Mark of Cain

cainandabelkillGENESIS 4:1-26 provides the account of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and that, as punishment, the Lord sentences Cain to be a “fugitive and a vagabond…And Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear!’” Cain voiced his worry to the Lord that it would “happen that anyone who finds me will kill me.” So, “…the Lord said to him, ‘Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him” (GENESIS 4:12-15). It should be noted that while the Bible does not reveal the exact nature and location of the mark the Lord put on Cain, and that the mark was actually for the purpose of protecting Cain, literary tradition often associates the mark with a curse (The Lord does, indeed, curse Cain in GENESIS 4:8-11), the color red or crimson, and/or a brand, usually located on the brow. See also the entry for the mark of Cain under Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Longfellow, in The Arsenal at Springfield, asserts that if the wealth spent on war were spent on education, “every nation, that should lift again / Its hand against a brother, on its forehead / Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!”

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