Cain said to Yahweh, “My sin is too great to be forgiven. Bible see other translations

“My sin is too great to be forgiven.” When the context and scope of Scripture are considered, this verse is best understood as, “My sin is too great to be forgiven,” rather than “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 is best translated as “forgiven,” even though it can be translated as “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 contextual 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. Furthermore, at no further point in the text does Cain seem to want forgiveness or to have a close relationship with God. George Lamsa translates the phrase as, “My transgression is too great to be forgiven,”b and that seems to catch the primary meaning of the text.

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).

It is worth noting that in Hebrew, the word for “sin” can also be understood to refer to the punishment for sin and thus in some contexts “punishment” is an appropriate translation. Nahum Sarna writes: “Hebrew ‘avon means both sin and its penalty because in the biblical world view the two are inseparable, the latter inhering in the former. For this reason, the text contains an ambiguity.”e So the primary meaning of the phrase from the context and scope of Scripture is “My sin is too great to be forgiven.” Another lesser meaning of the text seems to be “My punishment is greater than I can bear,” reflecting Cain’s feelings that his punishment is severe and unavoidable.

In choosing the Devil and his ways over God and His ways, Cain was the first child of the Devil and the first person to commit what is sometimes referred to as the “unforgivable sin.” Perhaps it was because he understood perfectly that he turned away from the true God and turned to the Devil to be his god that he knew that his sin could not be forgiven.

[For more on the unforgivable sin, see commentary on Genesis 4:9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15; and commentary on Matt. 12:31.]

Bullinger, Companion Bible, 9, n13.
Lamsa, The Holy Bible from Ancient Eastern Manuscripts.
Lancelot L. Brenton, The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, Gen. 4:13.
The Holy Bible: 1611 Edition, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.
Nahum Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis, p. 34.

Commentary for: Genesis 4:13