Redeemed By Christ The Crucified
And the LORD put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:15-16
I am reading ‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck. The novel is inspired by the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. It is the third time I have read the novel. This time through, I am more familiar with the town of Salinas and its surrounding communities. For me, that knowledge seems to give more depth to the novel.
Quickly, the story of Cain and Abel is a story of jealousy which leads to murder. Cain sets before God and offering of fruit from the ground. Abel sets before God and offering of the first lamb from the flock. God is satisfied with Abel’s offering and not satisfied with Cain’s offering. Cain becomes jealous and murders his brother Abel. God places a mark on Cain. Cain leaves the presence of the Lord and settles in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Steinbeck places characters together whose names begin with the same letters as Cain and Abel: Cyrus Trask and Alice Trask; the stepbrothers Charles and Adams Trask; the married couple, Adam and Cathy, and the twins Caleb and Aron.
Steinbeck also uses the idea of being marked. The characters Charles and Cathy have visible marks while Caleb is referred to as having a mark of evil.
In the Genesis account of Cain and Abel, the ‘mark’ of Cain seems to have a twofold purpose. One is a mark of judgement, identifying Cain as the murderer of Abel.
The second purpose is rather curious. It is a mark of protection. God is protecting Cain.
Why? Commentators go all over the place. I don’t really have a good answer.
However, I do not about baptism.
Whenever I baptize a child or an adult, I speak these words: “Receive the sign of the holy cross both upon your forehead and upon your heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.”
The baptized believer is also marked. This person is marked as a child of God.
In some ways we are like Cain. We have done sinful things. But through baptism we have been marked by God as forgiven and welcomed into the family of God.
Peace Lutheran Church
Mill Valley, California