Was Satan Involved in The Murder of Abel?

Salerno Ivory Plaque depicting Cain and Abel. Credit.

Was Satan involved in the Cain and Abel story? I think so. Let me show you what I find in the various texts and you can judge for yourself. And you can read my poem about it here if you like.

I suspect that God’s words to Cain here might have been a reference to Satan (Ha Nacash in the Hebrew—the shining one), and not merely to the act of sinning.

4:6 And the Lord said to Cain,
“Why are you distress,
And why is your face fallen?
7 Surely, if you do right,
There is uplift.
But if you do not do right,
Sin couches at the door;
Its urge is toward you,
Yet you can be its master.”

Genesis 4:Jewish Publication Society, 1985.

Here is John making an association between Cain and “the evil one”:

Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.

1 John 3:12 NIV

And here, Jude mentions “the way of Cain” in a context that has lots of language in common with other writings about the rebel angels. Apparently, Jude is associating the sin of these humans with the sin of the rebel angels. And look how he titles it using Cain’s name: “…the way of Cain…”.

10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them. 11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.

Jude 10-11. NIV

Unless I missed something, this is about as far as the Bible texts go in linking Cain with the rebel elohim. But there’s considerably more evidence in other early writings from the culture that it was commonly believed that Satan was behind Cain’s wickedness. Consider these various excerpts. The first one explicitly connects the adversary with the murder of Abel:

24:4 And I looked and saw there what had been in the world before. 24:5 And I saw, as it were, Adam, and Eve with him, and with them the Evil Adversary and Cain, who acted lawlessly because of the Adversary, and the murdered Abel, the perdition brought and given to him through the Lawless One.

Apocalypse of Abraham

And on that note, I suspect that Jesus also connects Satan with that murder in what he says here:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44. NIV

In the next passage, the writerconnects Cain’s sin with “Beliar”, which is another commonly-used name for Satan, the devil, the serpent, etc. Be sure to note in the last verse how a whole class of people seem to be identified by taking part in works like Cain’s. He is a biblical figurehead for the wicked who envy and hate their brothers.

7 1 Therefore, my children, I tell you, flee the malice of Beliar; for he giveth a sword to them that obey him. 2 And the sword is the mother of seven evils. First the mind conceiveth through Beliar, and first there is bloodshed; secondly ruin; thirdly, tribulation; fourthly, exile; fifthly, dearth; sixthly, panic; seventhly, destruction. 3 Therefore was Cain also delivered over to seven vengeances by God, for in every hundred years the Lord brought one plague upon him. 4 And when he was two hundred years old he began to suffer, and in the nine-hundredth year he was destroyed. For on account of Abel, his brother, with all the evils was he judged, but Lamech with seventy times seven. 5 Because for ever those who are like Cain in envy and hatred of brethren, shall be punished with the same judgment.

Testament of Benjamin

In the next one, we see that Eve had reason (what was it?) to believe that the adversary might be messing with Cain and Abel.

2:1 And after this, Adam and Eve were with one another and while they were sleeping, Eve said to Adam her lord: ‘My lord, Adam, behold, 2 I have seen in a dream this night the blood of my son Amilabes who is styled Abel being poured into the mouth of Cain his brother and he went on drinking it without pity. But he begged him to leave him a little of it. Yet he hearkened 3 not to him, but gulped down the whole; nor did it stay in his stomach, but came out of his mouth. And Adam said, ‘Let us arise and go 4 and see what has happened to them. (I fear) lest the adversary may be assailing them somewhere.’

Apocalypse of Moses (Greek Book of Adam and Eve)

Regarding this next excerpt, remember that the serpent (ha nacash) translates literally as “the shining one”. I suspect that this was a miraculous sign at Cain’s birth, signifying the role he would play in this world:

3 prepare thee to bear. And she bore a son and he was shining ; and at once the babe rose up and ran and bore a blade of grass in his hands, and gave it to his mother, and his name was called Cain.Life of Adam and Eve (Latin)

Life of Adam and Eve (Latin)

Here’s another reference to an unusual sign at his birth (his color being “like that of the stars”–“stars” being a common figure for angelic beings.) Note also the prophetic utterance of the midwife, who seemed to understand that this was a wicked child.

