Homicide or murder has ranked among the top fifteen causes of death in the United States since the 1960s. But as of 2010, it dropped below that ranking— murder rates are declining. Why? Some say the population is getting older, others point to better law enforcement, while still others credit the decline in abusive relationships. In any case, it’s welcome news!
The first murder recorded in Scripture was an episode of family violence— Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. Angry that God had approved of Abel’s offering but not his (cf. Heb. 11:4), Cain planned violence. God offered him a second chance and cautioned, “Sin is crouching at your door” (vv. 6–7). Cain ignored the warning, lured his brother out to a field, and killed him. This was a serious sin—human life is created in God’s image and is sacred to Him.
Like his parents, who foolishly imagined they might be able to hide from the Lord, Cain pretended not to know why God asked him about his brother. God responded, “Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (v. 10). He then punished Cain by exiling him from his agricultural work—the ground that had absorbed Abel’s blood would no longer yield its harvest to his murderer. He also condemned Cain to be a “restless wanderer on the earth” (v. 12).
But as in the case of Adam and Eve, God’s justice was infused with His mercy. In response to Cain’s plea, God put some kind of protective mark on him so that others would not seek vengeance against him for what he had done. Amazingly, God did this even though we have no evidence that Cain repented or even that he was grateful for God’s provision of the mark.
Apply the Word
The story of Cain gives us a good example of the dynamics of temptation. We do something wrong, or we’re tempted to respond to a situation in a sinful way. If sin masters us, we yield to that temptation and do what is wrong. Punishment and consequences follow. All along the way, however, God’s grace and mercy are available to us. We need to call on Him!