King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Genesis 4

The birth, employment, and religion of Cain and Abel. (1-7) Cain murders Abel, The curse of Cain. (8-15) The conduct of Cain, His family. (16-18) Lamech and his wives, The skill of Cain’s descendants. (19-24) The birth of another son and grandson of Adam. (25,26)

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The birth, employment, and religion of Cain and Abel

1 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.

2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.

4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?

7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Cain murders Abel, The curse of Cain

8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.

14 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.

15 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.

The conduct of Cain, His family

16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.

Lamech and his wives, The skill of Cain’s descendants

19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.

21 And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

The birth of another son and grandson of Adam

25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Through God. Heb. may signify also: “even God,” as if she thought this was the promised seed, who, as Onkelos paraphrases it, would serve the Lord. C. — So little could she foresee the future conduct of Cain, whose name may be derived either from kone, possession and acquisition, or from kun, lamentation. The latter interpretation would have been better verified by the event, and the name of Abel, vanity, or sorrow, for which his parents allege no reason, might also have been reversed, on account of his justice, for which he is canonized by Christ himself, and declared the Just. Pious and significant names were imposed by either parent. Cain was the second man. He was not conceived till after the fall, and was therefore the first born in original sin. H.

Ver. 4. Had respect. That is, shewed his acceptance of his sacrifice (as coming from a heart full of devotion): and that we may suppose, by some visible token, such as sending fire from heaven upon his offerings. Ch. — The offerings of Cain are mentioned without any approbation: those of Abel are the firstlings and fat, or the very best; by which he testified, that he acknowledged God for his first beginning. Sacrifice is due to God alone, and to Him it has always been offered in the Church. We have the happiness to offer that truly eucharistic sacrifice to God, of which those of ancient times were only figures. What sacrifice can our erring brethren shew? W. C.

Ver. 7. Over it. This is a clear proof of free-will. To destroy its force, Protestants translate over him, as if Cain should still retain his privilege of the first-born, notwithstanding all his wickedness, and should rule over Abel, who would willingly submit, “unto thee his desire,” &c. But God had made no mention of Abel. The whole discourse is about doing well or ill; and Cain is encouraged to avoid the stings of conscience, by altering his conduct, as it was in his power, how strongly soever his passions might solicit him to evil. H. — The Hebrew is understood by Onkelos, and the Targum of Jerusalem, in the sense of the Vulgate. The latter reads, “If thou correct thy proceedings in this life, thou wilt receive pardon in the next world. But if thou do not penance for thy sin, it shall remain till the day of the great judgment, and it shall stay, lying at the door of thy heart. But I have given thee power to govern thy concupiscence: thou shalt sway it, either to embrace good or evil.” Calmet shews that the Hebrew perfectly admits of this sense. S. Augustine will not allow of the turn which the Manichees gave it. “Thou shalt have dominion over (illius.) What? thy brother! (absit) by no means: over what then, but sin? De C. xv. 7. Protestants formerly abandoned the translation of 1579, (which they have again resumed) and translated better, “unto thee shall be the desire thereof, and thou shalt rule over it,” which R. Abenezra explains also of sin. To which of these editions, all given by royal authority, will Protestants adhere? Luther wrote a book against free-will, and Calvin would not admit the very name. But we, with all antiquity, must cry out with S. Jerom, c. Jov. 2: “God made us with free-will, neither are we drawn by necessity to virtue or vice; else where there is necessity, there is neither damnation nor reward.” W. H.

Ver. 8. Let us go forth abroad. These words are now wanting in the Hebrew; being omitted, according to Kennicott, since the days of Aquila 130; they are found in the Samaritan copy and version, in the Sept. &c. H. — The Masorets place a mark, as if something were defective here, and in 27 other verses, or in 25 at least. H. — Abel’s violent death was a figure of that of Jesus Christ, inflicted for the like cause. See Heb. xii. 2. C. — In consequence of these crimes, Cain separated from the Church, and the Jews became no longer God’s people: both Cain and the Jews became vagabonds. H. — The Targum of Jerusalem observes, that Cain talked against God’s providence and the future world, which Abel hearing with marked indignation, Cain took occasion to kill him. W.

Ver. 13. My iniquity, &c. Like Judas, Cain despairs. The Rabbins make him complain of the rigour of God’s judgment, “My sin (or punishment) is too great to be borne.” I must then be driven from the land of my nativity, from the society of my brethren and parents, from thy presence, for ever. Why do I then live? Let the first man I meet, kill me. Liran.

Ver. 14. Every one that findeth me, shall kill me. His guilty conscience made him fear his own brothers, and nephews; of whom, by this time, there might be a good number upon the earth: which had now endured near 130 years; as may be gathered from Gen. v. 3, compared with Chap. iv. 25, though in the compendious account given in the Scripture, only Cain and Abel are mentioned. Ch. — Cain is little concerned about any thing but the loss of life. M.

Ver. 15. Set a mark, &c. The more common opinion of the interpreters of holy writ, supposes this mark to have been a trembling of the body; or a horror and consternation in his countenance. Ch. — God gave this first murderer a reprieve, allowing him time for repentance; but he neglected it, and died a reprobate; having been, during life, the head of an apostate church, and of the city of the devil, which has ever since opposed the city of God, and the society of the faithful. Though all his posterity were drowned in the deluge, some were soon found, even in the family of Noe, who stood up for the wretched pre-eminence in wickedness and rebellion, against the truth. See S. Aug. W. &c. H.