21.2 One of the powers came, touched Eve’s face and her breast, and told Eve, “Blessed are you, Eve, because of Adam, elect one and servant of God, for his prayers are great before God and, because of him, God will deliver you. If you had not been brought help because of him, you would have conceived such a thorn that you could not have rescued yourself from your sufferings. Rise up now and prepare yourself to give birth to a child.”
21.3a Eve arose as the angel had instructed her: she gave birth to an child and his color was like that of the stars. He fell into the hands of the midwife and at once he began to pluck up the grass, for in his mother’s hut grass was planted.
21.3b The midwife replied to him and told him, “God is just that he did not at all leave you in my hands. For, you are Cain, the perverse one, killer of the good, for you are the one who plucks up the fruit-bearing tree, and not him who plants it. You are the bearer of bitterness and not of sweetness.
21.3c And the power told Adam, “Remain by Eve until she has done with the infant what I have taught her.”

Book of Adam (Georgian)

Here the text calls Cain by a name (“the lawless one”) that is used elsewhere of Satan, such as in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-9.

3 prepare thee to bear. And she bore a son and he was shining ; and at once the babe rose up and ran and bore a blade of grass in his hands, and gave it to his mother, and his name was called Cain.

18.2 Eve went to the west and she mourned and was sad;
18.3 and then she made a hut for herself in the west, and she was advanced in her pregnancy and she had Cain, the lawless one, in her womb.

Penitence of Our Forefather Adam.

Here’s an entire chapter from one of the Adamic books. It puts Satan right in the middle of the Cain and Abel story.

And the children began to wax stronger, and to grow in stature; but Cain was hard-hearted, and ruled over his younger brother. And oftentimes when his father made an offering, he would remain [behind] and not go with them, to offer up.
But, as to Abel, he had a meek heart, and was obedient to his father and mother, whom he often moved to make an offering, because he loved it ; and prayed and fasted much. Then came this sign to Abel. As he was coming into the Cave of Treasures, and saw the golden rods, the incense and the myrrh, he inquired of his parents Adam and Eve concerning them, and said unto them, ” How did you come by these V
Then Adam told him all that had befallen them. And Abel felt deeply about what his father told him. Furthermore his father Adam told him of the works of God, and of the garden ; and after that, he remained behind his father the whole of that night in the Cave of Treasures.
And that night, while he was praying, Satan appeared unto him under the figure of a man, who said to him, ” Thou hast oftentimes moved thy father to make an offering, to fast and to pray, therefore I will kill thee, and make thee perish from this world.”
But as for Abel, he prayed to God, and drove away [Satan] from him ; and believed not the words of the devil. Then when it was day, an angel of God appeared unto him, who said to him, ” Shorten neither fasting, prayer, nor offering up an oblation unto thy God. For, lo, the Lord has accepted thy prayer. Be not afraid of the figure which appeared unto thee in the night, and who cursed thee unto death.” And the angel departed from him.
Then when it was day, Abel came to Adam and Eve, and told them of the vision he had seen. But when they heard it, they grieved much over it, yet said nothing to him [about it] ; they only comforted him.
But as to hard-hearted Cain, Satan came to him by night, showed himself and said unto him, ” Since Adam and Eve love thy brother Abel much more than they love thee, and wish to join him in marriage to thy beautiful sister, because they love him ; but wish to join thee in marriage to his ill-favoured sister, because they hate thee ; ” Now, therefore, I counsel thee, when they do that, to kill thy brother; then thy sister will be left for thee; and his sister will be cast away.”
And Satan departed from him. But the wicked One remained [behind] in the heart of Cain, who sought many a time, to kill his brother.


I have included here at the last a lengthy excerpt from Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus, writing in the First Century AD, causes us to wonder from where he had gathered his view of Cain—which seems fairly consistent with the excerpts from the other writings above. For the record, Josephus makes no mention of Satan’s involvement in this narrative, so that doesn’t support my hypothesis directly. I do find it instructive, however, to see what a detail-rich profile of Cain Josephus had in mind. It would seem that Cain and his exploits were widely known in Josephus’ culture. And one wonders at just how accurate were Josephus’ opinions of the wickedness of Cain’s various innovations:

