AskDefine | Define Cain

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Cain n : (Old Testament) Cain and Abel were the first children of Adam and Eve born after the Fall of Man; Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and was exiled by God

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From Hebrew קַיִן (qayin) ‘craftsman’.


  • /keɪn/


Proper noun

  1. The eldest son of Adam and Eve as described in Genesis; considered the first murderer. (see Cain and Abel).
  2. A given name


  • 1611 — King James Version of the Bible, Genesis 4:8
    And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.


son of Adam and Eve

See also

Extensive Definition

According to Genesis, Cain and Abel were the first and second sons of Adam and Eve, born after the Fall of Man. Their story is told in , the Qur'an at 5:26-32, and Moses 5:16-41. In all versions, Cain, a farmer, commits the first murder by killing his brother Abel, a shepherd, after God (called YHWH) rejects Cain's sacrifice but accepts Abel's.
The oldest known copy of the biblical narration is from the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QGenb = 4Q242, mid 1st century), inspected using infra-red photography and published by Jim R Davila as part of his doctoral dissertation in 1988. Cain and Abel appear in a number of other texts, and the story is the subject of various interpretations. Abel, the first murder victim, is sometimes seen as the first martyr; while Cain, the first murderer, is sometimes seen as a progenitor of evil. A few scholars suggest the pericope may have been based on a Sumerian story representing the conflict between nomadic shepherds and settled farmers.
Allusions to Cain and Abel as an archetype of fratricide (brother killing) persist in numerous references and retellings, through medieval art and Shakespearean works up to the present day.


Cain and Abel are traditional English renderings of the Hebrew names Qayin () and Havel (). The original text did not provide vowels. Abel's name has the same three consonants as a root thought to have originally meant "breath", but is known from the Bible primarily as a metaphor for what is "elusive", especially the "vanity" of human enterprise. Julius Wellhausen, and many scholars following him, have proposed the name to be independent of the root. Eberhard Schrader had previously put forward the Akkadian (Old Assyrian dialect) ablu ("son") as a more likely etymology. In the Islamic Tradition, Abel is named as Hābīl (هابيل). while Cain is named as Qābīl (قابيل). Although their story is cited in the Quran, neither of them is mentioned by name. Cain is called Qayen in the Ethiopian version of Genesis. The Greek of the New Testament refers to Cain three times, using two syllables ka-in () for the name.
More recent scholarship has produced another theory, a more direct pun. Abel is here thought to derive from a reconstructed word meaning "herdsman", with the modern Arabic cognate ibil, now specifically referring only to "camels". Cain, on the other hand, is thought to be cognate to the mid-1st millennium BC South Arabian word qyn, meaning "metal smith". This theory would make the names merely descriptions of the roles they take in the story—Abel working with livestock, and Cain with agriculture—and would parallel the names Adam ("man") and Eve ("life", Chavah in Hebrew).
The name Abel has been used in many European languages as both a surname and first name. In English, however, even Cain features in 17th Century, Puritan-influenced families, who had a taste for biblical names, sometimes despite the reputation of the original character. Contrary to popular belief, the surname McCain does not mean "Son of Cain" in Gaelic, rather it is a contraction (also McCann) of Mac Cathan. Gaelic cathan means "warrior", from cath "battle".

Murder and motive

For convenience, the story can be considered in two sections — 1. murder and motive and 2. confrontation and consequences.
The Qur'an (early 7th century) and Pearl of Great Price (1851) are both published considerably later than Genesis; and in both cases, the authors claimed to be prophetic interpreters of the Genesis account, not originators.

