Question: After God banishes Cain for killing his brother Abel in Genesis 4, Cain complains that others on the earth will kill him for his crime when they find him (Gen. 4:13-14). Who are the others on the earth at that time that Cain is afraid of? Where did these other people come from?
Adam and Eve, the ancestors of the human race, and their children, Cain and Abel, were real, historical people. In addition to Cain and Abel, Adam and Eve had many other children (Gen 5:4). And in the 930 years of Adam’s life (Gen. 5:5), these children grew up, intermarried, and had children of their own, resulting in a population of at least one hundred and twenty thousand people by the time of Adam’s death. We know from Scripture that these descendants of Adam and Eve spread out and established settlements all over the ancient Near East.
Reading Genesis 4 -5 can be deceptive when it comes to following the passage of time. But a careful reading can be very revealing. For instance, chapter 4:1-2 takes us from the conception and birth of Cain and Abel right into their adulthood. By the end of verse two they are both living independent of their parents and working at their respective occupations. Abel is murdered in verse eight; and by verse sixteen Cain is in exile in “the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Then, in the very next verse, Cain has found a wife, who gets pregnant and has his child, Enoch—all while Cain is building a city, which he names after his son.
The point is, the account of Cain and Abel moves quickly from one key event to another. This is to show that within the first thousand years of human history God’s command to Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28) was already well under way. Thousands of people—the descendants of Adam and Eve—populated the earth, farmed the land, tended livestock, constructed cities, and brought with them the plague of sin and death.
So it is clear that Cain and Abel had many brothers and sisters, most of whom had hundreds of years of separation between them. In fact, in the “written account of Adam’s line” (Gen. 5:1) Cain and Abel are not even mentioned, nor are any of their siblings except Seth. Why? Because Seth represents the ancestral line of Noah (Gen. 5:28-29), who played a principal role in God’s plan of salvation. All the descendants of all the other siblings of Cain and Abel were lost in the Flood, except those who married into Noah’s family and were aboard the ark.
So who was Cain afraid of when he went into exile? His own brothers and sisters and their extended families. The same is true for all of us, for we are all related to one another, only separated by time, distance and multiple layers of intermarriage. We are one family—the human family—and each person’s sin impacts the rest of the family. That’s why salvation from sin and death had to come through a human being, but one who was without sin.
1 Cor. 15:21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
The death and resurrection of Jesus has reversed the curse of Adam and Cain!