September 28, 2015

Genesis 4:15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

The “him” in the verse is Cain. Cain, the murderer of his brother Able, complains that his punishment is too severe and so God puts a mark on him to protect him from the violence of others. I’m sure this verse has kept rabbis busy throughout the ages. Where is the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” we encounter later in the Old Testament? Maybe this is a worse punishment than the swift sword of justice ending his life. He may live with the struggle of being an outcast “driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (verse 11). But maybe it is the hope of restoration and reconciliation right from the beginning of the bible. There is punishment in the Garden of Eden but God also supplies clothes to cover their nakedness. Here too, there is punishment but also divine care and protection. Can even a murderer find redemption in God’s sight? Ask the Apostle Paul. We don’t know from the story in Genesis what happens to Cain, only that he builds a city and has a son after whom he names the city. Maybe that is part of the curse; maybe it is an act of restoration. Is there a struggle in your life this week that may feel punitive but holds within it the hope of redemption?

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