The Marked Man

Hyderabad slum

Hyderabad slum morning scene – 30 March 2012 – Found at Wikipedia

And Hashem placed a mark upon Cain, so that none that meet him might kill him. –Genesis 4:15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

The marked man worked with the other men and the children, laboring for the paltry sum earned in the slums, but he wasn’t one of them. He wasn’t a European, Indian or Pakistani. His Telugu was poor, but he usually made himself understood. However, none spoke to him more than they had to.

Sai was only five years old and he didn’t comprehend the mark. “Who are you?” The inquisitive child sat next to him during a break, but before the man could answer, his father Arjun picked him up and whisked him away. But in that moment, Arjun looked into the stranger’s eyes, and was gripped by the horrible realization that he who called himself Qābīl, had been cursed by God since the Creation.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw challenge. The idea is to take a Google maps location and/or image and use it as the inspiration for crafting a flash fiction piece no more than 150 words long. My word count is 145.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Golconda Fort, Hyderabad, India. Of course I looked up Hyderabad and especially its languages, religions, and slums.

Although I’m not Jewish, I read the weekly Torah portions every Shabbat (in this case, Saturday morning) in the Jewish tradition. The reasons for this are complicated and beyond the scope of this wee commentary, but today, we begin a brand new annual Torah cycle with Beresheet or Genesis 1:1-6:8. This includes the infamous tale of Cain and Abel. After Cain killed his brother out of jealousy, Hashem (God – in Hebrew, “The Name”) banished him, and because of that, Cain feared for his life. So Hashem did this:

Cain said to Hashem, “Is my iniquity too great to be borne? Behold, You have banished me this day from the face of the earth — can I be hidden from Your presence? I must become a vagrant and a wanderer on earth; whoever meets me will kill me!” Hashem said to him, “Therefore whoever slays Cain, before seven generations have passed, he will be punished.” And Hashem placed a mark upon Cain, so that none that meet him might kill him. –Genesis 4:13-15 (Stone Edition Chumash)

Interestingly enough, Cain’s death was never recorded, although there are theories about how he was killed. But what if he didn’t die? How does a marked man live for thousands upon thousands of years, wandering the face of the earth?

I know I’ve taken great liberties with the Bible, but sometimes one way to study is to imagine what is written between the lines of the Bible. Christian and Jewish commentators have been doing that for thousands of years, although I can’t say I have the wisdom many of them possessed.

Oh, I used Cain’s name from the transliterated Arabic. The transliteration from Hebrew is Qayin.

To read other tales based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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17 thoughts on “The Marked Man

  1. Well, I don’t know if it’s any comfort, but it’s a fair bet that Cain didn’t survive the Great Flood any more than any of his descendants did. As you’ll recall, the only human survivors, Noa’h, his wife, his three sons, and their wives, were all descended from Seth. Consequently, your story that pictures his suffering extended for six thousand years makes a good spooky yarn but ignores HaShem’s decree about the destruction of all flesh apart from the gracious exception of those critters on the ark (and the fishies in the deep blue sea).

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    • Darn. Torpedoed by one little detail. 😉 Actually, the mark only protected him for seven generation, so it’s likely that he died after that, or certainly in the great flood, but I wonder why the Bible never recorded his death as it did the other children of Adam and Eve?

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  2. Excellent story. I always wondered what the mark of Cain was. There were definitely Canites as late as the 19th century, a secret society who specialized in dealing precious stones. Perhaps they exist still.

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    • To the best of my knowledge, the Bible never describes what the mark is, although I’m sure there are many theories. In the “bad old days,” it was preached that it was skin color, and that Africans/African-Americans were Cain’s cursed descendants, which is just one of the many ways the Bible has been misused over the long centuries.

      However, if we accept the Biblical narrative, Cain and all of his descendants would have been killed in the great flood, and mankind is universally descended from the children of Noah. Of course, one alternate interpretation of the flood was that it was relatively local (though still huge) and only encompassed “the world” as it was known by the Biblical authors, so perhaps Cain managed to wander far enough away by then.

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      • That hypothesis about a local flood would still be ignoring HaShem’s destructive decree — along with archeological evidence that even the highest mountains were once covered by water — and it’s rather obvious that it should be unnecessary to list the name of any specific individual who died in that flood, including possibly someone infamous like Cain. I suspect his name was not mentioned much among the families of Seth. Even the ages of folks are not mentioned in the line of Cain shown in chapter 4, unlike those recorded in chapter 5 for the generations of Seth. This is another indicator that they could be discounted because none survived for the information to be meaningful. It may be presumed, therefore, that they all did, in fact, die — either before or during the flood. Counting the years in the line of Seth gives us information about when the flood occurred, which was the same year in which Metushela’h died at 969 years of age. His was the longest recorded lifespan. We’re not told if he died before the flood-rains started or if he actually was himself a casualty of the flooding. We’re only told about his age and the fact that he died. The rest requires an inference from the calculation showing its correspondence with the year of the flood. We just don’t know whether he could possibly have lived a bit longer. His son Lamech, on the other hand, died five years earlier. Other folks we don’t get any information about include Lamech’s other sons and daughters, Noa’h’s younger siblings who certainly would have died in the flood.

        I don’t know where you obtained the notion that the protection offered by Cain’s mark was to be limited to seven generations. Actually, the English translation that his murder would be avenged “sevenfold” does not reflect the Hebrew “shiv’atayim”, which is “twice seven”. This could be interpreted as “doubly full or complete” — or possibly as “two weeks”, though that doesn’t seem to fit the purposes of a sign yielding protection from harm. And we’re not actually told what sort of visible sign was to convey that warning to anyone who might encounter Cain and wish to harm him. “Hey, Cain, what’s that tattoo?” “It’s just a warning from G-d not to kill me.” “Whoa, heavy, dude! Baaad juju, I get it.” [:)]

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  3. Cain killed Able and was marked and banished for his crime.
    Who (pray tell) could Cain have come across after he went away?

    ***so there was, in fact, more people around… hmmmm (The Others) 😉

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    • He didn’t say he was expecting immediate retaliation. Given the reports of subsequent human behavior, even his own descendants might have been tempted to kill him, mistakenly thinking that G-d would approve of their sense of justice against a murderer who managed to outlive his victim by hundreds of years. It’s not unlike the question about where he found a wife, or when. A great deal of time has been compressed into a few verses, here. Note that Adam begot more sons and daughters after Seth, about whom we’re given no information — presumably because they wouldn’t contribute anything to the story line being traced. Cain might not have had to wait too long (relatively speaking) before a suitable female could mature and be obtained as a wife. So also it might not have been a long time before some relative might think to pursue vengeance against him if not for HaShem’s warning mark.

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  4. Interesting idea, to think of what it would be like, living with a mark like that. I have a story about a man in a similar predicament, made accidentally immortal by a poorly worded divine vow, and forced to hide because of his reputation. My guy can try to blend in, although he finds it hard to adopt the new languages and customs. But if everyone knows about Cain’s mark and thus his curse, who would pay him even beggar wages? Who would allow him in their alley? I would think every community would run him out of town immediately. Is there a sense that people are forgiving of his sin?

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  5. I like that story, James. You’ve told it well and fluently.
    Strangely, I once had almost exactly the same experience as that small boy. There was a successful businessman that I knew. One day I happened to meet his eyes fully when we were standing close, and I knew, knew for certain, that he had once committed murder. It was a weird feeling – terrifying, actually – and I’m convinced to this day of the truth of what I saw.

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