CHAPTER 2. Concerning The Posterity Of Adam, And The Ten Generations From Him To The Deluge.
1. Adam and Eve had two sons: the elder of them was named Cain; which name, when it is interpreted, signifies a possession: the younger was Abel, which signifies sorrow. They had also daughters. Now the two brethren were pleased with different courses of life: for Abel, the younger, was a lover of righteousness; and believing that God was present at all his actions, he excelled in virtue; and his employment was that of a shepherd. But Cain was not only very wicked in other respects, but was wholly intent upon getting; and he first contrived to plough the ground. He slew his brother on the occasion following:—They had resolved to sacrifice to God. Now Cain brought the fruits of the earth, and of his husbandry; but Abel brought milk, and the first-fruits of his flocks: but God was more delighted with the latter oblation,6 when he was honored with what grew naturally of its own accord, than he was with what was the invention of a covetous man, and gotten by forcing the ground; whence it was that Cain was very angry that Abel was preferred by God before him; and he slew his brother, and hid his dead body, thinking to escape discovery. But God, knowing what had been done, came to Cain, and asked him what was become of his brother, because he had not seen him of many days; whereas he used to observe them conversing together at other times. But Cain was in doubt with himself, and knew not what answer to give to God. At first he said that he was himself at a loss about his brother’s disappearing; but when he was provoked by God, who pressed him vehemently, as resolving to know what the matter was, he replied, he was not his brother’s guardian or keeper, nor was he an observer of what he did. But, in return, God convicted Cain, as having been the murderer of his brother; and said, “I wonder at thee, that thou knowest not what is become of a man whom thou thyself hast destroyed.” God therefore did not inflict the punishment [of death] upon him, on account of his offering sacrifice, and thereby making supplication to him not to be extreme in his wrath to him; but he made him accursed, and threatened his posterity in the seventh generation. He also cast him, together with his wife, out of that land. And when he was afraid that in wandering about he should fall among Wild beasts, and by that means perish, God bid him not to entertain such a melancholy suspicion, and to go over all the earth without fear of what mischief he might suffer from wild beasts; and setting a mark upon him, that he might be known, he commanded him to depart.

2. And when Cain had traveled over many countries, he, with his wife, built a city, named Nod, which is a place so called, and there he settled his abode; where also he had children. However, he did not accept of his punishment in order to amendment, but to increase his wickedness; for he only aimed to procure every thing that was for his own bodily pleasure, though it obliged him to be injurious to his neighbors. He augmented his household substance with much wealth, by rapine and violence; he excited his acquaintance to procure pleasures and spoils by robbery, and became a great leader of men into wicked courses. He also introduced a change in that way of simplicity wherein men lived before; and was the author of measures and weights. And whereas they lived innocently and generously while they knew nothing of such arts, he changed the world into cunning craftiness. He first of all set boundaries about lands: he built a city, and fortified it with walls, and he compelled his family to come together to it; and called that city Enoch, after the name of his eldest son Enoch. Now Jared was the son of Enoch; whose son was Malaliel; whose son was Mathusela; whose son was Lamech; who had seventy-seven children by two wives, Silla and Ada. Of those children by Ada, one was Jabal: he erected tents, and loved the life of a shepherd. But Jubal, who was born of the same mother with him, exercised himself in music;7 and invented the psaltery and the harp. But Tubal, one of his children by the other wife, exceeded all men in strength, and was very expert and famous in martial performances. He procured what tended to the pleasures of the body by that method; and first of all invented the art of making brass. Lamech was also the father of a daughter, whose name was Naamah. And because he was so skillful in matters of divine revelation, that he knew he was to be punished for Cain’s murder of his brother, he made that known to his wives. Nay, even while Adam was alive, it came to pass that the posterity of Cain became exceeding wicked, every one successively dying, one after another, more wicked than the former. They were intolerable in war, and vehement in robberies; and if any one were slow to murder people, yet was he bold in his profligate behavior, in acting unjustly, and doing injuries for gain.

3. Now Adam, who was the first man, and made out of the earth, [for our discourse must now be about him,] after Abel was slain, and Cain fled away, on account of his murder, was solicitous for posterity, and had a vehement desire of children, he being two hundred and thirty years old; after which time he lived other seven hundred, and then died. He had indeed many other children,8 but Seth in particular. As for the rest, it would be tedious to name them; I will therefore only endeavor to give an account of those that proceeded from Seth. Now this Seth, when he was brought up, and came to those years in which he could discern what was good, became a virtuous man; and as he was himself of an excellent character, so did he leave children behind him who imitated his virtues.9 All these proved to be of good dispositions. They also inhabited the same country without dissensions, and in a happy condition, without any misfortunes falling upon them, till they died. They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction that the world was to be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence and quantity of water, they made two pillars, 10 the one of brick, the other of stone: they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit those discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.

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