Cain and Abel

Cain slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens

In the biblical Book of Genesis, Cain[a] and Abel[b] are the first two sons of Adam and Eve.[1] Cain, the firstborn, was a farmer, and his brother Abel was a shepherd. The brothers made sacrifices to God, each of his own produce, but God favored Abel's sacrifice instead of Cain's. Cain then murdered Abel, whereupon God punished Cain to a life of wandering. Cain then dwelt in the land of Nod (נוֹד‬, "wandering"), where he built a city and fathered the line of descendants beginning with Enoch.

The narrative never explicitly states Cain's motive for murdering his brother, nor God's reason for rejecting Cain's sacrifice, nor details on the identity of Cain's wife. Some traditional interpretations consider Cain to be the originator of evil, violence, or greed. According to Genesis, Cain was the first human born and Abel was the first to die.

Genesis narration

Cain leadeth Abel to death, by James Tissot

The story of Cain's murder of Abel and its consequences is told in Genesis 4:1-18 (Translation and notes from Robert Alter, "The Five Books of Moses"):[2]

1And the human knew Eve his woman and she conceived and bore Cain, and she said, "I have got me a man with the Lord." 2And she bore as well his brother Abel, and Abel became a herder of sheep while Cain was a tiller of the soil. 3And it happened in the course of time that Cain brought from the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord. 4And Abel too had brought from the choice firstlings of his flock, and the Lord regarded Abel and his offering 5but did not regard Cain and his offering. And Cain was very incensed, and his face fell. 6And the Lord said to Cain,

"Why are you incensed,
and why is your face fallen?
7For whether you offer well,
or whether you do not,
at the tent flap sin crouches
and for you is its longing,
but you will rule over it."

8And Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field," and when they were in the field Cain rose against Abel his brother and killed him. 9And the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother? And he said, "I do not know: am I my brother's keeper?" 10And He said, "What have you done? Listen! your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil. 11And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. 12If you till the soil, it will no longer give you strength. A restless wanderer shall you be on the earth." 13 And Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear. 14Now that You have driven me this day from the soil I must hide from Your presence, I shall be a restless wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me." 15And the Lord said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain shall suffer sevenfold vengeance." And the Lord set a mark upon Cain so that whoever found him would not slay him.


16And Cain went out from the Lord's presence and dwelled in the land of Nod east of Eden. 17And Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch. Then he became the builder of a city and he called the name of the city like his son's name, Enoch.

Translation notes

  • 4:1 – The Hebrew verb "knew" implies intimate or sexual knowledge, along with possession. The name "Cain", which means "smith", resembles the verb translated as "gotten" but also possibly meaning "to make".[2]
  • 4:2 – Abel's name could be associated with "vapor" or "puff of air".[2]
  • 4:8 – "Let us go out to the field" does not appear in the Masoretic Text, but is found in other versions including the Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch.[2]
  • 4:10–12 – Cain is cursed min-ha-adamah, from the earth, being the same root as "man" and Adam.
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kain en Abel
العربية: قابيل وهابيل
brezhoneg: Kain hag Abel
한국어: 카인과 아벨
հայերեն: Կայեն և Աբել
Bahasa Indonesia: Kain dan Habel
íslenska: Kain og Abel
italiano: Caino e Abele
עברית: קין והבל
lietuvių: Kainas ir Abelis
lumbaart: Caino e Abele
Nederlands: Kaïn en Abel
Nedersaksies: Kaïn en Abel
polski: Kain i Abel
português: Caim e Abel
српски / srpski: Каин и Авељ
Tagalog: Cain at Abel
తెలుగు: కయీను
Türkçe: Habil ve Kabil
Tiếng Việt: Cain và Abel