature present in these chapters [chapters 1-11 of Genesis] has proven difficult. One confronts terms as diverse as a report of actual events or myth. Scholars generally agree that there is an admixture of narrative and numerative materials, but a more precise understanding of the former has been difficult to achieve, whether it be in terms of saga, legend, myth, fairy tale, etiology, story, or theological narrative. This discussion has not been very fruitful in helping readers understand the text themselves, not least because there is no agreed-upon definition of words like myth. The word story, though imprecise, will probably serve us best." The New Interpreter’s® Bible Commentary: Volume I, Introduction to the Pentateuch, The Book of Genesis: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections by Terence E. Fretheim, Copyright © 2015 by Abingdon Press (emphasis his).

As such, the story is meant to teach and edify the people of Israel right down to the individual level, to give each of them, and in turn, all of us, a plan of action and a path forward for how we are to live our lives. Abel is something then, of a plot device, if you will, so that the story of Cain, which is the story of us, can be told.

"Throughout the inhabited world, in all times and under every circumstance, myths of man have flourished; and they have been the living inspiration of whatever else may have appeared out of the activities of the human body and mind. It would not be too much to say that myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into the human cultural manifestation. Religions, philosophies, arts, the social forms of primitive and historic man, prime discoveries in science and technology, the very dreams that blister sleep, boil up from the basic, magic ring of myth." The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, Copyright © 2008 The Joseph Campbell Foundation.

"The...mythical mind is in fact primarily concerned with meaning—which is essentially implication for action..." Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief by Jordan B. Peterson, Copyright © 1999 Routledge Press (emphasis his).

In reality, then, the story of Cain is the story of humanity. It is designed to preach to us meaning. We each have our predilections towards bitterness, resentfulness, cruelty, and etc. We each have an adversary lurking at the door, ready to take hold of us and conquer us at any time, i.e., in the law of sin that dwells in our members (Romans 7:27).

Abel's life and death teach us that we can easily become the victim of someone else's jealousy and cruelty, with or without warning, because that is the way of life. And that jealousy and cruelty can come from someone as close as your own family, as it often does (Matthew 10:36).

But the main focus is on Cain, to show us the horrendous consequences of Adam's sin, that is, to show what kind of twisted and dangerous humans can be created when they are brought into the world by disobedient, deceived parents (Romans 5:12 and 1 Timothy 2:14).

We are therefore enjoined by the story to enter into the story, to let the story, and the explicit warning it contains, and the course of action it demands, to incarnate itself into our very being.

So, it's not that God is siding with Cain.

And as for the rest, God didn't demand retribution against Cain, as He would later demand in the Torah, simply because He hadn't created a system of laws and punishments (See Romans 4:15). The death penalty for capital offenses doesn't arrive in Genesis until after the Flood (Genesis 9:6).

In sum, then, this is why Cain was spared. To serve as object lesson, as example, as warning to humanity.

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On top of what has been said, the story of Cain and Abel is a shadow of the story of the Jews and Jesus. Just like Cain, the Jews were punished and exiled but are still protected. Jesus also repeatedly warned the Jews and called them to repentance before his crucifixion. Abel is a picture of a righteous one suffering because of the sinners. Unlike Abel, Jesus absorbed all the violence and hatred and instead of calling for vengeance, He forgave his prosecutors. He suffered and died for them. That is why Christ's blood “speaketh better things than that of Abel”.

Hebrews 12:24 (New Living Translation) You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.

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Before an answer is given to your question here are a few things to bring up for your consideration.

Jehovah saith unto Cain, ‘Why hast thou displeasure? and why hath thy countenance fallen? 7Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.’ Genesis. 4:6-7

First Iook at the word hattat Which quite often is translated as sin .

It also means sin offering, it changes the context completely different from many translations that say sin is crouching at the door.

It's possible that that word ḥaṭ·ṭāṯ quite often mean sin offering could be so in this passage of scripture as well.

