“My sin is too great to be forgiven.” When the context and scope of Scripture are considered, this verse should be translated, “My sin is too great to be forgiven,” and not “My sin is greater than I can bear.” Cain knew he had committed a sin that could not be forgiven, and he did end up having to bear his sin, even though it was very great. The Hebrew word translated “forgiven” in the REV is nasa (#05375 נָשָׂא), and it can mean “to bear, carry,” “to lift up, be exalted,” or “to carry away, take away, forgive.” In Genesis 4:13 it should be “forgiven,” not “bear.” E. W. Bullinger in the text notea translates this phrase as a question (“Is my iniquity too great to be forgiven?”), but there is no textual reason to translate the verse as a question, and besides that, Cain never asked for forgiveness; he tried to hide his sin and say he did not know where Abel was. George Lamsa translates the phrase accurately: “My transgression is too great to be forgiven.”b
The Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament produced about 250 BC, renders the phrase “My crime is too great for me to be forgiven.”c Also, the original translators of the 1611 King James Version put “forgiven” as a marginal reading in their Bible, which they did when they were not sure how to accurately translate a text. Although the actual 1611 KJV read (spelling as in 1611): “My punishment is greater, then I can beare,” the marginal note read (spelling as in 1611), “Or, my iniquite is greater, then that it may be forgiven.” The Thomas Nelson 1611 Bibled is a word-for-word reprint of the first edition of the Authorized Version, and in 1611, “then” had the meanings of both “then” and “than,” and the context revealed which sense it had. As the English language developed through the centuries and the word “than” came into common use, revisors went through and corrected the KJV so that it was easier to understand.
That Cain clearly stated he could not be forgiven is further supported by what he continued to say—four more statements of fact showing that he understood what he had done and its consequences, as we see in Genesis 4:14 (see commentary on Gen. 4:14).