Bible (Jewish)

Qur'an (Muslim)

Pearl of Great Price (Mormon)


The inherent selfishness of Cain, his jealousy, rivalry, and aggression are central to the story. The disconnection between Cain and his higher nature is so great that he fails to understand and master his lower self even in the face of God's wisdom and hospitality. The account in The Qur'an [5.27-32], similar to one given in The Torah, also strongly implies that the motivation of the fratricide of Cain was due to the rejection of his offering to God, but this is an implication and not explicitly clear.
Though Genesis depicts Cain's motive in killing Abel as simply being one of jealousy concerning God's favoritism of Abel, this is not the view of many extra-biblical works. The Midrash, and the obscure First Adam and Eve all record that the real motive involved the desire of women. According to Midrashic tradition, Cain and Abel each had twin sisters, whom they were to marry. The Midrash records that Abel's promised wife was the more beautiful, and hence Cain desired to rid himself of Abel, whose presence was inconvenient. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ, there is a different view, found in part of their scripture, the Book of Moses (part of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), which describes that Cain's motive is still jealousy, but it is Abel's livestock of which he is jealous. This translation also holds that it was Satan that "commanded" Cain to make the offering, thus making Cain's sacrifice vain and faithless.

Abel's death

In Christianity, comparisons are sometimes made between the death of Abel and that of Jesus, the former thus seen as being the first martyr. In , Jesus speaks of Abel as righteous. However, the Epistle to the Hebrews states that The blood of sprinkling ... [speaks] better things than that of Abel (), i.e., the blood of Jesus is interpreted as demanding mercy but that of Abel as demanding vengeance (hence the curse and mark).
Abel is invoked in the litany for the dying in Roman Catholic Church, and his sacrifice is mentioned in the Canon of the Mass with those of Abraham and Melchisedek. The Coptic Church commemorates him with a feast day on December 28.


According to the Qur'an, it was Cain who buried Abel, and he was prompted to do so by a single raven scratching the ground, on God's command. The Qur'an states that upon seeing the raven, Cain regretted his action [al-Ma'idah:27-31], and that rather than being cursed by God, since he hadn't done so before, God chose to create a law against murder:


In classical times, as well as more recently, Abel was regarded as the first innocent victim of the power of evil, and hence the first martyr. In the esoteric Book of Enoch (at 22:7), the soul of Abel is described as having been appointed as the chief of martyrs, crying for vengeance, for the destruction of the seed of Cain. This view is later repeated in the Testament of Abraham (at A:13 / B:11), where Abel has been raised to the position as the judge of the souls:
According to the Coptic Book of Adam and Eve (at 2:1-15), and the Syriac Cave of Treasures, Abel's body, after many days of mourning, was placed in the Cave of Treasures, before which Adam and Eve, and descendants, offered their prayers. In addition, the Sethite line of the Generations of Adam swear by Abel's blood to segregate themselves from the unrighteous.

Confrontation and consequences



Pearl of Great Price


The story continues with God approaching Cain asking about Abel's whereabouts. In a response that has become a well-known saying, Cain answers, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Finally, seeing through Cain's deception, as "the voice of [Abel's] blood is screaming to [God] from the ground", God curses Cain to wander the earth. Cain is overwhelmed by this and appeals in fear of being killed by other men, and so God places a mark on Cain so that he would not be killed, stating that "whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be upon him sevenfold". Cain then departs, "to the land wandering". Early translations instead stated that he departed "to the Land of Nod", which is generally considered a mistranslation of the Hebrew word Nod, meaning wandering. Despite being cursed to wander, Cain is later mentioned as fathering a lineage of children with an unnamed wife of unknown origin (Gen. 4:17), and founding a city, which he named Enoch after the name of his son.

