Why didn't Cain suffer the death penalty?

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charispistis

Puritan Board Freshman
I often see this question come up, and was interested to know what your opinions are on this subject.

Rushdoony has some interesting things to say about this in his Institutes. Here are his thoughts:

"A strange passage of Scripture points to a fact of law commonly overlooked. Cain, on hearing his sentence for murder from God, complained, saying, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. (Gen. 4:13-16) Because God does not change, His ultimate purposes are always implicit in His earlier acts, and therefore part of the framework of His declaration to Cain is His law order. Certain questions thus immediately come to mind: of whom was Cain afraid? Who did he fear would kill him? That the fear was more than psychological is apparent in the fact that God “set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” Cain obviously needed this protection. Again, why did God, who very early made clear His requirement of the death penalty for murder (Gen. 9:6), here act to protect a murderer? Before dealing with these questions, a brief examination of the text is of interest. Leupold rendered Genesis 4:14 thus: “Behold, thou hast this day driven me forth off the ground and I must stay hidden from Thee, and I must be shifting and straying about in the earth, and it will happen that whoever finds me will slay me.” Cain’s words clearly presuppose the death penalty for murder: God’s law had been earlier declared, and Cain sees the need to escape from both God and man, and he complains against the odds. The fact that his was a vicious murder makes no difference to him; he feels the punishment is hopelessly unfair to him. Furthermore, Leupold translated verse 15b, “And Yahweh gave Cain a sign that whoever found him would not murder him.” Leupold noted, *. . . that the text does not say that God set a mark in or on Cain (Hebrew, be) but for Cain (Hebrew le), marking a dative of interest or advantage. Consequently, we are rather to think of some sign that God allowed to appear for Cain’s reassurance, “a sign of guaranty” or a “pledge or token.” As parallels might be cited the signs vouchsafed to certain men to whom God promised unusual things: Gideon (Judges 6:36-40); Elisha (II Kings 2:9-12). God let this sign appear, therefore, for Cain, and he felt reassured. There is, therefore, no ground for supposing that Cain went about as a marked man all the rest of his life. Anyhow, ‘oth does not mean “mark.”[610] To return to the earlier questions, of whom was Cain afraid, and who did he fear would kill him, the answer is already apparent. Cain very obviously feared that God, having declared His law to mankind orally from the beginning, would Himself perhaps execute the death penalty against Cain. Moreover, he feared that other men would also kill him because God’s law placed them under obligation to do so. Cain’s words clearly indicate that a law order had been instituted. Cain was a mature and married man (Gen. 4:17). Adam had a number of sons and daughters, whose names are never given to us, during his 930 years of life (Gen. 5:3-5). As a result, by the time of Abel’s murder a number of persons already existed who were ready and capable of enforcing the law. Adam, as the head of his household and of the young humanity, was in a position to require enforcement of his family members. The family thus was clearly a law order, geared to a discipline and ready to enforce its law on its members. Cain’s reaction is obvious evidence of this. God clearly had established the family as a law order. This brings us to our major question: why, then, in apparent contradiction to the rest of Scripture, does God move here to protect Cain from being killed? Protection for crime was clearly not God’s purpose. At every point, Scripture reveals God as the enemy of sin, and His demand for judgment is so strict and unwavering, that only the death of Jesus Christ could make atonement for sin by fulfiling the law to the full. Obviously, then, God’s purpose here was not the protection of Cain; rather, the protection of Cain was a by-product of His central purpose. God Himself is revealed as Cain’s accuser, and the very earth, because God created it, witnesses to God’s law against Cain (Gen. 4:9-12). The question we must ask, then, is this: what kind of law order was God maintaining which incidently led to Cain’s protection? This is the key question, and, unfortunately, commentators do not ask it. The family very clearly has a serious role in law enforcement. The family is a law order and disciplines its members. The nature and extent of the family’s punishing power can be seen by looking again at a text previously considered, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, the death penalty for juvenile delinquents. There are certain very important aspects to this law. First, the parents are to be complaining witnesses against their criminal son. The loyalty of the parents must thus be to God’s law order, not to ties of blood. If the parents do not assist in the prosecution of a criminal child, they are then accessories to the crime. Second, contrary to the usual custom, whereby witnesses led in the execution, in this case, “the men of the city” did. Thus, where the death penalty was involved, the family was excluded from the execution of the law. Now to return to Cain: Cain was obviously reared in a family which was a disciplined law order. Both he and Abel, as other children, were disciplined and productive workers. Cain knew of the death penalty for murder and feared it. The remarkable protection of Cain from the death penalty was due to the fact that the family was barred from an area of law enforcement, the death penalty, which properly belongs to the state. In