The killing had been quick and easy. Too easy. Abel had suspected nothing and offered no resistance. In a moment the light had gone out of his brother’s eyes, “like one of his sacrificial lambs,” Cain thought, but immediately he dismissed it from his mind. He had just finished washing his hands. The dirt from his brother’s freshly dug grave remained stubbornly under his nails.
God’s voice startled him. “Where is Abel your brother?”
Cain hid his hands behind his back. “I don’t know. Why should I know? Am I my brother’s keeper?” The words snagged in his throat. He hoped he sounded more confident than he felt. He didn’t even know why he bothered with the bravado. He knew it was over for him.
“What have you done?” God said. “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.“ Cain pictured his brother Abel, mouth opened wide under the earth. For a split second he thought he could hear it, too. He shuddered.
“Now you are cursed,” God continued, ”and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood. “No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work.” Cain looked down at the rich earth. He had buried his brother in its bosom and rubbed his blood into its face. It would be the last time the earth cooperated with him.
“From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain covered his face with his hands. His life’s work was taken from him, his source of sustenance, gone. God would never look at him again, and now his parents would reject him as well. His father would probably kill him.
”You’ve taken everything from me that matters!” Cain said. “You may as well kill me now. If you don’t, the first person who finds me, will probably do it for you.” Cain knew his words fell on deaf ears. He didn’t want to admit it, but the punishment fit the crime. He might as well have been buried with his brother, his own mouth frozen into a silent scream.
“Cain, don’t worry. I will protect you,” God said.
“Everywhere you go, people will see the mark of my protection. They will know that I myself have promised to avenge your death seven times over, and they will leave you alone.”
Cain was not expecting this. He had ignored God’s warning, killed his brother, and hidden the evidence. Why would God care what happened to him now? He didn’t understand it, but he breathed easier. A small ray of hope entered his darkness.
Nevertheless, Cain no longer felt comfortable in God’s presence. He headed east, away from all that was familiar, all that he loved. Eventually, he built a city for his children and their children. Through all Cain’s wanderings and struggles, he carried with him the mark of God, a constant reminder that in spite of it all, God would have his back.