Genesis 4:9 Prototype of Confession?


In Genesis 4:9 we see that God asks Cain where Abel is. We believe that God knows all of course and so we can consider that God was not asking this of Cain for “informational” purposes. So I tried to think of why God would ask Cain this since He already knows. Could God have been inviting Cain to confess? Could this be a prototype of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and indication of the mercy of God (even though Cain did not confess although he seems to admit it implicitly later by reference to his punishment)?


I would think so. That is also probably why God asked Eve what she had done after eating the fruit. He knew what she had done, but wanted her to confess it, which she basically did. That is probably why Adam and Eve were allowed to continue in communion with God despite their sin banishing them from Eden, unlike Cain who did not repent but tried to avoid the truth.


Even though you do make an interesting connection to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a Protestant (or Jew) might use the same passage to illustrate that direct atonement or confession for sin to G-d is all that is necessary.


Yes, but this all happened prior to the establishment of a public priesthood


Yes…actually, if you go back earlier…in Genesis 3, God asks the same of Adam and the woman:

Genesis 3:

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

And it is only after Adam and the woman does not confess or admit their transgression, that they are actually thrown out of the Garden of Eden.


Of course. I realize that. It certainly could not be the main scriptural evidence for a Protestant apologetic, only a starting point.


Yes but in the same notion that God knows all, was He expecting a confession from Cain at all? A&E confessed without hesitation, though there are some views that they were actually seeking to place blame not on themselves in an individual sense. There is a reason why the Lord didn’t have any respect for Cain’s offering, and it was manifest when the Lord confronted Cain. It’s not so much that Cain was in error, it was the lack of what the Lord God requires. Remember there was no law, edict, or commandment from the Lord God to not take another man’s life. Where as A&E were commanded not to eat of the tree of knowledge.

But a prototype for confession? Na. Confession is for the sake of the confessor, not the hearer thereof. And confession without the primary repentance of heart, means nothing. Someone can admit to something they did, and have no repentance of heart.


Hi, the main point of the thread is whether the opportunity for confession and repentance was offered by God (not whether Cain repented).

Also, someone made the interesting point that God already knew whether Cain would confess and repent. Yes, and I also point out that God also offers reconciliation through the Catholic Church and he knows when/whether any particular person will repent.


On further review, I see that my thread title could be unclear/misleading. You are right that Genesis 4:9 is not a good example of confession and in that context your point has validity. I can see how the thread title could cause confusion. Apologies.

By “confession” in the title I was referring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the general concept of the offer of mercy from God. We Catholics sometimes use “confession” as a vernacular/family term for the sacrament :slight_smile: Presumably, many Catholics understood this connotation. However, I would be a better writer to consider the wider audience and use more accurate terms “…Prototype for the Sacrament of Reconciliation” would be a better title. :slight_smile:


Interestingly, after that confession, it hints that animals were sacrificed to “cover” their sin with animal skins. Perhaps the first blood sacrifice of the OT.


Though this is off subject, but you have mentioned the view you take is a Catholic one.

Reconciliation to what? The Catholic church that started as a state-sponsored institution, or the Lord God of Israel who is the Creator and Judge?

Just something to give some thought to, considering in the Kingdom of Heaven the view that counts is the view from the Throne in the Kingdom of Heaven. All other views are discounted as arbitrary to the King. As in derived from mere opinion or preference; not based on the nature of things; hence, capricious, uncertain, varying. So, though one may have a view, and be convinced of it, it means nothing in the Kingdom of Heaven if it isn’t the King’s view.



It seems that God is asking questions in order to provide Cain with an opportunity to confess his sin as he had done for Adam (Gen 3:9-12).

According to the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible:

“God questions the sinner in order to draw forth contrition and give him an opportunity for confession. Cain refuses this mercy as Adam had done before him (3:9–12).”

Scott Hahn & Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, Genesis, p.24

This was also the view of Early Church Fathers such as St. Ephrem and St. John Chrysostom:


“If Adam and Eve had sought to repent after they had transgressed the commandment, even though they would not have regained that which they had possessed before their transgression of the commandment, they would have escaped from the curses that were decreed on the earth and upon them.” COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 2.23.2.

“God appeared to Cain with kindness, so that if he repented, the sin of murder that his fingers had committed might be effaced by the compunction on his lips. If he did not repent, however, there would be decreed on him a bitter punishment in proportion to his evil folly.” COMMENTARY ON GENESIS 3.6.1.

“You see, since he was not unaware of the truth when he asked them but rather knew, and knew very well, he shows consideration for their limitations so as to demonstrate his own loving kindness, and he invites them to make admission of their faults.” HOMILIES ON GENESIS 17.22.

I believe that in these verses there is a foreshadowing of the Sacrament of Confession.


Agreed! Scripture clearly shows that authority (including to forgive sins) was given to the Church. I can’t comment on whether (non-Catholic) believers/Christians in general have some gifts of the Holy Spirit related to forgiveness in some mysterious way. I am more confident in the Apostolic Body that was directly given authority by Jesus. As for going “directly to God”, when Jesus forgave sins publicly, did the forgiven tell Him that they prefer “to go directly to God?” No, the point is that Jesus is Lord, and forgiving in person is apparently the “direct” way that God has chosen for us. He meets us where we are to bring us to Heaven. When the priest absolves, the forgiveness is directly from God just as when Jesus forgave, it was directly from God. The same Holy Spirit is at work. I get excited to be Catholic just talking about it!


Even Gregory the Great had to answer to the Imperial power in Constantinople. didn’t you know that the Catholic Church was the church of the Roman Empire from Constantine until the Imperial power wasn’t protector of the church anymore and the pope had to take that on from then on and became a political power respected by most kingdoms of the day.

No matter how the interest for a candidate for pope was brought to the attention of the authorities it was the Emperor (the Imperial power) that approved or disapproved the choice or election. Even Gregory was desired by the people of Rome but approved by Imperial power. I found some info from wikipedia but I read a few years ago that Gregory was detained by order of the Emperor on his way to bring the gospel to England and when he toke the job miracles of healing of the plague, and the public seen a vision of an angel on top of a structure related to the what is today the Vatican. But the detail I don’t remember and I though I had saved that page as a favorite. The documentation was posted online by a Catholic organization focused on Pope history.

From “”
Gregory left Constantinople for Rome in 585, returning to his monastery on the Caelian Hill. Gregory was elected by acclamation to succeed Pelagius II in 590, when the latter died of the plague spreading through the city.Gregory was approved by an Imperial (Emperor) iussio (meaning command, order) from Constantinople the following September (as was the norm during the Byzantine Papacy).

A little info on Gregory the Great. England holds him in high estem do to his sending of st Augustine to England and also he is responsible for the western culture’s understanding on morals. Do to St. Gregory the Great’s work on the moral exposition of the Book of Job, and (later) as the collective title given to Plutarch’s writings other than the ‘Lives’, to the ethical writings of Seneca

Well…what do you think is the King’s view? And how do you know it is the correct view of the King?

It doesn’t matter what I think the King’s view is. It is that I trust His good Judgement in all matters. Hence in that do I agree with the King of the Kingdom, and is the correct view by default.


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