Cain’s day, mankind was made up of Adam and Eve and a number of sons and daughters. “A sign of guaranty” was given to Cain that he would not be executed by his parents or by his brothers and sisters. Very obviously, the family was informed of this, because this part of Genesis (1:1-5:1) is Adam’s record. Later Cain built the first city, i.e., a walled community, to protect himself. Cain did not require protection from Adam’s household; he did require it from his own progeny. We have Lamech’s declaration of his readiness to kill if his honor were wounded (Gen. 4:23-24); significantly, Lamech simply stepped up the lawlessness Cain had practiced: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Gen. 4:24). The family thus was created as the central law order, but at the same time was strictly limited, in that the death penalty was withheld from it. The family can discipline, punish, and cast out a member, but it cannot kill him; at that point, it must turn to the state simply as a witness to the offense. It cannot be the executioner. The family has real powers; a godless child can be disinherited; he can be punished in a variety of ways. But the basic fact of biblical law is that the power to kill is not a family power, because coercion is not the strongest aspect of family law. The family is tied together by bonds of love; the husband cleaves to the wife, and the children obey their parents in love and duty. Basic to family law thus is the inner bond of blood and faith. The Bible does not speak of gratitude (a word not used in the Bible); its term is thankfulness, and this is assumed, not required. We have seen previously how closely associated parental authority and God’s authority are (Lev. 19:3). This is further demonstrated by Isaiah 45:9-10: Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begetteth thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? The same thought appears in Isaiah 10:15. The idea of anyone being ungrateful to God or to one’s parents is presented as the epitome of what is revolting and disgusting. Parents may or may not be lovable; in any case, the duty of gratitude remains. Nowadays, the lack of gratitude by children who receive not only life, but very generous and even wealthy provisions from their parents, and yet manifest ingratitude to either one or both of their parents, is especially repulsive. Such children may be free of other moral blemishes, but, if the passage from Isaiah 45:9-10 has any meaning, they are moral monsters. This passage from Isaiah throws light on Cain’s deliverence from the death penalty. Family discipline can mean disinheritance; it can mean denouncing a child to the civil authorities. But the death penalty is reserved to God and the state. To give that power to the family is to destroy the inner tie that binds the family. The protection of Cain was thus not with reference to Cain as a person, but to the life of the family and its law sphere. The one exception to this principle of the nonparticipation of the family in the death penalty of its members appears in Deuteronomy 13:6-9. If a member of the family tried to lead members into idolatry, their execution required the participation of the family. Such a person was no longer a relative: he was an alien and an enemy. Later custom saw the service of the dead read over apostates in the family circle: the apostate was no longer a member of the family but an enemy alien. Dooyeweerd has described the psychic structure of the family as “the feeling of authority on the part of the parents, on the other hand the feeling of respect on the part of the children.”[611] The absence of either authority or respect results in a serious breakdown of the family as a law order. The family is not only a biological entity but a religious one. As such, it has inner ties which are God-ordained and religiously governed; love may be absent, but the religious authority and religious respect must remain. Their absence indicates a radical evil. No child can plead that his parents do not merit respect; love is his personal response, but respect and honor are his God-ordained duties, and failure to give respect is thus a sin against God rather than the parent. As a result, while parents and children can and must seperate themselves from an incorrigible member and report him to the authorities, they cannot execute him. God forbids this act to any but the state. Similarly, a son or daughter can dislike a parent, and, with maturity, separate himself to a degree while maintaining his God-ordained duties, but he cannot deny that parent respect and honor without incurring God’s judgment. Thus, not only is there a limit beyond which a parent cannot go in judging his child, i.e., the death penalty being barred, but there is also a limit beyond which the child cannot go: honor and respect must be given because of the God-ordained nature of the relationship, not because of the person of the parent necessarily. Where this respect is lacking, the child should be written off, at least for the time being, as unworthy of attention. Whatever their qualities, these children are at war at this point with God, since honor, respect, and reverence are God’s requirements long before their parents ever expected them. If God had not barred the family from killing guilty members, even at the price of allowing Cain to go free, the price would have been a fearful one. On the one hand, the development of the state as God’s ministry of justice would have been impossible. The realm of the state would then have been preempted by the family. On the other hand, the family itself would have been destroyed by this new burden. The world would have been an anarchistic order, family arrayed against family, and the family arrayed against itself. It was thus not Cain whom God protected but, in reality, God’s own law order."
 

