After his banishment from his family, Cain sets out east to wander all his life. Genesis 4:16 says, “Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.” Clement of Alexandria says that whereas the word Eden means “the good life,” the word Nod means “disturbance.” He explains that being away from, or cast out of, the presence of God is to move from the peace of Eden to the restlessness of Nod. He says, “The good life from which the transgressor was expelled consisted in faith, knowledge, peace. Those wise in their own eyes … are happy to transfer to the disturbance of a tossing sea. They drop from the knowledge of the One who knows no birth to the realm of birth and death. Their opinions are constantly changing.”[1]. Clement, along with some others, views the “land of Nod” as a state of being, not necessarily a physical place. Yet the modifier “East of Eden” lends credence to it being a legitimate place. I expect that it is both. Ryken observes, “He (Cain) becomes a metaphor for all those whose misdeeds have brought them under the curse of heaven.”[2]

Cain is mentioned several times in the New Testament. John tells us in 1 John 3:11-15 that those who let hate rather than love settle in their thoughts are like Cain, who “belonged to the evil one.” A Pseudepigraphic writing called “The Apocalypse of Abraham” says that Satan led Cain to “break the law” and kill his brother.  When Jude writes about false teachers, he says in Verse 11 that they live by instinct “like unreasoning animals.” Jude says that living like this, driven by the passions and lusts of the flesh, is “to take the way of Cain.” Ryken continues his discussion on Cain by saying, “A cluster of negative images ripple out from the Cain narrative. His name remains indelibly associated with images of anger, murder, and a waywardness unchecked by wisdom, a cursed wanderer whose sage informs all who might be tempted to leave the fertile fields of faith to scavenge for existence in the barren land east of Eden.”

James Boice says, “The way of Cain is hard.” He then quotes Donald Gray Barnhouse, who said, “He (Cain) started with human reason as opposed to divine revelation; he continued in human willfulness instead of divine will; he opposed human pride to divine humility; he sank to human hatred instead of rising to divine love; he presented human excuses instead of seeking divine grace; he went into wandering instead of seeking to return; he ended in human loneliness instead of in divine fellowship.” Then Boice concludes, “To be alone without God is the worst thing that earth can hold, to go thus into eternity is, indeed, the second death.” Cain, we are told, ‘went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.’ Do not let it be true of you that you ‘went out from the Lord’s presence.’ Flee to him, and find in him the One you have needed all along.”[3]

[1] Louth, Andrew, and Marco Conti, eds. 2001. Genesis 1–11. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Ryken, Leland, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman, Colin Duriez, Douglas Penney, and Daniel G. Reid. 2000. In Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed., 131. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] Boice, James Montgomery. 1998. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.