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Mark of Cain
What is it?   

"And 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." (Gen. 4:15)

Mark Not a Curse

It is difficult to find a definitive answer to what the "Mark of Cain" actually was. Also, the mark of Cain has been confused with the "curse" of Cain so that many believers assume the mark itself was the curse. It was not. Neither is the mark or curse of Cain to be confused with the curse of Ham doctrine. This is a Mormon myth that Cain's descendants survived the flood through the wife of Ham and were black skinned.

The Curse of Cain

The curse of Cain was to become a wanderer. Notice that Cain's offering to God was to offer crops which he had planted. Some believe that this showed that only blood was a suitable sacrifice to God. However, the Old Testament clearly shows that God accepted and commanded offerings of crops,too.

Cain's curse was that he would no longer be able to grow crops because the blood of his brother was buried in the ground. As a result Cain and his offspring would be in constant rebellion and estrangement to God, to God's people and to God's land.

Even in the present day the decendants of Cain (Cannanites) who live in the land of Cannan are not farmers or growers. They are warriors who do not sacrifice to the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Cain became the model of the classic nomad, the wanderer who moved from place to place. This was his curse.

The Mark of Cain - a Protective Sign

The "Mark" of Cain was a protective sign upon Cain so that men would not kill him. "The Mark" showed the mercy of God.

The mark served to protect both Cain and those who might kill him. If someone hurt Cain they would be cursed seven times more than Cain. It is ironic that those people who claim that "The Mark" is dark skin to justify the persecution and killing of black people had best beware because Scripture clearly states that God's vengence would fall on anyone who hurt Cain.


The word translated as "mark" in Genesis 4:15 is "owth." This word can mean an omen, sign, warning or remembrance. In the Old Testament the same word is used to describe the stars as signs in Genesis 1:14, and the signs or miracles performed by Moses. The text reveals that the "mark" served as a sign - but it does not reveal what the mark actually was.

Midrashic Sources from Ask the Rabbi

According to a website called, "Ask the Rabbi," Some Midrashim (Jewish teachings), state that Cain became white - a leper. This made people avoid him. Some Midrashic sources believe that a horn grew out of Cain's forehead in order to protect him. Others believe that God engraved a letter of His name on Cain's forehead to warn people not to kill him. And others believe God gave him a protective dog!

-Bereishet Rabbah 22:28, Tifferet Tziyon
-Midrash Aggadah 4:15

Having Skin White as Snow - a Curse?

Think about it: white skin in the Middle East would certainly stand out! Do we see other places in the Bible where white skin carried a negative connotation or judgement? Someone going pale or white is a sign of death. For example, Lot's wife turned into a white pillar of salt.

A Jewish source from the House Of YisraEL suggests that when God was furious with Miriam and Aaron because they spoke against Moses for having married the Cushite woman, He "put a mark on Miriam and that mark was the plague of leprosy, in which her whole body became white as snow." "Hebrew Yisraelites, considered white skin as a sin."

Consider 2 Kings 5:27 which says,

"Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever. So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow" (ESV).
This interpretation should help put to rest the prejudicial view that the mark of Cain had anything to do with black skin! Most emphatically it did not!

Furthermore, early Coptic, Ethiopian, Orthodox, Thomasite and the Catholic church did not link Cain's mark to black skin. Today, this link only occurs in uneducated white-supremacy groups such as the Aryan World Church and the New Christian Crusade Church.

A case can be made that white skin was the mark as easily as black skin. However both interpretations would not address the real issue. The real issue of Cain was his sin and its meaning for us.

The "Way" of Cain - the Sin of Anger

Cain's sin was more than just the murder of his brother. The Bible tells us that uncontrolled anger and the constant speaking of hurtful and hateful things was one of the principle sins of Cain.

In the New Testament Jude states:
"But these speak evil of whatever they do not know and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them for they have gone in the way of Cain…" (Jude 10, 11a)

Notice that the "Way of Cain" involves those who talk about things they know nothing about. They just say things that are hurtful without taking the time to think. They speak in anger, "naturally" or instinctively just like ignorant yapping beasts, not thoughtful men.

In the same way many of us take more time talking about the Bible than studying the Bible. When we speak or act out from our emotions about things we do not know we can easily "corrupt" ourselves. We too can follow the "Way of Cain"





Curse and mark of Cain. http://www.answers.com.

Goldenberg, David M. 2003. The curse of Ham: race and slavery in early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the ancient to the modern world. Princeton Univ. Press.

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