nick

Puritan Board Freshman
That is one gigantic paragraph. :p

Cain did get the death penalty eventually.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
The death penalty is a suitable punishment for murder, and is in that sense moral, but it isn't part of the moral or apodictic law like Thou shalt not commit adultery, but it is a judicial, casuistic and positive law. Even if a murderer is punished with death, as he should be if the evidence is very good, it is but a pale reflection of what his moral desert is. All sinners, including murderers, deserve Hell.

It wasn't God's time to introduce the death penalty for murder to the human race as an ongoing part of human justice until the time of Noah.

Morally-speaking Cain deserved to be immediately cast into Hell for his sins, as did Adam and Eve for their sin. But God is a God of saving and common grace, as well as justice.

Part of it may have been what Rushdoony says, but part may have been that the Lord didn't want to introduce the ultimate sanction, which can be sometimes abused, until it was necessary in His wisdom. Theonomists tend to flatten the distinction between moral law and judicial law.

The Lord may have also "waived" the death penalty in the case of Moses, David, and Saul/Paul, depending on one's perspective on their crimes and their relation to the civil authorities. It might be interesting to discuss them too.

Sent from my HTC Wildfire using Tapatalk 2
 
Last edited:

aadebayo

Puritan Board Freshman
I often see this question come up, and was interested to know what your opinions are on this subject.

Rushdoony has some interesting things to say about this in his Institutes. Here are his thoughts:

"A strange passage of Scripture points to a fact of law commonly overlooked. Cain, on hearing his sentence for murder from God, complained, saying, My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. (Gen. 4:13-16) Because God does not change, His ultimate purposes are always implicit in His earlier acts, and therefore part of the framework of His declaration to Cain is His law order. Certain questions thus immediately come to mind: of whom was Cain afraid? Who did he fear would kill him? That the fear was more than psychological is apparent in the fact that God “set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” Cain obviously needed this protection. Again, why did God, who very early made clear His requirement of the death penalty for murder (Gen. 9:6), here act to protect a murderer? Before dealing with these questions, a brief examination of the text is of interest. Leupold rendered Genesis 4:14 thus: “Behold, thou hast this day driven me forth off the ground and I must stay hidden from Thee, and I must be shifting and straying about in the earth, and it will happen that whoever finds me will slay me.” Cain’s words clearly presuppose the death penalty for murder: God’s law had been earlier declared, and Cain sees the need to escape from both God and man, and he complains against the odds. The fact that his was a vicious murder makes no difference to him; he feels the punishment is hopelessly unfair to him. Furthermore, Leupold translated verse 15b, “And Yahweh gave Cain a sign that whoever found him would not murder him.” Leupold noted, *. . . that the text does not say that God set a mark in or on Cain (Hebrew, be) but for Cain (Hebrew le), marking a dative of interest or advantage. Consequently, we are rather to think of some sign that God allowed to appear for Cain’s reassurance, “a sign of guaranty” or a “pledge or token.” As parallels might be cited the signs vouchsafed to certain men to whom God promised unusual things: Gideon (Judges 6:36-40); Elisha (II Kings 2:9-12). God let this sign appear, therefore, for Cain, and he felt reassured. There is, therefore, no ground for supposing that Cain went about as a marked man all the rest of his life. Anyhow, ‘oth does not mean “mark.”[610] To return to the earlier questions, of whom was Cain afraid, and who did he fear would kill him, the answer is already apparent. Cain very obviously feared that God, having declared His law to mankind orally from the beginning, would Himself perhaps execute the death penalty against Cain. Moreover, he feared that other men would also kill him because God’s law placed them under obligation to do so. Cain’s words clearly indicate that a law order had been instituted. Cain was a mature and married man (Gen. 4:17). Adam had a number of sons and daughters, whose names are never given to us, during his 930 years of life (Gen. 5:3-5). As a result, by the time of Abel’s murder a number of persons already existed who were ready and capable of enforcing the law. Adam, as the head of his household and of the young humanity, was in a position to require enforcement of his family members. The family thus was clearly a law order, geared to a discipline and ready to enforce its law on its members. Cain’s reaction is obvious evidence of this. God clearly had established the family as a law order. This brings us to our major question: why, then, in apparent contradiction to the rest of Scripture, does God move here to protect Cain from being killed? Protection for crime was clearly not God’s purpose. At every point, Scripture reveals God as the enemy of sin, and His demand for judgment is so strict and unwavering, that only the death of Jesus Christ could make atonement for sin by fulfiling the law to the full. Obviously, then, God’s purpose here was not the protection of Cain; rather, the protection of Cain was a by-product of His central purpose. God Himself is revealed as Cain’s accuser, and the very earth, because God created it, witnesses to God’s law against Cain (Gen. 4:9-12). The question we must ask, then, is this: what kind of law order was God maintaining which incidently led to Cain’s protection? This is the key question, and, unfortunately, commentators do not ask it. The family very clearly has a serious role in law enforcement. The family is a law order and disciplines its members. The nature and extent of the family’s punishing power can be seen by looking again at a text previously considered, Deuteronomy 21:18-21, the death penalty for juvenile delinquents. There are certain very important aspects to this law. First, the parents are to be complaining witnesses against their criminal son. The loyalty of the parents must thus be to God’s law order, not to ties of blood. If the parents do not assist in the prosecution of a criminal child, they are then accessories to the crime. Second, contrary to the usual custom, whereby witnesses led in the execution, in this case, “the men of the city” did. Thus, where the death penalty was involved, the family was excluded from the execution of the law. Now to return to Cain: Cain was obviously reared in a family which was a disciplined law order. Both he and Abel, as other children, were disciplined and productive workers. Cain knew of the death penalty for murder and feared it. The remarkable protection of Cain from the death penalty was due to the fact that the family was barred from an area of law enforcement, the death penalty, which properly belongs to the state. In Cain’s day, mankind was made up of Adam and Eve and a number of sons and daughters. “A sign of guaranty” was given to Cain that he would not be executed by his parents or by his brothers and sisters. Very obviously, the family was informed of this, because this part of Genesis (1:1-5:1) is Adam’s record. Later Cain built the first city, i.e., a walled community, to protect himself. Cain did not require protection from Adam’s household; he did require it from his own