Mark of Cain

Much has been written about the curse of Cain, and associated mark. The word translated as mark (`Oth, ) could mean a sign, omen, warning, or remembrance. In the Bible, the same word is used to describe the stars as signs or omens, circumcision as a token of God's covenant with Abraham, and the signs performed by Moses before Pharaoh.
The word Oth in Hebrew also means "a letter" (of the alphabeth). Jewish mysticism, among other ancient lores, assigns spiritual ideas or powers to written letters and verses. The Mark of Cain may be a letter, a verse, a message or a talisman.
Although most scholars believe the writer of this part of the story had a clear reference in mind that readers would understand, there is very little consensus today as to exactly what the mark could have been.
The Bible makes reference on several occasions to Kenites, who, in the Hebrew, are referred to as Qayin, i.e. in a highly cognate manner to Cain (Qayin). The Mark of Cain is thus believed to originally refer to some very identifying mark of the Kenite tribe, such as red hair, or a ritual tattoo of some kind, which was transferred to Cain as the tribe's eponym. The protection the mark is said to afford Cain (harming Cain involving the harm being returned sevenfold) is hence seen as some sort of protection that membership of the tribe offered, in a form such as the entire tribe attacking an individual who harms just one of their number.
Baptist and Catholic groups both consider the idea of God cursing an individual to be out of character, and hence take a different stance. Catholics officially view the curse being brought by the ground itself refusing to yield to Cain, whereas some Baptists view the curse as Cain's own aggression, something already present that God merely pointed out rather than added.
In Judaism, the mark is not a punishment but a sign of God's mercy. When Cain was sentenced to be a wanderer he didn't dispute the punishment but only begged that the terms of his sentence be altered slightly, protesting Whoever meets me will kill me! For reasons that aren't specified, God agrees to this request. He puts the mark on Cain as a sign to others that Cain should not be killed until he has had seven generations of children. Lamech, his descendant, thought that the mark was passed down to him and also that it multiplied. In , he confesses to his wives that he killed two men (possibly one), and that if his grandparent Cain was protected seven times, then he should have it seventy-seven times.


As Cain was ordered to wander the earth in punishment, a tradition arose that this punishment was to be forever, in a similar manner to the (much later) legends of the Flying Dutchman or the Wandering Jew. According to some Islamic sources, such as al-Tabari, Ibn Kathir and al-Tha'labi, he migrated to Yemen.
Though variations on these traditions were strong in medieval times, with several claims of sightings being reported, they have generally gone out of favour. Nevertheless, the Wandering Cain theme has appeared in Mormon folklore (but not scripture) -- a second-hand account relates that an early Mormon, David W. Patten, encountered a very tall, hairy, dark-skinned man in Tennessee who said that he was Cain. The account states that Cain had earnestly sought death but was denied it, and that his mission was to destroy the souls of men. The recollection of Patten's story is quoted in Spencer W. Kimball's The Miracle of Forgiveness.
Despite these later traditional beliefs of perpetual wandering, according to the earlier Book of Jubilees (chapter 4) Cain settled down, marrying his sister, Awan, resulting in his first son, Enoch (considered to be different than the more famous Enoch), approximately 196 years after the creation of Adam. Cain then established the first city, naming it after his son, built a house, and lived there until it collapsed on him, killing him in the same year that Adam died.
A medieval legend used to say that at the end, Cain arrived at the Moon where he eternally settled with a bundle of twigs. This was originated by popular fantasy interpreting the shadows on the Moon face. An example of this belief can be found in Dante Alighieri's Inferno (XX, 126) where the expression "Cain and the twigs" is used as a synonym of "moon".


In medieval Christian art, particularly in 16th century Germany, Cain is depicted as a stereotypical ringleted, bearded Jew, who killed Abel the blonde, European gentile symbolizing Christ.
Another view is taken in Latter-day Saint theology, where Cain is considered to be the quintessential Son of Perdition, the father of secret combinations (i.e. secret societies and organized crime), as well as the first to hold the title Master Mahan meaning master of [the] great secret, that [he] may murder and get gain.
Nessuno tocchi Caino ("Hands Off Cain") is an Italian association against death penalty.


