When God punishes Cain, he replies:

Gen 4:14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. (NIV)

All are his brothers and sisters? And he is the elder brother of all of them? So who is Cain fearing?

  • Please see my answer here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/8147/…
    – user1054
    Jun 22 '12 at 13:06
  • 1
    I never really thought about it before; in a place where murder was unknown, WHY (instead of WHO) would he be afraid that someone else would kill him?
    – user1054
    Jun 22 '12 at 16:43

There is a lot about the society of the first humans that we don't know. It seems reasonable to me to think that they could have permitted vengeance.

Remember that Cain had just killed his brother (probably) out of jealousy. Why wouldn't he assume everyone else thought the way he did and would kill him if properly motivated? It seems likely to me that this fear might have been unreasonable, but someone in Cain's state of mind, he wouldn't necessarily think like most(?) others who might not ever consider murdering someone.


Cain was likely afraid of one of his brothers or sisters taking revenge by killing him. Yes, he was the older brother, but he was also guilty of murder. If Cain was willing to kill one of his brothers (Abel), then it is reasonable to think that someone else was willing to do the same. And, as you mentioned, there was no one else around to fear, so Cain did fear that his siblings would take revenge for Abel's sake and take his life.

  • technically, we don't know that Cain was the oldest - just that he capped Abel
    – warren
    Jun 25 '12 at 4:27
  • @warren, Cain is the first child mentioned as being born, and firstborn are generally regarded in ancient times. Cain and Abel may have been twins (no mention of conception before his birth, unlike Cain's), but it seems reasonable to conclude that he was the firstborn.
    – mojo
    Jul 2 '12 at 12:17
  • @mojo, he is the first listed, but we don't know when it was, other than Cain and Abel came around before Seth, and Seth is through whom the Promise was to come
    – warren
    Jul 2 '12 at 15:51
  • @warren, I think typical readings suggest that Cain was the first male child, Abel the second, and Seth the third. Like I said, the firstborn (primary heir) was a meaningful position in antiquity (at least at the time Genesis was written down), and so it seems like an unfair imposition on the text to say that birth order is not implied by what's written. The fact that the text doesn't say he was the oldest ought to suggest that the default (for that culture) understanding is most likely.
    – mojo
    Jul 2 '12 at 16:47
  • @mojo - I agree that Cain was, in fact, the firstborn: but there are still swaths of Adam and Eve's immediate progeny about which we know nothing
    – warren
    Jul 2 '12 at 19:24

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