progeny. We have Lamech’s declaration of his readiness to kill if his honor were wounded (Gen. 4:23-24); significantly, Lamech simply stepped up the lawlessness Cain had practiced: “If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (Gen. 4:24). The family thus was created as the central law order, but at the same time was strictly limited, in that the death penalty was withheld from it. The family can discipline, punish, and cast out a member, but it cannot kill him; at that point, it must turn to the state simply as a witness to the offense. It cannot be the executioner. The family has real powers; a godless child can be disinherited; he can be punished in a variety of ways. But the basic fact of biblical law is that the power to kill is not a family power, because coercion is not the strongest aspect of family law. The family is tied together by bonds of love; the husband cleaves to the wife, and the children obey their parents in love and duty. Basic to family law thus is the inner bond of blood and faith. The Bible does not speak of gratitude (a word not used in the Bible); its term is thankfulness, and this is assumed, not required. We have seen previously how closely associated parental authority and God’s authority are (Lev. 19:3). This is further demonstrated by Isaiah 45:9-10: Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begetteth thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? The same thought appears in Isaiah 10:15. The idea of anyone being ungrateful to God or to one’s parents is presented as the epitome of what is revolting and disgusting. Parents may or may not be lovable; in any case, the duty of gratitude remains. Nowadays, the lack of gratitude by children who receive not only life, but very generous and even wealthy provisions from their parents, and yet manifest ingratitude to either one or both of their parents, is especially repulsive. Such children may be free of other moral blemishes, but, if the passage from Isaiah 45:9-10 has any meaning, they are moral monsters. This passage from Isaiah throws light on Cain’s deliverence from the death penalty. Family discipline can mean disinheritance; it can mean denouncing a child to the civil authorities. But the death penalty is reserved to God and the state. To give that power to the family is to destroy the inner tie that binds the family. The protection of Cain was thus not with reference to Cain as a person, but to the life of the family and its law sphere. The one exception to this principle of the nonparticipation of the family in the death penalty of its members appears in Deuteronomy 13:6-9. If a member of the family tried to lead members into idolatry, their execution required the participation of the family. Such a person was no longer a relative: he was an alien and an enemy. Later custom saw the service of the dead read over apostates in the family circle: the apostate was no longer a member of the family but an enemy alien. Dooyeweerd has described the psychic structure of the family as “the feeling of authority on the part of the parents, on the other hand the feeling of respect on the part of the children.”[611] The absence of either authority or respect results in a serious breakdown of the family as a law order. The family is not only a biological entity but a religious one. As such, it has inner ties which are God-ordained and religiously governed; love may be absent, but the religious authority and religious respect must remain. Their absence indicates a radical evil. No child can plead that his parents do not merit respect; love is his personal response, but respect and honor are his God-ordained duties, and failure to give respect is thus a sin against God rather than the parent. As a result, while parents and children can and must seperate themselves from an incorrigible member and report him to the authorities, they cannot execute him. God forbids this act to any but the state. Similarly, a son or daughter can dislike a parent, and, with maturity, separate himself to a degree while maintaining his God-ordained duties, but he cannot deny that parent respect and honor without incurring God’s judgment. Thus, not only is there a limit beyond which a parent cannot go in judging his child, i.e., the death penalty being barred, but there is also a limit beyond which the child cannot go: honor and respect must be given because of the God-ordained nature of the relationship, not because of the person of the parent necessarily. Where this respect is lacking, the child should be written off, at least for the time being, as unworthy of attention. Whatever their qualities, these children are at war at this point with God, since honor, respect, and reverence are God’s requirements long before their parents ever expected them. If God had not barred the family from killing guilty members, even at the price of allowing Cain to go free, the price would have been a fearful one. On the one hand, the development of the state as God’s ministry of justice would have been impossible. The realm of the state would then have been preempted by the family. On the other hand, the family itself would have been destroyed by this new burden. The world would have been an anarchistic order, family arrayed against family, and the family arrayed against itself. It was thus not Cain whom God protected but, in reality, God’s own law order."

Thanks very much for this. I have learnt a lot.
 

whirlingmerc

Puritan Board Sophomore
Why didn't Adam and Eve immediately suffer the death penalty...

In a couple senses they did 'dying you shall die'
It was a process
They immediately spiritually changed
They had to live with consequences maybe worse for a parent in some ways than if they died

As far as Cain?
In addition to reasons given by others...
I think he represented the seed of the serpent
the seed of the serpent was to oppose the seed of the woman
 
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