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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 16–18
Verses 16–18

We have here a further account of Cain, and what became of him after he was rejected of God.

I. He tamely submitted to that part of his sentence by which he was hidden from God’s face; for (Gen. 4:16) he went out from the presence of the Lord, that is, he willingly renounced God and religion, and was content to forego its privileges, so that he might not be under its precepts. He forsook Adam’s family and altar, and cast off all pretensions to the fear of God, and never came among good people, nor attended on God’s ordinances, any more. Note, Hypocritical professors, that have dissembled and trifled with God Almighty, are justly left to themselves, to do something that is grossly scandalous, and so to throw off that form of godliness to which they have been a reproach, and under colour of which they have denied the power of it. Cain went out now from the presence of the Lord, and we never find that he came into it again, to his comfort. Hell is destruction from the presence of the Lord, 2 Thess. 1:9. It is a perpetual banishment from the fountain of all good. This is the choice of sinners; and so shall their doom be, to their eternal confusion.

II. He endeavoured to confront that part of the sentence by which he was made a fugitive and a vagabond; for,

1. He chose his land. He went and dwelt on the east of Eden, somewhere distant from the place where Adam and his religious family resided, distinguishing himself and his accursed generation from the holy seed, his camp from the camp of the saints and the beloved city, Rev. 20:9. On the east of Eden, the cherubim were, with the flaming sword, Gen. 3:24. There he chose his lot, as if to defy the terrors of the Lord. But his attempt to settle was in vain; for the land he dwelt in was to him the land of Nod (that is, of shaking or trembling), because of the continual restlessness and uneasiness of his own spirit. Note, Those that depart from God cannot find rest any where else. After Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, he never rested. Those that shut themselves out of heaven abandon themselves to a perpetual trembling. “Return therefore to thy rest, O my soul, to thy rest in God; else thou art for ever restless.”

2. He built a city for a habitation, Gen. 4:17. He was building a city, so some read it, ever building it, but, a curse being upon him and the work of his hands, he could not finish it. Or, as we read it, he built a city, in token of a fixed separation from the church of God, to which he had no thoughts of ever returning. This city was to be the head-quarters of the apostasy. Observe here, (1.) Cain’s defiance of the divine sentence. God said he should be a fugitive and a vagabond. Had he repented and humbled himself, this curse might have been turned into a blessing, as that of the tribe of Levi was, that they should be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel; but his impenitent unhumbled heart walking contrary to God, and resolving to fix in spite of heaven, that which might have been a blessing was turned into a curse. (2.) See what was Cain’s choice, after he had forsaken God; he pitched upon a settlement in this world, as his rest for ever. Those who looked for the heavenly city chose, while on earth, to dwell in tabernacles; but Cain, as one that minded not that city, built himself one on earth. Those that are cursed of God are apt to seek their settlement and satisfaction here below, Ps. 17:14. (3.) See what method Cain took to defend himself against the terrors with which he was perpetually haunted. He undertook this building, to divert his thoughts from the consideration of his own misery, and to drown the clamours of a guilty conscience with the noise of axes and hammers. Thus many baffle their convictions by thrusting themselves into a hurry of worldly business. (4.) See how wicked people often get the start of God’s people, and out-go them in outward prosperity. Cain and his cursed race dwell in a city, while Adam and his blessed family dwell in tents. We cannot judge of love or hatred by all that is before us, Eccl. 9:1, 2.

3. His family also was built up. Here is an account of his posterity, at least the heirs of his family, for seven generations. His son was Enoch, of the same name, but not of the same character, with that holy man that walked with God, Gen. 5:22. Good men and bad may bear the same names: but God can distinguish between Judas Iscariot and Judas not Iscariot, John 14:22. The names of more of his posterity are mentioned, and but just mentioned; not as those of the holy seed (Gen. 5:1-32), where we have three verses concerning each, whereas here we have three or four in one verse. They are numbered in haste, as not valued or delighted in, in comparison with God’s chosen.