As the first murderer and first murder victim, Cain and Abel have often formed the basis of tragic drama. Lord Byron rewrote and dramatized the story in the poem "Cain", viewing Cain as symbolic of a sanguinary temperament, provoked by Abel's hypocrisy and sanctimony. In Dante's Purgatory Cain is remembered by the souls in Purgatory in Canto XIV (14) on page 153, verse 133 saying "I shall be slain by all who find me!", Cain is facing the punishment that God has visited upon him for the sin of Envy, which is a similar play on the words in where he says, "I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." John Steinbeck's novel East of Eden retells the Cain and Abel story in the setting of the late 19th and early 20th century western migration towards California. Also, his novelette Of Mice and Men draws elements from the story. Baudelaire is more sympathetic to Cain in his poem "Abel et Caïn" in the collection Les Fleurs du mal, where he depicts Cain as representing all the downtrodden people of the world. The poem's last lines exhort, "Race de Caïn, au ciel monte/Et sur la terre jette Dieu!" (In English: "Race of Cain, storm up the sky / And from the heavens cast down God!") Miguel de Unamuno's Abel Sánchez (1917) is a study on envy. Abel receives everything undeservingly, while his friend Joaquín is despised by God and society and envies him. Kane and Abel is a modern adaptation, a 1979 novel by British author Jeffrey Archer. In 1985, it was made into a CBS television miniseries titled Kane & Abel starring Peter Strauss as Rosnovski and Sam Neill as Kane.
Some form of legacy or curse of the name is often seen in literature: the monster Grendel in Beowulf is a descendant of Cain. In the epilogue to Agatha Christie's novel And Then There Were None, the author refers to the Mark of Cain in laying out the clues. There is a Stephen King short story titled Cain Rose Up, in which a college youth goes on a killing spree while ruminating on the story of Cain and Abel. In the DC Comics (Vertigo division) universe Cain and Abel are a pair of fictional characters based on the Biblical Cain and Abel, in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. In which Cain is constantly killing off his brother, despite the fact they are both immortals now.
In Penny Arcade, in the story arch where Gabriel joins Tycho's family for Thanksgiving, he meets Tycho's older brother.
Tycho (to his niece, Anna): "Oh good, your dad's here."
Gabriel: "Is that bad? Aren't you guys brothers or something?"
Tycho (to Gabriel): "You might recall that Cain and Abel were brothers."
Cain was traditionally considered to have red hair; the expression "Cain-coloured beard" is used in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Their names are often used in works of fiction simply as a reference, also. In Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, the character of Estragon tries to guess the names of two other characters. He guesses Abel and Cain. One of Jason Bourne's many names in the The Bourne Identity and its sequels was Cain, an operative name in the Treadstone 71 program.
In Daniel Quinn's book Ishmael, the biblical story is interpreted as a tale with roots in the emergence of agriculture, where Abel is seen as symbolic of the hunter-gatherer societies that was in majority, and Cain as the then-new and emerging farming cultures.
In Hermann Hesse's book Demian (novel), the author uses the story of Cain and Abel to state that Cain actually was rewarded with the mark given by God.
In Kaori Yuki's story Godchild, the name Cain was seen as a curse on the story's protagonist as he had tried to kill a relative.
The protagonist of Iain Banks's novel A Song of Stone is named Abel.


  • Caine is a character fictionalized as the father of all vampires in White Wolf Game Studio's role-playing games set in the World of Darkness. His story is based on the biblical story of Cain, and is recounted in the Book of Nod and The Erciyes Fragments.
  • In the PC role-playing game Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines the player can meet a mysterious figure that is supposedly Cain in modern day LA.
  • The Command and Conquer universe features the "villain" (He can be seen as the opposite in many respects though)Kane; in the ending of the first game, and during a spinoff, Command & Conquer: Renegade, pieces from the Temples of Nod (in Sarajevo and Cairo, respectively), show Cain killing Abel.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, one of the characters, Kain, uses a lance as his primary weapon. He betrayed his best friend Cecil and almost killed him. Also interesting to note is that in the Gameboy Advance version, Kain's ultimate weapon is called Abel's Lance.

