The LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground. Now you are cursed because of the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. From now on, when you till the ground, it won’t yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out today from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face, and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:10-14)
The majority of our Bibles translate YHVH’s words to Qayin (Cain) as “What have you done?” but I say we should interpret this as “what have you made?” The verb in question is the Hebrew asah, which is used interchangeably with its synonym bara (to create) to describe God’s ordering of the heavens and the earth, as well as His creation of Mankind (ref. Genesis 1-2).
By design, YHVH also responds with “asah” to Havah (Eve) and the serpent after their transgressions at the Tree of Knowledge (cf. Gen. 3:13-14). These responses indicate that we who were created in the image of God are creative in nature, but we can “make” (asah) acts of mischief that are foreign to YHVH. When we create such evil, God asks, “What is this you made?” for this is not the handiwork He respects. Selah.
So the question to Qayin after he murdered his brother Hevel (Abel), “what have you made?” is similar to God’s response at the Tree, but it’s the fates of the serpent and Qayin that are eerily similar. However, before delving into this mystery, we must understand how similar paths led to similar fates.
At first, both Qayin and the serpent were “the man”. We know that the serpent was the wisest among the animals and Qayin was the stronger son who learned his father’s trade. They were as privileged as royalty until someone else came along who – in their eyes – stole their favor. To them, it wasn’t supposed to go down that way!
“Dumb humans, who don’t have any knowledge of good and evil? How could they be favored before me, the serpent, who is the wisest of all the beasts!? I will make them as I am and conquer them, and regain my rightful place over all creation!”
“Hevel!? That runt!? How can he be favored instead of me, Qayin!? I’m the one who was born strongest, and followed in my father’s footsteps! Now it looks as if my parents favor him, along with God! Nonsense! I will eliminate this competition, and regain my proper place!”
Thus the similarities in motivations led to similar fates:
| The Serpent’s Fate (Gen. 3:14-15)
||Qayin’s Fate (Gen. 4:10-14)
|Because you have made (asah) this…||What have you made (asah)?|
|Cursed are you…||Now you are cursed…|
|From all the cattle and every beast of the field…||From the ground, which opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother by your hand.|
|Over your belly will you go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.||If you work the ground, it will not continue to give its produce to you. A waverer and a wanderer shall you become in the Earth.|
|And I will put enmity between your seed and her seed… he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel…||It will come to pass, that anyone who comes upon me will kill me.|
|X||Rightly so. Whoever smites Qayin, seven times will I avenge him. And YHVH set upon Qayin a sign, lest anyone come upon him to kill him.|
Both the serpent and Qayin were judged by God for their mischief (what they made/worked), and cursed them from their previous, comfortable lives. Both of them were informed of how they would experience life as a “wanderer”, and would have to rely on a new means of sustenance. Both of them also knew of the enmity they would experience with Mankind in the future.
I’ve written before how at the Tree of Knowledge we became more like serpents than gods, and this seems to bring that theory home to roost. Qayin’s motivations were like the serpent before him, which is why the shared similar fates. Thus we have our main takeaway: God is showing us that we might all become like the snake. The serpent’s venom is within us.
If we don’t control our lusts, we might go what the Apostle Yahudah (Jude) calls
“the way of Qayin” (Jude 11). Jude explains how this theme reoccurs throughout the Bible, and so we also have to expect it in our own lives. We must constantly be on guard against politicians, pundits, predators, and false prophets who want to manipulate us, and subjugate us under an insatiable lust for power.
There is one and only thing that differs between the fates of the serpent and Qayin, and that is the mercy which is inexplicable to most of us. We all struggle with Qayin’s “punishment” – or lack thereof.
I want to encourage you that there is always an answer for what we don’t understand in the Word of God. The reasons for Qayin’s banishment are both practical and prophetic, and we will get to those answers soon, Lord willing! Ω