What Was the Mark of Cain?

In the book of Genesis, after punishing him for murdering Abel, God places an unspecified mark on Cain to protect him from harm. Eva Mroczek notes some of the varying interpretations of this passage:

The Bible connects the mark with divine protection, but some interpreters link it with the curse that God placed upon Cain, imagining it as a badge of shame. One suggestion in a Jewish midrash, for example, is that Cain was punished with leprosy. . . .

The mark of Cain has also been interpreted in anti-Semitic ways. Some Christian interpreters saw Cain as the prototype of the Jewish people (although, according to the biblical genealogy in Genesis 5, Jews are not Cain’s descendants—nor, for that matter, is anyone else, as it was Noah’s family, descended from Seth, who survived the flood). Saint Augustine (354–430) connected the “mark of Cain” to the observance of Jewish law: the Jews “never lost the sign of their law, by which they are distinguished from all other nations and peoples,” whereas another Christian theologian, Isidore of Seville (560–636), linked it more precisely with circumcision. Extrapolating from these motifs, other Christian readers imagined Cain according to offensive stereotypes of Jews—with a hooked nose or horns, distinct in appearance and condemned to endless wandering. . . .

But other interpreters did read the mark as something protective. The same midrash that mentions leprosy also suggests a range of other possibilities: for instance, it relates that Cain grew a horn, which is both a mark of identity and a defensive weapon. This same text also speculates that God gave Cain a dog as the “mark.” Though dogs tend to be portrayed negatively in classical Jewish sources, the dog might be a sign both of stigma and of protection from attackers.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Anti-Semitism, Bible, Cain and Abel, Genesis, Midrash, Religion & Holidays

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict