“So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”
As a result of committing murder, Cain was given a specific “curse” from God for his sin:
- Cain would be “cursed from the earth” (English Standard Version: “from the ground”). Because Cain shed his brother’s blood on the ground, the ground would “no longer yield its strength [abundant crops or produce] to you” (Genesis 4:12). The Soncino Books of the Bible explains: “Wherever he lives, the curse will follow him and the soil will be barren for him. The remainder of his existence will consequently be an unceasing vagabondage” (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p. 15). This punishment is similar to one of the curses later prophesied to come on Israel for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:16-17).
- Cain would be “a fugitive and a vagabond” on the earth (Genesis 4:12). He would now be separated from his family and live out his life as a wanderer in “the land of Nod” (Nod is a wordplay on “vagabond,” Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible note on verse 16).
We should not forget that Cain’s ultimate punishment would be death for his sin (Romans 6:23). Though Cain certainly was worthy of a swift death penalty carried out by God or his family, God permitted Cain to live out his life in exile. God even mercifully provided Cain with some sort of “mark” that protected him from being murdered (verse 15).
To learn about God’s mercy and grace, read “Mercy and Grace: Are They the Same?”