Ver. 16. A fugitive, according to his sentence. Heb. nod, which the Sept. have taken for a proper name. “In the land of Naid, over against Eden,” (H.) or in the fields of Nyse, in Hyrcania, to the east of Eden and Armenia. C.

Ver. 17. His wife. She was a daughter of Adam, and Cain’s own sister; God dispensing with such marriages in the beginning of the world, as mankind could not otherwise be propagated. — He built a city, viz. In process of time, when his race was multiplied, so as to be numerous enough to people it. For in the many hundred years he lived, his race might be multiplied even to millions. Ch. — The Hanuchta, which Ptolemy places in Susiana, (C.) may perhaps have been built after the flood, in the same place. Josephus says, Cain was the first who fortified a city; designing it for a retreat, where he might keep the fruits of his robberies. Ant. 1. 3. Peirere founds his ill-concerted system of Preadamites, or of men existing before Adam, on the history of Cain exercising husbandry, building a city, &c.; as if there were any difficulty in supposing, that the arts would have made some progress in the lapse of above a century. H.

Ver. 19. Two wives. Lamech first transgressed the law of having only one wife at a time. C. 11. 24. None before the deluge is mentioned as having followed his example, even among the abandoned sons of men. Abraham, the father of the faithful, and some others, after that event, when the age of man was shortened, and the number of the true servants of God very small, were dispensed with by God, who tolerated the custom of having many wives at the same time among the Jews, till our Saviour brought things back to the ancient standard. Mat. xix. 4. And why do we excuse the patriarchs, while we condemn Lamech? Because the one being associated with the wicked, gives us reason to judge unfavourably of him, while Abraham is constantly mentioned in Scripture with terms of approbation and praise, and therefore we have no right to pass sentence of condemnation upon him, as some Protestants have done, after the Manichees. Hence the fathers defend the one, and reject the other with abhorrence. H. — Tert. (Monog. c. 5.) and S. Jerom, c. Jovin. 1. says, “Lamech, first of all, a bloody murderer, divided one flesh between two wives.” It was never lawful, says P. Innocent III. c. Gaudemus, for any one to have many wives at once, unless leave was given by divine revelation;” and S. Aug. joins with him in defending the patriarchs, by this reason, “When it was the custom, it was not a sin.”

Ver. 22. Noema, who is supposed to have invented the art of spinning. C. — All these worthy people were distinguished for their proficiency in the arts, while they neglected the study of religion and virtue. H. — The inventors of arts among the Greeks lived mostly after the siege of Troy. C.

Ver. 23. Said. This is the most ancient piece of poetry with which we are acquainted. Fleury. — Lamech may be considered as the father of poets. H. — I have slain a man, &c. It is the tradition of the Hebrews, that Lamech in hunting slew Cain, mistaking him for a wild beast: and that having discovered what he had done, he beat so unmercifully the youth, by whom he was led into that mistake, that he died of the blows. Ch. — S. Jerom, 9. 1. ad Dam. acknowledges the difficulty of this passage, on which Origen wrote two whole books. W.

Ver. 24. Seventy times. A similar expression occurs, Mat. xviii. 22. to denote a great but indefinite number. God had promised to revenge the murder of Cain seven fold, though he had sinned voluntarily; so Lamech hopes that, as he had acted by mistake, and blinded by passion, in striking the stripling, the son of Tubalcain, he would deserve to be protected still more from falling a prey to the fury of any other. But many reject this tradition as fabulous, unknown to Philo, Josephus, &c. Moses no where mentions the death of Cain. Some, therefore, understand this passage with an interrogation; as if, to convince his wives that his sin was not so enormous as was supposed, he should say, Do not think of leaving me. What! have I killed a young man, as Cain did Abel, and still he is suffered to live unmolested; or have I beaten any one so that I should be punished? Onkelos, in effect, puts a negation to the same purport, “I have not killed, &c.:” (C.) others understand this passage, as if Lamech considered his crimes as much more grievous than even those of Cain. T.

Ver. 26. Began to call upon, &c. Not that Adam and Seth had not called upon God before the birth of Enos, but that Enos used more solemnity in the worship and invocation of God. Ch. — He directed all his thoughts towards heaven, being reminded by his own name, which signifies one afflicted, that he could look for no solid happiness on earth. Seth had brought him up, from his infancy, in these pious sentiments, and his children were so docile to his instructions, that they began to be known in the world for their extraordinary piety, and were even styled the Sons of God. C. vi. 2. H. — Religion was not a human invention, but many ceremonies have been adopted, at different times, to make an impression on the minds of the people. Before Enos, the heads of families had officiated in their own houses; now, perhaps, they met together in places consecrated to the divine service, and sounded forth the praises of the Most High. Enos was probably most conspicuous for his zeal on these occasions: at least, a new degree of fervour manifested itself in his days. On the other hand, “the name of the Lord began to be profaned” about this time, as the Rabbin understand this passage, by the introduction of idolatry; which is a common effect of a dissolute life, which many began now to lead. Wis. xiv. 12. C. — The beginning of fornication is the devising of idols. We have, nevertheless, no certain proof of idols being introduced till many years after the deluge. H.