“I will be a fugitive wandering the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Adonai answered him, “Therefore, whoever kills Kayin will receive vengeance sevenfold,” and Adonai put a mark on Cain, so that whoever found him would not slay him.
The Scriptures explain that “the Lord set a mark upon Cain, so that WHOEVER found him would not slay him.”
Let’s take a look at the Hebrew word for “whoever”.
In Hebrew, the word is KOL and this word actually has the double meaning of “whoever” and “whatever”.
In other words, it could be referring to other human beings or it could be referring to animals.
One theory is that since the human population was very small at this time, rather than other human beings, Cain was in danger from wild animals. However, this is unlikely. When Adam and Eve came into being, they were created as fully mature adults capable of procreating from day one and most likely did.
A lot of people jump to the conclusion that Cain and Abel were Adam and Eve’s first children.
The Scriptures do not say this and obviously not true since Cain ventured into another town that already had a substantial population where he found a wife and started his own family.
Although we will go quite some time before there is mention of another female besides Eve, this is simply because of the patriarchal nature of the Bible. It is male-oriented. All genealogy and family ties were according to their relationship to the father, the listing of generations only rarely includes a female name.
Another idea is that Cain himself was a mark serving as a warning to others of the dire consequences that murder carried.
However, I think the Professor of Hebrew at Berkeley University, Robert Alter’s assessment is the correct one, which is that it was a mark of protection and not a stigma.
Cain in fear says “whoever finds me will kill me” and the Scripture reports that the Lord in His compassion responded by putting a sign on Cain, “so that no one who found him would kill him.”
So clearly it was a mark of protection.