What was the mark of Cain in Genesis 4:15?                                              By Jack Kettler


In this study, what was God’s mark on Cain (Genesis 4:15)?


“And the LORD said unto him, therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Genesis 4:15)


Theories about what the mark was:


A horn tattoo on his forehead, dark skin, leprosy on his face, a wild ghastly look, and others, shaking and trembling in all his limbs. Some believe the mark was inward and not visible, while others believe it was an outward visible mark.


Strong’s Lexicon:


“a mark

א֔וֹת (’ō·wṯ)

Noun - common singular

Strong's Hebrew 226: 1) sign, signal 1a) a distinguishing mark 1b) banner 1c) remembrance 1d) miraculous sign 1e) omen 1f) warning 2) token, ensign, standard, miracle, proof.”


Strong's Concordance:


oth: a sign

Original Word: אוֹת

Part of Speech: Noun Feminine

Transliteration: oth

Phonetic Spelling: (oth)

Definition: a sign.”


The American Standard Version renders the verse:


“And Jehovah said unto him, therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And Jehovah appointed a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him.” (Genesis 4:15)


Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers clears up the mystery of this mark:


“(15) The Lord said unto him, Therefore. — Most of the versions have Not so, which requires only a slight and probable change of the Hebrew text.”


“Sevenfold. — Cain’s punishment was severe, because his crime was the result of bad and violent passions, but his life was not taken because the act was not premeditated. Murder was more than he had meant. But as any one killing him would mean murder, therefore the vengeance would be sevenfold: that is, complete, seven being the number of perfection. Others, however, consider that Cain’s life was under a religious safeguard, seven being the sacred number of creation. In this we have the germ of the merciful law which set cities of refuge apart for the involuntary manslayer.”


“The Lord set a mark upon Cain. — This rendering suggests an utterly false idea. Cain was not branded nor marked in any way. What the Hebrew says is, “And Jehovah set,” that is, appointed, “unto Cain a sign, that no one finding him should slay him.” In a similar manner God appointed the rainbow as a sign unto Noah that mankind should never again be destroyed by a flood. Probably the sign here was also some natural phenomenon, the regular recurrence of which would assure Cain of his security, and so pacify his excited feelings.” (1)


In closing:


Was the sign literal or figurative? Those who believe the sign was a mark and literal have never gotten beyond speculation as to what the mark was. There is a place for conjecture, but endless speculations are unfruitful. In any regard, God placed this sign on Cain as a pledge of God's protection, not forgiveness. Moreover, if the Scriptures are silent, the believer would follow the same.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Genesis, Vol.1, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 30.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com