It is evident that some form of God’s Law existed from the very beginning, in spite of numerous attempts to either minimize it, trivialize it or prove otherwise. Last time, we looked at Cain and how God dealt directly with him. God told Cain that if he didn’t do well, then “sin lieth at the door” (Ge 4:7).
Most of us in the Church of God (COG) recognize that “sin is the transgression of the law” (1Jn 3:4). There can be no sin if there is no law (Ro 4:15).
We aren’t given a lot of specifics about the Law at that time. The Bible progressively reveals certain things, and it is evident that Genesis is not an attempt to outline the Law, but rather to first establish how things got to be the way they were up to a point in time.
Yet, there is an interesting remark that Cain makes.
13And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. (Genesis 4:13-14, King James Version)
Who will Cain hide from? Who would kill him?
Some have engaged in wild speculation about such things, so let’s be careful here. The most obvious answer is that Cain worried that someone would kill him in order for him to pay for his crime. It does not appear he had any other brothers at that time, but it wouldn’t have been too far-fetched that he would worry about someone coming on the scene later to hunt him down. It isn’t even that far-fetched that he feared that Adam, as the human head of government as it existed at that time, might take his life in punishment.
We don’t know for sure, but he must have had a reason for his fear.
However, it is interesting that we don’t really even see any guidelines a civil government until after the Flood. We do see that cities were built, music was made, metalwork took place and, sadly, more murders took place. To believe they could have built civilizations without any formality at all is a little naive, in my opinion.
However, after the Flood, we see that God gives instructions on how to handle a specific violation of His Law.
4But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
5And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Here we specifically see that man is to punish man. This is nothing less than giving power of a civil government to human beings. Not only do civil governments have a right to enforce their laws, especially for murder, but they have an obligation to do so.
I want to point out here that I believe God confronted Cain Himself not for the usual reason given. I have heard it said that there weren’t enough humans on the planet, and therefore God spared Cain. However, we know there were at least 4 on the planet at that time (Cain must’ve had a sister in order to take a wife). Yet, Adam had other sons and daughters, including Seth (Ge 5:3-4). There were only 8 after the Flood, so it seems strange that the number of humans on the earth would have been a factor.
No, I believe Cain had a legitimate right to fear retribution for committing murder. I believe God intervened because His Law states there must be 2 witnesses. In spite of the fact that God would have been one witness, there still must be another. Would not God bind Himself with His own Law?
Either way, this is the first definite case in which God instructs human beings to deal directly with murderers.
The main point is that God sanctioned capital punishment. When is it proper to take another’s life? When God says it is proper.
Since war is in general the act of a wholesale taking of life of a group of people, this principle extends to warfare as well. When is it proper to go to war? When God says it is proper.
So, we will next examine how and why God instructed Israel to go to war. In particular, since He seemingly did not originally intend for them to fight the Canaanite nations, then why did He later instruct them to do so?