The first murder of another human was committed by Cain. He killed his brother, Abel. Because of this, God told him that he was cursed and that his work as a farmer would be more difficult. He further told him that he would be a vagabond. (Genesis 4:9-12) Cain responded by saying, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. . .and it shall come to pass that everyone that findeth me shall slay me.” (Genesis 4:13-14) God declared to Cain, “Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Genesis 4:15)
The mark placed upon Cain has been the subject of much debate and speculation. The Hebrew word translated mark is ‘owth and refers to a mark, sign, or token. The Hebrew word does not identify the exact nature of the mark God put on him. Some think that it was a scar, or some type of tattoo. The focus of the passage is that God would not allow others to take vengeance against Cain by killing him.
When I was a child I heard some preachers teach that the mark was dark skin. They taught that God turned his skin black in order to identify him. This interpretation is unbiblical. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures is ‘owth used to refer to skin color. It is used 79 times in the Old Testament and most frequently means “sign.” The curse on Cain was personal. Nothing is said about the curse being passed on to his descendants.
What was the mark that God put on Cain? The Bible does not say. Whatever it was, it had no connection to skin color or a curse falling upon all of his descendants. To suggest such is doing the Word of God an injustice.