A Question I Was Asked:

What Was "The Mark of Cain"?

What was "The Mark of Cain"? Can you finally settle this age old question?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Unfortunately I can't. Nobody can say with any degree of certainty exactly what this mark was, or how it appeared. But we may briefly look at the opinions of the great Bible commentators.

John Gill speculated,

'....and the Lord set a mark upon Cain; about which there is a variety of sentiments : some say it was a horn in his forehead: others, a leprosy in his face; others, a wild ghastly look; others, a shaking and trembling in all his limbs; and others, that there was an earthquake wherever he stepped: and others will have it, that the dog which guarded Abel's flock was given him to accompany him in his travels, by which sign it might be known that he was not to be attacked, or to direct him from taking any dangerous road: some say it was a letter imprinted on his forehead, either taken out of the great and glorious name of God, as the Targum of Jonathan, or out of his own name, as Jarchi; others the mark or sign of the covenant of circumcision: but as the word is often used for a sign or miracle, perhaps the better rendering and sense of the words may be, "and the Lord put", or "gave a sign" ; that is, he wrought a miracle before him to assure him, that "whoever found him should not kill him": so that this was not a mark or sign to others, to direct or point out to them that they should not kill him, or to deter them from it; but was a sign or miracle confirming him in this, that no one should kill him.'

But the excellent JFB Commentary states,

'[this was not] any visible mark or brand on his forehead, but some sign or token of assurance that his life would be preserved. This sign is thought by the best writers to have been a wild ferocity of aspect that rendered him an object of universal horror and avoidance.'

The Keil and Delitzsch states,

'The mark which God put upon Cain is not to be regarded as a mark upon his body, as the Rabbins and others supposed, but as a certain sign which protected him from vengeance, though of what kind it is impossible to determine.'

So that's it - we just don't know. Very possibly the 'sign' (however it was manifested) was simply put upon Cain himself and did not need to be passed on to his descendants. It was Cain who needed to be identified - not his descendants. In our day, nobody can say exactly what it was. Indeed, even the ancients did not know what it was.

Robin A. Brace. July 22nd, 2015.