What Happened to Cain in the Bible?

Did Lamech Kill Cain?

What happened to Cain in the Bible? In the Book of Genesis, we are told about Cain’s birth, his violent act of fratricide and his subsequent exile. We learn that he married and had descendants, but the Bible is strangely mute about his death.

How did Cain die? If he did not die naturally, who killed Cain? In the Bible, do we have any clues? John Byron, professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary, tackles these questions in his column “Did Cain Get Away with Murder?” which appears in the May/June 2014 issue of BAR.

DID LAMECH KILL CAIN? How did Cain die? This 12th-century column capital from the Cathedral of Saint-Lazre in France depicts Lamech hunting with his son Tubal-Cain. They accidentally shoot and kill Cain, mistaking him for a wild animal. Photo: Cathedral Museum of St. Lazare, Autun, Burgundy, France/The Bridgeman Art Library.

DID LAMECH KILL CAIN? How did Cain die? This 12th-century column capital from the Cathedral of Saint-Lazre in France depicts Lamech hunting with his son Tubal-Cain. They accidentally shoot and kill Cain, mistaking him for a wild animal. Photo: Cathedral Museum of St. Lazare, Autun, Burgundy, France/The Bridgeman Art Library.

Byron explains that ancient interpreters were not afraid to change the story of Cain in the Bible to fit with their sense of justice, ensuring that he was adequately punished for killing his brother Abel. One of the most popular interpretations credits Lamech—Cain’s great, great grandson—with killing Cain.

Lamech admits to having killed a man in Genesis 4:23–24. Ancient interpreters believed that this passage sheds light on who killed Cain in the Bible, and they identified the man Lamech killed in verse 23 with Cain.

How and why did Lamech kill Cain? According to the Lamech legend—which was based on Genesis 4 but which evolved over the centuries—Lamech accidentally killed Cain while he was hunting with his son Tubal-Cain. In the legend, Lamech is a blind but skilled hunter, and Tubal-Cain accompanies him to direct his bow and arrow. Hearing a noise in the bushes, they shoot what they think is a wild animal. Upon investigation, though, they discover that Lamech’s arrow has killed Cain.

In this version of events, how did Cain die? Like an animal. Justice is served.

However, the Lamech legend is just one of the ways ancient interpreters sought to answer the question: How did Cain die? Did Cain die in the flood? Did he die naturally? Did Lamech kill Cain? If Lamech did not, then was there someone else who killed Cain? In the Bible, we will not find a definitive answer.

To find out more about the Lamech legend and other interpretations that seek to explain what happened to Cain in the Bible, read the full column by John Byron, professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary, in the May/June 2014 issue of BAR.
 


 
Click here to read the Bible History Daily feature Who Was the Wife of Cain? online for free.
 

 
BAS Library Members: Read the full column “Did Cain Get Away with Murder?” by John Byron, professor of New Testament at Ashland Theological Seminary in the May/June 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
Learn more about Cain in the BAS Library.

Mary Joan Winn Leith, “Biblical Views: Who Did Cain Marry?” BAR, November/December 2013.

“Gallery: Cain,” Bible Review, Spring 2005.

Bryan Bibb, “What’s a Pleasing Sacrifice?” Bible Review, October 2004.

Elie Wiesel, “Supporting Roles: Cain & Abel,” Bible Review, February 1998.

Joseph P. Klein, “How Job Fulfills God’s Word to Cain,” Bible Review, June 1993.

Ronald S. Hendel, “When God Acts Immorally,” Bible Review, June 1991.

Mayer I. Gruber, “Was Cain Angry or Depressed?” BAR, November/Decemer 1980.

Posted in Bible Interpretation, Hebrew Bible.

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7 Responses

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  1. Victor says

    The Book of Jasher Chapter 2
    26 And Lamech was old and advanced in years, and his eyes were dim that he could not see, and Tubal Cain, his son, was leading him and it was one day that Lamech went into the field and Tubal Cain his son was with him, and whilst they were walking in the field, Cain the son of Adam advanced towards them; for Lamech was very old and could not see much, and Tubal Cain his son was very young.

    27 And Tubal Cain told his father to draw his bow, and with the arrows he smote Cain, who was yet far off, and he slew him, for he appeared to them to be an animal.

    28 And the arrows entered Cain’s body although he was distant from them, and he fell to the ground and died.

    29 And the Lord requited Cain’s evil according to his wickedness, which he had done to his brother Abel, according to the word of the Lord which he had spoken.

    30 And it came to pass when Cain had died, that Lamech and Tubal went to see the animal which they had slain, and they saw, and behold Cain their grandfather was fallen dead upon the earth.

  2. pst. says

    No doubt married one of his sisters but another account noted that he was killed when his house built of stone fell on him! Thus he killed his brother Abe with stone and received righteous judgement of being killed by stone. . …a divine accident

  3. dongszkie says

    it’s a waste of time to make assertions on things we do not have proof, and above all has no bearing with our salvations. .that habit could only loose a lot of speculations that could mislead one from God’s truth.

  4. Eric says

    OK, nice story, but what about the mark of Cain, that God had put upon him that NO ONE shall kill him?
    Is God a liar?

  5. Efrain says

    The book of Jasher is not holy scripture. We would have to assume Cain died an old man.

  6. allan says

    The Lord placed a mark on Cain so he wouldn’t be killed…an example of forgiveness. ..He may have lived a productive and fulfilling life and then died of old age

  7. Arthur says

    Cain committed murder, but the lesson of Cain is that no one is beyond redemption. The Deity gave him a way to gain forgiveness and it appears he followed that way to obtain forgiveness. He named his son Enoch (Hanoch in Hebrew) which means “dedicated.” His grandchildren bore the names of Mehujael, which means “Struck by God,” and Methusael, which means “(He) Who is of God.”

    Therefore, it seems clear that Cain had repented of his crime and dedicated his children and grandchildren to the Deity. Therefore, Cain obtained salvation from God.


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