Television, film, and music

  • The hip-hop group Kane & Abel is named after them.
  • The Matrix Reloaded features two minor villains by the names of Cain and Abel. Both are supposedly vampires from an older version of the titular Matrix who were saved because of their difficulty to terminate. Abel is shot in the head by Persephone while Cain is sent to find Persephone's husband, and later killed in a fight with Neo.
  • In Trinity Blood, the story revolves around the Vatican and the Vampires. Includes Abel as the main character/protagonist, and his twin brother Cain being his greatest obstacle.
  • In "Veronica Mars two character names were the Kane family and Abel Koontz, in the first season Abel was expected to have killed the daughter of the Kane family, Lilly Kane. Episode 17 of the first season was called "Kanes and Abel's".
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 7 protagonist Caleb referred to Faith as the Abel to Buffy's Cain. This is in reference to Season 3 episode Graduation Day where Buffy almost killed Faith in order to cure Angel of the poison that Faith inflicted on him.
  • In The Simpsons episode, Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass, Ned Flanders makes a home movie with his sons starring as Cain and Abel. They ask him how Cain and Abel were able to make more babies if they were Adam and Eve's only children, and if they made babies with their mother or each other. Ned responds: "Your mouth is hoping for a soaping boy. Now stop asking silly questions and go kill your brother!"


Cain & Abel is a password recovery tool for Microsoft Operating Systems. It allows easy recovery of various kind of passwords by sniffing the network, cracking encrypted passwords using Dictionary, Brute-Force and Cryptanalysis attacks, recording VoIP conversations, decoding scrambled passwords, recovering wireless network keys, revealing password boxes, uncovering cached passwords and analyzing routing protocols. The program does not exploit any software vulnerabilities or bugs that could not be fixed with little effort. It covers some security aspects/weakness present in protocol's standards, authentication methods and caching mechanisms; its main purpose is the simplified recovery of passwords and credentials from various sources, however it also ships some "non standard" utilities for Microsoft Windows users.
Cain & Abel has been developed in the hope that it will be useful for network administrators, teachers, security consultants/professionals, forensic staff, security software vendors, professional penetration tester and everyone else that plans to use it for ethical reasons. The author will not help or support any illegal activity done with this program. Be warned that there is the possibility that you will cause damages and/or loss of data using this software and that in no events shall the author be liable for such damages or loss of data. Please carefully read the License Agreement included in the program before using it.
The latest version is faster and contains a lot of new features like APR (Arp Poison Routing) which enables sniffing on switched LANs and Man-in-the-Middle attacks. The sniffer in this version can also analyze encrypted protocols such as SSH-1 and HTTPS, and contains filters to capture credentials from a wide range of authentication mechanisms. The new version also ships routing protocols authentication monitors and routes extractors, dictionary and brute-force crackers for all common hashing algorithms and for several specific authentications, password/hash calculators, cryptanalysis attacks, password decoders and some not so common utilities related to network and system security.


Cain in Bulgarian: Каин
Cain in Catalan: Caïm
Cain in Czech: Kain
Cain in Danish: Kain og Abel
Cain in German: Kain
Cain in Estonian: Kain
Cain in Modern Greek (1453-): Κάιν
Cain in Spanish: Caín
Cain in Esperanto: Kaino
Cain in Persian: قابیل
Cain in French: Caïn
Cain in Korean: 카인
Cain in Croatian: Kajin
Cain in Indonesian: Kain dan Habel
Cain in Italian: Caino
Cain in Hebrew: קין
Cain in Latin: Cain
Cain in Dutch: Kaïn en Abel
Cain in Japanese: カイン
Cain in Norwegian: Kain
Cain in Polish: Kain i Abel
Cain in Portuguese: Caim
Cain in Romanian: Cain
Cain in Russian: Каин
Cain in Slovak: Kain
Cain in Serbian: Каин и Авељ
Cain in Finnish: Kain
Cain in Swedish: Kain
Cain in Ukrainian: Каїн
Cain in Walloon: Cayin
Cain in Yiddish: קין
Cain in Chinese: 該隱
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