◄ ḥaṭ·ṭāṯ ► Englishman's Concordance ḥaṭ·ṭāṯ — 52 Occurrences Genesis 4:7 HEB: תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙

Exodus 29:14 HEB: מִח֖וּץ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֑ה חַטָּ֖את הֽוּא׃ NAS: the camp; it is a sin offering. KJV: the camp: it [is] a sin offering. INT: without the camp sin he Exodus 29:36 HEB: וּפַ֨ר חַטָּ֜את תַּעֲשֶׂ֤ה לַיּוֹם֙ NAS: a bull as a sin offering for atonement, KJV: a bullock [for] a sin offering for atonement: INT: A bull A sin shall offer day Exodus 30:10 HEB: בַּשָּׁנָ֑ה מִדַּ֞ם חַטַּ֣את הַכִּפֻּרִ֗ים אַחַ֤ת NAS: on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement KJV: with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: INT: A year the blood of the sin of atonement onc

With that in mind here's another possible interpretation of that scripture.

if you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted?

What made Able accepted was his offering from his flock. It was an animal from one of his flocks.

Of course we know Cain's offering was not accepted because it was from the ground and the Lord tells him how he would be accepted.

Is there not, if you do well, acceptance? And if you do not do well, sin [[or a sin-offering]] is lying at the opening, and its [[or His]] desire [is] for you, and you rule over it [[or by Him]].” Literal standard version

Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.' YLT

This sin offering was desiring Cain to take it, it was alive and lying down at the door, it is there given its life on behalf of Cain and there it was provided for him right at his door. In fact it was lying right there waiting for Cain to rule over it by taking its life and offer that to the Lord and he would be accepted and have done well.

Most translation say it was crouching but take another look at what that word means.

  1. rabats ► Strong's Concordance rabats: stretch oneself out, lie down, lie stretched out Original Word: רָבַץ Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: rabats Phonetic Spelling: (raw-bats') Definition: stretch oneself out, lie down, lie stretched ou

This is an offering is not crouching but it's actually lying down stretched out.

This could've actually been a sin offering at the door.,

◄ ḥaṭ·ṭāṯ ►

Quite often this word is translated as an sin offering which totally makes sense. The Lord wanted an offering that was the only way to do well. It was not to master sin.
Able did not master sin, he killed one of the lives from his flock and offered it to the Lord as a sin offering.

It was an offering the Lord wanted and that would mean he had done well. It looks like that there was a sin offering lying down for Cain to kill right at his door ready for Cain to rule over its life by killing it. He could then offer that to the Lord as his sin offering, pleasing the Lord and therefore be accepted because he had done well.

Cain evidently did not want to slay this offering that was lying at his door but was willing to slay his very own brother instead.

We see the mercy of the Lord manifested to Cain when he was going to have to leave the Lord's presence and that was more than he could bear.

The blood that was spilled on the ground from Able's blood is crying out to the Lord. We know That the Lord's blood that he shed was speaking something different than Ables.

Jesus and to blood of sprinkling, speaking better things than that of Abel! Heb. 12:24

Already we see a foretelling of forgiveness that will be provided for the sins of the world by the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

One of Cain's judgment from the Lord was that the earths would no longer provide for him. He too is learning everything comes from the hand of God. We also see God's forbearance on him with the judgments, just like we saw the forbearance and love that was provided for his parents Adam and Eve when they sinned. He had provided a covering for them.

He also provided a covering for Cain by marking him so others would not kill him. Oh the mercy of the Lord.

Now onto your question.

“Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:15‬ ‭

Why wouldn’t God demand an eye for an eye, as He would later? Why is Cain being spared?

First and foremost we are seeing God's mercy being displayed and remember he had provided a lamb before he even created man. The mercy of God can only be seen in light of those who need mercy.

We see the judgments that the Lord does give Cain and since he gave him those judgments he is just.

There was no law given until after the flood. An eye for an eye had not yet been implemented.

And surely I will require the life of any man or beast by whose hand your lifeblood is shed. I will demand an accounting from anyone who takes the life of his fellow man: Who ever sheds the blood of man, by man his blood will be shed; for in His own image Genesis 9:5-6

Also in:

But if a serious injury results, then you must require a life for a life—Exodus 32:24

Here is why God did not demand an eye for an eye at that time,

Where there is no law there is no transgression. The law had not yet been given about murder until after the flood.

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