Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

God cursed Cain to be an eternal wanderer:

Genesis 4:12 King James Version

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.

So he went to a (probably figure-of-speech) land of wandering, the land of Nod, this much I understand. But then he builds the first city, Enoch. How is it compatible with being an eternal wanderer?

share|improve this question

Here's the problem. The translation you're using is not a very good translation. This is the verse you're referring to (in a translation that actually supports your argument):

In Genesis 4:12 (NIV), God tells Cain

When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.

enter image description here

The phrase here, "then in moaning and trembling you will be upon the earth". That is what is often translated as "restless wanderer" or "fugitive and vagabond"

Why? Well, let's dig in:

stenochōria Strongs 2532 dire calamity, extreme affliction

kaiv Strongs 2532 and etc

tremō Strongs 5141 tremble, to fear, be afraid

eimi Strongs 1510 to be, to exist, to happen, to be present

epi Strongs 1909 upon, on, at etc

ho Strong 3588 this, that, these

Strongs 1093 arable land, ground, the earth as a whole, a country, region, etc

So, the idea is with "[dire calamity/extreme affliction] and [trembling/fear] you [will exist/be present] upon [the earth/the land/the region]".

That doesn't really say anywhere that he will wander or that he will never stop wandering. However, if you combine these two concepts: fear and affliction, it's understandable that the translators could interpret that as someone who would wander.

If I was full of fear and troubled with distress, I would probably wander as well.

However, having said this, I have no idea why they chose that translation. It seems to be a poor translation of this phrase.

Given a decent understanding of the curse, it should be easier to see that building a city and being fearful and in distress do not conflict.

share|improve this answer
I still don't understand what the curse consisted of, but you made a good point. – Alexei Averchenko Aug 31 '11 at 20:55
Yeah, it gets thick when you go Greek. Basically the curse was that his life will be filled with fear and affliction. Not so much "wandering". (Granted, that there is also a translation, but it's word-for-word, which also has its faults.) – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 21:01
Why are you working from (I presume) the LXX rather than Hebrew? – Peter Taylor Aug 31 '11 at 23:07
Good question! It's from the Apostolic Bible. It looks like it is the LXX! That could account for some of the differences. ;) – Richard Aug 31 '11 at 23:24
Ahh, the newly inspired version! – Matt Nov 28 '13 at 1:45

Nothing there says he was an "eternal" wanderer. It says he will be a "fugitive" and a "vagabond" - in other words, a criminal.

If you go on further you see that Cain was marked by God so no one would kill him (the appropriate punishment for murder, as seen later in the Law given to Israel through Moses). He subsequently left the "Presence" of God, and fled to the land of Nod to live there. No where does it say he would wander, and certainly not eternally.

Genesis 4:12->16, KJV.

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

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.