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Meaning: a possession; a spear.

“Cain” was the name of a biblical man and a place.

  1. Cain was the first-born son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4). He became a tiller of the ground, while his brother Abel followed the pursuits of pastoral life. He was “a sullen, self-willed, haughty, vindictive man; wanting the religious element in his character, and defiant even in his attitude towards God.” Cain committed the world’s first murder.

    Cain’s first recorded sins

    It came to pass “in process of time” (marginal note: “at the end of days”), i.e., probably on the Sabbath, that the two brothers presented their offerings to the Lord. Abel’s offering was of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat,” while Cain’s was “of the fruit of the ground.” Abel’s sacrifice was “more excellent” (Hebrews 11:4) than Cain’s, and was accepted by God. Cain became very angry and cherished feelings of murderous hatred against his brother. His desperate outrage led him to kill his brother (1 John 3:12).

    Cain’s punishment

    For this crime, from that day on he led the life of an exile, bearing upon him some mark which God had gave him in answer to his cry for mercy. This may have served as a protection from the wrath of his fellow-men, or it may be that God only gave him some sign to assure him that he would not be slain (Genesis 4:15). Doomed to be a wanderer and a fugitive in the Earth, he went forth into the “land of Nod,” i.e., the land of “exile”, which is said to have been in the “east of Eden,” and there he built a city, the first we read of, and called it after his son’s name, Enoch.

    Enoch’s wife is not named in the Bible, nor are any of his close female relatives, except Eve and two wives of his great-great-great-grandson Lamech (Adah and Zillah) and Zillah’s daughter Naamah. This is not unusual; relatively few wives or women are named or mentioned in the Biblical record, as, for brevity, the emphasis is on listing patriarchs. Six generations of Cain’s descendants are listed in the Bible. They gradually degenerated in their moral and spiritual condition till they became completely corrupt before God. Eventually, the Deluge was sent by God to prevent the final triumph of evil. (See ABEL.)

    Cain’s named pre-Flood descendants

    The Bible does not claim to name all of Cain’s children. Only one son (presumably the most significant male heir), Enoch, is mentioned. He is the first patriarch in the line of Cain’s named pre-Flood descendants. Presumably, Cain had no post-Flood descendants, as all were destroyed in the Flood. Noah and his sons were descendants of Adam’s son Seth.


  2. Cain was later the name of a post-Flood town of the Kenites, a branch of the Midianites (Joshua 15:57), on the east edge of the mountain above Engedi—probably the “nest in a rock” mentioned by Balaam (Numbers 24:21). It is identified with the modern Yekin, 3 miles southeast of Hebron.

Authors: Matthew G. Easton, Paul S. Taylor.